The ISCIP Analyst
Behind the Breaking News
Volume II Number 10 (June 4, 1997)
At the same meeting, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, whose NDR political movement joined with Shumeiko's Reforms -- New Course and Sergei Filatov's Union of People's Homes to form the coalition, claimed that the impetus to dissolve the Duma would "not come from us." (Interfax, 30 May 97) In response to a direct question on whether or not the Duma would be dissolved, Chernomyrdin said: "Does our economy need this?" He later added however, "We must be prepared for State Duma elections any time but we will be best prepared in 1999."
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoli Chubais, who is currently acting prime minister while Chernomyrdin takes vacation, has recently been attacking the Duma and insisting that it approve the government's revision of the 1997 budget and the new tax code. In an interview with Kommersant Daily (3 Jun 97), Chubais raised the threat of dissolution of the Duma. "It's not me who dissolves the Duma...That right, according to the constitution, belongs to the president of Russia, Boris Nikolayevich Yel'tsin,'' he said. "Whether the president will deem it necessary to make use of this right, I will not take it upon myself to predict.''
In a more nuanced assault on the Duma, presidential adviser Georgi Satarov suggested that the current electoral procedure had failed to foster the development of political parties. In a recent visit to Saratov, where local legislative elections were held according to the "first past the post" system, Satarov praised the regional leaders and expressed interest in their electoral experience. His visit and comments are interpreted as a signal that federal election rules may be adjusted to minimize or abolish the role of party lists in future Duma elections. It is doubtful that the real target of this reform would be a greater cohesion of political parties, indeed the opposite is more likely. An undermining of the position of political parties in the electoral system would presumably hamper the campaign efforts of Zhirinovsky's LDPR and Zyuganov's CPRF, if not the less popular NDR of Chernomyrdin.
It is possible that the veiled threats to dissolve the current Duma are simply a heavy-handed ploy to emphasize the importance of the budget and tax reform issues, although the possibility remains that it is part of an effort to shift responsibility for wage and pension arrears to a recalcitrant legislature. In any event, it is hard to conceive of the rationale for such a radical maneuver. Without solid popular support for dissolving the Duma (something unlikely to build up around a Chubais-led initiative), the next round of elections would surely produce a more contentious crop of parliamentarians. Whether it is dissolution or reform of the Duma, strong signals from the Kremlin imply a new approach in executive-legislative relations is on the horizon.
Khrenov refused the first deputy prime minister's call to step down, bouncing the ball back into Chubais' court by claiming he was appointed by a government order and it would take a government order to be rid of him. At present, he remains in his post but Chubais' willingness to pressure "unfriendly" journalists has surfaced before (one can recall Eduard Sagalev's remarks upon his resignation from VGTRK), so Khrenov may soon be job-hunting.
by Susan J. Cavan
Russian president Boris Yel'tsin signed the treaty on his first trip to Ukraine as Russian president. A draft of the agreement had been completed for two years, but disputes between the two nations had delayed its adoption. (Agence France Presse, 31 May 97)
Under the treaty, Russia will lease the Black Sea Fleet's facilities in Crimea for 20 years at a cost of 100 million dollars a year. The money will be taken off Ukraine's debt, estimated by some sources to be as high as $4.3 billion. (Rossiyskiye vesti, 28 May 97)
Yel'tsin also promises to defend Ukraine's "in extreme situations," but Ukrainian diplomats stressed that they had never requested Russian military and were unlikely to. (The New York Times, 1 Jun 97)
Primakov complains of Estonian snub
Estonian leaders refuse to accept advice on how to treat its Russian minority offered by the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), Primakov said. The OSCE had suggested that Estonia grant citizenship to all born on its territory; it had also advised replacing an exam on the country's constitution now required by Russians seeking citizenship with obligatory lectures on constitutional principles. (ETA, 25 May 97)
NATO-Russia accord, signed in Paris, to be reviewed by Duma
Speaking at a press conference on 24 May, Primakov said he "hoped document will be approved by the State Duma, adding that "the Russian government will consider" any reservations "very seriously." (ITAR-TASS, 24 May 97) American proponents of the accord had argued that the "Founding Act," an "agreement," did not require legislative review granted to treaties.
Duma deputies who had met Primakov behind closed doors the day before said he had been persuasive about the agreement's merits. Duma Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Shokhin said acceding to NATO expansion into Central Europe meant Moscow must use its new powers under the accord to block membership for ex-USSR republics. (ITAR-TASS, 23 May 97)
Chorus of commentators demand more attention to Taleban problem
A "direct threat has arisen to the security and territorial integrity of the Central Asian republics of the CIS," writes Sovetskaya rossiya, which blamed the United States for supporting Taleban as part of an anti-Russian policy. The article insisted that "it is not yet too late in the interests of Russia and the CIS to undertake extraordinary measures to afford political, military, and economic aid to the anti-Taleban coalition so that it can withstand the Taleban onslaught." (Sovetskaya rossiya, 27 May 97).
Russia hears Syrian side of Middle East disputes
Comment: Primakov and the Duma
There seems to be a simple trade in the works. In an interview on 25 May, Primakov promised that he would submit the NATO-Russia agreement for review even after it had been signed in Paris. Primakov promised that concerns of the deputies would be given "serious consideration." But since the deal is supposedly done, the only voice Primakov could give Duma doubters would be through the "Permanent Joint Council" to be established between NATO and Russia. Here Primakov could work to assuage the Duma's greatest fearthat NATO membership will be offered to states of the former Soviet Union.
Thus is a new line drawn in Europe. It is the old line of the borders of the Russian empire. Primakov will ensure that Moscow has a free hand in former republics, from Central Asia to the Baltic Sea; should the West object, Primakov need only cite concerns of Russian legislators in his monthly meetings with NATO representatives. From his foothold in Brussels Primakov will be able to play NATO members off one another, slowing down any reaction to Russian steps.
The agreement may also be a landmark in Primakov's own career. Rumors
of a split between Yel'tsin and the foreign minister served to distance
Primakov from the current government. Close cooperation with legislators
on dealings with the West will allow him a chance to forge ties to political
parties. Perhaps the unencumbered ascent of Russia's greatest political
survivor has not yet reached its plateau.
POLITICAL PARTIES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Zhirinovsky causes brawl at May Day ceremony
St. Petersburg Channel 5 to be next nationwide TV station
Other reports cite the firing of senior officers as the "beginning of military purges." Another senior official recently dismissed is Gen. Konstantin Kobets, deputy defense minister and chief military inspector. Kobets is charged with taking bribes in the form of property benefits (he is said to own over 30 residences), as well as "abuse of office which resulted in serious consequences, and illegal possession of firearms." One could wonder if purges are underway as Kobets also disagreed with the handling of military reforms. More realistically, however, no one can argue against the pitiful state of the Russian armed forces. Yel'tsin is struggling to find and make necessary reforms in minimal time. At the same time he is confronted with dissent.
Biography on acting Defense Minister Sergeyev
This is an interesting appointment given that the strategic rocket forces are the Russian elite troops. They are not in the same state of turmoil and disarray as is the Russian army. Similarly the ballistic missile resources and their targets are the subject of much controversy these days. Is this appointment made with an eye of having some stable troops available if needed by Mr. Yel'tsin not to mention the seeming credibility gained when the former head of the SRF speaks regarding warhead targets, and maintenance and control of these weapons.
by Lt.Col Cathy Dreher
Distinction drawn between former Pact members & Soviet republics
The Russians have made it clear that they reserve the right to use nuclear weapons first in the event of attack, or if they are "driven into a corner and have no other option." (RFE/RL Newsline, 26 May 97). This should come as no surprisegiven the state of the Russian conventional forces, they would draw attention to their still formidable nuclear capability. Large segments of the Russian political elite have said that they are threatened by their own weakness, by NATO expansion, by their inability to control events in their former spheres of influence. The poverty of this stance will be evident the first time the Russians find themselves "driven into a corner," but they will ride this horse for whatever intimidation effects they can glean.
Yel'tsin reverses reorganization order
This incident only underlines the difficulties associated with formal reductions in an entrenched military with powerful sponsors, and it can't encourage much creative thinking or aggressive action when approaching future reform efforts. The news for the Russian military could hardly be worse.
Sergeyev named defense minister
by CDR John G. Steele
In a related story Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev didn't help foster harmonious relations when he stated that "imperial ambitions" in the statements and actions of some Russian politicians "scare other states away from Russia." To sum up the state of CIS relations, he said. "There is absolutely no trust among the states comprising the Commonwealth today." How would he make things better? According to an article in Interfax (19 May 97), the president called for ridding the Commonwealth structures of bureaucrats with "a pro-communist mentality."
True Russian aspirations in Belarus revealed
Gearing up for a fight
Interfax confirmed on 26 May that border troops and "the forward deployed units of the 201st Motorized Rifle Division based near the Tajik-Afghan border" had been put on a higher state of alert, and later reported on the results of the Security Treaty meeting. The member-country representatives were concerned enough to begin meetings at the "level of deputy foreign and defense ministers." No specific proposals were discussed in the 27 May article but it is obvious that the situation in Afghanistan is providing the first external armed threat to the CIS since its inception and is therefore helping Russia do what it has only been partially successful at in the pastunify military command of forces in the Central Asian republics.
Is it January 1992 again?
Manilov claimed that since the initial stages of military reunification have now been accomplished, "it will be possible to go over to the next phasethe formation of coalitions of troops in strategic directions and the drawing up of plans for their possible use."
The third phase, Manilov said, will result in the completion of the formation of a collective security system, and the creation of the CIS single armed forces "is not ruled out within the boundaries of the third phase."
Executive secretary discusses future CIS security structure
Korotchenya has consistently favored CIS reintegration and a Russocentric union. Linking the Union Treaty to the Security Treaty while at the same time more closely coupling his secretariat to the CIS Security Council shows more clearly the direction the CIS Executive Secretary wishes to go.
by Mark W. Jones
Ukraine has been protesting the flank document, which could technically provide legal grounds for the stationing of Russian troops in the territories of Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and of course, Ukraine. Before meeting U.S. President Clinton and Vice President Gore, Kuchma told Interfax on 14 May, "We are not going to build relations of strategic partnership only on one-sided concessions." However, Ukraine conceded by reluctantly signing, on 15 May, the flank agreement after receiving US assurances that countries must agree to any stationing of foreign troops. President Kuchma spoke to Interfax on 16 May and called the flank document "a sufficient compromise," and that "not a single country must have the right to station nuclear weapons and military equipment on Ukrainian territory without Ukraine's consent."
However, such assurances will depend on Russia's actions within NATO, and it is unlikely that Yel'tsin will deviate from his stance on the NATO expansion. Russia will continue to take advantage of the Western media to portray itself as a superpower still, having its sphere of influence over the former republics. NATO's acceptance of Russia may, Yel'tsin hopes, aid in perpetuating the old image of Russia in the West. As for Ukraine, it may have to continue to make "one-sided concessions" to NATO, which will portray Ukraine as a subordinate nation. Also, at home, President Kuchma must continue to combat the public perception that NATO was "our main enemy for half a century."
President Kuchma told Interfax that the future security of the CIS countries "depend on whether Russia will become a society based on lawful and democratic principles or another kind that would make other countries seek external protection." Thus, during his official visit to the United States with President Clinton and Vice President Gore on 14 May, Kuchma discussed Ukraine's need to have medium-range and short-range missiles to protect its borders. Although Kuchma is willing to destroy the remaining SS-24 missiles, he stressed that Ukraine will continue to manufacture missiles that are not covered in the strategic arms reduction agreements. Russia's power politics seems to have influenced Kuchma's decision to seek extra measures of security in addition to its partnership with NATO.
Now that the charter is signed, Lukashenka is encouraged to follow the provisions in the document. Accordingly, he needs to make structural changes in his government to promote democratic policies, including a free-market economy. In order to encourage economic growth, Belarus needs to liberate state-regulated prices and encourage privatization. On 19 May, the IMF suspended talks on the $70 million loan to Belarus unless Belarus change its economic policy. Also by fining the Belarus Soros Foundation (BSF) $3 million for an alleged tax discrepancies, and freezing the BSF's bank account in May, Belarus will lose $6 million in aid that would have been given to science and cultural organizations in Belarus. If President Lukashenka does not make efforts to change Belarus' image as a grave human rights offender, he will continue to lose financial benefits in the forms of aid and investments, and isolate itself not only from the West but also Russia.
Azerbaijan resisted the upward revision of ceilings on heavy arms in Russia's southern flank which threatens the Azeris by concentrating forces close to their border. Moreover the ambiguous language of the treaty, by increasing Russia's quota in its southern flank (before the dissolution of the Soviet Union Azerbaijan was part of the Caucasus Military District, a part of the southern flank) seemed to imply that Russia could station heavy arms in Azerbaijan without explicit Azeri permission. The last-minute change of heart is attributed to active US lobbying which included a call on the 15th from Vice President Gore, who invited President Aliyev to Washington for a meeting with President Clinton.
On the 15th the local media reported that the US Senate included a section dealing with Russia's illegal arms transfers to Armenia in its resolution on the ratification of the CFE flanks document. This section asks the president to report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee "on the compliance of Armenia and other signatory states of the Caucasus" by 1 August 1997.
Though parliamentary ratification was not required by the terms of the treaty, the Azeri parliament ratified the CFE on the following day in a vote of 87 to five, with one abstention. (Turan, 16 May 97) Given that the matter had been sealed the previous day by the president, the deputies probably did not wish to waste political capital on what had become a non-issue.
...But adds sweetener to the deal
On the 23rd Azerbaijan's Prime Minister, Artur Rasizade, met with Vice President Gore to discuss President Aliyev's upcoming visit. Rasizade also met with World Bank President Wolfehnson and several Congressmen. To the latter, he renewed Azeri appeals to repeal Amendment 907 to the Freedom Support Act, which prohibits US government agencies from delivering humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan.
Shevardnadze makes new proposal for Abkhaz settlement
Shevardnadze also proposed a peacekeeping conference that would include representatives of the United Nations, the OSCE, the CIS, and "Friends of Georgia," (a group which includes the US, Germany, and Britain). He took care to emphasize that Russia can still participate in organizing the conference. (Interfax, 27 May 97) Of course, should such a conference take place it would certainly diminish what has been since 1993 Russia's complete monopoly on peacekeeping in Georgia.
Georgian parliament attaches conditions to CFE treaty ratification
The following day Bahrom's supporters took a number of Russian journalists and Red Cross personnel hostage and then issued the additional demand that the Tajik government send official representatives to Qalai Nav in order to begin negotiating a solution to the hostage crisis (ITAR-TASS, 5 Feb 97). In a radio broadcast on Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy on 6 February, one of the journalists being held in Qalai Nav stated that Bahrom Sodirov had informed them that they were not considered hostages but were being held in order to provide accurate and objective news coverage of the situation (Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy, 6 Feb 97).
Also on 6 February, the day before negotiations were scheduled to begin between the Tajik government, representatives of Rezvon Sodirov, and Bahrom Sodirov, an additional four hostages were brought to Qalai Nav. Members of B. Sodirov's militia entered Dushanbe and seized four UNHCR employees along with their two vehicles (ITAR-TASS, 6 Feb 97). Samadin Satarov, deputy commander of politics for B. Sodirov's militia, then threatened the Tajik government with a series of terrorist attacks on prominent political figures if the negotiations failed to meet the group's demands, and boasted that more than 100 mines had been placed in Dushanbe, implying that the militia had the capacity to destroy the capital (NTV, 6 Feb 97).
The negotiations did begin on 7 February as planned, and seemed to result in a small degree of success, because two of the Red Cross workers were released. Representatives of the Tajik government included Tajik Security Minister, Saidamir Zuhurov (Interfax, 7 Feb 97) and Afghan General Ahmad Shah Mas'ud's brother, Muhammad Soleh. B. Sodirov's group took both of these men hostage shortly after the negotiations had begun. Perhaps the Red Cross workers' release was meant as some sort of compensation for the seizing of Zuhurov and Soleh. Soleh was released the next day in order to return to Afghanistan and persuade both General Mas'ud and Rezvon Sodirov to participate in the negotiations. The same day Lt. Gen. Pavel' Tarasenko, commander of the Russian border guards in Tajikistan, announced that because of the hostage crisis, all checkpoints on the Tajik-Afghan border had been closed to travelers (ITAR-TASS, 8 Feb 97).
On 9 February President Rahmonov and General Mas'ud held their first face-to-face meeting in the southern Tajik city of Kulob in order to discuss what measures should be taken to resolve the hostage crisis (ITAR-TASS, 9 Feb 97). That morning it was also announced that B. Sodirov had changed his original demands to ask that the Tajik government transport Rezvon Sodirov and his supporters directly from northern Afghanistan to Qalai Nav, instead of just providing them with a safe corridor (Interfax, 9 Feb 97).
Rezvon Sodirov and four of his bodyguards arrived in Qalai Nav on 10 February, in order to join forces with Bahrom. However, if this turn of events generated any willingness on Bahrom's part to release more hostages, it was soon dispelled by the movement of Tajik government troops near his base of operations. Bahrom issued a statement on 11 February calling for the troops to cease their actions or all of the hostages would be killed, and demanding that 40 of Rezvon's supporters be transported to Qalai Nav by the next morning, or two of the first hostages taken would be executed (NTV, 11 Feb 97). This deadline was extended to 1600 hrs. on 12 February, once Bahrom learned that two helicopters carrying Rezvon's supporters were already underway to Tajikistan (ITAR-TASS, 12 Feb 97). In fact, he promised to begin releasing the hostages as soon as the helicopters landed in southern Tajikistan. On 13 February the Russian journalists were duly set free (ITAR-TASS, 13 Feb 97) and on 16 February five more were permitted to leave the Sodirovs' base. A day later President Rahmonov and Bahrom Sodirov began face-to face negotiations in order to resolve the situation completely (OMRI Daily Digest, 17 Feb 97).
On 19 February Bahrom and Rezvon Sodirov declared their loyalty to President Rahmonov, denied all claims to leading positions in the Tajik government, expressed their support for the inter-Tajik peace process, and gave up an earlier demand to be treated as a third force in the inter-Tajik peace negotiations. However, despite the Sodirovs' pledges of loyalty, the government troops (units of the Presidential Guard) were not removed from their positions surrounding the Sodirovs' base (Interfax, 19 Feb 97) and on 25 February both the government troops and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) units launched an attack on the militia base and succeeded in driving the Sodirovs out of the Obi Garm area. Their complete defeat was expected to require more time, due to the area's mountainous and difficult terrain (OMRI Daily Digest, 28 Feb 97).
Typhoid epidemic in Tajikistan
Government and opposition forces destroy Sodirov militia group
On 15 March Bahrom Sodirov and 19 of his supporters were captured in Obi Garm in a joint government-UTO operation. This left Rezvon Sodirov and approximately 45 of his followers still at liberty (ITAR-TASS, 16 Mar 97). They were able to escape from Obi Garm to another mountain gorge in the Vakhshskii Ridge, located about 80 km southeast of Dushanbe between the towns of Rogun and Nurek. The Tajik government did not immediately try to rout Rezvon and his supporters from their new hiding place, but instead gave them the opportunity to surrender. The deadline for their surrender was set for 1900 hrs on 19 March (ITAR-TASS, 19 Mar 97). When Rezvon and his men failed to comply with this ultimatum, the Tajik Presidential Guard and special units of the Security Ministry began preparing a final assault (Interfax, 20 Mar 97). These government units were reinforced by UTO troops from the Komsomolobod area, led by Mullah Abdullo (Interfax, 22 Mar 97).
Government paratroopers landed on the Vakhshskii Ridge between 24 and 25 March, and with the support of other government and UTO forces, attacked Rezvon and his remaining supporters. Several more of Rezvon's men were killed and another five were taken prisoner. Gafur Mirzoev, commander of the Presidential Guard, estimated that the rest of Rezvon's group would be destroyed within the next two days (Interfax, 25 Mar 97). By this time Rezvon was left with no more than 10 supporters and it seemed that they were planning to flee from the Vakhshskii Ridge gorge to a village further south called Sholut. Meanwhile, UTO and government troops were attempting to seal off all possible exits from the gorge (Interfax, 28 Mar 97).
Rezvon and his remaining supporters were unable to escape from the gorge, and by 29 March only he, his younger brother (who was wounded), and a few others were left as the joint UTO-government manhunt continued (ITAR-TASS, 30 Mar 97).
Sixth round of peace talks successfully concluded, despite UTO walkout
After some delays, the commission was allowed to meet with each prisoner individually, but only in the presence of government law enforcement officials, and the UN physician who had accompanied the commission was not permitted to examine the prisoners for signs of physical abuse (ITAR-TASS, 7 Mar 97). Prof. Sattorzoda recommended that the resumption of the peace negotiations be suspended until the prisoners had been sentenced by the Tajik State Prosecutor's office (Clandestine Voice of Free Tajikistan, 6 Mar 97), but both the UN envoy to Tajikistan, Gerd Dietrich Merrem, and the Tajik government called for the negotiations to proceed as quickly as possible, and so the peace talks resumed in Moscow on 7 March (ITAR-TASS, 7 Mar 97).
The military protocol which the two sides signed was drawn up by a UN delegation, based on proposals made by both UTO and Tajik government leaders. The protocol creates a process for the disarmament and integration of the UTO's troops into the Tajik government's armed forces. The process will proceed in stages. The first step will be to bring those opposition troops still stationed in Afghanistan back to Tajikistan, where they will be required to surrender their weapons under UN supervision. These opposition troops will then be formed into regular army units, which are to be gradually merged with the rest of the government's armed forces over a period of about one year. This merging process is to be completed by 1 July 1998 (Interfax, 8 Mar 97).
The protocol also provides for the quartering of a small UTO force in Dushanbe one week before the National Reconciliation Commission takes up its duties, to guarantee the security of the UTO members on the commission. The precise size of this force is still undetermined and has become a very thorny issue for the Tajik government and the UTO. UTO leaders have proposed that the force consist of 600 troops, but President Rahmonov has stated that this number is much too large and would actually constitute a security risk. The issue will have to be resolved fairly soon because the National Reconciliation Commission is due to begin functioning two weeks after the protocol on the legalization of the three main opposition parties is signed at the next round of inter-Tajik peace negotiations. These negotiations are scheduled to begin on 9 April in Tehran (Interfax, 8 Mar 97).
UN mission and CIS peacekeeping mandate in Tajikistan extended
Approximately two weeks later, on 27 March, the Council of CIS Heads
of State voted to extend the mandate of its joint peacekeeping forces in
Tajikistan for another six months (until 31 December 1997), and approved
Boris Diukov as the new commander of the peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan
(Interfax, 28 Mar 97).