One must learn by doing the thing; though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try. - Sophocles
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 34, Part I, 20 May 1997


Vol 1, No. 34, Part I, 20 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 WARNS NATO, REASSURES PARLIAMENTARY
LEADERS

* YELTSIN APPROVES SEVEN-POINT GOVERNMENT PLAN

* ANOTHER BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN FINED
ALBANIAN POLITICAL SITUATION WORSENS

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN WARNS NATO, REASSURES PARLIAMENTARY
LEADERS. President Boris Yeltsin says NATO must take
Russia's views into account and warns that Moscow will
revise its relations with the alliance if it expands to
include former Soviet republics, Russian media reported
yesterday. Yeltsin made the comments during a meeting
with the speakers of both houses of the parliament and the
leaders of all State Duma factions. He also argued that the
NATO-Russia Founding act was a "balanced" document. All
three Baltic states have expressed the desire to join
NATO. Last week, Yeltsin said the accord gives Moscow a
veto over NATO's actions, a claim denied by all NATO
leaders. After yesterday's meeting, Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev said Yeltsin will submit the Russia-NATO accord
to parliament for approval, Interfax reported. Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov is to inform Duma deputies
about the accord during a closed session on 23 May.

YELTSIN ON UKRAINE, BELARUS... Ukraine's interests
were taken into full account during talks between Russia
and NATO about the accord on future relations, Yeltsin said
in a letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma yesterday.
A spokesman for Kuchma told journalists in Kyiv that
Yeltsin wrote the NATO-Russia deal will strengthen
stability in Europe and "positively affect the general
political climate in Europe". Yeltsin is expected to visit
Ukraine on 30-31 May to sign a Russian-Ukrainian basic
treaty. Meanwhile, Yeltsin yesterday urged the speakers of
the lower and upper houses of the Russian parliament to
work for the simultaneous ratification of a union treaty and
a charter agreement between Russia and Belarus. ITAR-
TASS quoted Yeltsin as saying that three issues connected
with the charter remain "unresolved." Yeltsin said he
intends to resolve those issues in talks with Belarusian
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Moscow on 22 May.

...AND NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Yeltsin yesterday called on
the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the acting
president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-
Karabakh to make a concerted effort to achieve "real
progress" toward ending the armed conflict over Nagorno-
Karabakh and reaching a comprehensive settlement,
Interfax reported. Yeltsin also proposed holding talks on
the future status of the republic at the same time as
discussions aimed at reaching a settlement. Azerbaijan
refuses to discuss the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh's future
status until Armenia agrees to respect its territorial
integrity. ARMENPRESS yesterday quoted an unnamed
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman as rejecting Turkish
media speculation that the ministry and Prime Minister
Robert Kocharyan, formerly president of the Republic of
Nagorno-Karabakh, have different opinions over the issue.

KULIKOV SEES ONGOING ROLE FOR HIS MINISTRY IN
IMPLEMENTING PEACE ACCORD WITH CHECHNYA.
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov told Interfax on 19 May
that his ministry still has a role to play in implementing
last week's Russian-Chechen peace treaty. Kulikov, who has
repeatedly charged that the Chechen leadership is
incapable of establishing law and order, said his ministry
must help its Chechen counterpart in combatting crime,
preventing terrorist acts, securing the release of
prisoners and hostages, and developing a system of joint
control over funds allocated by the Russian government
for restoring the Chechen economy. Kulikov said he has
already issued instructions to his staff to draft
appropriate assistance programs.

YELTSIN APPROVES SEVEN-POINT GOVERNMENT PLAN.
Yeltsin approved a seven-point government plan on social
and economic policy at a meeting yesterday with Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime
Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, and Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev. The government has promised
to: 1) pay wage arrears to state employees by forcing
large monopolies to pay their debts, cracking down on
smuggling to increase customs duties, and enforcing a
state monopoly on the production and sale of alcohol; 2)
revise the system of social benefits so only the poor are
eligible; 3) revive domestic industry and agriculture
through cheap credits and lower fees for energy and rail
transport; 4) support local and regional initiatives; 5) fight
corruption by forcing officials to file income and property
declarations; 6) reduce the size of the bureaucracy; and 7)
"honestly and openly explain all the government's actions
to the country's citizens."

DUMA BUDGET COMMITTEE SLAMS GOVERNMENT
PERFORMANCE... The Duma Budget Committee yesterday
passed a resolution slamming the government's economic
performance during the first quarter of 1997 as
unsatisfactory, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The
resolution noted the "total collapse" of tax revenues and
criticized the government for making unauthorized
changes in budget spending. The committee postponed
announcing its final recommendation on the draft law on the
budget sequester. But it indicated last week that it will
recommend that the Duma reject the government's
proposed budget cuts.

...CONDEMNS DRAFT LAW ON MONETARY EMISSION. At
the same time, the Duma Budget Committee recommended
that the lower house of the parliament reject a draft law
calling for an additional monetary emission of some 300
trillion rubles ($52 billion), Russian news agencies
reported. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor
Ilyukhin, a leading member of the Communist Party,
proposed the bill, saying the budget gap should be filled by
printing money rather than cutting spending. Central Bank
officials have warned that the proposal would cause the
value of the ruble to plummet and monthly inflation to
surge to double digits. Duma Economic Policy Committee
Chairman Yurii Maslyukov, another influential Communist,
also criticized Ilyukhin's proposal as unconstructive, Radio
Rossii reported yesterday. However, Maslyukov said some
additional money would have to be printed in order to
solve the budget crisis.

MINISTERS DEFEND BUDGET CUTS. Chernomyrdin,
Chubais, and Nemtsov all urged the Duma to approve the
draft law on the budget sequester at a press conference
yesterday, Russian news agencies reported. Chernomyrdin
praised the sequester as the first attempt by the
government to reduce spending "honestly." He repeated
that the size of the budget cuts was negotiable. Chubais
said the Duma would not create more money by failing to
approve the budget cuts, adding "we do not want to hide
behind fancy figures. We want to live by real figures." For
his part, Nemtsov argued that passing an "honest budget"
would reduce the potential for financial abuses by
bureaucrats who have the authority to distribute money.

AGRICULTURE MINISTER PROMOTED. Viktor Khlystun has
been promoted to deputy prime minister in charge of the
agro-industrial complex under a presidential decree
issued yesterday, Russian news agencies reported. He will
continue to serve as agriculture minister, a post he has
held since May 1996. In March, Aleksandr Zaveryukha, then
deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture, was
dismissed in a cabinet reshuffle, and his position was
eliminated. However, many regional and opposition leaders
have since called on Yeltsin to recreate the post. While
serving as agriculture minister from 1991 to October 1994,
Khlystun drew fire from Yeltsin's opponents for allegedly
not doing enough to support state farms. He is the seventh
deputy prime minister in the cabinet (not counting the two
first deputy prime ministers).

YELTSIN SACKS KOBETS. Presidential spokesman Sergei
Yastrzhembskii says Yeltsin has sacked Deputy Defense
Minister and Army Gen. Konstantin Kobets, Russian news
agencies report today. Charges were filed against Kobets
last week (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997). He is
accused, among other things, of taking a 1.4 billion ruble
($240,000) bribe from a construction company. Last month,
Army Gen. Vladimir Semenov, the commander of the
Ground Forces, and three other senior officers were fired
by presidential decree.

BASHKORTOSTAN'S PRESIDENT FEARS FUTURE LOSS
OF SOVEREIGNTY. Murtaza Rakhimov, in a lengthy
interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta on 17 May, expressed
concern that some State Duma deputies wish to transform
Russia into a unitary state, which, he said, would deprive
his republic of its present status as a sovereign state
within the federation. He complained that the Duma is
unilaterally altering articles of the Federation Treaty and
seeking to discredit the August 1994 power-sharing treaty
between the federation and Bashkortostan. Rakhimov also
denied that the Russian Constitution is violated by a
provision of the republican law on presidential elections
stipulating that candidates must speak Bashkir in addition
to Russian (see RFE/RL Newsline, 10 April 1997). In 1989,
Bashkirs accounted for only 23% of the republic's
population. Russians constituted the largest ethnic group
(38%) followed by Tatars (27%).

DAGESTANI POLICE OFFICIAL MURDERED. MVD Col.
Kaimbek Gadzhibalaev, who was abducted in the Dagestani
capital of Makhachkala on 15 May, was found murdered
yesterday, Interfax reported. Gadzhibalaev was a deputy in
the Dagestani parliament and was involved in combatting
illegal fishing for sturgeon. ITAR-TASS reported that three
Azerbaijanis were apprehended on 17 May fishing for
sturgeon near the mouth of the Samur River, which forms
the frontier between Azerbaijan and Russia.

OPPONENTS OF ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR SUBMIT
PETITION FOR REFERENDUM. The Communist-led
initiative group that is seeking to remove St. Petersburg
Governor Vladimir Yakovlev has submitted petitions for a
referendum to the city's electoral commission, RFE/RL's
correspondent in St. Petersburg reported yesterday. The
group needed 150,000 signatures to demand a referendum
and gathered nearly twice that amount. Residents would be
asked in the referendum whether the city's social and
economic policies have hurt their standard of living and
whether they think Yakovlev should step down. However,
Vladimir Soloveichik, the Communists' representative in
the city electoral commission, claimed that the
commission is being pressured to delay the referendum or
declare it non-binding.

KEMEROVO GOVERNOR UNDER PRESSURE. All the
deputy governors of Kemerovo Oblast have sent a letter to
Yeltsin and the federal government warning that they will
resign if Kemerovo Governor Mikhail Kislyuk is sacked,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. The site of
the Kuzbass coal basin, Kemerovo has experienced
frequent labor unrest. Yesterday, some 1,500 coal miners
called for Kislyuk's dismissal at a rally in Anzhero-
Sudzhensk. Yeltsin could remove Kislyuk legally, because
Kemerovo is the only oblast that has not yet held
gubernatorial elections. The Kemerovo legislature has
passed a new regional electoral law, but Kislyuk has
refused to sign it because it sets the minimum turnout
level at 25%, RFE/RL reported on 15 May. Kislyuk wants the
elections to be declared invalid if turnout falls below 50%,
a level reached in very few Russian regional elections. In
Kemerovo's legislative elections last December, turnout
was just 28%.

TRANSCAUSASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

KAZAK PRESIDENT ON PRIVATIZATION. Nursultan
Nazarbayev, in an interview published in today's
Komsomolskaya Pravda., has defended his country's
privatization process. He admitted that 50 enterprises had
been sold to foreign firms but noted that Kazakstan is
second only to Hungary in terms of foreign investment
among the former east bloc countries and republics of the
Soviet Union. He pointed out that Kazakstan has invited
Russian companies to take part in tenders for Kazak
enterprises but "without success." He also criticized
Russian industrialists and ministries that are attempting
to "bring [Kazakstan] to its knees" in their dealings. In this
connection, he mentioned the Karachaganskoye natural gas
field, which, he said, sent its product to Orenburg to be
refined but received only 13%-17% of the profits "thanks
to [Gazprom Director] Rem Vyakhirev."

YASTRZHEMBSKII COUNTERS ON RUSSIAN MILITARY
BASES IN CIS. President Yeltsin's press secretary Sergei
Yastrzhembskii has responded to comments by Nazarbayev
about Russia's military presence in CIS countries, Interfax
and Nezavisimaya Gazeta report. The Kazak president made
the comments at the Russian journalists conference in
Almaty at the weekend (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May
1997). Yastrzhembskii, who also attended the conference,
said Russian troops were in Armenia and Georgia as part of
bilateral agreements between those states and Russia. He
also said Russian troops will be removed from the
Transdniester, adding that "nobody sees the stationing of
Russian troops [there] as a long-term factor."
Yastrzhembskii called Tajikistan a "special case" and noted
that the decision to have Russian troops there came from
the top CIS leadership.





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