END-GAME IN THE FAR EAST?
Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 172
With 16,000 electric power workers on indefinite strike in Primorsky krai, the Kremlin upped the ante yesterday in its battle with the independent-minded governor of the Far Eastern region. President Yeltsin’s press secretary announced that the presidential administration is "waiting" for Governor Yevgeni Nazdratenko to provide an account of the measures he has taken in response to a presidential order to resolve the region’s energy crisis. (RTR, September 16) The Kremlin says the crisis is caused by Nazdratenko’s refusal to wean his territory off dependence on state subsidies. Every time power workers and miners strike and an energy crisis threatens, Nazdratenko loudly blames Moscow and demands that it bail him out with federal handouts. Moscow also suspects, but has not been able to prove, that the money it has sent for wage arrears has been expropriated by local officials. Already, the striking power workers claim to have halved the amount of electricity being produced in the region. Supplies of coal and coke are at emergency levels and no fuel is reaching the region from outside. (RTR, September 16)
Nazdratenko is in Moscow this week for meetings with Energy Minister Pyotr Rodionov. In his absence, the krai authorities are going ahead with plans to hold a regional referendum next Sunday, in which voters will be asked whether they support Governor Nazdratenko and his policy of low energy prices. Voters will also be asked whether they support Nazdratenko’s opposition to the border treaty signed by Moscow and Beijing in May 1991, under which what was then still the Soviet Union regulated almost all of its existing border disputes with China. Moscow says the treaty is fair to both sides and requires China to hand over to Russia areas of rich farmland currently controlled by China. (Itar-Tass, 27 February 1995) But Nazdratenko has turned the issue into one of national pride, and vociferously opposes the transfer of "Russian lands" to China and the loss by his region of what he says are valuable cedar forests and hunting areas. The issue has created tension between Moscow and Beijing, especially following Nazdratenko’s provocative announcement that he was passing the disputed territory over to the Ussuri Cossacks to whom, he says, it belonged prior to the 1917 Revolution. (NTV, 16 May 1995)
Moscow would like to ban next Sunday’s referendum but does not have the legal right to do so. In the opinion of one the judges of the Russian Constitutional Court, the questions on the referendum are unconstitutional since they touch on policy issues that, under the Russian Constitution, are the prerogative not of a regional but the federal government. (Interfax, September 16) However, the referendum is being organized for its propagandistic value, not for any possible juridical significance. Once the population has expressed its support for Nazdratenko at the ballot box, it will become even harder for Moscow to get the wayward governor to toe the line.
Ukraine, Uzbekistan Seek to End Yeltsin’s Chairmanship of CIS Top Body.