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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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/

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Headlines, Part I

*MORE FALLOUT FROM RUSSIAN BANKING SCANDAL


*RUSSIA NOT OPPOSED TO EU MEMBERSHIP FOR BALTICS


*TAJIK PRISONER EXCHANGE DELAYED


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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.




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               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
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