This communicating of a man's self to his friend works two contrary effects; for it redoubleth joy, and cutteth griefs in half. - Francis Bacon
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 94, Part I, 13 August1997



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

* LEGALITY OF SVYAZINVEST PRIVATIZATION QUESTIONED

* TAJIK MUTINEERS REGAIN LOST GROUND, PROMPTING
GOVERNMENT TO NEGOTIATE

* IRAN OPPOSES DEPLOYMENT OF PEACEKEEPERS IN NAGORNO-
KARABAKH

End Note : A NEW DANGER OF MORAL EQUIVALENCY

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RUSSIA

LEGALITY OF SVYAZINVEST PRIVATIZATION QUESTIONED. NTV and
the RIA-Novosti news agency on 12 August reported that the Federal
Service for Currency and Export Controls has determined that the
recent sale of 25 percent plus one share in the telecommunications
giant Svyazinvest was illegal. The Mustcom, Ltd. consortium won the
Svyazinvest auction with a bid of $1.875 billion (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 28-31 July and 1 August 1997). The service reportedly
found that the deal involved violations of laws on hard currency
transactions. But while Iosif Rogol, acting head of the Federal Service
for Currency and Export Controls, confirmed the Svyazinvest sale is
being examined, Rogol denied that his service had already reached a
conclusion or prepared a preliminary report. Rogol told Interfax on
12 August that his service and the State Anti-Monopoly Committee
had been ordered to examine the Svyazinvest auction by Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

OFFICIAL DENIES LAWS WERE BROKEN DURING SVYAZINVEST SALE.
Igor Lipkin, chairman of the Russian Federal Property Fund, has
denied that any currency laws were broken during the Svyazinvest
sale. The Federal Service for Currency and Export Controls had
reportedly concluded that the Central Bank did not authorize Lipkin's
fund to perform hard currency transactions. But Lipkin told Interfax
on 12 August that the sale of the Svyazinvest stake to Mustcom was
carried out in Russian rubles. Mustcom representative Leonid
Rozhetskin told the 13 August edition of "Kommersant-Daily" that the
consortium complied with all Russian currency laws. NTV quoted a
spokesman for the State Property Committee as saying that only a
court ruling could force the Svyazinvest sale to be annulled. Many
Russian and Western media have hailed the Svyazinvest auction as
the fairest of recent privatization sales.

"SEGODNYA" VIEWS LATEST SVYAZINVEST DEVELOPMENTS. The 13
August edition of "Segodnya" praised an "impressive" six-page
preliminary report on the Svyazinvest sale allegedly prepared by the
Federal Service for Currency and Export Controls. The newspaper
lauded the "courage" of the officials who prepared the report, despite
the stance taken by many "highly-placed officials and influential
bankers." But it predicted that the service will be pressured to alter
its conclusions before releasing an official report. "Kommersant-
Daily" also suggested on 13 August that a "behind-the-scenes battle"
is being waged over the final conclusions of the investigation into the
Svyazinvest sale. "Segodnya" is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's
Media-Most group and has strongly criticized the Svyazinvest auction
in recent weeks. Gusinskii and Security Council Deputy Secretary
Boris Berezovskii are believed to have participated in the consortium
that submitted the losing bid for Svyazinvest, although neither has
admitted being involved.

BEREZOVSKII, GUSINSKII TO FINANCE NEW VERSION OF
"IZVESTIYA"? Igor Golembiovskii, former editor-in-chief of
"Izvestiya," hopes to found a new newspaper called "Novye
Izvestiya," and media magnates Berezovskii and Gusinskii are
rumored to have agreed to finance the project, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported on 13 August. Dozens of journalists have either left
"Izvestiya" or been fired since the paper's board of directors sacked
Golembiovskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 10, and 21 July 1997). For
instance, former deputy editor Sergei Dardykin and former head of
the political department Stepan Kiselev -- who had both been leading
efforts to revive a trade union for "Izvestiya" staff -- were served
with dismissal notices. Although he was not among those fired,
prominent commentator Otto Latsis may also join Golembiovskii's
new project. Journalists who have quit "Izvestiya" include the paper's
former chief economic correspondent Mikhail Berger, who has been
appointed deputy editor of "Segodnya."

NEWSPAPERS CLOSE TO CHERNOMYRDIN CRITICIZE PLANNED
CURRENCY REFORM. The redenomination of the Russian ruble planned
for 1 January 1998 will help neither the public nor the economy and
will serve only the interests of the government's "young reformers,"
according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 August. The paper claimed
the government embarked on currency reform because it had
"exhausted its reserves for supporting the appearance of stability in
the economy." In recent months, "Nezavisimaya gazeta," partly
financed by Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, has increasingly praised
Chernomyrdin and criticized the government's "young reformers" --
code words for First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and
Boris Nemtsov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June and 29-30 July
1997). "Rabochaya tribuna," also seen as close to Chernomyrdin,
argued on 9 August that the redenomination will hurt ordinary
people, since shops are unlikely to cut prices by 1,000 times
following the disappearance of three zeroes from the ruble.

CHURCH OFFICIAL SAYS RELIGION LAW WOULD NOT HURT
CATHOLICS, BAPTISTS. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and
Kaliningrad, who heads the Moscow Patriarchate's department on
foreign Church relations, has said the religion law recently vetoed by
President Boris Yeltsin would not limit the rights of Catholics or
Baptists in Russia, Russian news agencies reported on 12 August.
Kirill described the Catholic and Baptist Churches as "traditional
confessions" that have a 150-year history in Russia. (The law would
give more rights to religious groups that can prove they have existed
in Russia for at least 15 years.) Kirill argued that he had never seen a
"more liberal" religion law, despite "stylistic problems" which made
the law appear discriminatory. He also asked why Russia is "afraid"
to mention the special historical role of the Russian Orthodox Church
in the law's preamble, given that "nobody is offended when some
countries say they are Catholic countries."

LUZHKOV CONTINUES TO BUILD REGIONAL, FOREIGN TIES... Moscow
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov signed a protocol with Leonid Potapov,
president of the Republic of Buryatia, pledging that Moscow will
invest up to 50 billion rubles ($8.6 million) in the Buryat economy,
ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. Luzhkov, who frequently tours
Russian regions (before visiting Buryatia he stopped in the Republic
of Tyva), is seen to be cultivating ties with regional leaders in part to
strengthen his influence in the Federation Council, which is made up
of top regional officials. He is also believed to be courting the regional
elite in preparation for a future presidential bid, although he has
denied having such ambitions. Luzhkov has also been developing
contacts with foreign political and business leaders. Most recently, in
late July he met with top local politicians and business leaders in Los
Angeles, California.

...AS MOSCOW GOVERNMENT'S INFLUENCE IN BANKING, MEDIA SEEN
INCREASING. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 August that the
Bank of Moscow -- which is 51 percent owned by the Moscow city
government -- has become one of Russia's 10 largest banks in terms
of assets. During the last six months, the bank's assets have increased
tenfold to 12.8 trillion rubles ($2.2 billion), largely thanks to deposits
of city budget funds and proceeds from the city's recent sale of $500
million in Eurobonds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1997).
Meanwhile, a new radio station to be funded by the Moscow city
government is scheduled to begin broadcasting on 1 September,
"Segodnya" reported on 12 August. Like the recently established
television network TV-Center, the new radio station is expected to
support Luzhkov if he contests the next presidential election (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May and 9 June 1997).

POSSIBLE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES OF MILITARY REFORM. The
implementation of Yeltsin's July decrees on downsizing the Russian
military will create the opportunity for senior officials to embezzle
huge sums of money by writing off equipment and privatizing
property, according to military analyst Pavel Felgengauer. Writing in
"Segodnya" on 12 August, Felgengauer also warns that failure to pay
wage arrears to officers and servicemen could provoke "mass
disobedience" this fall. Felgengauer suggests that the movement
created by State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin to
support the armed forces is intended as a "nationwide parallel
system of control" over troops that will assume command over the
military if the General Staff loses control in a crisis. In an article
published in "Segodnya" on 22 July, Felgengauer argued that the
proposals outlined in Yeltsin's decree were drafted by a small group
of influential generals to protect their own personal interests.

RUSSIA'S CIVIL AVIATION SAFETY DETERIORATING. Air safety in
Russia during the first six months of 1997 fell to its lowest level for
three years, Russian media reported on 12 August, quoting senior
civil aviation officials. A total of 66 people have been killed in seven
crashes so far this year, compared with 43 people in five crashes
over the same period in 1995 and 35 people in four crashes in 1996.
The majority of crashes are still caused by human error. Both freight
and passenger traffic also declined during the first half of 1997.

JAPANESE GOVERNORS WRAP UP VISIT. A delegation of Japanese
governors ended their nine-day visit to Russia on 13 August, ITAR-
TASS reported. The delegation included the governor of Saitama
prefecture, the deputy governors of Kagowa and Kyoto prefectures,
and the secretary-general of the National Association of Japanese
Governors. On 7 August, at the 14th meeting of Russian and Japanese
governors in Moscow, the Japanese met with the governors of
Moscow, Leningrad, Volgograd, and Rostov Oblasts as well the
president of Buryatia. The aim of the trip was to promote cooperation
between regions within each country. Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin said "a significant contribution" was
made toward achieving that aim.

RADIOACTIVE CONTAINER FALLS INTO SEA OF OKHOTSK. A 2,300
kilogram lead container in which strontium-90 was being
transported fell from a helicopter into the Sea of Okhotsk about 150
meters from the northern coast of Sakhalin Island, according to
Russian media. Russian experts said there was no danger posed to
the environment as the lead container could not break from its fall.
Ships from the Pacific fleet arrived in the area on 13 August to
recover the container, believed to be some 20 meters under the
water. The strontium-90 is intended for use in a battery at an
automatic weather station.

ABDUCTED FRENCH AID WORKERS HELD IN CHECHNYA. Dagestani
Security Council Secretary Magomed Tolboev has confirmed that the
four French aid workers abducted in Makhachkala in early August
are being held captive in Chechnya by members of a Chechen-
Dagestani criminal group, according to Ekho Moskvy on 12 August
and "Kommersant-Daily" on 13 August. The captors refused to
negotiate terms for their release and have not demanded a ransom.

CHECHEN RECEIVES STATUS OF SOLE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE. The
Chechen parliament enacted a law on13 August making Chechen the
only official language in the republic, AFP reported on 13 August,
citing Interfax. Parliament chairman Ruslan Alikhadzhiev said the
law was adopted in response to public demand but that it would be
difficult to implement given the lack of skilled teachers who could
draft school programs in the Chechen language. The law contravenes
Article 68 of the Russian Constitution, which stipulates that Russian
has the status of official language in all subjects of the federation but
that the indigenous language may also be granted official status.

TATARSTAN TO ISSUE EUROBONDS. Tatarstan's Ministry of Finance
signed an agreement on 8 August with Russia's Alfa bank and the
Netherlands' ING Bering Bank on issuing Tatar Eurobonds, according
to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau and "Izvestiya" on 13 August. The bonds
will be sold on European financial markets beginning November
1997, and will later be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Prime Minister Farid Mukhametshin estimated that the Eurobonds
will raise between $200 -250 million. Meanwhile, Russian President
Boris Yeltsin met with his Tatar counterpart, Mintimer Shaimiev, in
Moscow on 12 August to discuss relations between Tatarstan and the
federal center, Russian Public Television (ORT) reported on 12
August.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK MUTINEERS REGAIN LOST GROUND...The Tajik Army's First
Brigade, under the command of Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, retook
the Fakhrabad Pass 25 kilometers south of Dushanbe after a counter-
offensive against government troops on 12 August. Khudaberdiyev's
unit retreated from the strategic pass when troops loyal to the
government began what the Russian press described as a "large
offensive" supported by planes and helicopters. In an interview with
RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Kosym Boboyev, the deputy governor of
Khatlon Oblast, denied that government troops were engaged in
fighting with Khudaberdiyev's troops in the Kurgan-Teppe and
Sarband region but confirmed that the area had been bombed by
"unidentified planes." Khudaberdiyev's forces shot down one military
helicopter. Boboyev also said there were casualties among the
population but did not give any figures.

...PROMPTING GOVERNMENT TO NEGOTIATE. The Tajik government
and Col. Khudaberdiyev have agreed to hold talks on 13 August
aimed at finding a peaceful settlement to the fighting between the
First Brigade and forces loyal to the government, according to RFE/RL
corespondents in Tajikistan. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov is
scheduled to travel to the Kurgan-Teppe area to meet with
Khudaberdiyev at the headquarters of the Russian Army's 191st
Regiment, which is mediating in the conflict.

IRAN OPPOSES DEPLOYMENT OF PEACEKEEPERS IN NAGORNO-
KARABAKH. The Iranian leadership believes that the "intrusion of a
military contingent," even a peacekeeping force, in the region of the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will only destabilize the situation,
according to Aram Sargssian, the chairman of the opposition
Democratic Party of Armenia. Sargssian briefed journalists in
Yerevan on 12 August on his recent 10-day visit to Tehran at the
invitation of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Armenian agencies
reported.

AZERBAIJAN WANTS CLOSER COOPERATION WITH NATO. President
Heidar Aliev and Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov held talks in Baku
on 12 August with Nicholas Kehou, the deputy chairman of NATO's
Military Committee for International relations, Turan and ITAR-TASS
reported. Hasanov argued that NATO should not regard the
Transcaucasus as a single entity but should adopt a differentiated
approach to the three Transcaucasus states that takes into account
the presence of Russian troops in Armenia. Kehou gave a positive
assessment of Azerbaijan's participation in the Partnership for Peace
program and promised NATO's assistance in improving relations
between countries of the region embroiled in conflicts, according to
ITAR-TASS. During his recent visit to the U.S., Aliev signed an
agreement with a joint statement on military relations with U.S.
Defense Secretary William Cohen that provides for U.S. assistance in
the training of the Azerbaijani armed forces, the "Turkish Daily
News" reported on 6 August.

GEORGIAN COMMUNISTS AT ODDS OVER REBURYING STALIN.
Georgia's two rival communist parties espouse diametrically opposing
views over Stalin's final, or possibly next, resting place, according to
"Moskovskii komsomolets" on 7 August. Grigol Oniani, the head of the
Stalinist Communist Party of Georgia, has begun collecting
contributions from the inhabitants of Stalin's home town, Gori, in
order to finance the transportation there from Moscow of Stalin's
remains should the Russian leadership decide it is time to remove
Stalin from the Kremlin wall and Lenin from his mausoleum on Red
Square. Oniani has the support of Stalin's daughter Svetlana. But Gen.
Panteleimon Giorgadze, the head of the United Communist Party of
Georgia, argues that both Lenin and Stalin should remain where they
are.

END NOTE

A NEW DANGER OF MORAL EQUIVALENCY

by Paul Goble

        The old notion that the Soviet and U.S. systems are somehow
morally equivalent has resurfaced in an unexpected place, one where
its widespread acceptance could have even more serious
consequences than it has had in the West.
        In an essay published in Tallinn on 8 August, Estonian
commentator Jaan Kaplinski argues that there was no fundamental
difference in the moral standing of the two systems represented by
the former Soviet Union and the United States. He suggests that both
systems sought to impose their will on others, despoiling the
environment at home and dominating satellite states abroad.
Moreover, he suggests that both systems are inevitably doomed by
their hubris and overreaching. Because of this, he continues,
Estonians should not view one of those systems as superior to the
other or use the values derived from one to judge the other. Instead,
they should develop their own ideas drawing from both sides.
        This superficially attractive proposition revives a concept
known in the West as the moral equivalence of the two systems. The
concept was widely advanced by a variety of political figures and
analysts during the last years of the Soviet Union and on occasion
since that time. Most Westerners making that argument suggested
that since their own countries were less than perfect, they should
refrain from any demand that Moscow and its system be judged
according to Western standards. Whenever anyone pointed to an
outrage in the Soviet Union, such people would insist that some U.S.
actions were as bad or even worse.
        While such ideas may have contributed to a certain modesty,
they also lead supporters of the idea of moral equivalency to argue
that nothing should be done to promote Western values in the Soviet
bloc as somehow superior and worthy of emulation. That attitude, in
turn, often meant that not only was the West afraid to defend its
own values but also that many in the communist bloc lost some of
the faith they had in those Western ideals.
        The collapse of communism in Europe and the disintegration of
the Soviet Union have largely discredited this view in the West. Few
Westerners are willing to insist on moral equivalency between a
system that had failed and their own, which is still very much live.
        But now the idea of moral equivalence between the two
systems has reappeared in a country where one might least expect it,
a country that has had experience with both systems and thus should
be able to make comparisons. If many Estonians were to accept the
ideas advanced by Kaplinski in his article, that in itself could mean
that Estonia and other countries in the region would be exposed to
three dangers potentially far greater than when the notion worked to
restrain Western criticism of Soviet acts.
        First, such acceptance could call into question for many people
the value of the still unfinished and quite difficult task of
reestablishing democracy in a country that saw that political and
social system destroyed by the Soviet invasion in 1940. Second, it
could serve as a cover for the return of non-democratic forces to
power. To the extent that Estonians are encouraged to think that
there is no difference between systems, they would be more inclined
to accept leaders whose commitment to democracy is anything but
secure. And third, the acceptance of this idea could easily contribute
to a more general moral relativism that would make the recovery
from the impact of the Soviet invasion far more difficult.
        Consequently, all those concerned about the growth of
democracy need to be worried when such ideas surface and remain
uncontested. To paraphrase the great Russian memoirist Nadezhda
Mandelshtam, unhappy is that country in which the despicable is not
despised.



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