History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 68, Part I, 8 July 1997


Vol 1, No. 68, Part I, 8 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

* INVESTIGATION OPENED INTO EXPLOSIVES PLANTED AT MOSCOW MONUMENT

* YELTSIN SUGGESTS LIMITING APPLICATION OF DEATH PENALTY

* ABKHAZIA CLAIMS GEORGIA IS PREPARING NEW OFFENSIVE

End Note
Council of Europe's 'Soft' Standards for East European Members

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx




RUSSIA

INVESTIGATION OPENED INTO EXPLOSIVES PLANTED AT MOSCOW MONUMENT. The Moscow
branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has opened a terrorism
investigation into the alleged attempted bombing of the monument to Peter the
Great in Moscow, Interfax reported on 7 July. FSB operatives defused seven
explosive devices the previous day after a formerly unknown group calling
itself the Revolutionary Military Council sent a warning to Interfax. The
message reportedly said the bombs were a warning to those who wish to remove
Vladimir Lenin's body from the mausoleum on Red Square. However, State Duma
Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading member of the Communist
Party, denounced the bomb attempt as a "provocation by the authorities,"
which, he said, are looking for a "pretext to crack down on the opposition."
Ilyukhin added that his party has no contacts with the group that allegedly
claimed responsibility for planting the explosives.

YELTSIN SUGGESTS LIMITING APPLICATION OF DEATH PENALTY. President Boris
Yeltsin has sent the State Duma proposed amendments to the criminal code to
limit the application of the death penalty, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July.
Under the amendments, a person sentenced to death could not be executed until
both the procurator-general and the chairman of the Supreme Court had reviewed
the sentence and confirmed there were no grounds for appeal. Russia agreed to
abolish the death penalty within three years of joining the Council of Europe
in February 1996. Earlier this year, Russian officials signed Protocol 6 of
the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlaws capital punishment (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1997). However, the Duma is considered unlikely to
ratify that measure, since deputies voted down a proposed moratorium on the
death penalty in March.

GREENPEACE TO ASK YELTSIN TO SAVE RUSSIA'S FORESTS. Russian environmental
activists hope to enlist the president's help in saving centuries-old forests
in the Republic of Karelia, where Yeltsin is currently on vacation, Russian
news agencies and RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 7 July. Greenpeace
activists have recently marked 15,000 cubic meters of old-growth forest in
Karelia. The coordinator of the campaign, Sergei Tsyplenkov, said the action
was aimed at halting any encroachment by timber companies. Two large Finnish
companies have agreed to stop logging in the forests, but environmental
campaigners say smaller logging firms are still active there. The weekly
"Kommersant" reported in its 17 June issue that Karelian officials routinely
blame Greenpeace activists for allegedly lowering both the republic's budget
revenues and the living standards of local residents.

CHERNOMYRDIN CALLS FOR BROADENING ROLE OF JUSTICE MINISTRY. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin says the Justice Ministry should play a greater role in
drafting laws that the government submits to the parliament, Russian news
agencies reported on 7 July. Introducing new Justice Minister Sergei Stepashin
to the ministry staff, Chernomyrdin said Russian laws must be brought into
line with requirements imposed by membership in the Council of Europe (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1997). He also pledged that the government will take
steps to provide adequate financing for the Justice Ministry.

NEMTSOV CRITICIZES SLOW SALE OF IMPORTED OFFICIAL CARS. First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov has criticized the State Customs Committee and Defense
Ministry over the sale of imported cars previously used by civil servants, NTV
reported on 7 July. Speaking at a government meeting, Nemtsov said the results
of the first car auction were "completely inadequate" and served to "discredit
the decisions of the president and the government." Only five cars were sold
in the first auction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1997). Nemtsov said the
other cars offered for sale were suitable only for scrap metal. Some 56 cars,
including a Mercedes used by former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, are to be
auctioned in September.

FEDERATION COUNCIL SUPPORTS NAZDRATENKO. The Federation Council on 4 July
adopted an appeal asking Yeltsin to review two recent presidential decrees
limiting the authority of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Yeltsin recently
transferred many of Nazdratenko's powers to Viktor Kondratov, the presidential
representative in Primore. Council deputies protested that the decrees sought
to limit the rights of Russian regions. In an interview with
"Kommersant-Daily," Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel suggested that by
bolstering the powers of appointed presidential representatives, Moscow is
trying to set up parallel executive structures in the regions in preparation
for the presidential election in 2000. Meanwhile, Nazdratenko has continued to
request a personal meeting with Yeltsin, who, he says, has been misinformed by
his advisers and government officials about the situation in Primore.

LAWS ON ARMS TRADE, STATUS OF SERVICEMEN APPROVED. The Federation Council on 4
July voted by 115 to three to approve the law "on military-technological
cooperation with foreign countries," which declares a state monopoly on the
arms trade, Russian news agencies reported. According to Reuters, Murmansk
Oblast legislature head Pavel Sazhinov, a member of the Council's Defense
Committee, urged deputies to support the law, saying that the state had lost
income in recent years as arms manufacturers sold weapons abroad directly "at
dumping prices." Also on 4 July, the Council approved by 123 to three a law on
the status of persons serving in the armed forces or in troops subordinate to
various federal agencies, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June
1997). The Council's Budget Committee had recommended rejecting the law,
saying Russia lacks the means to fund wage increases for servicemen.

LAWS ON SUBSISTENCE MINIMUM, INDEXING PENSIONS REJECTED. The Federation
Council on 3 July rejected a law outlining the procedure for calculating the
subsistence level on a quarterly basis, ITAR-TASS reported. The government had
opposed the Duma-backed law. The same day, the Council rejected legislation
raising the minimum pension by 20 percent, from 69,575 rubles ($12) to 83,490
rubles, effective 1 July. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev had appealed to
the Council to reject the increase, saying neither the federal budget nor the
Pension Fund has the means to pay an additional 1.7 trillion rubles per month.
Meanwhile, the Council on 3 July approved a separate law on the procedure for
calculating and raising pensions for non-working pensioners. Supporters say
that law--which, if signed, is to go into effect on 1 February 1998--would
improve living standards for many elderly people.

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES TAX ON FOREIGN CURRENCY, REGIONAL TAX EXPERIMENT.
The Federation Council on 3 July approved a 0.5 percent tax on foreign
currency purchases by individuals and companies, Russian news agencies
reported. The tax would not be levied on withdrawals of cash from
foreign-currency bank deposits or foreign-currency purchases from the Central
Bank by commercial banks. Revenues from the tax would be divided 60:40 between
federal and regional budgets. The same day, the Council passed a law allowing
a tax experiment to be conducted in Tver and Novgorod. The legislation would
allow those cities to introduce a real estate tax in place of three current
taxes: on property belonging to individuals, on property belonging to legal
entities, and the land tax. The revenues from the real estate tax will go
entirely to the cities' budgets.

UPPER HOUSE APPROVES LAW ON MANAGING ELECTRICITY GIANT. The Federation Council
on 4 July approved a law on management of the electricity giant Unified Energy
Systems (EES), "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. That law would
require the state to retain 51 percent of EES shares. An 18 percent stake
would be managed by the federal government, while 33 percent of EES shares
would be divided among regional governments. Yeltsin is expected to veto the
law, which is not consistent with the current plans of EES management (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997).

SEVERAL LAWS AFFECTING REGIONS CONSIDERED. The Federation Council on 3 July
approved a law on relations between autonomous okrugs and the oblasts or krais
of which they are part, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the law, okrugs would sign
agreements with krais and oblasts without interference from federal
authorities. Tyumen Oblast authorities have long disputed with the
resource-rich Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrugs, which are
seeking to secede from Tyumen. The Council also approved a law to create
ecological zones on and around Lake Baikal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June
1997). However, deputies rejected a bill on local self-government that would
have forced regional leaders to share authority on financial matters with city
mayors in their regions, "Segodnya" reported on 5 July. The Council also
rejected a law on citizens' electoral rights, which, among other things, would
have canceled residency requirements included in regional electoral laws.

MORE POWER-SHARING AGREEMENTS SIGNED. Yeltsin signed treaties with governors
from five oblasts on 4 July, bringing to 31 the number of Russian regions that
have signed bilateral power-sharing agreements with the federal authorities,
ITAR-TASS reported. In addition to signing agreements with the leaders of
Vologda and Saratov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1997), Yeltsin signed
treaties with the governors of Bryansk, Chelyabinsk, and Magadan oblasts. The
treaties are part of the presidential administration's strategy to secure the
support of new governors. Magadan Governor Valentin Tsvetkov was elected as an
independent in November 1996, while Bryansk Governor Yurii Lodkin and
Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin won with the backing of the Communist
opposition in December. Lodkin and Sumin had been staunch opponents of
Yeltsin, who fired Lodkin as Bryansk governor in September 1993 and who
supported the annulment of a Chelyabinsk gubernatorial election won by Sumin
the same year.

AGAPOV PROTESTS DECISION TO ABOLISH INGUSHETIA'S FREE ECONOMIC ZONE. Former
Ingushetian Vice President Boris Agapov, who in June was appointed deputy
secretary of the Russian Security Council, told ITAR-TASS on 7 July that the
Russian government's recent abolition of Ingushetia's status as a free
economic zone is "incomprehensible." He argued that the republic's economy was
only just beginning to gather momentum and that the favored economic status
granted in 1994 had provided for the construction of an airport, a flour mill,
and gas and water mains. Agapov warned that both the economic and the social
situations in Ingushetia are likely to deteriorate as a result of the Russian
government's decision, the official reason for which was the loss of federal
and regional budget revenues. Of Ingushetia's 350,000 population, more than
70,000 are refugees whose livelihood is now in jeopardy, he added.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ABKHAZIA CLAIMS GEORGIA IS PREPARING NEW OFFENSIVE. The Abkhaz Security
service issued a statement on 7 July claiming that Georgia is concentrating
armed units and heavy weaponry in the Kodori Gorge in preparation for a new
offensive, Interfax reported. Georgia has not commented on the allegations. In
his weekly radio broadcast, President Eduard Shevardnadze said that Russian
Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii recently made
"non-standard, interesting, and useful" proposals for resolving the conflict,
according to Russian Public Television (ORT). Spokesmen for the ethnic
Georgians who fled Abkhazia in 1992-3 believe, however, that Russia is
motivated solely by the desire to prolong the presence of its peacekeeping
forces on the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, "Kavkasioni"
reported on 4 July. Talks on resolving the conflict are to resume when
Shevardnadze returns from the NATO summit in Madrid.

AZERBAIJANI-TURKMEN OIL ROW CONTINUES. Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris
Shikhmuradov on 7 July proposed creating a Turkmen-Azerbaijani commission to
delineate the dividing line between the two countries' sectors of the Caspian
Sea, ITAR-TASS reported. Two days earlier, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry had
protested the signing of an agreement between Azerbaijani and Russia oil
companies on the joint development of the Kyapaz deposit, which Turkmenistan
claims is located in its sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997). Turkmen
Deputy Foreign Minister Yolbas Kepbanov said on 7 July that Ashgabat may
appeal to an international court over two other Caspian oil fields claimed by
Azerbaijan and currently being developed by a major international consortium.
Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Halan Halafov and Khoshbakht Yusif-Zade,
the deputy chairman of the state oil company SOCAR, both told TURAN on 7 July
that they have not received any official protest from Ashgabat.

TAJIKS ASK FOR INTERNATIONAL HELP. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and
United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri sent a letter to UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 7 July requesting that an international
conference of donor nations be held to assist in the rebuilding of Tajikistan,
ITAR-TASS reported. The two Tajik leaders confirmed their commitment to the
Peace and National Reconciliation Accord signed in Moscow on 27 June but said
"UN assistance and support will be absolutely indispensable during the
transition period." The letter emphasized the need for humanitarian aid to the
Tajik people.

KAZAK PRESIDENT ELIGIBLE TO RUN FOR TWO MORE TERMS? Vitalii Voronov, a former
opposition parliamentary deputy, has claimed that since Nursultan Nazarbayev
was elected as "president of the Kazak Republic of the USSR" in 1991 and since
his term was extended in a 1995 referendum, he could be considered a
first-time candidate for president of the Republic of Kazakstan in the
scheduled 2001 presidential elections, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 8
July. Under such an interpretation, Nazarbayev could run for another two
five-year terms in office. Meanwhile, the newspaper also reported that
"mountain climbers" who scaled a 4,376 meter peak once known as "Komsomol
Peak" have erected a placard renaming it "Nazarbayev Peak." Nazarbayev, who
celebrated his 57th birthday on 6 July, was reported to have expressed
surprise at hearing the news.

TOXIC MATERIAL STOLEN FROM KAZAK PLANT. Authorities in Kazakstan are searching
for the last containers stolen from the warehouse of the Ulbinsky steel
plant's warehouse in Ust-Kamenogorsk, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. Thieves
stole aluminum containers with Beryllium dioxide, which is used in
synthesizing the rare earth metal beryllium. They dumped the contents near the
plant and then sold the containers at the market in Ust-Kamenogorsk. The
material is described as "highly toxic" and warnings have been issued to the
local population not to use the containers for storing water or milk. Police
have recovered 28 of the containers. According to ITAR-TASS, more than 100
kilograms of uranium fuel for nuclear power plants, radioactive thorium,
indium, and thallium have been stolen from the Ulbinsky plant so far this
year.

END NOTE

Council of Europe's `Soft' Standards for East European Members

by Joel Blocker

        Controversy has erupted in some Central and East European circles follow
 ing
the recent publication of an interview in an Alsatian newspaper ("Les
dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace," 26 June 1997) with the Council of Europe's
outgoing number-two man. Deputy Secretary-General Peter Leuprecht told the
daily he was taking early retirement this month in protest at what he called a
lowering of the Council's human-rights standards for its new Central and East
European members. Leuprecht characterized those once rigid Council standards
as "soft" for Eastern members.
        Leuprecht is the first Council official to say in public what many in th
 e
Council of Europe Secretariat have said in private for years. The majority of
Council officials clearly believe that, under pressure from West European
member states like France and Germany, the 40-state organization has granted
membership too fast and uncritically to many of the 16 former communist
nations that have joined over the past seven years.
        Leuprecht told the Alsatian newspaper that he has always considered the
Council of Europe to be a "community of democratic values." But he argued that
in recent years, Council officials' references to democracy and human rights
have become a "ritual." The organization, he continued, enlarged too fast and
paid the price in the dilution of its values. "Some admissions [to the
Council] stick in my throat," he remarked.
        Leuprecht mentioned only one such admission by name: Croatia, the newest
Council member state, having joined some eight months ago. He described a
recent meeting of the Council's Committee of Ministers (the body's chief
policy- and decision-making organ) at which Croatian Foreign Minister Mate
Granic argued at length that his country is a model democracy that fully
respects human and minority rights. Leuprecht recounted: "None of the
ministers present said a word. Not even one said, 'What do you take us for,
idiots?' There was only a soft, soggy consensus."
        But in a second interview, which he gave to Bosnia's independent
TV-International station one day later, Leuprecht did name other Eastern
European member states, notably Romania and Russia. He said that the Council
began "to go soft" four years ago, when it admitted Romania, which, he said,
was still far from meeting the organization's human-rights standards at that
time. He was careful to add, however, that Romania has made significant
democratic progress since it became a member. As for Russia, which was
admitted in early 1996, Leuprecht dismissed that country's human-rights record
as even further removed from Council standards.
        Those standards were established nearly a half-century ago when, in 1949
 , the
Council of Europe was created to promote democracy, the rule of law, and human
rights across the continent. Until the collapse of European communism in 1989,
the organization largely languished in Strasbourg without much clout. But soon
after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Council--then with only 21 members, all
from Western Europe--began to expand its membership to include Central and
Eastern European countries. Eventually, it became the only multilateral body
on the Continent with what it calls a "pan-European vocation."
        Now that he has bared his soul in public, the Austrian-born Leuprecht ha
 s
become the object of controversy--not so much in the Secretariat, which
largely agrees with him, as in Central and East European member states.
According to one Council official who requested anonymity, Romanian Foreign
Minister Adrian Severin--himself a long-time human-rights activist and former
member of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly--telephoned Secretary-General
Daniel Tarschys to complain about Leuprecht's candor. The official said
Severin was worried that Romania's candidacy for both NATO and the EU might be
affected by Leuprecht's remarks. Tarschys reportedly replied that Leuprecht
was no longer a Council of Europe staff member and therefore could say
whatever he liked to whomever he liked. According to some diplomats in
Strasbourg, both Russian and Croatian officials have also made known to the
Council their countries' displeasure over Leuprecht's remarks.
        Neither Tarschys nor any other high Council official has yet commented
publicly on the controversy. But within the Secretariat, there is reported to
be real pleasure that Leuprecht has voiced many staffers' views. A high
official of the Council's human-rights division told RFE/RL that the Council
"was simply overwhelmed by human- and minority-rights violations in several
Eastern member states." The official mentioned Slovakia and Ukraine as well as
Russia and Croatia as among the regular violators of Council standards. As for
Albania, the official added, "it's impossible to keep track of anarchy."
        Now that Leuprecht has spoken out, the Council of Europe can expect a lo
 t
more criticism from outside observers. By letting the wind out of the
Council's human-rights sails, he has paved the way for what will doubtless be
a very public and heated debate.

The author is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who regularly reports on
developments at the Council of Europe.




xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

SUBSCRIBING:

1) To subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to
        listserv@listserv.buffalo.edu
2) In the text of your message, type
        subscribe RFERL-L YourFirstName YourLastName
3) Send the message

UNSUBSCRIBING:

1) To un-subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to
        listserv@listserv.buffalo.edu
2) In the text of your message, type
        unsubscribe RFERL-L
3) Send the message

ON-LINE ISSUES OF RFE/RL Newsline:

On-line issues of RFE/RL Newsline are available through the World
Wide Web: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/

BACK ISSUES OF RFE/RL Newsline:

Back issues of RFE/RL Newsline are available through the World
Wide Web: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/

BACK ISSUES OF OMRI Daily Digest:

Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through the World
Wide Web, and by FTP.

WWW: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/DD/
FTP: ftp://FTP.OMRI.CZ/Pub/DailyDigest/

REPRINT POLICY:

To receive permission for reprinting, please direct
your inquires to Paul Goble, publisher.

Email: goblep@rferl.org
Phone (U.S.) : 202-457-6947
International: 001 202-457-6947
Postal Address: RFE/RL, Connecticut Ave. 1201, NW, Washington D.C., USA

RFE/RL Newsline Staff:

Paul Goble (Publisher), goblep@rferl.org
Jiri Pehe ( Editor, Central and Eastern Europe),  pehej@rferl.org
Liz Fuller (Deputy Editor, Transcaucasia), carlsone@rferl.org
Patrick Moore (West Balkans),  moorep@rferl.org
Michael Shafir (East Balkans), shafirm@rferl.org
Laura Belin (Russia), belinl@rferl.org
Bruce Pannier (Central Asia), pannierb@rferl.org
Jan Cleave, cleavej@rferl.org.

Newsline Fax: (420-2) 2112-3630.

Current and back issues are available online at:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline/

[English] [Russian TRANS | KOI8 | ALT | WIN | MAC | ISO5]

F&P Home ° Comments ° Guestbook


1996 Friends and Partners
Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole
Please visit the Russian and American mirror sites of Friends and Partners.
Updated: 1998-11-

Please write to us with your comments and suggestions.

F&P Quick Search
Main Sections
Home
Bulletin Board
Chat Room
F&P Listserver

RFE/RL
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
Search

News
News From Russia/NIS
News About Russia/NIS
Newspapers & Magazines
Global News
Weather

©1996 Friends and Partners
Please write to us with any comments, questions or suggestions -- Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole