If you wish to make an apple pie truly from scratch, you must first invent the universe. - Carl Sagan
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 1, No. 3, Part I, 3 April 1997


Vol. 1, No. 3, Part I, 3 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.  Back
issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are available through RFE/RL's WWW
pages:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/
Back  issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through OMRI's
WWW pages:
http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN APPROVES NEW AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS.
The Council of the Russian State Duma will discuss today an
agreement on Belarusian-Ukrainian union approved  by
President Boris Yeltsin and his Belarusian counterpart,
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, RFE/RL reported. Yeltsin and
Lukashenka are expected to sign the accord soon. The
agreement provides for common citizenship and calls for
coordinating security and economic policies, eventually
creating a single currency. The treaty signed by Russia and
Belarus on 2 April 1996 declared similar goals, but most of its
provisions have not been implemented. Deputy Prime Minister
Valerii Serov stressed that a new state would not be created
overnight, and CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev described the
agreement as a step toward "confederation" that would not
allow Belarus to impose its will on Russia. Under the new
treaty, a Supreme Council that included the presidents, prime
ministers, and parliamentary speakers of both countries would
have to unanimously adopt decisions on Russian-Belarusian
integration.

REACTION TO RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN AGREEMENT. The
terms of the new agreement have disappointed Russian
supporters of Russian-Belarusian unification. Communist
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov described the agreement as a
"very modest step" toward union with Belarus. Duma Deputy
Speaker Sergei Baburin, one of the most outspoken Russian
proponents of integration, told ITAR-TASS on 31 March that
he was "amazed at the extent to which the document has been
emasculated." Skeptics on unification, including Yabloko
leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Russia's Democratic Choice
leader Yegor Gaidar, warned against rushing integration,
noting the restrictions imposed on opposition groups and the
media in Belarus. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov
told RFE/RL that integration should be pursued with caution
so as not to damage the Russian economy. In the past, First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais also expressed
reservations about the economic consequences of union with
Belarus.

HEADS OF STATE ENDORSE CIS, EXTEND
PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE...  The CIS summit originally
scheduled for December 1996 to mark the fifth anniversary of
the organization's founding finally took place in Moscow on 28
March. Yeltsin reported on his talks in Helsinki one week
earlier with U.S. President Bill Clinton. He was re-elected
chairman of the CIS heads of state council.  Yeltsin later told
journalists that the participants unanimously agreed that "the
CIS is necessary" but that it has not yet evolved into its
definitive form. Yeltsin conceded that each member state has
"its own national interests, priorities, and its own vision of
future integration," AFP and Interfax reported. Agreement was
reached on the CIS Foreign Ministers' proposal to extend the
mandates of the CIS peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan until 30
June and in Abkhazia until 31 July. The participants also
agreed on creating a CIS commission to mediate the conflicts
in Transdniester, Tajikistan, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-
Karabakh, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 March.

...BUT DISAGREE OVER ECONOMIC INTEGRATION.  The
divergent priorities referred to by Yeltsin were reflected in the
reluctance of some summit participants to sign the Concept
for Integrated Economic Development of the CIS, which was
approved by eight of the 12 CIS premiers at their January
1997 meeting.  The concept envisages creating a single CIS
economic space, expanding the Customs Union, and
integrating transport and energy systems. It was signed only
by Yeltsin. Although the majority of other heads of state
approved it, the document is to be submitted to governments
for further modification and will be discussed at the next CIS
summit in June. Georgian Minister of State Niko Lekishvili
told journalists in Tbilisi on 30 March that Georgia  cannot
accept the current version because it is "at variance with
Georgia's national laws, interests, and commitments", Interfax
reported.

SUMMIT PARTICIPANTS' COMMENTS. Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma characterized the summit as "a breakthrough
that opened a new phase in the life of the CIS." Kazakstan's
Nursultan Nazarbaev said it had "removed all the sore points"
in relations between member states, according to Interfax and
ITAR-TASS.  Others were  less enthusiastic. Belarusian
President Lukashenka said the CIS had become "a club for
meetings between heads of state" and that "the overwhelming
majority of agreements signed remain on paper...the present
[level of] cooperation within the CIS represents an imitation of
integration." Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov warned against
"forcing processes that are still premature," because this "risks
devaluing the entire concept of integration."

PRIMAKOV SAYS CHARTER COULD "NEUTRALIZE"
EFFECTS OF NATO ENLARGEMENT. Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov says a charter between NATO and Russia
could largely "neutralize" the consequences of NATO expansion
on Russia's relations with the West, RFE/RL reported. But he
made clear that Russia remains opposed to enlargement,
which, he said, would be "the biggest mistake" since the end of
the Cold War. Among other things, Moscow wants a charter to
bind NATO not to deploy nuclear weapons in new member
countries. Primakov suggested a charter could be signed
before the NATO summit in Madrid in July, when NATO
leaders are expected to announce which former East European
countries will be invited first to join the alliance. Primakov was
speaking on 29 March in Bonn, where he briefed his German
counterpart Klaus Kinkel on the Helsinki summit between
Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton.

RYBKIN HOLDS TALKS WITH CHECHENS. Russian Security
Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin met with Chechen First Deputy
Premier Movladi Udugov in the Ingush capital of Nazran on 29
March in an attempt to dispel disagreement over the nature of
Chechnya's future economic and political relations with
Moscow,  AFP and ITAR-TASS reported.   During the last
round of talks in Grozny in early March, the two sides reached
agreement on most provisions of the two documents. But
Moscow later submitted to the Chechen leadership
substantially amended drafts, which the Chechens termed
unacceptable. Chechen Security Council chief Akhmed
Zakayev told ITAR-TASS on 29 March that the Chechen side
has prepared its own alternative draft agreements.  Chechen
President Aslan Maskhadov said last week he favors signing a
formal peace agreement with Yeltsin, to be followed by a
bilateral inter-governmental agreement on economic relations.

IMF CHIEF IN MOSCOW. IMF Managing Director Michel
Camdessus met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on
31 March to discuss whether the fund will resume monthly
disbursements of a three-year $10 billion loan to Russia, AFP
and RFE/RL reported. The IMF has delayed monthly
installments of the loan several times, most recently in
February, primarily because of ineffective tax collection in
Russia. Camdessus will hold talks with Deputy Prime
Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov on 1 April.

NEMTSOV CALLS FOR REDUCING PRIVILEGES FOR
STATE EMPLOYEES. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris
Nemtsov has called for cutting privileges that allow civil
servants to ride public transport for free and pay less for
housing. In a 29 March interview with ITAR-TASS, Nemtsov
asked why state employees such as tax inspectors should be
considered "better than other Russians," arguing that such
privileges should be reserved for the very ill and those
distinguished by meritorious service. On Nemtsov's initiative,
Yeltsin recently ordered all state officials to drive Russian-
made cars. Nemtsov also said the budget of the Russian
Pension Fund should be made more "realistic" by reducing
employers' contributions from 28% to 25% of the wage fund
and raising employees' contributions from 1% to 2% of income.

TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES FORM NEW ALLIANCE...
Seven Armenian opposition parties on 29 March formed a
National Alliance to campaign for pre-term presidential and
parliamentary  elections and the adoption of a new
constitution. The alliance aims to build "a democratic, law-
governed, and socially oriented society." It unites four of the
five parties that supported defeated presidential candidate
Vazgen Manukyan in last year's disputed presidential
elections: the National Democratic Union, the Democratic
Party of Armenia, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--
Dashnaktsyutyun (ARFD). and the Union for National Self-
Determination. Other members are the Union for
Constitutional Right, the National Progress Party, and the
Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union.

...AS DO GAMSAKHURDIA SUPPORTERS IN GEORGIA. Nine
Georgian opposition  parties  representing  supporters of
former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia have overcome internal
dissent to create a coalition called the Front for the
Reinstatement of Legitimate Power in Georgia, Interfax
reported on 27 March.  On 31 March, Gamsakhurdia's
birthday,  his supporters staged demonstrations in several
districts of Tbilisi to demand the resignation of the
Shevardnadze leadership and the withdrawal from Georgia of
all Russian troops, Russian TV reported.

ARMENIA, RUSSIA TO INTENSIFY COOPERATION. At a
post-summit meeting in Moscow on 29 March, Yeltsin and
Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan reached agreement
on signing a new treaty on Friendship and Strategic
Partnership to supersede the December 1991 accord,
presidential spokesman Levon Zurabian told journalists in
Yerevan on 31 March.  Zurabian denied, however, that
Armenia is contemplating joining the Russian-Belarusian
union. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, who
met with Ter-Petrossyan in Moscow on 27 March, told
journalists that the new bilateral treaty will have "a military
component," Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 28 March.

NEW ROUND OF KARABAKH TALKS OPENS IN MOSCOW.
Yeltsin met with his  counterparts from Armenia and
Azerbaijan, Levon Ter-Petrossyan and Heidar Aliev, in Moscow
on 29 March to discuss prospects for resolving the Karabakh
conflict.  In Paris last week, the U.S., Russian, and French co-
chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group has "outlined a common
approach" to the round of talks that opens on 1 April in
Moscow, Armenpress reported. Last week,  the Foreign
Ministry of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh
issued a statement calling for a peaceful solution to the
conflict based on the right of nations to self-determination.

REACTION TO DECISION ON ABKHAZ PEACEKEEPERS.
The Abkhaz leadership last week rejected the decision by the
CIS heads of state to expand the mandate of the CIS
peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, Russian Public TV reported.
Abkhaz parliamentary speaker Sokrat Djindjolia told Interfax
on 31 March that if the CIS unilaterally  amends the
peacekeepers' mandate, Abkhazia will insist that they leave
Abkhazia. The Abkhaz parliament has already voted to
suspend further talks on  future political relations between
Abkhazia and the central Georgian government until Moscow
lifts economic sanctions against Abkhazia. Meanwhile,
Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili has said if
there is no swift breakthrough in resolving the Abkhaz crisis,
Georgia will invite the UN and the OSCE to take over the
mediation process, Russian Independent Television reported.

ANOTHER UNSANCTIONED DEMONSTRATION IN
KAZAKSTAN.  A second demonstration against worsening
living conditions took place in Almaty on the weekend. Some
300 people--mostly from the Communist party and social
movement Pokaleniya, which consists largely of elderly people-
-attended the rally in front of the government building. The
demonstration was not sanctioned by the authorities and was
the second such gathering within a week. On 27 March,
pensioners rallied in Kokshetau, in northern Kazakstan, to
protest unpaid pensions. On both occasions, demonstrators
ignored a warning by Kazakstan's Procurator-General not to
hold the rallies.

HUNT FOR TAJIK REBEL ENDS. Presidential spokesman
Zafar Saidov has said an operation to capture the outlawed
group headed by the Sadirov brothers has ended. The
operation involved both Tajik government forces and
opposition fighters. One of the brothers, Rizvon Sadirov,
remains at large. Authorities say he and his remaining
supporters have gone into hiding in a remote area of central
Tajikistan. During the operation, 12 members of the Sadirov
gang were killed and 20 captured. Bahrom Sadirov was among
those captured. The group is responsible for two hostage-
taking incidents since December, both of which involved
foreign workers in Tajikistan.

TURKMEN GAS SUPPLIES TO UKRAINE CUT OFF?
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov says his country has
cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine because of debts
totaling $700 million. Niyazov added that it is not solely Kyiv's
fault but a problem with "intermediary firms" transporting
Turkmen gas to Ukraine. But Vladimir Rijov, an assistant to
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, said Niyazov's statement
was intended for Gazprom, which transports the gas from
Turkmenistan to Ukraine and also to western Europe. He said
Gazprom has yet to pay for 10,000 million cubic meters of gas
received from Turkmenistan. Rijov also said gas has not been
cut off to Ukraine.



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