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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 102, Part I, 25 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 * ROSVOORUZHENIE'S NEW HEAD DOWNPLAYS REORGANIZATION * CIS PEACEKEEPERS FREED IN ABKHAZIA * SHOTS FIRED AT UN HELICOPTER IN TAJIKISTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA ROSVOORUZHENIE'S NEW HEAD DOWNPLAYS REORGANIZATION. Yevgenii Ananev, appointed by President Boris Yeltsin on 21 August to head the arms export company Rosvooruzhenie, said the presidential decrees restructuring the organization are no more than a "routine personnel reshuffle," "Izvestiya" reported on 23 August. The same day, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" quoted Ananev as saying that all contracts concluded by Rosvooruzhenie to date will be honored. An RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow, however, quoted unnamed Rosvooruzhenie officials as expressing concern at the company's loss of its virtual monopoly on arms exports and the sacking of former director Aleksandr Kotelkin. They said those measures will increase pressure on the company's managers and may affect plans to double its exports this year. CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH FINNISH COUNTERPART. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Finnish counterpart, Paavo Lipponen, on 23 August opened a new border crossing capable of processing 500 vehicles per day, ITAR-TASS reported. State Customs Committee Chairman Anatolii Kruglov told Interfax the same day that another new Russian-Finnish border crossing will be opened in the first half of 1998. During two days of talks in Russia's Republic of Karelia, Chernomyrdin and Lipponen also agreed to set up a commission to oversee logging in Karelian old-growth forests near the Finnish border, Interfax reported on 22 August. Chernomyrdin said such logging should be done "without inflicting damage on the environment but at the same time bearing in mind the reciprocal economic interest." Environmental groups seeking to block Finnish companies from logging in the ancient forests have been accused of harming the Karelian economy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1997). DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER ON NEW MILITARY DOCTRINE. Andrei Kokoshin says the upcoming military reform is prompted by a new military doctrine based on the idea that Russia is threatened by potential localized armed conflicts rather than wars or large-scale aggression, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August. Speaking to political leaders and defense industry managers from several Urals regions in Yekaterinburg, Kokoshin said that as military units are restructured to reflect the new conception of major threats to Russia, some units of the army and navy will be liquidated. Kokoshin, the highest- ranking civilian in the Defense Ministry, is believed to have had considerable influence over the drafting of the latest military reform plans. Those plans include merging some branches of the armed forces and reducing the number of serving soldiers and officers. SEMAGO CALLS FOR CREATING RUSSIAN FBI. Communist State Duma deputy Vladimir Semago, who heads a Duma anti-corruption commission, has recommended that Russia establish an agency similar to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate corruption, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. Semago argued that a Russian bureau of investigation should monitor civil servants for five to 10 years after they leave office. Those officials should be prosecuted if it transpires that they abused their posts while in office, he added. Semago also called for granting his Duma commission the right to check the accuracy of income declarations submitted by state officials and to question officials at parliamentary hearings if discrepancies are uncovered. Similar commissions should be created in regional legislatures, he argued. Semago has recently claimed top Duma officials have obstructed his committee's work (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 7 August 1997). TAX COLLECTION UPDATE. Ten tax police officers were killed during the first half of 1997, 40 were injured, and two reported missing, according to Vyacheslav Soltaganov, head of the State Tax Service's Department of Internal Security, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August. Soltaganov said that during the same period, 520 crimes against tax collecting agencies or their employees were registered, ranging from arson and death threats to theft of documents. Vasilii Cheremiskin, head of the legal department of the State Tax Service, recently announced that from January through June 1997, taxpayers won 54 percent of the 2,859 lawsuits filed against tax collectors, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 August. During the same period, the State Tax Service won 96 percent of its 54,905 court cases against delinquent taxpayers. The paper commented that courts tend to find in favor of taxpayers seeking small refunds from tax collecting agencies but tend to reject suits seeking larger amounts. SBERBANK TO INDEX PRE-1992 DEPOSITS? Gennadii Melikyan, deputy chairman of the board of Sberbank, says the bank has prepared recommendations on indexing savings accounts opened before 1992, "Segodnya" reported on 25 August. (Melikyan resigned as labor minister in April, after which he campaigned unsuccessfully for a State Duma seat in Rostov.) Melikyan said Sberbank is considering not removing three zeroes from the value of old deposits on 1 January 1998, when the ruble will be redenominated. If the redenomination is applied to the old Sberbank deposits, he said, another method of compensating holders of those deposits will be found. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev recently argued against applying the ruble redenomination to the old Sberbank deposits, which were rendered practically worthless by inflation beginning in 1992 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 1997). According to "Segodnya," Sberbank accounts opened before 1992 contain some 315 billion rubles ($54 million). FOOD MORE EXPENSIVE IN FAR EAST. The three most expensive cities in Russia in terms of basic food are all in the Far East, Interfax reported on 22 August. The average monthly price of a basket of 25 basic food items in Russia was 250,700 rubles ($43) in July. But in Anadyr, the capital of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, the same basket cost 811,100 rubles. Yakutsk, the capital of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), was the second most expensive city for food, with a monthly basket costing 526,600 rubles. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, the capital of Kamchatka Oblast, came third (515,400 rubles). Food is traditionally more expensive in the Far East because of transportation costs and distance from agricultural areas. RUSSIAN ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY TO OPEN IN KAZAN. Meeting in Kazan, Muslim leaders from Moscow, Kazan, Ufa (Republic of Bashkortostan), and other cities agreed on 20 August to establish a special Islamic University in the Tatarstan capital during the next year, Tatar-Inform reported on 22 August. The Muslim leaders also agreed to establish a Council of Rectors of Muslim educational facilities in the Russian Federation. CHECHEN, DAGESTANI ISLAMIC MOVEMENTS UNITE. Some 500 people -- including representatives of Islamic political parties in Dagestan, the North Caucasus, and Transcaucasus -- attended the founding congress of the Islamic Order Union, which took place in Grozny on 24 August , Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. The union merges the Islamic parties of Dagestan and Chechnya. Its aims are to prevent "anti-Islamic expansion in the Caucasus" and to promote the consolidation of Islamic political forces as well as the unification of the peoples of the Caucasus. The union is headed by Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov, leader of the Chechen Islamic Order coalition, which was created in late July and unites some 20 Chechen political parties. COSMONAUTS FINISH REPAIR WORK. Russian cosmonauts Anatolii Solovev and Pavel Vinogradov have repaired the damaged "spektr" modules of the "Mir" space station, according to Russian media on 22 August. The two cosmonauts reconnected cables to the station's solar panels and were expecting full power to be restored to the station by 25 August. However, when the repairs took two hours longer than expected, Russia's mission control ordered the cosmonauts back into the station before they could complete a search for possible rips in the station's hull. Solovev and U.S. astronaut Michael Foale are scheduled to make a space walk on 3 September, when a further examination of the hull will be carried out. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA CIS PEACEKEEPERS FREED IN ABKHAZIA. The three Russian servicemen recently kidnapped by members of the Georgia's White Legion guerrilla organization were released on 22 August after agreement was reached on returning to Georgia the bodies of two Georgian guerrillas killed in Abkhazia on 13 August. Interfax reported that Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov mediated between the Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships to secure the servicemen's release. Maj.-Gen. Dolya Babenkov, the commander of the CIS peacekeeping force, vowed to act "more decisively" against terrorist acts committed by the White Legion against his men. In Tbilisi, some 500 fugitives from Abkhazia staged a demonstration on 23 August to protest the Georgian leadership's policy of rapprochement with the Abkhaz government, Interfax reported. GEORGIAN WARLORD ENDS HUNGER-STRIKE. Djaba Ioseliani on 22 August ended a 16-day hunger strike in his prison cell after his demand to meet with a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was agreed to, Russian media reported. The 71-year-old former Mkhedrioni leader is now demanding that the Georgian authorities acknowledge his arrest in November 1995 was violated immunity as a parliament deputy. Ioseliani faces charges of treason, terrorism, and murder. "NO RIFT" BETWEEN ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT, RULING PARTY. Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan's recent decision to dismiss 24 deputy ministers and directors of state enterprises was based on those officials' lack of professionalism rather than political considerations, a government spokeswoman told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 23 August. Andranik Hovakimyan, the deputy chairman of the ruling board of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), to which most of the dismissed officials belong, likewise denied that the dismissals signaled an alleged rift between his party and Kocharyan. Hovakimyan said the sackings were in line with the cabinet's efforts to restructure the public sector. He argued that Kocharyan, like any other "serious politician," understands that he needs a political "support base" if his steps are to be implemented. The HHSh constitutes such a base, Havakimyan added. ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI GOLD DISPUTE INTENSIFIES. Reza Veziri -- the president of RV Investment Group Services, which recently signed a $500 million contract with Azerbaijan to mine gold, silver, and copper -- said on 22 August that his company will appeal to the United Nations International Economic Court if it obtains proof that Armenia is mining gold in Azerbaijan's Kelbajar Raion, according to Interfax. Kelbajar has been controlled by Karabakh Armenian forces since spring 1993. Also on 22 August, Armenian presidential press secretary Levon Zurabian said Azerbaijani protests would not deter Armenia from continuing to work the disputed Zod lode, which it claims lies on Armenian territory. The Armenian government daily "Hayastani Hanrapetutyun" on 23 August described the U.S.- Azerbaijani contract "not serious," given that most of the mines in question lie on occupied territory. AZERBAIJAN AGAIN REJECTS TURKMENISTAN'S CLAIMS TO KYAPAZ. In a 21 August note to its Turkmen counterpart, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has again affirmed Azerbaijani ownership of the Azeri, Chirag, and Kyapaz oil fields. It also rejected Turkmenistan's claims to partial or complete ownership of those fields as groundless, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Azerbaijan expressed support for the Turkmen proposal to divide the Caspian into national sectors and proposed creating a joint commission to formalize the border between the Azerbaijan and Turkmen sectors. TURKEY WANTS AZERBAIJAN'S EARLY OIL SHIPPED TO SAMSUN. Gunes Taner, Turkish minister of state with responsibility for economic affairs, will shortly lobby in Moscow for the transportation of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Novorossiisk to the Turkish Black Sea port of Samsun, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. The first oil from the Chirag field is to be exported from Baku via Grozny to Novorossiisk in October,1997. The Turkish government opposes an increase in tanker traffic through the Turkish Straits, which constitute the only other currently existing outlet to world markets. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem is scheduled to visit Baku in early September to discuss the proposed Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 August suggests that Japan may provide the lion's share of funding for the project. Japanese companies are represented in two of the five international consortia set up to date to exploit Azerbaijan's Caspian oil. SHOTS FIRED AT UN HELICOPTER IN TAJIKISTAN. A helicopter carrying UN military observers and representatives of the Tajik government and United Tajikistan Opposition (UTO) came under fire on 23 August in the Tavil-Dara area, 20 kilometers east of Dushanbe, according to RFE/RL correspondents. No one on board was aware of the incident until the helicopter landed at Komsomolabad, 135 kilometers from Dushanbe, because of what the crew thought was a malfunction. An examination of the helicopter revealed two bullet holes. The next day, a Tajik government helicopter came under fire 15 kilometers east of Dushanbe. The UN observer mission in Tajikistan has responded by suspending its operations in the eastern part of Tajikistan. WORLD BANK TO HELP UZBEK REGIONS. The World Bank on 21 August approved funds for water treatment facilities and distribution systems in the Khorezm and Karakalpakistan regions, near the Aral Sea, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. The bank will extend a $75 million loan for the projects. Germany, Kuwait, and Uzbekistan will also make contributions toward the $117 million project. The water of the Aral Sea has decreased by more than half since the 1960s, leading to the buildup of alkaline soil. Moreover, fertilizers and chemicals used on crops wash down into the two areas, causing a variety of health problems for local residents. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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