|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
Vol 1, No. 14, Part I, 18 April 1997
Vol 1, No. 14, Part I, 18 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN UPBEAT ON RUSSIAN-NATO CHARTER * RUSSIA UNHAPPY ABOUT EU WARNING TO BELARUS * GEORGIAN WARLORD SAYS SHEVARDNADZE WITNESSED 1993 EXECUTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN UPBEAT ON RUSSIAN-NATO CHARTER. Following his meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Baden- Baden, President Boris Yeltsin told journalists yesterday that Russia will sign a charter with NATO leaders in Paris on 27 May. The announcement came as a surprise since only a few hours earlier, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii had said it was premature to suggest the charter would be signed next month. Kohl said Russia and NATO have agreed on 90% of the first four articles of the charter. However, he noted that the two sides still have considerable differences over the last article, which deals with the military facilities of new NATO members. Russia insists that NATO promise not to build military infrastructure in new member states, but Western officials say new members will not be offered "second- class status" in the alliance. YELTSIN MAKES GESTURE ON TROPHY ART ISSUE. At his meeting with Kohl yesterday, Yeltsin handed over some archival materials taken from Germany during World War II. The Russian leader gave back microfilmed archives of the Central Committee of the former East German ruling party, as well as 11 files from the archive of former German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, who signed the treaty establishing diplomatic relations with the USSR in 1922. According to ITAR-TASS, Yeltsin also gave Kohl an inventory of art works and other materials taken to the USSR at the end of the war as well as a list of property the Russian Orthodox Church wants Germany to return. RUSSIA UNHAPPY ABOUT EU WARNING TO BELARUS. The Russian Foreign Ministry says it regrets the tone of a recent EU statement calling on Belarus to undertake genuine political and economic reforms, Reuters reported. A statement issued by the ministry yesterday said the EU warning amounted to political interference in Belarus's internal affairs. Last week, the European Parliament accused Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of a dictatorial style of government and said it would not recognize a union treaty between Belarus and Russia until the Belarusian parliament was consulted on the issue. It also said that unless reforms were implemented in Belarus, the EU would block a planned trade and aid agreement with Minsk. FEDERATION COUNCIL FAVORS INTERNATIONAL STATUS FOR SEVASTOPOL. The Federation Council has asked Yeltsin to consider whether the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, where the Black Sea Fleet is based, might be governed jointly by Russia and Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. It also asked the president to insist that Ukraine recognize there are problems surrounding the legal status of Sevastopol. Last December, the upper house passed a resolution claiming Sevastopol as Russian territory, prompting protests from Kyiv. The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected the resolution, saying Moscow recognized that "Sevastopol and all of Crimea belong to Ukraine." Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who has frequently declared that Sevastopol "is and will remain Russian," was absent from yesterday's Federation Council session. He flew to the U.S. for several days of meetings with politicians and business leaders. CHUBAIS SAYS REGIONS WILL HAVE SAY IN DRAFTING BUDGET. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais says the government will seek input from regional governors and deputies when drafting the 1998 budget, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Chubais told reporters that the Finance Ministry is already working on next year's budget and that a government delegation will discuss budgetary issues with leaders of several Siberian regions in May. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev said that consulting regional leaders about the budget would prevent "stupidities such as passing a budget in order to cut it two months later." Yesterday, Chubais told Federation Council deputies that the 1997 budget would have to be substantially revised because of low revenues in the first quarter. DUMA SPEAKER ADVOCATES MONETARY EMISSION. Gennadii Seleznev says the government should issue an additional 20-30 trillion rubles ($3.5-5.2 billion) to pay wage and pension arrears, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. He said printing the extra money would not significantly affect the inflation rate. Economics Minister Yakov Urinson sharply criticized Seleznev's proposal, saying any unplanned monetary emission would spark inflation and would hurt "the most vulnerable layers of the population." SUPREME COURT AFFIRMS LEGITIMACY OF ELECTORAL LAW. The Supreme Court has ruled that electing half of the State Duma using a proportional representation system does not violate voters' constitutional rights, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the law on parliamentary elections, half of the 450 Duma deputies are chosen from party lists. Only electoral blocs that gain at least 5% of the vote can receive any party- list Duma seats. In the December 1995 Duma elections, the four parties that crossed the 5% threshold won only some 50% of the total party-list votes cast. Mikhail Martynyuk, who voted for an unsuccessful bloc in 1995, lodged the appeal, claiming that he had been denied his right to representation in parliament. In an apparent attempt to call the Duma's legitimacy into question, the presidential administration publicized Martynyuk's case and sent a legal representative to support him at the court hearings. KHLYSTUN ON CRISIS IN AGRICULTURE FUNDING. Agriculture Minister Viktor Khlystun has told the Federation Council that state funding for the agrarian sector in the first quarter of 1997 was only 11% of budgeted levels, or 300 billion rubles ($52 million), ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Some deputies in the upper house argued that regional funds should be created to support agriculture, as has been done in the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. IZVESTIYA SAYS MEDIA FACE CENSORSHIP ON SEVERAL FRONTS. Izvestiya says the Duma's recent attempt to limit TV coverage of parliamentary activities is part of a larger trend of diminishing press freedom in Russia. Journalist Stepan Kiselev argues in today's edition that deputies are taking their cue from officials in the government and presidential administration who, he said, have recently sought to punish newspapers for publishing criticism of leading politicians. Also in today's edition, several intellectuals and cultural figures published an appeal denouncing attempts to turn the paper "into an obedient mouthpiece for its new masters." This follows an Izvestiya commentary yesterday saying the oil company LUKoil is seeking to replace the paper's top journalists in violation of an earlier commitment not to interfere in the paper's editorial policy. LUKoil owns a 41% stake in Izvestiya. CONFERENCE IN MOSCOW ON COMBATING DRUG TRADE. At the end of a two-day conference in Moscow on combating the growing narcotics trade in the CIS, Russia has received small financial commitments from the world community, ITAR- TASS reported yesterday. While various international organizations and law enforcement agencies recognized that drug trafficking is a problem in Russia and other CIS states, the UN said it would not allow Russia to take part in its international drug-combating program, pointing to Russia's insufficient means and technology to tackle the problem. But both the UN and the U.S. pledged financial support to Russian drug-combating programs, while Germany has offered funds for police training. NAKHODKA MEDICS END HUNGER STRIKE. Seven medics working for an ambulance service in Nakhodka, Primorskii Krai, have ended an 11-day hunger strike after receiving their February wages, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. The medics are still owed several months of back pay, which the authorities have promised to pay soon. Meanwhile in Volgograd Oblast, more than 100 teachers blocked traffic on a major highway yesterday. The teachers have not received their salaries for five months and have not been paid other benefits for a year. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN WARLORD SAYS SHEVARDNADZE WITNESSED 1993 EXECUTIONS. Dzhaba Ioseliani, former head of the disbanded Mkhedrioni paramilitary force, says he was arrested in November 1995 because he had informed the Georgian parliament that he was present when Interior Minister Shota Kviraya executed five men in Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze's presence. Ioseliani said the executions were carried out in western Georgia in October 1993. The date and place suggests that the executed men were supporters of late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who launched an unsuccessful insurrection in fall 1993. Ioseliani has been charged with treason in connection with the failed car bomb attack on Shevardnadze in August 1995. He protests that his arrest was illegal because, as a deputy, he had parliamentary immunity. He added that there is no hard evidence to substantiate the charges against him. Ioseliani made the claims in a letter to Supreme Court chairman Mindia Ugrekhelidze, published in the Georgian press on 16 April. ABKHAZ PRESIDENT RULES OUT FURTHER TALKS WITH GEORGIA. Vladislav Ardzinba says the re-routing of all telephone communications from Russia to Abkhazia via Georgia was "a political act" that showed Russia is trying to force Abkhazia to agree to enter a federation with Georgia, AFP reported yesterday, quoting Interfax. Ardzinba ruled out further talks with Georgia on a political solution to the conflict, while Georgian presidential adviser Shalva Pichkhadze told Interfax that Georgia has exhausted almost "all areas of compromise" with Abkhazia. He hinted that Georgia could be forced to seek alternative mediators if the resolution adopted at the March CIS summit on broadening the mandate of the CIS peacekeepers in Abkhazia is not implemented. WORLD BANK LENDS KYRGYZSTAN $44 MILLION. The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) has approved a $44 million loan for Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported yesterday. The funds will be used to help reduce the budget deficit and will cover the cost of privatizing or closing down non-productive state enterprises. The loan is also intended to help maintain essential public services slated for privatization. It is repayable over 30 years with a10-year grace period. TAJIK TALKS OFF AGAIN. Talks between the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition have been called off again, RFE/RL's Tajik service reported yesterday. Discussions resumed on 16 April after breaking down the previous week but have now been postponed until 16 May. Both sides said they needed to consult with their leaderships before continuing the discussions. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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