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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 63, Part I, 30 June 1997


Vol 1, No. 63, Part I, 30 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

*CHERNOMYRDIN WRAPS UP CHINESE VISIT


*YELTSIN APPOINTS DAUGHTER AS IMAGE-MAKER


*GEORGIAN PROCURATOR-GENERAL TO ASSESS CHARGES AGAINST SECURITY MINISTER

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RUSSIA

CHERNOMYRDIN WRAPS UP CHINESE VISIT. Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin concluded his visit to China on 28 June after signing several
agreements, Russian media reported. Oil and gas fields in the Irkutsk and Far
East areas will be opened up to China, while the two countries will
standardize their railroad gauges in some border areas to allow for freer
trade. Sales of military hardware were discussed, but the Russian side claims
that China undervalues Russian products. "For destroyers of the Sovremenny
class, the difference [between Russian and Chinese evaluations] amounts to
nearly $100 million," Chernomyrdin said. The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry
will help China convert its military nuclear technology to civilian use, and
Russia has also offered to help destroy chemical weapons left over from the
Japanese occupation of China during World War II. Chernomyrdin and his Chinese
counterpart, Li Peng, also agreed that the two countries' prime ministers will
meet at least once a year.

"MIR" SPACE STATION UPDATE. Following the restoration of the "Mir" space
station's camera link on 29 June, the three astronauts aboard were able to
show the damage caused when the station recently collided with a resupply
ship. Equipment to repair that damage has already been assembled and is
expected to arrive at the Baikonur launching site on 30 June. Another resupply
ship is scheduled to lift off on 5 July to dock with "Mir" two days later. In
the meantime, the two Russian cosmonauts will attempt to do temporary repairs
on the battered Spektr module, which supplies a significant amount of the
station's power. They will attempt to reconnect the module's solar panels in a
hazardous operation that could vent the station's oxygen supply. The U.S.
astronaut will be in the escape pod during the repair work. Full repairs
cannot be carried out until a new crew arrives in August.

YELTSIN APPOINTS DAUGHTER AS IMAGE-MAKER. President Boris Yeltsin has
appointed his younger daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, to be an official adviser
working on the president's image, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June, citing
presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Dyachenko is considered to have
played a major advisory role during Yeltsin's 1996 re-election campaign. Since
last summer, the president's critics, including former Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr
Korzhakov, have accused Dyachenko of conspiring with First Deputy Prime
Minister Anatolii Chubais to keep some information from reaching Yeltsin.

CHERNOMYRDIN PROMISES DEBTS TO ARMED FORCES WILL BE PAID. After speaking to
Yeltsin by telephone on 30 June, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin announced that
the government will pay all its debts to the armed forces in July and August,
ITAR-TASS reported. Persistent wage arrears have forced some officers to beg
or to moonlight in order to feed and clothe their families. Meanwhile, Defense
Minister Igor Sergeev told reporters in Ryazan on 29 June that military reform
plans to create a "smaller, combat-ready army" would be finalized by 25 July.
Sergeev has argued in favor of trimming military personnel, improving
training, and purchasing the most up-to-date technology.

ROKHLIN DRAWS MORE CRITICISM BUT STANDS BY HIS COMMENTS. Duma Defense
Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin has said he stands by the appeal he recently
sent Yeltsin about conditions in the armed forces, Interfax reported on 27
June. He also advocated creating a new Russian movement to support the army
and defense industr. Speaking to Ekho Moskvy the next day, he accused Sergeev
of backing down from plans to hold parliamentary hearings on the "alarming"
situation in the strategic nuclear forces. (Sergeev responded on 29 June with
more criticism of Rokhlin's appeal to Yeltsin, which he termed a "call for
revolution.") Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed has praised
Rokhlin's appeal, telling Interfax on 29 June that Rokhlin was "totally right"
to describe Yeltsin as an "incompetent" commander-in-chief. However, Lebed did
not agree with Rokhlin's criticism of Sergeev, whom Lebed called a
"well-respected general" and "consummate professional."

GAZPROM SHAREHOLDERS ELECT CHIEF EXECUTIVE, BOARD. At an annual shareholders
meeting on 28 June, Rem Vyakhirev was re-elected as chief executive of the gas
monopoly Gazprom and First Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr
Kazakov as chairman of the company's board of directors, Russian news agencies
reported. Of the 11 board members, five represent the state, which owns a 40%
stake in Gazprom: Vyakhirev, Kazakov, State Property Committee Deputy Chairman
Aleksandr Belousov, Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Anatolii Kozyrev, and
First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin. Shareholders voted down two
candidates for the board, including International Finance Corporation (MFK)
President and former First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov. MFK, which
is affiliated with Oneksimbank, is said to be attempting to extend its pool of
Gazprom shares from 3% to 10%. Under a new company charter approved at the
meeting, a Russian investor will be allowed to own more than 3% of the company
stock only with the written permission of the Gazprom board.

VYAKHIREV ADDRESSES SHAREHOLDERS ON GAZPROM PLANS. Addressing Gazprom
shareholders on 28 June, Vyakhirev estimated that less than 2% of the
company's stock is currently circulating in the world market, mostly in the
form of American Depository Receipts (ADRs), Interfax reported. He said
another 7% of shares in the company will be sold in the next few years. (No
more than 9% of Gazprom stock can legally be sold to foreign investors.)
Vyakhirev also said that 66% of the gas extracted by the company is currently
consumed in Russia, while 14% is exported to the Baltic States and the CIS and
20% to other European countries. He added that Gazprom is developing a new
strategy to increase gas exports in the future, especially to Asian countries.
The plan will involve developing gas reserves in Irkutsk and Sakhalin Oblasts,
as well as the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

YELTSIN ORDERS HOT LINE FOR PENSIONERS TO BE SET UP. Yeltsin has ordered the
presidential administration to establish a hot line from 1 to 15 July so that
citizens can report problems with pension payments, ITAR-TASS reported on 27
June. Federal officials have said that the government paid all pension arrears
and that regional leaders will be to blame if pensioners do not receive the
money by 1 July. Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais announced on
27 June that the government will not ask Yeltsin to reduce payments to some
working pensioners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 9 June 1997). Chubais also
said Yeltsin may remove leaders of regions where collection of Pension Fund
payments is especially poor. He singled out Kemerovo Oblast as having severe
problems in clearing pension arrears. Since Kemerovo has not yet held a
gubernatorial election, Yeltsin has the authority to fire Governor Mikhail
Kislyuk.

PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT BLASTS KORZHAKOV. A statement released by the
presidential press service blasted Yeltsin's former top bodyguard Aleksandr
Korzhakov for violating "written and unwritten rules of state ethics" and
lacking a sense of "manly honor," Russian news agencies reported on 27 June.
Referring to an interview with Korzhakov published in the British newspaper
"The Guardian" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 1997), the statement said "it
is senseless to argue with a person blinded by resentment and motivated in his
relationship to the president solely by the desire for revenge." In
particular, the press service criticized Korzhakov for saying Yeltsin has
trouble understanding foreign policy matters. The statement did not
specifically refute other claims Korzhakov made in the interview, such as his
assertion that Yeltsin attempted suicide several times before 1995.

CHECHEN ROUNDUP. Chechen militants opened fire on a group of Russian police
officers near the border between Chechnya and Stavropol Krai on 28 June,
wounding two of them, ITAR-TASS reported. Three others were abducted and their
whereabouts remain unknown. Chechen security chief Lecha Khultygov identified
the kidnappers as special police loyal to Doku Zavgaev, the former pro-Moscow
Chechen president. Two days earlier, two people were killed and eight wounded
in a clash in Gudermes between Chechen army and police units. On 27 June,
Jordanian field commander Khottab escaped unhurt when his jeep hit a land mine
south of Grozny, Interfax reported. Addressing a rally in the Chechen capital
on 28 June, President Aslan Maskhadov rejected as "wishful thinking" rumors of
a split among his supporters.

RUNOFF REQUIRED IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION... Nizhnii Novgorod
Mayor Ivan Sklyarov and Communist State Duma deputy Gennadii Khodyrev will
face each other in a 13 July runoff gubernatorial election in Nizhnii Novgorod
Oblast. Preliminary returns show that in the first round of the election on 29
June, Sklyarov gained 41% of the vote and Khodyrev 38%, ITAR-TASS reported on
30 June. Sklyarov is supported by former governor and First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov and other federal officials. However, according to
RFE/RL, Sklyarov has modeled his campaign image on Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov
rather than on Nemtsov, who has recently been associated with controversial
government proposals. Analysts say there are few differences between the
campaign programs and rhetoric used by Sklyarov and Khodyrev.

...AND IN SAMARA MAYORAL RACE. A runoff election will also be held on 13 July
in Samara to choose a successor to former mayor and current Deputy Prime
Minister Oleg Sysuev. In the first round on 29 June, the city's deputy mayor
Anatolii Afanasev gained 28.4%, while deputy head of the Samara Oblast
legislature Georgii Limanskii finished second with 20.3%. Afanasev is backed
by Sysuev and Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov. Limanskii is supported
by former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who visited Samara
recently to campaign for Limanskii. Meanwhile, the 29 June by-elections for
two State Duma seats in Chelyabinsk Oblast were declared invalid because
turnout was below 25%. New elections will be held this fall to choose
replacements for Petr Sumin, who was elected governor of Chelyabinsk last
December, and Vladimir Utkin, who vacated his Duma seat to become one of
Sumin's deputy governors.

EXPLOSION ON MOSCOW-ST. PETERSBURG TRAIN KILLS FIVE. Five people were killed
and at least 11 injured in a 27 June explosion on an express train from Moscow
to St. Petersburg, Russian news agencies reported. Law enforcement officials
have not yet determined the cause of the explosion, but ITAR-TASS on 28 June
quoted an official from the Interior Ministry's branch in northwestern Russia
as saying the blast was unlikely to have been a terrorist attack.

NUCLEAR ACCIDENT BLAMED ON HUMAN, PROCEDURAL ERRORS. The commission
investigating the 17 June fatal accident at the Arzamas-16 nuclear research
center has concluded that human error and poor research procedures caused the
accident, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 June. Physicist Aleksandr Zakharov received
a lethal dose of radiation while conducting an experiment. A source on the
commission had previously told ITAR-TASS that Zakharov indicated "slippery
gloves" were to blame for the accident. All research at the center, located in
a closed city in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, has been halted pending safety
improvements. Heads of the center's divisions have been ordered to submit new
safety proposals by September. Officials say radiation levels at the bunker
where the accident took place have been reduced to safe levels.

CONTROVERSY OVER LAW ON RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS. State Duma deputy and
Democratic Russia co-leader Galina Starovoitova says the law on religious
organizations recently passed by the Duma violates the Russian Constitution
and international law, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 June. In particular,
Starovoitova criticized a provision that would grant certain rights only to
religious groups that can prove they have existed in Russia for at least 15
years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1997). Vyacheslav Polosin, an Orthodox
priest who advised the Duma committee that drafted the law, told RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau on 25 June that this provision would not punish all religious
groups that were banned during the Soviet period. By way of example, he argued
that Hare Krishnas could meet the 15-year test because official documents
dating to 1980 show that some Soviet citizens were sentenced to prison for
belonging to the sect.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN PROCURATOR-GENERAL TO ASSESS CHARGES AGAINST SECURITY MINISTER. The
parliament on 27 June handed over evidence against Security Minister Shota
Kviraya to the procurator-general, Russian and Western agencies reported. The
evidence includes a video tape, made in November 1993 in the west Georgian
town of Zugdidi, in which Kviraya is seen shooting six members of the
paramilitary formation Mkhedrioni who had been accused of looting. Further
evidence consists of a written statement by an Interior Ministry official that
Kviraya ordered the tapping of opposition journalists' telephones. Opposition
parliamentary deputy Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia has charged that Kviraya was
recruited by Russian intelligence after killing a woman in Moscow several
years ago in a traffic accident. She also claims that he controls the
nationwide black-market trade in cigarettes. In a statement published recently
in the Georgian press, Kviraya rejected the accusations against him as
groundless.

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION IN YEREVAN. A Georgian delegation headed by
deputy parliamentary speaker Vakhtang Kolbaya held talks in Yerevan on 25-27
June with Armenian parliamentary chairman Babken Ararktsyan, Prime Minister
Robert Kocharyan, Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanian, and President Levon
Ter-Petrossyan, the news agencies Snark and Noyan Tapan reported. Topics
discussed included economic cooperation, regional conflicts, and the Georgian
proposal to create a Transcaucasian interparliamentary assembly. Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze on 25 June attended the inauguration in an
Armenian-populated village in southern Georgia of a new mains water supply.
Shevardnadze's presidential fund will finance further reconstruction projects
in the region, whose predominantly Armenian population is reportedly lobbying
for autonomous status within Georgia.

AZERBAIJANI POLICE BREAK UP COMMUNIST PARTY CONGRESS. Police on 29 June broke
up a congress of Azerbaijan's banned Communist Party in Baku, Interfax
reported. Party leader Ramiz Akhmedov and the director of the building in
which the congress was taking place were detained. The party, which claims
100,000 members, was banned by the Ministry of Justice in September 1995.

TAJIKS CELEBRATE SIGNING OF PEACE ACCORD. More than 4,000 people celebrated in
the streets of Dushanbe on 28 June, one day after the signing of the Tajik
Peace and National Reconciliation Accord in Moscow. President Imomali
Rakhmonov addressed one of the rallies saying "peace has come to Tajikistan
and enmity has ended." Said Abdullo Nuri, the leader of the United Tajik
Opposition, said in Moscow that both sides need to make more sacrifice and
effort." He also warned that "no political or regional group should use arms
to take power." Preparations are under way to allow more than 22,000 refugees
to return from neighboring Afghanistan. UN refugee workers are currently
helping with preparations at the two border check points where refugees will
enter Tajikistan from Afghanistan. The UN workers will also help rebuild 4,000
homes.

KAZAK PRESIDENT ON "SOCIALIST SYNDROME." Nursultan Nazarbayev has published an
article in the 22-29 June issue of the Russian weekly "Moskovskie novosti"
defending his country's reforms and criticizing nostalgia for the Soviet past.
Nazarbayev write that the Soviet epoch was "a long and continuous line. A line
to concentration camps, to emigrate, for food and housing." While conceding
that education and health care were free and jobs and pensions guaranteed, he
pointed out that in the Kazak capital in 1988, a supply of cooking salt
intended for six months was bought up in three days by a public that was aware
of and feared shortages. Nazarbayev added that reforms now need to be carried
out quickly because "during the time that other countries used to find ways to
[establish] a normal life, we missed out on everything owing to
totalitarianism."

DEMONSTRATION IN BISHKEK. More than 1,000 people demonstrated outside the
government building on 30 June to protest the housing situation in the Kyrgyz
capital, according to RFE/RL correspondents there. Members of the Yntymak
movement began to gather in the late morning, claiming city officials are not
keeping promises made by Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov. In early June,
Jumagulov had told the homeless demonstrators, all ethnic Kyrgyz, would
receive plots of land on the outskirts of Bishkek. But the demonstrators say
that of the 1,800 people who have filed for such plots, only 20 have received
anything. Police are trying to break up the unsanctioned demonstration by
asking people to return home. No violence has been reported.




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