Volume II Number 11 (June 18, 1997)
Yel'tsin weighing options in Primorsky Krai
Naming the local FSB chief as presidential representative in Primorye
has apparently not led to a resolution of Kremlin disputes with the local
governor, Yevgeni Nazdratenko. President Yel'tsin dispatched First Deputy
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov to the region to assess the situation and report
back. In the wake of his visit, several options have been floated by members
of the administration.
Nemtsov held a meeting with Nazdratenko during which he suggested that
both the governor and his main local rival, the mayor of Vladivostok Viktor
Cherepkov, step down and hold new elections for their posts to allow "other
people" to replace them. (RTR, 15 Jun 97) Nazdratenko later responded
by agreeing with the idea of early elections and announcing his intention
to stand as a candidate. (RTR, 16 Jun 97)
While Yel'tsin has expressed support for early elections, his legal aide,
Mikhail Krasnov, has also found constitutional justification for the president
unilaterally to remove a governor from office. Citing Article 77's provision
for a "unified system of executive power," Krasnov ignores the
article's earlier statement that "The system of bodies of state power...is
established ...independently in accordance with the fundamentals of the
constitutional system of the Russian Federation...." Krasnov also referred
to Article 80, which names the president as guarantor of the constitution.
(RFE/RL Newsline,16 Jun 97) At the heart of this dispute is whether the
president gave up his right to dismiss governors when he stopped appointing
them and allowed for their election to office.
Other governors have entered the debate on this presidential right of
dismissal. Konstantin Titov, governor of the Samara Oblast and leading member
of Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia, has supported the administration's
constitutional claims of a presidential prerogative to dismiss a governor.
Eduard Rossel, governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast, has announced his firm opposition.
Despite the importance of the constitutional issue at stake in this tug-of-war
between the Kremlin and Primorsky governor, there are elements of personality
and animosity that reveal a more intimate character to this matter. As Anatoli
Chubais recently stated, Nazdratenko should be compelled to bear "personal
responsibility" for problems in the krai. (Monitor, 16 Jun 97)
Advisory councils axed in budget crunch
In apparent response to fiscal constraints, eight organs of the presidential
apparat have been abolished or trimmed. Following the recommendations of
a working group on reorganization established in September 1996, President
Yel'tsin has issued an edict dissolving the following consultative organs:
The Expert and Analysis Council; The Council for the Russian Language; the
Coordinating Committee for Physical Culture, Sport and Tourism (once headed
by presidential friend and tennis coach Shamil Tarpishchev); the Council
of Heads of the Administration; the Council for Cossack Affairs; the Council
for Scientific and Technical Policy; and the Expert Legal Council. In addition
to the financial concerns cited for their dissolution, the duplication of
authority among the many councils, long a feature of the Yel'tsin apparat,
was also a factor in the reorganization. Without full text of the decree,
it is difficult to determine whether this most recent restructuring has
broader implications for the central members of the administration. (Rossiyskiye
vesti, 27 May 97)
New FSB structure decreed
The internal departmental structure of the Federal Security Service
has been reorganized and ratified by presidential decree. While it is unclear
who initiated this reorganization, media commentaries have suggested that
the current leadership of the FSB was unaware of the effort until handed
the decree. It is likely that former Moscow FSB chief and current deputy
chief of the president's administration for personnel, Yevgeni Savostyanov,
had some involvement in drafting the edict. The new departmental structure
of the FSB is as follows: Counterintelligence Department; Anti-terrorism
Department; Analysis, Forecasting, and Strategic Planning Department; Organizational
and Personnel Work Department; Support Services Department; Investigation
and Curtailment of Criminal Organization Activity Directorate; Investigations
Directorate; Operational Search Directorate; Operational Technical Measures
Directorate; Personal Security Directorate of Affairs; Detention Center;
and the Scientific Research Center. (Rosssiyskaya gazeta, 29 May 97)
Khrenov fired, magazine dissolved
Yuri Khrenov, editor of the state-funded magazine Rossiyskaya federatsiya
was fired in May after complaining about interference and rebukes from First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatoli Chubais. While Khrenov claimed that Chubais'
actions threatened a free press, Chubais retorted that Khrenov's removal
had "nothing to do with freedom of the press." Chubais added however,
"it is impossible to understand...a person who receives his salary
from the government criticizing [the executive] in his publication."
(RFE/RL Newsline, 12 Jun 97)
Khrenov would not have had much job security however, even if he had
retained his post. In a government decision last week, the magazine ceased
publication. Financial constraints were cited as the cause for the government's
by Susan J. Cavan
Will the U.S. send peacekeepers to protect Caspian pipeline? Russia objects
The Journal of Commerce reported on 5 June that the Clinton administration
is considering sending troops to ensure the peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The report drew criticism from Moscow.
Under the reported plan, troops from the United States would join European
and Russian forces in overseeing a settlement over the Armenian enclave
of Nagorno-Karabakh. The enclave is on Azeri territory but has been occupied
by Armenian forces.
A peace settlement in the enclave is crucial to successful construction
of a pipeline for Caspian oil across Azerbaijan to Georgian ports on the
Mediterranean Sea. The United States favors the route over an alternative
through Russian territory. (Journal of Commerce, 5 Jun 97).
Russian security expert Colonel Aleksey Gordeychuk objected that the
insertion of U.S. troops would reduce Russia's influence in the region.
(ITAR-TASS, 6 Jun 97)
Primakov condemns plans to keep NATO as basis of European security
A NATO-based security system would "not suit Russia," according
to Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov. Russia would rather see a new organization
to be built upon the NATO-Russia accord, a Foreign Ministry spokesman quoting
The comments came on 10 June as Primakov was attending a conference in
The ideal security system, Primakov was quoted as saying, would be one
in which "NATO, Russia, the United States and so on will all be playing
a role and at the same time there will be none of that NATO- centrism."
(Interfax, 10 Jun 97)
A week later, British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared himself in favor
of preserving NATO's leading role on the European continent. (Newshour,
BBC World Service, 16 Jun 97).
Nemtsov concludes visit to Japan; Tokyo supports WTO entry for Russia
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov completed a three-day visit
to Japan, during which the two nations agreed to pursue a number of economic
The Russian and Japanese governments signed agreements on the extraction
of oil and gas from the Sakhalin shelf and on the revival of the trans-Siberian
railroad. The Japanese also agreed to back Russia's membership in the Paris
Creditors' Club. (Rossiyskiye vesti, 11 Jun 97).
Nemtsov's Japanese hosts did not raise the issue of Russia's continued
occupation of the Kuril Islands. Russia captured the islands at the end
of World War II and has thus far refused to discuss returning them to Japan,
despite significant pressure from Tokyo. Some Russian commentators feared
that Tokyo would wait until the G-7 summit in Denver, to be held in July,
before raising the issue. (Rossiyskiye vesti, 10 Jun 97)
A week before Nemtsov's visit, Japanese foreign ministry officials announced
that Tokyo would support Russia's application to join the World Trade Organization.
Japan's support, however, would come only provided Russia opened up its
market further to international trade. (ITAR-TASS, 3 Jun 97)
Comment: Threats and bluffs over Caspian oil
Now that Russia has secured concessions from the West on NATO expansion,
securing a favorable Caspian oil route has risen to the top of Moscow's
foreign policy agenda. Countries that must be destabilized are subject to
new threats, while troublesome republics, such as Chechnya and Ingushetia,
Russia has, for example, attempted to disrupt peace talks between Georgian
and Abkhaz leaders. Just as Georgian authorities were meeting anti-Russian
Abkhaz leaders in Tbilisi, Moscow sponsored a "peace conference"
that featured leaders of the pro-Russian, anti-Georgian forces in Abkhazia.
As Pravda might have said, it is "no accident" that the two conferences
fell on the same two days.
A week later, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed a memorandum
with Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov to ensure the safe passage of Caspian
oil through Chechnya on its way to the Russian port of Novorossiisk. The
seriousness of Russian interest in the region can be measured by the recent
promotion of Boris Agapov, the former Vice President of Ingushetia, to the
post of Security Council Deputy Secretary. Agapov, according to Council
Secretary Ivan Rybkin, will handle "emergency situations."
The overtly imperial manner with which Russia pursues its national interests
in the Caucasus makes White House plans to send in peacekeepers seem naive
in the extreme. If, as the Journal of Commerce reported, the Clinton administration
is seriously considering a joint Russian, European and American military
engagement for the region, one must feel sorry for the U.S. troops to be
dispatched. Their mission will be yet another hunt for historical ghosts,
all too much like the American quelling of Balkan "ancient ethnic hatreds."
The Russians, on the other hand, will have real, live human targets and
a clear agenda.
by Chandler Rosenberger
POLITICAL PARTIES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Federation Council speaker calls the Russia-NATO agreement "a diplomatic
The main questions for Russia are the non-deployment of nuclear weapons
in new member-countries and a guarantee that bases even for conventional
weapons will not be deployed there. "If this is what was agreed upon
at the Wednesday talks, Russia can join NATO itself and work in the alliance,"
Stroyev said. Does this mean eternal peace in Europe or a Russian veto in
a security organization of which it is not a member? (Interfax, 14 May 97)
Yel'tsin supports increased power of Federation Council
Criticizing the Duma's legislative activity, the president expressed the
view that the situation can be altered by enhancing the role of the Federation
Council and its active participation in introducing order into lawmaking
activities. The president believes the Federation Council should "make
more exacting demands on laws coming from the State Duma." (ITAR-TASS,
14 May 97)
This argument is not a new one, but fundamental constitutional changes
would be required. It is unclear, and rather doubtful, if the Duma would
sanction an institutional diminution of its already meager power. But playing
inter-cameral favorites might help Yel'tsin prevent both houses of the Federal
Assembly from ganging up on him.
Presidential edict requires public officials to report their incomes
A draft decree prepared on the initiative of First Deputy Prime Minister
Boris Nemtsov states that all persons taking official positions, including
the president, members of the Cabinet, the Federation Council and the State
Duma, officials in federal, regional and local self-government authorities
agree to provide information about their incomes and property.
Under the draft decree, the president must be handed summarized information
about the declarations by 1 July. All state officials will bear accountability,
going as far as facing dismissal, for failing to respect the deadline or
turning in false information about their incomes and property.
Income includes movables and real estate, including planes, helicopters,
cutters or other sea or river transport vehicles. No word is made on limiting
evasion or other creative accounting methods for public officials. (Interfax,
9 May 97).
Russian nationalities minister calls for more use of media
Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov said that, "the image of Russia and the
history of our once common history presented in numerous CIS member states,
in particular by their mass media, is distorted... If this goes on, Russia
may find itself surrounded by hostile...countries." The solution is
the creation of "balance" by broadcasting Russian opinion into
the homes of CIS countries. It seems clear that the minister feels that
local media are not capable of unbiased reporting.
"Television programs should be exchanged on equal terms and a federal
channel should be created on the basis of regional and zonal blocs. It could
later become a CIS interstate channel," said Minister Mikhailov. (Interfax,
13 May 97)
by Michael Thurman
Government directive on nuclear power safety talks signed with Iran
A government directive was signed in May stating that talks would be held
between the Russian Federal Inspectorate for Nuclear and Radiation Safety
and the Iranian Nuclear energy organization on cooperation in the field
of safety regulation in the process of the peaceful use of nuclear power
in the Islamic Republic of Iran. (Rossiyskaya gazeta, 10 Jun 97)
Sergeyev on planned military reform
Defense Minister Sergeyev is actively promoting his concept of military
reform. Several interviews pieced together give a picture of what he is
trying to do:
(1) He believes "the most important thing is to remove shortcomings
in budget financing of the armed forces." How does he intend to accomplish
his goals? Personnel optimization is essential for reform, and having done
so, "the burden to the budget of maintaining personnel will be eased,"
he said. At the moment the burden is unthinkable, the minister said. Over
60% of the money earmarked for the armed forces is spent on allowances,
food and salaries.
(2) He said it is extremely important to free resources and redirect
them to research and design work so that the country will have models for
a new generation of weapons and start serial production of them in five
or seven years. Spending on control systems and officers assigned to monitor
defense contracts at companies will be cut. He said that, at 40% of plants
delivering equipment to the rocket forces, there are two such officials:
one representing the Rocket Forces and the other the Space Forces. Such
overlapping is unjustified, the minister said.
(3) Another important task, he said, is to keep the combat-ready units
which have an infrastructure, reliable equipment, and arms. On the basis
of such units, Russia could have the military units of the future by 1998.
To accomplish this he said optimization of the Strategic Rocket Forces and
the Space Forces, a more rational organization of the command, should increase
deterrence efficiency by 10-15%, as determined by independent experts. Optimization
is not just sweeping personnel cuts.
His overall plans call for restructuring the services from their current
five down to three services. Not naming the future structures, Sergeyev
reported that the planned defense reform will focus "on two components
-- strategic forces of deterrence and general purpose troops." At present,
Russia's armed forces comprise five services: strategic missile troops,
ground troops, the navy, ABM, and air force.
Meanwhile, Russian military experts have explained to Interfax that in
the future Russia's armed forces will consist of air defense troops (ABM
and air force included) general purpose troops (infantry and naval units
included) and aero-space troops (strategic missile and some ABM and air
force elements included). (Interfax, 9,11,12 Jun 97)
by Lt.Col Cathy Dreher
Ukraine moves towards NATO bid
Ukraine appears to be moving slowly towards a bid for NATO membership. (Monitor,
9 Jun 97)
The Belarus/Russia "Union" treaty, as well as sovereignty issues
in the Crimea, seem to be pushing Ukraine towards the West. NATO membership
is perceived (by some Europeans) as a guarantee that the collapse of the
Soviet Union is irreversible. Ukrainian membership in NATO would not be
looked upon favorably by the Russians, but the Ukrainians may see it as
the only long-term option to maintain their independence.
Sergeyev's reform proposals earn presidential backing
Yel'tsin has given his blessing to early reform plans of General Igor Sergeyev.
The plans (as yet rather vague) involve reorganization and some infrastructure
reduction. They also include plans for four (ill-defined) "rapid-response/combined
arms" formations ("units of the future") -- one to be stationed
in the Far East, one in the north Caucasus and two near Moscow. (Monitor,
10 Jun 97; Reuters, 11 Jun 97)
Actual cuts in force structure have proven politically difficult in the
past. Any substantive decisions are bound to be political minefields. The
location of these new units is interesting in that half this leading edge
force will be stationed around Moscow, hundreds of miles from the nearest
frontier (and threat, one would suppose).
Suicide rate in services more than doubles
The suicide rate in the Russian armed forces has more then doubled, from
15 per 100,000 in 1991 to 36 per 100,000 now. (RFE/RL Newsline, Jun 97)
This is a very damming statistic, and it's not just hazed conscripts. Lately
several officers have committed suicide, allegedly in protest over non-payment
of wages and lack of career prospects.
by CDR John G. Steele
Interparliamentary Assembly meets in St. Petersburg
A plenary session of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly was held in
St. Petersburg on 8 June 1997. The session was attended by delegations from
all CIS member states except Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan-- the only CIS
state which has not joined the Assembly. Ukrainian delegates participated
as observers. The meeting was led by CIS Assembly Chairman and Head of the
Council of Federation of Russia's Federal Assembly, Yegor Stroyev, and worked
to sign some 15 documents concerning "important problems." According
to ITAR-TASS (8 Jun 97), the most heated debates were over three bills:
on border troops, on state borders and on military training.
CIS assembly, European Council's PACE sign agreement
In a related story, Interfax reported on 9 June 1997 that a cooperation
agreement was concluded between the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly and
its European Council's counterpart PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe). According to the document, the assemblies "will exchange
... documents including reports and other official papers so that they are
fully updated on each other's activities." Yegor Stroyev was beaming
about this agreement because he feels it provides a certain level of international
legitimacy to the assembly. In his view a European organization is finally
treating the commonwealth as an equal. Unfortunately for Mr. Stroyev, other
events, including the signing of the Russia-Belarus charter and other bilateral
agreements as well as the progressive fractionalization of the CIS, continue
to undermine the legitimacy of the commonwealth in international affairs.
Peacekeeping proves fatal
"Peacekeeping" duty proved fatal for 23 Russian soldiers in Georgia
during the first week of June. Interfax reported on 3 June 1997 that a Russian
armored vehicle carrying 13 peacekeepers was destroyed by a remote-controlled
bomb. The fact that a remote-controlled device was used shows the attack
was premeditated and the deaths were not the result of a simple accident.
It may also indicate that the Abkhazians are making good on their threats
to attack any soldiers who attempt to increase the size of the CIS-patrolled
and -controlled peacekeeping zone.
Interfax also reported that, on 2 June 1997, a Russian sergeant on duty
in Abkhazia shot and killed 10 of his colleagues and wounded three others.
No motive was given, but the incident does not reflect a high state of morale
among the peacekeepers.
In a related story, Yusop Soslambekov, president of the Confederation
of the Peoples of the Caucasus, said his organization is ready to send volunteers
from the North Caucasus to the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone if the CIS
peacekeeping force leaves. (Interfax, 10 Jun 97)
CIS border troop commanders sign 13 cooperation documents
CIS border troop commanders held a meeting chaired by the chief of the Russian
Border Troops on 4 June 1997 and signed a number of cooperation documents.
The key document was a draft agreement on cooperation among CIS border troops
to "ensure efficient border controls with countries which are not CIS
member states." The agreement will be presented for approval at the
next Heads of State meeting.
Other documents signed concerned measures "to enhance border cooperation,
carry out special border guard operations Rubezh (Border) '97 and create
an information network linking all CIS border troops." (ITAR-TASS,
4 Jun 97)
CIS intelligence chiefs meet
The Tbilisi newspaper Svobodnaya gruziya reported on 6 May 1997 that a meeting
of directors of the security authorities and intelligence services of the
CIS countries occurred in Georgia. Lieutenant General Shota Kviraia, minister
of state security of Georgia, was elected to the office of chairman of the
CIS Council of Secret Services. When asked what was discussed, LTG Kviraia
was evasive --"Our discussion was strictly confidential, professional,
and top-secret. I can say just one thing. The main item on the agenda was
the question of international terrorism and the interaction of the security
authorities in combating it." Without noting further details of the
top-secret meeting, it is interesting to point out that a Georgian was elected
to chair an organization dedicated to CIS security matters.
by Mark W. Jones
Oil pipeline to traverse Armenia? Armenian rights to Caspian reserves?
Turkey's ambassador to Georgia, Tewfik Okiauz, gave a favorable assessment
of constructing a pipeline from Azerbaijan to the Turkish port Ceyhan across
Armenian territory. "There are no reasons why the oil pipeline could
not run via Armenia. This is the cheapest and shortest route to Ceyhan and
one fine day it will happen," he told Armenian journalists. The possibility
of a "friendship pipeline" that would constitute part of the settlement
of the Nagorno-Karabkh dispute has been occasionally broached in the past.
However the latest Armenian effort to gain inclusion into the lucrative
oil trade no longer rests on the premise of a Karabakh settlement nor does
it presuppose Azerbaijani ownership of Caspian deposits. Rather, the Armenian
parliament has moved to ratify the 1982 UN Law of the Sea, under which,
if the Caspian is a sea, "Armenia could demand of the coastal states
transit for an outlet to it and could also seek to realize the right to
joint exploitation of the natural marine resources as the common heritage
of all humanity." (Interfaks-AiF, 19-25 May 97) At the same time, the
foreign ministry is developing a proposal for inclusion in the group of
maritime countries and participation in the oil development projects. Should
Armenia become a participant in the group of five Caspian states, it will
tip the balance in that group away from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan
and in favor of Armenia's allies -- Russia and Iran. If Armenia succeeds
in its push for oil, it will have even fewer incentives to accommodate Azeri
concerns in Nagorno-Karabakh.
No progress in OSCE negotiations
The latest initiative on Nagorno-Karabakh presented by three OSCE Minsk
group co-chairmen Valentin Lozinsky (Russia), Strobe Talbott (US), and Jacques
Bleau (France) was rejected in Yerevan and Stepanakert. The Armenians rejected
the principle of territorial integrity, as stated in reference to Nagorno-Karabakh
at the OSCE Lisbon conference in the Fall of 1996. They continue to oppose
any subordination of Nagorno-Karabkh to Azerbaijan. The details of the proposal
were kept confidential. (ITAR- TASS, 31 May 97)
Parliament passes Defense Law
On 25 May a Defense Law that explicitly allows the stationing of foreign
troops on Armenian territory was adopted by the Armenian parliament. (Interfax,
29 May 97) Armenia already accommodates a Russian military base and, unlike
Georgia, has given legitimacy to their presence.
IBRD studies cost of Baku port reconstruction
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has estimated
that the cost of modernizing Baku's dilapidated port facilities will be
in the neighborhood of $52 million. It was announced that the terms and
exact magnitude of the loan from the IBRD would be the subject of subsequent
negotiations. One outstanding issue holding up the project is obtaining
an accurate projection of the sea level in the Caspian. The Caspian has
been subject to a great deal of dumping from coastal states and from military
waste from the Volga river and has seen a steady rise in its sea level.
A Danish firm has estimated that it will rise two meters over the next fifty
years, which would flood the proposed port buildings and nearby facilities.
Azerbaijani scientists believe that it will not rise by more than one meter.
(Zerkalo, 7 Jun 97) Environmental factors such as the possibility of radioactive
materials in some oil wells, the rise of the sea level, and the erosion
of the sturgeon population pose environmental dilemmas and obstruct the
oil projects already underway.
Aliev and Nazarbaev sign two memoranda on oil
On June 11 President Heydar Aliev of Azerbaijan and President Nursultan
Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan signed memoranda on cooperation in oil equipment
construction and oil transport to world markets. According to the agreement
Kazakh oil will travel by tanker to Baku, from there it will travel to Georgia's
Black Sea coast and then to Bulgaria, Turkey and Ukraine. Eventually a pipeline
under the Caspian can replace the tanker traffic there and connect to the
other proposed pipeline routes. (Turan, 11 Jun 97)
Kazakhstan has relied on Russia's Novorossiisk line, which besides its
low capacity has sustained breaks, leaks and a general state of decay. This
line has proven insufficient to deliver even half of the oil produced at
Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field to the market. The proposed route to Turkey,
Ukraine and Bulgaria should alleviate the bottleneck at the Novorossiisk
Russians signal willingness to pull out of Abkhazia
Yel'tsin's press secretary Sergei Yastrezhembsky has stated that Russia
may comply with Georgian demands to remove its peacekeepers. While commenting
on Georgia's parliamentary resolution calling for the withdrawal of peacekeepers
in August if they continue to fail to enforce their mandate, Yastrezhembsky
said that the Georgian resolution "forces us to evaluate the utility
of the continued presence of the peacekeepers in the conflict zone"
(Nezavisimaya gazeta, 4 Jun 97)
This comment came on the heals of two fatal incidents in the conflict
zone. On 1 June a Russian peacekeeper killed ten of his colleagues and himself.
On the following day a Russian APC was destroyed by a remote-controlled
bomb, killing one and seriously wounding one of the 13 peacekeepers on board.
Tension in the conflict zone has been rising steadily over the last two
months as the Abkhaz have opposed the implementation of the expanded peacekeeping
mandate. Vladislav Ardzinba's visit to Moscow in early June, when he met
with Yevgeni Primakov, did not bring about any evolution of Abkhazia's stand:
On 9 June Ardzinba proposed that Georgia and Abkhazia sign a peace treaty
similar to the Chechen-Russian treaty, but refused to discuss particulars
of the settlement until the economic sanctions imposed by the CIS against
Abkhazia are eased. (Ekho Moskvy, 9 Jun 97) As a result, President Shevardnadze's
recent conciliatory proposals (see last Digest) have not been met by similar
Recent statements from both sides contribute to the impression that a
new wave of violence may be imminent if the peacekeepers withdraw. An Abkhaz
representative has suggested that "peacekeepers" from the Confederation
of the Peoples of the North Caucasus take over for the Russian presence.
(Nezavisimaya gazeta, 5 Jun 97) This shadowy group was instrumental in delivering
arms and mercenaries to the Abkhaz in 1992-1993 and was implicated in the
December 1996 murder of Red Cross personnel in Chechnya. For its part, Georgia
has announced that it will hold large-scale military exercises involving
10,000 armed forces personnel in late June or early July. (ITAR-TASS, 11
The Chechens, who aided Abkhazia in the past, have recently pledged to
honor Georgia's territorial integrity. Ahmed Zakayev, a security aide for
Maskhadov, characterized Georgia as "Chechnya's main strategic partner,"
and went on to say that "Chechnya cannot agree with the fact that the
Abkhazian leadership is today obviously striving to strike an alliance with
Russia to the detriment of general Caucasian interests." (ITAR-TASS,
3 Jun 97) This is not tantamount to a pledge to aid Georgia should war erupt.
Nor have Georgia's other "strategic partners," Ukraine and Azerbaijan,
announced any such commitment. Georgia may yet again find itself alone against
Russia and its Abkhaz clients.
Remainder of Sodirov's militia still under siege
As of 13 April, Rezvon Sodirov and his three remaining supporters were still
believed to be hiding in the Surkh Gorge, 80 km southeast of Dushanbe in
the Vakhshskii Mountain Ridge (between the towns of Nurek and Rogun), although
Sodirov and his men had not been spotted in three days. A Tajik military
source refuted the rumor that Sodirov had managed to escape to Afghanistan
or Kyrgyzstan, saying that the joint government-UTO force had sealed off
all possible exits from the gorge. Presumably the reason that the troops
had lost sight of Sodirov's group was that, due to heavy rains and the risk
of landslides, search operations had been stalled for a few days. Furthermore,
the troops had been instructed not to fire on the area where Sodirov was
believed to be hiding, because Tajik government authorities wanted the men
taken alive. The group was also known to be holding a local resident hostage
to act as their guide (Interfax, 13 Apr 97), so perhaps the troops' reluctance
to shoot was also partially out of concern for the man's safety.
At the beginning of April there were rumors that Rezvon Sodirov and his
younger brother Fathiddin (who was wounded by the joint government-UTO forces
in March) had been killed, but Ghaffar Mirzoev, commander of the Tajik Presidential
Guard (one of the government units involved in tracking Sodirov) flatly
denied these rumors. Responding to another rumor, presidential press spokesman
Zafar Saidov denied reports that Mirzoev had supplied Sodirov's group with
a truckload of ammunition two weeks beforehand (Clandestine Voice of Free
Tajikistan, 3 Apr 97).
Residents of a local village reported seeing Sodirov a few days before,
close to the time that the troops lost sight of him, so perhaps the gorge
was not sealed tightly enough.
7th round of inter-Tajik peace talks postponed
Opening ceremonies for the 7th round of inter-Tajik peace negotiations were
held in Tehran on 9 April (IRNA, 9 Apr 97) but later that afternoon Akbar
Turajonzoda, deputy leader of the UTO, informed journalists that the talks
had been temporarily suspended due to the detention of 11 UTO members in
Moscow. The UTO members were accused of having participated in terrorist
actions against Russian military personnel serving in Tajikistan. Turajonzoda
stated that the UTO wanted all charges against the men to be dropped, in
accordance with the general amnesty that was to take effect in Tajikistan
within the next month. Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov, the head of the
Tajik government delegation at the peace talks, denied any knowledge of
the 11 UTO members' arrest (ITAR-TASS, 9 Apr 97).
On 10 April, UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri issued a signed statement in
which he blamed the Tajik government for the break in the peace negotiations.
He accused the Tajik government of asking Moscow authorities to arrest the
men (one of whom was a member of the UTO negotiating team) and labeled their
action a "political provocation." He also charged the Tajik government
with violating the 1995 Almaty cease-fire by executing two UTO supporters
who were due to be released in the failed 7 April POW exchange (ITAR-TASS,
10 Apr 97).
Maksim Peshkov, head of the Russian commission for Tajik settlement,
responded to Nuri's statements by saying that only one UTO member was being
detained by Moscow's law enforcement authorities, and that the man could
not be released, based on the gravity of the charges against him (ITAR-TASS,
10 Apr 97).
Nuri's next course of action was to order all UTO commanders to cease
having any contact with representatives of the Tajik government (Clandestine
Voice of Free Tajikistan, 11 Apr 97).
On 16 April the peace negotiations resumed, only to be canceled again
the following day. The peace talks were then rescheduled for 16 May, in
Tehran, at which time the legalization of Tajikistan's opposition parties
will be considered (ITAR-TASS, 18 Apr 97). Turajonzoda again made a statement
in which he blamed the Tajik government for the negotiations' abrupt end,
citing the arrest of the 11 UTO members, as well as the Tajik government's
refusal to set a date for the legalization of the opposition parties as
the two main reasons for the UTO's decision to postpone the negotiations.
He also demanded that the 11 UTO supporters be released from prison and
that the charges against them be dropped completely, before the negotiations
resumed (Clandestine Voice of Free Tajikistan, 18 Apr 97).
Turajonzoda fears that the Tajik government is trying to shut the opposition,
particularly the Islamic Renaissance Party, out of the government by limiting
the opposition's political activities to such an extent that when new elections
are held, most of the opposition candidates will have had so little time
to gather support that they will win few if any seats in the new government.
Turajonzoda seems to believe that the Tajik government is mainly interested
in the military aspect of the peace agreements, which call for the UTO's
forces to be disarmed and integrated into the government's armed forces.
This is a legitimate concern, especially since the disarmament of the UTO's
forces is to be completed long before new elections are held and could indeed
deprive the UTO leaders of considerable leverage in the transitional government.
UN to consider sending peacekeepers to Tajikistan
After a meeting with President Rahmonov on 21 April, Gerd Dietrich Merrem,
the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Tajikistan, told journalists
that not only will the number of UN observers in Tajikistan be increased
(at present there are 45), but that the UN Security Council is to consider
whether to send peacekeeping forces to Tajikistan at its next meeting in
June. Merrem also said that General Franklin van Happen, the UN secretary-general's
military adviser on peacekeeping, was in Dushanbe to hold discussions with
representatives of the UTO and the Tajik government on ways of carrying
out the military agreements that had been signed thus far. Should the Security
Council decide to send UN peacekeeping troops to Tajikistan, it would most
likely be in order to aid in the implementation of the military protocol
which was signed in March (Radio Tajikistan Network, 22 Apr 97).
President Rahmonov survives assassination attempt
On 30 April, President Emomali Rahmonov was injured when a man threw a grenade
at him in the city of Khujand (the administrative center of Leninobod Province
in northern Tajikistan). Two people were killed in the attack and 49 injured.
Rahmonov was wounded in the leg. The man who threw the grenade, Firdaws
Dustboboev, is rumored to have been one of the organizers of the May 1996
anti-government demonstrations in Khujand. He was immediately taken into
custody by local security forces (ITAR-TASS, 30 Apr 97).
Abdunabi Sattorzoda, deputy leader of the UTO negotiating team, suggested
that the attack on President Rahmonov might have been an act of retaliation
for the government's recent crackdown on a riot in the Khujand prison during
which more than 20 inmates were killed, including two of the riot's organizers
(ITAR-TASS, 30 Apr 97).
The Khujand prison held at least 800 inmates (it was originally designed
to hold only 300), 100 of whom seized control of the building to protest
conditions in the prison. On 15 April they took four guards hostage and,
in return for their release, demanded that trials be granted to those inmates
who had not yet been sentenced, that a number of ill and disabled inmates
be released or hospitalized, and that the Ministry of Internal Affairs rescind
its decision to transfer a number of the prisoners to southern Tajikistan,
where prison conditions were rumored to be much worse (RFE/RL Newsline,
Apr 97). Tajik authorities did attempt briefly to negotiate with the leaders
of the prison takeover, but negotiations broke down quickly (Interfax, 21
Apr 97), and on 18 April special police units stormed the prison, killing
17-30 inmates, including two of the protest's leaders, Jamshed Abdushukurov
and Ikrom Ashurov. Ashurov and many of the other inmates were political
prisoners who had been incarcerated for the roles they played in the 1996
anti-government demonstrations in Khujand (Clandestine Voice of Free Tajikistan,
18 Apr 97).
The leaders of both the National Revival Bloc (led by former prime minister,
Abdumalik Abdullojonov) and of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan condemned
the Dushanbe government for the way in which it handled the prison protest
(Clandestine Voice of Free Tajikistan, 23 Apr 97).
Abdumalik Abdullojonov's party has a fair amount of support in Khujand and
also has good relations with the UTO. The Khujandis undoubtedly continue
to hope that they will be able to regain at least some influence in the
Tajik government. Abdullojonov has been lobbying for a voice on the National
Reconciliation Commission and at first it seemed as though President Rahmonov
was willing to grant the National Revival Bloc a few seats (which would
have come out of the UTO's share of seats) on the commission, but he has
since changed his mind. If the Khujandis are completely shut out of the
transition government, "terrorist" attacks on President Rahmonov
and his administration may well become a common phenomenon.
by Monika Shepherd