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Vol 1, No. 8, Part I, 10 April 1997
Vol 1, No. 8, Part I, 10 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HEADLINES, Part I * YELTSIN PROMISES WAR ON CORRUPTION * DUMA DELAYS DEBATE OVER START II * TAJIK TALKS BREAK DOWN ON FIRST DAY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN PROMISES WAR ON CORRUPTION. President Boris Yeltsin says he has the political will to make it "scary to steal and take bribes." In an address broadcast today on national radio, Yeltsin said a recent presidential decree ordering competitive bidding for state contracts would reduce corruption. He also promised to end some tax and customs benefits, which, he said, create opportunities for bribery, and to make leading officials and their families submit income and property declarations. Yesterday, Yeltsin said civil servants should follow the example set by him and First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, Russian news agencies reported. During a televised meeting, the president told Nemtsov, "You and I have the same credo: Never take bribes." He also ordered Nemtsov to oversee preparations for an auction of foreign- made cars used by government officials. Yeltsin issued a decree last month ordering officials to drive Russian-made cars. DUMA DELAYS DEBATE OVER START II. The State Duma has again postponed a debate on ratification of the START II treaty, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin of Our Home Is Russia, who has expressed reservations about the treaty, said the government should first advance proposals for implementing the treaty. START II was signed by the Russian and U.S. presidents in 1993 and ratified by the US Congress in 1996. The Duma has repeatedly delayed consideration of the treaty, and Communist deputies have said they will block its ratification if NATO expands to the east. GAZPROM HEAD ADDRESSES DUMA. Rem Vyakhirev says foreign gas companies and the IMF are trying to use the Russian Finance Ministry to break up the natural gas monopoly Gazprom, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. However, Vyakhirev told Duma deputies that First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov, who is leading the government's campaign to reform the natural monopolies, had agreed not to split up Gazprom. Vyakhirev also said the government could solve Russia's non-payments crisis if it increased the money supply by 10%, adding that such a measure would not be inflationary. After Vyakhirev's speech, the Duma rejected a resolution proposed by Yabloko for the State Audit Chamber to examine Gazprom's finances. Vyakhirev said Gazprom itself should carry out the audit and release the results. GOVERNMENT PLEDGES TOUGH ACTION AGAINST DEBTORS TO PENSION FUND. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev says the government will restructure the debts of companies that owe large sums to the Pension Fund, such as oil refineries and the utility Unified Energy System (EES), Russian news agencies reported yesterday. Sysuev also said the government may sell off parts of companies--especially in the oil industry--that do not pay their debts to the Pension Fund. In addition, the volume of oil that private companies are allowed to export through pipelines belonging to the state- owned company Transneft will depend on the companies' payments to the Pension Fund. The fund is owed more than 65 trillion rubles ($11 billion), and some of the largest debtors are in the energy sector. RYBKIN MEETS WITH CHECHEN LEADERS IN GROZNY. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and his deputy, Boris Berezovskii, met with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov in Grozny yesterday. No details of the talks were released, but Nezavisimaya gazeta suggested today that they focused on draft agreements on bilateral relations. Meanwhile, Maskhadov has denied that he plans to attend a conference in Pitsunda next month of presidents of unrecognized states, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He denounced the report as an attempt to undermine Chechen-Georgian relations. SPIRITUAL HERITAGE DISCUSSES OPPOSITION STRATEGY. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told a congress of the Spiritual Heritage movement yesterday that protests could lead to a "social explosion" if the opposition is not sufficiently organized, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He summed up the Russian national idea as "spirituality, great statehood (derzhavnost), community, and justice." Aleksei Podberezkin, leader of Spiritual Heritage and one of Zyuganov's closest advisers, argued that the opposition must create a new "state-patriotic ideology." He said recent cabinet changes prove that the government has not drawn the right conclusions from its mistakes. Nezavisimaya gazeta yesterday published extracts of a document by Podberezkin describing "radical protests" as ineffective and advocating a tactical compromise with the government. PRIMAKOV SUGGESTS NATO CHARTER COULD BE SIGNED NEXT MONTH. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov has said Yeltsin may go to Paris to sign a charter between Russia and NATO on 27 May, provided that an agreement is reached by then, Reuters and AFP reported yesterday. French President Jacques Chirac extended the invitation to Yeltsin during a meeting with Primakov in Paris. However, there are major outstanding differences over the terms of the charter, particularly whether NATO will pledge not to build military facilities on the territory of new member countries. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevskii, who is negotiating with NATO officials in Brussels, yesterday rejected confidence-building measures proposed by the alliance as insufficient. YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER. Yeltsin has appointed career diplomat Sergei Prikhodko as his new foreign policy adviser, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. Yeltsin sacked Dmitrii Ryurikov last weekend, reportedly because he was dissatisfied with documents on Russian-Belarusian integration that Ryurikov helped prepare. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii will continue to coordinate foreign policy for the administration. ST. PETERSBURG COMMUNISTS ATTEMPT TO OUST GOVERNOR. The St. Petersburg electoral commission has registered a Communist-sponsored group seeking to oust the city's governor, Vladimir Yakovlev, by a referendum, RFE/RL's correspondent in St. Petersburg reported yesterday. Local Communists object to the February decision to double the cost of city housing and municipal services. If the group can collect the required 140,000 signatures within 40 days, St. Petersburg residents will be asked whether they think the city's social and economic policies have lowered their standard of living and whether they believe Yakovlev should step down. DUMA TO APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVER BASHKORTOSTAN'S ELECTORAL LAW. The Duma has voted to ask the Constitutional Court to examine the law on presidential elections in the Republic of Bashkortostan, ITAR- TASS reported yesterday. Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova said a provision restricting presidential candidates to those who speak both Russian and Bashkir discriminates against Russian-speakers and violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal rights for all citizens. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN ACCORD AS CORNERSTONE OF NAZARBAEV'S EURASIAN UNION? Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbaev has rejected suggestions that the Treaty on Eternal Friendship, which he and Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev signed earlier this week, is an alternative to the Russian-Belarus union agreement, Nezavisimaya gazeta reports today. Nazarbaev said that "if the CIS states unite in Europe, then the countries of Central Asia could join them and we would have a Eurasian Union." He first floated the idea of a Eurasian union strengthening integration within the CIS in 1994. Akaev endorsed that idea in Almaty earlier this week. GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER IN YEREVAN. Theodoros Pangalos has called for expanding Armenian-Greek economic relations and for closer cooperation between Greece, Armenia, Georgia, and Iran in unspecified "areas of mutual concern," Asbarez and Armenpress reported. Pangalos was in Yerevan yesterday to meet with his Armenian counterpart, Alexander Arzoumanian, President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, and Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan. He told journalists later that Greece supports the right of nations to self-determination, "whether [in the form of] cultural autonomy or fully-fledged independence." He said he believes the Karabakh conflict should be resolved in accordance with this principle. Pangalos also said Turkey's position vis-a-vis Karabakh was destabilizing and that Ankara should realize that the Ottoman Empire is dead and cannot be revived. ALIEV CALLS ON GEORGIA TO CONDEMN RUSSIAN ARMS SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA. Meeting in Baku yesterday with visiting Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev expressed the hope that the Georgian leadership will condemn Russian arms shipments to Armenia, Interfax reported. Aliev intimated that Armenia could use this hardware against Georgia. Meanwhile in Yerevan, Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan said on national TV that the reports on the arms shipments are aimed at weakening the Armenian army and depriving the country of aid. Last month, Sarkisyan had implicitly confirmed the reports. TAJIK TALKS BREAK DOWN ON FIRST DAY. The latest round of Tajik peace talks broke down in Tehran yesterday when the Tajik opposition representatives demanded the release of 11 of their colleagues who, they say, were arrested in Moscow. Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, head of the opposition delegation to the talks, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau yesterday that the men had been arrested immediately before the talks were scheduled to begin and charged with the murders of Russian soldiers serving in Tajikistan. He described the arrests as typical Moscow tactics to discredit the opposition and as pointless in view of an amnesty signed earlier this year for Tajik opposition fighters. Maxim Peshkov, head of the Russian observer delegation to the talks, said one of the detained Tajiks, Abdurahmon Nazarov, was a "Russian citizen. "He denied any knowledge of the other ten detainees. TURKMENISTAN DENIES HELPING TALIBAN. Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry has denied any role in aiding Afghanistan's Taliban movement, ITAR-TASS reported today. The denial followed an 8 April interview with Afghan warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum in Komsomolskaya Pravda in which Dostum said the Taliban are selling narcotics and receiving weapons via Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan has consistently said that, as a neutral country, it neither supports nor gives aid to any of the warring factions in Afghanistan. KAZAKSTAN TO INCREASE OIL PRODUCTION, EXPORTS. Nurlan Balgimbaev, head of the new Kazak national oil and gas company, hopes that oil production in 1997 will reach its previous peak of 26.5 million metric tons, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported yesterday. Balgimbaev said that Kazakstan plans to export 7 million tons of oil this year via Russia--1 million by tanker across the Caspian Sea and then by rail from Baku to Georgia and 1 million via Iran by means of a "swap." The oil swap with Iran is problematic, however, as Kazak oil contains such a high level of impurities that it cannot be refined at the Tehran oil refinery, Delovoi mir reported yesterday. Balgimbaev was ambivalent about Kazakstan joining the OPEC and expressed doubts that projected pipelines either through Afghanistan and Pakistan or through China would materialize in the foreseeable future. -------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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