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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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/

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Headlines, Part I

* RADUEV ADMITS TO NORTH CAUCASUS BOMBINGS

* OFFICIALS SAY PROGRESS MADE ON RUSSIAN-NATO
CHARTER

* VIOLENT CONFRONTATION IN TAJIKISTAN

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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.



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