When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. - Mark Twain
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 60, Part I, 25 June 1997


Vol 1, No. 60, Part I, 25 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 MOST GOVERNMENT-BACKED SOCIAL REFORMS

* NEMTSOV IN CHINA

* AFGHAN REFUGEES IN TURKMENISTAN

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RUSSIA

DUMA REJECTS MOST GOVERNMENT-BACKED SOCIAL REFORMS. During its last session
before the two-month summer recess, the State Duma rejected all but one
proposal of a government-backed package to reform Russia's social benefits
system, Russian news agencies reported on 24 June. Deputies approved a bill to
make child allowance payments means-tested rather than guaranteed to all
families with children under age 16. However, the Duma rejected plans to cut
benefits to veterans' families and law-enforcement officials, as well as to
limit sick pay and maternity benefits. The Duma will consider the social
reforms again in September. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev said the
government may impose some of the benefits reductions without parliamentary
approval. Also on 24 June, the Duma passed a law that would raise the minimum
monthly pension by 20%, from 69,575 rubles ($12) to 83,490 rubles, beginning
on 1 July.

DUMA PASSES LAW ON PRIVATIZATION. The Duma on 24 June passed by 311 to nine a
law on the privatization of state property, Russian news agencies reported.
Under the law, the state would retain its veto power at shareholder meetings
when "strategically important enterprises" are privatized. In addition, the
law would allow the state to appropriate privatized property--without
compensating new owners--if the new owners failed to meet either investment
commitments they had made in order to acquire the state property, or
obligations to employees. The law would also require the government to submit
its privatization plans to the Duma annually for parliamentary approval. Duma
deputies recently passed a non-binding resolution denouncing the government's
privatization policy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 12 June 1997).

CHUBAIS SAYS GOVERNMENT NOT PLEASED WITH DUMA'S PERFORMANCE. First Deputy
Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais says the government is not satisfied with the
Duma's failure to pass bills on budget cuts and social reforms, Interfax
reported on 24 June. Asked whether the Duma might be dissolved, Chubais said
such a decision was up to President Boris Yeltsin, adding that "extreme steps
must be taken only in extreme cases." Meanwhile, State Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev criticized the government for trying to turn the Duma into a
"scapegoat." Seleznev also said the Duma should not be addressed with
"ultimatum-like rhetoric." Speaking to reporters in Strasbourg on 24 June,
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said he has an official document
outlining the Kremlin's plans to discredit and ultimately disband the Duma,
AFP reported. Zyuganov was presumably referring to an alleged document
published recently in "Sovetskaya Rossiya" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June
1997).

DUMA CALLS FOR ENDING BLOCKADE OF ABKHAZIA. The Duma on 25 June adopted a
statement calling for the lifting of economic sanctions imposed on Abkhazia in
1995, ITAR-TASS reported. The sanctions include restrictions on crossing the
frontier between Abkhazia and Russia and mandatory customs and frontier
inspections in the Georgian port of Poti for all vessels wishing to dock in
the Abkhaz capital of Sukhumi. The Duma requested that speaker Gennadii
Seleznev forward the statement to Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin,
and the heads of relevant government agencies.

DUMA PASSES LAW TO PROTECT LAKE BAIKAL. The Duma on 24 June passed a law on
protecting Siberia's Lake Baikal, ITAR-TASS reported. A spokesman for the
environmental group Greenpeace called it an important step in the 40-year
effort to safeguard the lake, which contains 20% of the fresh water on the
earth's surface. The law would create ecological zones on and around the lake
in which it would be prohibited to expand existing industry, construct new
rail lines, store nuclear waste, and prospect for oil or minerals.

NEMTSOV IN CHINA. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov attended a meeting
of the Russian-Chinese Intergovernmental Commission in Beijing on 24 June,
Russian media reported. The two sides reached an agreement on gas exploration
in Russia's Irkutsk Oblast and on construction of a gas pipeline to South
Korea via Mongolia and China. On 25 June, Nemtsov met with the president of
China's National Oil Company to continue cooperation discussions. He also met
with Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng. Nemtsov noted that cooperation in energy
related projects is a key component of Russian-Chinese relations. Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin arrives in China on 26 June to discuss, among other
things, boosting bilateral trade and the demarcation of the Russian-Chinese
border. Viktor Ishaev, the governor of Khabarovsk Krai, has already said he is
opposed to the proposed demarcation and will send the head of the Amur
regional administration to represent the Far East's interests during
Chernomyrdin's visit.

DEFENSE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN SENDS STRONG MESSAGE TO YELTSIN. Duma Defense
Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, a member of the pro-government faction Our
Home Is Russia (NDR), has sent an appeal to Yeltsin calling for "extreme
measures to improve the situation in the armed forces," Russian news agencies
reported on 24 June. In his appeal, Rokhlin said Yeltsin has "not done
anything for six years for the country's military security" and bears
"personal responsibility" for starting the war in Chechnya, according to
"Komsomolskaya pravda" on 25 June. Rokhlin also charged that the IMF is
controlling military reform by demanding that defense spending not exceed 3.5%
of Russia's GDP. He called on soldiers to unite and demand their legal rights.
Duma First Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin of NDR criticized Rokhlin's appeal
as a "call for disobedience." Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov said the Defense
Committee had neither discussed nor approved the appeal.

ZHIRINOVSKY FAILS IN BID TO REMOVE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN. By 137
to 119 votes with four abstentions, the Duma rejected a resolution to remove
Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin as head of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee,
Russian news agencies reported on 24 June. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky had proposed the resolution, saying Lukin has
"betrayed Russia's national interests." The attempt to remove Lukin was
sparked by his recent suggestion that Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev, an outspoken
human rights activist, be nominated for deputy chairman of the Council of
Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.

CHERNOMYRDIN CRITICIZES U.S. TRADE POLICIES. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin ended
a trip to the U.S. on 24 June with an appeal to Washington to change what he
called discriminatory trade policies. In a speech to business executives in
San Francisco, Chernomyrdin criticized the U.S. for imposing anti-dumping
tariffs against some Russian goods and for restricting the sale of
supercomputers to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. Chernomyrdin called on U.S.
investors to set up regional mutual funds focusing on the Russian Far East and
some sectors of the Russian economy. He noted that the U.S. accounts for more
than one-third of direct foreign investment in Russia, but that the overall
amount of money invested remains "very low." On 23 June, Chernomyrdin
represented Russia at the UN Earth Summit in New York and met with U.S. Vice
President Al Gore.

FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS KYIV VIOLATES SPIRIT OF TREATY BY BARRING ZATULIN. The
Russian Foreign Ministry has sent a message to its Ukrainian counterpart,
saying that Kyiv violated the spirit of the recently-signed Russian-Ukrainian
treaty by not allowing politician Konstantin Zatulin to enter Crimea,
ITAR-TASS reported in 24 June. Black Sea Fleet Commander Viktor Kravchenko
invited Zatulin to a 12 June flag-hoisting ceremony in Sevastopol, but Kyiv
had barred Zatulin from entering Crimea two days earlier. As State Duma CIS
Affairs Committee chairman in 1994 and 1995, Zatulin repeatedly criticized
Ukrainian policy on Crimea. More recently, he co-authored an article published
in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 28 March, which urged Russia to sabotage alliances
within the CIS--such that between Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Georgia--and to
refuse to recognize its current borders with Ukraine unless Kyiv agrees to
sign a federal treaty with Crimea.

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT STRIKES DOWN PROVISION IN KHAKASSIAN CONSTITUTION. The
Constitutional Court ruled on 24 June that a residency requirement for
office-seekers in the Republic of Khakassia violates the Russian Constitution,
ITAR-TASS reported. Under the Khakassian Constitution, candidates for the
Supreme Soviet must have lived in the republic for at least five years, and
candidates for head of the republic's government must have been resident there
for at least seven years. Yeltsin filed the court appeal, saying such
restrictions violate constitutional guarantees of equal rights for all Russian
citizens. Last October, the Supreme Court ordered the Khakassian Electoral
Commission to allow then-State Duma deputy Aleksei Lebed to run for
Khakassia's top executive post, even though he did not meet the residency
requirement. Lebed was easily elected in December. The constitutions of most
of Russia's 21 republics contain residency or language requirements for
office-seekers, although federal authorities say those restrictions are
illegal.

FSB HEAD ON EFFORTS TO RECRUIT DOUBLE AGENTS. Federal Security Service
Director Nikolai Kovalev says the FSB's drive to recruit double-agents has
been more successful than planned, Russian agencies reported on 24 June. On 3
June, Kovalev invited Russian citizens already collaborating with foreign
intelligence services to call a special hotline and register as double agents.
On 24 June, he told reporters in Moscow that the hotline had yielded several
interesting calls, and he pledged to make more information public at an
unspecified date. "You will be amazed by the results," Kovalev promised
journalists.

NUCLEAR BUNKER DECONTAMINATED. Scientists at the nuclear research center in
Sarov (formerly Arzamas-16), Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, have decontaminated the
bunker where a nuclear experiment went awry last week, ITAR-TASS reported on
24 June, citing the center's director. Radiation levels at the center are
reported to be back to acceptable levels. Meanwhile, an unidentified member of
the government commission investigating the accident quoted Aleksandr
Zakharov, the senior researcher killed in the mishap, as telling colleagues
before his death that "slippery gloves" may have been to blame. Zakharov was
buried on 24 June.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

AFGHAN REFUGEES IN TURKMENISTAN. The recent fighting between Taliban forces
and their opponents in Afghanistan caused some 3,000-4,000 refugees to flee to
southern Turkmenistan, Interfax and AFP reported on 24 June. A worker from the
United Nations High Commission for Refugees said most of the refugees were
women, children, and elderly people. Turkmen security and law-enforcement
agencies "are currently taking measures to send the refugees back," according
to Interfax.

NIYAZOV SUSPENDS TURKMENROSGAZ OPERATIONS. Interfax reported on 24 June, that
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed an order on 19 June suspending the
activities of the Turkmen-Russian company Turkmenrosgaz. The company delivered
gas to Ukraine after purchasing it through the ITERA International Energy
firm. Turkmenistan, however, canceled the deal with ITERA in April and agreed
to provide direct gas supplies to Ukraine.

NO DECISION ON STATUS OF RUSSIAN LANGUAGE IN KYRGYZSTAN. The People's Assembly
(lower house) of the Kyrgyz parliament on 24 June, failed to pass a resolution
on granting Russian "official" language status in the country, RFE/RL
correspondents in Bishkek reported. President Askar Akayev spoke in favor of
amending the constitution to include Russian as an official, rather than
state, language. However, only 40 of the 58 deputies present voted in favor of
the resolution. A vote of two-thirds (47) of the total 70 deputies would have
been needed for it to pass. Several deputies have called for a second reading.
The resolution would also require the approval of the parliament's Legislative
Assembly (upper house). The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS had reported the
same day that the amendment was passed "unanimously" and was likely to be
approved by the Legislative Assembly soon.

GEORGIAN POLICE OFFICIALS SHOOT SEVEN. Two Georgian Interior Ministry troops
on 24 June shot dead seven people, including fellow servicemen, in a village
close to the Georgian-Azerbaijani frontier, Western agencies reported. The two
men fled in a hijacked car but were later apprehended by police. The motive
for the killings is unclear.




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