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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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/

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN AGAIN VETOES LAWS ON TROPHY ART, GOVERNMENT

* SELEZNEV CRITICIZES DYACHENKO APPOINTMENT

* CHERNOMYRDIN IMPLICATED IN YEREVANGATE ARMS DELIVERIES

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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.




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