The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness. - Dostoevsky
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 100, Part I, 21 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/

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN ASSESSES SITUATION IN NORTH CAUCASUS

* BEREZOVSKII CALM ON YELTSIN'S CRITICISM

* ABKHAZIA, GEORGIA NEGOTIATE RELEASE OF CIS PEACEKEEPERS

End Note
TAJIKISTAN SEEKS TO PUT ITS HOUSE IN ORDER

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN ASSESSES SITUATION IN NORTH CAUCASUS. Addressing the
Security Council on 20 August, President Boris Yeltsin complained
that political, financial, and organizational measures intended to
stabilize the North Caucasus are not being systematically
implemented, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 21 August. He
admitted that Russia does not have a consistent coordinated policy
for the region as a whole but tends to make ad hoc decisions about
one republic without making allowance for the situation in
neighboring regions. As a result, he said, "sometimes our activities
serve only to inflame passions." Yeltsin accused the U.S. of seeking "to
penetrate and exert its influence" in the North Caucasus as a "sphere
of U.S. vital interest." U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin
on 20 August rejected Yeltsin's statement, saying that Washington
"does not believe in spheres of influence for the U.S. or any other
country," according to an RFE/RL correspondent in the U.S. capital.

CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT WILL SUE OVER ABDUCTIONS
ALLEGATIONS. Vakha Arsanov told RFE/RL's Grozny corrrespondent
on 20 August that he intends to sue NTV president Igor Malashenko
for libel. The previous day, Malashenko had said at a news
conference in Moscow that Arsanov was "the primary organizer" of a
"highly developed kidnapping machine" operating in Chechnya (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 1997). Arasanov said there is no basis
for Malashenko's "stupid and idiotic" statements, but some Chechen
field commanders have said they believe Arsanov has provided
cover for hostage-takers in the past. Chechen President Aslan
Maskhadov declined to comment on Malashenko's characterization of
him as "Chechnya's main jailer," saying it was "beneath his dignity" to
do so. He said Malashenko's remarks were part of a "propaganda
attack" intended to undermine the agreement that he and Yeltsin
reached on 18 August to draft and sign a new treaty on relations
between Grozny and Moscow.

BEREZOVSKII CALM ON YELTSIN'S CRITICISM... Security Council
Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii on 20 August reacted calmly to
Yeltsin's first-ever public expression of disapproval with him. He told
journalists that he did not take Yeltsin's remarks as criticism and has
no intention of resigning, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported.
However, he said he will comply with any decision made by the
president. Some Russian observers had predicted Yeltsin would soon
sack Berezovskii, particularly after the president told a Security
Council meeting that Berezovskii should not use the media to
exacerbate the situation in the North Caucasus (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 20 August 1997). However, the presidential press service
on 20 August denied that any decree on dismissing Berezovskii is
being prepared. Appearing on Ekho Moskvy the same day, Security
Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin acknowledged that the council's
apparatus will soon be reduced but expressed "resolute support" for
Berezovskii and his work in Chechnya.

...ATTACKS CHUBAIS, NEMTSOV. At the same press conference,
Berezovskii charged that First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii
Chubais and Boris Nemtsov are making "a serious strategic error" by
not heeding the opinions of the Russian business community,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 20 August. Berezovskii said he
had repeatedly tried, to no avail, to persuade Chubais and Nemtsov
to listen to the views of entrepreneurs. He also responded to
Nemtsov's recent attack on his business activities and influence on
Russian Public Television (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 1997).
Alluding to Nemtsov's half-Jewish ancestry and apparent
presidential ambitions, Berezovskii, who is Jewish, said, "Mr. Nemtsov
has a purely genetic problem. Boris Yefimovich [Nemtsov] is partly
like Boris Abramovich [Berezovskii], but he wants to be Boris
Nikolaevich [Yeltsin]." Hinting that Nemtsov may not secure the
backing of major financial groups if he runs for president,
Berezovskii added, "One does not become president; presidents are
born."

"KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA" SLAMS BEREZOVSKII. "Komsomolskaya
pravda" on 20 August argued that Berezovskii is trying to get
Nemtsov dismissed and should himself be fired. Noting that
Berezovskii maintains good relations with Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, the paper charged that Security Council Secretary
Rybkin has no real power and merely voices Berezovskii's views. The
newspaper concluded that "the Security Council deputy secretary has
become such an offensive figure that the matter concerns not so
much a conflict with the young reformers [Nemtsov and Chubais], but
the reputation of the Russian president himself. For there is
currently no more glaring example of combining power with
business, with financial-industrial groups that are primarily pursuing
their own affairs, taking advantage of their position in the upper
echelons of the Kremlin." "Komsomolskaya pravda," in which
Oneksimbank holds a major stake, has defended Nemtsov and
criticized Berezovskii and Chernomyrdin during the recent
privatization scandals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July and 1 and 11
August 1997).

"NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA" ON "FAILURE" OF CHECHEN POLICY.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" charged on 21 August that "the fiasco in
Chechnya attests to the fierce political crisis within Russia." The
newspaper said the "defeat of the Russian authorities" in the latest
negotiations shows that the state is too weak to "defend its territorial
integrity by military, economic, or diplomatic means," placing the
Russian Constitution itself in doubt. While some blame the Security
Council for not resolving the conflict, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" cited
Berezovskii as saying that others were to blame for the federal
government's failure to keep its promises to the Chechen side. In
particular, Berezovksii accused the Finance Ministry of not
transferring funds to Chechnya and the Fuel and Energy Ministry of
impeding the major oil project on Chechen territory. Chubais is also
finance minister, while Nemtsov is also fuel and energy minister.
Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group is a financial backer of "Nezavisimaya
gazeta."

CHUBAIS REJECTS INCREASED BUDGET FUNDING FOR COAL
INDUSTRY... First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais sharply criticized a
Fuel and Energy Ministry proposal that federal budget expenditures
to the coal industry be increased in 1998 from 5.7-9.7 trillion rubles
($980 million to $1.7 billion), Interfax reported on 20 August.
Chairing a meeting of a government commission on socio-economic
problems of coal-mining regions, Chubais said power plants are
largely to blame for the coal industry's financial crunch. He argued
that 90 percent of wage arrears to coal workers are caused by coal
consumers' failure to pay, while 90 percent of coal consumers are
power plants run by the Fuel and Energy Ministry. Chubais ordered
the ministry to resolve this problem and also instructed the Finance
Ministry to forgive all fines on old debts from coal producers,
according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 August.

...EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE ON WORLD BANK LOAN. At the same
meeting, Chubais acknowledged that the government currently lacks
the funds to meet 1997 budget targets for financing the coal industry
in the fourth quarter of the year, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on
21 August. However, he expressed confidence that before the end of
the year, Russia will receive the first $200 million tranche of a
second loan from the World Bank on restructuring the coal industry.
The World Bank's board is not even scheduled to consider whether to
extend the second coal loan until 1998, bank officials recently
confirmed in interviews with an RFE/RL correspondent in
Washington. But Chubais hopes to persuade World Bank President
James Wolfensohn to speed up the deliberation process when the two
men meet in September. The bank is investigating allegations that
funds from its first $500 million coal loan to Russia, extended in
1996, were misappropriated.

YELTSIN PROPOSES AMNESTY TO EASE PRISON OVERCROWDING.
Yeltsin on 20 August submitted a resolution to the State Duma on
declaring amnesty for some 445,000 convicted criminals as a
"humanitarian act." If the parliament approves the resolution, some
35,000 prisoners will be released, 60,000 will have their sentences
reduced, and 350,000 criminals serving time outside prison for
minor offenses will also be amnestied, according to Reuters. The
measure is aimed at reducing prison overcrowding. In his message to
State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Yeltsin said the amnesty
would not apply to violent criminals or repeat offenders. Only the
"least dangerous" prisoners would be eligible, the president said,
including elderly convicts, invalids or prisoners with tuberculosis,
and pregnant women or women with small children. Amnesty
International concluded earlier this year that conditions in some
overcrowded Russian prisons are tantamount to torture (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 4 April 1997).

SELEZNEV CRITICIZES PRESIDENTIAL VETOES. Duma Speaker
Seleznev on 20 August said Yeltsin appears to be "abusing his
constitutional right" to veto laws passed by the parliament, ITAR-
TASS reported. Seleznev charged that by rejecting more and more
laws, the president is obstructing the legislature's work. He blamed
legal experts in the presidential administration for poorly
coordinating the president's and government's positions, noting that
the government had proposed 14 of the laws that were later vetoed
by Yeltsin. Seleznev did not mention that in June, Yeltsin vetoed two
controversial laws for a second time after both houses of the
parliament had overridden his veto (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July
1997). Responding to recent criticism from Communist Duma deputy
Vladimir Semago, Seleznev charged that Semago has "gotten mixed
up in intrigues" of the presidential administration, which hopes to
replace the Duma speaker and divide the Communist leadership,
"Segodnya" reported on 21 August.

LUZHKOV SAYS NOT PLANING TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Moscow
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said in Almaty on 20 August that he will not
run for the Russian presidency and asked journalists, "Why are you
in such a hurry?", RFE/RL's correspondent in the Kazakh capital
reported. The next presidential election is scheduled for 2000.
Meanwhile, Luzhkov has ordered that scholarships be provided to 50
needy students at Russian-language institutions of higher education
in Latvia, Ekho Moskvy reported on 20 August. The move is in
keeping with Luzhkov's frequent appeals for protecting Russian
interests abroad. He supports reunification with Belarus and has
repeatedly claimed that the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol is a Russian
city. Many analysts believe Luzhkov hopes to secure the support of
the patriotic wing of the Russian electorate for a future presidential
bid.

SYSTEMS FUNCTIONING ON "MIR." The crew of the "Mir" space station
repaired both the Elektron oxygen system and the orientation system
on 20 August, Russian media reported. All essential systems aboard
the station are now operating normally. The two Russian cosmonauts
are scheduled to leave the station at 13:00h CET on 22 August to
repair the "spektr" modules and reconnect cables to the modules'
solar batteries.

BELOVED ENTERTAINER DIES. Yurii Nikulin, comedian and circus
entertainer, died in Moscow on 21 August at the age of 75. He had
been in a critical condition for more than two weeks following
unsuccessful heart surgery. After starting his career as a Moscow
Circus clown, Nikulin starred in many popular films beginning in the
1960s. He frequently appeared on television both during and after
the Soviet period. He had also been director of the Moscow Circus
since 1984. During the 1996 presidential campaign, Nikulin appeared
in television commercials supporting Yeltsin's re-election.

ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Robert Kocharyan met
with his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and with Deputy
Prime Minister Valerii Serov in Moscow on 20 August , Russian and
Armenian agencies reported. This is Kocharyan's first foreign visit
since being appointed premier in March 1997. The talks focused on
preparations for Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan's
planned visit to Moscow on 28-30 August, during which he and
Yeltsin are scheduled to sign an updated treaty on friendship and
cooperation and create a joint venture for the transportation of
Russian gas via Armenia to "third countries" (including, above all,
Turkey) "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 August.


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ABKHAZIA, GEORGIA NEGOTIATE RELEASE OF CIS PEACEKEEPERS.
Meeting in Sukhumi on 20 August, Abkhaz President Vladislav
Arzdinba, Georgian First Deputy Security Minister Avtandil Ioseliani,
and CIS peacekeeping force commander Maj.-Gen. Dolya Babenkov
agreed on conditions for the release of three Russian members of the
CIS peacekeeping force who were taken hostage on 16 August.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 August reported that Abkhazia will
hand over the bodies of two Georgian militants killed recently in
Abkhazia, provided Tbilisi officially concedes that the men were
"separatists." In return, the Georgians who are holding the
peacekeepers hostage will release them. Also in Sukhumi on 20
August, Ardzinba met with a Georgian government delegation to
discuss restoring economic ties between Tbilisi and Sukhumi.
Meanwhile in Tbilisi, the Abkhaz parliament in exile refused to
accept the resignation of its chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili, RFE/RL's
Tbilisi bureau reported on 20 August.

ARMENIA DEFENDS KARABAKH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Armenian
presidential press spokesman Levon Zurabian said on 19 August that
the Azerbaijani parliament's 15 August decision to declare illegal the
presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh contradicts OSCE
documents on the Karabakh negotiating process, Interfax reported on
20 August. The OSCE had agreed that talks should be conducted by
elected representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-
Karabakh. The opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front has condemned
the planned vote as an attempt to disrupt the ongoing Karabakh
peace process. The U.S. Embassy in Baku has issued a statement that
the US does not recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Turan
reported.

TURKEY PREPARING TO OPEN BORDER CROSSING WITH ARMENIA?
Semsettin Uzun, governor of Turkey's Igdir Province, which borders
on Armenia, says that roads leading to the Alican frontier post have
been asphalted in preparation for the opening of a border crossing
between the two countries, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on
20 August. Uzun told the newspaper that he recently met with
unspecified Armenian officials in Yerevan, adding that "in one month
Igdir will be completely ready" for the expansion in bilateral trade
expected to follow the opening of a border crossing. Uzun said that
indirect trade with Armenia (via Georgia and Iran) is now estimated
at $100 million annually and that the figure will rise to $500 million
once the border is open. Turkish officials have repeatedly said that
opening a frontier crossing is contingent on the withdrawal of
Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory.

ARMENIAN RESPONDS TO REPORT ON BORDER CROSSING...
Commenting on Uzun's statement, Armenian First Deputy Foreign
Minister Vartan Oskanian told "RFE/RL Newsline" on 20 August that,
"We encourage any move from the Turkish government with regard
to border opening that is not conditioned by demands linked to the
Nagorno-Karabagh conflict." Oskanian said the Nagorno-Karabagh
peace process has its own logic and dynamics and that Armenia is
guided in the negotiations by the aggregate interest of Armenia and
Nagorno-Karabagh and never by one single issue "such as oil or the
opening of Turkish borders."

...OBJECTS TO TURKISH-ISRAELI MILITARY COOPERATION. Oskanian
also said on 20 August that military cooperation between Israel and
Turkey is directed against Syria, and is therefore unacceptable to
Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Meeting with his Syrian
counterpart, Raslan Allush, Oskanian said that the relationship
between Armenia and Syria has a "strong basis." Allush arrived in
Yerevan on 18 August to prepare for the opening of the Syrian
embassy in Armenia. Allush also met on 20 August with Armenian
Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzoumanian, who said the two countries
are satisfied with the current status of their bilateral ties. Vartan
Oskanian said that Syria's President Hafiz Assad will visit Armenia in
the near future if the situation in the region permits, according to
ARMENPRESS.

AZERBAIJAN SIGNS CONTRACT WITH U.S. ON GOLD, SILVER MINING.
An Azerbaijani government representative signed an agreement in
Baku on 20 August with the US consortium RV Investment Services
LLS to explore and mine nine gold, silver, and copper deposits. The
$500 million contract envisages the extraction of 400 metric tons of
gold, 2,500 tons of silver, and 15 million tons of copper ore. The U.S.
company will finance exploration, while Azerbaijan will receive 80
percent of the revenues. Three of the gold deposits are located close
to the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan's Kelbajar Raion,
which is currently controlled by Armenian forces. Armenia is
negotiating an agreement with First Dynasty Mines Ltd. on creating a
joint venture to exploit the Zod gold deposit on the Armenian side of
the frontier, to which Azerbaijan lays claim (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
15 April 1997).

LUZHKOV IN KAZAKHSTAN. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov paid a one-
day visit to Almaty on 20 August and met with President Nursultan
Nazarbayev and Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin to discuss
cooperation between the Russian and Kazakh capitals, according to
RFE/RL correspondents. Both Nazarbayev and Luzhkov said they are
skeptical about further integration among CIS states. Nazarbayev
reiterated his proposal for a Eurasian union that would create a
single economic space without customs barriers. Luzhkov gave his
support to that idea, which, he noted, Nazarbayev had first proposed
in the Moscow city administration building in 1994. Luzhkov and
Kazhegeldin signed several agreements, including on the
development of equities and securities markets and on Kazakh
deliveries to Moscow of 500,000 tons of wheat.

TURKMENS, UZBEKS BEGIN WORK ON TELECOMMUNICATIONS LINE.
Both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have begun work on their
sections of the TransAsian-European Fiber optics line, which will run
from Shanghai to Frankfurt-on-Main, ITAR-TASS and the Russian
daily "Delovoi Mir" on 20 August. The telecommunications line will
be more than 27,000 kilometers long and run through 20 countries.
It will provide access to the World Wide Web and make possible
reception of foreign television channels.

TURKMENISTAN TO PARTICIPATE IN NATO PROGRAM. President
Saparmurat Niyazov on 20 August agreed to allow Turkmen armed
forces participate in a NATO Partnership for Peace program, ITAR-
TASS reported. Turkmen troops will take part in exercises to prevent
the consequences of ecological and natural disasters. Turkmen
officers and military doctors will receive training and attend
discussions with other countries taking part in the program.

END NOTE

TAJIKISTAN SEEKS TO PUT ITS HOUSE IN ORDER

by Bruce Pannier

        Following five years of civil war, the Tajik government has
decided it is time to put its house in order. But its efforts suffered a
setback earlier this month when fighting erupted between forces
nominally loyal to the government. The reasons for this latest
fighting are unclear but, according to the most popular accounts,
seem to be related to the central government's efforts to re-establish
control over the entire country.
        In late June, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United
Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri met in Moscow to sign the
peace accord officially ending the civil war. The government agreed
to share power with the UTO and laid the foundations for the Tajiks
in "opposition" to return home. It made provisions to allow the UTO
leadership to go back to Tajikistan accompanied by their own armed
guards. And it also agreed to give the UTO 30 percent of the
ministerial posts. In addition, a reconciliation council was formed to
recommend changes to the constitution that would facilitate general
elections by the end of 1998.
        But during the five-year conflict, Rakhmonov's government
made some questionable allies, deeming it politically expedient to
accept the services of some individuals who would probably have
been in jail in most countries. Days before the first representatives of
the UTO were due to arrive in Dushanbe to attend the first session of
the Tajik Reconciliation Council, the government was either prompted
or took the initiative to dispense with the services of one of its
dubious allies -- Yakub Salimov.
        Five years ago, Salimov was a commander in one of the
paramilitary formations that made up the Popular Front. Armed by
the government in 1992 and having doubtless received some
promise of reward, those groups had fought on the side of those who
eventually came to power and who named Rakhmonov head of state.
Salimov was later appointed interior minister; but when his
involvement in corruption could no longer be kept a secret, he was
sent to Turkey as the new ambassador in late summer 1995. Some
18 months later, in early 1997, he was appointed chairman of the
customs committee.
        According to the most widely accepted account of the fighting
that recently erupted, in early August Salimov ordered the killing of
someone who was either a relative or a friend of an Interior Ministry
officer. Interior Ministry troops responded by seizing weapons found
in Salimov's neighborhood, in north Dushanbe (President Rakhmonov
in July had twice warned that there would be a crackdown on
criminal gangs and private armies). It is unclear whether the fighting
started when the troops were searching Salimov's house or that of a
friend of Salimov. Originally, it was reported rival mafia groups were
fighting each other, but it transpired that the followers of the
customs committee chairman were pitted against Interior Ministry
troops. Salimov's group was pushed out of Dushanbe almost as far as
to the Uzbek border. Together with his remaining supporters,
Salimov fled to the mountains to hide.
        Before the battle with Salimov was over, government forces
had engaged in a conflict with another former commander of a
Popular Front unit. Again, the reasons for the fighting are unclear but
are likely related to the government's desire to dispense with
individuals reluctant to obey it. Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, the
commander of the Tajik Army's First Brigade, claims his unit was
attacked on 9 August at a mountain pass 20 kilometers south of
Dushanbe. The First Brigade is the rapid reaction force of the
presidential guard, and its opponent in the battle outside the capital
was another unit of the presidential guard led by its commander,
Gen. Gafar Mirzoyev. All attempts at mediation failed. By 18 August,
Khudaberdiyev's forces were retreating but still saying they would
fight to the end. Within the next 24 hours, almost half of the 1,500
rebel troops had surrendered. Khudaberdiyev and some of followers
fled to the mountains not far from the Uzbek border.
        The Tajik government made many allies of convenience during
its five-year struggle against the UTO. But the situation has changed
since then and there is no longer a need for allies who want their
own sphere of influence within Tajikistan and who ignore the
instructions of the central government. Salimov and Khudaberdiyev
are the first two to go, but more will doubtless follow.



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