The ISCIP Analyst
Behind the Breaking News
Volume III Number 16 (November 4, 1998)
Health watch continues
Whether President Yel'tsin is suffering from exhaustion, a cold, bronchitis, unstable blood pressure, dementia or all of the above is rapidly becoming less important an issue than his administration's inability to cope with his erratic schedule. The October trip to Vienna demonstrates the confusion and conflicts in the president's entourage.
As officials from the foreign ministry hyped the significance of Yel'tsin's appearance at the European Union meeting in Vienna, dissonance was evident in comments on the president's physical preparedness for an international jaunt. While his doctors were said to be uniformly opposed to the trip, advisers Dyachenko and Yumashev "understood the importance" of Vienna and were preparing him for it. (Argumenty i fakty, 20 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-294) The president's actions, following his premature return from Central Asia, suggest that he is making a determined effort to appear as robust as possible and was quite likely adamant about attending.
Within a few days of Yel'tsin's scheduled departure, Press Secretary Yakushkin announced that the visit had been "tightened" (not reduced!) to require only a one-day stay. (Interfax, 0836 GMT, 22 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-295) As has been widely reported, not only was the president's appearance canceled, but a "medical council" convened to discuss his health just prior to the trip recommended a vacation instead. (Interfax, 1315 GMT, 26 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-299) Yel'tsin has since departed for Sochi.
The cancellation of this visit (Primakov did attend in Yel'tsin's place) demonstrates the reappearance of a familiar, if unwelcome, pattern of Yel'tsin's presidency in the mixed signals sent from the Kremlin. Not only has the press secretary been left to contradict himself from day to day, but the ascendance of the government and prime minister (vis-a-vis the Kremlin) has blurred the role of presidential advisers to leave us once again wondering who has the president's ear and who, if anyone, can speak authoritatively on the president's behalf.
The difference most notable in this recent brouhaha over the president's health is also its silver lining. While prior presidential hospitalizations and "vacations" have elicited calls for constitutional reform from the opposition, this time it appears even the Kremlin may realize that the extreme concentration of power in the presidency is paralyzing during periods of Yel'tsin's incapacitation. Deputy Chair of the President's Administration Oleg Sysuev announced plans for a gathering of experts and representatives of major political parties, during which "a strategy for constitutional reform will be drawn up." (NTV, 1 Nov 98; Agence France-Presse, 1 Nov 98/nexis) Now if we could only confirm that Sysuev has the president's support....
Two media-related notes on coverage of the president's health
-- Russian media outlets were informed of the cancellation of the President's Vienna trip by a foreign news agency (Reuters). A miffed NTV correspondent complained to Sysuev that many journalists had already departed for Vienna before receiving word of the cancellation and asked why Russian journalists had been notified after the foreign press. Sysuev claimed it was just a "mistake." (NTV, 1640 GMT, 26 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-299)
-- Former Chief of Presidential Security Aleksandr Korzhakov was asked recently to comment on footage of the president stumbling in Uzbekistan, which was shown on Russian television despite being "unauthorized" footage. According to Korzhakov, in similar circumstances in the past, the Presidential Security Service under his direction would simply approach cameramen and ask for their tapes. "Relations were quite civilized, and I do not recall these private requests not being fulfilled. Quarreling with the Security Service would be more trouble than it is worth." (Komsomol'skaya pravda, 24 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-299
Yel'tsin again rejects running in 2000
At a meeting with Prime Minister Primakov on 20 October, Yel'tsin adamantly denied any intention to stand again for president in the year 2000: "I will not run! No! No! And they have taken things so far that the Constitutional Court is reviewing the matter. Is it possible to run again or is it not possible. But I am not going to run. Why are you tormenting me?" (NTV, 1000 GMT, 20 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-293)
Two new councils formed
The justice ministry, headed by Pavel Krasheninnikov, has established a new consultative body comprised of former justice ministers from both the recent Russian and Soviet past. Members named to date include Sergei Stepashin, Vladimir Terebilov, Aleksandr Sukharev, Nikolai Fedorov, and Veniamin Yakovlev. The council is tasked with "fostering legal culture of the population," training junior judiciary staffers, and "raising the level of norm-setting and monitoring activities of the Justice Ministry." (ITAR-TASS, 0941 GMT, 16 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-289)
Prime Minister Primakov has also created a new commission for international military and technical cooperation. First Vice Prime Minister Igor Maslyukov has been appointed to chair the commission. (ITAR-TASS, 1443 GMT, 26 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-299) It may be recalled that when Maslyukov first joined the government in July, he lobbied strenuously for an oversight role in arms sales, and with that history in mind the actual functions of this commission may bear watching.
Nikitin gets reprieve but not acquittal
In a decision handed down on Friday, 30 October, St. Petersburg Judge Sergei Golets criticized the espionage indictment brought against Aleksander Nikitin as too vague, and instructed the FSB to re-investigate and re-file the charges. Speculation as to why the judge did not simply acquit Nikitin focuses on the legal requirements for the judge to present a detailed, coherent rebuttal of charges in order to acquit. With vaguely conceived indictments, the rebuttal becomes more difficult to compose. (Moscow Times, 31 Oct 98; nexis)
Nikitin, pending appeal to the Supreme Court, is still required to abide by bail guidelines restricting his travel beyond St. Petersburg. And as Diederik Lohman from the Human Rights Watch cautions, "It is not an acquittal. (...) He could still go to jail." (Moscow Times, 31 Oct 98; nexis) (For details on this prosecution, see Diederik Lohman "The Nikitin Case: Rule of Law?" Perspective, vol. VII, no.2, November-December 98.)
by Susan J. Cavan
United States no obstacle to Russian-Iranian relationship
A recent wave of editorials in Iranian newspapers, broadcasts from official Iranian radio as well as statements from Iran's ambassador in Moscow have all been aimed at reassuring the world, if not Moscow, that Iranian-Russian cooperation is alive and well. Immediately following the 21 October (nearly unanimous) vote in the Russian Duma to expand ties with Iran, the Iranian propaganda machine churned out a list of benefits the partners as well as the region have already reaped from the growing bilateral relationship.
Claiming that US "interventionist" policies could not damage Iran's ties with Russia, Iranian editorials trumpeted the 21 October Duma vote as a victory for Iran over the US and American influence in the region. Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Safari voiced these same thoughts in an interview with a Moscow paper. In the Moscow dailyTrud, the ambassador said that, given the fact that the two countries share some common national interests, it is impossible for a third party to affect the current trend of bilateral relations. The two neighboring countries enjoy common views regarding regional issues, he added, and they can promote their bonds independently and free from interference of any outsider.
Although there was no official statement from Primakov's government following the Duma resolution, an English-language newspaper in Tehran cited Yevgeni Primakov as the primary architect of the "new" Russian-Iranian partnership, explaining that "when Primakov was the Russian foreign minister, Iran and Russia developed ties to a great extent." The same editorial looked at even stronger ties between the two countries with optimism based on the fact that Primakov is now heading the government in Moscow and "in view of his (Primakov's) anti-Western views." (Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1100 GMT, 22 Oct 98; FBIS-NES-98-295, Iran News, 18 Oct 98, p. 2; FBIS-NES-98-301, and IRNA, 1655 GMT, 21 Oct 98; FBIS-NES-98-295)
Russia denies delivering missile components to Iraq but...
Responding to a Washington Post article published on 18 October, Russian foreign ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin stated that Russia strictly observes the UN Security Council sanctions against Iraq and has not delivered missile homing systems to that country. Rakhmanin said that "no deliveries along government channels were in question," referring to 800 sophisticated gyroscopes that were bought at a missile dismantling facility near Moscow in November 1995 and seized by Jordanian authorities in Amman. "The question is closed," he said. "The official explanations to this end given by the Russian side were accepted by the U.N. Special Commission for the Disarmament of Iraq and there have been no additional inquiries from it," Rakhmanin said. (Interfax, 0839 GMT, 22 Oct 98; FBIS-TAC-98-295)
...Zhirinovsky delivers humanitarian aid
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Russian lower house deputy speaker Mikhail Gutseriev planned to deliver a shipment of humanitarian aid to Iraq on 31 October. Zhirinovsky and Gutseriev, also an LDPR member, were invited to the Arab country by President Saddam Hussein, the deputy speaker's press service said on 29 October. The two visitors are scheduled to meet with National Council Chairman Saadun Hamadi and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq 'Aziz to discuss "issues related to the need for lifting U.N. sanctions against Iraq and development prospects for Russian-Iraqi cooperation," the press service told Interfax. (Interfax, 1455 GMT, 29 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-302) Although the press release did indicate the two would be delivering medicine and school stationary, it did not mention where the supplies came from in light of the extreme economic hardships in Russia today.
Russians lobby Congress on nuclear export control
A delegation which included representatives from the State Duma (lower house), the Russian Security Council, the foreign ministry, and the Russian defense ministry recently met with US officials in Washington to discuss export controls. Russian "experts," headed by Anatoli Bulochkin, head of the Russian Export Control Center, held meetings at the US National Security Council as well as at the US Departments of State and Commerce. According to Bulochkin, the Russian and US representatives signed a big package of documents on export control in Moscow in September and the October trip was designed to work out some of "its nuances." But Bulochkin did not conceal the fact that the main task of the group was to undermine Congressional support for US sanctions against Russian companies suspected of delivering missile components and technology to Iran. Bulochkin emphasized that "we want to show Congressmen, especially those who express especially vociferously their concern over this question, that export control operates in Russia and that they should not fear Russian-Iranian relations." (ITAR-TASS, 0150 GMT, 20 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-293)
Finno-Ugric aid, cover for covert operations
In order to better "control" some of Russia's ethnic minorities, Russian ethnic affairs minister Ramazan Abdulatipov wants to regulate closely humanitarian aid destined for some of the country's ethnic minorities. The ethnic affairs minister looks suspiciously at Finnish, Hungarian and Estonian aid to people of Finno-Ugric background in Russia and claims those countries may introduce their spies into Russia under the pretext of bringing humanitarian aid. Abdulatipov said that there may be people among those bringing humanitarian aid who try to instigate anti-Russian sentiments among the small peoples of Russia. The Russian minister told reporters on 23 October, "instead of unilateral humanitarian aid Russia should introduce bilateral relations in order to better control Estonia's, Hungary's and Finland's relations with the Mari, Mordvin, Karelians, Komi, Khanty, Mansi and other Finno-Ugric peoples." Abdulatipov also said that Russia should take a more careful attitude to young men and women from small Finno-Ugric peoples to whom Estonia, Finland and Hungary offer opportunities of studying at their higher educational institutions, stating that, "if we let things take their own course, it is not clear what orientation the young people may have when returning from those higher schools."(BNS, 1510 GMT, 23 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-296)
by John McDonough
DOMESTIC ISSUES AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Mass media supervisory council off to a rocky start
The idea of supervisory councils for television is not a new one. In 1993, former television executive and Working Russia leader Viktor Anpilov demanded that councils be set up to purge the electronic media of American and Israeli influence. In autumn 1997, under pressure from the State Duma, the president and the government gave the go-ahead to set up supervisory bodies at Russian Public TV (ORT) and All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK). The ORT Council has only met once so far, in May 1998.
In the wake of Boris Yel'tsin's dismissal of the Kirienko government, the Duma gave the go-ahead to set up a supervisory council at the second TV channel -- VGTRK. The Supervisory Council held its first session and is composed of seven persons representing the president's administration, the government, the State Duma, and the Federation Council. Also invited were representatives of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, the Olympic Committee, the Judicial Chamber, and cultural and press figures. If the first meeting is any indication of the council's value as a filtering agent for non-Russian influences, however, not much influence should be detected. Only two representatives from the Duma were present, no one from the Federation Council showed up, and the proposal to elect Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko as chair of the supervisory council came to naught because she too was absent.
Regardless of the problems surrounding its first meeting, media supervisory councils are potentially very dangerous and hark back to the days of press censorship and thought control. But even so, the fractured nature of Russian politics and society may mean that censorship, no matter how patriotic the cause, may be very difficult. (NTV, 1500 GMT, 16 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-289)
Media leaders sign petition opposing new law
An appeal to the Duma opposing the new draft media law has been signed by the chief editors of over 30 media outlets including ORT, VGTRK, NTV, TV6, ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and RIA-novosti, the newspapers Trud, Kommersant Daily, Nezavisimaya, Izvestiya, and Segodnya, the magazines Itogi and Ogonek, and the radio stations Radio Russia and Ekho Moskvy. The appeal claims that implementation of the proposed law would have deleterious effects on Russian freedom of speech. If the law is adopted, supervisory councils will appear in the editorial offices and these will be, in essence, censoring boards. Moreover, under the pretext of combating monopolies, the authors of the draft law propose restricting the broadcasting of television channels and radio stations to one constituent part of the federation which, the media chiefs say, will lead to the closure of nationwide television and radio companies. Overall, the adoption of such a law will mean an increase in the control exercised by state bodies over the state media and possibly arbitrary control by bureaucrats over the private media.
The communists, Agrarians, and fellow travelers are sensing that the time is ripe to limit the power of private media outlets whose opinion is invariably at odds with their own. And by establishing monitoring councils, supporters of the law must believe that they could limit the power of the "oligarchs" who own and run the large, private media outlets. (Radiostantsiya Ekho Moskvy, 1200 GMT, 16 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-289)
by Michael DeMar Thurman
Finders keepers, losers weepers?
Last month, a train originating in Iran and bound for Afghanistan was stopped and impounded by Kyrgyzstan customs officials. The 20-car train was marked as "humanitarian aid." Apparently, the "aid" came in the form of military weapons and equipment -- Russian-made. (See Editorial Digest, Vol. 3, No. 15, 21 October 98.) The Kyrgyz government was clearly embarrassed by the confiscation. The Kyrgyz parliament held a special session and voted to return the nearly 700-ton consignment of Russian arms and ammunition to Iran, most probably bowing deeply to pressure from both Iran and Russia. (RFE/RL Newsline, 21 Oct 98) However, not all in the Kyrgyz government are beating to the same drum. The Kyrgyzstan State Customs Committee (whose director was suspended from his post shortly after the incident) has other ideas: refusing the government order to release the train and insisting on confiscating the cargo. (Jamestown Foundation Monitor, 27 Oct 98) Additionally, Tursunbai Bakirov, leader of the opposition Erkin Kyrgyzstan party, has stated that returning the arms to Iran would set a dangerous precedent and his party favors giving the weapons to the Kyrgyz forces. (RFE/RL, 21 Oct 98; Jamestown Foundation Monitor, 21 Oct 98) Some people just don't get the word! There is a solution that could make everyone happy: The Kyrgyz could return the 18-car train back to Iran (the Iranian ambassador said that Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have both agreed to let the train pass through their countries). Then, leaving no stone unturned, Kyrgyz customs officials could redeem themselves by locating the two (at this point "unaccounted for") 300+ ton rail cars still missing somewhere in Kyrgyzstan. (RFE/RL Newsline, 21 Oct 98) The "humanitarian aid" remaining in these cars could then be used to "feed" their military forces.
Topol-M topples em-phatically on fifth test
Even before First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov took over his new post this fall, Russian Federation officials had been quoting (Jamestown Foundation Monitor, 17 Sep 98) high production figures on the order of 30 per year starting in 2000 for their much-touted Topol-M missile (designated SS-27 by NATO). Almost immediately upon assuming the post of the government's economic czar, Maslyukov became very vocal about the need to upgrade Russia's strategic nuclear armaments. He has called for construction of 35-45 new Topol-M missiles every year starting in 2000. (RFE/RL Newsline, 8 Oct 98) (Note: On 16 October, Jamestown Foundation Prism quoted Maslyukov as saying the 35-45 annual missile production rate would commence in the year 2002.)
From all reports, it appears true that the Topol-M is a formidable missile. It is a solid-fuel propelled, three-stage missile which carries a single nuclear warhead and is to be deployed both in silos and mobile launchers. A variant of the Topol-M (about 70 percent compatible with the land-based version) is also to be used in Russia's new generation of ballistic-missile submarines, with at least one currently under construction. Top Russian military officials have repeatedly referred to the missile as a "weapon of the 21st century" and make no secret of their belief in its supposed ability to evade American antiballistic missile systems. (Jamestown Foundation Monitor, 26 Oct 98) If all the impressive capabilities above prove true, then the Topol-M may indeed be as Monitor describes -- the jewel in Russia's strategic nuclear crown.
However, that jewel is looking more like cubic zirconia these days. The Topol-M program suffered another serious setback in mid-October 1998 when, during the fifth test flight of the new missile, it exploded shortly after takeoff from the Plesetsk test range. Vaulting ahead at the blazing speed of an amoeba, this was only the first test in 1998 and fifth overall. Previous schedules expected a full regiment to be operational by the end of this year, but alas only the token two at Tatischevo remain poised and positioned. Topol-M problems have also touched the triad's seaborne leg. Though production of the new generation ballistic-missile submarine, Yuri Dologoruk, was started two years ago, work has had to be suspended due to repeated missile test failures. (Jamestown Foundation Monitor, 26 Oct 98)
Okay, let's assume for a split second that the technological hurdles (which are looking more like the Great Wall right now) can be overcome shortly. An even higher hurdle facing the ambitious production rate is one of economics. Without expounding on the details, suffice it to say that Russia's economy is far from booming and has every indication of getting worse. Experts estimate that the cost of manufacturing a single Topol-M is between $35 million and $40 million. (Now you can understand the reference to a crown jewel.) Therefore, with a little quick math -- if 35-45 missiles are produced annually at a cost of $40 million apiece, the annual cost for missiles alone would be between $1.2 billion - $1.8 billion. Definitely a sizable portion of the overall defense budget, this outlay would most assuredly comprise almost the entire budget for new systems acquisition over the next decade to decade and a half. During a visit to the Topol-M producing Votkin missile plant in Udmurtia (northeast Russia) on 20 October, Maslyukov said the government should provide the necessary financing for the project. (Interfax, 20 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-283) Let's see, I'm sure they could take it from the pay account, or may just print up an extra 40 billion rubles or so. The already struggling Russian defense industry simply cannot weather this almost complete stoppage in production -- and certainly not for a 10-15 year period. On 13 October, Kommersant vlast argued Maslyukov's plan "would spell doom" to the rest of the military complex.
A program like the Topol-M, which spends a disproportionally high percentage of the budget, would be risky even if all other aspects of the military were healthy. However, considering the state of the Russian Federation's military today [air force pilots receiving less than 1/3 of the required flight time, ground troops with 70 percent of their equipment already outdated (RFE/RL Newsline, 19 Oct 98), naval ships rusting in the harbors], this investment strategy makes gold speculating look like a savings account. In addition to spelling doom for the military complex, you can add c-a-t-a-s-t-r-o-p-h-e to your spelling of military readiness.
Finally, when all logic and sound planning fails to make sense, one may look toward the political arena to determine if the current global environment provides valid reasoning. Russia is courting the West for substantial financial assistance. An agreement appears imminent on antiballistic missile system levels between the US and Russia. The bipolar world of the past half-century has been replaced with a more multi-polar sphere, where regional, conventional conflicts are the norm. Okay, I tried. It still doesn't make sense.
There are few who believe that the Russians can actually follow through with their ambitious Topol-M production goals and even fewer who actually understand why they are even trying, but one thing seems clear. Above all else and at whatever cost, Russia feels compelled to modernize her strategic nuclear force. If this is the only aspect of the military which receives attention in the near- and mid-term, then it will be their only viable capability in the same period. Therefore, if threatened, using the same logic applicable to a cornered animal, what would be their only recourse?
by Michael Reardon
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Boris the conqueror
At a meeting of the CIS Working Group charged with developing plans for CIS reforms, Boris Berezovsky, CIS executive secretary, lamented the inability of the group to offer any viable reorganization plans. However, this did not prevent him from suggesting Yugoslavia's inclusion in the commonwealth. (Interfax, 1502 GMT, 21 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-294) Berezovsky has also suggested the CIS might expand to include Iran.
Economically, the CIS is fostering trade ties with several non-member states. Recent CIS trade delegations have expanded the trade dialogue with Turkey and Egypt. Turkish President Suleiman Demirel stressed that "Turkey cannot behave timidly in her relations with Russia," saying that he believes Russia will overcome the present economic difficulties soon. (Anatolia, 1011 GMT, 28 Oct 98; FBIS-WEU-98-301) Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa recently pronounced the world's "rediscover[y] of the Asian Commonwealth, a region of major strategic and economic importance." (MENA, 1109 GMT, 21 Oct 98; FBIS-NES-98-294)
CIS peacekeeping in Tajikistan will continue, despite a reduction in administrative staff, the commander of the CIS peacekeeping forces, Lieutenant General Nikolai Pugachev, said at a recent press conference. (Radio Tajikistan, 0800 GMT, 13 Oct 98; FBIS-UMA-98-287) However, Russian Federal Border Guard Service Colonel General Konstantin Totsky explained that CIS member states will be forced to absorb more of the costs of protecting their borders, since the situation in all border areas of Russia (has) seriously deteriorated in the recent period. (ITAR-TASS, 1406 GMT, 23 Oct 98; FBIS-UMA-98-296)
by Sarah Miller
Curtain up! Light the lights!
The political play leading up to next year's presidential election has begun in Ukraine, and it's not a pretty spectacle. During the last two weeks, over one dozen parties, factions of parties, and would-be parties have released lists of their possible presidential candidates. Unfortunately for President Leonid Kuchma, his name doesn't appear on many of those lists. The resulting political posturing has turned the parliament into little more than a public relations tool for these parties, while Ukraine is in the middle of the most difficult economic crisis the country has ever experienced.
As expected, Ukraine's leftist parties continue to use the crisis to attempt to increase their influence. On 20 October, two weeks after failing to win a "no-confidence" vote against the government of Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko, 122 Communist Party MPs walked out of parliament. They did so, they said, to protest the government's failure to produce a budget on time. The Communist deputies were supported by 68 other leftist deputies. President Kuchma called the walkout "a war" against the Ukrainian people. (RFE/RL Newsline, 21 Oct 1998) The final budget draft from the Cabinet of Ministers was due on 15 October, and was submitted on 23 October. Parliament has taken no action on the draft.
The Communists also tried, but failed, to stop the NATO-funded Sea Breeze '98 naval exercises which took place last week under the auspices of the Partnership for Peace program. (Interfax, 1356 GMT, 25 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-298)
At the same time, the head of the ultra-leftist Hromada party, Pavlo Lazarenko, lashed out at the current administration, accusing unnamed individuals of attempts to assassinate him. (Kievskie vedomosti, 21 Oct 98; p. 7; FBIS-SOV-98-301) Lazarenko, the former prime minister and a likely presidential candidate, is now under investigation by the government for corrupt activities while in office. Hromada joined the Communists in supporting the "no-confidence" vote against Prime Minister Pustovoytenko, who is, by the way, widely suspected to also be a presidential candidate.
In addition, President Kuchma's circle of allies seems to be shifting (and dwindling). In response to Kuchma's attempts to build a coalition involving influential Parliament Chairman (and probable presidential candidate) Oleksandr Tkachenko, Kuchma has apparently lost the support of several former allies -- most importantly, the nationalist Rukh Party. (Intelnews, 2326 GMT, 19 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-293, and Jamestown Foundation Monitor, 27 Oct 1998) Rukh opposes Tkachenko's endorsement of a "Slavic Union" involving Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The party, however, cannot match Tkachenko's power and influence in the council, something Kuchma desperately needs if he has any hope of passing his IMF-approved budget through parliament.
Rukh, with 14 other "national-democratic" and centrist parties, appears ready to endorse Viktor Yushchenko, the head of the National Bank, in the presidential election. Curiously, Yushchenko was recently chastised by Kuchma for his monetary policies. (Intelnews, 0016 GMT, 23 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-296)
For his part, Kuchma has attempted to go on the offensive. In several speeches he has strenuously criticized the parliament as a whole, saying, "Some of the deputies belong not in parliament, but behind bars." In one speech, he said that he planned to call for a public referendum on his new proposal to abolish immunity and privileges for deputies. Not long after that statement, he took control of the Security Service of Ukraine. The "decree" in which Kuchma announced the takeover also authorized the Security Service to "investigate cases when state officials are accused of impeding the employees of the Security Service in the fulfillment of their duties." (Intelnews, 0144 GMT, 29 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-302, and Interfax, 0144 GMT, 29 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-302)
Earlier, in the Kiev Courier newspaper, Pustovoytenko and Yushchenko together appealed for cooperation from the parliament. They wrote, "... substituting legislative work with calls to change the constitutional order ... is a display of political irresponsibility and anarchy." (Uryadovyy Kuryer, 26 Sep 98, p. 2; FBIS-SOV-98-296) The audience members watching this remarkable display couldn't have said it better themselves. And the election is still a year away.
Welcome back! (maybe)
The Belarusian foreign minister has told reporters that all ambassadors who left the Drozdy Diplomatic Compound may come back ... except the American, French and German ambassadors. Their residences, you see, have been "absorbed" into President Lukashenka's property. The foreign minister suggested that these three diplomats will "be given options." (RFE/RL Newsline, 30 Oct 98.)
There has been no word on the status of the compound. Will it be considered part of President Lukashenka's property, as he once suggested? Or will it be a "diplomatic" area as required in the Vienna Convention? There is also no word on whether the countries in question have been officially contacted by the Belarusian government. So far, the only government to acknowledge receiving an invitation to return is Turkey, which is, incidentally, the one country that did not ban visits by senior Belarusian officials. (Interfax, 1004 GMT, 27 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-300, and RFE/FL Newsline, 23 Oct 98).
Standing up for human rights
Vera Stremkouskaya, a Belarusian lawyer and prominent human rights activist, has had her "activity" placed "under special control," following a briefing she gave to the International League for Human Rights in New York. Apparently, Stremkouskaya's view of human rights issues in Belarus is, according to the Belarusian justice ministry, "distorted." She
has been reprimanded, threatened with the loss of her license to practice law, and ordered to "be correct while giving interviews." Her activities will be monitored. (RFE/RL Newsline, 29 Oct 1998, and RFE/RL Newsline, 16 Oct 98) But, of course, there's no problem with human rights in Belarus.
Will you go if we say 'please'?
Three weeks ago, Moldova suddenly and inexplicably announced that the country would pull one platoon of peacekeepers (82 men) out of the Dniestr area. The troop removal would be the first following the 20 March 1998 Odessa agreement, in which both Moldova and Transdniestr agreed to reduce their peacekeeping troops by 200 men each. (Infotag, 1930 GMT, 12 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-285) At that time, Moldovan officials "expressed hope" that Dniestr would, out of "good will," also reduce the number of its peacekeepers in the region. Dniestr officials simply ignored the Moldovan request. (See ISCIP Editorial Digest for 19 October 1998 for background.)
Now, Moldovan officials "express hope" that Russia will remove its troops from Dniestr. On 21 October, officials proclaimed, "Moldova urges Russia to speed up the implementation of the 21 October 1994 agreement on the legal status, procedure and deadline for the withdrawal of Russian troops temporarily stationed in the territory of Moldova's Dniestr region." (ITAR-TASS, 1126 GMT, 21 Oct 98; FBIS-UMA-98-294) This hope is, indeed, optimistic. Despite requests, Russia has adamantly refused to remove its troops from other former republics, such as Georgia and Tajikistan.
The Moldovan request cites a 1994 accord in which Russia agreed to a complete pullout
of the former-Soviet 14th Army from Dniestr. At the time of its signing, the accord was vigorously attacked by Dniestr leaders, while Moldova announced that it now had the upper-hand in the struggle. There are only two problems with Moldova's request: The agreement was never ratified by the Russian Duma as required, and the agreement specifically calls for a "synchronization of Russian troops' withdrawal with concrete measures of granting Dniestr a special juridical status." In other words, no settlement of the conflict means no Russian troop pullout. Coincidentally, there reportedly has been no progress in talks to settle the status of Dniestr. (See Basapress, 1930 GMT, 24 Oct 94; FBIS-SOV-94-208, for background on the agreement.)
Bulgars to Moldova: How would you like another Dniestr?
The Moldovan legislature is set to debate a proposal that would eliminate several small counties by dissolving them into larger units. One of those counties is Taraclia County, which would be dissolved into Cahul County. Sounds simple enough, except that Taraclia County is populated largely by Bulgars (exact numbers are questionable, but there is no question that Bulgars constitute a significant majority of the region). Last week, leaders of the Bulgar community threatened "unrest" if Taraclia is dissolved into Cahul, thus making them a minority. The Bulgarian Ambassador to Moldova was quoted as saying that "human rights" are not "an internal issue," and that if the legislature dissolves Taraclia, the Bulgars wish to be placed "under Transdniestr or Gagauzian jurisdiction." Legislative leaders responded by stating their intention to go ahead with plans to dissolve Taraclia County. (Evenimentul Zilei, 17 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-292, and Basapress, 1700 GMT, 20 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-293) Maybe Russia can help. It seems to have the available manpower.
by Tammy Lynch
Azeri opposition parties resist election results
According to the Azerbaijani Central Electoral Commission, incumbent President Heider Aliev won the 11 October election in the first round with over 75 percent of the vote. His opponents, Etibar Mammadov and Nizami Suleimanov, received 11.6 and 8.06 percent , respectively. (ITAR-TASS, 1136 GMT, 15 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-288) The OSCE's election monitors reported many instances of fraud and concluded that the "overall legal and administrative framework governing the election process fell short of meeting the international standards for a genuine election campaign." (Amnesty International, Update Letter No. 21 (1998), 30 Oct 98)
However, the difficulties in estimating the magnitude of the fraud prohibit a definitive statement as to whether those measures affected the election's outcome. In fact, the whole episode is reminiscent of Armenia's 1996 and 1998 presidential elections. On those occasions international observers similarly scolded then-President Levon Ter-Petrosian and President Robert Kocharian. In 1996, tanks were brought into the capital to quell opposition protests. One hopes that it will not come to that in Azerbaijan. Yet the opposition, bolstered by the international disapproval of Aliev, has been promoting ever-more radical ideas.
The opposition parties which boycotted the election and the leading contender, Etibar Mammadov, refuse to recognize the results of the balloting. They claim that Aliev failed to garner the 67 percent necessary to avoid a runoff between the top two contenders. Mammedov's CEC representative, Fuad Agaev, stated that if there had been no vote falsification, Aliev would have received 61percent. (Amnesty International, Update Letter No. 20 (1998), 16 Oct 98) This is less than Azerbaijan's threshold but, in a field of six candidates, it certainly represents an impressive showing that would have secured the presidency legally in any number of other democratic systems.
On 16 October, Mammadov announced plans to form a movement with the participation of the parties of the Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral Reform (MDEER) -- the five that boycotted. The movement will work to unseat Aliev, but only through legal means. (Turan, 1400 GMT, 16 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-289) A few days later the MDEER made public a letter to international organizations and foreign heads of state announcing that they regard Aliev's presidency as illegitimate and will not honor any treaty or agreement he may conclude. They called on international parties to boycott the Azerbaijani government. On the eve of the decision on the oil pipeline route, this is certainly a very provocative action. (Azadlyg, 20 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-295)
In his letter of congratulations to Aliev, President Clinton reportedly mentioned the need to reform the membership of the CEC and repeated other major opposition demands. This action was characterized in Azerbaijan as a slap in the face of Aliev. Azeris are also linking the Congressional failure to lift the restriction imposed by Article 907 and the European Parliament's decision not to disburse a $50 million loan to the negative appraisal of the elections. (Azadlyg, 23 Oct 98, p. 4; FBIS-SOV-98-299) Actually the Congressional decision to maintain 907 preceded the election and certain new exemptions were added to ease the operation of the US Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. so that they may participate in financing the oil pipeline. (Journal of Commerce, 23 Oct 98; nexis)
Tick, tock, tick, tock...
The discussion of the route of the "main" oil pipeline has moved into its final phase. The consortium was supposed to announce its decision on the route on 29 October but has postponed the announcement until sometime in November. Rumors about the abandonment of the Ceyhan project were rampant in the US and Azerbaijani media. The New York Times reported on 10 October that the oil companies refused to build the Ceyhan route, which is favored by the administration and by Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. According to that article, the decision had already been made and last-minute diplomatic efforts concerned the manner in which it would be presented. The companies abandoned the Ceyhan option because Turkey and the US failed to supply enough financial inducements to justify the very expensive route. The AIOC, the consortium charged with making the decision, has announced only that the construction of the Baku-Supsa line will continue and is due for completion in April. The Azerbaijani portion of that line has already been built. Apparently the companies hope to export the oil by tanker from Supsa, either through the Turkish straits or to Ukraine. (Strangely, there has been hardly any discussion of the Ukrainian route proposal.)
The states involved are not treating the matter as settled. Turkey has made its position clear by warning that it will impose new limits on tanker traffic through the straits in the coming year for fear of an oil spill in its major city, Istanbul. (International Herald Tribune, 26 Oct 98; nexis) On 29 October President Suleiman Demirel and Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz of Turkey; Heidar Aliev, president of Azerbaijan; Eduard Shevardnadze, president of Georgia; Nursultan Nazarbaev, president of Kazakhstan; Islam Karimov, president of Uzbekistan; and Bill Richardson, the US energy secretary signed, the Ankara Declaration which strongly supports the construction of the Baku-Ceyhan line. Clearly the governments still hope to pressure the companies into adopting that route.
by Miriam Lanskoy
President Yel'tsin's visit considered brief, but successful by both sides
According to spokesmen for both governments, Presidents Nazarbaev and Yel'tsin managed to cover all of the important items on their agenda, despite the fact that the Russian president was forced to cut short his 12 October visit to Kazakhstan. The two heads of state endorsed four agreements themselves, in addition to presiding over a signing ceremony for a number of other accords. The issue of Russian payment arrears for the lease of military testing sites and for the Baikonur Cosmodrome came one step closer to being resolved; the two sides were finally able to agree on the terms of payment for the present year. The Russian government will pay half of the current year's rent ($27.5 million and $115 million for the military testing sites and for the cosmodrome, respectively) in cash, and the rest in spare parts and various types of military and civilian equipment. Presidents Yel'tsin and Nazarbaev also signed two treaties on economic cooperation for 1998-2000, which eliminate dual taxation on imports and exports between their countries, as well as a "protocol of intent" on the demarcation of the Kazakh-Russian border. (Rossiyskaya gazeta, 14 Oct 98, p. 1; FBIS-SOV-98-287)
Some of the other agreements signed by representatives of both governments include accords on cooperation in the elimination of various types of cross-border criminal activity, such as money laundering and the drug trade; on the rights of both Kazakh and Russian citizens who work and/or reside at the Baikonur cosmodrome; and on cooperation in the design of an international thermonuclear experimental reactor. (Interfax, 1409 GMT, 12 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-285)
Assassination attempt or publicity stunt?
Kazakhstan's former prime minister, Aqezhan Kazhegeldyn, reported an attempt on his life on 13 October. Kazhegeldyn said that two rifle shots were fired at him on the outskirts of Almaty, as he returned from an outing that evening. Both shots missed their mark, leading the former premier to believe that the marksmen's intent was only to intimidate him. (ITAR-TASS, 1340 GMT, 14 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-287) Two weeks prior to the attempted shooting, Mr. Kazhegeldyn's bodyguards were prohibited from carrying firearms. (Interfax, 1238 GMT, 14 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-287) The former prime minister's supporters further stated that the day before the shooting took place, President Nazarbaev sent a message to Mr. Kazhegeldyn, requesting that he withdraw from the presidential elections. Mr. Kazhegeldyn, however, reaffirmed his candidacy for the post of president in the upcoming elections. (Informatsionnoye Agentstvo Ekho Moskvy, 0716 GMT, 14 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-287)
Presidential spokesman Kairat Sarybaev, speaking to the press on 14 October, dismissed the attempted shooting as a publicity stunt, saying that according to evidence discovered by the National Security Committee, the rifle shots had merely been fired in the air. Mr. Sarybaev added that: "The methods used by certain politicians for boosting their popularity rating do not seem to have changed." (Interfax, 0944 GMT, 14 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-287)
On 14 October, Mr. Kazhegeldyn, Petr Svoik (chairman of the Azamat opposition movement), and Irina Savostina, (leader of another political opposition movement called Generation) were all taken into custody by the security services and charged with violating Kazakhstan's law on public gatherings, by organizing and participating in an illegal demonstration on 3 October. The demonstration was an effort by the opposition to protest the holding of early elections in January 1999, and to call for the election process to be free and fair. (ITAR-TASS, 1340 GMT, 14 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-287)
Whether the assassination attempt on former prime minister Kazhegeldyn was genuine or staged, the harassment that he and other members of the opposition have been subjected to by the country's security services is very real indeed. Although President Nazarbaev purports to welcome competitors for his office, and has invited international observers to be present during the election itself in order to verify its fairness and validity, his administration's recent actions against leaders of the opposition speak much louder than his words. The charges that have been filed against Aqezhan Kazhegeldyn, Petr Svoik, Irina Savostina, and others may bar them from taking part in the presidential elections, since Kazakh law does not permit anyone with a criminal conviction to run for political office.
'Caucasus corridor' to provide route for Kazakh exports
Kazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev recently led a government delegation to Tbilisi in order to discuss ways of broadening trade relations and economic cooperation. Topping the agenda was the issue of Kazakh oil exports. The Kazakh government has been searching for viable ways of transporting its oil reserves to the international market. New pipelines are being constructed across Kazakh territory to China and Iran, but until these routes are completed, Georgia will provide a transport corridor for Kazakh exports. According to an agreement concluded in 1996, two million tons of Kazakh oil will be shipped across Georgian territory this year (Interfax, 0822 GMT, 22 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-295), and Prime Minister Balgimbaev was able to finalize an accord with Georgian officials on 22 October which will allow Kazakhstan to increase its oil exports to ten million tons annually. The Georgian government will also permit the yearly transport of 12-15 million tons of Kazakh non-oil products (e.g., metals and grain) across its territory. (Interfax, 1840 GMT, 22 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-296) The Kazakh prime minister also expressed an interest in obtaining part ownership of Georgia's Poti terminal (located on the Black Sea), in order to facilitate the shipment of Kazakh grain and metal exports. Kazakhstan currently exports 45,000 tons of grain to Georgia, and hopes to increase this quantity in the near future. (Interfax, 0822 GMT, 22 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-295)
At present, there is only one pipeline available for Kazakh oil exports. Unfortunately, this pipeline crosses Russian territory and its use for Kazakh oil shipments has caused a great deal of disagreement between the Russian and Kazakh governments. The Kazakh government has offered to pay transit fees for the oil which it transports through this pipeline, but the Russian administration insists on buying the oil at a price lower than what Kazakhstan is willing to accept. The two sides are at an impasse, and until the matter is resolved, Kazakhstan is barred from using the Russian pipeline. Consequently, the oil transit agreement with Georgia could provide the Kazakh government with a much-needed opportunity to export at least a small portion of its petroleum reserves.
President Akaev's reforms passed by referendum
96 percent of Kyrgyzstan's eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots in the 17 October referendum on the constitutional amendments (on such issues as private property, electoral reform, reform of the freedom of speech laws) which had been proposed by President Akaev. The amendments were passed by an overwhelming 90 percent majority. The voting was monitored by 30 international observers, as well as by members of the OSCE, and no irregularities were reported in the balloting procedure. President Akaev's first action following the successful passage of his constitutional reforms is expected to be the announcement of a decree on land transactions. He plans to proclaim a five-year moratorium on the buying and selling of land, and to prohibit non-residents from purchasing land in Kyrgyzstan. (ITAR-TASS, 0647 GMT, 18 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-291)
by Monika Shepherd
Spies seen everywhere
Russia's financial and political woes apparently have not kept the intelligence services preoccupied, as claims of spies abound. A small spy scandal of the bizarre sort cropped up in the Pskov region of Russia, adjacent to Estonia, involving an Estonian citizen--and self-described former KGB officer--named Ville Sonn. The public relations service of the Russian Federal Security Service reported that Sonn had been detained on the territory of a military facility in Pskov when he was engaged in visual reconnaissance. However, the public relations center reported that the "Russian side, taking into account insignificant damage... and by the wish to maintain good-neighborly relations with Estonia, has made the decision not to initiate criminal proceedings against him ...." Estonian government representatives downplayed the seriousness of the charge, citing Russia's low-key reaction and Sonn's personal history. Jana Vanamolder, press secretary for the Estonian embassy in Moscow, termed Sonn an "eccentric" whose unusual behavior had been reported on by the media on several occasions. (Interfax, 1048 GMT, 22 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-295) "Even the Estonian intelligence is no longer so green as to send a mentally imbalanced person to Russian military bases," Estonian secret services coordinator Eerik Niiles-Kross told journalists. (BNS, 1322 GMT, 24 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-297) Meanwhile, the Russian state news agency RIA-novosti reported that the alleged spy has a phenomenal memory, and that reports of mental disturbances are groundless. (BNS, 1322 GMT, 24 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-297)
Sonn offered his own little twist: His videotaped confession, aired by the Russian NTV and RTR television channels, was the result of careful staging, he said. "Up to seven takes were made of each scene, it was quite a show," Sonn explained. "We rehearsed like in some theater or movie." According to a spokesperson from the Estonian foreign ministry, Estonia is not rushing to reply to Russia's request for a verbal explanation. Such an explanation will be sent within a "diplomatically polite period of time," news accounts reported. (BNS, 0948 GMT, 28 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-301)
Former KGB officers apparently do not represent the only threat to Russia's security, however. According to Russia's ethnic affairs minister, Ramazan Abdulatipov, persons of Finno-Ugric background in Russia may be swayed by Finnish, Hungarian and Estonian persons delivering humanitarian aid and convinced of anti-Russian sentiments. (See Russian Federation Foreign Relations heading above for more details.) Careful watch should be placed on persons receiving such aid, he said, as well as those who are offered the opportunity to study at higher education institutions in other countries. (BNS, 1510 GMT, 23 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-296) Citizens in Latvia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan might enjoy the irony of Russia worrying about the possible exacerbation of ethnic minorities to create instability.
Apartment refurbishing leads to resignations
Reports that National Armed Forces Commander Juris Eihmanis's service apartment was refurbished with over 40,000 lats from the Home Guard budget resulted in the commander's forced resignation last month.
Eihmanis proved to be blind to the writing on the wall. While the in-house investigation was continuing, President Guntis Ulmanis promised to hold off on removing Eihmanis from his post, expressing the conviction that the commander would step down if the investigation demonstrated his guilt. (Baltic News Service Daily Report, 1600 GMT, 14 Oct 98). In spite of the faith Ulmanis showed in the commander's political savvy, Eihmanis later told journalists he would not resign, but would leave his post only if ordered to do so by the president. He denied the allegations against him, and said he found out that the 42,000 lats had been used for the refurbishing only after returning from a trip to the United States, when the work was nearly finished. (Radio Riga Network, 1500 GMT, 22 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-295) At the end of the investigation, and with the support of Minister of Defense Talavs Jundzis as well as the chief prosecutor of the military prosecutor's office, the president did demand Eihmanis' resignation. (Radio Riga Network, 1400 and 1500 GMT, 26 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-299) Alas, support of the president's decision was not enough to keep Jundzis's position; the next day Prime Minister Guntars Krasts demanded his resignation. (Radio Riga Network, 1200 GMT, 27 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-300)
Russian officers complain of Russian treatment
While the head of Latvia's military faced career woes because of his housing, members of the Russian military must deal with the obverse: housing woes because of their careers. Several Russian officers based at the Skrunda radar station have complained to the Latvian National Human Rights Office about unsatisfactory living conditions that they face if they return to Russia. Under an international agreement, Latvia compensated Russia for military apartments the officers are leaving behind in Latvia. That compensation in turn was meant to be used to purchase apartments in Russia. However, the officers report that, in some cases, no apartments were acquired, while in other cases the housing is in very poor condition. (BNS, 0928 GMT, 20 Oct 98; FBIS-SOV-98-293)
by Kate Martin