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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 25, Part I, 6 May 1997


Vol 1, No. 25, Part I, 6 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

* YELTSIN, RYBKIN DISCUSS CHECHNYA

* GOVERNMENT SUBMITS BUDGET CUTS TO DUMA

* PRIMAKOV SAYS TALKS WITH SOLANA WILL BE
DECISIVE

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN, RYBKIN DISCUSS CHECHNYA. Russian President
Boris Yeltsin has instructed Russian Security Council
Secretary Ivan Rybkin to "speed up" the drafting of
documents on Russian-Chechen relations to be signed by
the Russian and Chechen presidents, Russian agencies
reported yesterday Yeltsin will specify the date and venue
of the signing once the documents are ready, according to
ITAR-TASS, citing Yeltsin's press secretary, Sergei
Yastrzhembskii. Yeltsin also approved the creation of a
Russian-Chechen commission to investigate last month's
bomb attacks in Armavir and Pyatigorsk. In addition, he
ordered all government and state structures to coordinate
their actions and statements on Chechnya with Rybkin,
Nezavisimaya gazeta reports today.

BEREZOVSKII DETAILS RUSSIAN-CHECHEN
AGREEMENTS. Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris
Berezovskii told NTV yesterday that the most important
document to be signed assesses the history of Russian-
Chechen relations and lays down the principles determining
relations between Grozny and Moscow. Other documents
govern relations between the federal center and the
Chechen government. All these agreements will be ratified
by the Russian and Chechen parliaments, he said.
Agreements on banking and oil are also to be signed,
Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. The Boston Globe today
said Rybkin was considering offering Grozny a share of
tariffs from oil exports via Chechnya.

WARRANT ISSUED FOR RADUEV'S DETENTION. Ruslan
Kutaev, an aide to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, told
journalists in Moscow yesterday that Vice President Vakha
Arsanov has signed a warrant to search for and detain
maverick field commander Salman Raduev. Kutaev cast
doubts on Raduev's claims to have ordered the bomb
attacks last month in Armavir and Pyatigorsk but said that
his detention is necessary "to put an end to irresponsible
statements that discredit Chechen government." Meanwhile
in Grozny, First Deputy Prosecutor-General Ibragim
Khamidov told Interfax that Raduev is "mentally
unbalanced" and that his possible role in the bombings is
being investigated. Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek
Makhashev said that he had not received orders to arrest
Raduev.

GOVERNMENT SUBMITS BUDGET CUTS TO DUMA. The
government has submitted to the State Duma a plan to cut
108 trillion rubles ($19 billion) from the 1997 budget,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. That figure is
equivalent to about one-fifth of total expenditures. The
government proposes a 30% cut in military orders and coal
subsidies as well as fuel deliveries to remote northern
regions. It wants a 55% reduction in spending for
agriculture, health, and culture. No reductions are proposed
in spending for wages, pensions, stipends, debt servicing,
replenishing Russia's precious metals reserves, or dealing
with emergencies such as natural disasters. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin will discuss the budget proposals
during the Duma's 21 May session. The law on the budget
requires the government to propose a "sequester" if
revenues fall below 90% of targets in a single quarter.
During the first three months of 1997, the government
collected only 57% of budgeted revenues.

DUMA DEPUTY SEES PROBLEMS WITH SEQUESTER
PROPOSAL. Government officials say the proposed
sequester would bring the 1997 budget in line with reality,
but Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksandr
Zhukov told RFE/RL yesterday that there are several
problems with the plan. Zhukov, a member of the Russian
Regions faction, said the law on the budget requires
uniform cuts in all "unprotected" programs if a sequester is
needed. Instead, he said, the government has proposed
leaving some unprotected programs fully funded and
cutting others by 30% or 55%. In addition, the government
is proposing large cuts in some areas that are currently
"protected" such as health and agriculture. Zhukov noted
that the government cannot unilaterally change the list of
protected budget articles. A law is needed to remove
items from the list and the Duma is unlikely to pass a law
that would envisage such large cuts for agricultural
subsidies in particular, he added.

CHERNOMYRDIN SIGNS 1997 ECONOMIC PROGRAM. The
prime minister has signed a joint statement by the
government and Central Bank outlining Russia's economic
policies for 1997, Russian news agencies reported
yesterday. The economic program was coordinated with
the IMF and will be considered by the fund's board later this
month. If the board approves the program, disbursements
of a three-year loan worth $10 billion will be resumed in
quarterly tranches of some $700 million.

PRIMAKOV SAYS TALKS WITH SOLANA WILL BE
DECISIVE. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov says
today's talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana
will determine whether a charter between Russia and NATO
can be signed on 27 May, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday.
Today's meeting in Luxembourg will be the fifth round of
talks between Solana and Primakov. An unnamed source in
the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax yesterday that
further progress on the charter will "depend entirely on
NATO." Western officials have said they have no plans to
deploy nuclear weapons in new NATO member states, but
the Foreign Ministry official said Russia still insists on a
legally binding document on military issues. The official
argued that Western leaders had sought to assuage fears
about German reunification by promising former Soviet
leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand.
"Nobody recalls [those assertions] now," he added.

OPPOSITION CONTINUES PROTESTS AGAINST NATO
EXPANSION. The Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia, a
communist-led opposition alliance, sent groups of some 30
protesters to demonstrate outside the U.S., French, Italian,
German and British embassies in Moscow yesterday,
Russian news agencies reported. The protesters carried
signs saying "No to NATO Expansion" and "Hands Off Russia."
Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told
Pravda yesterday that his party's representatives in the
Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly have launched
a Europe-wide "No to NATO" campaign. He claimed that
socialists and social-democrats from many European
countries have misgivings about NATO expansion. The Duma
has called on Russians to stage a "day of protest against
NATO expansion" on 9 May, the Russian holiday marking the
World War II victory in Europe.

PRIMAKOV DENIES SENDING MESSAGE TO VELAYATI.
Foreign Minister Primakov has denied sending a message
to his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Velayati, saying
Russia's relations with Iran will not be affected by the
German court verdict implicating Iranian leaders in the
1992 Berlin killings of four Kurdish dissidents (see RFE/RL
Newsline, 5 May 1997), Reuters reported yesterday.
Primakov was addressing journalists in Strasbourg
yesterday.

OFFICIAL ON CHINESE IMMIGRANTS IN FAR EAST. In an
interview with today's Rossiskie vesti, Emil Pain, a
presidential adviser on Chinese immigration in the Far
East, says recent claims that illegal Chinese immigrants in
that region's southern territories total 2 million are wrong,
since such a large number would be "highly noticeable"
among a population of some 4.8 million. But he noted that
while there were only 50,00-80,000 immigrants in 1992-
1993, that figure is now just short of 200,000. He also
admitted that, after finding accommodation, legal Chinese
immigrants often send for their relatives, who then live
with them illegally. Pain noted that while crime has
increased in the area, it has risen to comparable levels in
regions elsewhere in Russia that have few Chinese
immigrants.

MINERS PROTEST IN PRIMORE, VORKUTA. Primorskii
Krai is facing power outages for several hours a day
because unpaid coal miners are refusing to resume coal
shipments to power stations, RFE/RL's correspondent in
Vladivostok reported yesterday. The miners, who have not
been paid for four to five months, stopped the coal
shipments on 1 May. The krai commission for emergency
situations claimed two days later to have averted a crisis,
since a few pits in Primore and Amur Oblast are still
shipping coal to power plants. However, two power lines to
Primore remain down following last week's fire at an arms
depot in Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Meanwhile, unpaid
miners at the largest coal mine in Vorkuta (Komi Republic)
stopped working yesterday, ITAR-TASS reported. First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, who also heads the
government's interdepartmental commission on the coal
industry, is to visit Vorkuta next week.

DUMA DEPUTY PROTESTS PENSION ARREARS IN
VORONEZH. Communist Duma deputy Ruslan Gostev is
staging a hunger strike to protest widespread pension
arrears in his native Voronezh Oblast, Interfax reported
yesterday. Gostev said he began the hunger strike on 2 May
and will fast for 10-15 days. Only 51% of pensioners in
Voronezh have received their February payments.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

MEETING OF MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN POSTPONED.
The meeting between the U.S., Russian, and French co-
chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group scheduled to begin today
in Washington has been postponed, RFE/RL reported, citing
a U.S. State Department spokesman. The French and Russian
co-chairmen met last week in Moscow with Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov and U.S. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright. In Baku on 4 May, Azerbaijani President
Heidar Aliev told Mikhail Krotov, the secretary of the CIS
Interparliamentary Assembly Council, that he would
welcome greater efforts by the CIS to mediate a
settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Interfax reported.
Meanwhile, Nezavisimaya gazeta today quotes Iranian
Ambassador in Baku Ali Reza Bigdeli as saying that Iran is
"resolutely raising" with Armenia the question of liberating
occupied Azerbaijani territory.

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT IN TURKEY. Heidar Aliev and
his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, met in Ankara
yesterday and signed a declaration on strategic
cooperation, Western media reported. Seven
intergovernmental agreements on trade and economic
cooperation were also signed. Reuters quoted Demirel as
saying before his meeting with Aliev that they would
discuss "new ideas for cooperation with regional countries
to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem." The two leaders
were expected also to discuss the prospects for an oil
pipeline through eastern Anatolia to transport Azerbaijan's
Caspian oil to Turkey's Ceyhan terminal. Turkey is to
announce a tender for a feasibility study for the pipeline,
but the vice president of the Azerbaijan International
Operating Company was quoted by Segodnya on 30 April as
saying no decision on an export pipeline will be taken this
year.

IMF PRAISES UZBEK PROGRESS BUT HOLDS OFF WITH
LOAN. IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer
says the balance of a 1995 loan worth $185 million will
remain suspended, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent
reported. He was speaking after discussions at the
weekend with Uzbek officials, including President Islam
Karimov. Uzbekistan drew about $92 million of the loan
before the introduction last year of severe restrictions on
foreign exchange, which prompted the IMF to withhold the
remainder. Fischer said there has been "substantial
progress" in structural reforms, including price
liberalization and privatization. He also expressed
satisfaction that the budget deficit has been kept below
3% of GDP so far this year.

GAS DEBTS TO TURKMENISTAN. Russia owes $71 million
for gas supplies in the first three months of 1997, ITAR-
TASS reported yesterday. Ukraine's debt for the same
period is $302.5 million and Georgia's $22.2 million. Those
two countries now owe $780.6 million and $442.7 million,
respectively. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told
the government yesterday that the debts are creating
"difficulties for the country's social and economic
development." He also asked the ministers to work with
the Russian government to secure the return of $107.2
million currently frozen in Russia's Vneshkombank.

END NOTE

Putting Pipelines Into Play

by Paul Goble

Yerevan's rejection of an Azerbaijani proposal to build an
oil pipeline across Armenia in exchange for recognition of
Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh highlights the pitfalls
of using pipelines to make peace. But even if this latest
exchange between the two governments does not lead to peace,
both the Azerbaijani proposal and Armenia's response and
subsequent action indicate that the two countries may be
reconsidering their approaches to each other. If that proves
the case, there may be some significant movement not only on
the long-running Karabakh dispute but also on relations among
the three countries of the southern Caucasus as well as
between those states and the rest of the world.
        The current flurry of activity began on 1 May, when
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev said his country would be
prepared to consider the construction of a pipeline across
Armenia if Yerevan would withdrawn its forces in, and its
claims to, Karabakh. Routing Azerbaijani and Central Asian
oil across Armenia would not only bypass many of the
difficulties posed by the alternative routes across Georgia
and Russia but would bring Armenia significant transit fees.
        But the next day, Armenian presidential spokesman Levon
Zurabyan rejected any suggestion that Yerevan might be
willing to consider such a trade-off. While Armenia would
welcome a pipeline across its territory and believes that it
would be "profitable for all," it does "not see any relation
between the pipeline's route and the settlement of the
Karabakh conflict," Zurabyan concluded.
        Similar proposals and rejections have been floated at
various times in the past, and Zurabyan's rejection gave no
reason to believe that the current exchange would lead to
anything else. But the same day, the Armenian Foreign
Ministry publicly denounced the Armenian parliament's
decision to ratify a treaty allowing Moscow to have military
bases in Armenia for 25 years. Foreign Ministry spokesman
Arsen Gasparyan said that his ministry had urged the
parliament to postpone ratification of the pact because of
growing concerns about its implications for the country's
national security. The Foreign Ministry reportedly noted that
the treaty--which has since been ratified--would force
Yerevan to give up to Russia some of the tanks and armored
vehicles that Armenia is allowed under the CFE treaty. That
could leave Armenia weaker than Azerbaijan and even more
dependent on Russia, Gasparyan said.
        Both Azerbaijan and Georgia have expressed fears in
Vienna at the recent CFE talks that Moscow will be able to
pressure some of its neighbors into yielding their quotas to
Russia and thus allow it to put pressure on others. The two
Transcaucasian states clearly had Armenia in mind when they
made those remarks. At least some members of the Armenian
cabinet appear to be focusing on the dangers inherent in this
game. Azerbaijani President Aliyev's proposal may have
provided them with an opening, since it suggests that Armenia
has more choices about its future than simply relying on
Russia.
        Among those in Yerevan now thinking about such new
alternatives may be some close associates of recently named
Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan. As former president
of the breakaway region of Karabakh, he is generally thought
to have a freer hand than anyone else in Yerevan in
negotiating a settlement. If this interpretation proves
correct--and many will seek to sabotage any agreement between
Baku and Yerevan--there could be movement on the Karabakh
issue for the first time in many months. Any such movement
would almost certainly lead to better relations among the
southern Caucaucasian countries while contributing to a new
skepticism about Russian designs in the region as a whole.
        Consequently, Baku and Yerevan may have altered the
political landscape of this part of the world by putting
pipeline issues into play once again--even if the routes of
those pipelines do not change.


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                     All rights reserved.
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