I'm going to turn on the light, and we'll be two people in a room looking at each other and wondering why on earth we were afraid of the dark. - Gale Wilhelm
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 87, Part I, 4 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

*YELTSIN NAMES NEW DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER


*THREE ZEROES TO BE KNOCKED OFF RUBLE IN 1998


*NEW CASPIAN OIL AGREEMENTS SIGNED

Endnote
Shevardnadze's Abkhaz Brinkmanship

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RUSSIA


YELTSIN NAMES NEW DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER. On 1 August, Yeltsin
issued a decree naming former Russian Federation Council deputy
chairman and current State Duma deputy Ramazan Abdulatipov as
the seventh Russian deputy prime minister, Russian media reported.
Abdulatipov, an ethnic Avar from Dagestan and the author of
numerous theoretical works on nationality problems, will be
responsible for ethnic relations, federal development and the Russian
regions. Yeltsin admitted his relations with Abdulatipov had not
always been "cloudless" -- an allusion to the latter's criticism both of
the war in Chechnya and of aspects of Moscow's nationalities policy.
But Yeltsin conceded that "in recent years he [Abdulatipov] has
supported the course of the president and the government." In an
interview with ITAR-TASS, Abdulatipov characterized nationality
relations within the Russian Federation as "one of the most difficult
and crisis-ridden spheres" in which "very many mistakes were made
and little constructive was achieved."

NORTH CAUCASUS LEADERS VOICE APPROVAL. Abdulatipov's
appointment met with unequivocal approval from several leading
North Caucasus politicians. North Ossetian President Akhsarbek
Galazov described him as "a wise politician" whose familiarity with
the North Caucasus "will certainly be beneficial for the region,"
according to Interfax. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev noted that
Abdulatipov had first-hand experience of the North Caucasus, and
observed that "it is a pity that many of the things he once suggested
to stabilize the situation in the region did not find understanding
within the federal government." The chairman of the Confederation
of Peoples of the Caucasus, Yurii Soslambekov, said that Abdulatipov
"can always count on the support" of his organization, ITAR-TASS
reported.

CPC OFFERS TO MEDIATE IN NORTH OSSETIAN-INGUSH CONFLICT.
Meeting with deputies to the North Ossetian parliament on 2 August,
the chairman of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, Yusup
Soslambekov, expressed concern at the escalation of tensions
between Ossetians and Ingush repatriates in North Ossetia's
Prigorodnyi raion, ITAR-TASS reported. Soslambekov said his
organization is willing to try to mediate between the conflict sides,
and that it plans to establish its own peacekeeping force to help
overcome inter-ethnic clashes in the North Caucasus. On 1 August,
Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev rejected a call by 60
deputies for a special session on the North Caucasus, Interfax
reported.

INGUSH PRESIDENT PROPOSES BEREZOVSKII AS MEDIATOR. On 1
August, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev proposed that Security
Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii be charged with
mediating in the North-Ossetian-Ingush conflict, according to
Interfax. Aushev said that Berezovskii's talks in Chechnya have given
him a good understanding of the region and "he is capable of
unconventional decisions in complicated situations." Kommersant-
Daily" on 2 August quoted Berezovskii as saying that he is on good
terms with both Aushev and Galazov and will assume the duties of
mediator if Yeltsin asks him. On August 1, Yeltsin excluded imposing
presidential rule on Prigorodnyi raion, saying this would not help to
defuse tensions, and is contrary to the direction in which federalism
in Russia should develop, "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" reported on 2
August. Aushev had repeatedly called for the imposition of
presidential rule, which Galazov opposes.

THREE ZEROES TO BE KNOCKED OFF RUBLE IN 1998. President Boris
Yeltsin announced on 4 August that the Russian ruble will be
redenominated as of 1 January 1998, Reuters reported. One new
ruble will be worth 1,000 old rubles, Yeltsin said in a statement,
adding that the reduction in inflation had made the change possible.
According to the official exchange rate fixed by the Central Bank on 4
August, one U.S. dollar is currently worth 5,801 rubles. The Central
Bank has predicted that inflation in 1997 will not exceed 13 percent,
ITAR-TASS reported on 15 July. Yeltsin and Central Bank Chairman
Sergei Dubinin agreed on the redenomination at a 1 August meeting
in Samara Oblast, where Yeltsin has been vacationing. New ruble
notes will be introduced, but old ruble notes will be valid for all
purchases until the end of 1998. Citizens will be able to exchange the
old notes at bank offices through 2002.

TROOPS SUBORDINATED TO FAPSI, RAILWAYS MINISTRY TO BE
DOWNSIZED. Yeltsin on 1 August signed two decrees "significantly
reducing" the personnel of troops subordinated to the Federal
Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI)
and the Railways Ministry, Russian news agencies reported. No other
details about the decrees have been released to date. Yeltsin signed
the decrees while discussing military reform issues with Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. The troops subordinate to FAPSI and
the Railways Ministry were not affected by previous presidential
decrees ordering reductions in various branches of the armed forces.

BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS LEVELED AGAINST NEMTSOV. Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Nizhnii
Novgorod businessman Andrei Klimentev have accused First Deputy
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov of taking several large bribes while he
was governor of Nizhnii Novgorod, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported
on 1 August. Zhirinovsky also accused Nemtsov of seeking to arrange
his murder. Nemtsov's spokesman Andrei Pershin dismissed
Klimentev's accusations as "absurd and false," noting that the
businessman has himself been convicted of embezzlement. According
to the 2 August "Kommersant-Daily," Klimentev's conviction was
recently overturned by the Supreme Court. Pershin said the Supreme
Court had not vindicated Klimentev but merely objected to the light
sentence handed down against the businessman. As for Zhirinovsky's
accusations, Pershin said they were a matter for examination by a
psychiatrist. Nemtsov's lawyer Vitalii Khavkin told ITAR-TASS on 2
August that Nemtsov plans to sue Klimentev for slander.

ZYUGANOV SAYS YELTSIN DESTROYING RUSSIA'S FOUNDATIONS.
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has accused Yeltsin of
leading an attack on Russian statehood, spirituality, and
independence, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 1 August.
Zyuganov argued that instead of resting during his vacation, Yeltsin
has been "consuming the last of his life's strength" to harm Russia on
several fronts. Zyuganov again criticized Yeltsin's veto of the religion
law and said policies toward the energy and telecommunications
sector had destroyed the economic foundations of Russia's national
security. In addition, Zyuganov said recent presidential decrees on
military reform would destroy the army, and blamed Yeltsin for
complicating Russia's relations with Belarus (see related stories in
Part 2 of today's Newsline). Zyuganov said the opposition has
gathered nearly 3.5 million signatures calling for Yeltsin's
resignation, a change in government policies and the formation of a
government of national trust.

COMMUNIST DEPUTY CRITICIZES DUMA CORRUPTION, SPEAKER.
Communist State Duma deputy Vladimir Semago, who chairs the
Duma's commission on fighting corruption, announced on 1 August
that lobbying "in its dirtiest forms" exists in the lower house of
parliament, ITAR-TASS reported. Semago added that the Duma has
received interest-free credits from some commercial banks, a
practice he said invites abuses. He criticized Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev, also a Communist, for taking frequent trips abroad on
chartered flights while the Duma lacks the funds to pay deputies'
assistants. Semago also charged that the Duma apparatus had ignored
numerous requests to release information on various allocations of
funds. Semago said he would put the question of whether Seleznev
has exceeded his authority before Duma deputies, "Kommersant-
Daily" reported on 2 August. Semago is one of the few wealthy
entrepreneurs openly associated with the Communist Party.

DUMA SPEAKER DISMISSES CRITICISM. Duma Speaker Seleznev
described Semago's accusations as a provocation "aimed at stirring up
a scandal," Interfax reported on 2 August. Seleznev added that
"every word" of Semago's assertions was slanderous and that Semago
would have to answer for them in court if he were not protected by
parliamentary immunity. Seleznev has recently advocated allowing
Duma factions to strip deputies of their mandates under some
circumstances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 1997). If that rule
change were implemented, Semago would be among the first
deputies targeted by the Communist faction. In recent months,
Semago has called for downsizing the Duma's apparatus and criticized
Seleznev's leadership on several occasions. In a 28 June article in the
official newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta," Semago said he had
repeatedly asked the Duma's leadership to audit the Duma's
apparatus, but his requests had been ignored.

EXECUTIVE FROM BANK AT CENTER OF RECENT SCANDAL
DISAPPEARS. Unikombank officials announced on 1 August that the
bank's deputy chairman, Andrei Gloriozov, has been missing since 30
July, Russian news agencies reported. The whereabouts of Gloriozov's
car, driver, and one assistant also are unknown. Central Bank
Chairman Dubinin recently charged that Unikombank had been
involved in deals that defrauded the budget of more than $500
million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14-16, 18, and 21 July 1997). Central
Bank officials had sought to replace Gloriozov and two other
Unikombank executives following an audit that revealed accounting
violations at Unikombank and alleged attempts by that bank's
executives to obstruct the audit.

POWER-SHARING AGREEMENT SIGNED WITH SAMARA OBLAST.
Yeltsin and Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov on 1 August
signed a power-sharing agreement between the federal authorities
and the oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. Similar agreements have been
signed with more than 30 of the 89 Russian regions (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 8 July 1997). According to the 31 July "Nezavisimaya
gazeta," Titov has said that in principle, he is against the practice of
signing such power-sharing agreements. (Under similar agreements,
republics such as Tatarstan have gained far more privileges than
other Russian regions.) Titov, a prominent figure in the pro-
government movement Our Home Is Russia, was reportedly offered a
cabinet post in March but turned down the job. Yeltsin subsequently
appointed Boris Nemtsov, then the governor of Nizhnii Novgorod, as
first deputy prime minister and Oleg Sysuev, then mayor of Samara,
as deputy prime minister.

CORRECTION: On 1 August, ITAR-TASS annulled its report on the
criminal case against Duma deputy Aleksandr Korzhakov (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 1997). According to the corrected
version issued by the news agency, the Moscow Procurator's Office is
investigating whether Korzhakov slandered NTV journalist Yevgenii
Kiselev. (In recent months Korzhakov has accused Kiselev of
collaborating with the KGB.) However, in the corrected ITAR-TASS
story, there is no mention of Kiselev having requested that charges of
revealing state secrets be brought against Korzhakov as well.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

U.S., AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEET. In a three-hour meeting at the
White House on 1 August, Bill Clinton and Heidar Aliev signed a
bilateral investment treaty and a joint statement expressing support
for the efforts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh
conflict, according to a correspondent for RFE/RL. On 2 August, Aliev
flew to Houston for private meetings with oil company
representatives.

NEW CASPIAN OIL AGREEMENTS SIGNED. During the White House
meeting, representatives of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR
signed separate agreements estimated at $10 billion with Exxon,
Mobil, Chevron and Amoco to develop offshore Caspian oil fields, AFP
reported. Aliev subsequently told journalists that these new
agreements do not infringe on Russia's interests in the Caspian,
Interfax reported. On 2 August, Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur
Rasi-Zade told the independent Azerbaijani TV station ANS that he
regretted the annulment by the Russian oil firms Rosneft and Lukoil
of a contract signed in early July to develop the Kyapaz Caspian
oilfield to which Turkmenistan has laid claim, according to AFP.

YELTSIN CALLS FOR DIALOGUE ON ABKHAZIA. On 2 August, Yeltsin
told journalists at his vacation residence that he intends to invite the
presidents of Georgia and Abkhazia, Eduard Shevardnadze and
Vladislav Ardzinba, to Moscow to discuss proposals for resolving the
Abkhaz conflict, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin
warned that the Russian peacekeepers cannot stay in Abkhazia
indefinitely, and proposed that the two sides sign an agreement
similar to those between Moscow and federation subjects that would
preserve Georgia's territorial integrity while giving Abkhazia
substantial autonomy. Shevardnadze expressed his approval of
Yeltsin's draft proposals on 2 August, according to Interfax. On 1
August, Russia's envoy for Abkhazia, Gennadii Ilichev, told Interfax
Russia might lift economic sanctions currently in force against
Abkhazia. An advisor to Shevardnadze said on 3 August that Georgia
would consider this "an unfriendly move" by Russia.

ARMENIA, GEORGIA RAISE ELECTRICITY PRICES. On 1 August, the
Armenian government decided to increase electricity prices for
individual consumers by 12% to the dram equivalent of $.042 per
kilowatt/hour beginning on 1 September, an RFE/RL correspondent
in Yerevan reported. Energy prices for enterprises will rise by 20%,
but enterprises will be entitled to a 50% price discount at night.
Energy Ministry officials said the increases are in line with an earlier
agreement signed with the World Bank. The officials said that
electricity prices will have to be raised to 6 cents per kilowatt/hour
by January 1999 in order to make Armenia's energy sector
profitable. In Georgia, energy prices for both commercial enterprises
and domestic consumers will rise to 4.5 tetri ($.035) per kwt hour
beginning on 1 August, "Kavkazioni" reported on 31 July. Georgian
State Energy Company director Vazha Metreveli said the tariffs are
not high compared with those in Europe and other CIS countries.

SONS OF TAJIK ISLAMIC LEADER KIDNAPPED. Three sons of
Tajikistan's Islamic spiritual leader, Amonullo Negmatzoda, were
kidnapped by a group of 15-20 armed, masked men late at night on
31 July-1 August, according to ITAR-TASS and Interfax. Two of the
three were at Negmatzoda's home outside of Dushanbe, the third was
captured at a nearby house. Negmatzoda was not at home at the
time. ITAR-TASS reported a demand for $100,000 has been made in
exchange for Negmatzoda's sons. Authorities are investigating.

REAL INCOME IN TAJIKISTAN FALLS. Tajik wages are now worth less
than at the start of the year, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 August. The
Tajik state statistics agency reported that real income dropped by 1.8
percent from April to May and has dropped by 37.9 percent since
the beginning of 1997. The official average wage is reportedly 3,699
Tajik rubles per month ($1= 320 Tajik rubles, officially) but a
kilogram of beef costs 1,200 rubles, a liter of vegetable oil more than
1,000 and a kilogram of sugar 650 rubles.

GAZPROM READY TO GIVE UP ON TURKMENISTAN. The head of
Gazprom, Russia's gas giant, said his company will end its cooperation
with Turkmenistan on gas shipments to Ukraine, Interfax reported
on 1 August. Rem Vyakhirev said that after Turkmen President
Saparmurat Niyazov issued a decree in late June which dissolved
Turkmenrosgaz, Gazprom is "ready to give up on Turkmenistan
entirely." Gazprom owned 45 percent of Turkmenrosgaz.
Turkmenistan soon after terminated further shipments to Ukraine,
citing a $780 million unpaid bill. Vyakhirev told Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma Gazprom could supply Ukraine, saying "From here on
you don't need to use Turkmen deliveries." Vyakhirev confirmed he
is meeting with Niyazov on 6 August at the latter's request.

END NOTE

SHEVARDNADZE'S ABKHAZ BRINKMANSHIP


By Liz Fuller

        The expiration of the 31 July mandate of the CIS peacekeeping
force in Abkhazia prompted new diplomatic moves to resolve the
conflict. When these moves failed, a series of uncompromising
statements by both Georgian and Russian politicians seemed to risk
precipitating new fighting. The peacekeeping force, which is
composed entirely of Russian troops although it operates under a CIS
mandate, has been deployed along the internal border between the
separatist republic of Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia since July
1994. The Georgian leadership has stated repeatedly that it would
demand the force's withdrawal after its mandate expired unless a
resolution adopted at the CIS heads of state summit in March 1997 is
implemented. That resolution calls for the peacekeepers' deployment
over a broader geographical area and gives them more extensive
powers to protect an estimated 200,000 ethnic Georgians who fled
from Abkhazia during the war of1992-3, and who are impatient to
return to their abandoned homes. The Abkhaz leadership
immediately rejected this proposal, arguing that the force's original
mandate cannot be amended without the approval of the Abkhaz
government. The Abkhaz leadership has since made it clear that it
wants the peacekeeping force to continue its duties.
        The original rationale for deploying peacekeepers along a 13
km zone on both sides of the River Inguri, which marks the border
between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, was to expedite the return
of ethnic Georgian displaced persons. Many of these have been
quartered for the past three years in hotels in Tbilisi, and are
without employment. Despite the peacekeepers' presence, few
Georgian fugitives have returned to Abkhazia. The Abkhaz
leadership has consistently blocked any plans for their large-scale
repatriation, and some families that returned spontaneously were
attacked and killed by Abkhaz guerrillas. The peacekeeping force
itself has lost up to 50 men killed by mines and shot by members of
the so-called "White Legion" -- a Georgian guerrilla force that
advocates a military campaign to restore Georgia's hegemony over
Abkhazia.
        The peacekeepers have, however, become an instrument that
various parties in both Tbilisi and Moscow are seeking to use to
extract political concessions. The Georgian parliament adopted a
resolution on 30 May hinting that it would consider demanding that
Georgia leave the CIS if the resolution of the March CIS heads of state
summit on broadening the peacekeepers' mandate was not
implemented. Visiting the U.S. in late July, Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze tried unsuccessfully to persuade U.N. Secretary-
General Kofi Annan and U.S. President Bill Clinton to agree to send UN
peacekeeping troops to replace the CIS force -- a move that would
have undercut Russia's influence in the Transcaucasus.
        The Russian Foreign Ministry, which in June had proposed a
conflict resolution plan that was accepted by the Abkhaz side but
rejected by Tbilisi, threatened that if Georgia refused to make a
formal request that the peacekeepers remain after 31 July, they
would be withdrawn, creating a serious risk of spontaneous clashes
between Abkhaz and Georgian irregular forces. (Although Georgian
and Abkhaz foreign ministry representatives had signed an
agreement in Geneva on 25 July rejecting the use of force after the
expiration of the peacekeepers' mandate, both the "White Legion"
and a contingent of some 3,000 ethnic Georgian former members of
the Abkhaz police force and Abkhaz militia forces had warned that
they would advance into the 13 km zone to take the peacekeepers'
place.) Russian observers estimate that the Abkhaz army, which
numbers approximately 4,500 regular troops plus some 25,000
reservists, is disciplined enough, and has enough tanks and heavy
artillery, to withstand a Georgian incursion and then keep the
Georgian forces pinned down in a lengthy war of attrition. It also has
been suggested that some influential Chechen field commanders
opposed to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov might agree to fight
on the Chechen side. Protracted hostilities could delay the
construction of the planned Baku-Supsa pipeline that is scheduled to
begin transporting Azerbaijan's Caspian oil to the Georgian Black Sea
coast no later than next fall.
        On 29 July, Shevardnadze appeared to modify his
uncompromising rhetoric, stating that although Georgia would not
formally ask the peacekeepers to stay, it would not insist on their
withdrawal. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman argued that the
decision on revoking the peacekeepers' mandate could only be taken
by the CIS heads of state, who had originally endorsed the
peacekeepers' dispatch to Abkhazia. This in effect would mean that
the force will remain in its present positions at least until the CIS
heads of state summit scheduled to take place in Chisinau in October.
It also would provide Shevardnadze with a breathing space in which
to lobby for international forces under the aegis of the UN to be
deployed alongside the Russian troops.
        Then on 2 August, Russian President Boris Yeltsin called on
both Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba to
meet with him in Moscow for "one last serious talk" before signing an
agreement on delimitation of powers between Abkhazia and the
central Georgian government in Tbilisi. The agreement would be
comparable to the power-sharing agreements Moscow has signed
with other federation subjects. (The previous day, Russian special
envoy for Abkhazia Gennadii Ilichev said that Moscow was
considering lifting the economic sanctions imposed on Abkhazia in
early 1996.) Shevardnadze immediately expressed his approval of
Yeltsin's proposals. Ardzinba has not yet made any comment. For the
moment, then, the three most important parties to the conflict have
stepped back from the brink. But there is no guarantee that radical
forces in Georgia or Abkhazia will not independently resort to
violence to sabotage a Russian-mediated agreement, as they did at
the beginning of the conflict in September 1992.


CORRECTION: In the End Note "Walking the Moldovan Tightrope," by
Michael Shafir, published on 1 August 1997, Valeriu Pasat was
described as Moldovan Foreign Minister. He is, of course, that
country's Defense Minister. Also note that the basic treaty between
Moldova and Russia was signed in September 1990 and that the
PUMA helicopters are produced under French rather than U.S.
license.



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