A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 62, Part I, 27 June 1997


Vol 1, No. 62, Part I, 27 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
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Headlines, Part I

* CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH CHINESE LEADERS

* RUSSIAN WARSHIP CALLS AT JAPANESE PORT

* TAJIK PEACE AGREEMENT SIGNED

End Note : Peace in Tajikistan or a New Stage in the Conflict?

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RUSSIA

CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH CHINESE LEADERS. Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin and his Chinese counterpart, Li Peng, met in Beijing on 27 June
to discuss bilateral relations and sign several agreements. The most important
of those agreements was on Siberian oil and gas deliveries to China. Other
accords dealt with the construction of factories in China with Russian
assistance, boosting bilateral trade, and the opening of a Russian consulate
in Hong Kong. Chernomyrdin also met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. The
unexpected arrival of Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris
Berezovskii to Beijing on 26 June has still not been explained.

YELTSIN TO VISIT CHINA THIS YEAR. Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Karasin
said in Beijing on 26 June that President Boris Yeltsin is planning to visit
China before the end of 1997, according to Russian media. Karasin said Prime
Ministers Chernomyrdin and Li Peng would discuss dates for the visit during
their meetings in the Chinese capital.

RUSSIAN WARSHIP CALLS AT JAPANESE PORT. For the first time in 103 years, a
Russian warship has docked in a Japanese port, Russian and Japanese media
reported on 27 June. The destroyer "Admiral Vinogradov" will remain in a Tokyo
harbor for three days. Also on 27 June, an agreement was reached to begin
trans-Siberian flights between European cities and Japan. Both developments
are seen as further signs of improving relations between Russia and Japan.
However, the 26 June incident in which two Japanese fishermen were injured by
gun fire from a Russian border guard patrol boat has elicited criticism from
both countries. The Japanese questioned the necessity of firing upon a fishing
vessel, while the Russians argued that the Japanese government should take
more precautions to ensure that fishermen cannot by-pass Japanese patrol boats
and illegally enter Russian waters.

CHECHNYA CANCELS CUSTOMS AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIA. The Chechen leadership has
annulled the 14 June customs agreement with Moscow, Russian and Western
agencies reported on 26 June. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi
Udugov told Interfax that President Aslan Maskhadov telephoned Russian
Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin to inform him of the decision. Among
other things, the agreement bestowed international status on Grozny airport.
Udugov said the agreement had been cancelled because Russian Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin had not yet signed it. Rybkin told NTV that the Chechen move
should not be regarded as "a tragedy" and that a new Russian-Chechen customs
agreement is being drafted and will be signed soon.

ASTRONAUT QUOTED AS SAYING SITUATION ON "MIR" STABILIZED. A spokeswoman for
Russian Mission Control on 27 June quoted Vasilii Tsibliev, the commander of
the orbiting space station "Mir," as saying that the situation on "Mir" had
"stabilized" following a 25 June collision with a cargo craft, Reuters
reported. Air pressure on the station is said to be normal, although the
temperature and humidity is somewhat higher than normal. According to AFP, the
station still has only 30%-50% of the electricity required for normal
functioning. Russian Space Agency head Yurii Koptev said a shuttle with relief
supplies will be sent to "Mir" on 4 or 5 July.

YELTSIN ADDRESSES PENSIONERS. In a 27 June nationwide radio address, Yeltsin
said the government has made a "titanic" effort to pay pension arrears,
transferring more than 17 trillion rubles ($2.9 billion) to the Pension Fund
since February. Yeltsin vowed to punish regional leaders "mercilessly" if they
try to "solve their local problems by using the pension funds" rather than
distributing the money to pensioners. He also criticized the State Duma for
rejecting a package of social benefits reductions, which he said are needed to
ensure that the government will have the means to pay pensions on time in the
future. Duma deputies were afraid to accept responsibility for "painful, but
vitally important measures," Yeltsin argued. In addition, the president
promised that pension payments would gradually be increased. Yeltsin recently
issued a decree on raising some pension payments as of January 1998 (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 18 June 1997).

OFFICIAL SAYS GOVERNMENT WILL GET TOUGHER ON DEBTORS TO PENSION FUND. Pension
Fund Chairman Vasilii Barchuk says the government is working out a "whole
gamut" of "tough" methods to recover payments owed to the Pension Fund,
ITAR-TASS reported on 26 June. He said that during the second half of 1997,
the government will not allow any organizations to be exempt from such
payments. Barchuk noted that the fund is currently owed 70 trillion rubles
($12 billion). Of that sum, state-funded organizations owe some 8 trillion
rubles, the Railroads Ministry 3 trillion rubles, and the electricity giant
Unified Energy System 1.9 trillion. Barchuk confirmed that the gas monopoly
Gazprom has paid its debts to the fund. Meanwhile, Deputy Presidential Chief
of Staff Aleksandr Livshits told journalists on 26 June that the government
was able to pay pension arrears largely because of payments this month from
Gazprom, Interfax reported.

DEFENSE MINISTER SLAMS APPEAL BY ROKHLIN. Igor Sergeev has denounced the
hard-hitting appeal issued recently by State Duma Defense Committee Chairman
Lev Rokhlin as "completely unacceptable." Rokhlin sharply criticized Yeltsin's
leadership and said the armed forces are on the verge of ruin (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 25 June 1997). In an interview published in the official military
newspaper "Krasnaya zvezda" on 27 June, Sergeev said Rokhlin violated Russian
laws aimed at preventing "political agitation" in the armed forces and
compared the appeal to Bolshevik agitation in the Russian army in 1917. On 26
June, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin had also criticized Rokhlin's
statement as "unacceptable," and Duma deputy Sergei Belyaev, leader of the Our
Home Is Russia faction, had said his group does not agree with Rokhlin's
views, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee
Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko distanced himself from Rokhlin's appeal.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY POSTPONES ELECTION OF RUSSIAN
DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has postponed
the election of a deputy chairman of the assembly from Russia until January
1998 and has urged the Russian delegation to agree on a single candidate for
the post, Russian news agencies reported on 26 June. Duma Foreign Affairs
Committee Chairman Lukin was deputy chairman of the Council of Europe's
assembly until his term expired in January 1997. The Russian delegation has
proposed three candidates to replace Lukin: Duma deputy Aleksandr Dzasokhov of
the Popular Power faction (supported by the Communists and their allies),
human rights defender and Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev (supported by Yabloko),
and Federation Council Deputy Chairman Vasilii Likhachev (supported by members
of the upper house of the Russian parliament). Likhachev also chairs the
Republic of Tatarstan's legislature.

DUMA TO MONITOR IMPLEMENTATION OF RUSSIA-CIS AGREEMENTS? Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev advocates tasking the Duma with monitoring the implementation of
agreements and treaties signed by Russia and other CIS member states,
according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 26 June. Seleznev said that in September,
the Duma will set up special groups on relations with other CIS parliaments
that will draw up the requisite monitoring procedures.

POLL ON RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION. According to a poll conducted in Russia in May
by the respected Public Opinion Foundation, 75% of Russians view the
Russia-Belarus union as the first step toward the restoration of the USSR,
Interfax reported on 26 June. Asked which other former Soviet republics they
would like to see accede to that union, 64% of the 1,500 respondents named
Ukraine, 40% Kazakstan, and 14 % Moldova. Georgia and Uzbekistan each received
8%, Latvia and Lithuania 5%, Tajikistan and Armenia 4%, Estonia and Kyrgyzstan
3%, and Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan 2%.

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS CRITICIZE MOSCOW AUTHORITIES. Prominent human rights
defenders, including Yelena Bonner and Sergei Kovalev, say that the Moscow
city authorities are stepping up their campaign against minority ethnic groups
in preparation for the city's 850th anniversary celebrations, RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau reported on 26 June. In a message to Yeltsin, the activists charged
that refugees from the Caucasus region are being illegally evicted from their
housing, even though they have lived in the Moscow area for years and are
legally entitled to Russian citizenship. Furthermore, the activists charge
that the refugees routinely suffer police harassment and brutality: "[The
police] don't know how to catch criminals, so they catch dark-haired people."
The activists urged Yeltsin to instruct Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to curb the
abuses. However, Yeltsin has not responded to the appeal, and the activists
say they have been refused a meeting with presidential Chief of Staff Valentin
Yumashev.

KORZHAKOV DENOUNCES YELTSIN. Duma deputy Aleksandr Korzhakov, longtime head of
the Presidential Security Service, told the British newspaper "The Guardian"
on 27 June that Yeltsin is a "helpless, quivering old man" who is more
interested in protecting his "family clan" than in serving Russia. Korzhakov
said this clan includes Security Council Deputy Secretary Berezovskii and
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and is "leading the country over
the edge." He also claimed that Yeltsin attempted to commit suicide several
times before suffering his first heart attack in July 1995. Korzhakov was
sacked as top presidential bodyguard in June 1996, shortly after the first
round of the presidential election. He recently lost a Supreme Court appeal
against an October 1996 presidential decree whereby he was stripped of his
military rank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 1997).

SLIGHT DECLINE IN FOREIGN TRADE. Russia's foreign trade turnover in the first
five months of this year decreased by 1%, compared with the same period for
1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 June, citing preliminary figures released by
the State Statistics Committee. The total volume of foreign trade was $62.4
billion. Exports fell by 0.1% to $35 billion and imports by 2% to $27.4
billion. Trade with other CIS member states fell by 10% to $14.6 billion,
primarily because of the 18 % decline in Russian imports from the CIS. Russian
trade with other foreign countries grew by 2% to $47.8 billion.

NEW FIGURES ON INCOME RELEASED. From January to May 1997, the monthly income
of an estimated 31.5 million people fell below the subsistence level,
"Izvestiya" reported on 27 June, citing figures released by the State
Statistics Committee. That figure is down 9.7% from the number of people
earning less than the subsistence level during the same period in 1996. The
committee calculated the monthly subsistence level for January-May 1997 at
407,000 rubles ($70). During the first five months of 1997, the wealthiest 10%
of the population as a group earned an estimated 32.3% of total income in
Russia, while the poorest 10% earned about 2.6% of total income.

JOURNALISTS' ACCESS TO RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE RESTRICTED. Lt.-Gen. Vladimir
Andreev, the commander of the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus,
has issued a directive requiring both Russian and Georgian journalists to
apply in advance to the Russian defense minister or the chief of the Russian
Armed Forces General Staff for permission to visit units of the group,
"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 27 June. The same day, "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" published further details of clandestine Russian arms shipments to
Armenia via Georgia between September 1994 and February 1996, based on
directives from the Russian Armed Forces General Staff.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK PEACE AGREEMENT SIGNED... Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United
Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri signed the Peace and National
Reconciliation Accord in Moscow on 27 June in the presence of representatives
from observer nations and organizations, RFE/RL correspondents in Moscow
reported. Russian President Yeltsin, who also attended the signing ceremony,
said the accord was a "bright, memorable page" in Tajik history. In addition
to officially ending the five-year conflict, the accord provides for the
return of opposition supporters and refugees to Tajikistan, legalizes the
political parties that make up the UTO, and calls for the integration of the
armed forces of both the government and UTO. It also grants the UTO 30% of
government posts and establishes a 26-member reconciliation commission made up
of an equal number of representatives of the current government and the UTO.

...FOLLOWING ELEVENTH-HOUR NEGOTIATIONS. Shortly before the agreement was
signed, chief UTO negotiator Ali Akbar Turajonzoda threatened the UTO would
not put its signature to the document, citing the failure to carry out
prisoner exchanges and the lack of clarity over which seats in the Tajik
government would be turned over to the UTO, RFE/RL correspondents in Moscow
reported. Closed-door talks and a late-night meeting between Tajik President
Imomali Rakhmonov and UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri followed. As a result, a
new protocol was drawn up whereby 50 prisoners from each side would be set
free by 15 July. Also, the reconciliation commission is scheduled to meet for
the first time on 7 July in Moscow to decide which Tajik government positions
will be allocated to the UTO (see also "End Note" below).

END NOTE

Peace in Tajikistan or a New Stage in the Conflict?

Umed Babakhanov and Bruce Pannier

        Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition leaders signed a long-await
 ed
peace agreement in the Kremlin on 27 June. Witnessed by ranking officials from
the UN and observer countries as well as President Boris Yeltsin, the signing
could bring an end to five years of internal unrest. On the other hand, it
could merely mean a new stage in that conflict.
        Several factors made the signing possible. Among the most important is
war-weariness on the part of the public and the warring sides. The apparent
determination of Russia and Iran to stabilize Tajikistan in the face of the
fundamentalist Taliban threat in Afghanistan is also another major factor.
        But while the parties involved seem intent on consolidating peace in
Tajikistan, it is likely that the signing ceremony in the Kremlin will be
followed by all manner of political intrigues. The country's new battlefields
are likely to become the lobbies of the government buildings in Dushanbe, as
both sides begin to tackle the question of question of dividing power.
        Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov faces the extremely difficult task of
selecting 30% of the leading government posts and handing them over to his
enemies of yesterday. That selection process is bound to incite tension within
the presidential camp. And the question remains whether Rakhmonov will be able
to accomplish that task. Even minor Dushanbe officials have their own
"protection" in the form of small military units with which government
institutions neither want nor are able to compete.
        Another bone of contention will be the redistribution of property. Under
pressure from international financial organizations, the government has
proceeded with property privatization over the past few years. But, numerous
members of the opposition and the thousands of Tajiks who fled to other
countries to avoid the fighting were unable to participate in that process.
Opposition leaders, their supporters and many citizens are likely to want a
share of the pie, and it will be up to the government to make sure they get
it.
        There is also the likelihood that isolated events will spark local armed
confrontations. A strong and stable central government is needed to try to
prevent such conflicts and to deal with them if and when they arise. But it is
debatable whether such a government can be formed when, under the peace
agreement, government institutions are to be composed of members of the forces
loyal to Rakhmonov, on the one hand, and the opposition, on the other.
        Finally, there remains the need to take into account a wide range of
political, regional, financial, and others interests. Recent experience in
Tajikistan suggests that ignoring those interests will foster tension and
separatist tendencies, which, in turn, could provoke armed conflicts. Such a
scenario could turn Tajikistan into another Afghanistan.

Umed Babakhanov is a journalist for Tajikistan's Asia Plus news agency based
in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.


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