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Vol 1, No. 20, Part I, 28 April 1997
Vol 1, No. 20, Part I, 28 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 * DUMA POSTPONES RATIFICATION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS TREATY * CHUBAIS DEMANDS ECONOMIC COMPENSATION FOR NATO EXPANSION * RENEWED CONCERNS ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA POSTPONES RATIFICATION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS TREATY. The State Duma on 25 April voted to postpone ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, citing difficult economic conditions. But in a unanimously adopted appeal to signatories to the convention, the Duma said Russia intends to ratify the treaty this fall if "necessary conditions are met." The appeal asked that Russia not be excluded from the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is scheduled on 6 May to elect an executive council to oversee enforcement of the treaty. Only countries that have ratified the treaty by 29 April will be eligible for the council. The cost of destroying Russia's stockpile of about 40,000 tons of chemical weapons is estimated at $5 billion. Also on 25 April, the Duma overrode the Federation Council's rejection of a law outlining how, but not when, Russia will destroy its chemical weapons, Reuters reported. OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIA HAS DISMANTLED HALF OF NUCLEAR ARSENAL. Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov says Russia has dismantled nearly half of its nuclear arsenal in accordance with international agreements, Interfax reported yesterday. Mikhailov did not specify how many warheads have been dismantled but said that about 400 tons of highly enriched uranium have been removed from warheads. He added that last year, Russia sold 12 tons of weapons-grade uranium to the U.S., where it is processed into fuel for nuclear power stations. Russia will sell 132 tons of highly enriched uranium to the U.S. over the next four years and eventually a total of 500 tons. Mikhailov also said his ministry hopes to achieve a 20% increase in its exports by selling more uranium abroad and building nuclear power plants in Iran, China, and India. In 1996, the ministry's exports totaled $2 billion. CHUBAIS DEMANDS ECONOMIC COMPENSATION FOR NATO EXPANSION. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais says Russia should be granted membership in international economic institutions as compensation for the "political damage" it will suffer because of NATO expansion, Interfax reported yesterday. Speaking to reporters en route by plane to Washington, where he will attend the spring meetings of the World Bank and the IMF, Chubais characterized NATO expansion as a "pointless and dangerous" attempt to isolate Russia "from the civilized world." To prevent Russia's isolation, he argued, it should be granted admission to the G-7 group of nations and the World Trade Organization. After meeting yesterday with finance ministers and central bank officials from the G-7 countries, Chubais said Russia is seeking entrance into the Paris Club of government creditors this year and the WTO by the end of 1998, Reuters reported. NO SOFTENING OF RUSSIAN POSITION ON NATO CHARTER. NATO diplomats say "very little progress" has been made on the military points of a charter between Russia and NATO, AFP reported on 25 April. The latest proposals submitted by Russian negotiators still insist that NATO pledge not to deploy nuclear weapons or build military infrastructures on the territory of new member states. NATO officials have refused to give such a guarantee. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright are to hold talks this week with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov in Moscow. YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE ON CASPIAN PIPELINE CONSORTIUM. President Boris Yeltsin on 25 April signed a decree formalizing the December 1996 agreement on the division of equity shares in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, Russian agencies reported. Under that agreement, the Russian, Kazak, and Omani governments have a 50% stake in the project and the other 50 % is divided between Russian, U.S., British, Italian, and Kazak companies. The consortium will finance construction of a $4.3 billion pipeline with an annual throughput capacity of 67 million metric tons from Kazakstan's Tengiz oil field to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. Yeltsin's decree provides tax concessions for the closed joint-stock company, Caspian Pipeline Consortium- Russia. CHERNOMYRDIN APPOINTS NEW HEAD OF ROSNEFT. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 26 April appointed former Industry Minister Yurii Bespalov to head the Rosneft oil company, AP reported quoting Interfax. Bespalov replaces Aleksandr Putilov, who recently resigned in connection with an unspecified new appointment. Rosneft owns a 7.5% stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. GOVERNMENT AGREES ON BUDGET CUTS, TAX CODE. The government has approved Finance Ministry proposals to cut non-essential budget spending because of revenue shortfalls, Russian news agencies reported on 25 April. Chernomyrdin said the government was ready to work with Duma deputies to reach compromises on the spending cuts. The same day, the government agreed on a new draft tax code, which ministers said will be presented to the Duma by 30 April. According to Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov, the new tax code will reduce and simplify tax rates for individuals, increase value-added tax, and reduce the number of tax breaks. Shatalov also said the government will propose amendments to the Criminal Code to increase penalties for tax evaders. DUMA DROPS APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. The Duma on 25 April voted to withdraw its appeal to the Constitutional Court against an October 1996 presidential decree outlining the structure and functions of the presidential administration, Interfax reported. Duma communist deputy Oleg Mironov, an author of the appeal, explained that Yeltsin amended the decree on 15 April, removing the disputed passages. Duma deputies had objected that the original decree declared the presidential administration a branch of state authority with powers of its own and granted the president's chief of staff responsibilities that the constitution assigns to the president, government, and parliament. FORMER MINISTER AND HAWK ON CHECHNYA DIES. Long-time Yeltsin associate Nikolai Yegorov has died aged 45 following an unspecified long illness, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 April. As minister for nationalities and regional policy from May 1994 to June 1995, Yegorov was considered among the most influential members of the government's "party of war," which supported sending Russian troops to Chechnya. He was sacked by Yeltsin after a bloody hostage crisis in the southern Russian city of Budennovsk but was brought back as head of the presidential administration in January 1996. Last July, he was replaced as chief of staff by Anatolii Chubais and reappointed governor of Krasnodar Krai, the post he held before moving to Moscow in 1994. However, Communist candidate Nikolai Kondratenko defeated Yegorov in the Krasnodar gubernatorial election last December. CONFUSION OVER CHECHEN LINK TO ARMAVIR BOMBING. ITAR-TASS on 25 April quoted Chechen maverick field commander Salman Raduev as claiming responsibility for the bomb explosion in Armavir two days earlier, which killed three people, and threatening further attacks. Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov dismissed his claim, arguing that Raduev "is a medical problem and his statement should not be taken seriously." The following day, Chechen First Deputy Premier Movladi Udugov described the report as a "provocation" and suggested it was a hoax. Udugov said that no Chechen would deliberately disrupt the ongoing talks on a political settlement between Russia and Chechnya, Interfax reported. MASKHADOV ASSESSES TIES WITH MIDDLE EAST. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov says he has reached "agreement" with Arab leaders on cooperation, Russian agencies reported. He was speaking to Chechen TV on 26 April, one day after returning from his pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. But his spokesman, Kazbek Khadzhiev, denied that Maskhadov raised the issue of "financial, economic, or any other assistance" in his talks with Muslim leaders. Also on 26 April, the Chechen Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the Russian Foreign Ministry's warning of retaliatory measures against countries that establish diplomatic relations with Chechnya was "ill-timed and tactless." In Moscow, Maskhadov's representative Ruslan Kutayev met with Vladimir Zorin, the chairman of the State Duma Committee for Nationalities, to discuss the hiatus in the ongoing Russian- Chechen peace talks. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA RENEWED CONCERNS ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov says that in the last two weeks, fighting in Afghanistan has resulted in 100,000 refugees fleeing to areas near the Tajik border, Russian media reported. Rakhmonov was taking part in talks in Dushanbe on 26 April about the situation along the Tajik-Afghan border. Gen. Andrei Nikolayev, director of the Russian Federal Border Service, also participated in the discussions along with representatives from Kazakstan. The Tajik president said that some of the refugees near the Tajik border are members of armed Afghan groups. Meanwhile, CIS border guards say they have noticed an increase in attempts to cross the Afghan frontier recently. Gunfire was exchanged on 25 April when a group tried to cross near the Kalai-Khumb border post. Three members of the group were killed. The following day, another group crossing near Kalai-Khumb was shot dead, while guards at Pyanj killed 3 more people attempting to flee Afghanistan. SOROS PROTESTS MEDIA ATTACK ON KYRGYZ FOUNDATION. U.S. philanthropist George Soros sent a letter last week to Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev expressing concern over recent criticism in the Kyrgyz press of the Bishkek-based Soros Foundation, according to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service, which has obtained a copy of the letter. Soros defended the work of his foundation, saying it supports "activities in education, culture pluralistic mass media, civil society, and economic reform." Several state newspapers published articles earlier this month questioning foundation director Chinara Jakipova's use of funds and questioning Soros's choice of Jakipova as head of the foundation. Soros said that he resisted "any attempt by authorities to select the leadership of the foundation" and that he hoped "these accusations have not been initiated by any official government bodies." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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