To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 116, Part I, 12 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/

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Headlines, Part I

* RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY AGAIN DENIES GIVING IRAN MISSILE
TECHNOLOGY

* RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT DEMANDS CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT
RETRACT THREATS

* OPPOSITION LEADER ARRIVES IN DUSHANBE

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RUSSIA

FOREIGN MINISTRY AGAIN DENIES GIVING IRAN MISSILE
TECHNOLOGY. The Foreign Ministry has once again firmly denied U.S.
media reports that it is providing Iran with the technology for
creating long-range missiles. Ministry spokesman Valerii
Nesterushkin told journalists in Moscow on 11 September that he is
surprised the topic continues to be brought up, even after repeated
Russian denials. "The Washington Times" on 9 September quoted an
alleged Israeli intelligence report indicating that Russia and China are
jointly working with Iran to build long-range nuclear missiles. The
alleged document reportedly said Russia's space agency and the
Rosvooruzhenie armaments export agency are directly involved.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced today he is
freezing all major economic projects with Russia, including plans for a
major gas purchasing deal, until the issue is resolved.

GOVERNMENT DEMANDS CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT RETRACT
THREATS. The government on 11 September issued a statement
condemning remarks by Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov as
anti-Russian and insulting, Russian media reported. Arsanov told
Ekho Moskvy on 8 September that the Chechen procuracy has
opened criminal proceedings against the Russian leadership to
determine who was responsible for the "genocide" of the Chechen
people. Arsanov urged that those found guilty be publicly executed.
The Russian government demanded that the Chechen leadership
distance itself from Arsanov's "humiliating" statement before the
next round of bilateral talks, scheduled for 13 September. Aleksandr
Shokhin, the leader of the Our Home Is Russia State Duma faction,
said Arsanov's statement is an "act of international terrorism,"
Interfax reported.

CIS TO IGNORE CHECHEN REQUEST FOR ASSEMBLY MEMBERSHIP. CIS
executive secretary Ivan Korotchenya told journalists in Moscow on
11 September that the CIS will ignore the Chechen parliament's
request to be admitted as a member of the CIS Inter-parliamentary
Assembly, Russian agencies reported. Korotchenya said that
Chechnya is "Russia's internal affair" and that the secession of
federation subjects could trigger Russia's collapse.

FEDERAL SECURITY OFFICIAL ABDUCTED IN INGUSHETIA. Yurii
Gribov, the head of the Federal Security Service's Ingushetia
department, and one of his deputies were abducted by armed
masked men in the capital, Nazran, on 11 September, Russian media
reported. A spokesman for the Ingush Interior Ministry told ITAR-
TASS the next day that he is certain the abduction was
masterminded by Chechnya. Ekho Moskvy reported that Gribov's
name figures on a Chechen militants' list of Russian officials who are
designated enemies of the Chechen people.

DUMA ACCUSES MEDIA OF BIAS. The State Duma has issued a report
accusing the media of a coordinated misinformation campaign against
the legislature, Interfax reported on 11 September. The report
analyzed political reporting in more than 30 mainstream Russian
newspapers and magazines. It concluded that negative reports about
the Duma outnumbered positive ones by three-to-one. The report
said this amounted to an anti-Duma campaign aimed at discrediting
the chamber in the eyes of the electorate and ultimately having it
disbanded. It noted that by contrast, the Russian media often
favorably reports on President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, his deputy premiers, and activities of the pro-
government Our Home is Russia. The report concluded that most
news publications are losing their function as "honest mediators"
between society and the authorities.

YELTSIN TO CONTINUE FIGHT AGAINST ILLEGAL ALCOHOL
PRODUCTION. President Yeltsin, speaking during his weekly radio
address, said the illegal production and sale of alcohol has become
the second most lucrative criminal activity in Russia, ITAR-TASS
reported on 12 September. It is surpassed only by white-collar crime
"involving shady financial transactions," he commented. He also said
illegal alcohol production not only endangers public health but
deprives state coffers of trillions of rubles in tax revenues and hurts
traditional domestic alcohol producers. Yeltsin noted that the
government's campaign to bring alcohol production back under state
control and seize illegal shipments was yielding results, and he
vowed to press on with the campaign. Alcohol sales in the Soviet era
provided about a quarter of the state's budget revenue, according to
Yeltsin.

CHERNOMYRDIN URGES REASSESSMENT OF WTO BID. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin told a cabinet meeting on 11 September that
Russia should carefully study the possible negative consequences of
its bid to join the World Trade Organization. He said officials should
take a closer look at China's experience, where, he said, going slow on
WTO entry has allowed effective protection of domestic markets,
ITAR-TASS reported.

SERGEEV CALLS FOR FULLY PROFESSIONAL ARMED FORCES. Defense
Minister Igor Sergeev has reiterated the need to transform Russia's
bloated armed forces from a conscript force to a smaller professional
one. Sergeev told ITAR-TASS on 11 September that the transition is
necessary because only professionals will be able to operate future
weapons. But he said that a complete transition by the year 2000, as
ordered by President Yeltsin, remains problematic owing to a lack of
funds. Yeltsin has ordered the Defense Ministry to cut troop numbers
by 500,000 to 1.2 million by the end of 1998 as part of overall
military reforms.

ECONOMICS MINISTER SAYS ECONOMY RECOVERING. Deputy Prime
Minister Yakov Urinson, who is also economics minister, has said that
Russia's economy has not yet returned to "sound growth" but is on
the road to recovery. In an interview with "Kommersant Daily"
published on 11 September, Urinson said official figures show the
economy growing by 0.8 percent in the first five months of 1997.
Meanwhile, Minister without Portfolio Yevgenii Yasin said on 11
September that inflation will rise slightly this fall due to seasonal
pressures. But he added that Russia is still on course to meet its
annual inflation target of 12-14 percent for 1997.

PROCURATOR-GENERAL URGES LEGISLATION ON CAPITAL
PUNISHMENT. Yurii Skuratov told a news conference on 11
September that Russia's pledge to outlaw capital punishment was too
hasty and is creating problems for prison authorities. Russia
promised to ban the death penalty within three years when it joined
the Council of Europe in February 1996. President Yeltsin followed
this up with an unofficial moratorium on executions after he was re-
elected last July. But legislators have so far blocked any attempts to
sign the ban into law. Skuratov said this leaves the status of
prisoners on death row in limbo. He said the psychological pressure
on some prisoners is so great that several have even asked for their
sentences to be carried out. Skuratov urged the government and
deputies to draft permanent legislation to resolve the issue. Opinion
polls show the vast majority of Russians support capital punishment.

PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT IN MOSCOW. Fidel Ramos, at the beginning of
an official visit to Russia, has urged the Kremlin to play a stronger
role in the Asia-Pacific basin, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 September.
Ramos visited the MAPO military complex, which manufactures the
MiG-29 fighter plane. He called for military and technical cooperation
between the two countries and said the Philippine air force plans to
buy new fighter planes in the near future and will consider any
Russian tender. Ramos, who is accompanied by dozens of business
executives, is also scheduled to visit the Russian Chamber of
Commerce and a car manufacturing plant.

MYSTERY OF WHO ORDERED LAST TSAR EXECUTED UNRESOLVED. A
senior criminal investigator at the Procurator-General's Office says
the newly-displayed archive on the final days of the tsar and his
family does not shed any light on who ordered their execution in
1918, Interfax reported on 11 September. The archive, which
contains a protocol of the investigation into the execution, recently
went on display in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September).
Investigator Vladimir Solovyov told Interfax the documents do not
clarify whether Lenin personally ordered the executions or whether
they were carried out on the initiative of local Bolsheviks.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

OPPOSITION LEADER ARRIVES IN DUSHANBE. United Tajik Opposition
leader Said Abdullo Nuri arrived in Dushanbe on 11 September,
RFE/RL correspondents reported. Nuri was met at the airport by
Tajik government officials and UN special envoy to Tajikistan Gerd
Merrem. At talks with President Imomali Rakhmonov on 12
September, it was agreed that the Tajik Reconciliation Commission
would begin work in Dushanbe on 15 September. Rakhmonov
remarked that "as of today, the word 'opposition' has disappeared
from Tajikistan." No statement has been made as to why UTO deputy
leader Ali Akbar Turajonzoda did not arrive in Dushanbe with the
UTO delegation.

KAZAKH PRESIDENT CRITICIZES BUDGET, TAX POLICY. Nursultan
Nazarbayev, speaking on Khabar TV on 10 September, said the
government needs to revise the 1998 budget, Interfax reported the
next day. In particular, he criticized the collection of tax revenues,
claiming that taxes collected from the 20 major enterprises under
foreign management was "inadequate." (Many foreign companies
have been attracted to investing in Kazakhstan largely because of tax
exemptions and lower rates offered by the government.) Nazarbayev
added that the government is partly at fault for not "properly
regulating" those businesses. He said that it is enough to sell 30-40
percent shares of enterprises, which would allow domestic investors
the chance to buy the remainder.

TURKISH PRIME MINISTER IN KAZAKHSTAN. Mesut Yilmaz concluded
his two-day visit to Kazakhstan on 11 September, AFP and dpa
reported. Yilmaz said on arrival at Ankara airport that during his
visit there was much discussion about constructing a pipeline from
western Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field along the bed of the Caspian Sea
and through the Transcaucas to Turkey. The Turkish government has
already hired a German firm to carry out a feasibility study. Yilmaz
is quoted by dpa as saying he hopes "concrete steps" toward
implementing the project will begin by February 1998.

KAZAKH NEWS AGENCY DISSOLVED. The state news agency Kaztag
has been abolished by presidential decree, ITAR-TASS reported on
12 September. The government has been instructed to pass
legislation on forming the Kazakh News Agency within the next
month. The new agency is to be located in Akmola, which is to
become the official capital of Kazakhstan. In other news, between 20
and 40 people from the Kazakh Workers Party gathered in front of
the U.S. Embassy in Almaty on 12 September to protest the NATO-
sponsored "Cenazbat" military exercises, which begin in Kazakhstan
on 15 September, RFE/RL correspondents reported.

CENTRAL ASIANS DISCUSS ARAL SEA. The deputy prime ministers of
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan
met in Tashkent on 11 September to discuss efforts to save the Aral
Sea, Interfax reported. They agreed that starting in 1998, all five
countries will contribute to a special fund aimed at alleviating
damage caused by overuse of water from the two rivers that flow
into the Aral Sea, the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya. Under the
agreement, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will give 0.3
percent of their budget revenues to the fund and Kyrgyzstan and
Tajikistan 0.1 percent. Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Ismail
Jurabekov is quoted by Interfax as saying the five countries have
already contributed more than $2 billion to the effort.

FORMER GEORGIAN PRIME MINISTER SENTENCED. A Tbilisi district
court on 10 September passed sentence on Tengiz Sigua, RFE/RL's
bureau in the Georgian capital reported. Sigua was accused of causing
the state to suffer financial losses estimated at $15 million by
continuing to use the old Soviet dollar/ruble exchange rate after the
collapse of the USSR in 1991. He was also accused of irregularities in
issuing licenses to private companies for the export of ferrous and
non-ferrous metals. He has been ordered to repay some $5.8 million
losses allegedly incurred by the state budget. Georgian Finance
Minister Mikhail Chkuaseli has argued in Sigua's defense that the
former prime minister's decisions were not illegal. Sigua has accused
President Eduard Shevardnadze of fabricating the case against him
for political reasons.

ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI-JAPANESE OIL VENTURE IMMINENT.
Following talks in Baku on 10 September with President Heidar
Aliev, Minoru Mirofushi, the president of Japan's Itochu Corporation,
announced that his company will sign another agreement with
Azerbaijan on developing Caspian oil and gas deposits. Itochu is
already a participant in two Azerbaijani projects. The new agreement
covers the Ateshgyakh, Yavan Tapa, and Mugan Deniz fields, which
are located in shallow water south of Baku and have estimated
combined reserves of 100 million metric tons of oil. Two other
Japanese and one Indonesian company will participate in the project.
Turan quoted Mirofushi as saying his corporation is also interested in
participating in construction of the main export pipeline for
Azerbaijan's Caspian oil and in investing in the petrochemical and
transport sectors.

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION DEPUTIES AGAIN DETAINED IN
NAKHICHEVAN. Azerbaijan Popular Front deputy chairman
Mirmahmud Fattaev and two other front members were again
detained at Nakhichevan airport and ordered to return to Baku,
Turan reported on 11 September. Fattaev and two traveling
companions had been prevented from entering Nakhichevan on 6
September to visit former President Abulfaz Elchibey in the village
of Keleki (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 10 September 1997).

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT REMOVES REBEL COMMITTEE HEAD. In an
emergency session on 10 September, the National Assembly voted to
remove Eduard Yegoryan as chairman of its Committee on State and
Legal Affairs, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Yegoryan had
announced on 9 September that he planned to withdraw from the
majority Republic bloc and create a new faction called Fatherland.
Twelve deputies, mostly from the Republic bloc have already joined
the new faction. Yegoryan, who is one of the authors of the current
constitution and a former Armenian Pan-National Movement leader,
had distanced himself from the Armenian leadership following the
disputed September 1996 presidential elections. Former National
Security adviser Davit Shakhnazaryan, a Yegoryan ally and a former
prominent member of the Armenian Pan-National Movement, was
expelled from the movement on 10 September.

ANOTHER NEW FACTION IN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT. Gegham
Gharibjanyan, the chairman of the parliamentary Committee on
Social and Health Issues, announced on 11 September that he, too,
will form a new parliamentary faction, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau
reported. The faction will be called Social State and will focus
primarily on social issues. Gharibjanyan added that the faction could
find itself in opposition to the present leadership. He did not say how
many deputies will join his faction (a minimum of 10 are required).
Gharibjanyan forecast that Armenia could "explode" at any minute,
given that an estimated 88 percent of the population are living in
poverty.

TWO ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DEPUTIES COME OUT OF HIDING.
Making their first public appearance since September 1996, Arshak
Sadoyan and Albert Baghdassaryan held a news conference in
Yerevan on 11 September, RFE/RL's Armenian bureau reported. The
two men went underground after the storming of the Armenian
parliament on 25 September 1996 following the disputed
presidential elections. Sadoyan was accused by the Armenian
authorities of beating up parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsyan
during the disorder, but he denies the charges. He told journalists he
went into hiding "to avoid being imprisoned for seven or eight
months and being beaten up like other innocent people." Both men
stressed there is no evidence to support charges against them. They
will meet with Prosecutor-General Henrik Khachatryan on 12
September to discuss their legal situation.

KARABAKH DEFENSE MINISTER PREDICTS NEW WAR. In an interview
published by Noyan Tapan on 11 September, Samvel Babayan, the
defense minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic,
said renewed hostilities are "quite likely." Babayan said the peace
plan proposed earlier this summer by the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group co-chairman is
unacceptable to the Karabakh leadership. He added that alternative
proposals by the Karabkh leaders have been rejected by Baku and
that no Azerbaijani politician will risk making concessions in the run-
up to the 1998 Azerbaijani presidential elections. Babayan stressed
that the Karabakh army is not prepared to withdraw from occupied
Azerbaijani territory until security guarantees have been created for
the enclave. He excluded the possibility of a withdrawal from
Kelbajar and the Lachin corridor, where, he said, many of the
500,000 Armenians expelled from Baku and other parts of
Azerbaijan have settled.




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               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
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