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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 86, Part I, 1 August 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 SVYAZINVEST AUCTION * INGUSH PRESIDENT MEETS WITH RYBKIN * AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT VIOLATES CONFIDENTIALITY OF PEACE TALKS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MORE FALLOUT FROM SVYAZINVEST AUCTION. Oneksimbank head Vladimir Potanin on 31 July expressed the desire for future cooperation with Most Bank, which was founded by current Media- Most head Vladimir Gusinskii, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Commenting on the news that Gusinskii intends to sue him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1997), Potanin joked that he hoped Gusinskii would not seek large damages, since buying a stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest has significantly depleted Oneksimbank's financial resources. Potanin also said he did not understand why Gusinskii is claiming that the Most group was not involved in the consortium that submitted the losing bid in the Svyazinvest auction. "We had a very worthy competitor," Potanin added, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 1 August. NEMTSOV CONNECTION TO REPRESENTATIVE OF WINNING SVYAZINVEST CONSORTIUM DENIED. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov's press secretary Andrei Pershin has denied reports that Leonid Rozhetskin, who represented the winning consortium at the Svyazinvest auction, worked for Nemtsov when the latter was governor of Nizhnii Novgorod, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. The radio station Ekho Moskvy, which is owned by Media-Most, reported that Rozhetskin had been an economic adviser to Nemtsov. But Pershin said Rozhetskin had neither advised Nemtsov nor worked in his administration. He added that Rozhetskin had represented the losing side in an auction last year among banks seeking to participate in the distribution of eurobonds issued by Nizhnii Novgorod. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 August that the Svyazinvest sale was not discussed at a 31 July cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and attended by Nemtsov, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, and State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh, among others. "KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA" ATTACKS NEMTSOV'S CRITICS. "Komsomolskaya pravda" charged on 1 August that Nemtsov has become the leading target of Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii and Media-Most head Gusinskii, who cannot get over losing the Svyazinvest auction. The newspaper accused Berezovskii of continuing his business activities while serving in the government, in violation of a May presidential decree on fighting corruption. It also claimed that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin is Berezovskii's patron and asked whether Nemtsov would suffer the same fate as former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who was ousted from the government in October 1996. (The media connected with Berezovskii's and Gusinskii's financial empires ran a barrage of unfavorable coverage of Lebed before and after his ouster.) Oneksimbank is a major shareholder in "Komsomolskaya pravda." "SEGODNYA" CRITICIZES INVESTMENTS IN RUSSIA BY SOROS. "Segodnya" on 31 July published a profile of George Soros, whose Quantum Fund was part of the winning consortium in the Svyazinvest auction. The paper, which is owned by Media-Most, charged that Soros has used his philanthropic activities to gain influence in the economies of former communist countries during the transition period. At his press conference the same day, Oneksimbank head Potanin said that more than half of the Svyazinvest stake would belong to the Russian partners in the winning consortium. He added that Soros would not play a leading role in managing the shares. Soros recently told the "Financial Times" that Quantum put up $980 million for the Svyazinvest stake, roughly half of the winning bid. INGUSH PRESIDENT MEETS WITH RYBKIN. Ruslan Aushev and Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin met in Moscow on 31 July to discuss the attack two days earlier on Ingush displaced persons in North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion, Interfax reported. Aushev reiterated that the North Ossetian leadership is incapable of ensuring safe conditions for the repatriation of the 40,000 Ingush who fled the district in 1992. He asked that Russian Interior Ministry troops be sent there. Also on 31 July, North Ossetian President Akhsarbek Galazov sent a telegram to President Boris Yeltsin blaming "nationalist extremists" for the 29 July reprisals, according to ITAR-TASS. Russian presidential envoy Aleksandr Kovalev said "Chechen gunmen" were responsible for destabilizing the situation. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin has appealed to the presidents and people of both Ingushetia and North Ossetia "to show common sense, wisdom, and restraint." Yastrzhembskii also said that Yeltsin has called for a new decree on measures to defuse tensions in Prigorodnyi Raion. RUSSIAN, CHECHEN PRESIDENTS TO MEET? Following talks on 31 July with Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on the failure of Russian agencies to supply funding for Chechen reconstruction, Rybkin told journalists that Yeltsin may meet with his Chechen counterpart, Aslan Maskhadov, in early August in an attempt to break the deadlock, Russian media reported. Rybkin said that a special decree from Yeltsin may be needed to release the necessary funding, as some Russian government officials are failing to comply with requests from the Security Council to do so. Maskhadov, who recently called for the suspension of talks with Moscow, is ready to meet with Yeltsin "at any time," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 1 August, which quoted presidential press spokesman Kazbek Khadzhiev. DISAGREEMENT OVER NEW RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TREATY. Rybkin also said he considers that the existing treaty on the division of functions between Grozny and Moscow corresponds to "the reality of the day," according to ITAR-TASS. But Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov said that the Chechen leadership will soon submit to Moscow a new friendship and cooperation treaty defining the principles of Russian-Chechen bilateral relations in accordance with international law, Interfax reported. Sergei Shakhrai, who heads the presidential commission that drafts power-sharing treaties between the federal center and federation subjects, considers that it is currently impossible to sign a Russian-Chechen power-sharing treaty "in its traditional, classic form" because of increasing discord within the Chechen leadership, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 1 August. FINANCIAL AID TO DAGESTAN TO BE INCREASED. A 31 July Russian government meeting discussed proposals for improving the economic situation in Dagestan, Russian media reported. Prime Minister Aburazak Mirzabekov said his republic is one of the poorest in the Russian Federation, with 60 percent of the population living below the poverty line and with unemployment at 30 percent. He asked the Russian government to grant Dagestan a 853 billion ruble ($147 million) credit to help create new jobs. Russian Premier Chernomyrdin expressed skepticism that increased subsidies from the federal budget would improve the situation. But he promised that Russia will provide funding for specific projects proposed by the Dagestani government, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 1 August. Chernomyrdin also proposed the creation of a free economic zone in Dagestan. BEREZOVSKII TO SUE LEBED. Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii told ITAR-TASS on 31 July that he will sue former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed. At a recent press conference, Lebed accused Berezovskii of profiting from the war in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1997). SELEZNEV SAYS DUMA FACTIONS SHOULD HAVE RIGHT TO REVOKE SOME DEPUTIES' MANDATES. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has advocated changing the Duma's procedural rules to allow leaders of factions to revoke the mandates of some deputies who violate party discipline, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 31 July. The proposed rule change would apply to the 225 Duma deputies who are elected from party lists using a proportional representation system. The 225 deputies who win their seats in single-member constituencies could not be expelled from the parliament. Seleznev said the Communist Party (KPRF), Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and the pro-government faction Our Home Is Russia (NDR) support the rule change. Defectors from the LDPR Duma faction include the party's former deputy leader Aleksandr Vengerovskii. KPRF deputy Vladimir Semago and Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin of NDR, among others, have opposed the leaders of their factions in Duma votes or public statements. PRO-LUZHKOV FACTION TO BE FORMED IN DUMA? Duma Labor and Social Policy Committee Chairman Sergei Kalashnikov says a Duma faction to support Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov will be formed this fall, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. "Kommersant-Daily" on 1 August quoted Kalashnikov as saying that the faction will include deputies from both Moscow and the regions. Kalashnikov, a member of Zhirinovsky's LDPR, said he will not join the pro-Luzhkov faction and declined to name the organizer of the group. Duma factions must include at least 35 deputies in order to be registered. Earlier this year, some Duma deputies from the Communist and Popular Power factions announced plans to form a new faction called the Russian Industrial Union but were unable to recruit 35 deputies. "PRAVDA" RESURRECTED AS WEEKLY. Almost exactly a year since it was forced to suspend daily publication, the opposition newspaper "Pravda" has published its first regular weekly edition, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 31 July. In July 1996, the Greek- financed publishers of "Pravda" shut down the paper, claiming that it was loss-making and of low journalistic quality. The publishers subsequently turned the former weekly supplement "Pravda-5" into a daily. Since late 1996, the editors of "Pravda" have published occasional special issues but only recently secured financing to begin regular weekly publication. "Pravda" editor Viktor Linnik refused to tell "Kommersant-Daily" the source of the newspaper's funding other than to say that it is being financed by a Russian investor. He confirmed that it will remain an opposition newspaper. PROCURATORS INVESTIGATING CASE AGAINST KORZHAKOV. The Moscow Procurator's Office is investigating the slander case against Duma deputy and former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 August. The criminal case was opened following a request from NTV anchorman Yevgenii Kiselev, one of Russia's most prominent television journalists. Korzhakov has accused Kiselev of cooperating with the KGB beginning in 1988 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 1997). ITAR-TASS noted that Kiselev's request was contradictory, since the journalist asked that Korzhakov be charged with revealing state secrets as well as slander. The news agency argued that if Korzhakov revealed state secrets, then Kiselev really did work for the KGB. But it also argued that if Korzhakov slandered Kiselev, then he cannot have revealed state secrets. Even if the procuracy decides to press charges, Korzhakov cannot be tried unless the Duma votes to lift his immunity. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT VIOLATES CONFIDENTIALITY OF PEACE TALKS. In an address at Georgetown University on 30 July, Heidar Aliev gave details of the Karabakh peace proposals that the U.S., French, and Russian co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group submitted to the conflict parties in May 1997, Turan and Interfax reported. A first stage would entail the withdrawal of Armenian forces from six Azerbaijani raions adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh and the deployment of OSCE peacekeeping troops along the enclave's borders. During the second stage, Armenian forces would be withdrawn from the Lachin corridor and the strategically located town of Shusha and talks would be held on Nagorno-Karabakh's status within Azerbaijan. Aliev said Baku accepts some points of the peace plan and wants others to be revised. Armenian presidential adviser Zhirair Liparitian recently condemned Azerbaijani officials for disclosing details of the proposals. Under an agreement between the co-chairmen and the leaderships in Baku, Yerevan, and Stepanakert, those proposals are to remain confidential. ARMENIA ACCUSES AZERBAIJAN OF VIOLATING CFE TREATY. At a news conference in Yerevan on 31 July, a Foreign Ministry spokesman cited statistics published in Azerbaijan's Annual Exchange of Military Information that demonstrate Azerbaijan is violating the arms ceiling imposed by the1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, Armenian agencies reported. Baku is exceeding its entitlement by 50 tanks, 337 armored vehicles, and 16 artillery systems. The spokesman claimed that in 1993-1994, Azerbaijan received 947 armored vehicles, 436 tanks, and 388 artillery units from Ukraine. He also noted that 50 percent of Azerbaijan's weaponry is concentrated in the exclave of Nakhichevan, which borders Armenia. ABKHAZ PEACEKEEPERS' FUTURE UNCLEAR. Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze flew to Moscow on 31 July to discuss with his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeev, the future of the CIS peacekeeping troops in Abkhazia, Interfax reported. A Russian military spokesman told Reuters that it is unlikely the peacekeepers will be withdrawn, even though their mandate expired on 31 July. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Lev Mironov said a decision will be taken at the CIS heads of state summit scheduled for late October, according to ITAR-TASS. Another Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Gennadii Tarasov, said it is "illusory" to believe that peace can be preserved in Abkhazia if the peacekeepers leave, Interfax reported. Georgian presidential spokesman Levan Aleksidze said, however, that new fighting is not inevitable. Also on 31 July, the UN Security Council extended for a further six months the mandate of its observer mission in Abkhazia, Reuters reported. CHECHNYA OFFERS TO MEDIATE. Chechen Deputy Prime minister Akhmed Zakaev told journalists in Tbilisi on 31 July that Chechnya "is ready to act as a mediator in the Abkhaz conflict," ITAR-TASS reported. Zakaev met twice with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss a possible meeting between Shevardnadze and Aslan Maskhadov. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 1 August quoted Shevardnadze's press spokesman as saying that Shevardnadze wants to win the support of North Caucasian leaders in order "to prevent any complications" in Abkhazia. The daily also published the text of the draft protocol on preliminary measures to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, which was accepted by the Abkhaz leadership in June but rejected by Tbilisi. The newspaper commented that Georgian hopes of a UN or NATO peacekeeping force for Abkhazia are "utopian," warning that the "arrival of Turkish troops in the Caucasus, under whatever aegis and in whatever capacity, can only inflame the situation." RUSSIA ANNULS KYAPAZ CONTRACT. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov informed Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov by telephone on 1 August that an official statement will shortly be issued confirming that Russia has annulled the contract to exploit the Kyapaz Caspian oil field, ITAR-TASS reported. The contract was signed on 4 July by the heads of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, Rosneft, and LUKoil. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry immediately protested that the Kyapaz deposit is located in Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian. Meeting with Niyazov in Ashgabat on 28 July, Serov said that the Russian government assumed Azerbaijan had coordinated its actions with Ashgabat. He conceded that Russia's position was legally untenable and said the contract would be annulled, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 July. A spokesman for Rosneft president Yurii Bespalov told Interfax the next day that Rosneft would withdraw from the contract. TURKMENISTAN EXPRESSES APPRECIATION OF U.S. DECISION ON PIPELINE. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry released a statement on 31 July saying that Ashgabat "highly appreciates" the recent decision by the U.S. not to apply the 1996 act imposing sanctions on Libya and Iran to the proposed Turkmen-Iran-Turkey gas pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported. The pipeline has been under discussion for five years and would transport annually 30 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey and Europe. Washington announced in late July that since the project benefits Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Europe more than Iran, it will not object to the participation of U.S. companies (see also "End Note" in "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1997). TAJIK PARLIAMENT APPROVES GENERAL AMNESTY. The Tajik parliament on 1 August approved an amnesty law allowing members of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to return to Tajikistan, according to ITAR-TASS and AFP. Presidential adviser Khalifibobo Khamidov said "all criminal cases are closed and no new ones will be opened" against those who fought on the side of the UTO during nearly five years of civil conflict in Tajikistan. The amnesty does not cover those who engaged in "terrorism, banditry, drug-trafficking, large-scale theft, premeditated murder, or rape." Of the 157 deputies attending the session, 140 voted in favor of the law. UYGHUR DEMONSTRATION IN ALMATY. Between 40 and 50 Uyghurs attempted on 31 July to deliver a note to the Chinese Embassy in Almaty protesting Beijing's policy in Xinjiang Province, RFE/RL correspondents in the Kazakh capital reported. They were turned away by Kazakh security guards but went on to stage a demonstration in a nearby park. They carried placards that read "Freedom for Uyghuristan" and "Down With Chinese Colonists." The president of the Uyghur Association in Kazakhstan said the Uyghurs do not want trouble with the Kazakh authorities but want to show they are opposed to China's alleged repressive policy in Xinjiang Province, where Uyghurs form the majority. China announced on 28 July that several Uyghurs had been executed on 22 July for their alleged participation in riots in Yining and Urumqi early this year. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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