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Vol 1, No. 52, Part I, 13 May 1997
Vol 1, No. 52, Part I, 13 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 * RUSSIA, CHECHNYA AGREE ON TRANSIT OF AZERBAIJANI OIL * YELTSIN ADDRESSES RUSSIANS ON NATIONAL HOLIDAY * UN MANDATE EXTENDED IN TAJIKISTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA, CHECHNYA AGREE ON TRANSIT OF AZERBAIJANI OIL... Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, have signed a "memorandum" that includes an agreement on the transit of Azerbaijani oil, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 June. The agreement envisages that the "early oil" from Azerbaijan's offshore fields will be exported to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk via a pipeline transiting Russia. The 153-km stretch of the pipeline that transits Chechnya was badly damaged during the war. Earlier, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who is also minister for fuel and energy, said Moscow is confident it will raise the $2 million that Chechnya needs to finish repairing the pipeline, Reuters reported. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Zakayev said that, despite Moscow's objections, Grozny will also sign a separate oil deal with the international consortium developing Azerbaijan's oil fields. ...DISCUSS WIDE RANGE OF OTHER ISSUES. Officials said the talks focused on a "very wide range" of economic and political issues. Maskhadov noted that the two sides reached agreement on a large number of questions and that their major task is to find practical ways of implementing earlier agreements, AFP reported. Boris Berezovskii, deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, said a "mutual understanding" was reached during the talks. Chernomyrdin reportedly asked the Chechen leaders about the kidnapping of Russian journalists in the breakaway region, but no details were reported about the Chechen reaction. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS quoted Chernomyrdin as saying a customs agreement may be signed on 13 June YELTSIN ADDRESSES RUSSIANS ON NATIONAL HOLIDAY. President Boris Yeltsin addressed Russians on national television on 12 June, the anniversary of the 1990 declaration of sovereignty by the Russian Congress of People's Deputies. He argued that Russia is "moving forward on a path of real political and economic transformation" and hailed recent accords signed with Belarus and Ukraine. Yeltsin said that for the first time in 80 years, world recognition of Russia's importance was not based on fear. He noted that NATO is taking Russia's interests into account and that the G-7 group of industrialized countries will move toward including Russia at an upcoming summit. While acknowledging that the people have many "fair complaints" about himself and the authorities in general, he commented that "no one can say that the voice of the discontented in Russia is not heard." Yeltsin also renamed the 12 June holiday from Russian Independence Day to the Day of Russia. OPPOSITION DECLINES TO CELEBRATE HOLIDAY. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told reporters in the Belarusian city of Brest that he does not consider 12 June a holiday. Seleznev argued that Russia's gain of sovereignty "was one of the causes of the Soviet Union's collapse," Interfax reported. Opposition politicians who regret the disintegration of the USSR have frequently mocked the idea of celebrating Russia's independence. FLAGS CHANGED ON BLACK SEA FLEET. In line with a recent presidential decree, Soviet flags on the Russian ships of the Black Sea Fleet were replaced on 12 June with the tsarist-era blue-and-white flags, RFE/RL's correspondent in Sevastopol reported. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Navy Commander in Chief Feliks Gromov, and Black Sea Fleet Commander Viktor Kravchenko attended the ceremonies. Sergeev said joint Russian-Ukrainian naval exercises might be held later this year, Interfax reported. However, he confirmed that Russia will not take part in the NATO-led "Sea Breeze" naval exercises scheduled for August off the Crimean coast. Meanwhile, Moscow First Deputy Mayor Oleg Tolkachev told reporters in Sevastopol that the Moscow city government will finance construction of a 300-apartment building for Black Sea Fleet sailors, as well as a school in Sevastopol, ITAR-TASS reported. DEFENSE MINISTER ON "RAPID REACTION UNITS." Sergeev unveiled plans to create four "rapid reaction units" of unspecified size next year, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 June. He said two of the "units of the future" will be deployed in the Moscow military district, one in the Far East and one in the North Caucasus. Interfax quoted military experts as saying the units are likely to be rapid-response mobile formations with their own air and naval support. CHUBAIS SAYS RUSSIA CAN BECOME WORLD'S "MOST DYNAMIC ECONOMY." Addressing the council of the Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR) party, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said the government has an opportunity to make Russia "the most dynamic economy in the world," as well as the "most attractive financial market," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported in 12 June. Chubais said "millions and millions of people understand and accept" the ideas that guided Yegor Gaidar when he was acting prime minister in 1992. He added that the government does not need to perform a miracle to lead Russia to prosperity since "the miracle has been performed.... Now we need only to avoid stupidities." Chubais has been a leading member of the DVR since its creation in 1994. He was also a prominent figure in the Russia's Choice movement, the predecessor of the DVR. GAIDAR STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF ADOPTING NEW TAX CODE. In his address to the DVR party council, party leader Yegor Gaidar said tax reform is "the main thing standing between us and serious, dynamic economic growth," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 12 June. He praised the government for improving tax collection and moving toward an "honest budget," but he argued that the adoption of a new tax code was essential. Gaidar and experts from his Institute of Economic Problems of the Transition Period helped draft the code, which is scheduled to be considered by the State Duma in the first reading on 19 June. Gaidar added that Yeltsin would be forced to consider dissolving the Duma if deputies failed to adopt the tax code. Failure to approve the code would not in itself give Yeltsin legal grounds for disbanding the Duma. NEMTSOV WELCOMES DUMA SCRUTINY OF TRIP TO JAPAN. First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov says he welcomes scrutiny of his recent trip to Japan, ITAR-TASS reported on12 June. Nemtsov took some 80 people with him to Tokyo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9-11 June 1997). A resolution asking the Audit Chamber to examine expenditures for Nemtsov's trip has been placed on the Duma's agenda. Nemtsov said he thought such checks were "absolutely normal" and suggested that foreign trips by Duma deputies also be audited. DUMA FAILS TO OVERTURN VETO OF LAW ON OPPOSITION. The Duma on 11 June fell 34 votes short of the 300 needed to overturn a presidential veto of the law on guaranteeing the right of opposition activity, ITAR-TASS reported. The law would protect citizens' right to demonstrate and to make alternative proposals to government and presidential policies (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 5 March 1997). It would also allow the opposition to create a shadow cabinet. If at least one-third of Duma deputies supported the shadow cabinet, shadow ministers would be entitled to participate in meetings of the executive branch. Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, said the law was unconstitutional. In particular, he noted that it sought to define legislatu res as opposition groups. A law on the opposition should deal with political parties or organizations, Kotenkov argued. OKUDZHAVA DIES. The popular author, poet, and songwriter Bulat Okudzhava died aged 73 in a hospital near Paris on 12 June. Okudzhava, who had a history of heart problems, was recently hospitalized with pneumonia. Beginning in the late 1950s, Okudzhava was a "half-official dissident" in the Soviet Union. He was a member of the Communist Party and the Union of Writers, and his work was not officially prohibited. At the same time, many of his writings and songs did not find favor with the Soviet authorities and were widely distributed only in "samizdat" or bootleg tape recordings. In 1994, Okudzhava won the Russian Booker Prize for his last novel. PATRIARCH NOT TO MEET WITH POPE. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II has confirmed that he will not meet with Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II in June, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 June. The Holy Synod, the forum which brings together the top clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church, said in an 11 June statement that unspecified outstanding differences prevented the meeting from taking place, AFP reported. The Synod's statement also included a "historical note" restating Orthodoxy's opposition to Catholic efforts to win converts in Russia. Church officials in Russia said recently that the Vatican and the Patriarchate were discussing a possible meeting between the John Paul and Aleksii in Vienna on 21 June ahead of an European Ecumenical Conference in Graz. VORKUTA COAL MINERS END STRIKE. Work has resumed at all the coal enterprises in Vorkuta (Komi Republic) where workers went on strike on 1 June, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 June. A Finance Ministry official said some 110 billion rubles ($19 million) out of a 250 billion ruble government emergency aid package has arrived in Komi. The money will cover part of the back wages owed to the miners. A local trade union official said recently that the work stoppage in Vorkuta would continue until "strategic measures" to help the Pechora coal basin were adopted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 9 June 1997). ANOTHER FORMER GOVERNOR ARRESTED. Yurii Komarovskii, former governor of Nenets Autonomous Okrug, has been arrested, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 June. Komarovskii is accused of "exceeding his authority while serving as governor," but no further details about the charges were available. Komarovskii was appointed by Yeltsin in 1991 and resigned in early 1996. At the time, the okrug legislature accused him of misappropriating budget funds and of granting dubious credits to certain enterprises. Nikolai Sevryugin, the former governor of Tula Oblast, was recently arrested on corruption charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1997). TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA UN MANDATE EXTENDED IN TAJIKISTAN. The UN Security Council on 12 June voted unanimously to extend by three months the mandate of the UN observer mission in Tajikistan. The team of more than 70 observers, military and civilian, will remain in the country until 15 September. FIGHTING REPORTED IN SOUTH TAJIKISTAN. RFE/RL correspondents report that units of the Tajik army's First Brigade, commanded by Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, have moved into Yavon, some 60 kilometers south of Dushanbe, and its surrounding areas. Khudaberdiyev is reported not to have received orders from the government to take this action. He says he sent forces from their base in Kurgan-Teppe to the area to restore order. The move may have been made to oust Sher Abdullayev, a former commander in Tajikistan's pro-government Popular Front, from Yavon. Meanwhile, the mayor of Kumsangir has been forced out of office. TURKMENISTAN TO KEEP DEATH PENALTY. The parliament on 12 June approved a criminal code that provides for the death penalty, ITAR-TASS reported. The code details 17 crimes that are considered capital offenses, for which punishment ranges from 20 years' imprisonment to execution. Capital offenses specified in the code include premeditated murder, crimes against the government, attempts on the life of the president, and the manufacture or possession of narcotics. The parliament also adopted legislation on refugees that brings Turkmenistan closer into line with the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Helsinki Act. KRASNOVODSKII GULF RENAMED AFTER "TURKMENBASHI." Following "numerous" requests by "workers and local authorities," the Krasnovodskii Gulf in the Caspian Sea has been renamed "Turkmenbashi Gulf," RFE/RL's Turkmen service and Reuters reported. The gulf's main port city, once called Krasnovodsk, was renamed Turkmenbashi City in 1993, after President Saparmurad "Turkmenbashi" Niyazov. UZBEKISTAN CRITICIZED OVER RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS. The US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe published an open letter on 12 June calling on Uzbek President Islam Karimov complaining about the "erosion of religious liberty" in Uzbekistan. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by RFE/RL's Uzbek service, addresses "missionary activity." It mentions the confiscation from the Uzbek Bible Society of 24,960 Bibles translated into Uzbek and the case of Pastor Rashid Turibayev, who is charged with conducting "illegal Church services" and faces a possible three-year jail sentence. The letter notes that Uzbekistan is a "participating state" of the OSCE and requests that Tashkent "comply with its commitments." The letter does not address problems with Islamic groups in Uzbekistan. U.S.-UZBEK COMMISSION FORMED. Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her deputy, Strobe Talbot, in Washington on 12 June, RFE/RL's Uzbek service reported. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns later announced that a joint commission has been formed to seek ways to expand cooperation in the areas of defense, military, trade, investment and energy, AFP reported. The commission is expected to begin work this fall. GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES MOSCOW TALKS ON ABKHAZIA. Eduard Shevardnadze has welcomed the 11 June meetings between Georgian and Abkhaz representatives in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1997), Interfax reported on 12 June. The Abkhaz delegation, headed by President Vladislav Ardzinba, also met with senior Russian officials. Shevardnadze, however, warned that the peace talks and peacekeeping forces should not serve to "legitimize ethnic cleansing or genocide" in Abkhazia. Interfax also reported that Revaz Adamia, the chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Defense and Security Committee, has accused Russia of resuming arms supplies to Abkhazia. Adamia said the fact that Ardzinba was received "at a high level" in Moscow should be interpreted as Moscow's support for the "separatist regime" in Abkhazia. ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN IRAN. Aleksandr Arzumanyan on 12 June held talks with outgoing Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, AFP reported, citing the Iranian news agency IRNA. Arzumanyan welcomed Iran's "key role" in resolving regional crises and added that Armenia gives "special priority to its relations with Islamic Iran." Arzumanyan also called for multilateral cooperation with other countries in the region, "particularly with Turkmenistan, Georgia, and Greece." Velayati, for his part, said Tehran is interested in an "honorable and just" peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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