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Newsline - February 2, 1999




DUMA TO REJECT PRIME MINISTER'S PEACE PROPOSAL

Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev on 2 February to discuss Primakov's proposal for a political peace treaty between Russia's executive and legislative branches. "Kommersant-Daily" predicted on 30 January that Primakov's plan has little chance of acceptance, citing the negative assessments of the proposal by Seleznev, who had declared "we do not intend to be a pushover for either the president or the government chairman." RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 2 February that the Communist party has already expressed its dissatisfaction with Primakov's proposal and that Yabloko is also unenthusiastic, according to faction member and deputy Yelena Mizulina. JAC

PRIMAKOV OFFERS MINERS MORE CASH

Speaking at the All-Russia Miners Congress in Moscow on 1 February, Prime Minister Primakov pledged to double state subsidies to the coal industry from the 5.8 billion rubles ($256 million) earmarked in the current version of the 1999 budget. Primakov acknowledged that wage arrears in the industry typically build up for five months on average. "While this is primarily the fault of the employers, the state must also share some blame," he said. Primakov also called on miners and their union representatives to refrain from threatening the government and to work together to modernize the industry. Independent Miners' Union head Aleksandr Sergeev reacted favorably to Primakov's speech, welcoming his commitment to be flexible on the closure of unprofitable mines, Interfax reported. However, he noted that discontent in the coal regions of Rostov Oblast and Komi Republic remain high. JAC

GOVERNORS BLOC ATTRACTING MORE FOLLOWERS...

The election bloc of regional leaders set up by Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov will have its official legal status by 15 February, Titov told reporters on 2 February. Titov revealed that in addition to the regional leaders previously reported as interested in joining the new movement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1999), the governors of Sakhalin, Irkutsk and Astrakhan Oblasts are taking part in talks. "Segodnya" argued on 29 January that if the new regional bloc is "not a political false start" and regional "heavyweights" join the bloc in the future, "it may become the force that determines both the formation of the next Duma and Yeltsin's successor in the Kremlin." Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed told reporters on 30 January that he will steer clear of the new alliance, saying "I will go it alone." JAC

...AS BORDER DISPUTES PREDICTED TO GATHER FORCE

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" suggested on 29 January that "the threat of separatism must be much more serious and constant than it appears to certain Moscow observers" since Prime Minister Primakov has suggested that a ban be introduced on territorial agreements that lead to the revision of regional borders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). According to the daily, there are many more territorial claims than just "Ingushetia's claims to the Prigorodnii district of North Ossetia." The newspaper concluded that "it is possible that by 2000 conflicts between oblasts and autonomous okrugs may acquire an open form, the more so if the central powers continue to lose influence in the [Russian] Federation." JAC

TATARSTAN, MOSCOW IN BUDGET DISPUTE

Meeting with faculty members of the Kazan Institute of Economy and Finance on 1 February, Tatarstan's Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said his government considers it expedient to reduce payments to the federal center since the federal budget was formed without taking into account Tatarstan's needs and does not provide for "the minimum of required allowances" for the Tatarstan Republic. "We are a donor region", he said, "we are not asking for federal subsidies, we are asking for our own money." Minnikhanov did not indicate what percentage of its proposed contribution to the federal budget Kazan would withhold. LF

CHINA SUGGESTED TO JOIN DISCUSSION ON ABM TREATY

Igor Sutyagin of the U.S.A. and Canada Institute has reacted negatively to news of a U.S. government proposal to compensate for the deployment of two anti-ballistic missile systems by giving Russia permission to have three warheads on its Topol-M missile system. Sutyagin told ITAR-TASS that the U.S. is apparently trying to find a way to alleviate Russia's concerns stemming from the U.S.'s proposal to modify the ABM treaty. He said that the idea of giving Russia permission to have missiles with three warheads in exchange for "its consent to deploy the ABM system looks very attractive[but] only resolves the problem of Russia's relations with the U.S.," not with China. Sutyagin recommended that China be drawn into the discussion of the problem of the creation of the U.S. anti- ballistic missile system. JAC

RUSSIA SAYS NO INTERNATIONAL PEACE-KEEPING FORCE NEEDED IN KOSOVA

"Russian diplomatic sources" told Interfax on 1 February that Moscow sees no sense in deploying an international peacekeeping force in Kosova similar to the one deployed in Bosnia. According to those sources, an international force should be sent only after the conflicting sides have worked out an agreement on Kosova and Yugoslavia has given its consent for the deployment of such a force. JAC

SIDANKO ON VERGE OF BANKRUPTCY...

Russia's fifth-largest oil company, Sidanko, announced on 29 January that it is facing bankruptcy proceedings because of overdue loan payments. Sidanko is controlled by so-called oligarch Vladimir Potanin's Interros holding company, the core of which is the now struggling Oneksimbank. Citing an "industry source with ties to Sidanko," the "Moscow Times" reported on 2 February that Interros is now "bankrupting" Sidanko to set up a new company and has transferred titles of the shares of its subsidiaries to offshore companies. According to another anonymous source, the newspaper reported, this is a bankruptcy in the typical style of Boris Jordan, the controversial banker who assumed the helm of Sidanko in November. Both Sidanko and Interros deny the allegations, the daily noted. JC

...AS SLAVNEFT, ONAKO SAY 'NO' TO MERGER

Two of the three companies selected by the Russian government to be merged into one company, which reportedly would be one of the world's largest in terms of oil reserves, have expressed their opposition to the plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). Onako would rather transfer its government-controlled majority stake to Orenburg Oblast, the "Moscow Times" reported on 2 February. Slavneft President Vasilii Duma said after a shareholders' meeting that Slavneft would be best left untouched. The newspaper suggested that the Belarusian Property Ministry, which owns 10 percent of Slavneft, likely opposes the merger. The ministry, however, has so far made no public statement. JAC

EXTREMIST GROUP MARCHES IN MOSCOW

Protestors from the extremist National Bolshevik Party led by novelist Eduard Limonov disrupted a meeting of the Democratic Choice party in Moscow on 30 January by chanting the names of "Stalin" and "Beria" and making Nazi salutes, Ekho Moskvy reported. A fistfight eventually broke out between members of the two parties, Interfax reported. The next day, another group, Russian National Unity, marched through Moscow. Presidential chief of staff Nikolai Bordyuzha told "Izvestiya" that the march was a provocation intended to stir trouble and that it is "nonsense" that Russia has no clear law defining political extremism. Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov told Interfax on 1 February that the presidential commission for combating political extremism will discuss the group at its next meeting. JAC

SOUTH KOREA ASKS RUSSIA FOR HELP WITH MILLENNIUM BUG IN NORTH KOREA

The military attach of the South Korean Embassy in Moscow has delivered a letter to "Russian defense structures" asking Moscow to help North Korea examine possible computer problems associated with the Millennium Bug, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. Seoul is worried that computer problems in North Korea associated with the turn of the century could result in the accidental firing of rockets. Seoul has requested Moscow's help because most of North Korea's rocket and computer technology was supplied by the former Soviet Union. BP

YELTSIN LOOKING CHIPPER AT BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

Russian Public Television carried film footage of a small celebration of President Boris Yeltsin's birthday on 1 February. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II and Prime Minister Primakov brought bouquets and hugged Yeltsin, who appeared cheerful. The same day, the Duma's impeachment commission held hearings on the last charge against Yeltsin, genocide against the Russian people, Interfax reported. "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day that following the signing of his most recent decree, Yeltsin now has only three presidential advisers, only two of which receive a salary: his daughter Tatyana Dyachenko and Mikhail Zybarov (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 1 February 1999). Valentin Yumashev also acts as an adviser but does not draw a salary. JAC

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS SEND MIXED SIGNALS?

Meeting on 1 February, former Chechen acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, former Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov, and leading field commanders Shamil Basaev and Ruslan Gilaev adopted a formal petition to President Aslan Maskhadov calling on him to introduce Shariah law throughout Chechnya immediately, Interfax reported. Last week, they had drafted a program of reform measures addressed to Maskhadov that entailed curtailing the powers of the president and the creation of a "state council," the powers and functions of which are unclear, according to "Izvestiya" on 28 January. But that program made no mention of either Islam or Islamic law. LF


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