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Volume III Number 6 (April 24, 1998)

Russian Federation
Executive Branch
Susan J. Cavan
Foreign Relations
John McDonough
Domestic Issues &
Legislative Branch

Michael Thurman
Armed Forces
LtCol Dwyer Dennis
CDR Curtis Stevens
Newly Independent States
Western Region
Tracy Gerstle
Miriam Lanskoy
Central Asia
Monika Shepherd



Special Report on Government Dismissal: A Chronology
by Susan J. Cavan

March 20  Yel'tsin, having spent last two weeks recuperating at Gorki-9, pays "surprise" visit to Kremlin, works there for three hours, reportedly catches Yastrzhembsky and Yumashev off guard. Yel'tsin has phone conversation with Chubais re: wage arrears.
 21 Yel'tsin meets with Chernomyrdin at Gorki-9, also meets with Yumashev.
 22 Yumashev calls Kirienko in the evening and tells him to report to Kremlin at 8 a.m.
 23 Yel'tsin sacks government, appoints himself acting prime minister; two hours later (after market drop of 10 percent?), names Kirienko acting PM. Praises Chernomyrdin, awards him medal (2nd class). Targets of dismissals: Chernomyrdin, Chubais and Kulikov.
 24 Yel'tsin praises Sergeev and Primakov. Yastrzhembsky denies Berezovsky, Yumashev or Livshits had any influence. Yuksi and ELF Aquitaine (FR) announce 5 percent deal.
25 Yel'tsin warns staff that failure to implement decrees "means death." Nash Dom Rossiya holds meeting. Prosecutor files embezzlement charges against former State Property Committee (GKI) deputy Ivanenko and associate. Berezovsky claims role in government dismissal.
 26 Yel'tsin meets Chirac and Kohl--gets confused. Kirienko chairs cabinet meeting.
 27 Yel'tsin nominates Kirienko and threatens Duma with dissolution (something he later denies doing) and again praises Chernomyrdin. Seleznev says he's disappointed, but won't give president grounds for dissolution.
 28 Chernomyrdin announces candidacy for presidency; Kremlin "surprised." Decree on Security Council reorganization.
 29 Kirienko says Chubais won't chair Unified Energy System (UES) board. Klimentev wins mayor's seat in Nizhni Novgorod.
 30 Stepashin appointed MVD chief. Yel'tsin again denies he'll seek third term.
 31 Yel'tsin confirms Primakov and Zadornov (Finance) will be in new government (corrects aides who refer to them as "acting"). Duma leaders request roundtable. Kirienko reaffirms Rosneft shares/price.
 April 01 Duma's Communists, Nationalists and Agrarians request withdrawal of Kirienko nomination. Rossiyskiye vesti editor announces it will no longer be an official organ of the administration. Nizhni election commission annuls mayoral results. Deputy Chief of Staff Savostyanov dispatched to Nizhni to investigate.
 02 Yel'tsin renominates Kirienko and agrees to roundtable. Duma vote postponed. Novye izvestiya (Berezovsky-owned) accuses Kirienko of unethical financial dealings. Klimentev arrested.
03 Duma requests Kirienko citizenship information (question over possible Israeli citizenship). Duma votes to investigate Nizhni election. Yel'tsin postpones Japan trip.
04 Yel'tsin sacks his representative in Nizhni, Yuri Lebedev. Kirienko promises to pay wage arrears before workers protest. Chubais elected to board of UES.
05 Stepashin suggests new law to prevent bandits from running for office.
 06 Constitutional Court decides Yel'tsin must sign trophy art law. Berezovsky backs Kirienko. Mixed signals from Kremlin on Yel'tsin compliance with Constitutional Court (CC) ruling. Eventual decision: Yel'tsin will sign law, but challenge it over voting procedures. Minister of Atomic Energy Adamov says Iran nuclear reactor deal to proceed.
 07 Roundtable meeting. Yel'tsin warns parliament against destabilizing the country with hesitancy over Kirienko nomination. Clear Zyuganov/Seleznev split over Kirienko candidacy. Yel'tsin lists other candidates considered for PM job before decision--Luzhkov, Stroev among them. Kirienko holds cabinet meeting--claims 700 million rubles had been sent to regions. Approximately 3,000 defense industry workers protest at government headquarters. Berezovsky urges business to back Chernomyrdin for president.
 08 Kotenkov (president's Duma representative) says Kirienko unlikely to win in first round.
 09  Workers' Protest (called by Communists/FITUR) attracts hundreds of thousands across several Russian cities. (~789,000 protesters?).
 10 Duma rejects Kirienko candidacy (secret ballot voting: 186-143). Yel'tsin immediately renominates Kirienko. Aleksandr Putilov, chair of the board of Rosneft, complains that asking price for share is too high.
 12 Former Border Guard chief Nikolaev elected to State Duma in a special by-election in southern Moscow. Yel'tsin, meeting with his new Border Guard chief, warns him not to follow divisive path of his predecessor.
 13 Yel'tsin dismisses calls for constitutional change to succession clause--and to any constitutional change. Yel'tsin instructs Borodin to assist Duma deputies with housing and other "perk" appeals if they show a "constructive approach" towards Kirienko nomination. Yel'tsin submits more documents to Duma for consideration of Start II.
 14 Seleznev meets with Yel'tsin, says president willing to cooperate with Duma. He also calls for backing of Kirienko in upcoming ballot. Zyuganov and his Duma allies from Nationalist, Agrarian parties reiterate their opposition to Kirienko candidacy. Duma votes to conduct open balloting for next round, which should serve to keep party members closer in line with leadership. Sergei Shakhrai supports possible constitutional change to allow Federation Council chief to succeed if Yel'tsin should be incapacitated and the prime minister remain unconfirmed. Nemtsov states there will be no changes to Rosneft auction pricing, despite pressure.
 15 Duma asks Constitutional Court to rule on legality of renomination of same candidate for prime minister. CC Chair Marat Baglai says court won't decide soon and wouldn't apply ruling retroactively. Shakhrai warns that Yel'tsin would dissolve Duma if Kirienko is not confirmed and may act to change electoral law by scrapping party list system. Yel'tsin signs trophy art law, but appeals on content to Constitutional Court. Yastrzhembsky denies reports that Yel'tsin has been taken to hospital. Yel'tsin is reported to have threatened Berezovsky with deportation over his meddling in government affairs. Viktor Ilyukhin announces support for Zyuganov's call to oppose Kirienko. Duma votes to override veto of law on state ownership of UES. According to Duma law, the state would retain at least 51 percent ownership and foreign participation would be limited to not more than 25 percent.
 16 Yel'tsin claims he is healthy, but admits to going to clinic for dental work. Berezovsky denies any split with Yel'tsin, claims Kirienko is too inexperienced to run country if Yel'tsin were to become incapacitated (again suggesting Rybkin as alternative), and confirms support for Lebed's Krasnoyarsk race. CC Chair Baglai states Yel'tsin cannot unilaterally change electoral law. Troops ambushed in North Ossetia, three reported killed. Decree stipulates state-owned companies must pay dividends to the state. Duma approves new tax code.
 17 Duma again rejects Kirienko nomination (115-271 in open ballot). Vote may be more relevant to power struggle within the Communist faction than to any conclusions regarding Kirienko's candidacy. Yel'tsin renominates Kirienko. Zyuganov again questions constitutionality of renomination. Kirienko states he will not allow cabinet positions to be used as bargaining chips in the current struggle.
 18 Yel'tsin in Japan for "casual" meetings with Hashimoto. Seleznev calls for support of Kirienko on third ballot claiming, "Russia will not forgive us if we sacrifice the State Duma over a nomination for Prime Minister." Yabloko leader Yavlinsky still not willing to support Kirienko.
 19 Yel'tsin and Hashimoto discuss disputed islands and set up a Joint Commission on Drafting a Peace Treaty, as well as a Joint Investment Fund. Zyuganov reiterates his opposition to Kirienko. Former Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Agriculture, Zaveryukha, wins Duma seat in a by-election in Kamchatka Oblast.
 20 Yel'tsin praises Sergeev on occasion of his 60th birthday. Kirienko meets with Strobe Talbott in Moscow. Vladimir Potanin announces support for Kirienko and intention to bid on Rosneft, despite high price. Ekho Moskvy reports onset of a campaign by friend of Chubais to win him the UES chair.
 21 Yel'tsin submits a draft law banning criminal candidates to the Duma. Chernomyrdin announces opposition to Chubais as head of UES. Yastrzhembsky touring Kurile Islands on "fact-finding" mission. Trophy art law goes into effect. Skuratov re-opens Aum Shinrikyo case. Luzhkov in Krasnoyarsk campaigning for incumbent Governor Zubov and against Lebed. Zyuganov also in Krasnoyarsk campaigning for Petr Romanov.
 22 Duma passes revised Land Code (with Yel'tsin's changes). Federation Council also overrides Yel'tsin's veto of UES law (See 4/15). A helicopter accompanying Sergei Stepashin is shot at along Dagestani-Chechen border. Central Electoral Commission head Ivanchenko claims new parliamentary elections would require new electoral rules to be drafted by Yel'tsin. Seleznev announces opposition to Chubais chairing UES board.
 23 Yel'tsin meets with Seleznev, Stroev in Kremlin and phones heads of various Duma factions, including Zyuganov. Yel'tsin also meets with heads of coal-mining regions and promises increased attention; he directs Kirienko to work on coal sector problems. NDR, LDPR and Russia's Regions announce support for Kirienko. Agrarians and People's Power claim split in ranks over confirmation. Communists, led by Zyuganov, still oppose. Yavlinsky claims Yabloko will vote against en masse, if the ballot is open. If ballot is secret, Yabloko members will not vote. Ekho Moskvy reports that Yel'tsin has approved Chubais for UES chair. Kremlin press service issues speedy denial. Zyuganov also claims that Yel'tsin told him personally that he had not approved Chubais for the job. US air force plane removes uranium from Georgian facility. In Krasnoyarsk, Zubov confiscates 850,000 newspapers allegedly printed by Lebed, which contains an unflattering article about the Zubov campaign. Svyazinvest sets preliminary terms for next shares auction in May.
 24  In a secret ballot, Kirienko wins confirmation in the Duma (251-25). Many deputies either abstained from voting or ruined their ballots. Kirienko, in comments to Duma, promises not to break up natural monopolies and announces that the Extraordinary Tax Commission (VchK) will meet in May. Yel'tsin schedules an address to the nation in the evening. Rosvooruzheniye announces plans to expand regional offices into every Russian region (currently there are 10 branch offices). The Council of Foreign and Defense Policies publishes its report on privatization, which claims that the privatization process was "saddled" with criminal capitalization. The Krasnoyarsk Krai electoral commission warns Lebed that his campaign material is not meeting standards. The commission also claims that four other candidates, including Zubov and Romanov, have exceeded fundraising limits.

Russia continues to participate in efforts to settle Kosovo crisis
Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov continued Moscow's efforts to resolve the Kosovo crisis by political means. He arrived in Belgrade on 2 April. His efforts were focused on relaying Russia's position on the crisis to Serbian President Milan Milutinovic. Their discussions focused on Russia's position on the UN Security Council 31 March resolution on embargo of weapons supplies to Yugoslavia. Ivanov said "Russia will not consider the resolution as anti-Yugoslav which has been adopted in order to punish someone."

Ivanov stressed that the resolution gives a "clear signal both to Belgrade and the Kosovo community" to convince them to start talks. Russia welcomes Serbia's initiative to begin negotiations on 7 April and hopes for Kosovo's constructive response, the Russian minister said. He also confirmed Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov's position that the OSCE mediatory mission should not be considered as an attempt to internationalize the Kosovo problem. The OSCE will try to help localize the problem, but not interfere into internal affairs, Ivanov said. (ITAR-TASS, 1634 GMT, 2 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-092)

Primakov reaffirms adherence to nuclear nonproliferation
During talks with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Moscow on 30 March, Primakov reiterated Russia's adherence to nuclear nonproliferation measures. He stated that Russia strongly opposes several countries approaching "the threshold of possessing nuclear weapons," and regretted that "a few countries (outside the designated five states) possess nuclear weapons and have become unofficial members of the nuclear club." However, he stated that "peaceful use of nuclear energy is another aspect" of nuclear security," and said Russia "is ready to participate in the world-wide efforts aimed at enhancing security at nuclear power plants." (Interfax, 1308 GMT, 30 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-089)

Russia criticizes US effort in Mideast and is ready to revitalize process
The Russian foreign ministry regrets that "judging from incoming reports" the mission of US special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Dennis Ross has not helped to coordinate the positions of Israelis and Palestinians, ministry spokesman Gennadi Tarasov told a 31 March briefing. As a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process, Russia is ready for direct and multilateral interaction with regional participants in the Madrid process, the United States, European Union countries and the entire international community in order to revitalize the Arab-Israeli peace talks, he said. (Interfax, 1449 GMT, 31 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-090)

During a private visit to Moscow on 2 April, former Israeli Prime Minister Shim'on Peres and Foreign Minister Primakov discussed various aspects of the Middle East peace process and ways to overcome the current crisis. Discussions did not only focus on the peace process, however, as Primakov and Peres said they supported developing political dialogue between Russia and Israel on regional and international issues of interest for both countries. (Interfax 1051 GMT, 2 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-092)

Primakov stresses importance of START II
Yevgeni Primakov told a press conference in Moscow on 2 April that the START II treaty is in the interests of Russia but stressed that Russia will continue to maintain enough arms to ensure a "stable defense of our interests." He also indicated that the Duma was close to signing the treaty now that some modifications had been made to the existing proposal. (ITAR-TASS, 1243 GMT, 2 Apr 98; FBIS-TAC-98-092)

Primakov remains in office; foreign policy remains on course
Primakov stressed that, in spite of the government changes, Russia's foreign policy remains consistent and invariable. "President Boris Yeltsin himself stressed, and instructed me to stress, the invariability of Russia's foreign policy, which would not be affected by changes in the government," the Russian foreign minister said 24 March. Primakov also used this announcement in Germany to stress that the "development of multilateral and partnership relations with the United States continues to remain one of the priorities in Russia's foreign policy." (ITAR-TASS World Service, 2105 GMT, 24 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-083)

Troika not anti-American, but against one-polar world
"Nothing anti-American" stands behind the upcoming summit between the Russian, French and German leaders in Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevsky told Interfax on 23 March 1998. He said that the trilateral summit talks will deal with trilateral projects and programs whose implementation is "an imperative of our time." Among these projects, he said, is the construction of a high-speed highway linking Moscow, Warsaw and Berlin, the joint production of a military transportation plane and the creation of the so-called Euronet--an alternative to the global computer system Internet.

However, in the same interview Afanasevsky stated that "Everyone recognizes the weight and role of the United States, but no one will accept its efforts to play the leading role. The European Union, Japan, China and ASEAN also represent centers of force."
"One should look for decisions that would help combine possibilities of influencing the European situation by all forces, including the United States, Western Europe and Russia," he said. Afanasevsky stated further that ample opportunity exists for the US to play a role in Europe as long as " no one makes attempts to attain unilateral domination." (Interfax, 0954 GMT, 23 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-082)

Russia welcomes the democratization of Cuba
Primakov highlighted the Russian government's determination to increase its relations with Cuba and advance bilateral ties during Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina's official visit to Moscow on 24 March 1998. Robaina met with Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov during the official two-day visit which was highlighted with the signing of an updated consular agreement. (Details of the agreement were not published.) The Ministers reiterated the willingness to promote economic-commercial ties and cooperation. (Tele Rebelde and Cubavision Networks, 0100 GMT, 24 Mar 98; FBIS-LAT-98-082)

During the same visit Primakov stressed that Moscow regards as "wrong and counterproductive the economic measures being applied against Havana," and that Moscow "would want to promote the process of normalizing relations between Cuba and the USA." However, he gave some indication that Cuba must assume a positive role in achieving normalized relations with the US, stating that Russia welcomed "any movement in the direction of democratization" on the island. Further emphasizing that change is desirable, Primakov stated "it would be wrong to think that our relations are directed toward the past." (Interfax, 1407 GMT, 23 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-082)

by John McDonough

Draft laws enabling administrative move of penal system approved
The government approved the draft of the federal law "on introducing amendments to Russian legislation in connection with reform of the penal system." This bill creates the necessary legal basis for transferring the penal system from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Justice. The move was occasioned by Russia's membership in the Council of Europe which required the shift.

The bill contains two sets of changes to 18 existing laws. The first set enables the transfer itself and lays the rules for its operation in the future. The second set replicates within the Ministry of Justice the laws presently found within the Ministry of Internal Affairs that provide employment benefits for those working in the penal system.

Shifting the administration of the penal system from Interior to Justice brings Russia into line with the rest of Europe. It is too soon to know if the changes will bring about a fairer and perhaps more efficient prison system in Russia, but who administers the penal system is clearly less important than how it is administered. (ITAR-TASS World Service, 1001 GMT, 12 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-071)

Zhirinovsky courts the gay vote in St. Petersburg
Lurching from the insane to the bizarre, Liberal Democrat leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has somehow come up with the idea that "sexual minorities" could provide a main [sic] source of support for his party. In order to illustrate this curious idea, Zhirinovsky went off to St. Petersburg's biggest gay club.

It seems that the club's patrons were pleased to see the LDPR leader--and especially liked his attitude toward the "relationships of sexual minorities." It is not entirely clear what his attitude is, but Zhirinovsky mentioned something about homosexuals being no threat to society because both a man and a woman are needed to have children. Whatever logic is contained in this statement can be known only by its author. It seems Zhirinovsky enjoyed himself so much that he extended his meeting with the "sexual minorities" by two hours before moving off to Pskov. (NTV, 1600 GMT, 26 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-085)

Luzhkov resurrects a national newspaper
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has announced the re-establishment of the news daily "Russia" which first appeared in 1898. The new editor-in-chief, Tatiana Tsyba, says the revival was timed to the centennial of the paper's founding. The daily will be backed by the Moscow City government and will have eight pages with an initial circulation of 100,000 copies.

The establishment of another national newspaper based in Moscow and ultimately subject to the editorial pressures of the city is in keeping with Luzhkov's consolidation of his political power base. It is no secret that the mayor has presidential aspirations, or at least interest in landing a powerful governmental position in the post-Yel'tsin era. This is a wise move for the mayor for two reasons: It allows him free and direct access to the citizens of Russia were he to run for office, and guarantees that he will remain a powerbroker if he decides not to run. (ITAR-TASS, 0314 GMT, 27 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-086)

Contracts between the center and the regions continue to be signed
It has been four years since the first "treaty" delimiting the respective responsibilities and duties of the federal and regional governments was signed between the federal authorities and Tatarstan. Since then, 40 other regions/components of the federation have signed similar treaties, thereby bringing 52 percent of the population under such agreements while covering 75 percent of the territory of the federation.

When asked about the benefits of this emerging federalism, Vasili Likhachev, chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan and deputy chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, claimed that most if not all of the economic and social success in his region was directly attributable to the benefits of the treaty. While this claim may be somewhat if not entirely exaggerated, federalism, and the piecemeal method of implementation, are valuable for other reasons.

First, treaties, or perhaps more accurately, memoranda of understanding (the definition of regional sovereignty and thus the standing of the regions to treat remains unresolved) acknowledge the gap in administration caused by the collapse of Soviet centralism. The treaties in effect recognize the budding decentralization of authority. Second, the piecemeal approach is an extremely effective method of implementing federalism under the nose of its many opponents in the Duma and elsewhere. Third, the always tricky paradox is avoided of where sovereignty ultimately resides in a federal system. If the issue were to be addressed on the collective level, say through some form of Convention of the Regions, the issue of the legal standing of both contracting parties would have to be resolved. And if the histories of other federal systems are any guide, no one answer is obvious and solutions that do exist are the result of decades or centuries of protracted struggle between centers and regions. However, once all 89 regions have signed treaties with the federal authorities, it would become much easier to unify the treaties into one common memorandum of understanding, which then might become part of the constitution.

Incidentally, federalism is one of James Madison's constitutional mechanisms (1787-1788) for ameliorating the deleterious effects of faction in a free society. Could a Russian federation, in deed as in word, finally provide for its citizens the political and social freedoms so long enjoyed by other societies? President Yel'tsin is, unwittingly or not, constructing a federal check on his almost-limitless presidential power. Future Russian presidents, finding themselves stymied by intransigence in the regions, may wish that Yel'tsin had at least kept up an appearance of centralism so that any possible power-grab on their part would appear to be only unseemly, not illegal. (Interfaks-AiF, 2-8 Mar 98, p. 18; FBIS-SOV-98-078)

Luzhkov's power base continues to grow
Taking advantage of the political turmoil of recent days, and perhaps the inexperience of acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Moscow mayor and presidential hopeful Yuri Luzhkov met privately with the acting prime minister and handed him a "set of fundamental proposals on economic matters" which "concern [not] only the city but are important for the whole country." It is not clear if the acting prime minister asked for Luzhkov's opinion on matters of national importance. But by offering his advice, and undoubtedly his service, Luzhkov is in fact establishing a sympathetic voice at the other end of the telephone should the mayor be in need Kirienko's assistance. Conversely, Kirienko would be well advised to remain friendly with the mayor considering the Kremlin's ultimate dependence on city services, Luzhkov's national popularity and influence in the Federation Council. (Interfax, 1903 GMT, 25 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-084)

However, Luzhkov's influence in the halls of the Federal Assembly is not limited to the upper house. The mayor has given his support to the former director of the Federal Border Service, General Andrei Nikolaev, in his bid to win a Duma seat in the Moscow voting district 197, Orekhovo-Borisovo. [ISCIP Note: Please see Editorial Digest, Volume III, Number 5 (March 26, 1998), Domestic Issues and Legislative Branch; Federal Assembly, for a full description of this interesting race.]

Nikolaev said he and Luzhkov became acquainted when both were working on a program to provide humanitarian aid to border guards in Tajikistan. Predictably, Nikolaev agrees with Luzhkov on most issues and, although Nikolaev denies that the mayor's support will help his candidacy, he does admit that Luzhkov is his most important ally. Luzhkov, on the other hand, would certainly appreciate another friend in the Duma whose seat is partly the result of Luzhkov's kind offices. (Interfax, 1336 GMT, 26 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-085).

Nizhni Novgorod mayoral election scandal discussed
Andrei Klimentev, the mayor-elect of Nizhni Novgorod, presently sits behind bars charged with campaign violations. The violations have caused the Central Election Commission to invalidate the election and new elections are to be scheduled.

Klimentev and his supporters have not accepted the developments quietly. On 2 April, his supporters demonstrated outside of the regional court building where Klimentev was being tried. In the process, someone struck the court's chairman, Vladimir Vorobyov, across the face. During the morning's events, Klimentev was arrested because he has repeatedly left town despite his pledge to the police not to do so. (Interfax, 1534 GMT, 2 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-092)

A commission of the State Duma arrived on 5 April to find out whether the results of the recent elections were annulled lawfully. The commission includes deputies from the communist, liberal-democratic and Yabloko factions, as well as Vladimir Semago--a representative for the Public Defense of Klimentiev--a legal defense fund recently established. They will inform the State Duma of the investigation results next week.

Meanwhile, another rally in support of Klimentiev was held. More than 6,000 signatures have also been collected in support of the mayor-elect. (ITAR-TASS, 1353 GMT, 5 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-095)

Central Election Commission wants campaign laws changed
In response to the problems in Nizhni Novgorod, the commission's chair, Aleksandr Ivanchenko, believes that candidates should be required to provide information on any criminal record, dual citizenship, and wealth. Unfortunately, the State Duma "does not support" the commission's proposals.

Candidates with criminal records were nominated in the Kaliningrad region, Primorsk territory, Altay autonomous republic and to the Moscow city legislature, he said. (Interfax, 0951 GMT, 2 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-092)

Yel'tsin punishes Nizhni Novgorod officials
President Yel'tsin has fired Yuri Lebedev as presidential representative in Nizhni Novgorod region and reprimanded Serge Samoilov, chief of presidential staff in Nizhni Novgorod, and Viktoria Mitina, the Kremlin officer to whom the Nizhni Novgorod staff members are accountable. The three officials were punished for "the unsatisfactory organization of work to carry out tasks entrusted to the territorial mission of the president of the Russian Federation and under Article 14 of the federal law 'On the Fundamentals of State Service of the Russian Federation,'" (Interfax, 1253 GMT, 4 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-094)

by Michael Thurman

Kamchatka officers opposed to reform

The defense ministry has announced its plans to unite military forces on the Kamchatka peninsula into one military command. The new command structure would be modeled on the one currently employed in the Baltic. The new command would have units of the Pacific Fleet, nuclear submarine forces and an army corps and air defense units. The defense ministry hopes the new command will allow it to save money by combining similar administrative and headquarters functions. (ITAR-TASS, 1418 GMT, 20 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-079)

The plan to unite forces under one command is not without its critics. Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, toured the region in an attempt to soothe opponents to the plan. One general was overheard to say that ground forces would never be subordinated to sailors. The only troop strength to be cut is on headquarters staffs. (Radio Rossii Network, 1000 GMT, 18 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-077)

MiG-based satellite launching system planned
The Russian and Kazakh governments have announced plans for a satellite launching system using the MiG-31 fighter. The MiG-31, capable of flying faster than Mach 2 with a ceiling over 50,000 feet, is one of the best interceptors in the Russian inventory. The launching system would be similar to the US Pegasus system which uses a B-52 bomber as the mother ship. The first tests of the MiG launch system are planned in the next 18-24 months. (Interfax, 1145 GMT, 18 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-077)

Belarus to build a navy?
The Belarusian president has completed a tour of several Russian navy bases. Completing his trip in Severomorsk, Alyaksandr Lukashenka toured the nuclear powered battlecruiser Peter the Great and asked the crew "did we have the problems that the navy has today when the great Soviet Union existed?" (NTV, 1300 GMT, 25 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-084) In another Severomorsk speaking engagement, he stated Belarus was considering "taking one surface ship and a submarine under Belarus's patronage." (RFE/RL Newsline, Part 2, 26 Mar 98)

Russia and Ukraine announce navy exercise
Kyiv and Moscow announced their navies will conduct joint exercises in the Black Sea from 17 to 26 April. Russia will be the main organizer of the operation, which will involve 40 warships from the Black Sea Fleet and an unknown number of Ukrainian ships. (Agence-France Presse, 1123 PST, 19 Mar 98;

During the last, and first, joint exercise held in October, the commanders of the two forces could not agree on the purpose of the exercise. Russians said it was the start of a new strategic relationship with Ukraine for the common defense of the Black Sea. Ukrainian officials said the October exercise was in the spirit of the NATO Partnership for Peace.

No new aircraft planned until 2000 or 2001
Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeev announced in a nationally televised interview that Russia could not afford to buy new aircraft until 2000 or 2001. Aircraft upgrades would continue, he said. (Agence-France Presse, 0704 PST, 21 Mar 98; Earlier press reports and statements from the defense minister and commander-in-chief of the Air Force indicated that Russia was seriously considering the purchase of strategic bombers from Ukraine. President Yel'tsin's spokesman said the president decided not to buy the Ukrainian planes. (Agence-France Presse, 0634 PST, 25 Mar 98;

Russian military had 26,302 crimes in 1997
Russia's chief military prosecutor, Colonel-General Yuri Demin, said in an interview that servicemen committed 26,302 crimes including 304 murders in 1997. He said 42 percent of the crimes involved draft dodging. Demin reported that his office had successfully prosecuted five general and flag officers including a former commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy. He also stated seven criminal cases were opened on military prosecutors for taking bribes in exchange for dropping charges. (ITAR-TASS, 1154 GMT, 20 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-079)

Sergeev pushes for START II ratification
Defense Minister Sergeev has once again gone to the Duma to push for START II ratification. The former commander-in-chief of the strategic rocket forces stated "in the purely military sphere I say that the ratification of the treaty is extremely necessary, I have proofs to that." (ITAR-TASS, 1527 GMT, 3 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-093).

Also expressing interest in START II ratification, Duma Speaker Seleznev has predicted the lower house will ratify the treaty before the Spring session ends in late June. He stated the Duma will approve the treaty because the treaty "meets Russia's interests." (RFE/RL Newsline, Part I, 7 Apr 98)

Sergeev decries state of military
Speaking to a gathering of senior and retired military leaders, Sergeev stated that NATO spends ten times more on each soldier (in terms of salary, benefits, arms and equipment) than Russia does. He said it is not quite logical "to have a budget like in Mozambique and expect an army like in the United States." (ITAR-TASS, 1657 GMT, 8 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-098)

He also stated that 53 percent of the military's aircraft and 40 percent of the antiaircraft systems, armored equipment and artillery were in need of overhaul. He said Russia's military had failed to integrate the lessons and experience of Afghanistan and Chechnya into the military's training activities. More ominous was an implied threat that the military's dire financial situation risked turning the army against the government. (Jamestown Foundation Monitor, 9 Apr 98)

Eight die in war game
Eight Russian servicemen have died during war games being held in Tajikistan. On 11 April two pilots died when their SU-25 fighter-bomber crashed; on 14 April six soldiers died and another fifteen were seriously injured when their armored personnel carrier was hit by a missile. Press reports have been sketchy on details of the mishap. The exercise involves Russia's 201st division, one of the best in the Russian military. The two accidents occurred in the presence of Russia's ground forces commander, Colonel-General Golovnev, and the commander of the Volga military district, Colonel-General Sergeev. (Jamestown Foundation Monitor, 16 Apr 98)

Senior officers killed in ambush
The Russian interior ministry announced that seven soldiers, including a general and four colonels, were killed in the North Caucasus. The attack occurred in a border region between Ingushetia and North Ossetia. General Viktor Prokopenko of the General Staff, one of Russia's most senior officers, was killed and Colonel-General Nikolai Mukhin was seriously wounded. The attackers used machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in their ambush. Chechen government officials denied involvement in the attack; in fact the Chechen deputy prime minister, Kazbek Makhashev, was in Moscow for talks with Russian officials. (UPI, 0816 GMT, 16 Apr 98;

Motorola's Iridium closer to operation with Proton launch
The Russian Space Agency successful placed seven Iridium satellites into orbit on 7 April. The Proton launch was the first this year following a failure of the launch system in December when the agency attempted to place the Asiasat in orbit. The launch was valued at over $57 million and was the third the Russians have conducted in support of the Iridium system. Russia has placed 21 of the 66 satellites of the Iridium constellation into orbit. (ITAR-TASS, 0423 GMT, 7 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-097)

United Technologies to build Energomash rocket engines
The Russian RD-180 engines developed by the Energomash firm will be manufactured under license in the United States by United Technologies Corporation. Engines will be built to supply around 400 launches over the next 25 years using the Atlas booster. In Russia an RD-180 engine costs $8-10 million. (Interfax, 0949 GMT, 13 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-103)

China orders SS-N-22 Sunburn missile
China has ordered an unspecified number of SS-N-22 Sunburn missiles for its four Sovremenny class destroyers previously ordered from Russia. The antiship missiles are supersonic and have a 75-mile range. (Agence-France Presse, 0521 PDT, 15 Apr 98;

Although the sale of the four Sovremenny destroyers with their associated antiship missiles significantly improves Chinese capabilities, other navies in the region still maintain impressive forces. The Japanese Maritime Self-defense Force has commissioned Aegis-equipped destroyers; Taiwan has expressed great interest in obtaining Aegis destroyers for its navy too.


by CDR Curtis R. Stevens


S-300 antiaircraft missile system back in the news
As the posturing continues on the delivery of S-300 missile systems to Cyprus, the Russian foreign ministry has issued a statement to the effect that the need for the missile system might vanish if a demilitarization agreement for Cyprus is reached. Primakov took the opportunity to stress that "our [Russian] arms deliveries are frequently linked to our active policy of settling the conflict." In a Rossiyskaya gazeta interview with Russia's ambassador to Cyprus, Georgi Muradov, Muradov defended Cyprus' selection of the S-300 based on affordability and effectiveness as well as the country's right to conclude contracts with Russia or any other partner. He also confirmed that Russia has begun steps to fulfill its contractual obligation. (Rossiyskaya gazeta, 19 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-079)

Meanwhile, Russia is entering the East Asian market with new goods, namely a proposed sale of the S-300 to South Korea, historically an all-American arms market. NTV recently broadcast a program highlighting South Korean interest in the antiaircraft system. Comparisons were made with the US Patriot missile system, claiming over a 90 percent kill rate and effective coverage area three times that of the Patriot. (NTV, 1600 GMT, 27 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-087)

While successful Russian ventures into previously US-monopolized arms markets are not new, Malaysia being only one example, it is an interesting scenario when considering that US troops are actually hosted by South Korea. Of primary concern is what message such prospective sales may reveal concerning Russia's attitudes or support for the "other side," in this case North Korea.

Russia and Greece continue to strengthen relationship
Efforts to increase cooperation between Russia and Greece have continued steadily since the intergovernmental Russo-Greek commission for military-technical cooperation met in Athens last fall. ITAR-TASS reported that Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, who led the Russian delegation at that meeting, has indicated that Greek Defense Minister Tsokhatzopoulos' visit to Moscow 31 March-2 April is very important. Ivashov said "it is hoped ... we can set an example of Russia's versatile cooperation with a NATO country. This interaction will not harm anyone ..."(ITAR-TASS, 1456 GMT, 20 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-079). Duma Chairman Seleznev reportedly told Tsokhatzopoulos during his Moscow visit that Russian-Greek military-technical cooperation has "brilliant prospects." According to an Interfax report, Seleznev stated that the two countries have similar positions on diplomacy and defense with which the Greek defense minister concurred. Tsokhatzopoulos offered further that historically, the two had been on the same side in conflicts that have occurred in the past 100 years. In addition to military-technical cooperation, NATO enlargement was also discussed. Seleznev reportedly confirmed that all Russian authority opposes the enlargement. (Interfax, 0906 GMT, 1 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-091) Tsokhatzopoulos said that Greece plans to buy antiaircraft systems (S-300), speed boats, inflatable cushions and electronic systems from Russia and that purchases are to be on a tender basis. The Greek government has already designated four trillion drachmae for arms purchase over the next four years. (Interfax, 1042 GMT, 2 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-092)

Such rhetoric makes one fundamentally question both Greece's long-term intentions and its past commitment to the NATO alliance. If Russia and Greece have indeed been on the same side relative to conflicts over the past 100 years, is Greece saying it supported Soviet aggression in places like Hungary and Czechoslovakia? Perhaps NATO should further demonstrate its resolve to have an alliance based on mutual interest by offering Greece the opportunity, bluntly, to "take a walk." Could such fracturing, however, be in line with Russia's security objectives? If this cooperation is indeed to demonstrate Russia's ability to interact with NATO members individually and on a non-threatening basis, then it remains illogical to fear NATO expansion if such access and cooperation can exist.

France acquires Russian battlefield laser
In another display of cooperation between Russia and a NATO member, France has acquired a Russian laser which can be used on the battlefield. ITAR-TASS reported that Professor Chuburkin, managing director of the Granat design bureau, announced that all design and demonstration work had been accomplished by Granat specialists during a three-year defense ministry project. All the research and development costs were paid by the French. Future joint laser development efforts are under negotiations. (ITAR-TASS, 1053 GMT, 14 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-104)

Additionally, after two years of joint development, Nikolai Makarovets, director of the Splav enterprise, announced in a ITAR-TASS interview, that Splav and the French firm Selerg are ready to mass produce a modernized rocket for the jet-propelled salvo-fire Grad system. The Grad is currently used by over 50 countries according to Makarovets. Since this effort was made on a commercial basis, the firms are now seeking financial partners to start production. This project is just one of more than 20 examples of joint military and technical cooperative efforts between Russia and France since 1994. (ITAR-TASS, 0726 GMT, 14 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-104)

Not that doing things for money is purifying, the French-Russian cooperation appears to be more in keeping with the idea behind NATO members' cooperative efforts with Russia and other NIS republics. The United States has supported numerous commercial efforts between Russian and US companies primarily in an effort to help the Russian economy to stabilize and thus not require the continued influx of direct aid into the never-never land of the Russian bureaucracy. These initiatives of France, Britain, Germany, and others seem to be a far cry from the courting that exists in the Greek-Russian arrangements.

by LtCol Dwyer Dennis

Fears of a red dawn dismissed
On 29 March Ukrainians went to the polls to vote for a new Rada (the Ukrainian parliament). Turnout was a high 70 percent, and in some of the Western oblasts it approached 80 percent. (Intelnews, 0725 GMT, 31 March 98; FBIS-SOV-98-090) Initial results from the Central Electoral Commission indicate that eight parties crossed the four percent electoral threshold. The Communists were by far the front-runners with over 25 percent of the vote and projections that they will receive 94 of the 225 party-slated seats. The democratic-nationalist People's Rukh came in a distant second with 8.7 percent and 32 seats, though they were almost tied by the Socialists/Peasants' Bloc with 7.9 percent and 29 seats. Of the other five parties that passed the mark, the Greens should gain 19 seats, the Popular Democratic Party 18, the Progressive Socialists 17, and the United Social Democrats 16 seats. (Interfax, 1011 GMT, 31 March 98; FBIS-SOV-98-090)

Independent candidates made a strong showing, with 114 elected to single-mandate seats. The results for another 40 seats have yet to be submitted, but the preliminary results indicate that these independent deputies may offset the large numbers of left-wingers in the new Rada. Over 50 of these new deputies represent the business community, which on the whole is strongly pro-reform. (Interfax, 1552 GMT, 31 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-090)

On election day, Petro Symonenko, the Communist Party's first secretary, promised that, if a left-wing coalition was formed in the new parliament, its first act would be to "call for the abolition of the institution of the presidency." Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, however, did not seemed worried by this threat. Three days later, Kuchma issued a statement that "he has enough strength to curb initiators of impeachment of the president." (ITAR-TASS, 1224 GMT, 1 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-091) Indeed Kuchma was so confident as to ensure reporters "we won't turn back," adding that little will change in the arenas of domestic and foreign policy, despite election results. He emphasized that his cabinet would remain the same, with perhaps some minor changes among ministers. (Interfax, 1751 GMT, 31 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-090)

Such high percentages for the Communists will undoubtedly lead to sensationalist headlines, proclaiming Ukraine has turned red and that reorientation towards Moscow is imminent. However, the Communists only won one-fourth of the seats in the Rada; in the single-mandate seats they gained fewer than 40 of the 225 available. Indeed, private businessmen in the independent seats topped them, winning in 50 constituencies. The new Rada will be more leftist than the previous, but the shifting forces within it will not be so great as to allow the Communists to dominate. If anything the change will result in more headaches for President Kuchma, since much-needed economic reforms will be slowed.
Kuchma may be more concerned with results in Crimea, where Communists lead in the regional and national elections, winning over 67 percent of the vote. (Interfax, 1117 GMT 31 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-090)

Meanwhile negotiations have started to determine who will be the Rada's new speaker, now that Oleksandr Moroz has indicated that he will not run. Twelve candidates are said to have thrown their hats in the ring, but no official announcements have been issued. Possible candidates include Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chernovil, Yevhen, Marchuk of the United Social Democrats, and former Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko.

It seems that the Crimean Tartars may have a point
On 24 March, over 6,000 Tartars took to Simferopol's streets, indignant that the Ukrainian Rada vetoed a law which would have allowed the over 90,000 Crimean Tartars with valid resident permits, but still without citizenship, to vote in upcoming elections. Protesters blocked motorways and public transportation in and out of the city, until they were subdued by police. Past Tartar demonstrations had always been peaceful, but anger in the community has been growing due to the desperate conditions in which most of the Tartars live. The riots only subsided when Refat Chubarov, Tartar leader and deputy chair of the local supreme soviet, announced he would be meeting with President Kuchma.

Only one Crimean Tartar, Lentun Bezavizov, representing the Ukrainian Communist Party, was elected to the autonomous region's Supreme Soviet. Mustafa Dzhemilev, the chair of the Crimean Tartar Majilis and a deputy to the new Ukrainian parliament, said that this demonstrates that Tartars are underrepresented in the autonomous republic, due to the current electoral laws. (Kyiv Radio, 1800 GMT, 31 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-090)

Due to the street fights and separatist tensions in the Crimea, the Scorpion special forces battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard has been moved permanently from Lvov to Sevastopol. Offices from the unit announced on local television that they were sent there "to instill law and order in the region and prevent bloodshed." (Interfax, 1543 GMT, 10 Apr 98; FBIS-UMA-98-100)

Tarasyuk replaces Udovenko
Boris Tarasyuk has been named as Udovenko's successor as foreign minister. Prior to his new post Tarasyuk was Ukraine's ambassador to the Benelux countries and NATO. Tarasyuk is said to be sympathetic to Western concerns. He symbolizes a break with the past, since unlike his predecessor he was not schooled in Moscow, but in Ukraine where he studied international relations. In his acceptance speech Tarasyuk promised to "continue the President's course aimed at Ukraine's integration into Europeans and Euroatlantic structures." He deemed this as vital to the "internal situation, as well as international stability and security." (Jamestown Monitor, 20 Apr 98) Still, he was careful not to forget Russia, stating the another of the ministry's goals will be to develop "normal and fruitful relations" with its neighbor. (RFE/RL Newsline, 20 Apr 98)

This seems to be a good cop, bad cop scenario. While Kuchma forges closer relations with Russia, Tarasyuk will ensure that Ukraine's link to the West continues.

Border talks finish with agreement
Last month, Belarus signed an agreement with the Baltic states confirming a border intersection point for the countries at the Liudvinanas Lake, paving the way for demarcation of the countries' 500 kilometers of shared borders. The agreement was hailed by the four foreign ministers as the beginning of improved relations. (ELTA, 1219 GMT, 25 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-084)

In related news, one would wonder how ORT journalists Pavel Sheramet and Dmitri Zavadsky could have been charged and tried with illegally crossing the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, if that border had not yet been defined. However, despite this inconsistency, Judge Alyaksey Hrykevich of the Hrodna Regional Court turned down an appeal of the conviction filed by the two reporters. The defense intends to now file an appeal against the sentence with the International Human Rights Tribunal based in the Hague. (Belapan, 1618 GMT, 24 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-083)

First anniversary of the Union Treaty commemorated
Belarus celebrated the first anniversary of the signing in the Russia-Belarus Union treaty on 2 April. After having been denied a permit to strike in Minsk's center, leaders of the Belarusian Popular Front and Social-Democratic Party promised they would demonstrate nonetheless. (Belapan, 1638 GMT, 30 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-089) Several hundred protesters showed up at the official festivities marking the treaty, shouting "Belarus Lives!" and burning a Russian flag. Plainclothes policemen dispersed the crowd and over 20 members of the Belarusian Popular Front were arrested, including its acting chair Lyavon Barshchewski and deputy chair Yury Khadyka. (RFE/RL Newsline, 3 Apr 98)

Rumors of early parliamentary elections continue
Opposition leader Gennadiy Karpenko told journalists at a 7 April press conference that President Lukashenka had decided to hold parliamentary elections in November, despite the president's previous fervent denials. Karpenko cited "reliable sources," claiming the president made the decision under pressure from the European Union, Council of Europe and Russian President Boris Yel'tsin. Thus far, no such announcement by Lukashenka has been forthcoming. (Interfax, 1454 GMT, 7 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-097) Earlier rumors claimed that the president had invited OSCE observers to Belarus to help prepare for elections. This was deemed suspicious in that, according to the new constitution, elections should not be held for another two years.

Honeymoon is over
Recent tensions over the zaichik's fall--the Belarusian ruble--and transfer payments between Belarus and Russia seem to indicate that relations between the two Slavic sister states have taken a turn for the worst. Following the currency crisis, Gazprom announced that it would cut oil and gas shipments to Belarus if the country did not begin to pay some of the $470 million owed to Russian fuel suppliers, of which $225 million belongs to Gazprom. Lukashenka claimed that Belarus could not pay off the debt due to a decree by Yel'tsin last month which scrapped barter agreements for the fuel in favor of hard currency payments. Previously Belarus paid for 70 percent of its Russian energy supplies in currency and 30 percent in goods. In addition Lukashenka said he was "bewildered" by Russian moves to set up customs posts on routes from Belarus to Russia. The Russians claim that Belarus had violated a prior agreement that all duties collected in Belarus on goods to be sold ultimately in Russia should be transferred to the Russian budget. The Russian State Customs Committee reported to Interfax that Minsk has withheld over $40 million.

No solid coalitions as of yet
Moldova's new parliamentarians continue to discuss possible coalitions. President Petru Lucinschi reported that two options were being discussed in which the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMDP) would align itself with the Communists or the Democratic Convention (CDM) and Democratic Forces (PFD). Lucinschi refused to comment on which of the two he would prefer, only stating that he was "ready to cooperate with all of them equally." (Interfax, 1518 GMT, 30 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-089)
However, the four parties have yet to work out their differences and seem headed for deadlock. Vladimir Solonari, head of the PMDP, predicted that Moldova faced an unprecedented crisis. He sees the path to forming a productive coalition difficult or even impossible, since the winning parties will have to try all sorts of combinations of office sharing to reach a consensus. (Basapress, 1900 GMT, 28 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-089)

The new parliament is scheduled to meet for the first time on 21 April. (Basapress, 2040 GMT, 24 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-083)

by Tracy Gerstle

Russian Communist leaders campaign for Armenian colleague
The head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Gennadi Zyuganov, and the Communist Chairman of the Russian State Duma, Gennadi Seleznev, made televised appeals to Armenian voters on behalf of Sergei Badalian, the presidential candidate of the Communist Party of Armenia. The video footage of Zyuganov and Seleznev was shown on 12 March during the free air time provided to candidates in the run-up to the 16 March balloting. Zyuganov and Seleznev expressed support not only for the Communist candidate but also for the movement for bringing Armenia into the Russia-Belarus union. (Noyan Tapan, 14 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-073) When Badalian failed to enter the second round of the presidential election, the Armenian People's Russia-Belarus-Armenia initiative decided to back Robert Kocharian in the second round. (Snark, 24 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-084)

Warm relations between Russian and Armenian Communists have been developing steadily over the last year and have focused on reuniting the two countries. Badalian has been calling for Armenian accession to the Russia-Belarus Union at least since May 1997, very soon after the creation of that institution. (ITAR-TASS World Service, 1 May 97; FBIS-SOV-97-121) Reportedly, his Armenian People's Initiative Russia-Belarus-Armenia has gathered over a million signatures from Armenians in favor of this policy and seeks to submit the question of Armenia's accession to the union to a national referendum. (Radio Rossii Network, 16 Aug 97; FBIS-SOV-97-228) In September 1997, the Russian State Duma adopted a resolution in favor of this initiative and created a special commission to support it. (Noyan Tapan, 26 Sep 97; FBIS-SOV-97-269). In November 1997, Seleznev, in his capacity as chairman of the Russia-Belarus Union's Parliamentary Assembly, granted special observer status the Armenian People's Initiative Group. (Snark, 6 Nov 97; FBIS-SOV-97-310)

First round of presidential elections: allegations of fraud refuted

Five presidential candidates made a joint statement alleging electoral fraud in Armenia's first round of presidential elections which were held on 16 March. The candidates, Karen Demirchian, Vazgen Manukian, Paruyr Ayrikian, Sergei Badalian, and Dadiv Shakhnazian, claimed that the "entire electoral process, even before the end of voting, shows that the elections are being held with a large number of violations of the law and falsifications and in a threatening atmosphere.... We declare that the extraordinary elections for the post of president of the Republic of Armenia, regardless of the result, cannot be considered free and fair." (Snark, 16 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-075)

Prime Minister Robert Kocharian's campaign headquarters responded to these allegations by stating that the few reported breaches of the law could not have been sufficient to affect the outcome of the election. According to the Kocharian camp, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) had received complaints from about five or six out of 1,600 polling stations. (Snark, 17 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-076)

The OSCE election observers found that violations of the law occurred in 15 percent of the polling stations. In their estimation the irregularities could have affected the outcome if the number of votes cast for each candidate were more or less equal. The OSCE also identified other problems such as commanders telling servicemen how to vote, the presence of officers from the interior ministry in some polling stations, and biased reporting shown on the state-owned mass media. (ITAR-TASS, 18 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-077) The chairman of the CEC, Khachatur Bezidzhian, issued an angry retort to the OSCE report, calling the criticisms "groundless" and "ill founded." (Snark, 26 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-085)

According to the CEC the final results of the first round of voting were as follows: Voter turnout stood at 63.49 percent of the eligible population. Robert Kocharian received 38.76 percent of the vote; Karen Demirchian, 30.67 percent; Vazgen Manukian, 12.24 percent; Sergei Badalian, 11.01 percent; Paruyr Ayrikian, 5.41 percent. Each of seven other candidates received less than .5 percent of the vote. On March 24, the CEC made the formal decision to hold the second round between Robert Kocharian and Karen Demichian on 30 March 1998. (Snark, 24 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-083)

Second round: Kocharian wins and promises to rein in the presidency
Four days before the runoff election was held, Kocharian announced his intention to amend the constitution to alter the relations between the president and the prime minister, the president and the government, and the president and parliament. One proposed change would revoke the president's power to disband the National Assembly. Kocharian said that approximately 70 changes to the constitution would be required to lessen the power of the presidency and ensure greater independence for the judiciary. (Interfax, 26 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-085)

His other campaign promises included promoting direct talks between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan (which Baku opposes) and establishing dual citizenship. He told reporters that "The president of Armenia should be a president of all Armenians." (Interfax, 27 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-086) If adopted this measure would grant Armenian citizenship to Karabakh Armenians and effectively unify the two entities.

On 1 April CEC Chairman Ruben Manukian announced that, although vote counting was unfinished, it was clear that Prime Minister Robert Kocharian had won the presidential election. By 5:00 p.m. on 1 April , the commission had tallied 99.4 percent of votes. Voter turnout was 68.9 percent. Kocharian received 59.3 percent of votes, while Karen Demirchian mustered 40.7 percent. (Interfax, 1 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-091)

The day of the second round the CEC received 50 reports of violations in the voting procedure. (Snark, 30 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-089) However, the international observers gave a better assessment of the second round. The OSCE, which was highly critical of the first round, found that the second round was "well organized and proceeded calmly and in accordance with the law." The OSCE pointed out that, although the violations favored Kocharian, they did not affect the results of the election. (Snark, 4 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-094) Many in Armenia, ranging from the leaders of the nationalist Dashnak party to the election monitors of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, had suggested that the OSCE's highly critical stance in the first round may be due in part to Kocharian's opposition to the OSCE mediators' proposal for Nagorno-Karabakh. (Snark, 1 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-093) The OSCE had decided to extend its mission to investigate fully the charges of electoral fraud which were still being reported in early April.

Aliev protests planned export of S-300 missile systems to Armenia

In a letter to Russian President Boris Yel'tsin, Azeri President Gaidar Aliev reiterated his concern over Russia's clandestine deliveries of over $1 billion in weapons and military supplies to Armenia and protested the planned transfer of S-300 antiaircraft missile systems to Armenia. In January and February of this year, Baku had received reports of secret negotiations between Russia and Armenia concerning plans for new transfers of Russian weapons to Armenia, including the S-300 systems. (Interfax, 16 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-075) That system parallels the US Patriot missile system and, while it is a primarily a defensive weapon, the missile technology can have offensive applications.

by Miriam Lanskoy

Bishkek hosts conference on refugees in Central Asia
A regional conference on the repatriation of refugees mainly from Tajikistan and Afghanistan convened in the Kyrgyz capital on 31 March. In addition to representatives from all of the Central Asian states, members of a number of international organizations (e.g., the UNHCR) also attended the conference (Kyrgyz Radio First Program Network, 0600 GMT, 31 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-090). One of the issues raised by members of the Tajik delegation was the repatriation of the estimated 90,000 Tajik refugees currently living in the Central Asian republics. The Tajik Minister for Labor and Employment, Khudoiberdi Kholiqnazarov, stated that the main obstacle to the refugees' return was of an economic nature. Many of the refugees have no homes to go back to, and the Tajik government would not be able to provide accommodations for all of them, or ensure the return of their property (ITAR-TASS, 1503 GMT, 31 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-090).

A few days later, in an interview with the Iranian News Agency (IRNA), Kyrgyz Minister of Labor and Social Protection Asylgul Abdurekhmenova stated that 97.8 percent of the refugees who fled to Kyrgyzstan during the civil war were actually ethnic Kyrgyz and had no desire to return to their former places of residence in Tajikistan. There are currently 15,114 refugees from Tajikistan registered in Kyrgyzstan and many of them live in urban areas, particularly Bishkek. This large population influx has put a strain on Kyrgyzstan's social and economic resources (Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1600 GMT, 4 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-094).

Human rights watch asks for presidential pardon
The international agency Human Rights Watch has sent a letter of appeal to President Rahmonov, asking that he commute the death sentences of Abduhofiz Abdullojonov and the five other National Revival Bloc members who were sentenced to death for conspiring to assassinate Tajikistan's president in April 1997. The letter also stated that the arrest and sentencing of Abdullojonov and his fellows appears to be motivated primarily by political reasons, rather than by the desire for justice, and that Abdullojonov (who is terminally ill with cancer) is not receiving any medical attention in prison. Copies of the letter were sent to the offices of Tajikistan's National Reconciliation Commission, the International Red Cross Committee, and the OSCE mission (ITAR-TASS, 1122 GMT, 2 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-092).

The arrest and subsequent conviction of Abduhofiz Abdullojonov and the other 20 members (5 received death sentences, 15 others received prison sentences of varying lengths) of the National Revival Bloc (NRC) who have been accused of conspiring to assassinate President Rahmonov in Khujand last April does indeed seem politically motivated. Few details of the arrest and trial are available, which implies that the men most likely received less than the "due process" to which they were entitled under international law. The main motivations for their arrest may well be linked to the National Revival Bloc's opposition to President Rahmonov and his administration. Khujand has been the site of fairly vociferous opposition to President Rahmonov's policies since at least the Spring of 1996. With the prospect of parliamentary elections looming in the Fall, President Rahmonov may be trying to garner support for himself and his followers any way he can. He recently traveled to Khujand in order to appeal for the backing of regional leaders there. No declarations of support were forthcoming from Abdumalik Abdullojonov, the chairman of the NRC (and Abduhofiz Abdullojonov's brother). Perhaps the president hopes to acquire this support in return for pardoning at least those members of the National Revival Bloc who received death sentences.

Tajik president appeals for more Russian support on Afghan border
On 31 March a visiting session of the Collegium of Russia's Federal Borderguard Service (FBS) convened in Dushanbe, with the participation of Russian Security Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin and FBS Director Nikolai Bordiuzha, who arrived in Tajikistan on 30 March in order to inspect border post installations and security (ITAR-TASS, 0943 GMT, 30 Mar 98; FBIS-UMA-98-089). The meeting's main focus was on the readiness and ability of the FBS units stationed along the Tajik-Afghan border to protect Tajikistan's security. President Rahmonov addressed the session, expressing his concern that the border posts are "both numerically and qualitatively" undermanned. His main fears were that the still highly unstable situation in Afghanistan might affect Central Asia's security. The president also pointed to the problems brought on by the increasing drug trade from Afghanistan to Central Asia across Tajik territory. He stated that he did not want his country to be turned into a transfer station for narcotics smuggling, but that Tajikistan could not cope with this phenomenon alone and needed Russia's aid in taking steps to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan (ITAR-TASS, 1124 GMT, 31 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-090).

President Rahmonov's fears about the narcotics trade from Afghanistan through Tajik territory are no doubt well-founded. However, it is unlikely that an increase in Russian FBS personnel or equipment would have much effect in halting the drug trade's flow over the border. Russian military commanders have declared that it is physically impossible to seal completely the Tajik-Afghan border. Furthermore, there has been some speculation that both Russian and Tajik border troops and local militia units are involved in the drug trade themselves, as both traders and users. The chaotic economic situations in both Tajikistan and Afghanistan have turned the narcotics trade into one of the few consistently profitable and stable businesses (the demand for narcotics continues to increase in many of the former Soviet republics, including Russia).

New outbreaks of violence in Kofarnihon district
During March clashes between local opposition units and Tajik government troops and police forces began to occur with increasing frequency in Lenin, Darband, and Kofarnihon regions (raiony). On 19 March, the government broadcast a lengthy statement on Tajik radio detailing its grievances against the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), and accusing the opposition leadership of standing idly by while a number of its local units violated the peace agreement by harassing, attacking, and robbing government forces (primarily of food supplies, weapons, and ammunition). The broadcast also named Mullo Abdullo, Fathullo Khairiddinov, Rawshan Ghafurov, Pirmahmad Aliev, and Rahmon Sanginov as the opposition commanders whose forces were primarily to blame for these violent incidents (Khovar, 1215 GMT, 19 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-079). By the end of the month, the Tajik government decided to send in troops in order to disarm forcibly a UTO unit led by Field Commander Namoz which had been accused of illegally assuming control of the town of Jomurii Poion (in Kofarnihon Raion, located approximately 20 km east of Dushanbe). According to UTO accounts, a large group (its exact number is unclear) of either armed policemen or interior ministry troops launched a surprise attack on the UTO base near Jomurii Poion on 24 March (the Tajik government insists that the UTO troops attacked the police, when the UTO unit was ordered to disarm) (Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 0330 GMT, 26 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-085).

Regardless of which story is more accurate, two UTO members and six policemen were killed during the shooting which broke out. Upon receiving news of the incident, government officials met with UTO leaders in Dushanbe and decided to send a joint UN-NRC delegation to the town of Kofarnihon (the administrative capital of Kofarnihon District, approximately 25 km east of Dushanbe) to begin an investigation of the events, and no further actions were to be taken until the delegation had returned and made its report (Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 0330 GMT, 26 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-085). Before the delegation was able to make contact with the UTO unit (the reasons for which UTO Chairman Nuri did not list), an additional 200 government troops and four armored vehicles began moving from their barracks in Lenin District toward Kofarnihon. The UTO leadership immediately informed the UN observer mission about these troop movements and requested that the observers investigate the reasons behind the mobilization, as UTO leaders had not been able to contact the Tajik government for two hours (ITAR-TASS World Service, 1408 GMT, 25 Mar 98; FBIS-UMA-98-084).

Government reports, on the other hand, state that the UN-NRC delegation was unable to make contact with the UTO unit because UTO troops fired on them as they approached. Government spokespersons also stated that reinforcements from other UTO units stationed in the vicinity had been arriving in Kofarnihon to lend their support to Field Commander Namoz (Interfax, 1429 GMT, 24 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-083). It is unclear who initiated the next skirmish, but another shoot-out occurred between UTO units and government forces; 109 of the estimated 200 government troops were surrounded and taken prisoner at their temporary base in the Romit Gorge (ITAR-TASS World Service, 1750 GMT, 25 Mar 98; FBIS-UMA-98-084).

The international Contact Group (it includes the ambassadors to Tajikistan of the following countries: Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as the heads of the OSCE and UN missions to Tajikistan), which is responsible for monitoring and guaranteeing the inter-Tajik peace process, held an emergency meeting on 25 March and decided to send another delegation of NRC members, UN observers and Tajik government representatives to Kofarnihon to negotiate a cease-fire and a resolution to the conflict (Interfax, 1639 GMT, 26 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-085).

Negotiations between the two sides continued for approximately two weeks, during which local UTO commanders began releasing small groups of the captured government troops, usually without preconditions having been set. By the evening of 1 April, all of the prisoners had been set free and the government troops and armored vehicles which had been stationed in eastern Kofarnihon during the conflict were withdrawn (Interfax, 0632 GMT, 2 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-092). The most difficult point in the negotiations was the decision on where to station the UTO troops once they had been registered and disarmed. Tajik government representatives favored moving the UTO units first to Turkobod (a village slightly to the south of Kofarnihon) for registration, and then to a special camp in the Romit Gorge. The local UTO field commanders insisted that their troops be permitted to remain in Turkobod, fearing that the government troops might attack them from behind in the Romit Gorge, despite assurances to the contrary from UTO Chairman Nuri. Another disagreement occurred over the troops' withdrawal from the area of the fighting. Tajik government representatives stated that they would only return their troops to the barracks after or at the same time as UTO units were withdrawing from Kofarnihon. Small, isolated clashes continued to take place between Tajik government and UTO troops (Interfax, 1019 GMT, 4 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-094).

Negotiators from both sides finally reached a solution on 5 April, perhaps in spite of an ultimatum delivered to the local opposition commanders by General Ghafar Mirzoev, the commander of the Tajik Presidential Guard. On the morning of 5 April, General Mirzoev informed the UTO commanders that, unless they withdrew their forces from Kofarnihon by 2:00 p.m. the same day, government troops would launch an attack against them (Interfax, 0639 GMT, 5 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-095). Fortunately, the negotiations continued, and it was finally agreed that on 6 April the local UTO units would move to the Romit Gorge camp, but that 25 men from the Dushanbe-based UTO battalion would remain in Turkobod to protect the families of the local UTO units. Also on 6 April, all of the government troops who had moved into Kofarnihon from other raions would return to their permanent barracks. Finally, at Haji Ali Akbar Turajonzoda's (deputy leader of the UTO and the new first deputy prime minister of the Tajik government) suggestion, it was decided to begin reforming Kofarnihon's executive and law-enforcement bodies to include a 30 percent share of UTO representation in the raion administration (ITAR-TASS, 1733 GMT, 5 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-095).

The UTO troops withdrew from Kofarnihon as scheduled on 6 April and moved to the camp which was set up for them in the Romit Gorge. By 16 April all of the UTO units (a reported total of 530 men) had undergone registration, as well as a pre-enlistment medical examination, and were ready for the next phase of reintegration with Tajikistan's regular military forces. The situation in Kofarnihon had also returned to normal (ITAR-TASS, 0957 GMT, 16 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-106).

Based on the many conflicting reports of the Kofarnihon events, it seems that both the local opposition commanders and government officials made a number of unwise decisions. The roots of the conflict are most likely connected to the opposition's frustration with the sluggish movement of the peace process, under which they were promised a 30 percent share of administrative appointments at both the national and local levels. Many of the local UTO units stationed in the vicinity of Kofarnihon are originally from that region and live there with their families. Thus, they consider themselves to be a part of the community, and as such desire a voice in community affairs, which is precisely what the terms of the general peace agreement promised them. President Rahmonov's slowness to implement these changes, as well as his demand that all UTO units first meet the terms of the peace agreement's military protocol (disarming, registering, and moving to special training camps) as a prerequisite for any further enactment of the terms of the political protocol, no doubt provided the incentive for a few of the local UTO commanders to take matters into their own hands. Prior to Haji Ali Akbar Turajonzoda's return from exile, UTO Field Commander Mullo Abdullo publicly stated that his unit would not disarm and register with the government until President Rahmonov officially announced Turajonzoda's appointment to the post of first deputy prime minister, and that, should the government continue to arrest his men for refusing to disarm, his forces would retaliate. Perhaps this is what happened in Kofarnihon.

Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan agree on national sector scheme for Caspian
Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov led a delegation to Baku on 30 March in order to continue Turkmen-Azeri discussions on the demarcation of the Caspian Sea. The two sides initiated their negotiations on 5 February, in order to resolve their differences both over the lines of the sea's general division among all of the littoral states, and over their disagreement on which country has the sovereignty to develop the Kyapaz, Chirag, and Azeri oil fields. These three oil fields lie in the center of the Caspian Sea and both countries have claimed sovereignty over them (Interfax, 0923 GMT, 30 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-089).

Insofar as the scheme for the Caspian Sea's general division goes, Shikhmuradov and his counterpart, Tofig Zulfugarov, seem to agree almost completely. They both favor the national sector division plan, and agree on the need for measures to ensure the sea's environmental safety (Interfax, 1711 GMT, 1 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-091). However, they were unable to come to a compromise on the issue of the contested ownership of the three oil fields. They did conclude that the area between the two countries where the three oil fields are located should be "divided along a median line in accord with generally-accepted practice and international law founded on the exercise of sovereign rights to the Caspian and taking account of the interests of the littoral states." (Interfax, 0923 GMT, 30 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-089)

Afghan peace consultations take place in Ashgabat
UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Ashgabat on 2 April in order to prepare for a meeting with President Borhanoddin Rabbani and representatives of other Afghan factions to discuss holding a peace conference in the near future (Interfax, 1134 GMT, 2 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-092). The Turkmen government did not plan to participate in these initial discussions. President Rabbani arrived on 4 April, as did 'Abdol Karim Khalili, the leader of the Afghan Shi'ites. Generals Dostum and Mas'ud sent deputies to represent them. The only faction which was invited and did not attend was the Taleban, although Brahimi did meet with their leaders prior to his arrival in Ashgabat in order to address some of the most important issues slated for discussion. The main focus of the meeting was the UN proposal to establish an embargo on arms deliveries to Afghanistan. In his earlier meeting with the Taleban leaders in Islamabad, Brahimi was able to obtain their approval for the establishment of a monitoring committee which would include up to twelve representatives from the various Afghan factions and which would begin discussing means of peacefully ending the civil war. Brahimi also held meetings with diplomatic representatives of the "6+2 group"--China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Iran, the United States and Russia--which has been set up in order to facilitate the organization of a peace conference and of an eventual peace process (ITAR-TASS, 1804 GMT, 4 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-094).

In a press conference after the meeting had concluded, President Rabbani stated that he and the other representatives of the United Islamic Front (UIF) agreed with the Taleban that it was necessary to establish a committee for further discussions of an eventual peace and that this committee should hold its first session in Islamabad and then continue to meet in other, neutral countries (Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1600 GMT, 5 Apr 98; FBIS-NES-98-096).

by Monika Shepherd

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