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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 28, Part I, 12 May 1997


Vol 1, No. 28, Part I, 12 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, MASKHADOV SIGN PEACE AGREEMENT

* PRIMAKOV SAYS NATO TALKS THIS WEEK WILL BE
DECISIVE

* CHERNOMYRDIN TO MEDIATE IN ABKHAZ STANDOFF?

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN, MASKHADOV SIGN PEACE AGREEMENT.
President Boris Yeltsin and his Chechen counterpart, Aslan
Maskhadov, today signed a treaty "on peace and the
principles of Russian-Chechen relations," RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau reported. On arriving in Moscow this morning,
Maskhadov said the signing of the treaty would deprive
unspecified hard-liners in Russia of "any basis to create
ill-feelings between Moscow and Grozny." He added that
the signing means "Russia, the North Caucasus, and the
whole Muslim world" will enter a new political era,
according to AFP. Details of the treaty are not yet known.
Late last week, substantive differences were reported
between Moscow and Grozny. Maskhadov is also scheduled
to meet with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
later today to sign bilateral socio-economic agreements ,
including on customs and banking, ITAR-TASS reported.

CHERNOMYRDIN SETS CONDITIONS FOR AID TO
CHECHNYA. In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 10 May,
Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said that Moscow continues
to view Chechnya as a constituent part of the Russian
Federation and that no funds will be made available for
reconstruction before the signing of a formal peace treaty
between Moscow and Grozny. He added that Russia will not
assume the entire cost of reconstruction since Chechnya
has its own resources in the form of crude oil as well as the
facilities to refine and process the oil.

RADUEV PLEDGES NO FURTHER ATTACKS AGAINST
RUSSIA. Meeting in Grozny on 10 May with Chechen First
Deputy Premiers Shamil Basaev and Movladi Udugov,
maverick field commander Salman Raduev pledged to
desist from further terrorist threats against Russia or
other acts that could jeopardize the peace process, ITAR-
TASS reported. Only hours earlier, however, Raduev had
told fellow members of the Dzhokhar's Path movement at a
rally in the Chechen capital that he vows "to continue the
fight until full political independence for Chechnya" is
achieved. He also accused the Chechen leadership of
planning a peace agreement "behind the people's back."

THREE MORE JOURNALISTS ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA.
While returning from filming the Grozny rally of Raduev's
supporters, three NTV journalists were abducted by six
armed masked men in the village of Samashki. Yelena
Masyuk, one of NTV's best-known correspondents, was
among those abducted. She has broadcast many interviews
with Chechen field commanders. Chechen President
Maskhadov told Ekho Moskvy yesterday that the
journalists had refused the offer of an armed escort and
blamed their kidnapping on Russian Interior Minister
Anatolii Kulikov. The Russian Federal Security Services
attributed the abduction to the inability of Chechen law
enforcement agencies to control the situation, ITAR-TASS
reported.

PRIMAKOV SAYS NATO TALKS THIS WEEK WILL BE
DECISIVE. Foreign Minister Yevgenni Primakov says talks
this week with NATO officials will determine whether a
charter between Russia and the alliance can be signed on
27 May. In an interview broadcast yesterday on Russian TV,
Primakov repeated that signing a document is not a goal in
itself for Russia. He did not specify which military and
political issues would be discussed at the sixth round of
talks between him and NATO Secretary-General Javier
Solana, which are scheduled for tomorrow in Moscow.
Reuters reported that Primakov's interview was recorded
on 8 May, the same day Yeltsin said the Russian-NATO
charter was "98% complete." Meanwhile, Solana told
journalists on 10 May that he remains optimistic that a deal
can be signed on 27 May, although he noted that "the most
difficult questions" still have to be resolved, ITAR-TASS
reported.

BEREZOVSKII SAYS NEW SECURITY DOCTRINE ALLOWS
FIRST STRIKE. Deputy Security Council Secretary
Berezovskii has confirmed that, according to the doctrine
approved last week by the Security Council, Russia could
use nuclear weapons first in a conflict (see "End Note,"
RFE/RL Newsline, 30 April 1997). In an interview with Ekho
Moskvy on 9 May, Berezovskii said Russia would not use a
nuclear strike to secure an advantage but would do so only
"if we are driven into a corner and have no other
alternative." Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin
announced in February that Russia might respond with
nuclear weapons if it faced a conventional attack. In 1982,
the Soviet Union declared it would not be the first to use
nuclear weapons, but a military doctrine adopted in 1993
did not include the "no first strike" pledge.

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Iraqi Vice
President and Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz met in Moscow
on 9 May with Foreign Minister Primakov and Deputy
Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk to discuss the
prospects for lifting the UN-imposed sanctions against
Iraq. Also on the agenda was the implementation of an
agreement whereby Iraq may export limited quantities of
oil to finance the purchase of food and medicines. A Russian
Foreign Ministry spokesman stressed the previous day
that, in its dealings with Iraq, Moscow will comply with the
restrictions imposed by the international community,
ITAR-TASS reported.

COMPETING MARCHES IN MOSCOW TO COMMEMORATE
VICTORY DAY. Yeltsin reviewed a parade of some 5,000
soldiers on Red Square on 9 May, the anniversary of the
World War II victory over Germany, RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau reported. There were neither tanks nor missiles in
the military parade, which Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov described as "sad and not impressive."
A rival Victory Day demonstration organized by various
communist groups took place on Lubyanka Square. Law
enforcement officials estimated the crowd at 50,000, but
organizers said the number of participants was several
times higher. Zyuganov, addressing the rival rally,
slammed proposed budget cuts and warned that the
government plans to dissolve the State Duma. Meanwhile,
Duma Legislation Committee Chairman and Communist
Anatolii Lukyanov told RFE/RL that the Duma is not planning
a vote of no confidence in the cabinet, since Yeltsin would
probably respond by replacing Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin with a "more odious" figure.

NO VICTORY DAY PARADE IN VLADIVOSTOK. For the
first time since 1945, no naval parade was held in
Vladivostok to mark Victory Day, ITAR-TASS reported on
9 May. Primorskii Krai is facing an acute energy crisis and
lacked the funding for a parade. However, the agency said
the Dalenergo regional utility persuaded workers at one
coal mine to ship coal to a power station on 9 May, which
helped alleviate power shortages. In addition, ITAR-TASS
reports today that workers have restored power lines in
the Jewish Autonomous Oblast that were damaged by a fire
at an arms depot two weeks ago. Two of those lines supply
electricity to Primore.

CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS ARREST OF BANKRUPTCY
OFFICIAL. The Russian media continues to speculate about
the reason for the recent arrest of Petr Karpov, the deputy
director of the Federal Bankruptcy Administration (FUDN).
Karpov has been in custody since 28 April on suspicion of
taking a bribe of 5 million rubles ($870) from an enterprise
in Saratov in 1994. He was first arrested last July but was
released in October and allowed to continue working at the
FUDN. His lawyer has complained that pre-trial detention is
usually reserved for violent criminals or those who pose an
escape risk. Izvestiya suggested last week that the
security services hope Karpov will provide compromising
information on First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Chubais. Segodnya speculated on 6 and 8 May that Karpov
was arrested because "the real corrupt ones and treasury
robbers" believe Karpov knows too much about how
enterprises hide their profits from tax collectors.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

CHERNOMYRDIN TO MEDIATE IN ABKHAZ STANDOFF?
Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze told
journalists in Tbilisi on 10 May that Russian President
Yeltsin has created a special task force to resolve the
Abkhaz conflict, Interfax reported. That force will be
headed by Russian Premier Chernomyrdin, who may travel
to Georgia to mediate a meeting between Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President
Vladislav Ardzinba. Abkhaz parliamentary speaker Sokrat
Djindjolia told Interfax on 10 May that if Russia does not
lift its economic blockade of Abkhazia, the Abkhaz
leadership will insist on the withdrawal of the CIS
peacekeeping force and the end of Russian mediation.
Meanwhile, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 7 May that
the Abkhaz leadership wants Western representatives to
take over mediating a settlement of the conflict.

GERMAN CHANCELLOR STOPS OVER IN KAZAKSTAN.
Helmut Kohl met with Kazak President Nursultan
Nazarbayev during a brief stopover in Almaty on 10 May on
his way back to Germany from a southeast Asian tour,
ITAR-TASS reported. The two leaders discussed, among
other issues, the question of ethnic Germans in Kazakstan.
Kohl said Bonn is "not interested" in having ethnic Germans
from Kazakstan return to Germany. He added that he would
like to see German capital used to develop small and
medium-sized businesses in Kazakstan, saying this would
help the country's German population. Few other details of
their talks were released. Kohl said more information will
be forthcoming when Nazarbayev pays a visit to Germany
in November.

KAZAKSTAN HAS HIGHEST TUBERCULOSIS RATE IN CIS.
Official data released by the Kazak Health Ministry shows
the country has the highest incidence of tuberculosis
among the CIS countries, Interfax reported yesterday.
Over the past three years, registered cases of the disease
have risen by 38% to some 50,000 and the fatality rate has
increased from 59.7 persons per 100 to 82.5 per 100. Much
of the population is too poor to seek treatment, health
officials say. The tuberculosis incidence among ethnic
Kazaks is three times higher than among any other ethnic
group in the country.

IRANIAN PRESIDENT IN TAJIKISTAN... Ali Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani met with his Tajik counterpart, Imomali
Rakhmonov, in Dushanbe on 9 May, the Russian press
reported. The two leaders signed eight documents,
including memoranda on cooperation between their
ministries of economics, foreign affairs, industry, and
transportation. Iran will help Tajikistan construct a new
hydro-electric power station in Khatlon and finish a stretch
of highway that will connect the southwestern city of
Kulyab with Kalai-Khumb and from there provide access to
the Karakoram highway.

...TOGETHER WITH AFGHAN PRESIDENT. One day later,
Burhanuddin Rabbani arrived in Dushanbe to meet with his
Iranian and Tajik counterparts, ITAR-TASS and Interfax
reported. Rafsanjani and Rakhmonov said they continue to
recognize Rabbani and his government as the legitimate
leadership in Afghanistan, despite the fact that the Taliban
movement now control two-thirds of that country. The
three presidents reaffirmed their view that peace in
Afghanistan must be achieved through political means. All
three will attend the meeting of the Economic Cooperation
Organization that begins in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan,
tomorrow. Rafsanjani arrived yesterday in Turkmenistan,
where he met with President Saparmurat Niyazov to
discuss bilateral trade. Meanwhile, Reuters reports he is
due to return briefly to Iran today to inspect damage
caused by an earthquake in northern Iran that measured 7.1
on the Richter scale.

END NOTE

A BREAKTHROUGH ON MOLDOVA?

by Paul Goble

        A Russian-brokered agreement explicitly intended to
preserve the territorial integrity of Moldova highlights
Moscow's ability to exploit the internal divisions of former
Soviet republics to bend them to its will. On 8 May,
Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and Igor Smirnov, the
leader of the breakaway Transdniestr region, signed a
memorandum in Moscow committing themselves to
develop their "relations within the framework of a single
state." Also signing the accord as guarantors were Russian
President Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma, and Niels Helveg Petersen, the acting head of the
OSCE.
        Already hailed in Russia and the West as a "landmark"
decision and a "breakthrough" document, this latest accord
does not commit the two sides to anything more than
further talks on the nature of their relations within a single
country. It does not commit Russia to withdrawing any
forces from the Transdniestr until the two sides come up
with a workable agreement on their own. As a result, it
does not put any new pressure on the Transdniestr
leadership to move quickly toward a final agreement with
Chisinau.
        In sum, this is just the latest twist in the complex
history of the Transdniestr region and its relations with
Moldova and Moscow. In 1992, the Transdniestr region of
Moldova, an area with a slim Slavic majority, unilaterally
declared independence. That move provoked a brief civil
war in which 700 people lost their lives and the
deployment of Russian forces to keep the two sides apart.
Ever since, Chisinau has sought to have Moscow withdraw
its forces so that it can reestablish control over a region
that some have characterized as the only place where the
anti-Gorbachev August 1991 coup succeeded. Russia and
Moldova subsequently reached an agreement that Russian
troops would be withdrawn over a three-year period, but
Moscow has not yet pulled them, arguing that the clock for
their withdrawal has not started because the Duma has not
ratified this accord.
        There are several reasons for this delay. The local
Slavic population continues to view the Russian forces as
its savior against the Romanian-speaking majority of
Moldova. Nationalists in Russia see them as the defenders
of ethnic Russians abroad and, in fact, have made Aleksandr
Lebed, the former commander of the Russian 14th Army in
Transdniestr, their political hero. And Moscow regards
them as a lever directly on Moldova and indirectly on
Ukraine. Moreover, the Russian government remains
uncertain of just where to relocate the 6,500 Russian
troops currently stationed there and how to dispose of the
enormous arms dumps in the region.
        The latest accord does not change any of this. Indeed,
Yeltsin admitted as much when he said that the latest
agreement "does not mean all the problems have been
resolved." Even more pointedly, he said that Russia "is
ready to withdraw its peacekeeping contingent from
Transdniestr as both sides resolve the conflict," thereby
giving the Transdniestr authorities every reason to drag
their feet. As in the past, Tiraspol is likely to pursue a
strategy of simply making additional demands on Chisinau
after every Moldovan concession.
        Consequently, this accord is not going to be the
"breakthrough" in the way that many commentators are
suggesting. But it may be a breakthrough in another way. By
involving the OSCE as a co-guarantor, Moscow in effect
nullifies its earlier agreement with Chisinau to withdraw its
forces from the Transdniestr region and does so with the
blessing of an important international organization. That
provides a more solid foundation for Russian forces there
and perhaps in other places such as Abkhazia in Georgia and
elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.
        If that happens, what looks like a small step toward
resolving the Transdniestr issue may prove a giant leap
backward in securing the genuine independence of the
former Soviet republics.


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