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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 74, Part I, 16 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I *MORE FALLOUT FROM RUSSIAN BANKING SCANDAL *RUSSIA NOT OPPOSED TO EU MEMBERSHIP FOR BALTICS *TAJIK PRISONER EXCHANGE DELAYED xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MORE FALLOUT FROM BANKING SCANDAL. Following former First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov's 15 July press conference, government officials avoided escalating Russia's largest-ever banking scandal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 15 July 1997). Besides denying all personal wrongdoing, Vavilov said he had passed documents to the Procurator-General's Office concerning suspect deals that involved other Russian banks, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Analysts interpreted that statement as a warning that Vavilov has compromising material on various influential companies and political figures. Speaking on Ekho Moskvy later that day, Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko noted that Central Bank head Sergei Dubinin had not accused Vavilov of corruption but only of approving bank deals that "brought harm to the state budget." Spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov said the government will not take any action on the scandal pending the completion of the investigation by the Procurator-General's Office. IMPLICATED BANK DISAVOWS EARLIER STATEMENT. The press service of Unikombank, which is implicated in the recent fraud allegations, on 15 July claimed that an earlier statement reportedly issued by the bank had been falsified, according to "Kommersant- Daily" on 16 July. Unikombank still denies all wrongdoing but disavowed sharp criticism toward Central Bank chairman Dubinin contained in the earlier statement. RUSSIA NOT OPPOSED TO EU MEMBERSHIP FOR BALTICS. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov says that while Russia opposes NATO membership for the Baltic states, Moscow "not only does not oppose but would support the entry of Baltic countries into the European Union," ITAR-TASS reported on 15 July. The European Commission on 16 July officially recommended that the EU open membership talks with six countries, including Estonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 1997). Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, met in Moscow on 15 July and discussed the upcoming first meeting of the Russia- NATO permanent joint council, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The recent operation against accused war criminals in Bosnia will be on the agenda at that meeting. REPAIR WORK ON "MIR" SPACE STATION DELAYED. Repairs on the damaged "spektr" module of the "Mir" space station have been postponed to 24 or 25 July, according to Russian media. The reason for the delay is the health of "Mir" commander Vasilii Tsibliev, who has complained of heart trouble. He is currently taking medication, and his condition is being monitored by Russia's mission control. Medical specialists in Russia said Tsibliev's health problems were likely caused by stress from the series of misfortunes that have occurred since a cargo ship crashed with "Mir" on 25 June. They also said that Tsibliev should not put on a space suit at the moment. Michael Foale, the U.S. astronaut aboard "Mir," is currently being trained to perform the work to have been carried out by Tsibliev. NASA officials on 16 July agreed that Foale can substitute for his Russian colleague. RUSSIAN, CHECHEN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT. The heads of the Russian and Chechen state security services, Nikolai Kovalev and Abu Movsaev, met in the North Caucasian town of Yessentuki on 15 July and signed a provisional cooperation agreement, Russian media reported. The two services will work together to combat terrorism, sabotage, the recruitment of mercenaries, hostage-taking, and arms- and drug-trafficking. According to Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Agapov, cooperation will initially be confined to the exchange of information, but the agreement also provides for the participation of Russian operatives in joint operations in Chechnya, Interfax reported, citing Ekho Moskvy. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON RELATIONS BETWEEN TYUMEN OBLAST, AUTONOMOUS OKRUGS. A 14 July Constitutional Court ruling is unlikely to settle the problematic relations between Yamal-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrugs and Tyumen Oblast, of which both okrugs are part, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 July. Yamal-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi did not participate in the December/January gubernatorial election in Tyumen and disagree on many budgetary matters, as well as on how natural resources extracted from the okrugs' territory should be divided. (Khanty- Mansi contains nearly two-thirds of Russian oil reserves, and Yamal- Nenets contains nearly 90% of the country's gas reserves.) The Constitutional Court found that the jurisdiction of Tyumen Oblast extends to the okrugs' territory. But it said questions about the division of natural resources were outside its competence. The decision may prompt the okrugs to begin formal efforts to secede from Tyumen, "Kommersant-Daily" commented. NEW NIZHNII NOVGOROD GOVERNOR PRAISES LUZHKOV. Ivan Sklyarov says Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov helped his successful gubernatorial campaign more than anyone else, RFE/RL's correspondent in Nizhnii Novgorod reported on 15 July. Sklyarov also thanked the Our Home Is Russia movement and Yabloko and expressed appreciation for a telephone conversation with President Boris Yeltsin and a pre-election visit to the oblast by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. In contrast, Sklyarov said First Deputy Prime Minister and former Governor Boris Nemtsov had come to campaign in Nizhnii Novgorod only when it was already clear that Sklyarov would win the runoff election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 14 July 1997). Sklyarov added that he did not understand why Nemtsov is credited with initiating the reforms in Nizhnii Novgorod. As mayor of Nizhnii, Sklyarov said, he had played as large a role in launching the reforms as Nemtsov. GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN HEATS UP IN IRKUTSK. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed arrived in Irkutsk on 15 July to campaign for gubernatorial candidate Ivan Shchadov, director of the huge coal enterprise Vossibugol, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Of the nine registered candidates, Shchadov ranks third in opinion polls, behind Irkutsk Mayor Boris Govorin and Sergei Levchenko, the leader of the Communist Party branch in the oblast. The popular former Governor Yurii Nozhikov, who resigned in April, formally endorsed Govorin in a 15 July radio address. Meanwhile, a group of Communist State Duma deputies and assistants have flown to Irkutsk from Nizhnii Novgorod, where they were recently campaigning for unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Gennadii Khodyrev. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov is expected in Irkutsk to campaign for Levchenko several days before the 27 July election. SYSUEV QUESTIONS FAIRNESS OF SAMARA CAMPAIGN. Deputy Prime Minister and former Samara Mayor Oleg Sysuev says the campaign to elect his successor was not an honest political battle, Russian news agencies reported on 15 July. Georgii Limanskii, deputy chairman of the Samara Oblast legislature and leader of the oblast branch of Aleksandr Lebed's Russian People's Republican Party, won the 13 July mayoral election with about 54 percent of the vote. Deputy Mayor Anatolii Afanasev, whom Sysuev had endorsed, gained 38 percent. Sysuev said the main weapon in the Samara campaign had been "big money and compromising materials." While noting that the "choice made by Samara residents must be respected," Sysuev urged the new mayor not to "play at populism and put the city on the brink of a catastrophe by the winter." Among other things, Limanskii has promised to lower the price of housing and municipal services to 1996 levels. INGUSHETIA TO RECEIVE DIVIDENDS FROM OIL TRANSIT. President Ruslan Aushev told ITAR-TASS on 15 July that his republic will receive "certain dividends" from the transit of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil through the18 km stretch of the Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk pipeline that crosses Ingushetia. Aushev said the largest pumping station is located in Ingushetia. In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 July, the chairman of the government of Dagestan, Abdurazak Mirzabekov, argued that "if some territories of the Russian Federation claim...payment for [use of] the pipeline crossing their territory, then it will be perfectly fair for Dagestan to receive adequate payment." The length of the Chechen and Dagestani sections of the pipeline is 150 km and 270 km, respectively. NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS INGUSH COMPLAINTS. Akhsarbek Galazov sent a telegram to Russian President Yeltsin on 15 July saying Ingush President Ruslan Aushev's request to impose direct presidential rule on North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion was "interference in North Ossetia's internal affairs," Russian media reported. Aushev had sent Yeltsin a telegram the previous day asking him to take measures to defuse growing tensions in the region. Galazov termed Aushev's telegram "an attempt to destabilize the situation" and said his leadership is doing everything in its power to restore peace and enable Ingush refugees to return to their homes. Galazov has also invited all North Caucasian leaders to a conference in Vladikavkaz on 25 July to discuss regional security and fighting crime, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 July. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON YEREVANGATE ALLEGATIONS. Commenting on the proposal to set up a trilateral inter-government commission to investigate alleged Russian arms shipments to Armenia and Azerbaijan, Vazgen Sargsian said "Let them come and convince themselves that Armenia got less arms from Russia than Azerbaijan did," according to Noyan Tapan on 15 July. That statement is further implicit confirmation on Sargsian's part that Armenia received weapons from Moscow. Addressing students in Yerevan four months ago, Sargsian had boasted that over the past two years Armenia had doubled its military strength at no cost to the national budget. Greeting Greek Defense Minister Apostolos Tsohatzopoulos, who arrived in Yerevan on 15 July, Sargsian said that military- technical cooperation between Armenia, Greece, and Russia was "beneficial". This is the second Greek military delegation to visit Armenia within two months. LEBED ON KARABAKH. Former Russian Security Council Secretary Lebed has addressed an open letter to the three co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Europe's Minsk Group warning that the attempt to resolve the Karabakh conflict by observing the inviolability of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity will inevitably lead to new bloodshed, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 July. Lebed said that if hostilities resumed, there would be a real danger of Russia or Turkey becoming involved. He advocated "seeking mutually acceptable decisions on the basis of international law," citing the example of Chechnya. Meanwhile, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has proposed in a radio broadcast that Armenia cede its southern Zangezour region to Azerbaijan to create a land bridge uniting Azerbaijan with its exclave of Nakhichevan. In return, he said, Armenia would receive unspecified compensation, according to the Istanbul-based Armenian newspaper "Marmara," cited by Asbarez on 15 July. TAJIK PRISONER EXCHANGE DELAYED. The exchange of 100 prisoners, which is part of an agreement reached shortly before the 27 June signing of the Tajik National Reconciliation Accord, failed to take place on 15 July, as scheduled, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe. The Tajik government cited "technical reasons" for the deal, saying the exchange of 50 prisoners each by the government and United Tajik Opposition would have to take place on 18 or 19 July. UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri on 13 July sent a letter to UN special envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem and the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran asking them to use their influence as guarantors of the peace process to ensure the government honors its commitments. Nuri said failure to adhere to agreements would call into question the future work of the government-UTO reconciliation commission. KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WRAPS UP U.S. VISIT. Askar Akayev met with U.S. Vice President Al Gore on 15 July, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Washington. Gore expressed the U.S.'s approval of Kyrgyz economic and political reforms and discussed aid programs to Kyrgyzstan and regional security in Central Asia. Akayev also met with World Bank President James Wolfensohn to discuss Kyrgyzstan's use of a $264 million loan for domestic projects. The previous day, Akayev had held talks with members of the U.S. State Department, including Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, who urged him to continue on the path toward democracy and protect human rights. They also said the U.S. hopes to further strengthen bilateral ties, especially military ones, through NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Akayev attended a ceremony at the U.S. Export-Import Bank marking the signing of an agreement that provides for the financing of U.S. exports to Kyrgyzstan. LABOR UNREST CONTINUES IN KAZAKHSTAN. Workers at the Stepanogorsk Uranium Producing Plant in Akmola Oblast staged a strike on 15 July to protest the fact they have not received wages in five months, RFE/RL corespondents reported. They also demanded to see detailed records of sales. In Kokshetau, some 1,000 citizens took to the streets to demand the payment of overdue wages and pensions and a cut in housing utility costs. They also want the government to rescind a decree issued earlier this year merging Kokshetau Oblast with neighboring Akmola Oblast. Meanwhile, ITAR- TASS reported on 16 July that pensioners in the city of Saran are requesting coffins instead of their pension arrears. NEW LANGUAGES LAW IN KAZAKHSTAN. The new law on languages, which was published on 16 July, states that Kazakh remains the state language but that Russian has "equal status" with Kazakh at "state- owned organizations and bodies of local government," ITAR-TASS reported. Instruction at secondary and vocational schools as well as at institutes of higher education will be provided in both Kazakh and Russian, but at least half of television programming must be in Kazakh. Learning the Kazakh language remains the "duty of every Kazakh citizen," the law states. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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