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Vol 1, No. 22, Part I, 30 April 1997
Vol 1, No. 22, Part I, 30 April 1997 NOTE TO OUR READERS: Newsline will not appear tomorrow, 1 May, a national holiday in the Czech Republic. 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 * KULIKOV ACCUSES CHECHENS OF PYATIGORSK BOMBING * CHUBAIS PRAISES TOUGH STAND ON NATO * ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON TAJIK PRESIDENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA KULIKOV ACCUSES CHECHENS OF PYATIGORSK BOMBING... Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov told journalists in Moscow yesterday that two Chechen women have confessed to planting the bomb that killed two people in Pyatigorsk on 28 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kulikov said that the two women were wanted in connection with the 1995 Budennovsk hostage-taking crisis. Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov denied any Chechen involvement in the bomb attacks in Pyatigorsk and in Armavir last week. He said that ongoing peace talks with Russia should be suspended until Kulikov apologized. Arsanov suggested that Kulikov had organized the Pyatigorsk bombing to sabotage the peace process, according to Interfax. Kulikov has repeatedly said that Chechens are planning new terrorist attacks but those attacks have, in fact, never happened. Maverick field commander Salman Raduev, who ITAR-TASS claimed had engineered the Armavir bomb, also denied responsibility for either attack. ... BUT BOTH SIDES PLEDGE TO CONTINUE PEACE TALKS. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov later contradicted Arsanov and said that the peace talks will continue. He made the announcement after a telephone conversation with Deputy Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii. Berezovskii cast doubt on Kulikov's allegations, which he termed "irresponsible." Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said he doubted that Chechens were responsible for the Armavir and Pyatigorsk bombs. Speaking in Bratislava, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin reaffirmed Russia's commitment to the Chechen peace process but condemned the Pyatigorsk bombing as "vandalism," Reuters reported. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told journalists in Moscow that "we cannot support, encourage, and finance those who use such barbaric methods," ITAR-TASS reported. CHUBAIS PRAISES TOUGH STAND ON NATO. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais says Russia's tough stand against NATO expansion has made the U.S. more willing to help Russia gain entry to the Paris Club of government creditors and the World Trade Organization, Interfax reported. Chubais was speaking to journalists yesterday after meeting with U.S. Vice President Al Gore in Washington. He warned that if a Russia-NATO charter is not signed in May, "extremist" sentiments in Russia would rise. But he said that during the next few weeks, Washington could do much to ensure that U.S.-Russian relations will "not be undermined in the long- term." Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov is to meet with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott today and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tomorrow. KREMLIN CRITICIZES DUMA FOR NOT RATIFYING CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION. President Boris Yeltsin has expressed concern about the State Duma's failure to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday, citing presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Yeltsin slammed the Duma for wasting time on non-binding resolutions and said deputies have put Russia in a difficult position by not ratifying the treaty. In voting to delay ratification last week, Duma deputies argued that Russia currently lacks the funds to comply with the treaty's provisions on destroying chemical weapons. Lev Fedorov, leader of the environmental group For Chemical Security, told ITAR-TASS yesterday that Russia is not ready to ratify the treaty. He noted that Russia has no program or federal law on destroying its stockpile of some 40,000 tons of chemical weapons. NEMTSOV SAYS YELTSIN HAS GUARANTEED HIM TWO YEARS IN GOVERNMENT. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says Yeltsin has promised not to remove him from the government for at least two years. In an interview with today's Komsomolskaya pravda, Nemtsov said his reform efforts will take time to achieve results and noted that he faces stiff opposition from the "elderly" in the bureaucracy. Asked whether he had "lost the first round" in his effort to restructure the gas monopoly Gazprom, Nemtsov said, "It's not a boxing match. I think we found the golden mean." He argued that the government will strengthen its management role, while Gazprom will remain the most powerful company in Russia. However, he said he was disappointed that the Duma had not ordered audits of monopolies that have a large volume of foreign trade to find out where their "gigantic positive trade balance" is going. COMMUNISTS TO LAUNCH ANTI-YELTSIN PETITION DRIVE. Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov says that at the 1 May demonstrations, his party will begin collecting signatures demanding Yeltsin's resignation, Interfax reported yesterday. The petition drive was endorsed by the recent KPRF congress, at which delegates decided to pursue primarily "non-parliamentary methods of struggle" against the regime. Meanwhile, Igor Malyarov, the head of the Communist Youth League (Komsomol), yesterday criticized Zyuganov and the KPRF leadership for being too willing to compromise with the authorities, ITAR-TASS reported. Malyarov said the Komsomol has 21,000 members, who are generally more radical than KPRF leaders. BANKS TO LEND MONEY FOR ALPHA SPACE PROJECT. Russian Space Agency director Yurii Koptev says four Russian banks will lend his agency 800 billion rubles ($140 million) to fund further construction of the Alpha space station, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. He said that 24 banks have sought to participate in the project and that the Finance Ministry had chosen the Eurofinances Bank, the International Industrial Bank, the Moscow National Bank, and Sobinbank. Russian funding problems have delayed launching parts of the Alpha station, a project involving Russia, the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Japan (see RFE/RL Newsline, 14 April 1997). ENVIRONMENTALISTS FILE SUIT OVER KRASNOYARSK NUCLEAR REFERENDUM. Environmentalists seeking to halt construction of a nuclear waste-processing plant in Krasnoyarsk Krai have asked a court to decide whether a referendum on the matter should be held, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday, citing representatives of the Moscow branch of Greenpeace. Last week, the Krasnoyarsk legislature decided not to call a referendum, although the initiative group supporting the measure had gathered enough signatures (see RFE/RL Newsline, 24 April 1997). SUSPECT ARRESTED IN ARMS DEPOT FIRE. Military procurators in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast have arrested an unnamed private suspected of accidentally causing a recent arms depot fire in Bira, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. Officials said the private had been smoking carelessly while on duty. Earlier this week, some officials suggested that a forest fire had spread to the depot, but Military Procurator Aleksandr Fedotov said yesterday that there had been no forest fire in the vicinity. The arms depot blaze halted traffic on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and fragments of exploding shells were scattered several miles. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON TAJIK PRESIDENT. A grenade was thrown today at Imomali Rakhmonov in the northern Tajik city of Khujand, RFE/RL's Tajik service reported. At the time, Rakhmonov was walking to a local theater to give a speech marking the 65th anniversary of the city's university. Rakhmonov was wounded in the leg, but his condition is described as not "life-threatening." Two people are reported dead and up to injured, Russian Public TV reported. Authorities have taken two people into custody in connection with the attack. GEORGIAN FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS. Davit Yakobidze, who came under severe criticism last fall for alleged incompetence, submitted his resignation to President Eduard Shevardnadze on 28 April, Interfax reported. Yakobidze has been targeted by the head of the parliamentary anti-corruption commission. Shevardnadze has appointed Mikhail Chkuaseli, prefect of Guria and an economist, to replace Yakobidze. NEW PRIME MINISTER APPOINTED IN ABKHAZIA. Sergei Bagapsh, a former first secretary of the Abkhaz Komsomol and most recently a permanent representative of the Abkhaz leadership in Moscow, has been appointed Abkhaz prime minister, Interfax and BS-Press reported yesterday. Bagapsh replaces Gennadii Gulua, who resigned for health reasons on 24 April. Bagapsh is a native of Ochamchire Raion, where support for Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba is plummetting. ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES TREATY ON RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE. The Armenian parliament voted yesterday to ratify the March 1995 treaty permitting Russia to maintain a military base in Armenia for a 25-year period, Russian agencies reported. The vote was 118 to four with seven abstentions. The Russian State Duma ratified the treaty on 18 April. ARMENIAN EX-PREMIER TO FOUND NEW POLITICAL PARTY. Former Armenian Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan told the first issue of the Armenian newspaper Menk that he will head a new political party named Azatutyun [Freedom], RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported yesterday. The founding congress of the party is scheduled for 29 May. Bagratyan said the party "will have a modern liberal ideology" and will represent the interests of property owners and producers. TURKMENISTAN PLANS NEW OIL CONSORTIUM. President Saparmurat Niyazov and Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Recai Kutan met yesterday and announced that a new consortium will be formed to attract investments for the construction of pipelines, Interfax reported. The goal is the construction of a Turkmenistan-Turkey-Western Europe pipeline. Financing of the project will be discussed at the next meeting of the 10-member Economic Cooperation Organization, scheduled to start in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 12 May. RYBKIN CALLS FOR NEW RUSSIAN NATIONAL SECURITY CONCEPT by Liz Fuller In 4,700-word article published in yesterday's Nezavisimaya gazeta , Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin suggested that Russia does not exclude the first use of nuclear weapons to repel aggression. Rybkin stressed the need for a new national security policy for Russia and argued that one of the leadership's top priorities is to draft a comprehensive document defining strategies to counter international, military-political, and economic threats to Russian security. He said it would have been premature to draw up such a document earlier--that is, before "democratic statehood" and "constitutional order" had taken root in Russia. Last year, President Boris Yeltsin had called for such a concept to serve as the "backbone" for state security policy in all spheres. Rybkin said that Russia's security system should be tailored to meet the present complicated requirements of the international situation. He noted that Russia's economic capacities (which, he admitted, are "anything but unlimited") and the relative readiness of the country's population to accept change should also be taken into account, but he did not specify what sort of change he had in mind. Rybkin noted that a new security concept would provide "the ideological basis for the entire process of state building and policy-making" and would enumerate national priorities both for the present and the medium term. As such, Rybkin said, the document would serve "to fill the ideological vacuum of recent years." Awareness of the "true threats" to national security would help every Russian citizen "adopt the correct attitude" and "determine his civic position," he commented. Rybkin defined national security as constituting not merely preservation of the state, its sovereignty, and its territorial integrity but also as creating conditions in which its citizens can live with dignity and maintain their national culture, spiritual values, and civic rights. Rybkin suggested that territorial separatism poses no less a threat to Russian security than does the country's economic crisis. He said that relations between the federal center and the regions must be based on the immutability of the Russian Constitution and that problems should be resolved on the basis of broad dialogue and the maximum harmonization of federal and regional legislation. Economic stabilization, Rybkin argued, is a precondition for reforming the army and restructuring the military- industrial complex. It will also contribute, he continued, to preventing social unrest, tensions between Russia's constituent regions, and the growth of crime in society and the economic sphere. Rybkin advocated draconian measures to halt capital flight and the creation of conditions that would exclude political risks for investors in the event of a change of leadership. Rybkin's analysis of the dangers to Russian security focused on internal rather than external factors. He did not, for example, mention NATO by name. Discussing possible unspecified external threats to Russian security, Rybkin affirmed that "Russia does not threaten anyone and does not wish to do so. We want to live in peace with everyone." But he warned that Russia's response to aggression "would not exclude any category of weapon." The fact that an adversary could not be sure how Russia would counter an attack would serve as a deterrent, he commented. This argument is in line with Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's statement last December that Russia should maintain its strategic nuclear potential as a deterrent. Given Russia's geopolitical situation, Rybkin argued, its limited national resources should be focused on preparing to counter those regional conflicts that pose the most serious threat to national interests. He assessed the possibility of a "global threat" as remote. Russia's security system, Rybkin said, should be coordinated with international and regional systems, in particular the CIS Collective Security system. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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