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Vol 1, No. 10, Part I, 14 April 1997
Vol 1, No. 10, Part I, 14 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 * NEMTSOV SAYS GOVERNMENT NOT EARNING PROFITS FROM GAZPROM * YELTSIN SACKS FOUR TOP OFFICERS * IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER ASSESSES COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA NEMTSOV SAYS GOVERNMENT NOT EARNING PROFITS FROM GAZPROM. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says the government has not received its share of the gas monopoly Gazprom's profits, adding that he does not know what has happened it. He told NTV yesterday that the government does not even have a copy of the trust agreement whereby Gazprom executives manage 35% of the company's shares--or almost all of the government's 40% stake. Nemtsov and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais recently called for reviewing the agreement with Gazprom management, which Nemtsov says was signed by former First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets. Soskovets was sacked last June. Meanwhile, the State Duma on 11 April passed a resolution denouncing as "inadmissible" any attempts to break up Russia's single natural gas supply system, Interfax reported. Deputies again rejected a Yabloko-sponsored proposal to have the state's Audit Chamber audit Gazprom within three months. NEMTSOV ON ANTI-CORRUPTION MEASURES. Chairing a government meeting on implementing new anti-corruption measures, Nemtsov noted that the 1997 budget allocated 170 trillion rubles ($29 billion) for state purchases, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 April. Saving even 10% of this amount through competitive bidding for government contracts would leave enough money to pay all the government's wage and pension arrears, he argued. Nemtsov also told Russian Public TV (ORT) the same day that he advocates increasing civil servants' salaries, since "the most dangerous and corrupt official is a poor official." Meanwhile, in a recent Public Opinion Foundation poll, 45% of the 1,500 respondents said they trust Nemtsov, making him Russia's most trusted politician, NTV reported yesterday. About 37% of respondents said they trust Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, while 35% said they trust former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed. YELTSIN SACKS FOUR TOP OFFICERS. President Boris Yeltsin has fired Army Gen. Vladimir Semenov as ground troops commander, Russian news agencies reported on 11 April. Yeltsin also sacked Col. Gen. Anton Terentev, Semenov's deputy in charge of combat training; Vice Admiral Vyacheslav Kharnik, the deputy Northern Fleet Commander; and Admiral Igor Smirnov, the chief of Navy headquarters. Semenov was suspended last December amid allegations of corruption, which he has repeatedly denied. However, Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Yevgenii Savostyanov told Interfax that Semenov was fired primarily because of his ineffective leadership of ground troops in Chechnya. Some Russian commentators have suggested that Semenov was removed because he disagreed with Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's plans for downsizing the army. RENEGADE CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER REPORTED CRITICALLY INJURED. Salman Raduev was badly injured when a bomb exploded under his car on 9 April, his military consultant Sultan Miyev told journalists in Grozny two days later. But according to Interfax, the Chechen Interior Ministry denied any knowledge of the attack, while spokesmen for Grozny's hospitals told ITAR-TASS he had not been admitted. AFP, meanwhile, reported that Raduev was transported to an unknown destination outside Chechnya, where he underwent surgery on 12 April. Miyev blamed Russia for the assassination attempt and threatened reprisal attacks against Russian cities. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov and a spokesman for the Russian Federal Security Service both expressed concern that such threats could jeopardize the ongoing Russian-Chechen peace talks. MASKHADOV LEAVES GROZNY, POSSIBLY ON HAJJ. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and Udugov left Grozny by plane on 12 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Official sources said that Maskhadov was finally heading for Saudi Arabia, after having postponed his departure on pilgrimage by several days. Some observers speculated that he was en route for Moscow for further peace talks. Meanwhile, Mauro Galligani, the Italian photographer abducted in Grozny in February, was released unharmed on 13 April. IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER ASSESSES COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA. Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri told journalists in Moscow on 12 April that Western concern that Russian-Iranian military cooperation upsets the regional balance of power is unfounded. The previous day, he met with the chairmen of both houses of the Russian parliament to discuss economic and regional cooperation and the legal status of the Caspian Sea. The three leaders also signed a protocol on inter-parliamentary cooperation, Interfax reported. Also on 11 April, the Russian and Iranian deputy foreign ministers signed a memorandum of understanding on export controls, which Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said would finally dispel fears that Moscow's relations with Iran "contradict international standards." RUSSIA TO RESUME FUNDING ALPHA SPACE PROJECT. Yeltsin says Russia will meet its commitments on international space projects, in particular the Alpha space station, Russian news agencies reported on 11 April. Russian Space Agency director Yurii Koptev told reporters after meeting with Yeltsin that Russia will allocate 800 billion rubles ($140 million) to the Alpha project this month and another 700 billion rubles ($122 million) in May. Alpha is supposed to replace the 11-year-old Mir station by 2003. However, Koptev admitted in February that because of funding problems, the first part of the space station will not be launched in November 1997, as scheduled. WORLD BANK TO INCREASE INVESTMENTS IN RUSSIA. World Bank President James Wolfensohn says his bank will extend up to $6 billion in loans to Russia over the next two years "provided that reforms proceed vigorously," AFP reports today. After three days of talks with Russian government officials, Wolfensohn said that up to $2 billion of the credits would be earmarked for urgent social problems, such as helping the government pay wage and pension arrears. On 12 April, First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais said Russian economic reforms will increasingly be financed by the World Bank rather than by the IMF. The same day, the World Bank agreed to guarantee $100 million in loans from foreign commercial banks to finance the construction of the Sea Launch project, which will launch commercial satellites from floating platforms. LEBED, YAVLINSKII PESSIMISTIC ABOUT ECONOMIC PROSPECTS. Former Security Council Secretary Lebed says corrupt and despotic authorities are holding back foreign investment in Russia, Reuters and AFP reported on 12 April. Speaking at a conference in London, Lebed called for a "dictatorship of law" to replace the current system, which, he said, makes the law subordinate to the authorities. He asked, "What insane person would invest in a country where legislation is changed all the time?" Addressing the same conference, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii predicted that Russia's GDP would drop by at least another 2.0-2.5% in 1997. In contrast, Ronald Freeman, first vice president of the EBRD, predicted that Russia will become the "growth story of 1997." ELECTRICITY UTILITY TO CUT RATES FOR ENTERPRISES. Anatolii Dyakov, president of the electricity giant Unified Energy System (EES), announced on 11 April that the monopoly will lower its rates to industrial consumers by 13% this year and by another 25% in 1998, Russian news agencies reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov sharply criticized EES management last week for keeping tariffs artificially high. Electricity rates for individual consumers are expected to rise gradually under a recent presidential decree. CONTROVERSIAL CAMPAIGN MONEY TO BE HANDED OVER TO STATE. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov has announced that funds at the center of a Yeltsin presidential campaign scandal will be handed over to the state, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 April. In a letter to Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Skuratov said an investigation had failed to establish the rightful owner of the $538,000 that two Yeltsin campaign officials were found carrying out of government headquarters last June. The criminal investigation into the case was closed last week (see RFE/RL Newsline, 8 April 1997). MALAYSIAN INVESTMENT IN TATARSTAN. President of the Tatarstan Republic Mintimer Shaimiev said on returning from Kuala Lumpur yesterday that Malaysia will invest $500 million in Tatarstan's economy, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. Some $430 million will go toward the expansion of the Mendeleevskii mineral fertilizer plant, while $70 million will be used for the construction of a cargo transshipment facility in Kazan. Shaimiev also announced that Tatarstan's Nizhnekamskneftekhim company, which produces synthetic rubber, will have its shares posted on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange. YELTSIN NOT INVOLVED IN "YEREVANGATE." Neither Yeltsin nor the Russian government authorized the transfer of arms to Armenia between 1994 and 1996, Russian and Western agencies report today, quoting the State Control Directorate, which is subordinated to the president. An investigation by the Directorate established, however, that the arms shipments did take place and were in violation of the procedures stipulated in presidential decrees and other directives. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZ SUPREME COURT WANTS DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUGS POSSESSION. Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court is working on an amendment to the criminal code whereby possession of "large amounts" of narcotics would be a capital offense, ITAR- TASS reported on 11 April. Askar Mameyev, chairman of the government commission on drugs, said he estimates that 15- 20 tons of narcotics transited Kyrgyzstan in 1996. He added that 10% of crime in Kyrgyzstan is drug-related. Compared with its neighbors, Kyrgyzstan has lenient laws on drug possession and use. KAZAK URANIUM EXPORTS. Viktor Yazikov, head of the Kazak National Company for Atomic Energy and Industry, says that from 1993 to 1996, Kazakstan exported 7,000 tons of uranium, Interfax reported on 11 April. Almost half (3,000 tons) went to the U.S. Yazikov said that in the first half of this year, Kazakstan will ship another 540 tons to the U.S. Interfax did not specify where the rest of the uranium was shipped. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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