We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 6, Part I, 8 April 1997


Vol 1, No. 6, Part I, 8 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/

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
HEADLINES, PART I

* RESHUFFLE CONSIDERED TO STRENGTHEN CHUBAIS

* SELEZNEV DECRIES "INFORMATION WAR" AGAINST UNION
 WITH BELARUS

* NO PROGRESS, BUT NEW IMPETUS IN KARABAKH TALKS

RUSSIA

RESHUFFLE CONSIDERED TO STRENGTHEN CHUBAIS.
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau interprets the latest government
changes as strengthening First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Chubais's influence. Former presidential economic adviser
Sergei Ignatev was appointed first deputy finance minister
yesterday. Ignatev, who is part of Chubais's so-called St.
Petersburg group, joined the presidential administration last
year, when Chubais was Yeltsin's chief of staff. Meanwhile,
confusion surrounds the recent resignations of State Tax
Service chief Vitalii Artyukhov and Fuel and Energy Minister
Petr Rodionov, who are close to Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin. Chernomyrdin has not accepted Artyukhov's
resignation and is to meet with him today. In addition,
Rodionov told reporters this morning that no final decision on
his resignation has been taken. First Deputy Prime Minister
Boris Nemtsov has pledged to reform the monopolies in the
energy sector, a policy Rodionov and Chernomyrdin are
reported to oppose.

GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO HALT SOME BUDGET
SPENDING. Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov says the
government will propose reviewing the 1997 budget this month
because of the low level of tax collection. He told RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau yesterday that the government will ask the
State Duma to halt some non-essential budget spending.
Shatalov also said a new tax code to be submitted to the Duma
in April will  make the overall system more "stable and
balanced" by abolishing many tax breaks. However, Aleksandr
Pochinok, who chairs the Duma's subcommittee on taxes,
estimated that it would take the parliament at least a year to
adopt a new tax code, AFP reported. Deputy Prime Minister
Alfred Kokh recently announced that tax revenues for the first
quarter of 1997 reached only 58% of the budgeted figure.

GOVERNMENT TO PURSUE DEBTORS TO PENSION FUND.
Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev says the government will
impose sanctions on debtors to the Pension Fund, which is
owed a total of 65-67 trillion rubles (some $12 billion). He
singled out the monopolies Gazprom, Unified Energy System,
and the Railways Ministry, as well as several oil companies.
Pension Fund Chairman Vasilii Barchuk told ITAR-TASS
yesterday that 29  of Russia's 89 regions are paying pensions
on time. Twenty-three regions are only a month behind on
payments, but nine have a backlog of three months. Kemerovo
Oblast has not paid its pensioners since December, he added.
Earlier this week, a court in Kostroma Oblast gave the local
branch of the Pension Fund 10 days to pay four pensioners
who had sued the fund.

SELEZNEV DECRIES "INFORMATION WAR" AGAINST
UNION WITH BELARUS. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev
has called on Russian radio and TV companies to end what he
described as an "information war" against Russian-Belarusian
union. In an interview with Interfax yesterday, Seleznev
accused the private network NTV in particular of "falsifying
reports" and airing misleading footage from Minsk. Seleznev
and others in the Communist Party have long objected to
"slanted" news coverage on leading TV networks. Seleznev's
comments follow a lengthy commentary broadcast by NTV on 6
April in which anchor Yevgenii Kiselev reproached Yeltsin for
not banning the Communist Party and drew parallels between
Russian Communists and the Belarusian authorities, which
have used force against protesters in Minsk.

PROCURATOR-GENERAL CLOSES CASE AGAINST YELTSIN
CAMPAIGN AIDES. The Procurator-General's Office has
announced it has closed the case against two Yeltsin campaign
workers who were detained in June 1996 carrying more than
$500,000 out of government headquarters. Officials said
investigators found no proof that Sergei Lisovskii and Arkadii
Yevstafev were carrying state funds. Hard-currency operations
are no longer prohibited under the new Criminal Code, which
took effect in January. The scandal forced a showdown
between Anatolii Chubais and Presidential Security Service
chief Aleksandr Korzhakov, whose men detained and
interrogated Lisovskii and Yevstafev. Russian TV networks
close to Chubais ran overnight bulletins portraying the
unfolding scandal as a coup attempt by Korzhakov's men. The
following morning, Yeltsin sacked Korzhakov, along with First
Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets and Federal Security
Service Director Mikhail Barsukov.

LUKOIL OFFICIALS CRITICIZE IZVESTIYA. Vagit Alekperov,
president of the oil giant LUKoil, has said the company may
sell its 20% stake in Izvestiya, ITAR-TASS and Interfax
reported. He criticized the paper's decision to reprint a Le
Monde article alleging that Chernomyrdin has accumulated a
fortune during his tenure as prime minister (see RFE/RL
Newsline, 3 April 1997). LUKoil Vice President Leonid Fedun
claimed that the Izvestiya publication was aimed primarily at
weakening the gas monopoly Gazprom, which Chernomyrdin
headed from 1989 to 1992. Alekperov said LUKoil is not trying
to influence Izvestiya's editorial policy but is merely looking for
a better investment. Meanwhile, Interfax reported yesterday
that it will be LUKoil's official consultant for "publishing timely
information for investors."

MINERS BLOCKADE CITY ADMINISTRATION IN
KEMEROVO. Angry coal miners blockaded the city
administration building in Kiselevsk, Kemerovo Oblast, for
three hours yesterday. An RFE/RL correspondent in Kemerovo
reports that the miners have not received wages for up to
seven months. Last week, about 100 teachers refused to
release a local education official during negotiations in the city
of Prokopevsk. The teachers, who had not been paid since last
summer, released the official after 37 hours, when
Prokopevsk's deputy mayor issued an order suspending
classes until  wage arrears were paid. The oblast has
frequently seen labor unrest, particularly from Kuzbass
miners. A gubernatorial election scheduled for last autumn
has been postponed indefinitely, and Governor Mikhail
Kislyuk, an unpopular Yeltsin appointee, remains in office.

DUMA PASSES LAW ON SUBSISTENCE MINIMUM. The
Duma has passed a draft law gradually raising the minimum
wage and pension to the level of the subsistence minimum
within five years, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 April. Under the
bill, the level of the subsistence minimum would be adjusted
quarterly and the composition of the consumer basket (which
is used to calculate the subsistence minimum) would be
reviewed at least every five years. Yeltsin may veto the law if it
is approved by the Federation Council, as the government has
pledged to keep a tight rein on spending in order to meet its
economic targets.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA


NO PROGRESS, BUT NEW IMPETUS IN KARABAKH TALKS.
The Minsk Group talks in Moscow last week on a settlement of
the Karabakh conflict made no progress toward agreement on
any key points, Interfax reported yesterday.  But the Nagorno-
Karabakh delegation did agree "in principle" to the repatriation
of Azerbaijanis who fled during the fighting. A Western
diplomat involved in the talks told RFE/RL that although
Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to occupy "maximalist"
positions, the meeting gave new impetus to the talks, which
had been deadlocked since November 1996.  The talks were
attended by co-chairmen from Russia, the U.S., and France
and delegations from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-
Karabakh. The three co-chairmen warned that all sides in the
conflict "must make an effort to achieve movement toward a
real settlement."

AZERI, CRIMEAN TATAR REACTION TO TURKES'S DEATH.
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Musavat Party Chairman
Isa Gambar, and Azerbaijan Popular Front Chairman Abulfaz
Elchibey, and Crimean-Tatar Council Chairman  Mustafa
Abdulcemil  have all expressed condolences on the death of
right-wing Nationalist Movement Party Alparslan Turkes,
Turkiye and Zaman reported. Aliev postponed a planned trip to
Turkey in order to avoid being in Ankara today when Turkes's
funeral took place.

KAZAKSTAN ORDERS OIL COMPANIES TO SEND FUEL
FOR FARMS. Western oil companies working in Kazakstan
have been ordered by presidential decree to send unspecified
quantities of crude oil to local refineries for Kazakstan's farms,
Reuters reported yesterday. An official from the Kazak
Agricultural Ministry said 350,000 tons of diesel and 100,000
tons of gasoline were urgently needed for spring planting. The
two biggest Western oil companies in Kazakstan are the U.S.'s
Chevron and Mobil concerns, both of which are working in the
western Tengiz field. Some Western companies said the decree
violated existing contracts, while others argued it could drive
away potential investors. Fuel will be purchased with futures
contracts based on this year's harvest.

RUSSIA, PAKISTAN DISCUSS AFGHANISTAN. Officials in
Islamabad say Pakistan has opened dialogue with Russia over
the problems in Afghanistan, AFP reported yesterday. Pakistan
will send a senior ministry official to Moscow later this week.
The Pakistani daily The News reports the Russians are not
against the Taliban but believe "all ethnic groups" should be
represented in any future government. Russia--like Kazakstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan--has warned of the
dire consequences if the Taliban captures Afghanistan's
northern provinces. Meanwhile, the Taliban are engaging
warlord Gen. Rashid Dostum's forces, the last buffer
protecting the CIS's southern border.

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