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Vol 1, No. 16, Part I, 22 April 1997
Vol 1, No. 16, Part I, 22 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 * ANNIVERSARY OF DUDAEV'S DEATH PASSES PEACEFULLY * CAUTIOUS REACTION TO STANKEVICH'S ARREST * ABKHAZ TALKS IN JEOPARDY? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA ANNIVERSARY OF DUDAEV'S DEATH PASSES PEACEFULLY. The first anniversary of the killing of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev passed uneventfully in Chechnya, despite warnings of possible terrorist attacks both there and elsewhere in the Russian Federation, Russian and Western agencies reported. Up to 200,000 Chechens attended a memorial ceremony at the site of Dudaev's death. Meanwhile, a bomb exploded in the early morning in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, but no one was injured. CAUTIOUS REACTION TO STANKEVICH'S ARREST. Few prominent Russian politicians are willing to comment on the recent arrest of former presidential adviser Sergei Stankevich in Warsaw, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. Stankevich is accused of taking a $10,000 bribe from a British company in 1992. Izvestiya argues today that the authorities are seeking to make an example of Stankevich, who "can hardly be considered the biggest Russian criminal." State Duma deputy Vladimir Semago of the Communist Party told RFE/RL yesterday that Stankevich is accused of accepting a "laughable" sum of money. Semago noted that earlier this month, Russia's procurator-general closed the case on a presidential campaign scandal involving $500,000 (see RFE/RL Newsline, 8 April 1997). Meanwhile, a Polish court spokesman told Reuters yesterday that the process of extraditing Stankevich to Russia could take months. GAZPROM SAYS ITS DEBTORS OWE $12 BILLION. Representatives of the gas monopoly Gazprom say the company is owed 69.5 trillion rubles ($12.1 billion) by delinquent domestic clients, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Among the main debtors are Moscow's power stations, which owe the company a total of 6.8 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion). The figures released yesterday did not provide revenue or debt figures from Gazprom's large exports. The gas monopoly has increasingly come under pressure to pay its $2.5 billion debt to the government. Last week, chairman Rem Vyakhirev promised that the company will pay $1.2 billion to the federal budget by 10 June. NEMTSOV SAYS REGIONS MUST REFORM SOCIAL POLICY TO RECEIVE GOVERNMENT AID. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says only Russian regions that implement reforms in housing policy and municipal services will be eligible for federal support, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. Speaking in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Nemtsov said Yeltsin will soon issue a decree outlining a program for housing and municipal services reform, along with documents establishing unified standards for services. He said that control over the prices set by monopolies in the energy sector will lower the costs of municipal services. The government's critics maintain that the reform will push up rents and utility charges for most citizens. Only about 10 of Russia's 89 regions are net contributors to the federal budget. OFFICIAL DENIES REPORT OF NUCLEAR WARHEAD THEFT. Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Nikolai Yegorov has denied claims that workmen stole two nuclear warheads from a Urals weapons factory in 1993. Yegorov told Reuters yesterday he had "never heard anything more idiotic." Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 20 April quoted Russian disarmament expert Vladimir Orlov as saying two drunken workers once stole two warheads from a Urals weapons factory on a bet and stored them in a garage, where they were recovered by the authorities. Western experts have cast doubt on the story. The largest documented theft of weapons-grade nuclear material occurred in 1994, when German police seized 363 grams of plutonium-239 from couriers on a flight from Moscow to Munich. IMF MISSION IN MOSCOW. Representatives from the IMF have arrived in Moscow for a final week of negotiations with government officials on Russia's economic program for 1997, Interfax reported yesterday. The IMF's board of directors must approve the plan before deciding whether to disburse the next installment of the fund's three-year $10 billion loan to Russia. Both sides say they are close to agreement. The IMF has not paid out any money to Russia since January, citing the government's poor tax collection record. Yesterday, ITAR-TASS reported that federal tax revenues rose sharply during the first half of April, reaching 84% of government targets. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais announced last week that tax collection during the first quarter of 1997 was only 39% of government targets. NEWSPAPER EDITORS APPEAL TO YELTSIN FOR HELP. Chief editors of more than a dozen publications have asked President Boris Yeltsin to intervene to prevent shareholders from forcing Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda to change their political lines. The open letter, published in today's Izvestiya, notes that Yeltsin promised in a recent radio address not to allow censorship to return to Russia. Unlike most Moscow-based newspapers, which reach few readers outside the capital, Komsomolskaya pravda and Izvestiya, whose circulations are 1.5 million and 630,000 respectively, are distributed in many regions. Meanwhile, today's edition of Komsomolskaya pravda includes a sharp attack on "nomenklatura capitalism" in Russia. The article ridicules Yeltsin's recent promises to crack down on corruption, Chubais's promises to balance the budget, and Nemtsov's claims that the natural monopolies are to blame for persistent wage and pension arrears. CHAIRMAN OF RUSSIAN HOCKEY FEDERATION MURDERED. Valentin Sych was killed today near Moscow when his car was sprayed with automatic gun fire from a passing vehicle, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported. Sych's wife, who was traveling with him in the car, was wounded. Sych had recently spoken out against growing organized crime in Russian sports. He had claimed that players and managers were pressured to intentionally lose games and that strong- arm tactics were used to take over sports clubs and organizations. IRKUTSK GOVERNOR RESIGNS. Yurii Nozhikov has announced his resignation as governor of Irkutsk Oblast, citing "the deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the region," ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Nozhikov was appointed by Yeltsin to the post in 1991 and won a gubernatorial election held in spring 1994. Last week, he sent his own economic proposals to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, and the leaders of other regions in Siberia. Among other things, Nozhikov called for lowering energy and transportation tariffs, paying government debts, granting tax breaks to enterprises to boost production, and enacting a policy of "reasonable protectionism," Delovoi mir reported on 17 April. COMMUNIST WINS DUMA SEAT IN STAVROPOL. Communist candidate Vasilii Khmyrov won a 20 April by- election for a State Duma seat in Stavropol Krai, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. Khmyrov, a deputy chairman of a livestock farming enterprise, won about 35% of the vote in the largely rural district. His nearest competitor won just over 13%. Khmyrov replaces former Duma deputy Aleksandr Chernogorov, also a Communist, who was elected governor of Stavropol last November. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ABKHAZ TALKS IN JEOPARDY? In his weekly radio broadcast yesterday, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze called for the immediate resumption of both bilateral and multilateral talks on a political solution to the Abkhaz conflict, Interfax reported. But Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba told a press conference in Sukhumi yesterday that he will not agree to further talks unless Abkhazia's international telecommunication links are again routed via Russia. Russian engineers re-routed those links via Georgia last week at Tbilisi's request. Ardzinba also said that Abkhazia might reject any further Russian mediation and would consider requesting support from Chechnya and other North Caucasian republics if fighting resumes. ARMENIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT THIRD TERM IN OFFICE. Levon Ter-Petrossyan said yesterday that he will not stand for president in 2001 even if the Armenian Constitution is amended to permit him to run for a third term. He reaffirmed his commitment to political reconciliation and said he would consider meeting with representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsyutyun if invited to do so, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ter- Petrossyan outlawed the party's activities in 1994. KYRGYZ PRESIDENT IN YEREVAN. Askar Akayev was in Yerevan yesterday for a one-day official visit, ITAR-TASS reported. He visited the Yerevan monument to the victims of the 1915 genocide, according to Armenpress. He is the first Turkic head of state to make such a visit. Armenian and Kyrgyz ministers signed intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in transport, tourism, science, education, and culture. Armenian President Ter-Petrossyan told journalists that Armenian-Kyrgyz relations are "cloudless," and he expressed the hope that the three Transcaucasian states could emulate Central Asian cooperation. He added, however, that ties with Russia are of "priority importance" for Armenia. GOVERNMENT CHANGES IN KYRGYZSTAN. Bekbolot Talgarbekov, deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture, has been dismissed by presidential decree, an RFE/RL correspondent reported yesterday. For several months, Kyrgyz deputies had been demanding Talgarbekov's exclusion from any political post, citing "lax financial discipline." But President Akayev has appointed him head of the southern Jalal-Abad Oblast. Talgarbekov is replaced by Karimsher Abdimomunov, who until now filled the agriculture portfolio. Jumakadyr Akineyev, head of the State Statistical Committee, is the new agriculture minister. LARGER ROLE FOR UN IN TAJIKISTAN? UN special envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem says there is a possibility that the UN will enlarge its contingent of military observers in Tajikistan and may even send UN peacekeeping troops there, Interfax reported. Merrem, who met with President Imomali Rakhmonov in Dushanbe yesterday, said those issues will be on the agenda at a UN meeting in June. Preliminary contacts have already been made with the command of the CIS peacekeeping force currently in Tajikistan, he said. The cease fire in Tajikistan has now held for four months. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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