Praise yourself daringly, something always sticks. - Francis Bacon
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 7, Part I, 9 April 1997


Vol 1, No. 7, Part I, 9 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



YELTSIN CRITICIZES CHERNOMYRDIN OVER WAGE
ARREARS, TAX COLLECTION
PRIMAKOV SAYS CHARTER SHOULD BLOCK NATO
INFRASTRUCTURE IN NEW MEMBER STATES
TWO AZERIS KILLED IN CLASH ON ARMENIAN BORDER


RUSSIA

YELTSIN CRITICIZES CHERNOMYRDIN OVER WAGE
ARREARS, TAX COLLECTION. President Boris Yeltsin
yesterday assailed the government's persistent wage arrears
and tax collection problems during a partly-televised meeting
with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. In a later radio
address, Chernomyrdin said the government is making
progress on paying wage and pension arrears. He promised
that state employees would receive all back payments within
two months and all pensioners would be paid by mid-July.
Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS that wage arrears in the
military have dropped from 1.1 trillion rubles ($192 million)
and would reach 284 billion rubles ($49 million) by the end of
April. He also warned that companies who are in debt to the
Pension Fund would be forced into bankruptcy.

YELTSIN ISSUES ANOTHER ANTI-CORRUPTION DECREE.
Yeltsin has issued yet another decree to fight corruption and
reduce government spending, Russian news agencies reported
yesterday. Under the decree, companies will be required to bid
competitively for government contracts. In an interview with
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii
praised the idea of mandating competitive bidding. However,
he said the vague wording of the decree would leave a "huge
loophole" for corrupt officials who wished to continue to deal
only with favored companies.

NEMTSOV BLASTS MANAGEMENT OF ELECTRICITY
GIANT. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov sharply
criticized the management of the energy monopoly Unified
Energy System (EES) for charging artificially high prices and
increasing the company's staff by 40% at a time when output
has dropped by 22%, Russian news agencies reported
yesterday. Nemtsov said the government will not split the
utility into regional companies but will carry out a strict audit
and strengthen the government's role in managing EES, which
is 51% state-owned. RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reports that
the government has named six representatives to the
managing board of the EES, including Minister without
portfolio Yevgenii Yasin and First Deputy Finance Minister
Aleksei Kudrin.

ELECTRICITY RATES TO DROP FOR INDUSTRY, RISE FOR
INDIVIDUALS. Nemtsov told reporters yesterday that by the
end of this year, electricity tariffs for enterprises would be
reduced by 13%. Yeltsin issued a decree yesterday that will
gradually increase the cost of electricity for domestic
consumers over the next three years, RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau reported. Yavlinskii told RFE/RL that he expects the
measure to worsen the non-payments crisis in Russia. Citizens
who are not receiving their wages or pensions will be unable to
pay higher electricity prices, he noted. Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov supported the idea of reducing energy tariffs for
enterprises in an interview yesterday with ITAR-TASS.
However, Luzhkov questioned the government's other
economic priorities, arguing that more emphasis should be
placed on increasing domestic production rather than
improving tax collection.

DUMA POSTPONES CHUBAIS SPEECH ON BUDGET. The
State Duma Council has refused to include on today's agenda
a speech by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais on
budget fulfillment during the first quarter of 1997, RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau reports. Instead, the council invited
Chernomyrdin to report on the budget on 23 April. However,
government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov told RFE/RL that
the government still intends to have Chubais deliver the
budget address to the Duma. Opposition leaders in the
parliament have repeatedly demanded Chubais's dismissal.
Meanwhile, plans by the government to halt some non-
essential spending because of revenue shortfalls are likely to
meet with opposition in the lower house. First Deputy Duma
Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin told ITAR-TASS yesterday that
non-essential spending in some areas will have to be cut by
70-80%.

YELTSIN CRITICIZES DUMA'S WORK. Yeltsin described the
Duma's work as "unprofessional" during a meeting yesterday
with Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau reported, citing presidential spokesman Sergei
Yastrzhembskii. Yastrzhembskii said the Duma routinely
passes resolutions that violate constitutional norms or refer to
issues beyond its area of competence. Seleznev told Yeltsin
that Duma deputies have been unable to pay their assistants
for three months because the Finance Ministry has not
allocated funds to the lower house, ITAR-TASS reported. Also
on 8 April, Yeltsin vetoed the law on opposition political
activities, which was passed last month. He said the law
violates the constitutional separation of powers.

UPDATE ON CABINET CHANGES. Deputy Prime Minister
Oleg Sysuev has confirmed that he will head the Labor
Ministry following the resignation last week of Gennadii
Melikyan, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reports today. Yeltsin has
accepted the resignation of Fuel and Energy Minister Petr
Rodionov, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Rodionov told the
agency he will probably become deputy head of the board of
the gas giant Gazprom. Aleksandr Samusev, vice president of
the Rosprom-Yukos company, has turned down the fuel and
energy portfolio, citing unspecified medical problems.
Following the appointment of Sergei Ignatev as first deputy
finance minister, there is widespread speculation in the
Russian media that First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei
Vavilov is next in line for dismissal.

PRIMAKOV SAYS CHARTER SHOULD BLOCK NATO
INFRASTRUCTURE IN NEW MEMBER STATES. Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov said yesterday that Moscow is
concerned about "NATO infrastructure advancing toward
Russia's borders," Reuters reported. He called on NATO to
pledge not to build military facilities in new member countries.
After meeting with his French counterpart, Herve de Charette,
and Prime Minister Alain Juppe in Paris, Primakov told
reporters that the main sticking point in negotiations over an
agreement between Russia and NATO is Russia's demand that
NATO not build facilities in new member states that would
allow the deployment of the alliance's forces. Juppe expressed
hope that Russia and NATO could sign a charter in May.
Primakov noted that Russia remains strongly opposed to NATO
expansion but believes a charter could minimize the adverse
consequences of expansion for Russia.

YELTSIN MEETS WITH LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER. At a
meeting yesterday with Rafik al-Hariri, Yeltsin expressed
concern about "flare-ups of confrontation" in southern
Lebanon and about Israeli construction in Arab-inhabited East
Jerusalem, according to presidential spokesman
Yastrzhembskii. On 7 April, Al-Hariri, the first Lebanese prime
minister to visit Moscow, called on Russia to help restart the
stalled Middle East peace process. Foreign Minister Primakov
promised that Russia will soon advance new proposals on a
Middle East settlement. Also on 7 April, Al-Hariri and Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin signed accords on trade and economic
and scientific cooperation, while Russian and Lebanese
finance officials signed an agreement on avoiding double
taxation.

SPOKESMAN DENIES ALLEGATIONS AGAINST CHUBAIS.
Moskovskii komsomolets and Komsomolskaya pravda have
both accused First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais of
misappropriating millions of dollars, but government
spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov told ITAR-TASS yesterday that
the reports are based on forged documents and other
fabricated materials. Meanwhile, Izvestiya has apologized for
reprinting an article from Le Monde suggesting that
Chernomrydin has accumulated $5 billion while in office. Le
Monde has since said its article incorrectly cited CIA and FBI
officials as making the claims about Chernomyrdin's wealth.
Kommersant-Daily argued yesterday that the orchestrators of
an "anti-Chernomyrdin campaign" fed the material on the
prime minister's alleged fortune to Le Monde because Russian
media were afraid to "test the premier's strength" themselves.

YELTSIN NOMINATES CANDIDATE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL
COURT. For the third time, Yeltsin has nominated his legal
adviser Mikhail Krasnov to the Constitutional Court, Russian
news agencies reported yesterday. The Federation Council
rejected Krasnov twice in late 1994. The court's former
chairman, Vladimir Tumanov, stepped down in January,
having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Last
month the Federation Council rejected Mikhail Fedotov,
Russia's representative to UNESCO, who was Yeltsin's first
choice to fill the vacancy.

CHECHEN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH GEORGIAN
DELEGATION. Aslan Maskhadov met with a Georgian
parliamentary delegation yesterday to discuss bilateral
relations and the ongoing conflicts in Abkhazia and South
Ossetia, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported. Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze has been pursuing closer ties with
Chechnya for several months. Meanwhile, Maskhadov has
named Ruslan Kutaev, leader of the Chechen National
Independence Party, as his special aide with responsibility for
state policy, strategic defense, and diplomacy, ITAR-TASS
reported yesterday. Maskhadov is scheduled to leave Grozny
today on the first of seven Saudi-financed flights transporting
650 Chechen pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.

LARGE INCREASE IN RUSSIAN-TURKISH TRADE. Trade
between Russia and Turkey in 1996 totaled $15 billion, a
senior Turkish diplomat in Moscow told Interfax on 7 April.
This is $11 billion more than the official figure. Tanzer Guven
said that shuttle trade by Russians, construction, and tourism
explain the discrepancy between the two figures. He also noted
that, even based on the official $4 billion figure, Russia is
Turkey's third most important trade partner, after Germany
and Italy, and has "no rivals as a trade partner among
Russia's neighbors." He predicted that Turkish investment in
Russia would expand significantly once the political and
economic situation there stabilized.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TWO AZERIS KILLED IN CLASH ON ARMENIAN BORDER.
Armenian forces opened fire on four unidentified men trying to
cross the border from Azerbaijan earlier this week, AP reported
yesterday. Two men were killed, while the others retreated.
Although there are exchanges of fire along the Armenian-
Azerbaijani border almost every month, this is the first time in
over a year that casualties have been reported. Meanwhile, the
Azerbaijani parliament has sent a letter to the CIS Inter-
Parliamentary Assembly arguing that Russia's policy of
clandestinely supplying arms to Armenia shows it cannot be
an impartial mediator in the Karabakh conflict, according to
Interfax yesterday. Addressing a news conference in Yerevan
yesterday on the OSCE-mediated Karabakh talks in Moscow
last week, Armenian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan
Oskanian said the Azerbaijani negotiating position has
hardened, making progress unlikely.

KAZAK-KYRGYZ RELATIONS. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev
and his Kazak counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, have
signed agreements on military cooperation, avoidance of
double taxation, cooperation in attracting foreign investment,
environmental protection, and agricultural reforms, RFE/RL
correspondents in Kazakstan reported. The two ministers were
meeting in Almaty yesterday. Of particular importance for
Kyrgyzstan was a deal to receive annually 1 million tons of
Kazak oil. Kazakstan has agreed to have uranium refined at
the Kara-Balta plant in Kyrgyzstan, while Kazak specialists
will help in the construction of a hydro-electric project in the
Pamir Mountains.

NEW TURKMEN ECONOMIC DREAM REVEALED. President
Saparmurat Niyazov told the government on 7 April that it is
has 1,000 days to make far-reaching improvements in several
sectors of the economy, RFE/RL's Ashgabat bureau reports.
Niyazov's program envisages 10% annual growth in GDP
through increased natural gas and oil exports, the completion
of pipeline projects, and an increase in cotton production,
which he wants to reach 2 million tons annually by the year
2000. Several ministers were shuffled after the announcement,
most notably those responsible for natural gas, oil, and
pipeline construction.





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