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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 30, Part I, 14 May 1997


Vol 1, No. 30, Part I, 14 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

* PRIMAKOV, SOLANA AGREE ON CHARTER

* RODIONOV FAVORS START-II

* MORE CLASHES ON ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI BORDER

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RUSSIA

PRIMAKOV, SOLANA AGREE ON CHARTER. Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and NATO Secretary-
General Javier Solana have agreed on the wording of a
charter between Russia and the alliance, Reuters reports
today. The agreed text will be submitted to NATO
governments and to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. No
details on the charter were available. Before the latest
round of talks, the main disagreement was over Moscow's
insistence that NATO guarantee not to station nuclear
weapons or "significant" numbers of conventional forces in
any new NATO member state. Solana and Primakov met for
six hours yesterday and again this morning before making
the deal. Yeltsin did not attend the talks but spoke with
both Primakov and Solana by telephone today.

...AS OTHERS WARN AGAINST HASTY AGREEMENT. The
Advisory Council for Foreign and Defense Policy issued a
statement yesterday warning against a rush to sign an
agreement with NATO, Russian agencies reported. Duma
deputy Aleksei Arbatov of Yabloko and foreign policy
theorist Sergei Karaganov are both members of the
council. The statement said that a poorly prepared accord
could undermine Russia's interests, delay Duma ratification
of the START-II arms control treaty, and create a zone of
"instability" from Estonia to Azerbaijan. Former Security
Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed also argued yesterday
against reaching an agreement now, because "NATO is
strong and we are weak," Interfax reported. At the same
time, Lebed discounted suggestions that an expanded
NATO might pose a threat to Russia. "The rich and satisfied
will never attack the poor and hungry," he said. "Most often
things happen the other way round."

RODIONOV FAVORS START-II... Defense Minister Igor
Rodionov says that despite his earlier doubts, he now
supports ratification of START-II, AFP and Reuters
reported yesterday. Rodionov was speaking after talks
with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen in Washington.
Many influential deputies in the Russian parliament oppose
START-II. Asked about NATO enlargement, Rodionov said
expanding the Western alliance would be a "mistake" that
could damage U.S.-Russian relations. Nonetheless,
Rodionov and Cohen signed agreements setting up joint
working groups on anti-missile defense, peacekeeping, and
Russian military reform. However, Rodionov told Interfax
that he is concerned about recent statements by some U.S.
politicians who favor opting out of the ABM Treaty. Such a
step by the U.S. would destroy "the entire nuclear
disarmament process," he said.

...DENIES REPORT ON UNSAFE NUCLEAR MISSILES.
Rodionov has denied recent reports saying some of
Russia's nuclear missiles switched themselves into combat
mode, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. The
Washington Times on 12 May cited a CIA report on
problems in Russia's command-and-control system (see
RFE/RL Newsline, 13 May 1997). In Moscow, the chief
headquarters of Russia's strategic missile forces also
released a statement denying the newspaper report.

MOSCOW'S CALCULATIONS BEHIND CHECHEN ACCORD.
Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and his
deputy, Boris Berezovskii, told journalists yesterday that
the Russian government signed the treaty with the Chechen
Republic for three reasons. First, the accord demonstrated
that the Russian Federation has dropped the "imperial"
tradition in dealing with its periphery. Second, it could give
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov enough political room
to stand up to his own militants and possibly to disarm
some of them. Third, the accord may allow Russia to
transport oil across Chechnya and thus reap enormous
profits. Three draft agreements on oil and its transit are
now in preparation, Russian news agencies reported.
Meanwhile, maverick field commander Salman Raduev
pledged yesterday not to lay down his arms until Moscow
recognized Chechen independence. Maskhadov, on his
return to Chechnya, celebrated the accord and called on the
Chechen diaspora to help rebuild their country.

KULIKOV IN VLADIVOSTOK AS PROTESTS CONTINUE.
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov arrived in Vladivostok
today as protests over extensive power cuts in the city
continued, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reports.
Krai authorities decided to meet with Kulikov outside the
city for fear that protesters would block the main road in
Vladivostok for the third day running. In an interview with
RFE/RL yesterday, Primorskii Krai First Deputy Governor
Konstantin Tolstoshein denied that the krai administration
was to blame for the energy crisis. He noted that the
federal government owes money to Primore and said the
Vladivostok authorities should answer for the power cuts
and disorder in the city. Tolstoshein is a close ally of
Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. He was mayor of
Vladivostok until last September, when Nazdratenko's
enemy Viktor Cherepkov was reinstated by presidential
decree.

CHUBAIS OUTLINES PRIORITIES OF 1998 BUDGET. First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais says the main goal
of the 1998 budget will be to promote industrial growth, an
RFE/RL correspondent in Krasnoyarsk reported yesterday.
Addressing a meeting of the Siberian Accord regional
association, Chubais said the government seeks to lower
taxes and energy prices for enterprises as well as to
stimulate bank investment in domestic industry. Chubais
defended the proposed sequester of 108 trillion rubles
($19 billion) from the 1997 budget and said the government
also plans to increase overall revenues this year by 30
trillion rubles ($5.2 billion). He called for revising Russia's
social benefits system, which, he said, currently costs 300
trillion rubles ($52 billion) a year, Interfax reported.
Chubais argued that social benefits should be means-
tested so that only those in need receive government aid.

FEDERATION COUNCIL OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO
ON TROPHY ART LAW. The Federation Council has
overridden Yeltsin's veto on the trophy art law, which
states that cultural valuables seized by Soviet troops from
Germany at the end of World War II are Russian property.
Russian news agencies and dpa report today that the final
result of the postal ballot on the bill is 141 in favor, 14
against, and 14 abstentions. The upper house opted for this
protracted voting procedure last month, on the eve of
Yeltsin's meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in
Baden-Baden (see RFE/RL Newsline, 17 April 1997). Deputy
Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi told Reuters that Yeltsin
will appeal to the Constitutional Court to reject the law.
When Yeltsin vetoed the legislation in March, he argued
that it contravened international law and would complicate
Russia's relations with many countries.

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA EDITOR PLEDGES TO
MAINTAIN INDEPENDENCE. Komsomolskaya pravda
published an appeal yesterday by its new chief editor,
Vladimir Sungorkin, asking readers not to believe reports
that the paper has lost its independence. Sungorkin said
the role of Oneksimbank, which recently purchased a 20%
stake in the paper, should not be "demonized." He added
that the investment would allow Komsomolskaya pravda to
improve its distribution system and lower its price for
readers. Sungorkin said the paper's editorial staff had long
been divided over what he called "lobbying and propaganda
on behalf of certain natural monopolies." Former editor
Valerii Simonov had favored investment by the gas
monopoly Gazprom rather than Oneksimbank (see RFE/RL
Newsline, 9 May 1997). Meanwhile, today's edition of
Izvestiya claims that the paper's staff, not the oil company
LUKoil, own a controlling packet of shares in Izvestiya.

PRESIDENTIAL DECREE TIGHTENS CONTROL OVER
BUDGET FUNDS. Yeltsin issued a decree yesterday
increasing the role of the Central Bank in the management
of budget revenues and expenditures, ITAR-TASS
reported. By 1 January 1998, the government must hold
open, competitive bidding to select commercial banks that
will handle budget funds. The decree also orders regular
audits of authorized banks. Critics have said that under the
current system, government funds channeled through
commercial banks often do not reach the programs for
which they were intended.

NEMTSOV BRINGS ALLY TO FUEL AND ENERGY
MINISTRY. Sergei Kirienko, a prominent Nizhnii Novgorod
businessman and president of the Norsi oil company, has
been appointed first deputy fuel and energy minister,
ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Kirienko is a longtime ally
of First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who was
appointed to head the Fuel and Energy Ministry last month.
Kirienko is expected to oversee the ministry's day-to-day
activities, since Nemtsov has many other duties in the
government and little experience in the energy sector.

SITUATION CALM IN DAGESTANI VILLAGE. Order has
returned to the village of Chabani-Makhi in Dagestan where
one person was killed and three hospitalized in a
confrontation yesterday between Islamic groups. Members
of Tarikat Sufi orders and the Wahabis clashed briefly, and
the Tarikats took 18 Wahabis captive, prompting some 200
armed Wahabis to take refuge in their mosque and call for
support from other Wahabis in the area. Religious leaders
were called in to mediate, and the two groups agreed to
solve to solve their differences peacefully.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

MORE CLASHES ON ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI BORDER.
Armenia and Azerbaijan on 12 May, the third anniversary of
the cease-fire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh, accused
each other again of cease-fire violations along the common
border. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said Azerbaijani
positions in Tauz Raion were shelled from Armenia,
according to Interfax. An Armenian Defense Ministry
official told RFE/RL that Armenian troops killed 17
Azerbaijani soldiers who were attacking Armenian
positions. Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev yesterday
described the recent outbreak of hostilities as "accidental
incidents" that should not be considered a breach of the
1994 cease-fire agreement. He said the fact that the truce
has largely held without the participation of international
forces testifies to the "sincere desire" of the warring
sides to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute peacefully.

RUSSIAN OIL COMPANY TO BOOST COOPERATION WITH
AZERBAIJAN. Aleksandr Putilov, the board chairman of
Russia's Rosneft oil company, and Natik Aliev, the
president of the Azerbaijan State Oil Company, say they
will soon sign an accord on "strategic partnership," Russian
agencies reported yesterday. Putilov, who was in
Azerbaijan earlier this week, proposed to Azerbaijani
President Aliev that a consortium of Russian and
Azerbaijani oil companies be established to develop an
unspecified oil shelf in the Caspian Sea. Putilov said the
consortium might include LUKoil, which is the only Russian
company so far involved (through its membership in
Western consortia) in multibillion-dollar contracts with
Azerbaijan. Putilov added that his proposals had the
backing of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
Aliev said Baku is "interested" in cooperating with the
Russian oil industry.

FURTHER ARRESTS IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN. The
Leninabad branch of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan
yesterday appealed to international organizations to put
pressure on the government to stop the wave of arrests
that have followed the 30 April assassination attempt on
President Imomali Rakhmonov. According to RFE/RL
correspondents in northern Tajikistan, the appeal says the
Interior Ministry has taken many people into custody and
sent them to Dushanbe for interrogation. It acknowledges
that some of those detained may be connected with the
attack, which killed 2 people and wounded more than 70.
But it also says that many innocent people are being
arrested, including participants in rallies in northern
Tajikistan in May 1996. The appeal also asks the
government not to repeat mistakes made during the Tajik
civil war in 1992-93, when many people were detained or
even lost their lives on dubious charges.





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