|Tuesday, 22 October 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 28, 99-02-10
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 28, 10 February 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ANOTHER ARMENIAN SENIOR OFFICIAL SHOT DEADThe body of Deputy Interior and National Security Minister Major-General Artsrun Markarian was found close to a major highway north of Yerevan on 9 February, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. He had been shot in the head and chest. Markarian had been seriously wounded in January 1998 in what appeared to have been an assassination attempt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1998). LF
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT UPHOLDS TELECOM MONOPOLYDeputies voted narrowly on 9 February to reject an opposition demand that ArmenTel be stripped of its monopoly on the telecommunications sector, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Eduard Yegorian of the opposition Hayrenik faction, who had initiated the debate, told RFE/RL that the vote means Armenians will continue to pay high prices for mediocre telephone connections. On 8 February, former Communications Minister Grigor Pokhpatian issued a statement denying allegations made by a former U.S. employee of ArmenTel that he accepted bribes from the company's former shareholder, Transworld Telecom Company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1999). LF
 FIRE HALTS EXPORT OF AZERBAIJANI OIL VIA CHECHNYAThe Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR has been forced to halt the pumping of Caspian crude through the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk export pipeline as a result of a 4 February fire in the Chechen sector of the pipeline, ITAR- TASS reported on 9 February. The incident had led to a complete halt in the extraction of oil from the offshore Chirag field, which earlier had produced 90,000 barrels per day. Also on 9 February, a Georgian official with Chevron's Georgian subsidiary said the Georgian government has agreed to reduce from $7.75 to $5 per metric ton the tariff for the rail shipment from Baku via Georgia to the Black Sea port of Batumi of Kazakh oil produced by the Tengiz-Chevroil joint venture, Reuters reported. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONISTS SENTENCEDSeven supporters of defeated Azerbaijani presidential candidate Etibar Mamedov were sentenced to terms of two to three years' hard labor on 9 February on charges of hooliganism, resisting arrest, and insulting the honor and dignity of President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported. The men had participated in an unsanctioned demonstration in Baku in November 1998 to protest the alleged falsification of the outcome of the 11 October presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1998). Also on 9 February, parliamentary deputies representing six opposition parties, together with an unspecified number of independent deputies, announced the creation of the Democratic Bloc, which will hold its founding congress on 16 February. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT DENIES DESTRUCTION OF ARMENIAN MONUMENTSDeputies adopted a statement on 9 February rejecting as "a lie" reports of the destruction of an Armenian cemetery and other Armenian monuments in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 15 December 1998), Turan reported. They said such reports are aimed at "preparing the ground for new territorial claims by Armenia." Responding to an appeal from Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian to intervene to prevent further such destruction at the Old Julfga cemetery in Nakhichevan, UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor said measures have been taken to prevent a repeat of such "vandalism," Noyan Tapan reported on 8 February. LF
 RUSSIA APPREHENDS GAMSAKHURDIA-ERA GEORGIAN OFFICIALValerii Gabelia, who was a local administration official under Zviad Gamsakhurdia in 1990-1991, has been arrested by Russian police near Moscow, where he has lived since leaving Georgia in 1994, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 February. The Georgian government had requested his extradition to stand trial on charges of treason, attempting a coup d'etat, and banditry. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN LIMITS IMPORTS FROM KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTANKazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev told journalists in Astana on 9 February that in order to protect domestic producers, his country will limit imports from neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Interfax reported. Kazakhstan's Minister of Energy, Industry, and Trade, Mukhtar Ablyazov said the restrictions will affect several food imports. He also said the government will form an anti-dumping committee. BP
 KAZAKHSTAN'S GOVERNMENT HOLDS SESSION ON ECONOMIC RESULTS...Prime Minister Balgimbayev told the government on 9 February that last year, Kazakhstan was able to mitigate the impact of the world financial crisis, Interfax reported. However, he noted that Kazakhstan posted a $1.7 billion trade deficit owing to the fall in world prices of the country's major exports: oil, metals, and grain. At year's end, inflation was 1.9 percent, significantly below the 9.5 percent forecast. The average wage in Kazakhstan remained the highest among CIS countries, at the equivalent of $120-130 monthly, while the average monthly pension rose to $48. He said the government has paid nearly all pension arrears also. Balgimbayev also noted that the country attracted $2.2 billion in investments in 1998, up on the 1997 level. BP
 ...FOLLOWING REPORT BY STATE STATISTICS COMMITTEEThe chairman of Kazakhstan's State Statistics Committee, Jaksybek Kulekeyev, announced on 8 February that foreign trade in the first 11 months of 1998 fell by 7 percent, Interfax reported. Exports fell by 15 percent, compared with 1997, and totaled $5.5 billion. Imports increased during the same period by 1 percent, totaling $7.13 billion. Trade with CIS countries, including "shuttle" trade, totaled $5.8 billion, an 11 percent drop from 1997. Exports to the CIS were worth $2.4 billion, while imports were unchanged against 1997 figures, at $3.4 billion. BP
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT MEETS WITH BANK OFFICIALS...Askar Akayev, meeting with the heads of the country's 24 commercial banks in Bishkek on 9 February, said bankers need to formulate a plan for building a national banking system, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Akayev recommended the banks do more to attract private investors, noting that small and medium-sized banks that have already done so survived the initial impact of the Russian financial crisis. Akayev also emphasized the importance of the bank's support for agriculture, noting that this is a strategic industry and that 95 percent of state loans to farmers in 1998 were paid back. Akayev warned that the government, the National Bank, and commercial banks must ensure that there is no repeat of last fall's devaluation of the som. BP
 ...HEARS COMPLAINTSThe chairwoman of the Association of Bankers, Sharipa Sadybakasova, said the National Bank has too much control over commercial banks, and she recommended greater independence for the latter. The chairman of the National Bank, Ulan Sarbanov, said his institution will continue to exert strong control over commercial banks. He favored limited independence for commercial banks. The chairman of the board of directors and the owner of KRAMDS bank brought up the subject of Erkinbek Alimov, the bank's chairman, who is currently held on charges of embezzlement. Both said there is no legal reason for his arrest, as Alimov had only approved loans to people who then embezzled that money. They demanded his release, threatening that otherwise they will appeal to international organizations. BP
 TURKMEN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS IRAN...Boris Shikhmuradov made a one-day visit to Iran on 6 February to discuss possible routes for exporting Turkmen natural gas and oil, IRNA reported. In his meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Shikhmuradov said his country is in favor of exporting oil via Iran as "the Iranian route is economical and safe." The chairman of Iran's Expediency Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told Shikhmuradov in a separate meeting that he agrees with that viewpoint and hopes for the speedy implementation of agreements between the two countries, "despite overt and covert opposition of the U.S. to the transfer of energy...via Iranian territory." Shikhmuradov also met with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who described Tehran-Ashgabat relations as "deep-rooted and strong." BP
 ...HINTS AT IMPROVEMENT IN REGIONAL TIESIn his talks with Kharrazi, Shikmuradov mentioned that during his recent visit to Islamabad, Pakistani officials spoke of a desire to "open a new chapter in Tehran-Islamabad relations" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). Shikhmuradov said he had also met with representatives of Afghanistan's Taliban movement in Islamabad who had assured him that the murderers of Iranian diplomats and a reporter would soon be brought to justice. The Taliban officials had said they want good relations with all their neighbors, including Iran. Shikhmuradov and the Iranian officials with whom he met agreed on the need for clearly defining the "Caspian Sea's legal regime." BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 U.S. SAYS SERBS RISK NATO AIR STRIKESState Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 9 February that NATO will launch air strikes against Serbia if the Kosovars agree to a settlement at the Rambouillet talks but the Serbs balk over the stationing NATO peacekeepers in Kosova. "The Serbs will be subject to air strikes. And so they would be making a big mistake to hold up this agreement over the question of allowing forces in," Rubin stressed. Earlier that day, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said in Belgrade that his government would agree to foreign troop deployment in Kosova "under no conditions." In Rambouillet, AP reported that "despite claims of progress [by international mediators, unnamed] sources close to the delegations said that the two sides have not agreed upon a single word of the peace plan." PM
 UCK WANTS FORMAL CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENTThe Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) said in a statement in Prishtina on 10 February that it demands independence "through a clear and indisputable formulation with fixed dates and according to a clearly set-down procedure." The previous day, Albin Kurti, who is the spokesman for UCK political representative Adem Demaci, noted: "You cannot have a political process on one side and at the same time massacres and terror on the otherŠ. If these negotiations continue without a cease-fire, they cannot lead to a peace agreementŠ. The Serbian regime has not respected any international agreements it signed in the past. Unfortunately, the international community has not adequately punished Serb behavior in the past." Observers noted that the Serbian negotiators are unlikely to agree to signing a cease-fire because it would mean accepting the UCK as a legitimate negotiating partner. Belgrade's position is that the guerrillas are "terrorists" and that one cannot negotiate with such individuals. PM
 ALBRIGHT REASSURES DJUKANOVICRubin told reporters on 9 February that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright telephoned Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic "to thank him for his government's continued support for our efforts to resolve" the Kosova dispute. Albright also praised Montenegro's "constructive role" throughout the crisis. Rubin added that "the Secretary took this opportunity to assure President Djukanovic that Montenegro's concerns will be kept in mind" at Rambouillet. She also told Djukanovic, as she recently told Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, that the international community's focusing on Kosova "does not mean president Milosevic has a free hand to cause problems elsewhere" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1999). PM
 ALBANIA'S MAJKO WARNS OF "COLLECTIVE SELF-DEFENSE"Prime Minister Pandeli Majko told journalists in Tirana on 9 February that "if we have a continuation of the massacre in Kosova..., all Albanians in the Balkans--in Albania, in Macedonia, in Kosova [and] Montenegro--have the right to collective self-defense." He did not elaborate. Majko noted that the Albanian government will make available its military facilities to NATO troops for any peace-keeping mission in Kosova, "Zeri i Popullit" reported. He nonetheless stressed that "Rambouillet [is only] one step in a [longer] process" leading to a peaceful solution of the Kosova crisis. Observers noted that Majko and other members of the Socialist-led government usually avoid formulations that suggest possible joint political or military action by all Albanians in the Balkans. FS
 GLIGOROV FEARS REGIONAL INSTABILITYMacedonian President Kiro Gligorov told his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, in Paris on 9 February that the failure of the Rambouillet talks would likely lead to renewed fighting in spring "with all the consequences one can imagine for stability in the Balkans." Chirac replied that France "will not allow" any threat to the stability of southeastern Europe, dpa reported. He called Macedonia "an element of stability" in the region. PM
 MACEDONIA REGRETS CHINA'S DECISION TO BREAK TIESA Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Skopje on 9 February that the Macedonian government hopes China will reconsider its decision announced earlier that day to sever ties with Skopje because of the latter's recognition of Taiwan (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 February 1999). The Macedonian spokesman added that China "does not seem to understand" that Skopje opened ties to Taipei "purely on economic grounds." It is unclear whether China will continue to fund the construction of the Kozjak dam and hydroelectric project, for which Beijing has granted $85 million, Reuters reported. PM
 SALAJ SAYS PASALIC SEEKS TO CONTROL HINABranko Salaj, who recently resigned as head of the state-run Croatian news agency Hina, told a press conference in Zagreb on 8 February that President Franjo Tudjman's chief aide, Ivic Pasalic, carries out the most political interference into Hina's work, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 1999). Pasalic denied the charge. Elsewhere, police arrested Marko Marcinko, who is the former director of the failed Glumina Banka, and six of his associates on charges of corruption and fraud. PM
 BELGRADE WANTS TO TRY SAKICThe Yugoslav Justice Ministry said in a statement on 8 February that it will seek the extradition of Dinko and Nada Sakic from Croatia in conjunction with atrocities they allegedly committed against Serbs, Jews, Roma, and opposition Croats during World War II. Nada Sakic was extradited to Croatia in November from Argentina, where she and her husband Dinko have lived since the end of World War II. A Zagreb court dismissed charges against her last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). Her lawyer said she wants $3,000 compensation for the three months she was imprisoned, "Vecernji list" wrote on 10 February. Her husband still faces trial for war crimes in Croatia, to which Argentina extradited him in June. PM
 MUSLIMS DRAGGING FEET ON MIXED POLICE FORCES?Richard Monk, who heads the UN-sponsored International Police Task Force in Bosnia, said in New York that efforts to form ethnically mixed police forces have been "surprisingly successful" in some Bosnian Serb areas, AP reported. He added, however, that the Sarajevo authorities often lack the "political will" to form such units. PM
 MODERATE SERBS FIRM ON DODIKThe international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Banja Luka that Petar Djokic has turned down Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen's nomination of him as prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). Westendorp added that moderate Serb leaders Biljana Plavsic, Milorad Dodik, and Zivko Radisic have insisted to him that Poplasen keep Dodik as prime minister, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka. Dodik recently returned from a trip to Washington, where President Bill Clinton assured him of U.S. support, "Danas" reported on 9 February. PM
 ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT TO BURN SPEED BOATSA special working group recommended to Prime Minister Majko on 9 February that smugglers' speed-boats seized by police be burned, "Koha Jone" reported. To date, the government has auctioned off the boats, but it has since found out that the mafia has bought back most of them. The working group directly coordinates police operations against smuggling across the Straits of Otranto. It includes officials from the Defense Ministry, which will soon provide navy support for the police and Coast Guard. The government created the working group following the kidnapping of Vlora's police chief by smugglers in January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). FS
 ROMANIAN MINERS THREATEN NEW STRIKEMiron Cozma, leader of the Jiu Valley miners' union, who last month staged a violent march on Bucharest, has threatened to launch a new strike next week to protest the local state-owned mining company's failure to renew collective labor contracts that expire at the end of this month, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 9 February. The company's manager responded that negotiations on a new contract cannot begin until the parliament approves the 1999 budget. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SUBMITS LAW ON BROADENING GOVERNMENT AUTHORITYPetru Lucinschi on 9 February submitted to the parliament a draft law that would considerably broaden the powers of the cabinet, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The draft is to be debated under emergency procedures once the legislature passes a confidence vote in Serafim Urecheanu's cabinet. The draft grants the government powers to rule by decree for two years, including introducing legislation on the budget, privatization, taxation, social insurance, and social protection. Under its provisions, the parliament must debate within 72 hours laws submitted by the cabinet, otherwise those laws are to be considered as having been approved. Although the draft requires consultations with parliamentary groups before a new cabinet is formed, it stipulates that the government is to be set up "solely on the criteria of expertise and unity of outlooks of its members." MS
 RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO SOFIA ON BILATERAL TIESLeonid Kerestedzhiyants told Bulgarian diplomats and officials on 9 February that his country is eager to improve ties with Bulgaria but that some Russian companies encounter difficulties in participating in Sofia's privatization drive, Reuters reported. He said Russia is not seeking special privileges but noted that there have been cases where Moscow had no access to privatization tenders. Kerestedzhiyants also said Moscow's decision to lower import taxes on some Bulgarian goods, announced last week, will improve the large imbalance in bilateral trade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). MS
[C] END NOTE
 DOWN TO SUBSISTENCEBy Paul Goble
Nearly three out of every four Russians now grow some or all of their own food, a measure of the ways in which they are attempting to cope with their ever-increasing impoverishment.
That figure comes from a U.S. Information Agency-sponsored survey of more than 2,000 residents of the Russian Federation. Conducted in September- October 1998 and released last month, this poll not only helps to answer "just how bad" poverty in Russia now is but, equally important, undercuts some assumptions about how Russians are dealing with their economic difficulties.
The poll's findings about subsistence farming are perhaps the most striking. More than half of all Russians--some 55 percent--currently grow approximately half or more of their food in private gardens, at their dachas, or on other plots of land. Only 27 percent, the poll found, do not grow any of the food they consume--and that in a country whose population remains more than 70 percent urban.
But this is just one of the ways Russians are trying to cope at a time when only 50 percent of Russian adults are employed and only one in four of those who are employed are being paid on a more or less regular basis.
Not surprisingly, many Russians are turning to family and friends. Some 57 percent of those polled had borrowed money, and another 52 percent had accepted assistance of one kind or another from family or friends in the six months before the poll. But most expressed fear that this source may be drying up. Fewer than 40 percent said they believe they can count on this source of alternative income if things become even worse.
Russians are not turning to two potential sources of income that many have assumed they are using to keep afloat. As the USIA report notes, "contrary to popular accounts, the substitution of barter for wares overall is not that prevalent." And workers not paid on time are not making money "in a flourishing second economy."
With regard to barter, the survey found that in the six months before the poll, only 27 percent of those working had received goods in lieu of wages and that in half of these cases, this was only a one- or two-time event. And the survey found such wage substitutes are doing little to help those not being paid on a regular basis. Some 35 percent of workers who have either not been paid or have been paid more than a month late "never receive payment in kind," the report said.
With regard to the question of second jobs, the USIA survey failed to find much evidence that Russians are making use of them to supplement their incomes. While some may have underreported their participation in such jobs owing to concerns about taxation, 82 percent said they do not have a second job. Only 10 percent said they have a regular second job, and only 6 percent indicated they sometimes do.
Moreover, most of these jobs provide relatively little income. Forty-three percent of those with such jobs say it provides them with less than 25 percent of their income; only 16 percent say that it provides more than half.
Given the assumptions many have made about the role of the second economy in Russia, the USIA survey intriguingly found that those not paid regularly are no more likely to have a second job than those who are paid on time. That lack of individual entrepreneurship in much of the Russian labor force was reflected in another finding of the USIA-sponsored poll: namely, that large majorities of working Russians were unwilling to leave their current jobs even if they are not being paid on a regular basis. Most believe that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find an equivalent position quickly or at all.
And all are aware that the government is unlikely to provide them with unemployment benefits in the interim. Indeed, two out of three unemployed Russians today have never received such benefits.
Given such concerns and difficulties, Russians are turning toward subsistence, an obvious survival strategy and one that represents an unspoken call for help from the outside.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty