Previous Issues: Volume I, Volume II, Volume III
Editorial Digest Volume 3 Number 13 (September 16, 1998)
Russia maintains position on Kosovo
Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Russian reporters in Belgrade on 4 September that Russia still believes NATO would only be deepening the existing problems in Kosovo with the use of force. Ivanov, in Belgrade to deliver a letter from President Boris Yel'tsin to President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic, told reporters that now it was vital to solve all issues pertaining to a return of Kosovo-Metohija refugees to their homes before the beginning of winter. Ivanov said that Yel'tsin's letter concerned the implementation of his agreement with President Milosevic reached in Moscow on 16 June, with a special emphasis on the humanitarian aspect of the Kosovo-Metohija problem. Ivanov also stated that in his reply to Yel'tsin's letter, Milosevic expressed assurances that all Yugoslav and Serbian authorities guaranteed the safety and unhampered return of all persons who had temporarily left their homes in Kosovo-Metohija. (Tanjug, 2125 GMT, 4 Sep 98; FBIS-EEU-98-248)
Ivanov's statements came on the same day that Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov denied reports that Moscow would back a UN resolution for military intervention in Kosovo in order to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. Responding to German press reports, Lavrov stated that there had been no change in the Russian position, which he noted had been spelled out in Bonn at a six-nation "Contact Group" meeting on 8 July. He also said that there were no discussions on a UN draft resolution providing for the use of force in the southern Yugoslav province. "There is no resolution," said Lavrov.(Agence-France Presse, North European Service, 1529 GMT, 4 Sep 98; FBIS-EEU-98-248)
Russian-India defense ties termed a 'sovereign right'
During a Moscow briefing on 8 September, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin reiterated Moscow's intention to maintain strong military and defense-technology ties with India, stating that the "bilateral cooperation in defense is Russia's and India's sovereign right and nobody intends to curtail it." Rakhmanin, referring to the Joint Statement of the Russian and US presidents "On the Common Challenges to Security at the Threshold of the XXI Century" signed during President Bill Clinton's recent visit to Moscow, emphasized that Russia's contacts with India in the sphere of defense was not stipulated in either this document or elsewhere during the summit. (ITAR-TASS, 1512 GMT, 8 Sep 98; FBIS-TAC-98-251)
These statements were issued just three days after a prominent Indian newspaper published an editorial stating that American pressure on Russia to curtail military cooperation with India was a "Hostile Act Against India." Among many other claims, the editorial said that Moscow needs to maintain its existing defense deals with New Delhi out of financial necessity. (The Pioneer, 3 Sep 98, p. 8; FBIS-TAC-98-248)
Requests for international aid bypass Moscow
Several areas in Russia have apparently requested food assistance from the Nordic countries as the ongoing economic crisis in Russia has persisted with no end in sight. Arkhangelsk and the Kaliningrad enclave have requested help, said Bjorn Rosengren, the governor of the Swedish province of Norrbotten. Yuri Evdikomov, the governor general of Murmansk, telephoned his colleagues in northern Sweden, Norway, and Finland to get them to meet regional food deficits in Murmansk. Governor Rosengren stated that a panic situation does not exist now but that one could develop in the next two weeks.
At the same time there have been reports that need is emerging in the militarized Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic. According to the Danish media, Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen is contemplating sending emergency assistance to Kaliningrad. Additionally on 7 September Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari said that Finland and the EU should prepare emergency food shipments to Russia for the elderly and children. (Politiken, 10 Sep 98; FBIS-WEU-98-253)
These latest reported requests for humanitarian assistance mark another element of regional cooperation with foreign powers that bypasses Moscow.
Tehran daily urges Russia to adopt 'clear policy' on Iran
Referring to the recent visit by US President Bill Clinton to Moscow, and the announcement that three Russian companies were asked to stop cooperation with Iran, the English daily Iran News on 7 September suggested Russia adopt a clear policy towards Iran stressing that the imposition of and participation in embargoes would be to the disadvantage of Russia alone. The daily stressed that the three companies already had been barred from cooperating with Tehran under the D'Amato law, claiming that these latest US remarks were just a repetition of its stance against Iran and its aim to tarnish Russia-Iran ties.
The article also implied that it was in the best interest of Moscow to cooperate with Tehran "in view of the grave circumstances prevailing in the region," an apparent reference to the growing tensions between Iran and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. (IRNA, 0827 GMT, 7 Sep 98; FBIS-NES-98-250) Russia has long opposed Taliban control of Afghanistan and has repeatedly been accused of assisting anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
by John McDonough
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DOMESTIC AFFAIRS & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Duma passes resolution calling for Yel'tsin's resignation
During its extraordinary session the State Duma passed a resolution demanding President Boris Yel'tsin's immediate resignation. In all, 245 deputies voted for the resolution, 32 against, with no abstentions. The resolution is not binding.
The impeachment process continues, however, with 225 delegates having signed the requisite documents in support of Yel'tsin's removal; 300 signatures are required to initiate the process. Support seems to be building around the country for Yel'tsin's resignation, and with the president's latest sacking of the government, the unconvinced may decide that Yel'tsin's better days are now behind him and a new leader is necessary. (ITAR-TASS World Service, 1056 GMT, 21 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-233)
Russian regional leaders view government dismissal
Regional support for the return of former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was high. The primary reason was the desired need for economic and political stability. According to an article from an unnamed Nizhny Novgorod journal published in Rossiyskaya gazeta, Kirienko's dismissal was not caused by the machinations of wealthy power brokers, it was simply that Kirienko was threatening to effect real reform, which Yel'tsin worried would lead to social unrest. Apparently it was Yel'tsin's desire for stability over reform which brought Chernomyrdin back to Moscow, and which eventually led to the nomination and subsequent approval by the Duma of ex-foreign minister Y. Primakov to the post of prime minister. (Rossiyskaya gazeta, 29 Aug 98, pp. 3, 6; FBIS-SOV-98-248)
The Duma speaker of the Maritime Territory expressed relief at Kirienko's dismissal because of the prime minister's overly harsh economic reforms, but noted that the office of the prime minister needed to be invested with greater powers over the cabinet as well as policy formulation, and it should be more responsible to the Federal Assembly. This attitude seems to be generally felt across the country. (ITAR-TASS, 0713 GMT, 24 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-236)
However, as of this writing, it is not clear how the regions feel about Y. Primakov as prime minister, a situation in which stability rather than reform is the promise, presuming an economic meltdown can be stopped by executive fiat. It seems that one, if not the only, reason Russian democracy has managed to exhibit moments of popular sovereignty and democratic accountability in the last few years is that the conduits to power have not yet reified, and thus cannot be controlled or dominated by any one section or institution of society. This is largely due to the political chaos in Moscow, where the former centralized state has given way to a much looser assortment of local and regional power centers. However, if his past is any guide, Prime Minister Primakov will do his best to stop this process.
Dictatorship of the constitution: Zyuganov the democrat?
In a radio call-in show, CPRF leader and chief officer of Boris Yel'tsin's not-so-loyal opposition in the Duma, Gennadi Zyuganov admitted that the solution to recent economic and political crises needed to be found within the existing constitution.
In responding to a caller's doubts that demonstrations will bring about Yel'tsin's removal from office, Zyuganov replied, "I assure you, if 25-30 million people take to the streets [Yel'tsin] and his clique will be forced to go. We must under no circumstances allow carnage to occur Only well-organized social protest initiated by the impeachment procedure and supported by the regions, strike committees, and mass action can save Russia from disintegration today and save the people from repression and genocide."
When asked if he thought bloodshed would be required, Zyuganov cautioned that "the change of power can be carried out bloodlessly only under the auspices of the legislature, it has the constitutional right to do this. We must introduce into the constitution around 15 amendments to limit the president's sovereignty. We must redistribute these powers among a strong and effective government, but under the control of the Federal Assembly, to ensure that the government is accountable to it."
But the media, Zyuganov warns, needs to have its impartiality attend to by "observer councils" presumably set up in each media outlet around the country. A re-nationalization of the media is also not out of the question because, after all, only the people's government can provide for non-biased reporting. Deja vu all over again? (Sovetskaya Rossiya, 20 Aug 98, p 2; FBIS-SOV-98-239)
by Michael DeMar Thurman
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NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Summit postponed, cooperation continues
The 10 September meeting of Customs Union members (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus) plus Tajikistan was abruptly called off by the Russian government on 7 September. Although the meeting was officially postponed, neither a new date nor a reason for the postponement was specified. Topics were to include the signature of the Customs Union treaty and the formation of a council for border matters. It was indicated that the closed session was to include discussion of the crises in Afghanistan and Russia. (Interfax, 1929 GMT, 28 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-240)
Despite this cancellation, CIS border security efforts continued with the completion of the joint Military Partnership-98 Air Defense Exercises. (Interfax, 0837 GMT, 29 Aug 98; FBIS-UMA-98-241) For his efforts, the commander of a Kyrgyz Air Defense regiment received an engraved watch from Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev as well as the information that, effective immediately, his regiment was assigned to combat duty protecting CIS external borders. (Vecherniy Bishkek, 8 Sep 98; FBIS-UMA-98-252) Support for the use of CIS troops to guard their external borders has been strong from Central Asian states, given the external threat that countries such as Afghanistan present. In a radio address, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmanov pledged support for these efforts, saying that "under the collective security agreement...Tajikistan will along with [the CIS] strengthen its southern borders...[and] make our contribution in order to settle the Afghan problem as soon as possible." (Komsomol'skaya pravda, 19 Aug 98, p. 3; FBIS-SOV-98-238) Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev said the "CIS should work out unanimous and decisive counter-actions against Islamic fundamentalism to prevent political and economic destabilization in Kyrgyzstan, Russia and other CIS states." (Interfax, 1548 GMT, 3 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-247) As part of these efforts, Russia has said that it will absorb the training costs of 1,000 servicemen from Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, all of which have been supporters of the collective security agreement. (ITAR-TASS World Service, 1315 GMT, 27 Aug 98; FBIS-UMA-98-240) Conspicuously not included in this program are the members of GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova).
At a meeting of members of the Interparliamentary Union, a new coordination body, the Eurasia Group, was created. The group is tasked with formulating a "common stance" on parliamentary issues within the CIS, said Yegor Stroev, head of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly. He also intimated that such efforts within the assembly would allow the CIS to protect more successfully its interests in the world arena. (ITAR-TASS, 1612 GMT, 6 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-249)
Despite the recent economic and political crises within Russia, it is apparent that Russia is continuing to assert itself as the primary player in the CIS. In fact, in a recent interview, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovsky emphatically stated that each of the 12 member states' presidents "clearly understands that Russia is absolutely invaluable for everyone, without exception, for all the CIS states, and that it has an absolute priority." (Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy, 1018 GMT, 2 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-245) With the confirmation of Primakov as Russian prime minister, it is not implausible that Russia will even more aggressively pursue CIS cooperation efforts in order to maintain its supremacy within the CIS.
by Sarah Miller
First, the bad news...
Ukraine effectively devalued the hryvnya on 4 September, as the Russian economic crisis took its toll. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Tigipko announced that the government would widen the hryvnya's fluctuation corridor to 2.5-3.5 from 1.8-2.25. Ukrainian finance experts are predicting that the hryvnya will lose 30-40 percent of its value against the dollar before the crisis is over. (Agence-France Oresse North European Service, 1556 GMT, 4 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-248)
...Now, the good
As expected, on 7 September the International Monetary Fund officially offered Ukraine an Extended Fund Facility loan, worth in excess of $2.2 billion. The money will be paid out in several tranches over the next three years, with approximately $250 million paid immediately, most likely to be used to help "prop-up" the hryvnya. (Radio Rossii Network, 0900 GMT, 5 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-248)
Following the IMF's decision, the World Bank announced $900 million in loans to be disbursed among four projects in Ukraine: farm restructuring, a coal industry project, a project aimed at fostering small- and medium-sized businesses, and a program for the financial sector. (Interfax, 1431 GMT, 7 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-250)
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will not follow suit, however. The organization has announced that it is reassessing its projects of cooperation with Ukraine in the state sector. The EBRD Director for Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia said the EBRD would rather deal with "enterprises in whose affairs the state does not interfere."(ITAR-TASS, 1345 GMT, 28 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-240)
Yuri Luzhkov, mayor of the world
Luzhkov was the star speaker, as ethnic Russians chanted, "Thank you, Luzhkov"and "Thank you, Russia." Moscow? Nope. This was Ukraine.
On 26 August, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov rode into Sevastopol, decrying the "forcible Ukrainization of ethnic Russians" and vowing to oppose it everywhere in Crimea. The official reason for his visit was the opening of a Russian school built with the aid of the Moscow city government.
He vowed to do everything possible "for Black Sea Fleet sailors to feel that Moscow and Russia care for them and to keep alive their hope that Sevastopol will be back in Russia one day." And, he explained that "The Russian city of Sevastopol must be protected from steps which are inconsistent with the traditions and standards recognized by the civilized world." (Interfax, 1120 GMT, 26 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-238)
But don't worry, Ukraine. A spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry cleared up the whole situation. ITAR-TASS reported that Russia does not question Ukraine's ownership of Sevastopol. As evidence, the foreign ministry spokesman explained, "The territorial belonging of Sevastopol is not put to doubt." There. That explains it. (ITAR-TASS, 1215 GMT, 3 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-246)
Belarus to World Bank and IMF: Here's your hat, what's your hurry?
The World Bank has announced plans to "lower its presence" in Belarus, a decision that, in effect, will result in the closure of the bank's only office in the country. David Phillips, the head of the World Bank office in Belarus, has left the country, and according to Phillips there will be no replacement. During his final news conference, Phillips noted that not one of the reforms agreed to by Belarus in exchange for World Bank assistance has been implemented. (ITAR-TASS, 1710 GMT, 26 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-239)
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka had no comment on Phillips'departure. However, during a 31 August interview, Lukashenka repeated his frequent assertion that Belarus would not depend on "injections" from international organizations, and responded angrily to rumors that representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would leave Belarus. He said, "We have never had nor are we currently receiving anything from the IMF -- not a dollar or a cent. So it is up to them: If they want to leave -- please go, the airports are open, we have never closed them, let them go." The IMF office in Belarus, however, noted that the IMF has provided a total of $270 million in loans to the country. (Belapan, 1148 GMT, 31 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-244)
Meanwhile, on 3 September, three days after Lukashenka's remarks, Belarusian Minister of Economics Uladizimir Shymaw expressed regret over the low level of international presence in Belarus. He told reporters in Minsk that foreign credits are necessary to integrate the Belarusian economy into "the world's economic ties." Shymaw said that Belarus received a total of $60.8 million in foreign loans over the first seven months of 1998, which is "only 17 percent of the sum planned for this year." He said that his government is attempting to attract a higher level of foreign investment by conducting dialogue with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the IMF, and ... the World Bank. (Belapan, 1450 GMT, 3 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-247) Good thing the airports are open.
Russian crisis? No problem...
Shortly after the onset of the Russian currency crisis, President Lukashenka told his countrymen not to worry. He said, "It will be harder for Ukraine..., but it will be a little bit easier for Belarus" because "it anticipated such turmoils and gradually devalued the national currency." (ITAR-TASS, 2114 GMT, 28 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-240)
...Well, maybe a little
By 3 September the Belarusian ruble had lost 90 percent of its value against the dollar. On 1 September, the dollar was trading at BR110,000-120,000. On 3 September, it was trading at BR200,000 to 230,000. (Belapan, 1255 GMT, 3 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-246)
Dniestr threatens to block nuclear fuel shipment
As the stalemate over Dniestr's status continues, the Dniestr administration seems to have found an issue over which it can flex its muscles. The director of the Civil Defense Service of the breakaway Dniestr Republic, Valeriy Kireev, is warning that Dniestr residents will block the railways in order to stop reprocessed nuclear "tailings" (a type of waste) from traveling through the area on its way from Bulgaria to Russia.
Just two weeks ago, the Dniestr administration reached an agreement with both Bulgaria and Russia which allowed "fresh"fuel to be sent from Eloctrostal City in Russia to the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant in Bulgaria. (Basapress, 1700 GMT, 13 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-225) However, Kireev is so far refusing to allow trains to transport the fuel's waste back to Russia. (Basapress, 1615 GMT, 26 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-238) According to the Moldovan deputy minister of environment protection, the waste is more dangerous than "fresh" fuel. (Basapress, 1700 GMT, 13 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-225)
Although it is unclear whether Kireev has the support necessary to block the railways, the threat has apparently delayed the transport, which was scheduled to head back to Russia by the first week of September.
Ukrainian 'peacekeepers' welcomed
The joint control commission for a settlement in Transdniestr announced on 26 August that an agreement has been reached to bring Ukrainian "peacekeepers" into the security zone. The co-chairman of the commission, Vladimir Bodnar, called the decision a breakthrough, and said that Ukraine now becomes an "equal party" as a guarantor country of the peace effort. He also said that this move follows on a decision made at a 20 March meeting between the leaders of Moldova and Transdniestr, as well as Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and then-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
There are currently over 2,000 peacekeepers in the security zone: 700 each from Moldova, Transdniestr and Russia. (Interfax, 1447 GMT, 26 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-239)
It is important to note that buried in the report announcing this agreement is one sentence explaining that there will be a total of 10 Ukrainian "observers" operating in the security zone, traveling in four vehicles. That number -- and the fact that they will apparently not operate as "peacekeepers" -- brings into serious question statements claiming that Ukraine will now be an "equal party" in the issue.
In fact, on 20 March, Ukrainian President Kuchma made it clear that, despite protestations to the opposite (particularly by Russia) Ukraine is not deeply involved in the "peacekeeping" process. After that meeting, Chernomyrdin said, "Russia and Ukraine, as guarantor countries, shall do everything to eliminate the problems existing between the sides." Kuchma responded, "The problem of introducing Ukrainian peacekeeping troops into the Dniestr region is not on the agenda." At that same meeting, Moldova and Dniestr agreed to lower gradually the number of peacekeepers in the security zone from their areas, leaving only "light, mobile patrol posts on the zone borders." (FBIS-SOV-98-079) There was no mention of any reduction in the number of Russian troops. It would, therefore, appear to be important for Russia to be able to point to another country as deeply involved in the issue as it is. In reality, however, Ukraine does not fit the bill.
by Tammy M. Lynch
Kazakh economy to experience only limited effects of Russian crisis
President Nazarbaev assured investors at a press conference in Almaty on 8 September that Kazakhstan's economy should have little trouble withstanding the effects of Russia's financial crisis, due to the fact that its monetary system is entirely independent from Russia's. As further proof of Kazakhstan's financial stability, he stated that Kazakhstan has the highest ratio of foreign exchange reserves to money supply of any of the CIS countries, and that the government should be able to maintain its $2 billion gold and foreign exchange reserves until the end of the current year with the capital inflows that it expects over the next four months. The Russian crisis is even proving to be somewhat advantageous, by providing Kazakhstan with cheap Russian-made products. (Interfax, 1559 GMT, 8 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-251)
Consequently, Kazakhstan continues to offer a good investment climate, and President Nazarbaev has also pledged to sign additional agreements in September in order to provide foreign investors with further benefits. (Interfax, 1559 GMT, 8 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-251) Earlier, on 1 September, at the convention of the Kazakh parliament's fourth session, the president also attempted to allay recent fears for Kazakhstan's political stability, by declaring that he had absolutely no plans to dismiss Prime Minister Nurlan Balgymbaev and his cabinet. (Interfax, 0734 GMT, 1 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-244)
Prime Minister Balgymbaev also addressed the Kazakh parliament on 1 September, but on a slightly different note. He announced that, although the two countries' monetary systems were completely independent of one another and Kazakhstan possessed a financial rating one grade above Russia's, the Kazakh economy had still been affected by the crises in Southeast Asia and Russia. Kazakhstan's stock market had declined sufficiently so that the government had postponed the issuing of Eurobonds and the privatization of certain industrial firms, which had a negative effect on incoming state revenues. Agricultural production and exports had also declined from the previous year. Nonetheless, the prime minister gave his country's economy an overall positive rating, based on increases in foreign investment, GDP, and production. (Interfax, 0937 GMT, 1 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-244)
Romania obtains share in Kazakh oil industry
Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile recently reported that his government had agreed to lease two oil fields (34,000 square kilometers each) in Kazakhstan. Romania's national oil company, SNP PETROM, initially intends to invest $20 million in oil prospecting. Under the current lease agreement the company may search for new oil deposits for a period of five years and then has 25 years to extract any oil that it has found. A certain percentage of the company's profits will go to the Kazakh state. (Azi, 3 Sep 98, p. 3; FBIS-EEU-98-251)
Kazakh security services detain alleged Pakistani Wahhabis
Sources in Kazakhstan's law enforcement agencies reported that six Pakistani citizens, alleged to be Wahhabi missionaries, had been detained by the National Security Committee's Dzhambul department. The Pakistanis were in Dzhambul Region (southern Kazakhstan bordering on Kyrgyzstan) to attend a Muslim conference. Kazakh authorities have charged the men with practicing missionary activity without accreditation by the government, as well as with violating Kazakhstan's temporary residence laws. Apparently the men had been ordered to leave the country three months earlier, but had not complied. The men were scheduled to be expelled from Kazakh territory on 10 September. (Interfax, 1113 GMT, 7 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-250)
Kazakhstan is now the fourth Central Asian republic to take up the banner of anti-Wahhabism. Uzbekistan has already held a number of trials to prosecute alleged Wahhabis, and the Tajik and Kyrgyz governments have also detained a number of persons on charges of disseminating Muslim fundamentalism/Wahhabism. Since the Taliban have managed to gain control of northern Afghanistan, these four Central Asian regimes have intensified their anti-Muslim fundamentalist rhetoric, as well as adopting a fairly hostile stance vis-a-vis Pakistan, whose interior ministry supports the Taliban. The Uzbek and Tajik presidents have gone so far as to make speeches in which they have branded the Taliban as both Wahhabi/Muslim extremists and international terrorists whose goals include, at the very least, the political destabilization of Central Asia. The Taliban are far from a benign force, but their leaders have declared on a number of occasions that they seek only to bring all of Afghanistan under their control and have no designs on any part of Central Asia. Nonetheless, if the Central Asian leaders are able to convince their own publics, as well as members of the international community, that the Taliban do pose a threat to Central Asia, then it will be easier for them to justify the use of repressive measures against their own populations.
Kyrgyz banks halt Russian currency exchanges
Due to the Russian ruble's rapid fall in value, most Kyrgyz banks, as well as central exchange offices, suspended all cash transactions in Russian currency on 19 August. The banks still permitted non-cash ruble transactions, however. The Kyrgyz som also experienced what financial experts termed a "soft" devaluation, in the wake of devaluations in the Russian ruble and Kazakh tenge. Since Russia and Kazakhstan are Kyrgyzstan's main trading partners, the Kyrgyz economy was bound to be negatively affected by their currency devaluations. Moreover, there are also internal causes for the drop in the som: a deterioration in Kyrgyzstan's balance of trade and the fact that most of the payments on state securities fall due in September. (Vecherniy Bishkek, 20 Aug 98, p. 2; FBIS-SOV-98-237)
President Akaev signs decree for constitutional referendum
On 1 September, President Akaev signed a decree on holding a nationwide referendum to approve a number of constitutional amendments. Later that evening, he appeared on national television in order to promote the amendments. He explained that they would help strengthen Kyrgyzstan's legislative branch, create equal opportunities for all types of ownership, and help ensure freedom of the press and freedom of speech, by prohibiting the adoption of all laws which would restrict these two freedoms. (Interfax, 0623 GMT, 2 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-245)
One amendment would result in the increase of the Legislative Assembly from 33 to 67 deputies (Interfax, 0623 GMT, 2 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-245), while decreasing the number of deputies in the Assembly of People's Representatives (the second chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament). Furthermore, 15 seats in the Legislative Assembly would be reserved only for parties which managed to garner at least five percent of all votes. The amendment would also require that those who wish to stand for election in the Assembly of People's Representatives must first establish a minimum three-year residency in the area that they choose to represent. (Kyrgyz Radio First Programme, 1400 GMT, 1 Sep 98; British Broadcasting Corporation/nexis) In the amendments to the Kyrgyz constitution passed by referendum in 1994, the Legislative Assembly is described as "a standing body elected to represent the interests of the republic's entire population," whereas the Assembly of People's Representatives "works in sessions and is elected to represent territorial interests." (Kyrgyz Radio First Program Network, 1500 GMT, 23 Sep 94; FBIS-SOV-94-186) President Akaev also advocates restricting parliamentary immunity, amid protests from some of the deputies, who fear that such a restriction might result in the arbitrary arrest of some of some parliament members. The Kyrgyz parliament is drawing up its own set of constitutional amendments, which it plans to submit to President Akaev by 5 October. (AP Worldstream, 2 Sep 1998; nexis)
Further evidence implicating Khudoiberdiev's group in mayor's murder
General Ghafur Mirzoev, commander of Tajikistan's Presidential Guard, informed Interfax on 28 August that automatic weapons and ammunition which were used in the attack on Tursunzade's mayor, Nurullo Khairulloev, had been found on Uzbek territory. The discovery of these arms is considered further evidence that it was Col. Mahmud Khudoiberdiev's supporters who carried out the shooting of Mayor Khairulloev and five of his aides. Gen. Mirzoev also stated that several residents of Tursunzade had been detained on suspicion of having aided the mayor's attackers, and that it was unlikely that Khudoiberdiev's men would have known the mayor's schedule without help from someone in the town. (Interfax, 0703 GMT, 28 Aug 98; FBIS-TOT-98-240) Tajik law enforcement officials also claimed to have identified a few of Khudoiberdiev's closest associates among the attackers, as well as information that two armed men had been detained by Uzbek border guards and police in Uzbekistan's Uzunskii District, as they attempted to cross the Tajik-Uzbek border on the day of the mayor's assassination. However, the Uzbek charge d'affaires to Tajikistan, Bakhtier Urdashev, denied that his country had provided refuge to any of Khudoiberdiev's supporters, or that any conclusive evidence had been found which could link Khudoiberdiev's men to Uzbekistan. He also stated that Uzbek authorities had joined the Tajik security services in their search for the mayor's attackers, in accordance with the terms of a cooperation treaty signed earlier this year between the two republics' internal affairs ministries. (ITAR-TASS, 1016 GMT, 30 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-242)
UTO transfers UNMOT murder suspects to Dushanbe; UN resumes work
On 31 August, the Radio Tajikistan First Channel Network issued a report stating that three of the men who are suspected of having been involved in the fatal 20 July assault on four UN Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) representatives had been transported to Dushanbe by United Tajik Opposition (UTO) forces and transferred to the custody of government law enforcement officials. The men were arrested by UTO authorities in territory controlled by the opposition. (Radio Tajikistan First Channel Network, 1200 GMT, 31 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-243) On 3 September, the UN secretary-general's special envoy to Tajikistan, Jan Kubis, responded by issuing a press release which stated that the UN mission was now ready to resume its full responsibilities in the supervision of the inter-Tajik peace process, including the repatriation of over 200 opposition forces who remain in Afghanistan. (Interfax, 0627 GMT, 3 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-246) The men are gathered near the Sherkhan-Bandar settlement on the Afghan-Tajik border, which recently fell under the control of the Taliban. (Interfax, 0620 GMT, 27 Aug 98; FBIS-UMA-98-239)
Tajik economy suffers consequences of Russian ruble's devaluation
The Russian ruble's devaluation has hit the Tajik economy hard, especially in the northern province (oblast') of Leninobod, where most transactions are carried out in Russian rubles. Tajikistan's own currency has dropped significantly in value over the past two weeks, although at official exchange offices and at the banks it was continuing to trade at the previous rate of 754 Tajik rubles to $1US as of 6 September. On the black market, however, the Tajik ruble's value declined sharply, trading at 1,032 to $1US as of 6 September. Prices of manufactured goods and food rose substantially. (Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 0330 GMT, 6 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-249)
On 9 September, the National Bank of Tajikistan issued a statement warning people against conducting market transactions in Russian currency. Bank officials fear that there are those who might be tempted to buy large quantities of Russian rubles, exchange them for Tajik currency to buy US dollars and invest them outside the country. This would inflict even more damage on Tajikistan's already beleaguered economy. (ITAR-TASS World Service, 0820 GMT, 9 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-252)
Tajikistan's economy and the value of its currency are still irrevocably connected to the Russian economy, and therefore are very much dependent on Russia's financial well-being. The Russian government finances a good portion of Tajikistan's budget, including its military expenditures. To make matters worse, many Tajik citizens do not appear to have developed much confidence in their own currency, and often prefer to carry out their transactions in hard currency. The fact that official exchange rates have remained stable is of little significance; most currency trading is probably conducted on the black market, which is extremely sensitive to negative news and/or rumors about the country's financial state of affairs. Most residents of Tajikistan also prefer to handle all their transactions in cash, whether they are buying food, manufactured goods, or paying rent. Consequently, Russia's economic crisis is likely to have a devastating effect on the Tajik economy. This does not bode well for President Rahmonov's recently declared war on corruption in government organs and in the military. Many government and military officials have likely been engaging in illegal activities in order to make ends meet; now, as the real value of the Tajik ruble falls and prices rise, they may become even more dependent on the income from their illegal transactions, and will not react well to President Rahmonov's threatened crackdown. The situation may become particularly acute among those who receive their salaries in Russian rubles: the 25,000 Russian troops and border guards, a number of Tajik border guards, and civilians who work for Russian enterprises.
by Monika Shepherd
Officials optimistic about economy
The degree to which neighboring countries suffer from Russia's economic woes will reflect not only the soundness of their macroeconomic policies but also the level of economic autonomy they have achieved in the last five years. So far, the three Caucasian states have not been affected in any substantial way. Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darbinian told reporters that Russia's financial crisis should not damage the Armenian economy. Armenia does not suffer from the debilitating tax collection shortfalls and budget deficits that have plagued the Russian economy. (Noyan Tapan, 0500 GMT, 29 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-242) Although some black market currency exchanges have sprung up in Azerbaijan, the finance minister, Fikret Yusifov, said the currency remains at the normal level of 3,900 to 3,920 manats to the dollar. (Interfax, 1731 GMT, 9 Sep 98; FBIS-98-252) Georgia's President Eduard Shevardnadze told listeners that an economic commission convened by his government in response to the Russian crisis found no reason to expect a devaluation of the Georgian lari. (Radio Tbilisi Network, 0602 GMT, 7 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-250) In fact, Georgia has substantially recovered from the lows of 1994, so that the rate of inflation for 1997 was 7.5 percent even as average wages increased. (ITAR-TASS, 1830 GMT, 5 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-248)
More complications in relations with Turkey
The war over Nagorno-Karabakh, the resulting Turkish embargo against Armenia, and the latter's all-out thrust to obtain international recognition for the "genocide" of 1915 have so poisoned Armenian-Turkish relations that even relatively minor issues are taken very seriously by the regional press. Turkey's President Suleyman Demirel invited Robert Kocherian, the Armenian president, to Ankara to celebrate Turkey's 75th anniversary in late October. So far the Armenian side has not replied. (Snark, 1420 GMT, 28 Aug 98; FBIS-SOV-98-241) In the past Armenia sent much lower level officials to other regional forums hosted by Turkey or Azerbaijan. The Armenian president stated that his country does not harbor Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) bases on its territory, as has been repeatedly alleged by Azeri and Turkish sources. To dispel that claim Kocharian invited Turkey to send monitors to Armenia. At the same time he refused to label the PKK a terrorist organization, saying instead that their cause should be approached with understanding. (Snark, 0600 GMT, 2 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-245) A day earlier the president's press secretary, Kasiya Abgarian, accused Turkey of influencing the election of the patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Constantinople and discriminating against the Armenian football and chess teams. (Snark, 1300 GMT, 1 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-245)
Air time and campaign funding for all candidates
All six presidential candidates standing in Azerbaijan's 11 October election will have the opportunity to broadcast their message on television. Every contender will have 12 free appearances, each one lasting one-half hour. On 4 October all the candidates will participate in a two-hour press conference. On the eve of the elections each candidate will have 10 minutes more. In addition, each candidate will receive an equivalent of $15,000 for campaign funding. (ITAR-TASS, 0022 GMT, 1 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-244) These measures signal the degree to which Aliev wishes to placate the opposition and win international approval of the elections.
TRACECA summit adopts Baku Declaration
TRACECA, the EU-sponsored conference on restoring the "Silk Road" routes between Asia and Europe through the Caucasus, approved the Baku Declaration and the Final Communique on 8 September. The representatives of 33 countries and 12 international organizations in attendance supported nine interconnected transportation projects outlined in the declaration. Azerbaijan reserved the right to contravene an article of the main document which guarantees the unrestricted transport of goods to Armenia. (RFE/RL Caucasus Report, 15 Sep 98) The agreements regulate transport between the countries and aim at developing economic relations among them. It also creates an interstate commission with a permanent secretariat headquartered in Baku. (Turan, 1600 GMT, 8 Sep 98; FBIS-SOV-98-251)
US ship visits Poti, Georgian border guards reclaim frontier
The US Sixth Fleet flagship LaSalle arrived at Georgia's Black Sea port Poti on 15 September. In part to forestall any negative Russian reaction, President Shevardnadze described the event as a normal occasion which should not be seen in the context of the Cold War. (Jamestown Foundation Monitor, 15 Sep 98) The event's significance, especially in the context of last week's Silk Road conference, lies in Poti's strategic position on the oil transit route to Turkey and Ukraine. The event followed closely on the transfer of the coast guard from Russian to Georgian forces on 31 August. According to an agreement reached with the Russian side in June, all the border installations will be transferred to Georgian border guards. Other installations awaiting transfer in the next few months include the Akhalkalaki checkpoint on the Armenian-Georgian border. (Interfax, 1108 GMT, 2 Sep 98; FBIS-UMA-98-245) Last month this region was the site of a standoff between a division of the Georgian army and a local Armenian militia. (See Digest, Vol. III, No. 12) The matter of Russian military bases remains under discussion. A meeting between Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzade and his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeev, in late August produced the decision to resolve the question in light of a future document, a "concept of bilateral military cooperation." (ITAR-TASS, 1937 GMT, 27 Aug 98; FBIS-UMA-98-239)
by Miriam Lanskoy
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