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Vol 1, No. 64, Part I, 1 July 1997
Vol 1, No. 64, Part I, 1 July 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN AGAIN VETOES LAWS ON TROPHY ART, GOVERNMENT * SELEZNEV CRITICIZES DYACHENKO APPOINTMENT * CHERNOMYRDIN IMPLICATED IN YEREVANGATE ARMS DELIVERIES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN AGAIN VETOES LAWS ON TROPHY ART, GOVERNMENT. President Boris Yeltsin has again vetoed the laws on trophy art and the government, arguing that both houses of the parliament used unconstitutional procedures to override his earlier vetoes, Russian news agencies reported on 30 June. The president objects to proxy voting in the State Duma and the Federation Council's use of ballots mailed by members not attending Council sessions in Moscow. Yeltsin returned the two laws to the parliament in May, shortly after both houses of the parliament overrode his initial vetoes. But the Duma and the Council in June demanded that Yeltsin sign the laws, saying the president lacks the authority to declare parliamentary voting procedures unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May and 11 and 16 June 1997). According to Article 107 of the constitution, the president must sign a law within seven days if both houses of the parliament override his veto. SELEZNEV CRITICIZES DYACHENKO APPOINTMENT. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told journalists on 1 July that Yeltsin violated the law on civil service by appointing his daughter Tatyana Dyachenko as an official presidential adviser, ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev said that law prohibits appointing "close relatives" to state office. Dyachenko told journalists on 30 June that her appointment removes some ambiguity over her position, as she has in fact been advising her father since the 1996 presidential campaign, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Dyachenko commented that she is able to tell the president things that others cannot. CHERNOMYRDIN CALLS FOR SPECIAL DUMA SESSION. Addressing the political council of the pro-government movement Our Home Is Russia, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin urged the State Duma to hold a special session in July to consider proposed cuts in 1997 budget spending and reductions in social benefits, Russian news agencies reported on 30 June. Chernomyrdin is to meet with Duma Speaker Seleznev on 1 July to discuss interrupting the Duma's summer recess, currently scheduled to last until late August. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev on 30 June warned that the government will not be able to prevent pension arrears from piling up in the future unless the Duma approves proposals to restructure the social benefits system, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Sysuev also promised that the government will not seek to limit payments to working pensioners or to raise the pension age (currently 55 for women and 60 for men). OUR HOME IS RUSSIA DELAYS DECISION ON ROKHLIN. Chernomyrdin told the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) political council that the entire NDR Duma faction should decide whether to expel Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin from the movement. However, Chernomyrdin criticized Rokhlin's recent open appeal, which slammed Yeltsin's policy toward the armed forces. He called the document a "crude political mistake" that was "based on emotions." Chernomyrdin also called attention to what he called "alarming tendencies" within the NDR Duma faction. He noted that 10 NDR deputies had supported neither the passage of the tax code in the first reading nor government-backed budget cuts and reductions in social benefits. Meanwhile, Duma Speaker Seleznev told Interfax on 30 June that he shares Rokhlin's views about the armed forces. Seleznev predicted that the majority of Duma deputies will not back attempts to remove Rokhlin as Defense Committee chairman. ACTING JUSTICE MINISTER APPOINTED. Yeltsin on 30 June appointed First Deputy Justice Minister Georgii Kulikov as acting justice minister pending the investigation into the scandal surrounding suspended Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov announced on 26 June that his office has begun investigating allegations published in a recent issue of "Sovershenno sekretno" that Kovalev has links to organized crime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23, 24, and 26 June 1997). TRANSPORTATION, ENERGY COSTS REDUCED FOR SOME ENTERPRISES. The Railroads Ministry is reducing charges for shipping some types of cargo, effective 1 July, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June, citing First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. Rates for timber and coal transports will be cut by 50% and produce and oil shipments by 40% and 25%, repsectively. Also as of 1 July, the giant utility Unified Energy System (EES) will accept only cash payments for electricity, according to Boris Brevnov, chairman of the EES board of directors. He told Interfax on 29 June that currently only 7%-8% of electricity consumers pay in cash. Brevnov also confirmed that starting on 1 July, EES will offer a 30% discount for customers that pay their electricity bills on time. NEW RESTRICTIONS ON ALCOHOL SALES GO INTO EFFECT. Beginning on 1 July, the sale of all alcoholic beverages except beer will be banned at kiosks, small shops, and wholesale food markets in accordance with a recent presidential decree, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the Federal Service on Providing the State Monopoly on Alcohol Production, some 90% of all violations of laws on alcohol sales take place at such shops. Vladimir Yarmosh, president of the Spirtprom association of alcohol producers, told Interfax that low-quality, black-market alcohol made up almost 80% of spirits sold in Russia during the first four months of 1997. He estimated that such sales cost the state some 15 trillion rubles ($2.6 billion) in lost tax revenues. A 1993 presidential decree requiring the licensing of all alcohol production and sales was never implemented (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 2 January 1997 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 1997). YELTSIN CONGRATULATES CHINA OVER HONG KONG. Yeltsin has sent a congratulatory message to the leadership and people of China on the occasion of the "restoration of China's jurisdiction over Hong Kong," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said he was confident that Hong Kong will remain a "prosperous financial and economic center in Asia" and will "prove the effectiveness of Deng Xioaping's 'one country-two systems' formula." RUSSIAN CONSORTIUM FACES PROBLEMS IN CHINA. A Russian consortium attempting to win a tender for helping to build China's Three Gorges hydroelectric project is facing problems, according to Interfax on 30 June. The Three Gorges is a massive dam project aimed at providing China with power and taming the Yangtze River. China will spend up to $10 billion on equipment for the dam and plans to buy 14 generators for the dam from foreign companies. China says the Russian bid is too high and has requested the Russians lower their price without reducing the quality of their equipment. Russia has already spent an estimated $500,000 on participating in the tender. The results are expected to be announced in August. The Russian consortium is composed of Energomashexport, Leningrad Metal Works, Elektrosila, Gidroproekt, Technopromexport, Transmash, and Traktoroexport. "IZVESTIYA," LUKOIL AT ODDS OVER EDITORIAL APPOINTMENT. "Izvestiya" has clashed with its largest shareholder, the oil company LUKoil, over the way a new editor-in-chief for the paper will be appointed. In an unsigned commentary published on 1 July, "Izvestiya" accused LUKoil of failing to respect the charter it recently signed with the paper's journalists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 1997). The charter grants journalists the right to propose a candidate for editor-in-chief, who may be either confirmed or rejected by the board of directors. "Izvestiya" says LUKoil is now insisting that each of the paper's major shareholders--LUKoil, the journalists, and Oneksimbank--propose a candidate and that the board choose an editor from among the three nominees. The seven-member "Izvestiya" board of directors elected on 23 June consists of three representatives from LUKoil and two members each from Oneksimbank and the journalists' collective. RUSSIA, CHECHNYA DISCUSS OIL TRANSIT. Russian and Chechen delegations, headed by First Deputy Premiers Anatolii Chubais and Movladi Udugov, met for five hours in Moscow on 30 June, Russian media reported. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, who also attended the talks, told ITAR-TASS that Chechnya will be an independent third party to the agreement concluded between Moscow and Baku on exporting Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Chechnya to Novorossiisk. Azerbaijan has said there is no need for a separate agreement with Chechnya. Udugov commented that progress was made at the 30 July talks toward concluding an amended customs agreement and an accord whereby Chechnya will have a correspondent account with Russia's Central Bank. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev is due in Moscow on 2 July. LAWYERS PROTEST NEW CHARGES AGAINST NIKITIN. Lawyers representing retired Navy captain Aleksandr Nikitin say their client cannot hope to receive a fair trial given the new charges brought against him by the Federal Security Service (FSB), RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 30 June. Nikitin was arrested in February 1996 for allegedly revealing state secrets to the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, which was preparing a report on radioactive contamination of the Kola Peninsula. He was released from pre-trial detention in December after promising not to leave St. Petersburg. Lawyer Yurii Shmidt said that the FSB is seeking to maximize Nikitin's possible prison term by charging him with treason under the new Criminal Code, which took effect in January 1997 and allows longer prison sentences for treason. At the same time, the FSB is charging Nikitin with revealing state secrets under the old Criminal Code, which carries harsher penalties for that crime. PAYMENT PROBLEMS IN PRIMORE. Some 400 workers from an enterprise in Primorskii Krai that repairs nuclear submarines blocked the Trans-Siberian Railroad for two hours on 1 July, Russian news agencies reported. The workers have not received their wages for several months and are demanding that the Defense Ministry pay for a state order that the factory has fulfilled. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Gelbakh, a spokesman for the Primorskii Krai utility Dalenergo, warned that on 1 July Dalenergo will cut off electricity to all its debtors, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June. Gelbakh said no exceptions would be made for any enterprises or facilities, not even for hospitals or schools. In 1996, a Russian woman died during an operation when power was cut to the hospital where the surgery was being performed. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA CHERNOMYRDIN IMPLICATED IN YEREVANGATE ARMS DELIVERIES. "Izvestiya" reported on 1 July that Russian arms shipments to Armenia between 1994-1996 were sanctioned by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Earlier press reports claimed that Armenia received weaponry worth $1 billion free of charge. But according to "Izvestiya," cash received in payment from Yerevan was channeled into Russian election campaigning and that, for this reason, virtually all factions in the Russian State Duma have advocated curtailing the ongoing investigation into the scandal. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov met with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan in Yerevan on 30 June to discuss cooperation in nuclear power technology, rail transport, and banking, Interfax reported. Serov invited Ter-Petrossyan on behalf of Russian President Boris Yeltsin to visit Moscow in late August. Ter-Pe trossyan also met with Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev to discuss an unspecified proposed joint venture. RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT DIES IN YEREVAN ACCIDENT. Anatolii Rybalchenko, a senior counselor at the Russian embassy in Yerevan, was killed on 30 June in a fall from the fourth floor of his apartment building, Western agencies reported. Rybalchenko was attempting to climb into the window of his apartment after locking himself out. ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ON FUTURE OF PAN-NATIONAL MOVEMENT. Addressing a regional meeting of the ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement in the town of Gyumri on 29 June, Ter-Petrossyan endorsed the candidacy of controversial Yerevan mayor Vano Siradeghyan as chairman of the movement's board, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Observers have predicted that the movement may split at its upcoming ninth congress, which begins on 11 July. The conservatives are likely to back Siradeghyan and the reformists may break away to create a new party headed by Eduard Yegoryan (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1997). Ter-Petrossyan expressed his respect for Yegoryan but said he has made "too many mistakes for an experienced political actor," according to ARMENPRESS. Ter-Petrossyan has consistently advocated the evolution of the movement into a "new, civilized, powerful center-right party of the European type." BAKU POLICE DENY DISPERSING COMMUNIST PARTY CONGRESS. A raion police chief in Baku has denied claims that police used force to disperse a 28 June meeting of Azerbaijan's banned Communist Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 30 June 1997), Reuters reported. He said that party leader Ramiz Akhmedov was merely "invited for a conversation with police officials," who told him the meeting was illegal as permission to hold it had been granted only for 29 June. Interfax the next day quoted Akhmedov as saying that he was detained and mistreated by police for three hours and that all documentation about the congress was confiscated. He also said that the congress delegates reconvened at a secret venue on 29 June. NUMBER OF REFUGEES IN TURKMENISTAN DOUBLES. The number of refugees who have crossed from Afghanistan into Turkmenistan is now estimated at 8,000, according to Reuters on 30 June. It was recently reported that some 4,000 refugees fleeing the fighting in northern Afghanistan had crossed the border into Turkmenistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1997). The Turkmen government and the Red Cross have received assurances from Afghanistan's Taliban movement that the refugees can return safely to their homes. RUSSIA OBJECTS TO KAZAK SURVEY BY U.S. PLANE. Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 30 June responded to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov's statement that Russian security is threatened by a survey being carried out in Kazakstan by a U.S. Orion P-30 aircraft, RFE/RL correspondents in Kazakstan and the Russian press reported. The U.S. plane is surveying regions in Kazakstan to identify areas of possible agricultural development or mineral exploitation. When the plane began flying over the Semipalatinsk region, near the Kazak-Russian border, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its alarm. Nazarbayev said surveys in that area were needed to assess damage caused by nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk site during the Soviet era and to see "what sort of economic activity can be pursued" there. He added that the surveys would not be necessary if Moscow had been more willing to share its information on nuclear tests at the site. UPDATE ON KYRGYZ DEMONSTRATION. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports that the 30 June demonstration by homeless people in front of the government building in Bishkek came in the wake of the harassment by the militia of people living in a "shanty town" on the western outskirts of the capital. On 25 June, four members of the militia warned one of the activists to stop attending protest meetings. They grabbed her by the arm and attempted to take her away, but her cries were heard by neighbors, whose appearance prompted the militia to leave. Two days later, 20 members of the militia arrived in the shanty town and took away another activist, Nadir Nusubaliev, about whom nothing has since been heard. One of the demands made by the more than 1,000 demonstrators on 30 June. was information on Nusubaliev's whereabouts. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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