Give Peace A Chance. - John Lennon and Paul McCartney
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 115, Part I, 11 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:
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Headlines, Part I

*RUSSIA, CHECHNYA THREATEN TO ABROGATE OIL TRANSIT ACCORD


*DUMA SPEAKER DOUBTS ROKHLIN CAN BE UNSEATED


*GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS CONCLUDED

End Note
A JUMP TOO FAR?

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RUSSIA

RUSSIA, CHECHNYA THREATEN TO ABROGATE OIL TRANSIT ACCORD.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who is also fuel
and energy minister, has said Russia will abrogate the 9 September
Russian-Chechen agreement on exporting Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via
Chechnya if the Grozny cannot ensure the safety of Russian workers
repairing the Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk pipeline, Russian media
reported on 10 September. Nemtsov was commenting on reports that
a lorry carrying Russian construction workers was blown up in
Chechnya on 9 September, injuring two passengers. Chechen officials
have denied responsibility for the explosion. Chechen First Deputy
Prime Minister Movladi Udugov told Interfax on 10 September that
Chechnya will suspend implementation of the transit agreement
unless Moscow provides funds to pay wage arrears to teachers and
doctors. He said Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was ignoring
instructions from President Boris Yeltsin to transfer the necessary
funds.

RUSSIA POWERLESS TO BAN CHECHEN RELIGIOUS COURTS. Russian
presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told journalists
in Moscow on 10 September that Russia lacks any legal mechanisms
for banning the religious courts in Chechnya, which have recently
handed down several death sentences, Interfax reported. A Chechen
legal official in Grozny told Interfax that the next execution to be
carried out will not be public because of the negative public
response. But he ruled out the possibility of the sentences being
commuted.

DUMA SPEAKER DOUBTS ROKHLIN CAN BE UNSEATED. State Duma
Speaker Gennadii Seleznev says he has received no request from the
pro-government Our Home Is Russia movement to replace Lev
Rokhlin as chairman of the lower house's Defense Committee.
Rokhlin, who had been critical of the government's army reform
plan, was expelled from the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction on 9
September. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said at the time that
Rohklin would also have to give up his chairmanship of the
committee. But Seleznev told ITAR-TASS on 10 September that the
move would require a special plenary session. At least 226 of the
Duma's 450 deputies must approve holding such a session. Seleznev
said he doubted Our Home Is Russia can count on that level of
support.

DUMA BUDGET COMMITTEE HEAD QUESTIONS DRAFT PROPOSAL.
Mikhail Zadornov, the chairman of the Duma's budget committee,
doubts that the parliament's lower house will pass the government's
1998 draft budget when it comes up for a vote in several weeks,
"Segodnya" reported on 11 September. He said his committee has
given the draft careful consideration and finds it "lacking." Zadornov
added that proposed spending cuts in welfare benefits and regional
subsidies will face stiff opposition in the chamber. He also questioned
the government's low revenue forecasts.

ZYUGANOV PROMISES "HOT POLITICAL FALL." Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov is promising a "hot political fall" for the
government, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September. Zyuganov told a
Moscow news conference that the Communists and their allies are
planning a series of nationwide strikes to protest current economic
policies. He said 7 million people have already signed a petition
calling for President Yeltsin and the government to resign. Valentin
Kuptsov, the deputy chairman of the party's Central Committee,
denied reports of a split in the party. He told journalists there is "no
point in looking for intrigue where it does not exist."

KREMLIN SAYS RUSSIAN-JAPANESE TALKS WILL BE "FRANK." The
Kremlin has said the upcoming meeting between President Yeltsin
and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto will be "deliberately
informal" to allow a frank exchange of views. Yeltsin spokesman
Yastrzembskii told reporters in Moscow on 10 September that the
talks will take place in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk on 1-2
November. The two countries' decades-old dispute over ownership of
the four Kurile Islands has blocked the signing of a formal peace
treaty and prevented large-scale Japanese investment in Russia.

YELTSIN SUBMITS COUNCIL OF EUROPE DOCUMENTS FOR
RATIFICATION. President Boris Yeltsin has submitted four Council of
Europe documents to the State Duma for ratification, ITAR-TASS
reported on 10 September. The documents are the European
Convention on Human Rights, the European Convention on the
Prevention of Torture, a framework agreement on the defense of
minorities, and a European charter on local self-administration.
Russia signed the documents when it became a member of the 40-
country body in February 1996.

YELTSIN DISSATISFIED WITH CUSTOMS UNION. Yeltsin is dissatisfied
with the work of the customs union linking Russia, Belarus,
Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, presidential press spokesman
Yastrzhembskii told reporters in Moscow on 10 September.
Yastrzhembskii did not enumerate the problems but said leaders
from the four countries should meet before CIS summit in Chisinau in
the fall in order to "breathe new life" into the union.

YAKUTSK WORKERS SHUT OFF WATER TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
Angry workers have shut off water supplies to all government
buildings in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, ITAR-TASS reported on 10
September. The workers, who are from the city's main water
treatment facility, have not received their wages since December
1996. Plant director Nikolai Lepchitov said the employees are
desperate and no longer believe any of the administration's
promises. They intend to keep the water off until all wage arrears
are paid.

LUZHKOV TOURS TRAIN STATIONS. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov
toured the capital's newly renovated Leningrad and Kazan railway
stations, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September. Luzhkov said eight
of Moscow's nine main railway stations have now been restored to
their original splendor. He unveiled a memorial plaque to architect
Konstantin Ton at the Leningrad station. In addition to designing
some of the Kremlin's palaces, Ton was the main architect of the
Christ the Savior cathedral, whose complete reconstruction Luzhkov
is also overseeing.

TSAR'S ARCHIVE GOES ON DISPLAY IN MOSCOW. Prince Hans Adam
II of Liechtenstein and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
opened an exhibition of archives containing the private papers of
Russia's last tsar and the protocol of an investigation into his
assassination by the Bolsheviks in 1918, ITAR-TASS reported on 10
September. The ceremony took place at Moscow's Museum of Private
Collections. The documents were spirited out of Russia in 1919 and
ended up in Liechtenstein. The principality recently agreed to hand
the archive over to Moscow in exchange for documents seized by
Russia during World War II.

"MIR" COSMONAUTS TO RECEIVE FULL WAGES. Aleksei Krasnov, the
deputy chief of Russia's Space Agency (RSA) said cosmonauts Vasilii
Tsibliev and Aleksandr Lazutkin will receive their full wages for the
period spent in space, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September. Viktor
Blagov, another RSA official, said the two have already received 70
percent of their wages and that the delay in paying the remainder is
due to an ongoing examination of problems on the space station "Mir"
while Tsibliev and Lazutkin were aboard. He said such a practice is
common while determining if cosmonauts did less or more than was
required of them. However, Krasnov did comment that Tsibliev was
unlikely to receive compensation for heart problems he experienced
while in space because "Russia has not yet developed a health
insurance system for cosmonauts."

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS CONCLUDED. Talks in Sukhumi between
the Abkhaz leadership and high-level Georgian and Russian
government representatives ended on 10 September, Russian
agencies reported. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris
Pastukhov told Interfax that the two sides are demonstrating greater
flexibility and have made some progress toward finalizing conditions
for the repatriation of ethnic Georgians who fled during the 1992-
1993 war. Georgian Ambassador to Russia Vazha Lortkipanidze said
the Abkhaz leadership has agreed that Sukhumi and Tbilisi should
have a common defense and foreign policy. But he added that
Sukhumi still rejects the concept of a federal state and a single
constitution. The Georgian and Abkhaz representatives pledged to
coordinate efforts to prevent terrorist activities by guerrilla
formations in the border region.

GEORGIA FAILS TO MEET OBLIGATIONS TO FRONTIER GUARDS. The
Georgian government owes Russia 47 billion rubles ($8 million)
toward the cost of guarding Georgia's frontier with Turkey, "Delovoi
mir" reported on 11 September. Under the terms of an agreement
signed in 1994, Moscow provides 60 percent of the funds for
overseeing the border which is jointly guarded by Georgian and
Russian troop. Georgia pays the remaining 40 per cent. Earlier this
year, the Georgian parliament called for legislation on the future
protection of Georgia's frontiers exclusively by Georgian frontier
guards.

FUTURE OF ARMENIAN OPPOSITION GROUP IN DOUBT. Vazgen
Manukyan told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 10 September that the
National Accord Bloc, formed exactly one year ago to support his bid
for the Armenian presidency, no longer exists as a cohesive
mechanism and its future is in doubt. Manukyan said the parties that
compose the bloc still have "common interests and goals" but
disagree over political strategy. Manukyan said the bloc will organize
more rallies in September even though "it is impossible to change the
government through mass demonstrations." He said the draft
electoral law drawn up by parliamentary deputy speaker Ara
Sahakyan leaves the opposition no chances to win an election. The
current leaders have "made fortunes in office and do not want to lose
them," he said.

ARMENIA TIGHTENS REGISTRATION FOR NON-MAINSTREAM
RELIGIONS. President Levon Ter-Petrossyan on 10 September
dropped his objection to the parliament's proposed amendment to
the law on religious organizations, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau
reported. That amendment raises from 50 to 200 the minimum
number of members a religious organization must have in order to
be registered with the authorities. It also obliges all religious
organizations wishing to register to submit a complete list of their
members before they can operate legally in Armenia. Gegham
Garibjanyan, chairman of the parliament's committee on social affairs
and one of the authors of the amendment, said Ter-Petrossyan and
parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsyan "resolved the matter
during a phone conversation." He added that the amendment is not
directed against "traditional religious organizations", noting that the
Armenian law is more liberal than the one adopted by the Russian
State Duma and vetoed by President Boris Yeltsin.

KARABAKH PRESIDENT PROPOSES "LIMITED SOVEREIGNTY." In an
interview in the 10 September issue of "Nezavisimaya gazeta,"
Arkadii Ghukasyan, the newly-elected president of the unrecognized
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, suggested possible alternatives to de
jure independence for the disputed enclave or its renewed
subordination to the central Azerbaijani government in Baku.
Ghukasyan advocated what he termed "limited sovereignty,"
meaning the coexistence of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan as
equal partners in a quasi-federal state with a single parliament.
Alternatively, he suggested that Baku could be delegated
responsibility for certain policy areas, including ecology, energy,
communications, and possibly even the economy. Ghukasyan further
insisted that the issue of repatriation of the Azerbaijani population of
the enclave be linked to the return to Azerbaijan of ethnic
Armenians who fled during the hostilities.

KAZAKH PRIME MINISTER ADMITS TO KGB SERVICE. Akezhan
Kazhegeldin admitted in an interview in the 10 September issue of
"Komsomolskaya Pravda" that he worked for the KGB during the
Soviet era. He did not specify for how long he served in the KGB but
said he was involved in the shipment of tanks and military
technology to other countries, mainly in the Balkans and Muslim
countries of southeastern Asia. He also admitted to being in shady
money speculation schemes and said that although he was a member
of the Communist Party, his membership was kept secret so that if
he were caught involved in such schemes, "the honor of the party
would not be stained." He concluded by saying he had done nothing
for which he could be sentenced.

TALIBAN WANT PLANES BACK FROM TAJIKISTAN. Mullah
Muhammad Omar, the leader of Afghanistan's Taliban, has demanded
that Tajikistan return five jet fighters allegedly flown to Tajikistan to
avoid capture by Taliban forces, AFP reported on 10 September.
Omar claims the Taliban offensive against the northern Afghan city
of Mazar-i-Sharif prompted anti-Taliban coalition general Abdul
Malik to order eight planes flown to Tajikistan so they would not be
taken by the fundamentalist movement. Three of those planes,
however, defected to the Taliban. Omar said the planes are being
held in Tajikistan for use by forces opposed to the fundamentalists.
He warned Tajikistan not to allow its territory to be used for actions
against the Taliban.

INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES SHOW INTEREST IN TURKMEN TENDER.
Tenders for oil and gas deposits in the part of the Caspian Sea to
which Turkmenistan lays claim have attracted the interest of "more
than 57 major foreign companies," Interfax reported. The first tender
was held in Vienna on 10 September. Representatives of companies
from 47 countries participated in that round. The second tender
begins in London on 11 September. Russia's LUKoil may take part in
the London tender, but officials of that company have made clear
LUKoil will not bid on the Serdar (Kyapaz in Azerbaijani) field, which
Baku also claims as its property. Two more tenders will be held
before the 28 November deadline for submitting applications.

END NOTE

A JUMP TOO FAR?

by Paul Goble

        U.S. military involvement in a peacekeeping exercise in Central
Asia in mid-September is the latest indication of a shift in the
balance of power in a region long dominated by Moscow. Each of the
five countries in the region, both the three that are participating with
the U.S. and the two that are not, enjoy unprecedented freedom of
action as a result. But because a single exercise will, in itself, not be
enough to institutionalize that change, the maneuvers will almost
certainly carefully watched by Russia, which retains important assets
both within and around the region.
        Brigadier General Martin Berndt, the U.S. Atlantic Command's
director for joint exercises and training, recently announced that U.S.
military forces will participate in a joint military exercise known as
Centrasbat 97 from 15 to 21 September. He said some 500
paratroopers from the army's 82nd Airborne Division, along with 40
Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Uzbeks, will fly non-stop from the U.S. to
Kazakhstan and then parachute into the exercise area. Joining them
in that jump will be 40 soldiers from Turkey, 40 from Russia, and
Marine Corps General John J. Sheehan, who is the commander of the
U.S. Atlantic Command. Following their arrival, troops from Latvia
and Georgia will join the peacekeeping and humanitarian aid training
sessions to take place in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
        Berndt stressed that the 13,000 kilometer airlift of
paratroopers is a remarkable "first" by virtue of its distance: "a
strategic airlift of airborne troops that has not been seen before." He
said the exercises were intended to promote regional military
cooperation, to reinforce the sovereignty of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
and Kyrgyzstan whose soldiers make up the Central Asian battalion
under the Partnership for Peace program, and to help those countries
upgrade their ability to participate in international peacekeeping
activities.
        He hastened to add that the U.S. is not trying to send any
message to the nations not involved (including the two Central Asian
non-participants, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) or to anyone else.
Regardless of Washington's intentions, however, U.S. military
involvement in the high-profile exercise will send some very
powerful messages not only to Turkmenistan and Tajikistan but also
to the three countries of the region whose soldiers are taking part
and to Russia .
        To the Turkmens and Tajiks, this high-visibility operation will
serve notice that the U.S. intends to be a serious player in the Central
Asian region and that they thus have a strong incentive to modify
their policies in ways that will allow them to cooperate both with
their neighbors, who did not invite them to participate in the
exercise, and with the U.S. To the three Central Asian states that are
participating, the exercise provides the clearest indication yet that
the U.S. is prepared to work with them on much the same basis that
it is cooperating with the Baltic States and Ukraine. It will provide
yet another impulse toward greater cooperation throughout region as
a whole. And it will signal that the U.S. is not prepared to accept
Russian pretensions to a continuing sphere of influence in that
region, which will allow those countries to adopt increasingly
independent foreign policies and sometimes even directly challenge
Moscow's positions.
        But if the exercise sends such messages to the Central Asian
countries, it also sends them to Russia. At least some in Moscow may
react to what they are likely to see as a direct and intentional U.S.
challenge to what many Russians believe is properly their sphere of
influence. If the Russian government follows their lead--and recent
statements by President Boris Yeltsin about U.S. involvement in the
Caucasus suggest that it might--Moscow may decide to react in some
way. And if it does, it has some significant assets that it can bring
into play.
        Russia has a variety of means of exacerbating the situation in
Tajikistan, including the threat of pulling out Russian peacekeeping
forces, which could weaken the Dushanbe regime and lead to
instability in Uzbekistan. It could also put in place new obstacles to
the export of oil and gas from the countries of Central Asia. In such
cases, the U.S. and the West more generally may be forced to provide
even more political assistance to its Central Asian partners lest its
paratroop drop into Kazakhstan on 15 September prove a jump too
far.



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