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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 76, Part I, 18 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

*CHURCH LEADERS ASK YELTSIN TO SIGN RELIGION LAW.


*BANKING SCANDAL GOING OUT WITH A WHIMPER?


*FIRST GROUP OF TAJIK REFUGEES RETURN


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RUSSIA

CHURCH LEADERS ASK YELTSIN TO SIGN RELIGION LAW. Patriarch
Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia and 49 other Russian Orthodox
Church leaders have sent President Boris Yeltsin a message asking
him to sign the controversial law on religious organizations, Russian
news agencies reported on 17 July. On the same day, the Vatican
announced that Pope John Paul sent Yeltsin a letter in June asking
him to veto that law, which does not recognize the Catholic Church as
one of Russia's "traditional religions," AFP reported. The law also
would grant more rights to accredited "religious organizations" than
to more recently established "religious groups." Russian human rights
advocates have objected that the law is repressive and
unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 1997). The U.S.
Senate on 16 July approved an amendment that would cut some
$200 million in U.S. aid to Russia in 1998 if Yeltsin signs the religion
law.

YELTSIN ORDERS MINISTER TO PAY NUCLEAR PLANT'S WORKERS.
Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov says Yeltsin has instructed
him to pay all wage arrears to workers at the Smolensk nuclear
power plant by 10 August, and back wages to other nuclear plant
workers by 10 October, Russian news agencies reported on 17 July.
Yeltsin summoned Mikhailov to Karelia, where the president has
been vacationing, after unpaid nuclear workers completed a 360-
kilometer protest march to Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July
1997). Speaking to journalists, Mikhailov said he considered the
demands of the protesters justified but argued that protests are not
the way to solve the non-payments problem in the nuclear industry.
Mikhailov's remarks came after First Deputy Prime Minister Boris
Nemtsov met with representatives of the protest marchers in
Moscow and promised that 123 billion rubles ($21 million) would be
paid to nuclear workers this month.

RODIONOV, ROKHLIN CRITICIZE YELTSIN'S DECREES ON MILITARY. On
18 July "Nezavisimaya gazeta" published extensive criticism by
former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and State Duma Defense
Committee chairman Lev Rokhlin of Yeltsin's 16 July decrees on
downsizing and restructuring the Russian armed forces. Over the past
two months, Rodionov and Rokhlin have become the nucleus of
growing opposition to the way military reform is being implemented.
Rodionov said that the Defense Ministry had argued that any reform
of the armed forces should be preceded by the solution of related
political problems, including strengthening the legislative
foundations of Russia's military doctrine and drafting a concept for
military cooperation among CIS member states. The Defense Council
had insisted on the immediate reduction of the armed forces to 1.2
million. The decrees fail to address a number of crucial problems,
including Russia's future military doctrine, the defense industry and
the social welfare of servicemen and their families.

BANKING SCANDAL GOING OUT WITH A WHIMPER? Nina
Galanicheva, who chairs the Unikombank board of directors,
announced on 17 July that a recent Central Bank audit uncovered
"technical" errors made by Unikombank but no fraudulent operations
with securities, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 July. Central
Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin on 14 July charged that former First
Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov and Unikombank were
involved in two fraudulent deals that cost the state budget more
than $500 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14-16 July 1997). But the
next day a Central Bank official said Vavilov was not being accused
of corruption, and on 16 July the Central Bank and Unikombank
issued a joint statement saying Unikombank was accused only of
obstructing a Central Bank audit and making accounting errors.
"Kommersant-Daily" argued on 17 July that the scandal may
eventually cost Dubinin his post. However, the State Duma, which has
the authority to fire Dubinin, is currently on summer recess.

"TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY" CORRECTED ABOARD "MIR." The cause of a
power outage aboard the Russian space station Mir was found to be a
mistakenly disconnected cable, according to international media on
17 July. Mission Control in Russia is now considering waiting to do
repairs on the station until a new crew arrives in early August.

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT LIKELY TO CONSIDER CHALLENGES TO
ELECTORAL LAW. Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai
announced on 17 July that he sees "no obstacles" that are likely to
keep the court from considering three appeals challenging the
legality of the law on parliamentary elections, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported on 18 July. The appeals question the constitutionality of the
proportional representation system used to elect half of State Duma
deputies, in particular the point excluding parties that receive less
than 5% of the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May and 18 April
1997). If the court rules that the electoral law violates citizens'
rights, the legitimacy of the Duma would be undermined. The
Constitutional Court refused to hear a challenge to the electoral law
in November 1995, less than a month before Duma elections were
held. The Supreme Court upheld the legality of the proportional
representation system in April of this year.

CRIMINAL CASE OPENED AGAINST KORZHAKOV FOR SLANDER. The
Procurator-General's Office has opened a criminal case against State
Duma deputy and former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr
Korzhakov on slander charges, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18
July. The magazine "Lyudi" earlier this year published an interview
in which Korzhakov alleged that NTV vice president Yevgenii Kiselev
had been a KGB agent since 1988 under the code name Alekseev.
Kiselev, who is the anchor of NTV's influential weekly program
"Itogi," lodged a protest with the Procurator-General's Office,
charging that the allegations were untrue. Kiselev also says
Korzhakov damaged his reputation in April, when he appeared
before television journalists and called Kiselev an "informer" and a
"secret agent." Those remarks were not broadcast on television.
Korzhakov says he can prove the truth of his assertions. Last year he
sent copies of KGB documents on agent Alekseev to Kiselev, but
Kiselev told "Kommersant-Daily" that those documents were falsified.

NEW NIZHNII NOVGOROD GOVERNOR, NEMTSOV DISAGREE OVER
APPOINTMENTS. Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Ivan Sklyarov is at odds
with his predecessor, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov,
over key personnel appointments in the oblast, RFE/RL's
correspondent in Nizhnii Novgorod reported on 17 July. Sklyarov and
Nemtsov reportedly reached an understanding on the appointments
about two months ago. However, shortly after winning the 13 July
runoff election Sklyarov criticized Nemtsov for not actively backing
his candidacy earlier in the campaign. Now Sklyarov is refusing to
allow former Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Dmitrii Bednyakov to be
appointed deputy mayor of the city. In addition, Sklyarov and
Nemtsov support different candidates for acting mayor of Nizhnii
Novgorod and presidential representative in the oblast. During the
campaign, Sklyarov's supporters warned that relations between the
regional authorities and federal officials would suffer if Communist
candidate Gennadii Khodyrev were elected governor.

DEATH TOLL IN BARRACKS COLLAPSE RISES TO 11. At least 11
soldier cadets have died following the 17 July collapse of a dormitory
at a military school in Tomsk, Russian news agencies reported. More
than 50 people are injured, and 10 of them are in serious condition.
The pre-revolutionary building, which had an extra level added on in
the 1950s, reportedly had not been repaired since 1955.

TWO INGUSH DPs KILLED IN NORTH OSSETIA. Two people were killed
and 10 injured when a bus carrying Ingush displaced persons en
route to inspect their abandoned homes in North Ossetia's disputed
Prigorodnyi raion was fired on by a grenade launcher, Russian media
reported. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev said that more than 20
such attacks have been perpetrated on Ingush displaced persons
over the past month. Addressing an emergency session of the Ingush
Security Council in Nazran, Aushev criticized the federal authorities
and the North Ossetian leadership for failing to take measures to
defuse tensions, and again argued that this could be done only by
imposing direct presidential rule on the disputed district, according
to Russian Independent Television (NTV). Aushev also telephoned
Yeltsin, deputy prime minister Valerii Serov and general procurator
Yurii Skuratov to discuss the deteriorating situation, "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" reported on 18 July.

NORTH OSSETIA DENIES PLANS TO REPATRIATE DPs TO GEORGIA.
North Ossetia's permanent representative in Moscow, Kazbek Dulaev,
has told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that a report in its 15 July edition
claiming that President Akhsarbek Galazov has issued a decree on
the repatriation to Georgia of Ossetians who fled the fighting there in
1991-2 is untrue, the paper reported on 18 July. [See "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 July, 1997] Dulaev termed the report, which
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" says was based on Georgian media reports, "a
gross distortion of the true state of affairs aimed at destabilizing the
situation in the republic".

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

FIRST GROUP OF TAJIK REFUGEES RETURN. A group of 275 Tajik
refugees returned from Afghanistan on 17 July, according to RFE/RL
correspondents. This was the first party of refugees to come back
since the 27 June signing of the Tajik National Peace Accord which
provided for the safe return and repatriation of the refugees. They
must undergo a registration process and medical check before being
allowed to continue on to areas of residence. However, the exchange
of prisoners between the Tajik government and United Tajik
Opposition (UTO) in Tavil-Dara will not take place on 18 July as was
hoped. The government side has sent a list of the prisoners it wants
returned and the UTO is presently searching for these people. The
exchange originally was scheduled for 15 July.

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT IN WASHINGTON. Addressing U.S. business
leaders at the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation [OPIC] on
17 July, Eduard Shevardnadze underscored his country's progress
over the past three years toward political stability, privatization and
marketization, Western agencies reported. He pleaded for more
foreign investment in hydro-electric power, agriculture, tourism,
mining and machine building. Shevardnadze also stressed his
country's potential role as a transit corridor between Asia and
Europe. Shevardnadze and U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen
signed an agreement on military cooperation and U.S. financial aid to
Georgia to fund measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons. Shevardnadze had lunch with vice
president Al Gore and met later with Senate leaders.

KAZAKHSTAN ADOPTS NEW CRIMINAL CODE. Kazakhstan on 16 July
approved its new criminal code, according to ITAR-TASS and
Interfax. A presidential spokesman said the new code "is devoid of
ideology," and emphasizes human rights, not state interests. The new
code does not abolish the death penalty but does make courts which
pass such sentences responsible for explaining the necessity of such a
punishment. The option of life imprisonment will not be debated
until 2003. Also, on the initiative of Kazakh President Nursultan
Nazarbayev, there is an article in the code which provides for
punishing those "hampering journalists' professional work."

PAKISTAN TO HELP TURKMENISTAN DEVELOP NAVY. Pakistani naval
specialists will help train personnel for Turkmenistan's navy,
according to a 18 July report from ITAR-TASS. The chief of Pakistan's
Navy, Fasih Bokhari, is presently in Turkmenistan discussing
cooperation with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. Pakistan
has already helped train Turkmen pilots and has been giving advice
to the Turkmen armed forces. Bokhari stressed that Turkmenistan's
official neutral status plays an important role in Central Asia.

OSCE MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN ARRIVE IN BAKU. The U.S., French
and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk group arrived in Baku on
17 July for talks with President Heidar Aliev and foreign minister
Hasan Hasanov on the latest proposals for a peaceful settlement of
the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Also on17 July,
representatives of the 50,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis who fled Karabakh
during the hostilities presented to the U.S., French and Russian
embassies an appeal to the presidents of those countries not to
permit the presidential elections in Karabakh scheduled for 1
September. They further demanded the restoration of their rights
and said the conflict could not be adequately resolved without
making provisions for them to return to their homes.




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