The road uphill and the road downhill are one and the same. - Heraclitus
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 50, Part I, 11 June 1997


Vol 1, No. 50, Part I, 11 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

* DUMA SPRING SESSION EXTENDED

* CHUBAIS PROMISES GOVERNMENT WILL COLLECT ADDITIONAL REVENUES

* RUSSIAN LEADERS PRESSURE ARDZINBA

End Note
SEEKING SOLUTIONS TO THE ABKHAZ CONFLICT

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RUSSIA

DUMA SPRING SESSION EXTENDED. The State Duma council has avoided a
confrontation with the executive branch by voting to extend the Duma's spring
session by four days, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 10 June. The Duma
will now hold its last plenary meeting before the summer recess on 24 June.
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said the extra sessions will allow deputies to
consider major economic legislation backed by the government before the
holiday. In particular, the Duma will consider the proposed cuts to the 1997
budget, the draft Tax Code and Budget Code, and a package of laws to reform
Russia's social benefits system. Various government officials hinted recently
that President Boris Yeltsin might dissolve the Duma if deputies failed to
consider vital legislation before the recess.

CHUBAIS PROMISES GOVERNMENT WILL COLLECT ADDITIONAL REVENUES. Addressing the
Federation Council on 10 June, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais
said the government plans to bring in 34 trillion rubles ($5.9 billion) in
additional revenues this year, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He said 11
trillion rubles would be collected by the end of June, noting that debtor
companies, including the gas monopoly Gazprom and the car manufacturer
Avtovaz, have already paid 4 trillion rubles. Despite the additional projected
revenues, Chubais argued that the government's proposed sequester of 108
trillion rubles in 1997 budget spending was necessary. He also warned against
printing extra money to fill the budget gap, saying such a move would cause a
sharp increase in inflation that would most hurt pensioners and the poor.

FEDERATION COUNCIL SENDS LAWS ON TROPHY ART, GOVERNMENT BACK TO YELTSIN. The
Federation Council has voted by 121 to nine with four abstentions to return
the trophy art law to President Yeltsin for signing, Interfax reported on 10
June. The law would prohibit transfers to foreign countries of cultural
valuables taken to Russia during World War II. Deputies also voted by 128 to
three with three abstentions to return to Yeltsin the law on the government,
which would force the entire cabinet to step down if the prime minister
resigned or was fired. After the State Duma and Federation Council overrode
his vetoes of both laws, Yeltsin returned the legislation to the parliament
again, claiming that they had been passed using unconstitutional voting
procedures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1997). But in a message sent to the
president, Council deputies argued that only the Constitutional Court can
determine whether parliamentary voting procedures violate the constitution.

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROCEDURE... The
Federation Council rejected by 108 to 15 with four abstentions a law outlining
the procedure for adopting constitutional amendments, ITAR-TASS reported on 10
June. Constitutional amendments must be approved by two-thirds of State Duma
deputies, three-quarters of Federation Council deputies, and legislatures in
two-thirds of Russia's 89 regions. The upper house's Committee on
Constitutional Legislation had objected to a provision in the law whereby a
regional legislature would be considered to have approved a proposed
constitutional amendment if it did not vote on the amendment within six
months. Opposition Duma deputies have long advocated changing the constitution
to reduce presidential power and grant the legislature more oversight over the
government.

...APPROVES WITNESS PROTECTION LAW. The Federation Council has approved a law
on protecting crime victims, eyewitnesses, or persons testifying in criminal
cases, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. The law would allow individuals to apply
for various forms of protection, including the right to carry firearms. The
state might also provide bodyguards or pay to move protected individuals to
another part of the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 1997).

YELTSIN SIGNS RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN UNION TREATY. Yeltsin signed into law the
Union Treaty between Russia and Belarus and an accompanying charter on 10
June, the same day the accords were ratified in the upper houses of both
countries' parliaments, Interfax reported. The agreements, signed by Yeltsin
and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, in Moscow on 23 May,
call for closer economic, political, and military ties between Russia and
Belarus. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, who also chairs the joint
Russian-Belarusian Parliamentary Assembly, told ITAR-TASS on 10 June that
direct elections to the joint parliamentary body could be held as soon as next
year. The Russian and Belarusian parliaments currently choose delegates to the
joint assembly.

NEMTSOV WINDS UP VISIT TO JAPAN. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov
concluded his visit to Japan on 11 June, according to Russian media. Nemtsov
once again proposed a deal whereby Japanese fishermen would have special
privileges in the waters around the Kuril Islands, but Tokyo gave no clear
response. Japan has consistently turned down such offers, claiming acceptance
would be tantamount to acknowledging Russian ownership of the disputed
islands. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is reportedly planning
to visit Japan this year, but no date has been announced. A Russian destroyer
is to visit Tokyo's port from 27-30 June. It will be first Russian warship to
dock at a Japanese port in more than 100 years.

CHECHEN PRESIDENT ISSUES ULTIMATUM ON HOSTAGES. Aslan Maskhadov said on
Chechen TV on 10 June that he has met with the Chechen field commander
responsible for the abduction last month of three journalists for NTV and has
demanded that he release them within three days, according to Interfax. The
previous day, Maskhadov had accused unnamed field commanders of resorting to
kidnappings, provoking religious tension, and "setting the parliament against
the president" in the hope of profiting from "uncertainty and chaos."
"Segodnya" in its 10 June issue suggested that the unexplained delay in
signing the Russian-Chechen agreement on oil transit, which was recently
reported to be imminent, is because the Chechens are proposing a
"hostages-for-oil" deal. Also on 10 June, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister
Chubais told journalists that under the 1997 federal budget Chechnya will
receive more than $90 million toward reconstruction, AFP reported.

INGUSH PRESIDENT PROPOSES LEGALIZING VENDETTAS. Ruslan Aushev has proposed
legalizing blood feuds, Russian Public Television reported on 10 June. The
Ingush president noted that such vendettas are a "fact of life" in the
Caucasus.

PRIMORE ADMINISTRATION DEPARTMENT SEARCHED, DOCUMENTS CONFISCATED. A
department of the Primorskii Krai administration was searched for three hours
on 10 June on orders from Viktor Kondratov, the presidential representative in
the krai, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported. Yeltsin recently
granted Kondratov extraordinary powers. Krai officials loyal to Governor
Yevgenii Nazdratenko denounced the search as illegal, but Kondratov told
journalists that Russia's Criminal Procedural Code allows law enforcement
officials to carry out "preliminary examinations" to determine whether to open
a criminal case. Kondratov said documents and computer files confiscated from
the department point toward attempts to discredit Nazdratenko's political
opponents, in particular Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov. Also on 10 June,
government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov and Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff
Yevgenii Savostyanov told reporters in Moscow that Yeltsin is considering
firing Nazdratenko and holding early gubernatorial elections in Primore,
Russian news agencies reported.

SVERDLOVSK GOVERNOR EXPLAINS SUPPORT FOR NAZDRATENKO. Eduard Rossel says that
the federal authorities are trying to set a dangerous precedent in Primorskii
Krai, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 10 June. He said the issue at stake
in the current political crisis is not Nazdratenko's personal fate but
"whether federalism will exist in Russia." Rossel also denounced the
president's decision to put an official from the security services in charge
of supervising an elected governor. Kondratov heads the Primore branch of the
Federal Security Service. Nazdratenko won a December 1995 gubernatorial
election with more than 60% of the vote.

OPPOSITION DUMA DEPUTIES SAY DUMA MAY NOT RATIFY TREATY WITH UKRAINE. Duma CIS
Affairs Committee Chairman Georgii Tikhonov predicted at a round-table
discussion in Moscow that the Duma will not ratify the comprehensive
Russian-Ukrainian treaty signed by Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma on 31 May, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei
Baburin also predicted that the treaty would meet with opposition in the Duma
because it left many issues open to interpretation. Both Baburin and Tikhonov
belong to the left-leaning Popular Power faction, and Baburin is also leader
of the nationalist Russian All-National Union. Tikhonov has previously argued
that in renouncing territorial claims against Ukraine, Moscow is paving the
way for Kyiv's entry into NATO.

LUZHKOV ON LENIN BURIAL, SEVASTOPOL, TROPHY ART. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov
says the body of Vladimir Lenin should be removed from the mausoleum on Red
Square and buried "in a Christian way," Russian news agencies reported on 10
June. He offered to organize a funeral "with all the appropriate honors."
Luzhkov also said he has not changed his mind over Sevastopol, the base of the
Black Sea Fleet. The Moscow mayor has repeatedly said Sevastopol is a Russian
city. Russia renounced all claims to Sevastopol or any other part of Crimea
when a wide-ranging treaty with Ukraine was signed recently. With regard to
the trophy art law, Luzhkov said Russia lost too many cultural valuables of
its own during the war to return valuables to other countries without any
compensation.

SUICIDE RATE IN ARMED FORCES MORE THAN DOUBLED. Lt.-Gen. Vladimir Kulakov, who
heads the administration of the General Staff, announced yesterday that there
were 36 suicides for every 100,000 soldiers in the Russian armed forces last
year, Interfax reported. He added that in 1991, the suicide rate among USSR
soldiers was 15 per 100,000. Two-thirds of the suicides were committed by
inductees during their first six months of service, according to Kulakov.

POLISH PRIME MINISTER ON EXTRADITION OF STANKEVICH. Wlodzmierz Cimoszewicz
told a cabinet meeting yesterday that Warsaw will abide by its laws in
considering a Russian request to extradite Sergei Stankevich, RFE/RL's Warsaw
bureau and ITAR-TASS reported. Cimoszewicz noted Poland has no extradition
treaty with Moscow and therefore is not obliged to send Stankevich back to
Russia. On 9 June, Issa Kostoev, chief of the International Law Department of
the Russian Prosecutor-General's office, said there are no legal grounds for
Warsaw's delay in extraditing Stankevich, Interfax reported. Stankevich is
charged with accepting a $10,000 bribe in 1992 during preparations for a
Moscow arts festival. At the time, he was first deputy chairman of the Moscow
City Council as well as an adviser to President Yeltsin.


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIAN LEADERS PRESSURE ARDZINBA... Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov,
Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, and
Presidential Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev met with Abkhaz President
Vladislav Ardzinba in Moscow on 9 June, Interfax reported. The Russian leaders
made it clear they want Georgia and Abkhazia to sign an agreement ending
hostilities and "defining the main directions and aims" of talks on Abkhazia's
future political status within Georgia to take place under the aegis of Russia
and the UN . They also stressed Russia's continued readiness to mediate such a
settlement. Russian CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev, who was not present at
the talks, told Interfax on 10 June he favors Ardzinba's proposal for a peace
treaty between Abkhazia and Georgia modeled on the one signed by Chechnya and
Russia (see also "End Note" below).

...WHILE GEORGIA SEEKS ALTERNATIVE MEDIATORS. Revaz Adamia, the chairman of
the Georgian parliament's defense commission, said that Georgia will consider
signing such a treaty only after the repatriation of Georgian refugees who
fled Abkhazia and the holding of new elections there. Adamia accused Russia of
resuming arms supplies to Abkhazia, Interfax reported. Georgian Foreign
Minister Irakli Menagharishvili called for an international conference on
Abkhazia with the participation of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe, Russia, the U.S., France, and Germany, "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" reported on 11 June. Yurii Soslambekov, the chairman of the
Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, told Interfax on 10 June that he
advocates extending the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently
deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. He added
that if they are withdrawn, the confederation is prepared to send as many
volunteers as necessary to replace them.

ARMENIAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATES DRAFT LAWS ON MILITARY SERVICE. The
Armenian parliament on 10 June began debating two alternative draft laws on
military service, according to Interfax and Noyan Tapan. The first bill makes
military service mandatory for all men aged 18-27 and abolishes deferment for
students, while the second preserves the provision for student deferment.
Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian argued in favor of the first bill, saying
that the army "needs intellect" and is suffering a manpower shortage because
between 3,000 - 4,000 draft-age men are studying. He warned that Armenia is
involved in a "permanently slumbering war" and that hostilities over
Nagorno-Karabakh will resume as soon as Azerbaijan "becomes equal [to] or
stronger" than Armenia. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev recently called for
the abolition of concessions enabling students to avoid military service (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 1997).

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH HAIRIKYAN. Levon Ter-Petrossyan on 10 June met
with Union for Self-Determination chairman Paruir Hairikyan, whom he has
termed his "ideal" of a political leader, Armenian agencies reported. The
talks focused on Hairikyan's recent statement calling for pre-term elections
and for an international diplomatic campaign "to achieve international
condemnation of the 1915 genocide." Hairikyan quoted the president as saying
that preparations for new elections will take time but that a new electoral
law has already been drafted. Haik Babukhanyan--the deputy chairman of the
Union of Constitutional Right, which is aligned with the Union for
Self-Determination in the seven-party opposition National Alliance--said
Hairikyan's meeting with the president was "counterproductive." The National
Alliance launched a one-week protest on 6 June to demand new elections at all
levels and a new constitution.

BLOODY INCIDENT ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER. An armed group of between 80 and 100
people attempted to force their way across the Pyanj River from Afghanistan
into Tajikistan on 10 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian border guard forces
used artillery and air strikes to repel them. Some 30 of the group members
were killed. Afghan border guards reportedly aided the Russian border guards.
It is reported that the border violators were not part of the United Tajik
Opposition.

TAJIK PRESIDENT SAYS CRIME IS BIGGEST PROBLEM. Imomali Rakhmonov has sent a
letter to all heads of administrations from the state to village levels
complaining that rising crime is the most serious threat to the security and
economic stability of the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. Rakhmonov
called Tajikistan's anti-crime measures "ineffective," and noted that one in
10 crimes is committed with a gun. Rakhmonov also criticized the need for some
members of government to have what he called "illegally formed military units
for personal protection."

KAZAK, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS SIGN ACCORDS. Nursultan Nazarbayev met with his
Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, in Almaty on 10 June, according to
RFE/RL correspondents. Their talks focused on the transportation of oil across
the Caspian Sea and Kazakstan's participation in a 1996 agreement signed by
Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan. Aliev and Nazarbayev signed a memorandum
on cooperation in transporting oil to international markets. They discussed
the proposed underwater pipeline in the Caspian Sea, but it remains unclear
how that project will be funded. Nazarbayev said he did not mind whether the
oil was shipped through the Russian port of Novorossisk or the Turkish
terminal of Ceyhan after it crossed the Caspian. He said he wanted more
participation from Russian oil companies in general. Intergovernmental
agreements on trade, education, and various legal issues were also signed.

END NOTE

Seeking Solutions to the Abkhaz Conflict

by Liz Fuller

        Vladislav Ardzinba, president of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia,
  is
currently in Moscow for talks with Russian leaders aimed at breaking the
deadlock in negotiations on Abkhazia's political status within Georgia.
Ardzinba has rejected the Georgian leadership's offer of autonomy for Abkhazia
within a unified Georgian state and insists that Abkhazia be granted equal
status (from 1931 to 1992, it was an autonomous republic within Georgia).
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, for his part, is opposed to Ardzinba's
proposal that Georgia and Abkhazia sign a peace treaty modeled on
Russian-Chechen agreement signed in May.
        The need to arrive at a compromise solution has assumed greater urgency
 since
30 May, when the Georgian parliament adopted a resolution laying down the
conditions for renewing the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently
deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. That
mandate expires on 31 July. The Georgian parliament resolution makes its
renewal contingent on implementing the decision of the March summit of the CIS
heads of state to deploy the peacekeeping force throughout Abkhazia's
southernmost Gali Raion in order to expedite the repatriation of some 200,000
ethnic Georgians who fled the 1992-1993 fighting. The Abkhaz leadership has
objected that the mandate of the peacekeeping forces cannot be amended without
its permission. And Ardzinba warned on 8 June that withdrawal of the
peacekeeping force could lead to the resumption of hostilities.
        That pessimism and sense of urgency were shared by many of the 40
participants in a one-day conference on Georgian-Abkhaz relations organized in
Tbilisi on 6 June by the British NGO VERTIC, which for several years has
engaged in conflict mediation and confidence-building in Georgia. Participants
included Georgian politicians from across the political spectrum, spokesmen
for Georgian refugees, representatives of the UN and the Organization for
Cooperation and Security in Europe, and foreign diplomats. The Russian
ambassador to Georgia was invited but declined to attend.
        "We are balancing on the brink of war" is how Zurab Erkvania, chairman o
 f the
Council of Ministers of the Abkhaz government in exile, described the present
situation. UN and OSCE representatives argued that the recent escalation of
guerrilla warfare in Gali constituted an unannounced resumption of
hostilities.
        Georgian Deputy Parliamentary Chairman Vakhtang Kolbaia said the Georgia
 n
leadership is ready to start negotiations with the Abkhaz leadership at all
levels and in any form. Kolbaia reiterated Georgia's offer to give Abkhazia
the broadest possible autonomy within a unified Georgian state. He hinted that
Georgia might accept the gradual repatriation of ethnic Georgian refugees from
Abkhazia now living in appalling conditions in Tbilisi and other Georgian
towns. Kolbaia also offered an amnesty to all those who were involved in the
hostilities and reiterated Shevardnadze's recent call for an international
conference, involving Russia and Western powers and taking place under the
auspices of the UN, to discuss a resolution of the conflict. Kolbaia said
Georgia does not exclude the possibility that Russia will host and initiate
such a conference. Other participants expressed approval for greater Western
involvement in the search for a solution to the conflict.
        Representatives of Abkhazia's erstwhile Georgian community took a more
hard-line position, blaming Russia for Georgia's disintegration. Tamaz
Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, said Georgian
leaders have been told in Moscow that if they want to resolve the Abkhaz
problem, they must help to reconstruct the Soviet Union. Georgian radical
parliamentary deputy Boris Kakubava similarly blamed Moscow for the current
situation and called for the immediate withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping
force. He said there was no place for Russia in the Caucasus.
        By contrast, Georgian academics showed greater flexibility and willingne
 ss to
consider compromise solutions. Prominent intellectual Zaal Kikodze called for
the economic blockade on Abkhazia to be lifted, while Freedom party spokesman
Archil Morchiladze urged negotiations to take place between what he called
"two equal parties." Academic Ghia Nodia said Georgia should stop looking
abroad for solutions to its problems and should engage in an active dialogue
with the Abkhaz leadership.

(Dennis Sammut, who heads VERTIC's Georgia program and chaired the 6 June
seminar, provided RFE/RL with a detailed summary of the proceedings. VERTIC
plans to hold a meeting of Abkhaz politicians in Sukhumi in early July.)


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