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Newsline - November 5, 1997




YELTSIN REMOVES BEREZOVSKII FROM SECURITY COUNCIL

President Boris Yeltsin on 5 November signed a decree dismissing Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii in connection with his transfer to unspecified new work, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In recent months, Berezovskii, one of Russia's wealthiest businessmen, has frequently clashed with First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, with whom Yeltsin met the previous day. No details about Berezovskii's new work have been released, although he told Interfax that he will not be appointed to a government post. Efforts to curtail Berezovskii's influence at 51 percent state-owned Russian Public Television (ORT) are also under way. The government has appointed a council of representatives for the network, and a 13 November shareholders' meeting is expected to transform ORT from a closed to an open joint-stock company, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 November. lb

COMMUNISTS WELCOME BEREZOVSKII DISMISSAL

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, also a Communist, welcomed Berezovskii's dismissal as a generous "gift to the working people" from Yeltsin on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution, Russian news agencies reported on 5 November. Seleznev said Berezovskii should have been dismissed long ago, adding that a person who continues to conduct private business should not occupy high office. lb

FEDERATION COUNCIL RATIFIES CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION...

The Federation Council on 5 November unanimously voted to adopt a law on ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which prohibits the use, production, and stockpiling of chemical weapons, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The Duma recently approved the law after receiving assurances from government officials that sufficient funds will be allocated for destroying chemical weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 1997). However, the Duma added a clause to the law saying Russia may withdraw from the CWC if it faces a threat to its national security or if economic problems make implementing the treaty impossible. Russia has an estimated 40,000 tons in chemical weapons stockpiles, which is more than any other country. lb

...DELAYS CONSIDERATION OF LAND CODE

Also on 5 November, the Federation Council postponed a vote on whether to override a presidential veto of the land code, ITAR-TASS reported. In September, the Duma overrode Yeltsin's veto of the code, which would prohibit the purchase and sale of farmland. A "roundtable" of presidential, government, and parliamentary representatives is to discuss the code on 22 November. The Federation Council will return to the issue at its next session, in December. lb

DOCTOR GIVES YELTSIN CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH

One year after he performed a quintuple-bypass operation on Yeltsin, surgeon Renat Akchurin told journalists on 4 November that the president has fully recovered and is in good health. Akchurin said checkups have shown Yeltsin's heart to be functioning normally. He noted that the president keeps a busy schedule, making many trips and working up to 12 hours a day. Akchurin added that Yeltsin is keeping to a low-fat diet and hinted that he consumes small amounts of red wine to keep his cholesterol level down, AFP reported. lb

SPOKESMAN DENIES CHERNOMYRDIN DISMISSAL RUMORS

Government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov on 4 November denied rumors that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will soon be sacked, Russian news agencies reported. Shabdurasulov said such rumors appear every time the prime minister takes time off. (On 3 November, Chernomyrdin began a previously unannounced one-week vacation.) The spokesman joked that Chernomyrdin is considering awarding a prize for the best rumor on his impending dismissal reported by Russian media. lb

RUSSIA PUTS PRESSURE ON IRAQ

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov told journalists on 4 November that a telephone conversation the previous day between a senior Russian diplomat and a member of the Iraqi leadership played a key role in persuading Baghdad to agree to receive a special UN mission, Russian agencies reported. Also on 4 November, Russian government spokesman Shabdurasulov commented that Iraq's continued refusal to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors is "unacceptable." lf

RUSSIA DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN TAJIK-UZBEK BORDER CLASHES

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tarasov on 4 November denied allegations that Russia is seeking to exacerbate inter-ethnic tensions in Central Asia, Russian agencies reported. In particular, he rejected claims of Russian involvement in the 27 October clashes between Tajik government troops and opposition forces near the Tajik-Uzbek frontier. Tarasov reaffirmed Moscow's "vital interest" in resolving and preventing conflict situations in Central Asia. lf

OFFICIALS COMMENT ON RUSSIA-JAPAN SUMMIT

Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 4 November announced that the recent pledge by Yeltsin and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to sign a peace treaty by 2000 reflects "the political will and firm desire on the part of the two leaders to overcome the territorial issue," Interfax and AFP reported. However, Yastrzhembskii noted that no binding pledges were made during the informal talks between the two leaders. Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Nobuaki Tanaka told journalists in Tokyo that the summit achieved "excellent" results and made real progress toward solving the territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 4 November, the Japanese consulate in Khabarovsk expressed "perplexity" concerning a monument unveiled in Sakhalin to mark the 300th anniversary of the arrival of Russians on the Kurils. lb

RYBKIN SLAMS SPECULATION OVER CHECHNYA'S FUTURE STATUS

Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin told journalists in Moscow on 4 November that media speculation about Chechnya's future political status is "inadmissible" in the light of the Khasavyurt agreement, which postpones a decision on the issue until 2001, Russian agencies reported. Rybkin went on to warn that Moscow's failure to meet its financial obligations to Chechnya plays into the hands of "extremist forces" there. Also on 4 November, the Chechen parliament again postponed a vote on President Aslan Maskhadov's request for extended powers. Maskhadov, who is vacationing in Turkey, told "Izvestiya" on 5 November that there are no internal splits within the Chechen leadership. lf

CHECHNYA TO PROCEED WITH PLANS FOR LEASING PIPELINE

According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 5 November, Maskhadov signed a protocol of intent with several prominent British businessmen in mid-October on creating an international energy consortium to which Chechnya intends to lease its sector of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline. The newspaper published what it claims is the entire text of the protocol. The agreement is part of an ambitious plan to create a Pan-Caucasian common market. Commenting in October on the Chechen intentions to lease the pipeline, Russian government spokesman Shabdurasulov warned that "the pipeline is the exclusive property of the Russian Federation, and any deals concerning it will be illegal," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 October. lf

GAZPROM SIGNS $3 BILLION LOAN AGREEMENT

As expected, Gazprom director Rem Vyakhirev signed an agreement in Paris on 4 November with a consortium of Western banks for a $3 billion credit, ITAR-TASS reported. The money will finance the construction of the 4,000 kilometer Yamal pipeline, which is to run from Siberia to Western Europe. Gazprom has undertaken to repay the loan partly through gas sales to France and Finland. According to the "Financial Times," Vyakhirev also wants to use some of the loan to bid at forthcoming privatizations of Russian oil companies, possibly including Rosneft. lf

RUSSIA DEMANDS APOLOGY FOR BEHAVIOR OF NEW YORK POLICE

The Russian Foreign Ministry has demanded that the U.S. explain and apologize for an "unprecedented intrusion" of New York City police officers in connection with a car belonging to Sergei Lavrov, Russia's ambassador to the UN, Russian news agencies reported on 4 November. Police on 31 October halted Lavrov's car and briefly took the keys from the driver but made no arrests. The police say the car was stopped "because the operator was blowing the horn extremely loud and for no reason," AFP reported on 4 November. In January, Moscow demanded an apology after an altercation between New York City police and two diplomats from Russia and Belarus (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 3 and 23 January 1997). lb

U.S. DROPS CLAIMS OF RUSSIAN NUCLEAR TEST

The U.S. government and the CIA have withdrawn a claim that a "seismic event" near the Arctic site of Novaya Zemlya in August may have been caused by a nuclear test, the "Washington Post" reported on 4 November. The U.S. demanded an explanation from Moscow after a CIA report argued that the event was probably linked to a nuclear test. Russian officials denied the charge, saying Russia continues to abide by a five-year moratorium on nuclear testing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August and 3 September 1997). U.S. officials dropped the claim after a panel of experts convened by the CIA concluded that a nuclear explosion "almost certainly" did not cause the seismic disturbances. lb

PROSECUTOR SAYS SOLDIERS MAY BE BARRED FROM ROKHLIN'S MOVEMENT

Chief Military Prosecutor Yurii Demin announced on 4 November that serving military personnel will not be allowed to join a new movement founded by Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin if the movement is officially recognized as "political," Russian news agencies reported. Demin said the Justice Ministry has not yet decided whether to register Rokhlin's the Movement in Support of the Army. If the movement is registered as a political organization, soldiers who have joined will be dismissed from the armed forces. Demin's office is investigating Rokhlin's recent public statements on his plans to remove Yeltsin and his "hated regime." Rokhlin claims the media distorted his words (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1997). lb

PROSECUTORS INVESTIGATING 21 GENERALS FOR CORRUPTION

At the same press conference, Demin said criminal cases have been opened against 21 generals. He noted an investigation of former Deputy Defense Minister Konstantin Kobets will be completed by the end of this year. He also said General Vladimir Ruzlyaev, a former head of border guards in the North Caucasus, will be prosecuted for allegedly beating officers. However, Demin admitted that an investigation into illegal arms shipments to Armenia has been stalled because Armenian and Georgian authorities have been "slow to respond to inquiries" from Russian prosecutors, Interfax reported. lb

MOSCOW AUTHORITIES HALT UTILITY RATE HIKE

The Moscow city government on 4 November annulled a 1 November resolution on raising rates for heating, water and electricity in the city, Russian news agencies reported. The increase would have forced residents to pay 40 percent of the costs for utilities, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 November. Currently, residents who do not receive special subsidies must pay 30 percent of those costs. Moscow officials had previously said they were obliged to implement the increases because of federal government instructions. However, the Moscow City Duma, which is dominated by supporters of Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, appealed to the government to halt the rate hike. Luzhkov has been a leading critic of federal government plans to force citizens to pay more for rent and utilities. lb

YELTSIN LIFTS LIMITS ON FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF OIL COMPANIES

Yeltsin on 4 November signed a decree lifting restrictions on foreign ownership of shares in Russian oil companies, Interfax reported. Under a November 1992 decree, no more than 15 percent of shares in such companies could be owned by foreign investors. The new decree is expected to help the government attract higher bids in upcoming sales of stakes in Rosneft, LUKoil, Norsi-Oil, the Eastern Oil Company, and the Tyumen Oil Company. It also represents another blow to former Security Council Secretary Berezovskii, who has substantial interests in the oil industry (see above). "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is partly financed by Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, has warned that foreigners should not be allowed to acquire controlling stakes in Russian oil companies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 1997). lb

CHERNOMYRDIN ORDERS PAYMENTS TO ARCHIVE GUARDS

Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 4 November instructed the Finance Ministry to pay back wages to guards of federal archives within three days, ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, the Interior Ministry withdrew the guards from the archives to protest some 4.5 billion rubles ($760,000) in wage arrears. Government spokesman Shabdurasulov said the guards' action was "absolutely impermissible" since it put "priceless" archive materials at risk. lb

ALTAI COURT REVOKES LEGISLATORS' IMMUNITY

The Supreme Court of the Altai Republic has decided to revoke the immunity that up to now has been guaranteed to members of all legislative bodies in the republic, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 November. Law enforcement officials will no longer need to seek the approval of the republican legislature in order to arrest or prosecute deputies. Official corruption is believed to be widespread in Altai (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1997). lb

TSAR'S REMAINS TO BE MOVED TO MOSCOW

Yeltsin on 4 November ordered that the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family be transferred to Moscow for further scientific tests to confirm their authenticity. The remains are to be returned to Yekaterinburg before January, when Yeltsin plans to decide where they should be buried (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1997). Communist Party leader Zyuganov commented that Russia's last tsar should be buried "where he lived and ruled," alluding to St. Petersburg, Interfax reported. He described the murder of the tsar's family as a "tragic page" in Russian history but expressed doubt that Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin was to blame, noting that "war is a very complicated thing." lb



ARMENIAN FINANCE MINISTER PRESENTS 1998 DRAFT BUDGET

Armen Darpinian told journalists in Yerevan on 4 November that the government draft budget projects 5.2 percent GDP growth in 1998 and a 9 percent inflation rate, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Darpinian said that budget expenditures are estimated at 174 billion drams ($350 million), 15 percent higher than in 1997, while the budget deficit is projected at 5.5 percent of GDP. He added that there are no precise figures on estimated revenues as it is unclear how much the Armenian government will receive in foreign loans and from the privatization of state enterprises. Darpinian said tax revenues are expected to increase by 28 percent owing to improved value-added and excise tax collection. lf

ARMENIA TO BUY IRANIAN GAS?

In talks with Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganehi in Tehran on 2 November, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Manasarian said Yerevan wants to purchase an unspecified quantity of natural gas, Reuters reported, citing IRNA. A previous agreement on Armenian purchases of Iranian gas has not been implemented for financial reasons, according to "Hayots ashkhar" on 18 October. In late August, Armenian and Russian officials signed a major agreement on the export of Russian gas to Armenia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1997). lf

SHOOTING ON ARMENIAN-TURKISH FRONTIER

The Arshat frontier post, which is manned by Russian border guards, was fired on from Turkish territory on 3 November, Russian and Armenian agencies reported. The shots came from a sub-machine gun. No one was injured in the incident. lf

TEN KILLED IN RENEWED ABKHAZ FIGHTING

Ten Abkhaz police officers, including a deputy minister of internal affairs, were killed in a clash with Georgian White Legion guerrillas in Abkhazia's Lata gorge on 1-2 November, CAUCASUS PRESS reported on 5 November. The Abkhaz contingent was reportedly planning to attack Georgian-populated villages in the gorge. lf

Aliyev DISCUSSES SECURITY ISSUES

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev told a session of his Security Council on 3 November that the Russian military presence in Armenia and Georgia negatively impacts on relations between CIS states, Turan reported on 4 November. He again called for the annulment of the Russian-Armenian Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, signed in August. He went on to say the stalled investigation into Russian arms supplies to Armenia is an obstacle to implementing the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group's Karabakh peace proposal. Aliyev endorsed the program for Azerbaijani participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program drafted by Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov. But Azerbaijan has nonetheless cancelled its participation in the PFP exercises currently under way in Romania for financial reasons, Mediafax reported on 4 November. lf

ELCHIBEY ADVOCATES SUSPENDING OIL CONTRACTS

Addressing the Supreme Council of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front on 3 November, former Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Elchibey argued that the implementation of several oil contracts signed with U.S. firms should be suspended until Washington reviews its approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Turan and Interfax reported. Elchibey said the U.S. is pursuing double standards by "demanding that Azerbaijan give up its sovereign right to Karabakh." He added that numerous violations were made in signing the oil contracts. Elchibey reportedly declined an invitation from the U.S. Embassy to meet with the U.S. Secretary of State's special adviser on CIS affairs on 4 November, saying he was "too busy." lf




UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SUSPENDS PRIVATIZATION

The parliament on 4 November passed a resolution suspending privatization and demanding that President Leonid Kuchma appoint a new privatization chief, Interfax reported. The legal impact of that decision is unclear, but it is another indication that the Ukrainian legislators include many opponents of reform, against whom Kuchma has repeatedly warned. In another largely symbolic move, the parliament refused to approve Kuchma's proposal to rename 7 November as a "Day of Memory and Reconciliation." pg

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES CIS'S PAST ROLE

Kuchma said in Kharkov on 4 November that the CIS had "helped start building interstate relations" and allowed a "mostly civilized" divorce of the former Soviet republics, ITAR-TASS reported. But he discussed its positive role only in the past tense and suggested that "now almost all member-states agree" that the organization must be reformed if it is to have a future. In other comments, Kuchma said that there will be no forced "Ukrainization" of the country's ethnic Russians and that Russia will "long remain a leading partner of Ukraine." pg

BELARUS, TURKEY SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION ACCORD

Belarusian Defense Minister General Aleksandr Chumakov and Turkish chief of staff Ismail Hakki Karadayi signed an agreement in Ankara on 4 November to cooperate in military training as well as defense industries and technology, Belarusian media reported. Minsk sought to portray the accord as a breakthrough, even though Ankara has signed numerous such agreements with other countries. pg

WORLD BANK FAULTS BELARUS FOR FAILURE TO REFORM

A World Bank delegation in Minsk said on 4 November that the Belarusian authorities have failed to follow up on any of the points the Bank and Belarus had agreed to in June 1997. Until Minsk does so, the delegation warned, the Bank will not release any more funds to that country. pg

SANTER SAYS NO WEDGE INTENDED BETWEEN BALTICS

European Commission President Jacques Santer said in Tallinn on 4 November that the commission's recommendation to begin EU entry talks with Estonia was not intended to drive a wedge between the Baltics, BNS and ETA reported. Rather, its aim was to "inspire the other Baltic States to carry out as successful reforms as Estonia's." At their meetings with Santer, President Lennart Meri and Prime Minister Mart Siimann both reaffirmed Estonia's support for the early inclusion of Latvia and Lithuania in membership talks. jc

LATVIA, TOO, SAYS "NO" TO RUSSIAN SECURITY OFFER

As expected, Latvia has followed Lithuania and Estonia in officially declining Russian President Boris Yeltsin's offer of security guarantees. The Foreign Ministry in Riga issued a statement on 4 November that was almost identical to the one released the previous day by Tallinn (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1997), BNS reported. Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said that Russia hopes the Baltics' responses to Yeltsin's offer are not their "final word" on the subject, while the State Duma held a closed session on relations with the Baltic States, Interfax reported on 4 November. jc

LATVIAN ELECTORAL COMMITTEE HEAD FOUND DEAD

Atis Kramins was found dead in his apartment on 4 November with a bullet wound in the head, BNS reported. Police say Kramins took his life using his own handgun and left a suicide note citing personal problems. Kramins, 50, was appointed chairman of the nine-member committee in 1992, according to "Diena" on 5 November. jc

VILNIUS REOPENS PROBE INTO POSSIBLE LINKS WITH ARMS DEALERS

The Lithuanian Defense Ministry has reopened an investigation into possible links between ministry officials and two Lithuanian emigres arrested in the U.S. on charges of illegal arms dealing, BNS reported. The ministry closed the investigation in the summer, saying allegations of such links could not be substantiated. But it has decided to reopen the probe after receiving new documents from the U.S. The Lithuanian emigres, who were arrested in Miami in June for seeking to sell weapons to U.S. agents disguised as Colombian drug dealers, claim that Lithuanian defense officials were involved in the deal. jc

DOCTORS SAY CZECH PRESIDENT CAN RUN AGAIN

The team of physicians treating Czech President Vaclav Havel for pneumonia released a statement on 4 November saying there is "no medical reason" why Havel could not run for another term in January 1998, CTK reported. Havel's spokesman also announced that Havel will leave the hospital briefly in a few days to swear in three new ministers. Both announcements follow speculation in the media that Havel would not run again because of his health. pg

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT WON'T PASS NEW LANGUAGE LAW

Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramlovca told reporters on 4 November that the Slovak government has decided existing legislation gives sufficient protection to minority languages and that as a result it will not recommend a new language law, TASR reported. That decision puts Slovakia at odds with various European institutions that have sharply criticized Bratislava's failure to protect the rights of linguistic minorities. pg

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES HOLDING NATO REFERENDUM

By a vote of 312 to 26, the parliament on 4 November voted to hold a binding referendum on NATO accession on 16 November, Hungarian media reported. The two questions on foreign ownership of land, which were proposed by the opposition, have been removed from the ballot. The parliament also approved a draft resolution proposed by the opposition Democratic People's Party saying the parliamentary parties uniformly declare their support for Hungary's NATO membership as the most effective guarantee of the country's sovereignty. msz

RUSSIA TO PAY OFF HUNGARIAN DEBT THROUGH MILITARY TECHNOLOGY

An unnamed Russian government source said in Moscow on 4 November that Russia intends to pay off its $700 million debt to Hungary through military and civil technology, Hungarian media reported, citing Interfax. msz




DID NANO, MILOSEVIC STRIKE DEAL OVER KOSOVO?

Diplomats told Reuters at the Crete Balkan summit on 4 November that Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic agreed Milosevic will grant the Kosovo Albanians basic human rights but not autonomy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 November 1997). Observers note that if the report is true, it means that Tirana's new Socialist-led government has effectively washed its hands of the Kosovo question by accepting that Kosovo is Serbia's internal affair. The previous Albanian government actively campaigned internationally for autonomy for Serbia's mainly ethnic Albanian-inhabited province. pm

KOSOVARS, BERISHA CHARGE NANO WITH SELL-OUT

Adem Demaci, the head of Kosovo's Parliamentary Party, said in Pristina on 4 November that Nano sold out Kosovo's interests by meeting with Milosevic and by what he called consigning the Kosovars to Milosevic's tender mercies. Demaci added that it is particularly disgraceful for Nano to have met with the Serbian leader at a time of increased repression in Kosovo, BETA news agency reported. In Tirana, former Albanian President Sali Berisha said the summit marked the culmination of Greek efforts to make Milosevic internationally respectable. Berisha added that Nano had no business talking to Milosevic without the approval of the Kosovar leadership. pm

MACEDONIA INVITES ALBANIAN STUDENTS TO GO...

At a meeting on Crete on 4 November, Nano failed to convince Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov to give legal status to the banned Albanian-language university in Tetovo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1997). Gligorov said Macedonia's ethnic Albanian students should go to Tirana University if they want a higher education in their mother tongue. Macedonian law provides for only basic schooling and a teacher-training college in the Albanian language. Police have repeatedly broken up attempts by faculty and students at the illegal university to hold classes. Just over 20 percent of Macedonia's population is ethnic Albanian. pm

...BUT WANTS PEACEKEEPERS TO STAY

Foreign Minister Blagoje Handziski wrote UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan from Skopje on 4 November that UN peacekeepers should stay on in Macedonia after their mandate runs out on 1 December. Handziski argued that instability in Kosovo makes a continued UN presence in Macedonia imperative. Some 1,000 peacekeepers are stationed in Macedonia. The operation is the first in UN history aimed at preventing the spread of a conflict rather than at separating hostile forces. pm

BOSNIAN SERBS WARNED OVER BRCKO

Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, has told Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, that the Bosnian Serbs will be committing "political suicide" if they continue to prevent a multi-ethnic administration from taking office in the strategic town. The two men met in Pale on 4 November. Muslim and Croatian refugees elected 26 out of 56 members of the town council in the local elections in September. Elsewhere in Bosnia, 34 out of 136 municipal councils took office. International election officials expect 80 more to do so in the course of the week. pm

LOYALIST SAYS KARADZIC STILL IN CHARGE

Aleksa Buha, who replaced Radovan Karadzic as head of the Serbian Democratic Party last year, told Banja Luka's "Reporter" of 4 November that Karadzic is still in control in Pale. Buha argued that Karadzic's "work and personality...cannot be annulled by any decree.... The influence [he has] is therefore still indisputable." The 1995 Dayton agreement and a 1996 pact between the international community and the Bosnian Serbs require Karadzic to leave politics. pm

CROATIAN INDEPENDENT RADIO GETS LICENSE

The Croatian authorities on 4 November granted Zagreb's Radio 101 a five-year license. Government officials had argued that the permit was held up by disputes over claims to the ownership of the station, but Radio 101 spokesmen said that the independent broadcaster was a victim of political harassment, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Some 100,000 people turned out to demonstrate in support of the station's right to a license in November 1996. pm

YUGOSLAV UNIONS WARN OF HIGH INFLATION

Spokesmen for the League of Independent Unions of Yugoslavia said in Belgrade on 4 November that government policies could prompt a return of hyper-inflation. The unions noted that the authorities have printed large quantities of money in an election year. "Nasa Borba" on 5 November wrote that the rate of exchange on the black market is now more than 4.5 dinars to the German mark. pm

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT MOVES AGAINST PYRAMID

VEFA investment company owner Vehbi Alimucaj failed to show up for talks in Tirana on 4 November with Finance Minister Arben Malaj, Justice Minister Thimio Kondi, and pyramid investigator Farudin Arapi, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Arapi said after the meeting that the government will begin bankruptcy proceedings against VEFA and force the company to grant government officials access to its offices immediately. For months, Alimucaj has refused government administrators access to his records and has delayed formal investigations by challenging a pyramid-scheme transparency law in court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 1997). A constitutional court decision on the transparency law is still pending. fs

ALBANIAN SOCIALIST DEPUTIES FIGHT PARTY DISCIPLINE

Several Socialist Party legislators are challenging a proposed code of conduct for their parliamentary group, "Koha Jone" reported on 5 November. The code provides for penalties against individual deputies who vote against the recommendation of the Socialist leadership on any given issue. An unnamed Socialist deputy charged the leadership with trying to introduce a "dictatorship like in the times of [communist dictator] Enver Hoxha." The rebel deputies stress that the proposed code threatens democracy and pluralism in the parliament because the Socialists hold more than two-thirds of the parliamentary seats. Enforcing the code would lead to large, uniform blocs on every vote, they argue. fs

U.S. PURCHASES MOLDOVAN FIGHTER PLANES

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen told journalists that the US has purchased 21 Russian-built MiG-29C jets from Moldova in order to keep them out of the hands of "rogue nations." Cohen noted that in October, Iran had tried to purchase the jets, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. He said the purchase was made within the framework of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Agreement, signed with Moldova in June, RFE/RL correspondents in Washington reported. Cohen said Russia was informed in advance of the purchase. "The New York Times" said on 5 November that the costs of the deal are secret but noted that the U.S. has agreed to give Moldova, in addition to a cash payment, surplus military equipment such as trucks and food and relief supplies. ms

NEW ELECTORAL ALLIANCE IN MOLDOVA

The National Peasant Party, the Liberal Party, and the National Liberal Party have set up a new electoral alliance, Infotag reported on 4 November. They said the alliance, called the Peasant-Liberal Bloc, will be open to other right-wing parties. In other news, Infotag reported on 4 November that 80 percent of the country's population lives below the poverty level. The news agency cited figures released at a recent conference on living standards. ms

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO BE RESHUFFLED IN NOVEMBER

Meeting on 4 November, the leaders of the ruling coalition and President Emil Constantinescu agreed that the reorganization of the executive must take place this month. They also agreed that the reshuffle will be "extensive" and will affect mainly the economic ministries, Mediafax reported on 5 November. The agency said a new Ministry of Privatization will be set up, and it quoted Senate Chairman Petre Roman as saying the size of the government may be reduced. ms

CLUJ MAYOR EXPELLED FROM PARTY

The Standing Bureau of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) on 4 November expelled Gheorghe Funar from the party. Funar, who was party chairman until 1996, had ignored the bureau's warning two weeks earlier to withdraw law suits against other party members, the prefect of Cluj, and several journalists, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The bureau had cited the negative impact of that legal action on the party's image. Funar responded that the bureau's decision contravenes the party's statutes, adding that he does not recognize the PUNR's "treacherous leadership." ms

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS LAUNCHED AGAINST ROMANIAN GENERALS

The Military Prosecutors' Office in Timisoara has begun legal proceedings against Generals Victor Stanculescu, Mihai Chitac (both former members of the government set up after dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's ouster), and Stefan Guse, who was chief of the general staff during the 1989 uprising and who subsequently died. All three were sent by Ceausescu to Timisoara and are suspected of overseeing the attempt to put down the uprising. They are to be charged with complicity in and instigation to murder. Also charged is Ceausescu's last prosecutor-general, Gheorghe Diaconescu. A military investigation commission set up in 1990 concluded that charges must be brought against Stanculescu and Chitac. The investigation was nonetheless halted, Romanian media reported on 5 November. ms

BULGARIA TO RESTORE CITIZENSHIP OF EMIGRES

In a bid to encourage investments, Sofia intends to restore the citizenship of those who fled the country after the communist takeover. Justice Minister Vassil Gotsev on 4 November said the move will be extended to the descendants of those who left Bulgaria, including non-ethnic Bulgarians. Israeli Ambassador to Sofia David Levy said he believes the decision will be welcome in his country, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. ms




RUSSIAN REGIONS PRESSURE KREMLIN INTO POLICY SHIFT


by John Helmer

When Orel Oblast cast a 95 percent vote to re-elect Governor Yegor Stroev in late October, the Kremlin sought to beat State Duma election observers to the punch by claiming victory for President Boris Yeltsin.

Stroev, who is also the powerful chairman of the Federation Council, "personifies stability and common sense," said Deputy Viktor Sheinis, one of the State Duma observers at the Orel poll.

According to Kremlin officials, Stroev's near-total victory--surpassing even the margin of victory in Kemerovo by Governor Aman Tuleev--could not have been won without Yeltsin's personal backing or without institutional and media endorsement. Nor could it have been achieved without cash from the central government to meet regional budget needs.

Although Stroev and Tuleev are still viewed as pro-communist by the Russian Communist Party, they are also claimed as Yeltsin supporters by the Kremlin. Sergei Shapovalov, the deputy head of the president's territorial department, argues that party loyalties no longer have any bearing in regional politics. "Let the opposition count as they will," Shapovalov told RFE/RL. "We know that political colors change radically after a person gets elected."

Regional politicians say that, following Yeltsin's recent concessions to the Duma and to regional treaty negotiators, it is the president who most resembles a chameleon.

In addition to Stroev, representatives of several multi-region associations are to be included in the monthly "roundtable," which Yeltsin promises will now review the most contentious government policies before they are sent to the parliament. This was just one of the points Yeltsin said he accepted as the price for avoiding the Duma vote of no confidence in October. Stroev is also included in the "council of four," an even more influential consultative body Yeltsin is reviving with Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev.

Yeltsin has also put emphasis on the revenue-sharing and policy provisions of the treaties--37 so far--that he has signed with regional administrations. Those pacts, he asserted in a recent speech, are a "fundamentally new constitutional instrument."

Significantly, presidential officials say, Yeltsin has conceded that the treaties are an alternative source of policy-making power in which several regional leaders are developing the upper hand. Because of his position in the Federation Council, Stroev is one of those leaders, while Tuleev, who controls the vital Kuzbass coal mines, is another. The governors of the big tax-paying regions, and the mayor of Moscow, are also members of this policy-making elite.

This group is strongly opposed to the policies of the government's perceived market reformers, First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov. Just how big the gap is between them became evident six months ago, when the Federation Council passed a resolution endorsing a report prepared by its own analytical department.

Entitled "On Measures to Perfect State Regulation of the Economy and Correct Economic Reform," the report was drafted by Sergei Glazev, a young economist currently working for Stroev. In September 1993, Glazev was a cabinet minister who turned against the government and has been a scathing critic of its policies ever since. His report blames the government's budget-cutting approach for the collapse of investment and the failure of economic recovery. It recommends a totally different budget strategy from the one being pursued by the government.

A poll of upper house members, carried out by the Russian Academy of Sciences and published in October, suggests that 70 percent or more of Council deputies agree with Glazev. When asked in a similar poll two years ago to say if they favor strengthening state regulation of the economy, 16 percent said "yes." The survey also notes greater blame directed at federal government policy this year, compared with 1995.

Anton Fedorov, overseer of presidential representatives in the regions, says the Kremlin has had to replace 60 percent of those representatives this year because of the suspicion that their loyalty has been co-opted by the regional power elites.

Yeltsin recently described his treaties with the governors as necessary to prevent "a weak rag state in which everyone is out for himself." The view in the Federation Council is that "everyone for himself" is exactly what those treaties mean.

The author is a Moscow-based journalist who regularly contributes to RFE/RL.


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