A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 26, Part I, 7 May 1997


Vol 1, No. 26, Part I, 7 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/

Note for readers:
Newsline will not appear tomorrow, 8 May, a holiday in the Czech Republic.

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Headlines, Part I

* MORE PROGRESS ON RUSSIAN-NATO CHARTER

* OPPOSITION DUMA DEPUTIES SLAM PROPOSED BUDGET
CUTS

* RUSSIA TO CHAIR NEW ROUND OF TALKS ON
ABKHAZIA

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RUSSIA

MORE PROGRESS ON RUSSIAN-NATO CHARTER. Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and NATO Secretary-
General Javier Solana made progress during three-hour
talks in Luxembourg yesterday but failed to reach final
agreement on a charter between Russia and the alliance,
Reuters reported. A joint statement said Solana and
Primakov agreed to ´intensify negotiations└ on the charter
but gave no further details. After yesterday┘s meeting,
AFP quoted NATO diplomats as saying negotiations are ´in
the final phase└ and that a charter will be ready for signing
on 27 May.

OPPOSITION DUMA DEPUTIES SLAM PROPOSED BUDGET
CUTS. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov says his
supporters in the State Duma will not approve the
government┘s proposed budget sequester of 108 trillion
rubles ($19 trillion), AFP reported yesterday. He vowed to
force the government to stick to the budget passed in
February. Nikolai Ryzhkov, leader of the Popular Power
Duma faction, complained that the Duma was ´deceived└
and wasted time passing the 1997 budget. Duma speaker
Gennadii Seleznev also criticized the budget cuts, adding
that the Duma itself is facing a ´colossal budget crisis,└
Interfax reported. He blamed First Deputy Prime Minister
Anatolii Chubais for not transferring money to the lower
house of parliament, leaving deputies unable even to
photocopy bills.

MIXED SIGNALS ON DEFENSE SPENDING. Duma Budget
Committee Deputy Chairman Gennadii Kulik said the
proposed sequester would reduce defense spending by
about 20%, from 104.3 trillion rubles ($18 billion) to 83.1
trillion ($14 billion), ITAR-TASS reported yesterday.
Aleksandr Zhukov, another deputy chairman of the Budget
Committee, said the cuts would affect purchases of new
equipment and ammunition but not soldiers┘ wages.
However, government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov told
Interfax yesterday that Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin has endorsed the 1997 defense order that
keeps funding for new equipment at last year's levels.
Government spending on defense has fallen far below
budgeted levels in recent years. The military newspaper
Krasnaya zvezda warned on 24 April that even if the entire
defense budget were paid out, 104 trillion rubles would be
enough to supply and equip the armed forces only for nine
months.

AIRBORNE TROOPS TO BE CUT AGAIN. Col. Gen. Georgii
Shpak, the commander of the Airborne Forces, says his
troops will be downsized from 48,000 to 34,000 by 1
September, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. ´There will be
fewer of us, but we will be better,└ he commented. In
yesterday┘s Komsomolskaya pravda., former Security
Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who was once a
paratroop general, slammed plans to cut the airborne
troops, which, he said, are unique for their ability to quell
regional conflicts and fight in ´extreme situations.└ Last
October, two days before he was sacked from the Security
Council, Lebed had said Defense Minister Rodionov┘s
directive to reduce the airborne troops from 64,000 to
48,000 was "criminal." Shpak┘s predecessor, Col. Gen.
Yevgenii Podkolzin, officially retired that month. However,
he is widely believed to have been fired for opposing the
troop reductions.

PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR STATE ANTI-TERRORIST
SYSTEM. Chernomyrdin said yesterday that creating a
state system to combat terrorism is a "top priority" and
that the government should not be tight-fisted over
funding such a body, ITAR-TASS and Russian Independent
Television reported. Chernomyrdin was chairing the first
session of the government anti-terrorism commission.
Russian Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr
Zdanovich told the commission that his agency thwarted
573 planned terrorist attacks in Russia last year.

LUZHKOV VS. NEMTSOV OVER HOUSING REFORM.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has once again criticized the
government┘s planned housing reform, saying the public
will not be able to pay higher prices for rent and municipal
services, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. He
added that helping domestic industry should be a higher
priority for the government than housing reform.
Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov
argued in today┘s Nezavisimaya gazeta that Luzhkov has
long supported the housing reform outlined in a recent
presidential decree. Nemtsov added that Moscow will
benefit from reducing state spending on housing, since
Moscow spends 43% of the city budget on housing and
municipal services--far more than in any other Russian
region.

AGRARIAN LEADER SAYS SOWING CAMPAIGN
REQUIRES EMERGENCY FUNDING. Agrarian Party leader
Mikhail Lapshin says funding shortfalls will harm the spring
sowing campaign if the government does not take
emergency measures, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. He
said many farmers lacked the money to buy high-quality
seeds. An Agriculture Ministry official told Interfax
yesterday that Russian farmers are far ahead of the sowing
rate in 1996. However, Lapshin said reports of high sowing
rates were misleading because spring arrived early in the
Russian south. The government┘s proposed budget
sequester would cut subsidies to the agrarian sector by
55%. In the first quarter of 1997, the government paid out
only 11% of the funds allocated for agriculture.

CARS USED BY "PASHA MERCEDES" TO BE SOLD. Two
Mercedes that were used by former Defense Minister Pavel
Grachev will be sold at the first auction of the
government┘s foreign automobiles, scheduled to take place
next month, Russian news agencies reported yesterday,
citing First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin. First
Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov urged Yeltsin to issue a
decree in March ordering all government officials to drive
Russian-made cars. The popular daily Moskovskii
komsomolets dubbed Grachev ´Pasha Mercedes└ in a 1994
article on alleged military corruption.

CHECHEN PRESIDENT OFFERS REWARD FOR RELEASE OF
JOURNALISTS. Speaking on Chechen TV yesterday, Aslan
Maskhadov offered a $100,000 reward for information
leading to the release of four journalists from Radio Rossii
and ITAR-TASS who were abducted in Grozny two months
ago, Russian agencies reported. Maskhadov also expressed
satisfaction at the successful police operation the same
day in which two abducted journalists from a Urals
newspaper were released and two suspects arrested.

IRAQ ENDORSES OIL DEAL WITH RUSSIA. The Iraqi
government has approved an agreement whereby the
Russian oil companies Zarubezhneft and Lukoil will invest
$3.5 billion to develop the Qurnah oil field in southern Iraq,
AFP reported yesterday, citing the Iraqi news agency INA.
The Russian parliament ratified the deal on 14 April.
Former Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Petr Rodionov
argued at the time that the deal does not contravene
international trade sanctions against Iraq.

CABINET RESHUFFLE UNDER WAY IN ST. PETERSBURG.
Two of St. Petersburg's five deputy governors have
recently resigned and two more are expected to step down
next week, RFE/RL┘s correspondent in St. Petersburg
reported yesterday. Some commentators believe the
reshuffle is a ´populist step└ in response to a referendum
drive against Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. Supporters of
the referendum gathered 40,000 signatures on 1 May alone
and seem certain to collect the required 150,000
signatures by 18 May. The referendum would ask St.
Petersburg residents whether the city's social and
economic policies have lowered their standard of living
and whether they believe Yakovlev should step down.
Valentin Metus, one of the deputy governors to resign, was
responsible for implementing a highly unpopular housing
reform in February.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIA TO CHAIR NEW ROUND OF TALKS ON
ABKHAZIA. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii
Nesterushkin told journalists yesterday that Russia will
chair a new round of talks between Georgia and the
leadership of the breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia
on expanding the mandate of the CIS peacekeeeping force
there, ITAR-TASS reported. The decision to broaden the
peacekeepers' mandate was taken at the March CIS summit.
Last week, a Russian Foreign Ministry delegation held talks
with the Abkhaz leadership, which rejects the proposed
deployment of peacekeepers in Ochamchira Raion and
argues that no changes can be made in the force's mandate
without Abkhazia's consent. Meanwhile, Leni Fischer, the
president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary
Assembly, said in Tibilisi yesterday that the Abkhaz
dispute is not an obstacle to Georgia's aspirations for full
council membership.

GEORGIA REITERATES CLAIM TO PART OF BLACK SEA
FLEET. Presidential press spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze
told journalists in Tbilisi yesterday that Georgia wants to
participate in the ongoing negotiations between Russia and
Ukraine on dividing the Black Sea fleet, Interfax reported.
Abashidze said that Georgia is entitled to some 20 vessels
formerly stationed at the Poti naval base because of its
contribution to the creation and upkeep of the fleet.
Ukraine, which supports Georgia's claims, handed over one
military coastguard vessel to Tibilisi last month.

NEW INFORMATION ON APRIL VIOLENCE IN
TAJIKISTAN. Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 5 May reported that
some 150 people died and more than 200 were wounded
when police stormed a prison in Khujand where inmates had
staged an insurrection (RFE/RL Newsline, 17 April 1997).
Earlier reports had said some 20 people were killed and
several dozen wounded. The government is reportedly still
releasing the bodies of the deceased to their families ´two
or three at a time└ to avoid fomenting tension. The
newspaper also reported that local authorities ignored a
warning from Khujand residents of the 30 April
assassination attempt on President Imomali Rakhmonov.
Two people were killed and more than 70 wounded in the
attack. Nezavisimaya Gazeta said the one grenade thrown
at Rakhmonov was not responsible for all the casualties
and that the president┘s bodyguards began firing
indiscriminately into the crowd.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZES EXECUTION IN
KAZAKSTAN. Amnesty International sent a letter to the
Kazak government yesterday protesting the execution of
Oleg Gorozashvili. The letter, a copy of which has been
obtained by RFE/RL, claims the Kazak authorities promised
not to carry out the execution until the conclusion of a full
investigation into Gorozashvili's case. Amnesty
International twice appealed for a stay of execution, but
Gorozashvili was nonetheless executed at the end of April.
Kazak authorities have not revealed what charges were
brought against Gorozashvili.

END NOTE

OVERCOMING THE FINAL BARRIERS TO A CHECHEN
PEACE AGREEMENT

by Liz Fuller

        Over the past few days, the Chechen leadership has
moved to deal with two problems that reflect negatively
on Grozny and threaten to sabotage ongoing peace talks
with Moscow.
        The first problem is posed by the so-called "Indians,"
who are Chechen armed fighters refusing to acknowledge
loyalty to President Aslan Maskhadov or to comply with his
directives to disarm all guerrilla formations that engaged
in the war against Russia. Information about the identity of
those militants and their leaders is sparse and
contradictory. Since hostilities ceased last August, they
have increasingly turned to criminal activities, such as
hostage-taking. Many Russian commentators believe the
"Indians" were responsible for the recent abductions of
journalists and the cold-blooded killings in December of
six unarmed Red Cross personnel.
        On 4 May, Maskhadov warned that senior Chechen
Interior Ministry staff would be fired if they did not make
demonstrable progress within one month toward
combating crime. Maskhadov was reported to be
particularly concerned that the failure to locate and secure
the release of four journalists abducted in Grozny in early
March showed up his leadership in poor light. He also
proposed to evaluate the track record of senior police
personnel, prompting charges from among those targeted
that the objectivity of the commission tasked with
carrying out the evaluations is questionable. Such
proposals have in the past yielded minimal results. In mid-
March, Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev had
offered kidnappers immunity from prosecution if they
released their hostages unharmed, but few took him up on
his offer.
        Maskhadov's second headache is maverick field
commander Salman Raduev, who on 4 May claimed to have
ordered the recent bomb attacks in Armavir and
Pyatigorsk, which killed a total of five people and injured
several dozen. Raduev gained notoriety for masterminding
the seizure of hostages in the Dagestani town of Kizlyar in
January 1996. He was reported killed in a shootout with
Russian troops in March 1996 but resurfaced in July. Since
then, he has regularly threatened to perpetrate acts of
terrorism in Russian cities in revenge for the killing of
Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, to whom he was
related by marriage.
        Raduev's threats of reprisals against Russian civilians
are grist to the mill of hard-line Russian political figures
such as Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, who adduces
those threats as evidence that Maskhadov is incapable of
establishing his control over Chechnya. In addition, Raduev
is said to support Grozny's annexation of regions in
neighboring Dagestan inhabited by ethnic Chechens. Such a
scenario could act as the catalyst for renewed hostilities
in the North Caucasus.
        In mid-April, Raduev was reported to have been
seriously injured in an assassination attempt. He was
quoted by ITAR-TASS as claiming responsibility for the
Armavir bombing; but just days later, he denied any
involvement either in that incident or in the Pyatigorsk
attack. Chechen spokesmen dismissed his claims as the
product of a "sick mind." On 5 May, a warrant was issued to
search for and detain, but apparently not arrest, Raduev.
This measure may have been taken out of genuine
exasperation or out of tactical expediency, especially
since a firm agreement with Moscow now seems within
reach. How easy it will prove to implement that measure is
questionable: one of Raduev's advisors told RIA that the
field commander presides over more than 4,000 men and
that "no one will be able to hold him." (No doubt there are
people in both Grozny and Moscow who are fervently
hoping Raduev will be killed while forcibly resisting
detention.)
        Meanwhile, the peace process appears to be gathering
momentum. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary
Boris Berezovskii told Russian Independent Television on 5
May that a fundamental document on Russian-Chechen
relations is near completion. He hinted that it contains
some kind of acknowledgment of the sufferings inflicted on
the Chechen nation by Russia over the past several
centuries, including the mass deportation in 1944. Moscow
is reportedly also considering meeting Grozny's demand
for a share of the tariffs from oil transported through
Chechnya.
        Also on 5 May, Russian President Boris Yeltsin
instructed government officials to coordinate future
statements and initiatives on Chechnya with Security
Council secretary Ivan Rybkin, who enjoys a constructive
working relationship with Maskhadov. Among other things,
Yeltsin's directive may have been intended to muzzle
Kulikov.
        Rybkin predicted that when Maskhadov and Yeltsin
meet to hammer out the final differences over the peace
agreement, "there will be no shortage of goodwill." But it
seems that Maskhadov will need more than his share of
good luck.

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