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Vol 1, No. 24, Part I, 5 May 1997
Vol 1, No. 24, Part I, 5 May 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 * RADUEV ADMITS TO NORTH CAUCASUS BOMBINGS * OFFICIALS SAY PROGRESS MADE ON RUSSIAN-NATO CHARTER * VIOLENT CONFRONTATION IN TAJIKISTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RADUEV ADMITS TO NORTH CAUCASUS BOMBINGS. Chechen maverick field commander Salman Raduev says he ordered last month's bomb explosions in Armavir and Pyatigorsk, which killed a total of five people, Western agencies reported yesterday. Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev the same day distanced himself from Chechen officials' claims that Russian police falsely identified two Chechen women arrested in connection with the Pyatigorsk bomb. Raduev also threatened to use chemical weapons in retaliation if the two women were harmed. The Russian Security Council discussed Chechnya yesterday but failed to set a date for a meeting between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Chechen counterpart, Aslan Maskhadov. Spokesman Kazbek Khadzhiev told Interfax that Maskhadov plans a radical reorganization of the Chechen Interior Ministry to combat widespread crime more effectively. OFFICIALS SAY PROGRESS MADE ON RUSSIAN-NATO CHARTER. U.S. officials say Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov made significant progress on negotiating a Russian-NATO charter during unscheduled talks on 2 May, Reuters reported. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns gave no details. The U.S. cannot negotiate on NATO's behalf. According to The Washington Post, Russia has dropped its demand that the charter set collective limits on NATO troops and equipment. Instead, it has been proposed that individual country limits on conventional weapons be agreed through separate negotiations on modifying the 1990 CFE agreement. Primakov is to hold another round of talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana tomorrow. Russia still wants a charter that prohibits NATO from deploying nuclear weapons or building military infrastructure in new member states. Western officials, however, have refused to meet that demand. YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION. President Yeltsin on 2 May signed a law on the procedure for storing, transporting, and destroying chemical weapons, Russian news agencies reported. The law does not set a deadline for destroying Russia's chemical weapons arsenal of about 40,000 tons. On 25 April, the State Duma passed the law and postponed ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, citing a lack of funds (see RFE/RL Newsline, 28 April 1997). FRENCH REPORT SAYS RUSSIA STOCKPILING NUKES. A French Defense Ministry report says Russia does not know the exact number of weapons in its nuclear arsenal and is not destroying as many warheads as it should, Reuters and dpa reported on 2 May. The report estimated that Russia has some 6,650 long-range nuclear weapons and between 18,000 and 20,000 tactical nuclear weapons, which is far larger than the U.S. tactical weapons stockpile. It suggested that Russian authorities do not know how many warheads have been brought to Russia from former Soviet republics. The report also said that because of funding shortages, many Russian warheads have not been dismantled but have been made temporarily inoperative. Last week, Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov said Russia has dismantled nearly half of its nuclear warheads, in accordance with international agreements (see RFE/RL Newsline, 28 April 1997). PRIMAKOV ON RELATIONS WITH IRAN. Foreign Minister Primakov has assured his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Velayati, that Russia's "strategic relations" with Iran will remain unaffected by the German court verdict implicating Iranian leaders in the 1992 killings in Berlin of four Kurdish dissidents, Western agencies reported. EU member countries have since suspended ministerial contacts with Iran. Velayati has expressed "satisfaction" over the state of bilateral relations, according to ITAR-TASS. LEBED SAYS LUZHKOV ONLY PRESIDENTIAL RIVAL. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed says Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov will be his only real rival in the next presidential election, Interfax reported on 3 May. Lebed said he respected First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov but did not consider him a serious contender. He argued that Nemtsov has "no one to rely on" in the government and will lose popularity once planned reforms in housing and municipal services take effect (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 April 1997). Luzhkov was one of the most vocal critics of the peace agreement Lebed negotiated in Chechnya last August, calling it "a bomb under the Russian Constitution." Over the last several days, Luzhkov has denounced plans to raise charges for rent and municipal services. He has also vowed that the Moscow city government will not carry out the government's housing reform program. YELTSIN REJECTS AMENDMENT TO TAX LAW. Yeltsin has vetoed an amendment to the 1991 law on the fundamentals of the Russian tax system, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 May. The amendment would have exempted budget-financed organizations from fines for not paying taxes if they had not received enough funds to pay wages. The Duma and Federation Council passed the amendment last month. The State Statistics Committee announced recently that state- funded organizations owed their employees 11 trillion rubles ($2 billion) in back wages as of 14 April, Interfax reported. The committee said total wage arrears in Russia reached 52 trillion rubles ($9 billion) in mid-April. ROMANOV TREASURES BOUND FOR HOUSTON. A moving van carrying priceless jewels and other artifacts from the Romanov dynasty has left for Houston, Texas, Reuters reported on 2 May. Former Congressman James Symington, the chairman of the U.S.-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation, said he hoped Russia would eventually agree to let the exhibits be shown in Memphis, Tennessee, and San Diego, California. The artifacts were originally scheduled to be shown in four U.S. cities, but Russian officials demanded their immediate return after the first exhibition ended in Washington. Under a compromise agreement reached last week, the artifacts are to be returned to Russia after being shown in Houston. However, Mikhail Gusman, one of the Russian organizers of the tour, told Reuters that further negotiations are possible. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN PRESIDENT IN ARMENIA. Eduard Shevardnadze and his Armenian counterpart, Levon Ter- Petrossyan, have affirmed their readiness to broaden bilateral cooperation and to support multilateral regional cooperation in implementing the TRASECA "Silk Road" project. Shevardnadze was in Yerevan on 2 and 3 May for talks with Armenian officials. In a joint communique, the two presidents also affirmed support for cooperation within the CIS and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. The communique, however, did not mention the 200,000-strong Armenian minority in southern Georgia, which is lobbying for autonomy. Shevardnadze had told RFE/RL's Armenian service on 1 May that Georgia's relations with Armenia are "excellent." Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 3 May that Shevardnadze, who will be 70 next January, intends to run for president in 2000. ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY TRIED TO POSTPONE RATIFICATION OF TREATY ON MILITARY BASE. RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 2 May that the Armenian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the parliament last month arguing that ratification of the 1995 treaty on a Russian military base in Armenia should be delayed. The letter, published in Molorak , argues that Armenian security would be at risk if the treaty were ratified before the conclusion of the ongoing Vienna talks on modifying the CFE flank limitations, which specify how much military hardware Russia can deploy in the Caucasus. Although some deputies voiced reservations, the treaty was ratified by an overwhelming majority on 29 April. IMF CONFIRMS NEW LOAN TO AZERBAIJAN, SETS CONDITIONS FOR ARMENIA. IMF executive Tapio Saavolainen has confirmed the fund's December 1996 decision to lend Azerbaijan $230 million in 1997-1998 to underpin economic reform, AFP and Interfax reported. Saavolainen, who was in Baku on 2 May to meet with President Heidar Aliev, praised Azerbaijan's cooperation with the IMF. Meanwhile, an IMF delegation began talks in Yerevan on 1 May on conditions for disbursing the third tranche of a 1996 credit worth $150 million. Disbursement is contingent on improvements in tax collection and the reduction of Armenia's $580 million foreign debt. COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL ON AZERBAIJAN'S MEMBERSHIP CHANCES. Leni Fischer, the chairwoman of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, says swift progress toward a settlement of the Karabakh conflict will facilitate the entry of both Azerbaijan and Armenia into the council, Reuters and Turan reported on 1 May. Fischer was speaking to Azerbaijani officials in Baku last week. She said a final decision on Azerbaijan's application for full membership will be made following a visit to Azerbaijan by a CE delegation of experts. Fischer met with Milli Mejlis chairman Murtuz Alesqerov, President Heidar Aliev, and Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov. VIOLENT CONFRONTATION IN TAJIKISTAN OVER INVESTIGATION INTO PRESIDENTIAL ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Five people died yesterday in a violent confrontation when forces from the Interior and Security Ministries tried to arrest a gang in connection with the 30 April assassination attempt on President Imomali Rakhmonov in the northern city of Khujand, ITAR-TASS reported. The gang was offered the chance to surrender but declined. Three were killed in the shootout that followed, while one blew himself up with a grenade and the leader shot himself. RFE/RL correspondents in the area report that 10 people were wounded in the fighting. Two people were taken into custody immediately following the attack, and another 10 were arrested on 3 May. ITALIAN PRESIDENT IN CENTRAL ASIA. Luigi Scalfaro and his Kazak counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, met in Almaty today and signed a friendship and cooperation agreement, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Nazarbayev noted that trade with Italy totaled nearly $240 million in 1996. On 2 May, Scalfaro met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and leaders of the Uzbek business community in Tashkent, Russian media reported. Agreements were signed on cooperation in economics, trade, culture, and tourism. Trade between the two countries has grown from $45 million in 1993 to $142 million in 1996. MUD SLIDES DAMAGE HOMES IN KYRGYZSTAN. Heavy rains and accompanying mud slides have damaged more than 700 homes in southern Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported today. The area most affected was outside the city of Uzgen. Emergency measures are being taken to resettle those left homeless. Meanwhile, the rains threaten to spread typhoid in Tajikistan. An outbreak last year was never fully checked, and the country's water network is likely to be recontaminated. UZBEKISTAN HAS LOWEST CRIME RATE IN CIS. The Interior Ministry has released figures showing that Uzbekistan has the lowest crime rate in the CIS, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 May. In 1996, there were 29 crimes per 10,000 people, compared with 97 per 10,000 in neighboring Kazakstan. Russia topped the list with 175 per 10,000 people. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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