The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 9, Part I, 11 April 1997


Vol 1, No. 9, Part I, 11 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/

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Headlines, Part I

* GOVERNMENT TO REVIEW ARRANGEMENT WITH GAZPROM

* REACTION TO YELTSIN'S ANTI-CORRUPTION ADDRESS

* TWO MORE AZERBAIJANIS KILLED IN BORDER SHOOTING
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RUSSIA

GOVERNMENT TO REVIEW ARRANGEMENT WITH
GAZPROM. The government plans to review an arrangement
whereby almost all of the state's 40% stake in the gas
monopoly Gazprom is managed by the company's executives
rather than by the state directly, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported yesterday. First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii
Chubais and Boris Nemtsov both called for reviewing what
Nemtsov described as an "inexpedient" arrangement. Chubais
and Nemtsov co-chaired yesterday's cabinet meeting after
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who headed Gazprom
from 1989 to 1992, unexpectedly went on leave for two days.
Addressing the State Duma on 9 April, Gazprom head Rem
Vyakhirev claimed that international financial institutions and
foreign gas companies were using the Finance Ministry to
break up the Russian gas giant. Deputy Prime Minister Alfred
Kokh said yesterday that it was "nonsense" for Vyakhirev to
criticize his own beneficiary, pointing to Gazprom's
administrative control over the government's share package.

REACTION TO YELTSIN'S ANTI-CORRUPTION ADDRESS.
Opposition figures were generally skeptical about President
Boris Yeltsin's radio address yesterday focusing on anti-
corruption measures (see RFE/RL Newsline, 10 April 1997).
State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a
leading member of the Communist Party, said Yeltsin was
fighting corruption only in words and had, in fact, appointed
several corrupt officials, Interfax reported. Yabloko leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii argued that the president's words will
remain "hollow phrases" until a list of corrupt officials is
published, AFP reported. In contrast, Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev told ITAR-TASS that he welcomed Yeltsin's address.

GOVERNMENT INCREASES PRIVATIZATION TARGETS. The
government has increased its target for 1997 privatization
revenues from 6.5 trillion rubles ($1.1 billion) to 10 trillion
rubles ($1.7 billion), Russian news agencies reported
yesterday. Deputy Prime Minister Alfred Kokh, who also heads
the State Property Committee, told journalists that the
government plans to sell off a 25% stake in the
telecommunications company Svyazinvest, whose starting
price will be $1.1 billion. In the third and fourth quarters of
1997, Kokh said, the government plans to sell a 50% stake in
the Rosgosstrakh insurance company, 2% of the electricity
giant Unified Energy System, and an unspecified stake in the
oil company Rosneft. Kokh said privatization revenues last
year were only about 10% of the budgeted $2 billion. He
blamed the shortfall on last year's political uncertainty in
Russia.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER DENIES "ALUMINUM MAFIA"
REPORTS. Kokh says reports that criminals control Russia's
aluminum industry are "completely wrong," ITAR-TASS
reported yesterday. In particular, Kokh said the Trans-World
Metals group and the brothers Lev and Mikhail Chernyi, who
critics say dominate the industry, do not even control half of
Russia's aluminum production. Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov has recently charged that mafia-like structures were
monopolizing and destroying the aluminum market. In
January, the private network NTV ran a three-part
investigative report on privatization in the aluminum industry
since 1992. NTV's reports linked the Chernyi brothers to
various corrupt practices and alleged they maintained close
contacts with some former Yeltsin associates, including former
First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets.

IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER IN MOSCOW. Ali
Akbar Nateq Nouri, addressing the Duma this morning, urged
Caspian states to reach agreement on the legal status of the
Caspian Sea, which he termed "the core of Russian-Iranian
cooperation," ITAR-TASS reported. Nateq Nouri, who is tipped
to succeed Rafsanjani as Iranian president in next month's
elections, arrived in Moscow yesterday with the Iranian
defense and economics and trade ministers. He also met with
Yeltsin, who described Russian-Iranian relations as "good and
positive," according to Interfax.

MASKHADOV POSTPONES DEPARTURE ON HAJJ. Chechen
President Aslan Maskhadov has postponed until later this
month his departure for Saudi Arabia citing "a busy work
schedule," ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. In Moscow, First
Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov and Said-Hasan
Abdumuslimov held talks yesterday on "a range of issues."
Udugov told journalists that the issue of economic aid for
reconstruction can be discussed only after a formal peace
treaty is signed. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin
evaluates the ongoing negotiations in today's Rossiiskie vesti,
noting the "fragile trust" that now exists between the two
parties and praising the Chechen side's "constructive"
approach.

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS SAID TO BE UNDER
PRESSURE IN REGIONS. Human rights defenders such as
Mariana Katzarova of Amnesty International and Lyudmila
Alekseeva of the Moscow Helsinki group say regional
authorities are arresting local critics in order to stifle publicity
about human rights violations, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported yesterday. They said a human rights activist in
Magadan was released yesterday only after intervention from
the Kremlin. The activist had spent two weeks in detention. A
human rights campaigner in Omsk was released last
December following intervention from then presidential Chief
of Staff Anatolii Chubais. The ITAR-TASS and Interfax news
agencies, which did not report the findings of a recent
Amnesty report on torture in Russia (see RFE/RL Newsline, 4
April 1997), also did not cover yesterday's press conference.
Meanwhile, Yeltsin issued a decree yesterday declaring 1998
the "year of human rights in the Russian Federation," ITAR-
TASS reported.

WAGE ARREARS PROMPT HUNGER STRIKES... Primorskii
power station workers have resumed a hunger strike to protest
persistent wage arrears, ITAR-TASS reports today. Workers at
the same station staged hunger strikes last August and
September. Meanwhile, 44 workers at a nuclear power plant in
Arkhangelsk suspended their four-day hunger strike last night
after they were paid for the first time since October. Vladimir
Yakovlev, leader of an education workers' trade union, told
ITAR-TASS yesterday that 20,000 Russian teachers are on
strike, and 30 are on hunger strikes. Deputy Prime Minister
Oleg Sysuev said on 9 April that the government has enough
money to pay teachers' wages. He blamed regional authorities
for using federal funds earmarked to pay teachers for other
purposes.

..AND OTHER DESPERATE ACTION. About 700 coal miners
in Kemerovo Oblast lifted a 16-hour blockade of the Trans-
Siberian railroad yesterday, Russian news agencies reported.
The miners have not been paid in six to eight months. Coal
industry officials helped end the protest by promising to pay
part of the miners' back wages soon. Meanwhile, 300
construction workers in Yekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk Oblast)
have spent the last three days underground. The workers are
refusing to emerge from a subway tunnel under construction
until they receive their wages, which have not been paid since
November.

PRIMORE RESIDENTS SEEK TO HOLD ON TO LAND
DISPUTED BY CHINA. Less than two weeks before Chinese
President Jiang Zemin's visit to Moscow, Primorskii Krai
residents are seeking to ensure a disputed piece of land is not
handed over to the Chinese, Interfax reported on 9 April. Local
deputies are planning to hold a referendum on whether to cede
to China a strip of land south of Vladivostok. Primore
residents say this will undercut trade with Japan because it
will give the Chinese a new port at the mouth of the
Tumannaya River. They also fear that if the Chinese farm the
land around the basin of Lake Khasan, fertilizers and
pesticides will pollute the lake, which is the primary source of
fresh water for the area.

NORTH CAUCASUS LEADERS MEET IN MAKHACHKALA.
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev says Moscow
should not try to micro-manage relations between federation
subjects but should encourage them to expand bilateral
relations among themselves, RFE/RL's Makhachkala bureau
reported yesterday. Stroev was addressing a Dagestani
meeting of the Council of the Association for Social and
Economic Cooperation of North Caucasus Republics, Krais,
and Oblasts. The meeting was attended by leaders from the
North Caucasus, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia but not
Chechnya. The participants approved guidelines for a draft
program on the North Caucasus, which is to be forwarded to
the Russian government and president for approval,
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported today.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TWO MORE AZERBAIJANIS KILLED IN BORDER
SHOOTING. Two Azerbaijanis were shot dead last night trying
to cross the frontier into Armenia's Izhdevan Raion, RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported today, citing a Defense Ministry press
release. Armenian troops returned Azerbaijani fire and then
gave warning shots as three men tried to cross the border.
There were no Armenian casualties. Interfax yesterday quoted
an Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman as denying reports
that two Azerbaijani troops were killed in a border shooting
earlier this week.

GEORGIA HOSTS "TRASECA" CONFERENCE. The European
Commission and the Georgian government have sponsored a
conference on reviving the historic "Silk Road," which ran from
China via Central Asia, the Transcaucasus, and Turkey to
Europe, Russian agencies reported. Participants in the
conference, which opened in Tbilisi on 8 April, include the
deputy premiers and transport ministers of the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation member countries and IMF and EBRD
representatives. The so-called TRASECA project foresees the
expansion of existing road, rail, and telecommunications links
as well as ferry services across the Caspian and Black Seas. It
could earn Georgia more than $300 million in transit tariffs in
1998 alone. Although the proposed transport routes do not
cross Russian territory, Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze favors Russian participation in the project.

KAZAK PRESIDENT BACKTRACKS ON THREATS OVER
PENSION ARREARS. Nursultan Nazarbayev has extended the
deadline for the payment of pension arrears to the end of this
year, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. Last month,
Nazarbayev set 10 April as the deadline and threatened to sack
both Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin and oblast
governors who did not comply. But at a special government
session yesterday, he extended the deadline, noting that there
were signs of progress toward paying the arrears. As of 1 April,
pension arrears totaled some 39 billion tenge ($500 million).

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN CENTRAL ASIA. Valdis
Birkaus is on an official visit to Central Asia, RFE/RL's Central
Asian and Latvian services report. He arrived on 9 April in
Kyrgyzstan, where he signed agreements on transportation
and mutual legal aid as well as a protocol on consultations
with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Roza Otunbayeva. He also met
with Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev. In Kazakstan yesterday,
Birkaus met with his Kazak counterpart, Kasymzhomart
Tokayev, to discuss the opening of a Kazak embassy in the
Latvian capital and how to improve bilateral relations. Today
in Tashkent, Birkaus is due to sign 12 accords, one of which
will establish an intergovernmental commission on trade.

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