The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 56, Part I, 19 June 1997


Vol 1, No. 56, Part I, 19 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 REJECTS MORE CUTS IN SOCIAL BENEFITS


*GAZPROM TO PAY DEBTS


*NAGORNO-KARABAKH TO HOLD EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

End Note
THE INTERNET IN ARMENIA

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RUSSIA

DUMA REJECTS MORE CUTS IN SOCIAL BENEFITS. The State Duma has voted by 226 to
70 with two abstentions to reject another government-backed package of
measures to reduce social benefits, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 18
June. Among other things, the proposals would have reduced sick pay and
limited maternity benefits. Our Home Is Russia and the Liberal Democratic
Party of Russia supported the government's proposals, while Yabloko and the
Communists opposed them. On 17 June, the Duma rejected measures to reduce
allowances for children older than three years and cut benefits for state
officials, families of veterans, and State Duma staff. A commission of
government and parliamentary representatives will now seek a compromise on the
social reforms.

TAX CODE SUBMITTED FOR DUMA VOTE. Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov
addressed the Duma on 19 June and called on deputies to approve the draft tax
code in its first reading, ITAR-TASS reported. Shatalov argued that Russia
needs "radical," not "cosmetic," changes to its tax system. By reducing the
total number of taxes, the new code will help the development of Russian
industry and small businesses, he added. Shatalov also said many regional
leaders have been consulted while the code was being drafted and that almost
all had supported it.

DUMA DEMANDS AUDIT OF NEMTSOV'S TRIP TO JAPAN. The Duma voted by 246 to 38
with one abstention to ask the Audit Chamber to examine First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov's recent trip to Japan and announce its conclusions
within one week, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 June. More than 80 people were on
the delegation Nemtsov took to Japan. Nemtsov has said that he supports
demands for an audit of his trip and has called for audits of foreign trips by
parliamentary deputies as well.

GAZPROM TO PAY DEBTS... Petr Rodionov, deputy director of the board of
Gazprom, says the gas monopoly will pay all its debts to the federal budget by
30 June, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 18 June. He said Gazprom has
already reduced its debt to the government, estimated earlier this year at
more than 14 trillion rubles ($2.5 billion), to 6.6 trillion rubles.
Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" claimed on 19 June that "young members of the
government" (meaning First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris
Nemtsov) are pushing Gazprom along a "path toward self-destruction." The paper
claimed that Gazprom is being forced to take out massive loans from foreign
banks, which the company is likely have trouble repaying. Gazprom
representatives have said the company is owed some $12 billion by delinquent
domestic consumers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1997).

...AND LOWER RATES FOR INDUSTRY. First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov says
Yeltsin will soon issue a decree ordering Gazprom to cut its gas charges for
industrial consumers by 40%, Russian news agencies reported on 18 June. The
Railways Ministry recently decided to reduce freight charges by up to 50%
beginning on 1 July, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 June. Nemtsov is leading the
government's drive to reform the "natural monopolies" in the energy and
transportation sectors. He has repeatedly called on the monopolies to reduce
the rates they charge industrial enterprises.

YELTSIN NOT TO ATTEND NATO SUMMIT IN MADRID? ITAR-TASS reported on 18 June
that Yeltsin will not attend the NATO summit in Madrid in July. However,
Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii refused to confirm or deny the
report, saying Yeltsin will announce his decision soon, according to Interfax.
Yeltsin is to depart for Denver, Colorado, on 19 June, where he will attend
the summit of G-7 industrialized nations. Russian officials have repeatedly
said Russia will participate in the Denver summit as an "equal partner."

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY REJECTS MASKHADOV ACCUSATIONS. The Russian Interior
Ministry has released a statement rejecting Chechen President Aslan
Maskhadov's accusations that Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov is sabotaging
the peace process in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"18 June 1997), ITAR-TASS
reported. The statement said the charges did not "correspond to reality."
Kulikov claimed that some Chechen leaders are opposed to the stricter controls
along the Russian-Chechen border imposed by the ministry. He also said that,
as a result of those measures, the crime level in adjacent Stavropol Krai has
"dramatically dropped," according to Interfax. The Russian Interior Ministry
will not open the border to allow "tens of thousands" of Chechen gunmen to
cross it, Kulikov added.

RUSSIAN OFFICER KIDNAPPED ON CHECHEN BORDER. Unidentified gunmen have
kidnapped Lt.-Col. Andrei Denisov, an officer of the Russian Interior Ministry
troops, at a checkpoint on the Russian-Chechen border, ITAR-TASS reported on
18 June. Denisov was seized as he tried to mediate a dispute between his
soldiers and the gunmen, following an incident in which gunshots were fired at
the car of an ethnic Chechen living in Dagestan. Denisov's whereabouts are
still unknown. Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov said the kidnappers belong
neither to Chechnya's army nor its police force.

MILITARY REFORM UPDATE. Air Force Commander Petr Deinikin says the Air Force
will be downsized by about one-third by 2001, with some 30,000 servicemen
dismissed annually, Interfax reported on 18 June. The same day, after meeting
with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Sochi, Defense Minister Igor
Sergeev told reporters that the armed forces would use money saved through
streamlining to purchase the most up-to-date new equipment. Chernomyrdin will
soon convene another meeting of the government commission he chairs on
military reform. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais heads a separate
commission on financing the armed forces and privatizing some military
property. Meanwhile, a Defense Ministry press release published in "Krasnaya
zvezda" on 19 June described plans to create a military police force to deal
with rising crime rates among Russian servicemen. A law on military police
must be adopted before the force can be established.

RUSSIA NOT TO BUY BOMBERS STATIONED IN UKRAINE. Deinekin also confirmed on 18
June that Russia has no plans to buy some 45 strategic bombers stationed in
Ukraine, Interfax reported. He said Russia had "begged" Ukraine years ago to
agree to transfer the Tu-160 and Tu-95 MS aircraft, noting that the two sides
had not been able to agree on terms. Now the bombers are in "extremely poor
condition," Deinikin added, making their purchase undesirable. Deinekin also
said Russia is developing a new long-range bomber, to be introduced sometime
after 2005.

NEWSPAPER CLAIMS RUSSIA ESTABLISHING CIVILIAN CONTROL OVER MILITARY.
"Rossiiskie vesti," the official newspaper of the presidential administration,
argued on 19 June that the Russian armed forces are in effect under civilian
control. The paper said that rather than making a "decorative change from an
officers' uniform on the defense minister to a civilian's jacket," Russia had
created "civilian structures vested with broad powers" to supervise the
military. In May, Yeltsin created commissions on military reform headed by
Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 28 May 1997). Furthermore, the paper noted, the
authority of Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin, also a civilian, has
recently increased. Former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, whom Yeltsin fired
in May, retired from the army in December 1996 after turning 60. However, many
observers argued that as a career officer, Rodionov could not truly be
considered a civilian defense minister.

RUSSIAN EXTENDS CREDIT TO BELARUS. Russia will loan Belarus 500 billion rubles
($86 million) this year under an agreement signed on 18 June in St. Petersburg
by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov and Mikhail Myasnikovich, head
of the Belarusian presidential administration, Russian news agencies reported.
Serov told journalists that the loan will be used mainly for projects to
manufacture cars and agricultural equipment in Belarus. He added that if the
credits were used efficiently, Russia might loan another 500 billion rubles to
Belarus later this year.

KORZHAKOV LOSES LAWSUIT AGAINST YELTSIN. The Supreme Court has rejected Duma
deputy Aleksandr Korzhakov's lawsuit against Yeltsin and ordered the former
presidential bodyguard to pay 8 million rubles ($1400) in court costs,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 18 June. Yeltsin fired Korzhakov as head of
the Presidential Security Service in June 1996 but issued a decree ordering
that he be stripped of his military rank only in October, after Korzhakov gave
interviews to the British newspaper "The Guardian" and the German magazine
"Der Spiegel" (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 23 and 29 October 1996). Among other
things, Korzhakov said then-presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and
Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko were keeping the president in an
"information blockade." Officials accused Korzhakov of slandering the
president's family and disclosing confidential information he had acquired as
Yeltsin's bodyguard. Korzhakov then filed suit, claiming he had been slandered
and fired without cause.

YELTSIN CONTINUES PHONE DIPLOMACY WITH REGIONAL LEADERS. During a telephone
conversation with Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, Yeltsin promised
to transfer to Saratov funds to acquire 500 new grain-harvesting combines,
Ayatskov told ITAR-TASS on 19 June. Ayatskov did not specify how much the new
combines would cost. The top legislative and executive leaders in Russia's
regions are also members of the Federation Council, the upper house of
parliament. The presidential administration has courted the support of the
Council as a counterweight to the State Duma, in which opposition groups have
a majority. In addition, Yeltsin has recently had a series of telephone
conversations with mayors of large Russian cities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12
June 1997).

OKUDZHAVA MOURNED, KOPELEV DIES. Thousands of mourners lined Moscow's Arbat
street on 18 June to pay their last respects to the poet, novelist, and
songwriter Bulat Okudzhava. Okudzhava described the Arbat as his "religion"
and his "fatherland" in one of his most famous songs. Poets Bella Akhmadulina,
Andrei Voznesenskii, and Yevgenii Yevtushenko, as well as prose writers such
as Vasilii Aksenov and Vladimir Voinovich attended a memorial ceremony in a
local theater. First Deputy Prime Ministers Chubais and Nemtsov, along with
Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko, also laid flowers by Okudzhava's coffin.
Okudzhava, who died recently in France (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 1997),
is to be buried on 19 June in Moscow's Vagankovskoe cemetery, not far from the
grave of poet and songwriter Vladimir Vysotskii. On 18 June, former Soviet
dissident writer Lev Kopelev died in Cologne. He had lived in Germany since
1980.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

NAGORNO-KARABAKH TO HOLD EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. The parliament of the
self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh has announced early presidential
elections will be held in September, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 18
June. The disputed region's presidency has been vacant since March 1997, when
Robert Kocharyan left that post to become Armenian prime minister. The
November 1996 presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh -- the first to be
held there -- were condemned by the international community.

ALIEV TO DISCUSS OIL TRANSIT PROBLEMS IN MOSCOW. Azerbaijani President Heydar
Aliev has suggested that he and Russian leaders will resolve all "problems"
related to the transit of early Azerbaijani oil when they meet in Moscow on 3
July. Aliev, however, added that there is no need to sign a new agreement on
the pipeline from Azerbaijan to Russia's Black Sea port of Novorossiisk
because Moscow did not implement the previous one, signed in 1996. The 153-km
sector of the pipeline runs through Chechnya. Aliev argued that "we cannot
transport our oil along that route, given the current relations between Russia
and Chechnya," according to Interfax. Russian and Chechen leaders recently
signed a memorandum paving the way for the export of Azerbaijani oil (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 1997). But despite Moscow's opposition, Grozny
insists that a similar three-party agreement be signed by Azerbaijan,
Chechnya, and Russia.

GEORGIA'S SECURITY MINISTRY ACCUSED OF PHONE-TAPPING. Irina Sarishvili, the
leader of the National Democratic Party, has accused the State Security
Ministry of tapping telephone conversations of Nodar Grigalashvili,
editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper "Sakartvelo," Interfax reported on
18 June. Sarishvili submitted to a Georgian parliamentary committee what she
called transcripts of the editor's telephone conversations, signed by State
Security Minister Shota Kviraya. Grigalashvili confirmed that the
"transcripts" were authentic. Earlier, Sarishvili had accused Kviraya of
collaborating with the Russian security services.

TAJIK UPDATE. One soldier from the Defense Ministry was killed on 18 June near
the Fakhrabad Pass, 30 kilometers south of Dushanbe, according to RFE/RL's
Tajik service and Interfax. Forces of the Tajik Army's First Brigade,
commanded by Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, are reported to have abducted two
Tajik army officers and taken them to the First Brigade's headquarters in
Kurgan-Teppe. However, Kasym Boboyev, the deputy governor of Khatlon Oblast,
said soldiers manning checkpoints have voluntarily gone over to
Khudaberdiyev's side. He also denied that a coup has taken place in the Yavon
area or in Kurgan-Teppe. The Tajik government has reportedly sent officials to
negotiate with Khudaberdiyev but has still not issued a statement on the
situation in the country.

KAZAK CURRENCY TO BE DEVALUED. The government has announced it will readjust
budget indicators for June and allow the exchange rate of the tenge to drop
from 73 to 77.4 to the dollar, Interfax Kazakstan reported. Deputy Finance
Minister Zhanat Yertlesova said on 18 June that this decision was based on a
revised forecast that puts inflation at 17.5% by year's end. Yertlesova added
that the payment of pension arrears is not expected to fuel inflation in the
second half of the year.

PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER BEGINS CENTRAL ASIAN TOUR. Gohar Ayub Khan arrived
in Almaty on 18 June on the first leg of a tour of four Central Asian states,
RFE/RL correspondents reported. Khan met with his Kazak counterpart,
Kazimjomart Tokayev, to discuss bilateral economic and political relations.
Afghanistan was also high on the agenda of their talks. Tokayev said his
country favors a coalition government in Afghanistan. Khan is scheduled to
travel to Kyrgyzstan on 19 June. He will also visit Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

CHINESE DEFENSE MINISTER IN KYRGYZSTAN. Chi Haotian received support on a
number of issues during his 16-18 June visit to Bishkek, according to RFE/RL
correspondents and AFP. Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov said his country
supports the Chinese position on reunification with Taiwan . A spokesman for
the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry noted that Kyrgyzstan's "positions against
separatism and religious extremism are identical" to China's. Kazakstan had
given Chi similar assurances during his visit there before arriving in
Kyrgyzstan. Uyghur exile groups in Kazakstan have responded by saying they can
no longer count on Almaty and Bishkek for "support in the fight for the
independence of Xinjiang." On 16 June, it was announced that Bishkek's Lenin
Avenue will be renamed after Deng Xiao Peng.

END NOTE

THE INTERNET IN ARMENIA

by Julie Moffett

        Armenia is making slow but consistent progress along the information
superhighway, owing largely to the enthusiastic efforts of Armenian
scientists, researchers, and computer experts as well as the technical and
financial assistance of foreign organizations. It established a permanent
Internet link in March 1994 and has had non-permanent, dial-up Internet access
since 1992. However, the country faces several daunting tasks in improving its
Internet connectivity, primarily because the telecommunications infrastructure
in the country is so poor.
        There are currently no digital lines (designed to quickly exchange data)
 , and
all of the telephone lines are analog (designed to support voice). Moreover,
many of the telephone lines currently in use are substandard and antiquated .
There is also an insufficient number of telephone lines for residential use
and inadequate connections to rural locations. The situation is so dire that
according to Armen Gyulkhasyan, deputy director of the Yerevan Physics
Institute and an Internet expert, it is "almost impossible to call next door"
in Armenia.
        Recognizing the importance of improving the telecommunication infrastruc
 ture
in the country, the Armenian government is taking steps to make substantial
changes. It has formed a new telecommunications company called Armentel, which
is a joint venture between the Ministry of Communications of Armenia and
Transworld Corporation of the U.S. The company is installing a modern fiber
optic cable and modern phone switches in Yerevan. According to Gregor Saghyan,
technical director of Arminco -- a commercial Internet service provider in
Armenia -- Armentel will operate as a monopoly, owning all of the long
distance lines into and out of Armenia. The new system is expected to be fully
operational by September 1997.
        In addition to government efforts, Armenian scientists and computer expe
 rts
are also taking an active role in improving Internet connectivity in the
country. For example, Gyulkhasyan was instrumental role in staging a NATO
advanced networking conference in Yerevan in May. The conference, titled
"Internet Development in Armenia and Region: Means, Aims, and Prospects,"
covered Internet technology, information services, network management,
Internet in education, and Internet security. According to Gyulkhasyan, the
purpose of the conference was to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and to
exchange experience between qualified network mangers from different
environments and backgrounds. Attendees included representatives from Armenia,
Russia, Georgia, Turkey, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.S.
        Also playing a major role in promoting Internet use in Armenia is the
Armenian Internet Users' Group (AmIUG), a public organization that unites
major Internet users around the country. With the assistance of two Internet
experts -- Igor Mkrtoumian, the director of computer services at the American
University of Armenia, and Edgar Der-Danieliantz, who is responsible for
installing and running Armenia's first permanent Internet link -- AmIUG
established the Armenian Network Information Center (AmNIC), the country's
official network information center. AmNIC collects and stores all information
on domain names, Internet addresses, name servers, contact persons, and
network providers in Armenia in its database.
        Mkrtoumian and Der-Danieliantz have also been quite active in contributi
 ng to
a greater international understanding of Internet capabilities and needs in
Armenia. In an article titled "Internet in Armenia, 1996" (published in the
AmIUG Bulletin, a local electronic publication of the Armenian Internet Users'
Group), Mkrtoumian and Der-Danieliantz outlined the current technical
capabilities and shortcomings of the Internet in Armenia. They also provided
useful information on the cost of using the Internet and electronic mail in
Armenia and listed Armenian Internet domain names and World Wide Web servers.
        Among foreign organizations providing financial assistance to Armenia to
improve Internet connectivity is the Eurasia Foundation. The Foundation is a
U.S.-based, privately-managed grantmaking organization that began its
activities in Armenia in 1995. Since then, it has made several important
Internet-related grants.
        Some of the more notable grants includes a $23,400 award to an Armenian
business called the Gandzasar Center in part to support a web version of a
bi-monthly informational bulletin on Armenian computer hardware and software
companies. A $12,800 grant to the Information-Analytical Center will support
the development of a regularly updated web site that will contain information
on wholesale and retail prices of foodstuffs, fuel, real estate, construction
materials, hotel and tourism, taxes and custom tariffs in Armenia. And the
Armenian Internet Users' Group has received $19,500 in support of a linkage
and sustainability program involving the creation of a home page on the
Internet to provide specifics on Eurasia Foundation awards and invite
organizations worldwide to establish contacts and pursue Internet-related
collaboration with Armenia.
        However, there are still several major obstacles in the way of improved
Internet connectivity in Armenia:. These include poor telecommunications
infrastructure; expensive telephone lines; the high cost of computer equipment
relative to an average worker's salary; political unrest in some regions of
the country, which impedes infrastructure reform and intimidates potential
sponsors and donors, and a heavy dependence on international funding, making
long-range planning difficult.


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