Genius is an African who dreams up snow. Vladimir Nabokov - Vladimir Nabokov
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 48, Part I, 9 June 1997


Vol 1, No. 48, Part I, 9 June 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 PROMISES TO DEFEND RUSSIAN LANGUAGE, CULTURE

* GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA "ON BRINK OF WAR"

* TURKMENISTAN NOT READY TO RECOGNIZE TALIBAN GOVERNMENT

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN PROMISES TO DEFEND RUSSIAN LANGUAGE, CULTURE. During a one-day visit
to St. Petersburg, President Boris Yeltsin called for a "fight for the Russian
language," Russian and Western news agencies reported on 6 June. The president
said Russian should be cleansed of many foreign words and added he was
considering a nationwide ban on foreign-language advertising. A similar ban
imposed by the Moscow city government has not been enforced in the capital.
Yeltsin also met with local cultural figures and advocated turning St.
Petersburg TV Channel 5, which broadcasts largely in European Russia, into a
nationwide educational and cultural network. In addition, Yeltsin called for
holding a referendum on whether Vladimir Lenin's body should be removed from
the mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square and buried in St. Petersburg. Yeltsin
recently issued a decree declaring 6 June, the birthday of the 19th-century
poet Aleksandr Pushkin, a national holiday.

RUSSIA TO BUILD NEW CARGO TERMINALS ON GULF OF FINLAND. Also in St.
Petersburg, Yeltsin signed a decree to build three new cargo terminals on the
Gulf of Finland, Russian news agencies reported on 6 June. The facilities will
handle crude oil, petroleum products, and dry cargo. Presidential spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the new terminals will reduce Russia's need to use
ports in the Baltic States and added that "the Baltic countries should think
hard about their policy toward Russia." Also on 6 June, Security Council
Secretary Ivan Rybkin told reporters in Kaliningrad Oblast that Russia plans
to increase its "defense capability" in the Baltic region, but he gave no
details.

MIXED SIGNALS ON PENSION REFORM. Yeltsin announced in St. Petersburg that
state benefits for working pensioners would soon be cut by 50%, Russian news
agencies reported on 6 June. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev said the
planned reductions would save some 4.5 trillion rubles ($780 million)
annually. Sysuev explained that benefits to working pensioners receiving the
maximum benefit would be cut more than payments for those receiving smaller
pensions. Both Yeltsin and Sysuev insisted the government will pay all pension
arrears by 1 July. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov recently denied
that the government plans to cut the income of working pensioners (see RFE/RL
Newsline, 5 June 1997). Meanwhile, the government approved plans to have the
Pension Fund audited, Interfax reported on 6 June. The audit is a condition of
a proposed $800 million World Bank loan, which is expected to be approved in
late June.

NEMTSOV IN JAPAN. First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov arrived in Tokyo on 9
June and met with Japanese Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka, Russian
agencies reported. Nemtsov said Russian would welcome Japanese investment in
the timber and food industries. He also said that he would provide his
personal phone number and "direct support" to Japanese businessmen who decide
to invest at least $100 million in Russia. Nemtsov later met with Japanese
Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda to sign a 15-point memorandum on boosting
bilateral trade and an agreement on a $95 million loan to Russia to finance
projects in that country's Far East. Nemtsov is scheduled to meet with
Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on 10 June before departing the next
day.

CHECHEN ROUNDUP. Following talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov in
Nazran on 6 June, Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii
told Interfax that the normalization of the situation in Chechnya would be a
protracted process and that the top priority is currently restoring the
region's oil complex. Berezovskii endorsed the proposed creation of
organization for the Caucasus modeled on the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe. Also on 6 June, Russian Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov accused his Chechen counterpart, Kazbek Makhashev, of seeking to avoid
cooperation in combating crime, including abductions. Two days later,
ITAR-TASS cited Maskhadov's press spokesman Kazbek Khadzhiev as saying that an
Islamic banking and court system will be established in Chechnya.

PRIMORE GOVERNOR UNDER PRESSURE. Federal officials are stepping up pressure on
Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, whom they blame for persistent
energy crises in the krai. Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Yevgenii
Savostyanov arrived in Vladivostok on 6 June to present krai authorities with
a recent presidential decree transferring extensive powers to Yeltsin's
representative in Primore, Viktor Kondratov, RFE/RL's correspondent in
Vladivostok reported. Kondratov, who heads the krai branch of the Federal
Security Service, is now charged with implementing presidential decrees and
instructions, overseeing the distribution of federal funds in the krai, and
supervising Primore's energy, timber, and fishing industries. Meanwhile, First
Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov rejected Nazdratenko's request to join a
government delegation visiting Japan, ITAR-TASS reported. Nazdratenko has
vowed not to step down, although he admitted that First Deputy Prime Minister
Anatolii Chubais recently gave him two weeks to resign voluntarily.

VORKUTA MINERS CONTINUE STRIKE. Coal miners in Vorkuta (Komi Republic) have
voted to continue the strike they began on 1 June, despite promised government
assistance to meet some of their demands, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 June. First
Deputy Prime Minister Chubais pledged an emergency aid package of 150 billion
rubles ($26 million) to Vorkuta on 4 June and raised the promised aid to 250
billion rubles the next day. However, Viktor Semenov, the chairman of Komi's
Independent Trade Union of Miners, told ITAR-TASS that the miners are
demanding broader, "strategic measures" to solve the problems of the Pechora
coal basin. Semenov noted that a May 1996 presidential decree on "stabilizing
the situation in the Pechora coal basin" has never been implemented. Yeltsin
issued that decree during a campaign swing through Vorkuta (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 27 May 1996).

YABLOKO SAYS RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN TREATY RESTS ON "ILLEGITIMATE PARLIAMENT" IN
BELARUS. Of the seven registered factions in the State Duma, only Grigorii
Yavlinskii's Yabloko opposed ratification of the Russian-Belarusian union
treaty and charter on 6 June. The Duma ratified the documents by a vote of 363
to two with 19 abstentions. Yabloko deputies who were present abstained. Duma
deputy Sergei Ivanenko explained that while Yabloko is not opposed to closer
ties with Belarus in principle, integration should not be "built on the basis
of an illegitimate parliament" in Belarus. The lower chamber of the Belarusian
parliament unanimously ratified the documents on 30 May. Yabloko members have
repeatedly criticized Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's policies
toward opposition politicians and the media.

DUMA ROUNDUP. The Duma has passed by a vote of 265 to 15 with two abstentions
a law on the "development budget," ITAR-TASS reported on 6 June. The
development budget seeks to augment federal budget spending by channeling
private investment into targeted projects. Communist Duma deputies have long
supported the project. Revenue shortfalls have left the government unable to
meet spending targets outlined in the 1997 budget, let alone attract
additional funds for a development budget. Also on 6 June, the Duma passed
draft amendments to the Criminal Code to ban power cuts to facilities "of
strategic importance to the country's national security," such as military
units and nuclear centers. The same day, the Duma passed by 229 to 10 a
preliminary version of a Communist-sponsored resolution declaring there are no
"objective reasons or preconditions" for dissolving the lower house of the
parliament.

LEBED PREDICTS CHERNOMYRDIN WILL BE DISMISSED. Former Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed says Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will soon be
sacked from the government and made a "scapegoat" for all Russia's problems,
Interfax reported on 8 June. Chernomyrdin left Moscow on 30 May for a
three-week vacation, fueling speculation in the Russian media that he may soon
be forced out of office. However, spokesmen for the government and
presidential administration, along with other high cabinet officials, have
vigorously denied the rumors. On 5 June, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Chubais described reports of Chernomyrdin's imminent ouster as "absurd," while
Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev said such rumors are "a ridiculous
provocation." Other observers have argued that the prime minister's vacation
was timed to force Duma deputies to deal with Chubais, who is chairing the
government in Chernomyrdin's absence.

"LUZHKOV-TV" BEGINS BROADCASTING. The new television network TV-Center began
broadcasting on 9 June on Channel 3. TV-Center is informally known as
"Luzhkov-TV" because it is being financed largely by the Moscow city
government. Commentators have viewed its appearance as a sign that Moscow
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov is seeking media support in preparation for a presidential
bid (See "End Note," RFE/RL Newsline, 22 May 1997). TV-Center is currently
broadcasting only to Moscow and Ryazan but reportedly will soon be relayed to
19 other Russian cities.

RUSSIAN MEN LESS LIKELY TO REACH 60 THAN 100 YEARS AGO. In Russia, only 54% of
men over 16 are likely to live to the age of 60, according to data released by
the State Statistics Committee, Interfax and Reuters reported on 8 June. At
the end of the 19th century, the corresponding figure was 56%. The data
indicate that Russian men aged 16-60 are most likely to die of accidents or
alcohol poisoning. Meanwhile, a nationwide doctors' congress in Moscow on 7
June passed a resolution warning that because the country's death rate
continues to exceed its birth rate, "Russia is losing its main asset: its
citizens."

FORMER TULA GOVERNOR ARRESTED. Nikolai Sevryugin, who was governor of Tula
Oblast from October 1991 to March 1997, has been arrested on corruption
charges, Russian news agencies reported on 6 June. He is accused of taking
$100,000 in bribes. Sevryugin's son and an unnamed representative of a
Moscow-based bank were also arrested. Prominent opposition figure and Agrarian
Vasilii Starodubtsev defeated Sevryugin in a March gubernatorial election. On
6 June, Yeltsin warned in a radio address that regional leaders would not be
exempt from the government's anti-corruption campaign.


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA "ON BRINK OF WAR"... Participants at a conference in Tbilisi
on 6 June expressed concern that failure to extend the mandate of the CIS
peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and
the rest of Georgia will result in the renewal of hostilities, a spokesman for
Britain's NGO Vertic, which organized the conference, told RFE/RL Newsline on
8 June. "We are balancing on the brink of war," according to Zurab Erkvania,
chairman of the Abkhaz government in exile. Georgian Deputy Parliamentary
Chairman Vakhtang Kolbaia said Tbilisi is ready to start negotiations with
Sukhumi at all levels and in any form. Kolbaia reiterated Georgia's offer to
give Abkhazia the broadest possible autonomy within a unified Georgian state.
Meanwhile, Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in
exile, accused Russia of making its assistance in resolving the conflict
contingent on Georgian help "to rebuild the Soviet Union."

...DESPITE HIGH-LEVEL TALKS IN MOSCOW. On 5-6 June, separate talks took place
in Moscow between Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba and Russian Foreign
Ministry officials and between Georgian ambassador Vazha Lortkipanizde and
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov. Following his arrival in the
Russian capital on 8 June, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba said again that
he is prepared to sign a peace treaty with Georgia, similar to that concluded
between Russia and Chechnya on 12 May, "if the Georgian side has goodwill,"
Interfax reported. He warned that the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force
could lead to a resumption of hostilities. Addressing the Abkhaz parliament
the previous day, Ardzinba had ruled out talks with Georgia on Abkhaz autonomy
and reiterated his demand that Abkhazia and Georgia have equal status.

GEORGIAN PROSECUTOR BRINGS CHARGES IN CONNECTION WITH SHEVARDNADZE
ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Dzhamlet Babilashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 6
June that four men have been charged with treason in connection with the bomb
attack on Georgian head of state Eduard Shevardnadze in August 1995, RFE/RL's
Tbilisi bureau reported. Babilashvili said that the assassination attempt was
planned by former Georgian security service chief Igor Giorgadze and
Mkhedrioni leader Dzhaba Ioseliani, who had worked with Russian intelligence
agents to eliminate Shevardnadze and install Giorgadze as Georgia's leader.

FIVE ARMENIANS RELEASED IN "25 SEPTEMBER" TRIAL. The charges against five
Armenians in connection with the attack on the parliament building shortly
after the September 1996 presidential elections have been changed from
inciting mass public disturbances to disturbing public order, Armenian
agencies reported on 5 June. The five were subsequently sentenced to prison
terms of between 18 and 30 months but were released under the terms of an
amnesty proclaimed earlier this year. Dashnaktsutyun party member Kim Balayan
still faces charges in connection with the incident.

ARMENIAN DEPUTY PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DOES NOT RULE OUT JOINING RUSSIA-BELARUS
UNION. Ara Sahakyan told journalists in St. Petersburg on 8 June that "our
society demands that we take more effective steps for rapprochement with
Russia," Interfax reported. He added that for this reason, the possibility of
Armenia's accession to the Russia-Belarus Union "deserves attention and an
analysis of all possible consequences." Sahakyan is the first Armenian leader
to comment publicly on the campaign launched to this end by the Armenian
Communist Party and endorsed by the Russian State Duma (see "End Note," RFE/RL
Newsline, 29 May 1997).

TURKMENISTAN NOT READY TO RECOGNIZE TALIBAN GOVERNMENT. Turkmen Foreign
Minister Boris Shikhmuradov said during an official visit to Pakistan on 8
June that his country will not recognize the government of Afghanistan's
Taliban movement until the UN does, international press reported. The previous
day, Shikhmuradov and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk met
with Pakistani Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan to discuss the Afghan
situation. Pakistan's The Nation reported that Posuvalyuk was interested in
meeting with Taliban officials in Islamabad. According to unconfirmed reports,
the meeting took place, but neither Russia or Pakistan have made an official
statement about it. Foreign Minister Khan is scheduled to visit Moscow on 7
July.

TAJIK PEACE AGREEMENT TO BE SIGNED ON 27 JUNE. The Tajik government and United
Tajik Opposition have agreed to sign a final peace agreement on 27 June in
Moscow, according to RFE/RL's Tajik Bureau. The accord was due to be signed on
13 June but was postponed for "technical reasons."

NEW BOOK BY UZBEK PRESIDENT. Islam Karimov's new book went on sale in Tashkent
on 6 June, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Titled Uzbekistan on the Threshold
of the 21st Century, the book describes Uzbekistan as a "front-line state with
hotbeds of tension in Afghanistan and Tajikistan close to its borders."
Karimov blames this tension on "religious extremism and fanaticism." However,
he argues that Islam and Islamic culture should not be viewed as the "new evil
empire." Such a view could lead to "a tragic mistake" on the part of Western
industrial countries in evaluating the Central Asian states in particular,
according to Karimov.




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