Logic, n. The act of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human understanding. - Ambrose Bierce
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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/

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Headlines, Part I

* DUMA POSTPONES RATIFICATION OF CHEMICAL
WEAPONS TREATY

* CHUBAIS DEMANDS ECONOMIC COMPENSATION FOR
NATO EXPANSION

* RENEWED CONCERNS ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER

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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."



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