As courage endagers life even so fear preserves it. - Leonardo Da Vinci
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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/

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Headlines, Part I

* ANNIVERSARY OF DUDAEV'S DEATH PASSES PEACEFULLY

* CAUTIOUS REACTION TO STANKEVICH'S ARREST

* ABKHAZ TALKS IN JEOPARDY?
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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.

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               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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