Высшая степень искусства говорить - умение молчать. - В.О. Ключевский

Vol. 1, No. 2, Part I, 2 April 1997

Vol. 1, No. 2, Part I, 2 April 1997

This is Part I of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline.
Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and
Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern
Europe, is distributed simultaneously as a second document.



MINUTE CHANGES TO TEXT. Russian President Boris
Yeltsin and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka have
signed the treaty on Russian-Belarusian union and initialed a
union charter following last-minute talks in Minsk and
Moscow, RFE/RL reports on 2 April. The final version of the
treaty is much shorter than the draft approved by the joint
Russian-Belarusian Parliamentary Assembly yesterday. It is
mostly of a declarative nature, prompting complaints among
parliamentary supporters of integration. Although the name of
the Russian-Belarusian "community" has been changed to
"union," Yeltsin stressed that Russia and Belarus remain
sovereign states and will not hurry to form a common budget
or establish a single currency. Instead, coordinating security
policies and border controls will be the top priority. The treaty
will be submitted to the State Duma and Federation Council
for ratification after one month of public discussion.

minute changes to the union treaty reflect deep divisions in
the Yeltsin camp over how far and how fast integration with
Belarus should proceed. An RFE/RL correspondent reports
that among Yeltsin's associates, the main proponents of rapid
integration are Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov, CIS Affairs
Minister Aman Tuleev, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov,
presidential foreign policy adviser Dmitrii Ryurikov and Sergei
Shakhrai, Yeltsin's representative to the Constitutional Court.
Meanwhile, nearly all the ministers who joined the government
in last month's cabinet reshuffle have expressed concern
about the economic consequences of integration with Belarus.
The skeptics include First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii
Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, Economics Minister Yakov
Urinson, and State Property Committee Chairman Alfred

AUTHORITIES. Aleksandr Stupnikov, the NTV correspondent
recently expelled from Belarus for not reporting "objective"
information, says the charges against him are "ludicrous" and
that journalists are routinely persecuted in Belarus, RFE/RL
reported on 1 April. Many Russian journalists have rallied to
Stupnikov's defense. The Union of Journalists and the
Glasnost Defense Foundation have issued a joint statement
complaining that the Russian president, government, and
parliament have not condemned censorship in Belarus. At last
week's CIS summit in Moscow, Belarusian President
Lukashenka complained that a "propaganda campaign"
against him in the media was aimed at derailing Russian-
Belarusian integration.

President Aslan Maskhadov has proposed radical field
commander Shamil Basaev as first deputy prime minister with
special responsibility for industry, Russian news agencies
reported on 1 April. Basaev was Maskhadov's closest
challenger in the January presidential elections. Meanwhile,
the Chechen Interior Ministry has demanded the extradition
from Moscow of some 70 people wanted for embezzlement of
public funds, according to Interfax. Among them are ministers
who served under former President Doku Zavgaev. Also on 1
April, a joint Russian-Chechen commission was created in
Grozny to verify claims that 11 Russian servicemen are being
held prisoner in the Chechen town of Argun.

IN CHECHNYA. Chechens holding hostage three Russian
reporters, one Georgian reporter, and one Italian photographer
are demanding $3 million in ransom. Dagestani Security
Council Secretary Magomed Talboev, who is negotiating to
secure the hostages' release, told Russian news agencies on 1
April that the journalists are being held in good conditions.
ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii, the employers of the captive
journalists, have said they will not pay ransom. Chechen
President Aslan Maskhadov told ITAR-TASS that he favors
transferring kidnapping cases to Sharia courts, where he said
those found guilty of abduction would face execution by firing
squad. Chechen authorities last week announced measures to
prevent future kidnappings. Foreign journalists will be
required to enter Chechnya by plane, stay at Grozny's airport
hotel and travel around the republic with an armed escort at
all times.

Constitutional Court has ruled that federal taxes may be
introduced only through legislation, overruling a directive
issued by the federal government in April 1996, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported on 1 April. The government directive
met with particularly strong opposition in Siberia. Among
other things, it imposed an additional tax on electricity
supplied to industrial enterprises. The Krasnoyarsk Krai
legislature appealed to the court, claiming that federal taxes
may be imposed through laws passed by the State Duma and
the Federation Council. The government apparently expected
to lose the case and did not even send a representative to the
court hearings.

Candidates representing the left opposition benefited from the
low turnout in legislative elections in Volgograd and Ryazan
Oblasts, RFE/RL reported on 31 March. Communist
candidates won 12 of the 16 seats up for grabs in the
Volgograd regional legislature. The other four seats went to
managers of local joint stock companies. Communists also
won seven of the 36 seats in the Ryazan regional legislature,
while the Agrarians won four, independents 14, and a local
officers' representative one. Turnout was too low to declare a
winner in the other 10 districts. Communist-backed
candidates won gubernatorial elections in Volgograd and
Ryazan last December. Left opposition candidates are believed
to benefit from low turnout in general, as the left-leaning
electorate is older and more likely to vote.

STALEMATE IN PRIMORE. Yevgenii Savostyanov is visiting
Vladivostok in order to resolve "by peaceful means" the long-
running power struggle between Primorskii Krai Governor
Yevgenii Nazdratenko and Vladivostok Mayor Viktor
Cherepkov, RFE/RL reported on 1 April. Savostyanov arranged
the first meeting between the two bitter enemies since
Cherepkov was restored to the mayoral office by presidential
decree six months ago. Savostyanov dismissed rumors that
Yeltsin will sack both Nazdratenko and Cherepkov and
introduce presidential rule in the krai. Elections last week to
the Vladivostok city Duma--supported by Nazdratenko but
opposed by Cherepkov--were declared invalid after fewer than
15% of voters turned out.

Director Michel Camdessus says the fund will resume issuing
monthly installments of a three-year $10 billion loan to
Russia. He called on Russian officials to simplify the tax
system and to target the largest tax evaders in an effort to
change attitudes toward non-payment of taxes, Reuters
reported on 2 April. Camdessus says opportunities for
corruption could be eliminated by "removing unnecessary
government regulations and controls" and by "establishing an
arms-length relationship between business and government."
He called on the State Duma to pass key economic legislation
and "to lead a responsible debate" about Russian economic
policy. Duma deputies hostile to the government's economic
policies and to the IMF, in particular, have a solid majority in
the lower house.


Foreign Ministry has abruptly postponed scheduled talks with
Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba in order to rethink its
position on Abkhazia, Interfax reported on 1 April. The move
comes after the CIS summit's decision to extend the mandate
of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia. Meanwhile, the
Abkhaz parliament has passed a resolution rejecting the
summit decision. Ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia
during the 1993 hostilities plan a mass demonstration outside
the parliament building in Tbilisi tomorrow, despite a plea
from parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania not to do so,
RFE/RL reported.

Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin has signed a
resolution creating a national oil and gas company, Interfax
reported. State shares in joint ventures currently held by the
Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Energy and Natural
Resources will be handed over to the new company, called
Kazakhoil. Kazhegeldin gave the ministries 15 days to
complete the transfer. Under the new resolution, Kazakhoil
will become a registered shareholder in the potentially
lucrative Caspian Pipeline Consortium. The Kazakh
government will retain the right to manage these shares,

President Askar Akayev has told Yeltsin that Russian will be
given the status of state language in Kyrgyzstan, alongside
Kyrgyz, Russian TV reported. Yeltsin's aide Dmitrii Ryurikov
said the Russian president is satisfied with the treatment of
Russian-speakers in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan is the only
Central Asian state to receive full programming from all three
major Russian TV channels. Russian currently has the status
of "official" language but not "state" language, in which the
affairs of government are conducted.

UZBEK-GREEK RELATIONS. Uzbek President Islam Karimov
and his Greek counterpart, Konstantinos Stephanopoulos,
have signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation, RFE/RL
reported. Karimov was on an official visit to Athens. The two
leaders also signed agreements on avoidance of double
taxation, protection of investments, and cooperation in
economics, technology, education, science, culture, and
tourism. Karimov said Greece and Uzbekistan are more united
than divided. Stephanopoulos called Uzbekistan a key nation
in Central Asia.

enforcement authorities in Dushanbe say four men they
apprehended in late February in connection with "multiple
crimes" do not belong to the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), as
was previously believed. ITAR-TASS reported on 1 April that
the four men are members of outlaw bands and are guilty of
virtually all major crimes committed in Tajikistan since 1994,
including the killings of Russian servicemen. The men, whose
names are being withheld, were found in possession of pistols
and materials necessary for making home-made bombs.

END NOTE:  Toward a More Divisive Union

by Paul Goble

Current efforts by the presidents of the Russian Federation
and Belarus to promote a closer union between Moscow and
Minsk have sharply divided both countries and exacerbated
divisions within the CIS. Those efforts could also lead to
tensions between Moscow and the West.
        The limited partnership agreement that Boris Yeltsin and
Alyaksandr Lukashenka initialed today seems certain to
produce something far less than the union they say they seek.
Both countries have long been divided over the desirability of
new and closer links. And those splits will only deepen during
the 30 days' debate on the agreement that officials in both
countries say will take place before any final accord is signed.
        In general, democratic reformers in both states have
opposed that accord, while communists and extreme
nationalists have embraced it. Consequently, in pushing for
this "union," Yeltsin finds himself in curious company. His
latest stand is enthusiastically supported by his communist
and nationalist opponents; it is just as enthusiastically decried
by his reformist supporters.
        Some of the latter, including newly appointed Deputy
Premier Boris Nemtsov, reportedly are concerned about both
the secrecy in which the latest agreement was prepared and
the speed of moves toward integration that it anticipates.
Others are worried about the direct financial costs to Russia,
the rock on which earlier efforts to unify the two Slavic
countries foundered. Even government spokesmen suggested
these costs could be high. And Duma Foreign Affairs
Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin said they could be
"dangerous for Russia."
        Yet a third group of reformers argued that unity with
increasingly authoritarian Belarus could undermine Russia's
still precarious democracy. Liberal Russian deputy Grigorii
Yavlinskii, for instance, said that "you cannot talk about
negotiating integration with a state where there is political
        Meanwhile in Belarus, Lukashenka continues to rely on
the most authoritarian institutions and groups as he promotes
closer ties with Russia. At the same time, Democrats protest in
Minsk's streets and increasingly find themselves in jail.
        The Yeltsin-Lukashenka accord is also increasing
divisions among the already divided CIS countries. Many
leaders of the non-Russian countries are clearly worried that
Yeltsin's push for unity with Belarus presages a Russian effort
to embrace them as well. They are especially likely to draw
such conclusions because that is precisely the road map for
Russia's future that Andrannik Migranyan and Konstantin
Zatulin sketch out in a report they prepared for the Russian
leadership and then published anonymously in last
Wednesday's Nezavisimaya gazeta.
        Some officials in the CIS countries are increasingly
worried by Moscow's opposition to their efforts at interstate
cooperation even as Russia moves to create its own special ties
within the Commonwealth states. Others are disturbed by the
broader implications of Yeltsin's apparent adoption of the
Russian nationalist agenda, a shift that many fear will lead
Moscow to adopt a harsher line toward them.
        But the most fateful result of pursuing Moscow-Minsk
union is likely to be the implications for relations between
Moscow and the West. Such a union highlights the potential
for Russian mischief in the region, which East European
countries seeking to join NATO have routinely pointed to. That
is because Lukashenka has insisted that uniting the two
countries is the best possible response to any expansion of the
Western defense alliance. For this reason, if none other, the
latest moves undercut the very diplomacy that Moscow has
sought to conduct.
        But Yeltsin's support for this accord, in the face of
reformist opposition in Russia, once again raises the question
of just where Yeltsin's sympathies lie. Almost the only support
Russian reformers have been willing to give Yeltsin for his
latest move is to suggest that he has tacked to the right in
order to undercut the backing that the communists and
nationalists now enjoy and at the same time to enhance his
own. But even they do not sound entirely convinced by their
own arguments.
        And because Russian reformers' attitudes toward Yeltsin
have often been a bellwether for those of Western
governments, the latter, too, may be increasingly unconvinced
that Yeltsin's latest move is only a tactic. Indeed, some
Western leaders may become convinced that the Russian
president, who at the recent Helsinki summit advertised
himself as a newly energized reformer, is not the man they
thought he was. To the extent that they conclude that Yeltsin
is unreliable, they are likely to adopt a somewhat different
approach toward Moscow.
        Precisely because such a Moscow-Minsk union would
have such negative consequences all around, it is virtually
certain not to take place any time soon, regardless of what the
two presidents said today.

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