I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. - Booker T. Washington
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 112, Part I, 8 September 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/

Listen to news for 13 countries
RFE/RL broadcasts to countries in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia
and the South Slavic region are online daily at RFE/RL's 24-Hour
LIVE Broadcast Studio.
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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN, LUKASHENKA DISCUSS DETAINED ORT JOURNALIST

* NEMTSOV ANNOUNCES PLANS TO SELL ROSNEFT

* AZERBAIJAN TO DELAY DECISION ON MAIN EXPORT PIPELINE?

End Note : "THE SPIRIT OF VILNIUS"
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN, LUKASHENKA DISCUSS DETAINED ORT JOURNALIST.
Following talks in Moscow on 6 September, Russian President Boris
Yeltsin said he and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
agreed to sort out the row over the detention of a Russian Public
Television (ORT) journalist in Belarus. "We must resolve this question
in order to preserve our relations as allies," Yeltsin said. Belarusian
authorities on 4 September released ORT cameraman Dmitry
Zavadsky but refused to free his colleague Pavel Sheremet, a
Belarusian citizen, saying he had been stripped of his press
credentials before he was arrested for illegally entering Belarus in
July. Lukashenka told Russia's Mayak Radio after his talks with
Yeltsin that the case of Sheremet will be resolved in accordance with
Belarusian law. In August, Minsk released all four members of a
second ORT news crew that had been detained on the same charges.

YELTSIN MEETS OTHER CIS LEADERS. Also on 6 September, Yeltsin
met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Moldovan
President Petru Lucinschi, both of whom were in Moscow for the
city's 850th anniversary celebrations. Talks with Nazarbayev focused
on economic ties, including possible development of Caspian Sea oil
reserves, ITAR-TASS reported Topics of discusssion with Lucinschi
included peace efforts in Moldova's breakaway Transdniestr region.
Yeltsin was originally scheduled to meet with Azerbaijani President
Heidar Aliev, but RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported that Aliev canceled
his trip to Moscow at the last minute to protest the friendship treaty
signed on 29 August between Armenia and Russia. The Azerbaijani
Foreign Ministry had sent a note on 4 September to the Russian
Ambassador to Azerbaijan, explaining that Baku was concerned with
statutes in the treaty calling for closer military cooperation between
Moscow and Yerevan, according to ITAR-TASS.

DUMA DENOUNCES GROZNY EXECUTIONS... The State Duma on 5
September adopted a resolution denouncing the televised public
execution two days earlier of a couple whom an Islamic court had
found guilty of murder, Russian news agencies reported. The
statement called on federal legislative and executive authorities to
take into account that "present Chechen leaders disregard Russian
legal norms, bilateral agreements, and the principles of international
legislation," Interfax reported. The Chechen government criticized the
Duma vote as an attempt to meddle in Chechnya's affairs and accused
Russian deputies of hypocrisy.

...AS DO COUNCIL OF EUROPE, RUSSIAN MUFTI. Council of Europe
Parliamentary Assembly President Leni Fischer on 5 September
similarly condemned the killings, arguing that "for a democracy, such
executions are not the way to combat criminality...and organized
crime." Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, a Muslim leader in Russia, expressed
concern that the executions may "trigger animosity and even
hostility" towards Muslims and " represent Islam in a perverted
way," Interfax reported.

DUMA CALLS FOR PROBE INTO PRIVATIZATION DEALS. The Duma on
5 September adopted a resolution calling on the Audit chamber to
review the recent privatization auctions of Svyazinvest, Norilsk
Nickel, and two major oil companies, Sibneft and Tyumenneftegaz,
AFP and Russian news agencies reported. The Duma is seeking
clarification on three points: how the starting price was established,
the legality of the tender procedure, and the transfer of revenue
from the sales to the state budget. The resolution was drafted by a
communist deputy and two members of the pro-government Our
Home Is Russia faction, according to AFP. A document circulated to
legislators before the vote noted that only two companies competed
for a 38 percent stake in Norilsk Nickel and that both were "set up
by the same group which has close financial relations with
Oneximbank and MFK [an affiliate of Oneximbank]."

NEMTSOV ANNOUNCES PLANS TO SELL ROSNEFT. First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov on 5 September announced that Russia will
sell 96 percent of the state-owned oil giant Rosneft, Reuters reported.
No terms or dates have been set for the sale, from which the
government hopes to raise more than $1 billion. One issue that must
be resolved before Rosneft can be sold is the ownership of
Purneftegaz, awarded to Rosneft by the government but also claimed
by the SIDANKO group, controlled by Uneximbank. Nemtsov said the
issue will be resolved by the time of the first Rosneft sale.

RUSSIAN-CHECHEN OIL TRANSIT TALKS AGAIN POSTPONED. Also on
5 September, Nemtsov said that Russia is prepared to sign an
agreement with Chechnya on repairing the Chechen sector of the
Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk pipeline immediately, Russian agencies
reported. He said that if a simultaneous agreement is not signed on
conditions and tariffs for the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, talks
on such an accord could be continued while repairs to the pipeline
are being carried out. Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, president of the
Chechen state oil company, said that the resumption of talks had
been postponed until 8 September. Meanwhile, maverick field
commander Salman Raduev told a 5 September news conference in
Grozny that Chechen radicals will prevent the commissioning of the
pipeline before Russia officially recognizes Chechnya as an
independent state, according to Interfax.

LUKOIL TO EXPAND TO U.S. MARKET. Russia's biggest oil company on
5 September announced that output increased in the first half of
1997, Western news agencies reported. LUKoil President Vagit
Alekperov predicted production this year will grow by 2 million tons
over the 1996 level of 58.5 million tons He said that pre-tax profits
rose, but in ruble terms only, while net profits fell slightly. LUKoil
plans to invest $240 million over the next three years to build a
network of some 2,000 service stations in the U.S. by 2003,
Alekperov said. Its Texas affiliate Nexus Fuels, in which LUKoil has a
50 percent stake, says it has access to 5,000 sites near U.S.
supermarkets. The first 25-30 stations should open by the end of
this year, according to Alekperov.

AIR FRANCE, AEROFLOT FORM "HISTORIC ALLIANCE." Aeroflot and
Air France on 5 September announced the creation of what both
called a "historic" alliance that envisions coordinating passenger
service and expanding both airlines' markets, ITAR-TASS and AFP
reported. The agreement was signed in Moscow by Air France
managing director Marc Vernon and his Aeroflot counterpart, Valerii
Okulov. Aeroflot intends to extend its reach into France, Africa, the
Caribbean basin, and Latin America, Okulov said. Vernon said the
move will enable Air France to extend its network in Russia and
across the CIS. Current levels of service on Aeroflot internal flights
will be raised "to bring them up to international level," Okulov added.

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA ACCUSES DUMA COUNCIL OF VIOLATING
PROCEDURAL RULES. Aleksandr Shokhin, the leader of the Our Home
Is Russia (NDR) faction, told RFE/RL that the decision to vote on his
dismissal as Duma deputy speaker was a "personal decision" by
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev. Shokhin had submitted his
resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 1997); however
later the same day, the Duma voted 232 to 150 to dismiss Shokhin as
deputy speaker. Shokhin said his faction had proposed to vote on 10
September and that Seleznev feared the NDR would submit the issue
for discussion "in the same package" with discussion on releasing
another NDR member, Gen. Lev Rokhlin, from his post of chairman of
the Duma Defense Committee. Shokin said Seleznev and communist
faction leader Gennadii Zyuganov have confirmed that the new
deputy speaker will be an NDR member.

ROKHLIN SAYS YELTSIN MUST GO. Meanwhile, Rokhlin has said the
only way to end Russia's military decline is to unseat Yeltsin,
Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 September. Rokhlin told reporters in
Kazan that Russia will have no nuclear deterrence by 2060 and that
China could pose a threat since its "national interests encompasses
Russian territory up to the Urals." Rokhlin said he planned to bring
together all opposition forces--ranging from the Communist Party,
the People's Patriotic Union, and the ultra-nationalist Liberal
Democratic Party--into his new political group, For Salvation of the
Army, in a bid to unseat Yeltsin. Rokhlin created a stir in June when
he said the armed forces were on the verge of mutiny. The pro-
government Our House Is Russia (NDR) distanced itself from his
remarks but postponed a decision whether to expel him until after
the Duma's summer recess.

LUZHKOV WRAPS UP MOSCOW ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS. In a
closing speech at the refurbished Luzhniki stadium, Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov declared Moscow's aim to lead Russia to "achieve the
greatness and the power that we have the right to declare to the
whole world." Luzhkov also denied he was seeking the Russian
presidency in 2000, although observers said the mayor would use
the spotlight on revitalized Moscow to promote his own presidential
bid. On each of the three days of the celebrations, millions of people
flocked to the city. On 5 September, a Human Rights Watch report
criticized Moscow's continued use of the "propiska," a Soviet-era
registration without which no one can live legally in the city, the
"Financial Times" reported on 7 September.

DELAY IN FINDING LOST RADIOACTIVE CONTAINER. Bad weather has
brought a halt to efforts by three ships from the Pacific Fleet to
locate a container of strontium-90 that fell from a helicopter into the
ocean north of Sakhalin Island in mid-August (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 13 August 1997), ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September.
Nikolai Smirnov, the head of Sakhalin's Civil Defense and Emergency
Situation's headquarters, repeated assurances that the container
poses no threat to the environment.

"MIR" UPDATE. Russian cosmonaut Anatolii Sovolev and U.S.
astronaut Michael Foale left the space station "Mir' early on 6
September and spent nearly six hours searching for damage and
carrying out repairs. They realigned two of the four solar batteries
with the sun but were unable to locate punctures in the "spektr"
modules. With the realignment of the two panels, power is expected
to reach 90 percent soon. The next space walk to find punctures in
the modules will not be made until after 4 October, however. Russian
mission control reported on 8 September that "Mir's" main computer
had failed again.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJAN TO DELAY DECISION ON MAIN EXPORT PIPELINE?
President Heidar Aliev has created a working group to assess the
relative merits of alternative routes for the main export pipeline for
Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, Turan reported on 6 September. The group
-- which includes a deputy premier, the president and vice president
of the state oil company SOCAR, and three top officials of the
Azerbaijan International Operating Company -- is to hold talks in
Turkey, Russia, and Georgia and to present its recommendations
within the next two years. The AIOC was originally scheduled to
decide on the route for the main export pipeline this year but
announced in June that the decision would be postponed until
October 1998. Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem
arrived in Baku on 7 September to discuss "all bilateral issues,"
including the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline route for which Turkey is
lobbying, the "Turkish Daily News" reported.

OPPOSITION DEPUTY DETAINED IN NAKHICHEVAN. Mirmahmud
Fattaev, the deputy chairman of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular
Front, and three other people were detained by police at
Nakhichevan airport on 6 September, Turan reported. The four men,
who intended to travel to the village of Keleki to visit former
President Abulfaz Elchibey, were accused of "violating the passport
regime" and ordered to return to Baku.

WORLD BANK GRANTS LOANS TO GEORGIA. The World Bank's
International Development Association (IDA) has approved two loans
totaling $65 million to Georgia to help consolidate progress toward
stabilizing the economy and to push ahead on key reforms, an
RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 5 September. The
larger, $60 million loan will be used to help the Georgian government
improve tax collections, restructure its public spending, accelerate
privatization, improve financial discipline in the energy sector, and
restructure the banking sector, among others. The IDA says the
credit will also be used to help Georgia improve the targeting of
social benefits, including introducing private pensions and reforming
health care. The second loan, worth $5 million, is to finance structural
reforms, including in the judiciary and social assistance sector.

GEORGIAN STATE TREASURY ROBBED. Thieves recently broke into the
national treasury and stole 160 kilos of gold ingots, the Caucasian
Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development reported on 5
September, citing "Kavkasioni." The newspaper said that Minister of
State Niko Lekishvili accused the treasury administration of failing to
take adequate security measures. but "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6
September reported that officials have declined to comment on the
incident.

SUPPORT GROWS IN ARMENIA FOR JOINING RUSSIA-BELARUS
UNION. Aghasi Arshakyan, one of the leaders of the left-wing
Armenian People's Initiative (HZhN), told reporters on 5 September
that the group has collected more than 1 million signatures in
support of Armenia joining the Russia-Belarus union, RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported. Arshakyan said that joining a "new union"
of former Soviet republics will promote "very rapid economic
growth" in Armenia and thus help the country overcome its economic
crisis. He said some 100,000 Armenian nationals currently residing
in Russia also support the union. Telman Gdlyan, a prominent Russian
politician of Armenian origin, predicted that other unspecified
former Soviet republics will follow Armenia's example. The
Communist Party of Armenia likewise claims to have collected
800,000 signatures in support of Armenia's joining the Russia-
Belarus union. It will raise the issue at the fall session of the
Armenian parliament.

BOMB GOES OFF IN DUSHANBE. A bomb exploded in a Dushanbe hotel
early on 6 September, according to RFE/RL correspondents The bomb
had been placed in a refrigerator in the dining hall of the Hotel
Vakhsh, where fighters of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) and
their leader, Said Abdullo Nuri, are scheduled to stay. The hotel is
guarded by "bodyguards" from the UTO and government troops. So
far, no one has been detained in connection with the bombing. Nuri,
who was due in the Tajik capital on 8 September to participate in
Independence Day celebrations the next day, has now postponed his
arrival. The delay is due to a government request to limit the
number of the UTO delegation. ITAR-TASS on 8 September noted
that the government list of UTO delegates coming to Dushanbe does
not include UTO deputy leader Ali Akbar Turajonzoda.

BORDER GUARD HEADS MEET IN KYRGYZSTAN. Heads of border guards
from the CIS countries, excluding Azerbaijan and Moldova, met in
Kyrgyzstan on 5-6 September for the 26th session of border guard
commanders, ITAR-TASS reported. The commanders reviewed 33
documents, including those on exchanges of information between CIS
border guards and on customs procedures within the CIS and along
the borders with other countries. Addressing the session, Kyrgyz
President Askar Akayev called the guards "one of the more effective
structures" within the CIS.

END NOTE

"THE SPIRIT OF VILNIUS"

by Paul Goble

        For the first time, the countries between the Baltic and the
Black Seas have found a common voice, one that will help them to
integrate into the West, even as they smooth their relations with one
another and with Moscow. At a meeting in Vilnius on 5 and 6
September, the presidents of 10 countries in the region sharply
criticized the retreat from democratic reforms in Belarus. They
stressed they want to work with both Russia and the West. And they
committed themselves to broader regional cooperation.
        As a result, a summit originally convened to help overcome
bilateral conflicts among those states was transformed into
something much bigger. That development would appear to justify
the claims of some of the leaders present that they will be guided by
the "spirit of Vilnius" in the future.
        The meeting, organized by the leaders of Poland and Lithuania,
attracted the presidents of Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary,
Latvia, Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine, as well as the prime minister
of the Russian Federation. The outcome of the meeting was defined
less by the individual positions that each of those leaders took than
by the collective spirit they displayed on three key issues.
        First, virtually all the presidents were sharply critical of the
increasingly anti-democratic behavior of one of their numbers,
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Their outspokenness
violated the usual diplomatic niceties of such sessions and indicated
that the countries of the region are at least prepared to take a hard
line against those who retreat from democracy and a free market
economy. It also largely dispelled the fears of those who had thought
Lukashenka might be able to exploit the Vilnius summit to escape his
regime's current isolation on the international scene.
        Instead, the Vilnius meeting underlined Lukashenka's isolation
from his own people, from neighboring states, and from both Moscow
and the West. Not only did the leaders of the other countries speak
out, but representatives of Belarusian society directly challenged
Lukashenka's claims.
        Second, the 10 presidents indicated they want to cooperate
with both East and West rather than being forced to choose between
one or the other. Part of the reasoning behind that position was
clearly tactical. Several leaders said they are interested in improved
relations with Russia in order to improve their standing with
Western governments that have made good relations with Moscow a
virtual requirement for inclusion in Western institutions.
        But at the Vilnius meeting, there were also strategic
considerations. The Baltic presidents, for example, did not react as
sharply as they have in the past to Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin's latest elaboration of Russian suggestions that the
three rely on Moscow rather than NATO. Each calmly reiterated the
desire of his country to join the Western alliance, but each equally
calmly said that his country did not want involvement with the West
to preclude good relations with Moscow.
        This approach led to a remarkable breakthrough. Following
bilateral meetings with the Russian premier, each of the Baltic
presidents was able to announce that he would soon be signing a
border agreement with the Russian Federation, thus laying to rest a
long-standing sore point in relations with Moscow.
        Third, the 10 presidents asserted that they want to work
together precisely so that they can take responsibility for themselves
rather than waiting for one or the other outside power to decide
their fate, as has happened so often in the past.
        Two countries -- Poland and Ukraine -- offered to host a
follow-up regional summit in 1999. And the representatives of
several other presidents indicated they were interested in much
closer consultations across the region.
        In the past, efforts to promote such cooperation have
foundered on tensions among those countries and on the fears in
both Moscow and the West that such arrangements might become a
barrier to the inclusion of Russia into European institutions. But
precisely because the Vilnius summit was called to avoid setting up
such a barrier, this latest drive toward cooperation among the
countries of the region may be more successful than its predecessors
before World War Two and in the early 1990s.
        It has already attracted less opposition and more support from
outside. Not only did Moscow not denounce it, but U.S. President Bill
Clinton said it could play a useful role in "erasing the old dividing
lines in Europe." To the extent that the countries of the region
continue to act as they did in the Lithuanian capital, the "spirit of
Vilnius" may prove a turning point not only for them but for Europe
as a whole.


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