To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 61, Part I, 26 June 1997


Vol 1, No. 61, Part I, 26 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

*MOST SERIOUS ACCIDENT TO DATE ON SPACE STATION "MIR"


*RUSSIAN SHIP FIRES ON JAPANESE FISHING BOAT


*ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN GREET DENVER SUMMIT STATEMENT ON KARABAKH

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RUSSIA

MOST SERIOUS ACCIDENT TO DATE ON SPACE STATION "MIR." A cargo supply craft
crashed into the space station "Mir" on 25 June, puncturing one of the
station's modules and knocking out half of its power supply. Russian space
officials said the three astronauts on board the station--two from Russia and
one from the U.S.--are not in danger but that a space walk might be needed to
fully assess the damage, according to Interfax. A launch of another resupply
ship to "Mir," scheduled for 27 June, has been postponed, Reuters reported.
The station has been reoriented toward the sun so that its functioning panels
can absorb more solar energy. Experts are now consulting on how to maximize
the craft's reduced energy supplies. Since February, astronauts on "Mir" have
had to put out a small fire and repair systems for generating oxygen, removing
carbon dioxide, and cooling the station.

RUSSIAN BORDERS GUARDS FIRE ON JAPANESE FISHING BOAT. Two Japanese fishermen
were injured on 26 June when their vessel came under fire from a Russian
border guard patrol boat. The fishermen were near one of the disputed southern
Kuril Islands, which are claimed by both Russia and Japan. The boat returned
to Japan, and the two injured men were taken to the hospital. Japan has
already filed a protest with the Russian Embassy in Tokyo asking for an
immediate investigation. Japanese-Russian relations had been improving
recently. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, commenting on
the recent Summit of Eight in Denver, Colorado, said on 25 June that the
meeting has "opened a new chapter in Japanese-Russian relations," RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau reported.

YASTRZHEMBSKII UNHAPPY WITH MEDIA COVERAGE OF SUMMIT. Presidential spokesman
Yastrzhembskii says the Russian media underestimated Boris Yeltsin's
achievements at the recent Summit of Eight in Denver, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported on 25 June. In particular, he criticized an article published in
"Kommersant-Daily" on 24 June that argued that Russia changed its position on
UN sanctions toward Iraq after being admitted to the group of industrialized
nations. Yastrzhembskii disputed the paper's claim, saying Yeltsin had made
clear in Denver that Russia does not support additional sanctions against
Iraq. He also said journalists "would perform a very useful service for
Russia, Russia's prestige, and the consolidation of society" if they better
understood foreign policy issues. "In no other country in the world have I
come across a press that so mercilessly and incorrectly" reports on the
foreign policy successes of the country's leadership, Yastrzhembskii added.

CHERNOMYRDIN ARRIVES IN CHINA. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin arrived in
Shenzhen, in southern China's Guangdong Province, on 26 June for a three-day
visit to discuss military and economic ties, Russian media reported. Shenzhen
is a so-called special zone that borders on Hong-Kong and that China has often
used as an example of its economic successes. "We intend to do this back
home," Chernomyrdin told reporters. He later flew to Beijing where he is to
meet with top Chinese officials.

WORLD BANK APPROVES ANOTHER LOAN TO RUSSIA. The World Bank has approved an
$800 million loan to restructure Russia's social welfare system, Interfax
reported on 25 June, citing Andrei Bugrov, a World Bank official in Moscow.
Bugrov said the first installment of the loan--$300 million--is due on 26 June
and will be used toward paying pension arrears and developing non-governmental
pension funds. The next installment of $250 million is scheduled to be issued
in the fall, and the last will follow in spring 1998. The World Bank on 5 June
approved six loans to Russia worth a total of nearly $885 million. Johannes
Linn, the bank's Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, said at the time
that the bank plans to extend up to $12-13 billion in credits to Russia by the
year 2000.

CHUBAIS CLAIMS GOVERNMENT HAS PAID ALL PENSION ARREARS. First Deputy Prime
Minister Anatolii Chubais told a government meeting on 26 June that the
government has kept its promise to pay all pension arrears by 1 July,
ITAR-TASS reported. Chubais said some 2.75 trillion rubles ($477 million) have
been transferred to Russian regions to pay back pensions. He called on Pension
Fund officials and regional leaders to make sure that the money reaches
pensioners by the evening of 30 June. Federal officials have frequently
complained that regional authorities misappropriate federal funds earmarked
for paying pensions or wages for state workers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May
1997). Meanwhile, State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh told ITAR-TASS
on 25 June that the government may consider raising the pension age (currently
55 for women and 60 for men).

VYAKHIREV CLAIMS GAZPROM HAS PAID ALL DEBTS. Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev told
Interfax on 25 June that the gas monopoly has paid its debt to the state in
full. He said the company transferred 14.5 trillion rubles ($2.5 billion) to
the state budget in May and June. Russian media reported earlier this month
that Gazprom did not fulfill its promise to pay 5 trillion rubles to the state
by 10 June.

OFFICIAL SAYS GOVERNMENT WILL NOT BACK DOWN ON SOCIAL POLICIES. Deputy Prime
Minister Oleg Sysuev on 25 June repeated that the government will impose some
reductions in social benefits without parliamentary approval, although he did
not specify which benefits would be cut by executive order, RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau reported. The Duma recently voted down almost all the government's
proposals to limit eligibility for social support. Sysuev urged a conciliatory
commission of government and parliamentary representatives to continue meeting
during the summer recess to try to reach a compromise on the benefits
reductions. But he accused the Communist-led opposition in the State Duma of
seeking to force changes in government policies by creating a "very tense
situation" by the fall. Sysuev warned that although he does not favor early
parliamentary elections, the executive may consider disbanding the Duma in the
fall if the situation worsens.

YELTSIN SUSPENDS JUSTICE MINISTER. Yeltsin issued a decree on 25 June
suspending Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev until an investigation into media
reports discrediting him has been conducted, Russian news agencies reported.
"Sovershenno sekretno" recently published frames from a videotape allegedly
showing Kovalev with nude women at a Moscow club said to be frequented by
gangsters. Kovalev has said the videotape was fabricated. However, Interfax
reported that Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov has confirmed the
authenticity of the video and said at least five copies of it exist. Interior
Ministry officials have denied that sources within the ministry leaked the
video to "Sovershenno sekretno."

COMMITTEE BEGINS DRAFTING LAW ON NATIONALIZATION. State Property Committee
Chairman Kokh says his committee has begun drafting a law on nationalization,
Russian news agencies reported on 25 June. Kokh noted that in accordance with
Russia's Civil Code, nationalization can take place only if property owners
are compensated. However, "Kommersant-Daily" and Interfax on 25 June both
quoted Kokh as welcoming the privatization law recently approved by the State
Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997). If passed by the Federation
Council and signed by Yeltsin, that law would give the state the right to
appropriate privatized property without compensating new owners if they had
failed to meet either investment commitments or obligations to employees. Kokh
did not comment on that provision of the law.

REACTION TO ROKHLIN'S APPEAL TO YELTSIN. The political council of Our Home Is
Russia (NDR) will decide on 30 June whether State Duma Defense Committee
Chairman Lev Rokhlin will remain in the pro-government movement, ITAR-TASS
reported on 25 June, citing NDR Duma deputy Roman Popkovich. Rokhlin recently
issued an appeal blaming Yeltsin for the war in Chechnya and disastrous
conditions in the armed forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997). Even if
the NDR expels Rokhlin, he will not be removed as Defense Committee chairman
unless a majority of Duma deputies approves such a move. Yeltsin has not yet
responded to Rokhlin's appeal, but an unnamed senior Defense Ministry official
told Interfax that the appeal was aimed at "disrupting [military] reforms and
pushing the army toward havoc." Rokhlin strongly supported the July 1996
appointment of Igor Rodionov as defense minister. Yeltsin sacked Rodionov in
May.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN GREET DENVER SUMMIT STATEMENT ON KARABAKH. Officials in
Baku and Yerevan have expressed support for the statement on Nagorno-Karabakh
released by the US, Russian, and French presidents during the recent Summit of
Eight in Denver. The statement calls for a swift negotiated settlement of the
conflict "taking into consideration the interests and concerns of all
parties." Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade said the statement
was "very important and timely" and conducive to "a just and peaceful
solution," according to RIA Novosti and Turan. Armenian presidential spokesman
Levon Zurabian said on 25 June that Armenia agrees with the Denver statement
and that both Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have already given a
formal response to the most recent peace proposals advanced by the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Minsk Group, according to the
Yerevan News Service on 25 June. The U.S., Russia, and France are co-chairmen
of the group.

IMF LOAN TO ARMENIA. The IMF on 23 June approved the second annual tranche of
a three-year loan to Armenia, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported.
The first half of the $47 million tranche will be released on 30 June. The IMF
noted Armenia's success in cutting inflation to below 6% in 1996. At the same
time, it noted that "relaxed" fiscal policies during the presidential election
campaign contributed to raising the budget deficit to 9.35% of GDP and that
the situation this year remains "fragile." The IMF said Armenia needs to
improve the targeting of social benefits in order to help the poorest strata
of the population.

EBRD LOAN TO AZERBAIJAN. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
has approved a loan of more than $21 million to upgrade Azerbaijan's
hydro-electric capacity, RFE/RL reported. The loan is for a project,
co-financed by the Islamic Development Bank and the EU, to replace three
generators at the Mingechaur Hydroelectric plant and rebuild a back-up high
voltage transmission line from the plant to Baku.

GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE IN AZERBAIJAN. President Heidar Aliev issued a decree on
25 June merging the Ministries of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations into a
new Ministry of Trade, Interfax and Western agencies reported. A state-owned
company producing consumer goods was also abolished, and its director, Rafig
Khalafov, promoted to the position of deputy prime minister, according to
Reuters. Addressing a televised government session, Aliev said the reshuffle
is part of an ongoing process intended to expedite the "lagging" economic
reform process. Aliev also issued a second decree calling on the National Bank
to draft a program for the reform of state commercial banks.

CHECHNYA CRITICIZES AZERBAIJAN OVER OIL TRANSIT. Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, head
of the Chechen national oil company Yunko, has harshly criticized unnamed
forces in Azerbaijan who, he said, are trying to exclude Chechnya from
negotiations on the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Chechnya, Interfax
reported on 25 June. Yarikhanov said the Azerbaijani leadership wants a
bilateral agreement with Russia but that this would lead to an "impasse." Both
Azerbaijani President Aliev and Natik Aliev (no relation), the head of the
State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), have said there is no
need for a new agreement. Natik Aliev told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 June
that it is up to Russia to settle its differences with Chechnya. He said he
told Chechen officials who visited Baku that "there is nothing to discuss." He
stressed that it is "very important politically" for Azerbaijan to export oil
via Russia.

BUBONIC PLAGUE REPORTED IN KAZAKSTAN. A man in western Kazakstan has been
diagnosed with bubonic plague, according to AFP. Health authorities in
Kazakstan said on 25 June that both the man and his family have been
quarantined, along with the doctors and nurses treating him. Faizullah
Bismildin, the head of the Kazak Health Ministry's epidemiology department,
said the man had probably been bitten by a flea carried by a rat and that he
was likely to die from the disease. He added that the country is infested with
rats.

HEROIN FOUND IN CAR FROM TAJIK EMBASSY IN KAZAKSTAN. RFE/RL correspondents in
Almaty report that the Procurator General's office released a statement on 26
June saying a large amount of heroin has been found in a car belonging to the
Tajik Embassy in Kazakstan. The value of the haul was estimated at hundreds of
thousands of dollars. Law-enforcement officials are investigating the driver.



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