Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends. - Benjamin Disraeli 1804-1881
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 83, Part I, 29 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

* NEMTSOV DEFENDS SVYAZINVEST SALE

* CHECHEN PRESIDENT SUSPENDS TALKS WITH MOSCOW

* GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSED TO PEACE-KEEPERS' WITHDRAWAL

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RUSSIA

NEMTSOV DEFENDS SVYAZINVEST SALE. Speaking in Novosibirsk,
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov hailed the recent auction
of 25 percent plus one share of the telecommunications giant
Svyazinvest as an example of "honest privatization," Russian news
agencies reported on 28 July. He also criticized those behind the
unsuccessful bid for "going into hysterics on television." Russian
Public Television (ORT) commentator Sergei Dorenko sharply
criticized the Svyazinvest sale on 26 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28
July 1997). Meanwhile, it has emerged that George Soros's Quantum
Fund was part of the consortium that won the Svyazinvest auction.
The "Financial Times" on 29 July quoted Soros as saying Quantum
had put up $980 million, roughly half of the consortium's $1.875
billion offer. A press conference on the Svyazinvest sale, scheduled
for 28 July, was canceled as neither State Property Committee
Chairman Alfred Kokh nor First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Chubais turned up.

SOME MEDIA CONTINUE TO CRITICIZE DEAL... The Svyazinvest
privatization has been criticized on the radio station Ekho Moskvy
and in the newspaper "Segodnya," both part of Vladimir Gusinskii's
Most media empire, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 28 July.
Most Bank was involved in the losing bid for Svyazinvest.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 July ran a lengthy, unflattering feature
on Oneksimbank head Vladimir Potanin. The paper suggested that
"political ambitions" lie behind Potanin's "wolf's appetite" for media
outlets. In recent months, Oneksimbank has acquired large stakes in
"Izvestiya" and "Komsomolskaya pravda." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" also
charged that the consortium, in which an Oneksimbank affiliate was
involved, acquired the Svyazinvest stake for an "undervalued" price.
(However, Reuters on 28 July quoted financial analysts as saying the
stake was sold for a fair price.) "Nezavisimaya gazeta" is partly
financed by the LogoVAZ group of Security Council Deputy Secretary
Boris Berezovskii. Berezovskii is rumored to have been involved in
the losing bid for Svyazinvest. He and Potanin have been rivals in
other recent privatization auctions.

...WARN OF REPRISALS AGAINST ORT. "Segodnya" warned on 28 July
that some unnamed bankers are seeking to get rid of ORT
commentator Dorenko and reorganize the 51 percent state-owned
network. Ekho Moskvy has also reported that reprisals are being
planned against ORT, and Dorenko told the radio station that a
government official is in Potanin's "pocket." Meanwhile, Dorenko told
"Kommersant-Daily" on 29 July that associates of First Deputy Prime
Minister Chubais have asked to see ORT's founding documents,
presumably to examine how the network's leadership can be
changed. (Chubais recently returned to Moscow from a three-week
vacation.) Dorenko vowed that the next edition of his weekly
program will continue the investigative report on the privatization of
a large factory in Cherepovets (Vologda Oblast). An ORT report on 26
July alleged that after acquiring a controlling stake in that factory,
Oneksimbank transferred abroad $42 million that it had promised to
invest in the factory.

IRKUTSK ELECTION VIEWED AS VICTORY FOR GOVERNMENT... Deputy
Presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Kazakov hailed Boris Govorin's
convincing victory in the Irkutsk gubernatorial election as proof that
the federal government can influence voters, Russian news agencies
reported on 28 July. He did not specify how the government had
influenced the outcome. An RFE/RL correspondent in Irkutsk
reported on 17 July that some 9 billion rubles ($1.6 million) were
transferred to the oblast during the campaign to help pay off wage
arrears. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 July viewed the election result
as a defeat for the Communist Party in general and for party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov in particular. Zyuganov spent nearly a week
campaigning for Sergei Levchenko, who finished a distant second.
Meanwhile, Zyuganov told Interfax that the Irkutsk campaign had
been the "dirtiest" he had ever seen. Anonymous leaflets spreading
damaging allegations about various candidates were widely
circulated during the campaign.

...WHILE COMMUNIST OBSERVER CHARGES FALSIFICATION. The
opposition paper "Sovetskaya Rossiya" argued on 29 July that
widespread falsification was used to ensure a lopsided victory for
Govorin. Although local opinion polls indicated that the race would be
close, Govorin gained some 50 percent of the vote, while Levchenko
took second place with less than 19 percent. Communist State Duma
deputy Aleksandr Salii, an election observer in Irkutsk, told
"Sovetskaya Rossiya" that computers were used to tally the vote
count and transfer votes cast for other candidates to Govorin. He
noted that the percentages gained by the candidates were almost
identical in all four districts of the city of Irkutsk, despite vastly
different socioeconomic conditions in those districts. Salii argued that
"any sociologist will tell you" that such a result is impossible.

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN SAYS NO CONFLICT BETWEEN YELTSIN,
CHURCH. Sergei Yastrzhembskii says that Yeltsin's recent veto of the
law on religious organizations should not be considered evidence of a
"crisis in relations" between the president and the Russian Orthodox
Church. Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin vetoed the law because many of
its provisions violated the constitution, not because of appeals from
abroad, according to Russian news agencies on 28 July. Citing
unnamed Kremlin sources, Interfax reported that Yeltsin has
instructed representatives of the presidential administration to
discuss possible revisions to the law with Church officials.
Meanwhile, Russia's chief rabbi Adolf Shaevich on 28 July admitted
that the religion law was not "perfect" but argued that it did not
contain any provisions against "traditional world religions," including
Catholicism. Along with Russian Orthodoxy, Buddhism, and Islam,
Judaism was one of four faiths listed in the law as "traditional"
Russian religions.

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SUSPENDS TALKS WITH MOSCOW. Aslan
Maskhadov on 29 July called for the suspension of all ongoing talks
with the federal government until Russia approves a plan for
economic reconstruction in Chechnya, AFP reported, citing Interfax.
Maskhadov also instructed his ministers to refrain from maintaining
contacts with their Russian counterparts and from traveling to
Moscow. He accused the Russian leadership of not complying with
earlier bilateral agreements. The previous day, Maskhadov met with
the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
mission in Grozny and asked that organization to consider increasing
humanitarian aid to Chechnya. Also on 28 July, Maskhadov called for
a treaty establishing formal diplomatic relations between the Russian
Federation and the Chechen Republic Ichkeria.

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VOWS CRACKDOWN ON EMBEZZLEMENT.
Igor Sergeev has sent a telegram to military and naval commanders
throughout the Russian armed forces demanding more stringent
control of use of finances allocated by the state budget, ITAR-TASS
reported. Sergeev said that "deliberate diversion of money set aside
to finance troops will be considered as undermining the combat
readiness of the armed forces." Sergeev recently dismissed a number
of generals and senior officers for misuse of budget funds. They
included three officers from the Volga Military District who had
misappropriated 6.2 billion rubles ($1.1 million) intended to pay
servicemen's wages.

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA MAY REPLACE DUMA FACTION LEADER IN
SEPTEMBER. The State Duma faction of the pro-government
movement Our Home Is Russia (NDR) may "strengthen its leadership"
in September, according to Duma First Deputy Speaker Aleksandr
Shokhin, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 28 July. Shokhin
confirmed that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is unhappy with
Sergei Belyaev, who heads the NDR's Duma delegation.
(Chernomyrdin announced Belyaev's imminent resignation on 3 July,
but Belyaev has since denied that he will step down.) Also in
September, Shokhin said, the NDR Duma faction will seek to remove
Lev Rokhlin from the post of Duma Defense Committee chairman.
Shokhin noted that Rokhlin's new movement to support the military
has been joined by members of several "radical left" groups. Even if
the NDR expels Rokhlin, he cannot be stripped of his committee
chairmanship unless a majority of Duma deputies support such a
move.

YAVLINSKII MAY NOT RUN FOR PRESIDENT IN 2000. Yabloko leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii will not run for president in 2000 "if there is
[another] acceptable candidate" in the race, according to State Duma
deputy and Yabloko deputy chairman Vyacheslav Igrunov. However,
Igrunov refused to clarify whether First Deputy Prime Minister Boris
Nemtsov would be considered a worthy candidate, ITAR-TASS
reported on 28 July. While Yabloko opposes the government's
policies on the whole, Igrunov noted that Yavlinskii's movement will
continue to support Nemtsov's efforts. Yavlinskii helped draft the
economic reform program implemented in Nizhnii Novgorod when
Nemtsov governed that oblast. In the 1996 presidential election,
Yavlinskii gained about 7.3 percent of the vote. His prospects for
advancing to the second round of a presidential election are
considered poor.

SUSPECT ARRESTED IN MONUMENT BOMBINGS. The Federal Security
Service has formally charged 18-year-old Andrei Sokolov with the
bombings of a monument to Tsar Nicholas II in a village near
Moscow and the attempted bombing of a monument to Peter the
Great, Russian media reported on 25 July. Sokolov has admitted his
guilt. The case has angered young Communists, who have been
blamed for the bombings. Sokolov has been linked to the
Revolutionary Communist Union of Young Bolsheviks, whose leader is
Pavel Bylevskii. But Bylevskii, who was also accused of the bombings,
said no one in his organization takes part in terrorist actions. Some
Russian media have mistakenly associated Bylevskii's group with the
Komsomol, whose acronym is almost identical to that of Bylevskii's
organization.

EXPLOSION LEVELS BUILDING IN PERM OBLAST. A building owned
by the LUKoil Perm-Neft company in the town of Kueda (Perm
Oblast) was destroyed in an explosion on 28 July, according to ITAR-
TASS. Sixteen people died in the blast, which is thought to have been
caused by a kitchen gas canister. Another 15 people were found alive
in the rubble by rescue teams; several have been hospitalized in a
serious condition. Meanwhile, rescue workers continue to search for
more survivors.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSED TO PEACE-KEEPERS' WITHDRAWAL.
In his weekly radio address, Eduard Shevardnadze on 28 July
advised against the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force
deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia
when the force's mandate expires on 31 July. The Georgian
parliament had adopted a resolution on 30 May demanding that the
force leave Georgia after 31 July if a decision taken by the March CIS
heads of state summit were not implemented. According to that
decision, the force's mandate was to be broadened to enable the
peacekeepers to protect those who are repatriated. Shevardnadze
argued that the peacekeepers should remain in Georgia until a formal
decision is taken on sending a UN force to replace them, according to
ITAR-TASS. He said the CIS Heads of State Council should decide at
its next session in September whether the peacekeepers' mandate
should be prolonged.

TURKMEN PRESIDENT SAYS NO COMPROMISE ON CASPIAN OIL FIELD.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov met with Turkmen
President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 28 July, Reuters and
ITAR-TASS reported. Niyazov told Serov that the deal signed by
Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR and Russia's LUKoil and
Rosneft in early July to work the Kyapaz field in the Caspian Sea was
unacceptable as the field belongs to Turkmenistan. Representatives
from LUKoil and Rosneft were also at the meeting. Serov called the
issue an "unfortunate misunderstanding" and said Russia was under
the impression that Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan had settled the
question prior to the contract's signing. Niyazov called on Russian
President Boris Yeltsin to declare the agreement void. Niyazov will
meet with Yeltsin in Moscow on 7 August.

KAZAKH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER FIRED. President Nursultan
Nazarbayev on 28 July signed a decree dismissing Nigmatjan
Isingarin as deputy prime minister, according to RFE/RL
correspondents in Kazakhstan. No reason was given for his dismissal.
Isingarin remains the chairman of the inter-government council of
the four-country union of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and
Kyrgyzstan.

KAZAKH OPPOSITION MOVEMENT HOLDS CONFERENCE. The Kazakh
opposition movement Solidarnost held a conference on human rights
in Almaty on 28 July, according to RFE/RL correspondents in
Kazakhstan. Leaders of the movement noted that while President
Nazarbayev had named 1997 a year of commemoration for the
victims of Stalin's repression, there had already been 10 registered
cases of human rights violations in Kazakhstan so far this year. By
way of example, they named Madel Ismailov, who served almost two
months in jail for organizing a demonstration on 30 May even though
Solidarnost had claimed that the demonstration was organized not by
a single person but by the "deceived people of Kazakhstan."

TAJIK PRESIDENT SIGNS DECREE ON NATIONAL COMMISSION.
Imomali Rakhmonov on 28 July signed a decree ordering the
government to determine the responsibilities of members of the
National Reconciliation Commission as well as the commission's
structure and budget. The commission will aid in the process of
reunifying the country and preparing amendments to the
constitution for elections in late 1998. The second meeting of the
commission, scheduled for 27 July, was postponed because Said
Abdullo Nuri, the chairman of the commission and the United Tajik
Opposition (UTO) leader, is still in Tehran. Nuri is scheduled to travel
to the Tajik capital once 460 UTO fighters are stationed there as
protection for the UTO members of the commission. But the UTO
"body guards" are unlikely to arrive until after the Tajik parliament
passes the law on a general amnesty, which it is scheduled to do at
its 1 August session.





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               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
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