Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 119, Part I, 17 September 1997



A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe,
Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio
Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia
and Central Asia. Part II covers Central, Eastern, and Southeastern
Europe and is distributed simultaneously as a second document.
Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online
at RFE/RL's Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline

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Headlines, Part I

* UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW

* DUMA FACTIONS DISAGREE OVER START-2 RATIFICATION

* TAJIK OPPOSITION RELEASES PRISONERS

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RUSSIA

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW... During his first visit to
Moscow as prime minister, Valery Pustovoitenko announced that
"Russia is unquestionably Ukraine's strategic partner," Russian media
reported on 16 September. Pustovoitenko met with Russian
President Boris Yeltsin, who said there are "no large intractable
problems" between the two countries. Statements by Russian
officials, however, indicate some problems still exist. Following his
meeting with Pustovoitenko, Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin said turnover in trade between the two countries in
the first half of 1997 was $7.7 billion, down 22 percent on the same
period last year. No solution was found to the issue of Ukraine's debt
to Russia for gas supplies. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei
Yastrzhembskii told reporters that Moscow has no intention of
buying from Ukraine Soviet-era Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic
bombers.

...MAKES SUGAR A PRIORITY ISSUE. One of the topics at the top of
Pustovoitenko's agenda was the export of sugar from Ukraine to
Russia. Pustovoitenko urged Yeltsin to remove a 25 percent tax
imposed on sugar imports last May and a 10 percent value-added tax
levied in the summer. The Ukrainian premier said the problem is
"seriously slowing down Russian-Ukrainian cooperation." In the past,
Ukraine exported 1.1-1.3 million tons of sugar to Russia annually, but
this year's contracts provide for only 600,000 tons. According to
Interfax, Yeltsin promised to have Prime Minister Chernomyrdin look
into the matter.

YELTSIN SAYS LUKASHENKA BROKE AGREEMENT ON ORT
JOURNALIST. Yeltsin on 16 September criticized his Belarusian
counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, for allegedly not abiding by an
agreement to release Russian Public Television (ORT) journalist Pavel
Sheremet, Russian news agencies reported. Russian authorities have
said Lukashenka promised at a 6 September meeting with Yeltsin to
free Sheremet, but Lukashenka has said the matter will be resolved
in Belarusian courts. In an interview published in the official
newspaper "Sovetskaya Belarus" on 16 September, Lukashenka said,
"I will impeccably fulfill all agreements with Boris Yeltsin. As for
Sheremet, that's a matter of routine judicial procedures." Lukashenka
added that he is not an "absolute monarch" with the power to arrest
and release people at will, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17
September.

YELTSIN, CHERNOMYRDIN COMMENT ON MEETING WITH BANKERS.
Before a 16 September meeting with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin,
Yeltsin said he told six top bankers the previous day that "banks
cannot be above the authorities," Russian news agencies reported. He
added that banks should serve the government and cooperate with
it, settling disputes without resorting to "insults" or "harsh
statements" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1997).
Chernomyrdin argued that it is incorrect to say the government and
some bankers were at "war" before Yeltsin's meeting with the
influential businessmen. He added that ministers realize "we cannot
do without banks. But there should be tolerance and support for each
other," Interfax reported.

MOSCOW DISBURSES FUNDS FOR CHECHEN RECONSTRUCTION. Russian
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who is also fuel and
energy minister, has signed a decree on the transfer to Grozny of the
first installment of funds to finance repairs to the Baku-Grozny-
Tikhoretsk pipeline, Russian media reported on 16 September.
Nemtsov told journalists that the decision to build an alternative
pipeline bypassing Chechnya did not mean Moscow would renege on
the 9 September agreement to fund repairs to the existing pipeline.
Russian government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov similarly told a
press conference on 16 September that plans to build the alternative
pipeline "are not intended to spite Grozny or create difficulties in the
negotiating process", ITAR-TASS reported.

DISAGREEMENT IN BAKU OVER CHECHEN BYPASS PIPELINE.
Azerbaijani Ambassador to Georgia Khadzhan Gadzhiev told Interfax
on 16 September that Baku does not object to Russia's recent decision
to build an oil pipeline bypassing Chechnya to export Azerbaijan's
Caspian oil. "The main thing is that the oil should be exported on
time, and it is the responsibility of the Russian side [to determine]
how the oil travels from Azerbaijan's border with Russia," Gadzhiev
said. But Ahmed Zeynalov, vice president for construction at the
Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, told Turan on 16 September
that the route bypassing Chechnya is not the optimum one for Russia
and that technical problems will make construction problematic. In
addition, Zeynalov argued, the decision to build a bypass pipeline
contravenes the Russian-Chechen-Azerbaijani agreement, signed in
Baku in July, on exporting Azerbaijani oil.

DUMA FACTIONS DISAGREE OVER START-2 RATIFICATION. At
Yeltsin's bidding, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov met with the leaders of the State Duma factions
and some committee chairmen on 16 September to argue the case for
ratifying the START-2 treaty, Russian media reported. Communist
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Popular Power faction head Nikolai
Ryzhkov told Interfax that they found the ministers' arguments
"unconvincing" and will not vote for ratification. ITAR-TASS quoted
Duma Defense Committee member Vladimir Volkov as arguing that
ratification should be postponed until the economic situation in
Russia and the military-political situation in Europe have stabilized.
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii advocated ratification, while
Aleksei Podberezkin, one of the leaders of the Communist faction,
argued that the START-3 treaty should be ratified before START-2,
"Izvestiya" reported on 17 September.

OFFICIALS DENY REPORT ON PRIMAKOV RESIGNATION. Presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii says a report that Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov has submitted his resignation is "disinformation"
that damages the prestige of Russia and its Foreign Ministry, ITAR-
TASS reported on 16 September. The latest edition of the weekly
"Moskovskie novosti" claimed Primakov has already handed in a
resignation letter. The newspaper's speculations on the reasons for
the alleged decision range from the minister's reported desire to
return to academia to an attempt by Primakov to leave the Foreign
Ministry before a scandal breaks over misappropriated funds.
Yastrzhembskii said the president highly values Primakov's
activities. Government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov described the
"Moskovskie novosti" report as "nonsense" and a "canard." Foreign
Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov dismissed the report as
"fantasy," commenting that some Russian media are afflicted with
"cadre syndrome" at the end of every summer.

DUBININ SAYS NO NEED TO CHANGE LAWS FOLLOWING
REDENOMINATION... Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin says
parliament will not have to approve changes to various laws in
connection with the planned ruble redenomination, Russian news
agencies reported on 16 September. The Main State Legal
Department of the presidential administration recently noted that
laws specifying fixed ruble prices, tariffs, wages, and pensions will
have to be amended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1997).
But Dubinin said the government could issue a document explaining
how laws affected by the currency reform will be implemented after
1 January 1998. Government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov
commented that the wave of publications describing alleged
complications related to the redenomination appear to have been
"commissioned."

...BUT PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER DISAGREES. Meanwhile, Mikhail
Krasnov, Yeltsin's legal adviser, told journalists on 16 September that
the parliament will have to amend some laws to remove three zeroes
from fixed ruble amounts, Russian news agencies reported. However,
Krasnov denied that the presidential administration or its Main State
Legal Department is opposed to the currency reform or has suggested
rescinding the August presidential decree on redenomination. He
predicted that the State Duma will approve all the necessary
amendments. "Segodnya" argued on 15 September that the
department has in effect "armed the opposition" by suggesting that
opposition Duma deputies may not agree to lower minimum wages
and pensions by 1,000 times in line with the currency reform.

SQUEAKY WHEELS GET GREASE IN DEFENSE INDUSTRY. Federation of
Independent Trade Unions leader Mikhail Shmakov announced that
within a week, 500 billion rubles ($85 million) will be allocated to
pay back wages to workers in the defense industry, ITAR-TASS
reported on 16 September. Shmakov said top officials from the
Finance, Defense and Economics Ministries, along with the
presidential administration, made the decision at a 16 September
Kremlin meeting, which Shmakov attended. Since the funds will not
cover all wage arrears owed to defense industry workers, he said,
the money will be directed toward "hot spots," where workers have
staged protests. The beneficiaries of the funds earmarked for wage
arrears will include the submarine repair factory Zvezda in
Primorskii Krai, the ship-building plant in Komsomolsk-na-Amure,
Khabarovsk Krai, and a defense factory in Severodvinsk,
Arkhangelsk Oblast.

LEFT OPPOSITION ALLIANCE TO CONTEST MOSCOW DUMA ELECTION.
Communist Party leader Zyuganov on 16 September met with leaders
of the opposition electoral bloc My Moscow, which will contest the
December election to the Moscow City Duma, ITAR-TASS reported.
The groups that form My Moscow are also members of the Popular-
Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR), created out of organizations that
supported Zyuganov's 1996 presidential bid. However, My Moscow is
not campaigning as a Communist opposition movement. Duma deputy
Aleksei Podberezkin, the leader of My Moscow, told "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" on 17 September that My Moscow has no "party ideology"
and includes many organizations that have never been associated
with "the Reds." Podberezkin added that My Moscow favors
cooperation with the city's executive authorities and is "in solidarity
with [Moscow Mayor Yurii] Luzhkov" over the need to adhere to
"state-minded principles."

ZYUGANOV CRITICIZES YELTSIN'S MEETING WITH BANKERS...
Commenting on Yeltsin's meeting the previous day with six leading
Russian bankers, Zyuganov told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 16
September that the state should regulate the economy through
"normal laws and normal rules," not by having the president gather
quarreling bankers together and play peacemaker. Yeltsin was
compelled to meet with the bankers because "normal" laws do not
exist in Russia and because the president apparently did not trust
any cabinet minister to do the job, Zyuganov argued.

...AND RUSSIAN TV. In an interview published in "Sovetskaya
Rossiya" on 16 September, Zyuganov said the recent creation of the
television network Kultura arouses "suspicion." He noted that the
network's top executive, former Deputy Culture Minister Mikhail
Shvydkoi, had previously "tried to convince us to turn cultural
valuables over to Germany." In addition, Zyuganov charged that "not
a single [ethnic] Russian person" appears on the five leading Russian
television networks. All nationalities in Russia have the right to be
represented on television, he argued, including ethnic Russians, who
form a majority of the population. Government spokesman Igor
Shabdurasulov slammed Zyuganov's comments as "boorishness,"
ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. Shabdurasulov also
erroneously claimed that in the "Sovetskaya Rossiya" interview,
Zyuganov advocated banning all non-ethnic Russians from appearing
on television.

FIRST LADY TO CO-CHAIR NEW TV NETWORK'S BOARD OF TRUSTEES.
Naina Yeltsin has agreed to co-chair the board of trustees of the
nationwide television network Kultura, ITAR-TASS reported on 16
September, citing Kultura head Shvydkoi. Yeltsin issued a decree in
August creating the new network, which is to be devoted primarily
to educational and cultural topics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August
1997). Appearing at a Moscow press conference with the renowned
cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, Shvydkoi asked
Rostropovich to become an honorary co-chairman of the Kultura
board of trustees as well, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 17
September. Rostropovich neither accepted nor declined the
invitation, suggesting instead that President Yeltsin be made
chairman of the network's trustees.

YELTSIN DISMISSES TWO ADVISERS. Yeltsin on 16 September
dismissed presidential advisers Georgii Satarov and Lev Sukhanov,
according to ITAR-TASS . Satarov was reported to be transferring to
an unspecified new job, and Sukhanov was said to be retiring.
"Kommersant-Daily" commented on 17 September that the dismissals
are surprising only in that they did not occur earlier. Satarov was
considered one of the "Kremlin doves," along with former security
adviser and Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin, legal adviser
Mikhail Krasnov, and economic adviser Aleksandr Livshits. But
Satarov had commented in recent months that he felt less at ease in
the current administration. Sukhanov has long wielded virtually no
influence in the Kremlin, the newspaper said. Former foreign policy
adviser Dmitrii Ryurikov and former top aide Viktor Ilyushin, who,
like Sukhanov, were considered part of the Kremlin "old guard," have
long since been dismissed.

KALININGRAD GOVERNOR WANTS TO LEGALIZE PROSTITUTION.
Leonid Gorbenko has advocated legalizing prostitution in Kaliningrad
Oblast in order to combat the spread of AIDS in the region,
"Izvestiya" reported on 17 September. Kaliningrad has recorded
more AIDS cases than any other Russian region. Health officials have
registered more than 1200 people who are infected with the HIV
virus, and more than 100 Kaliningrad residents have been diagnosed
with the disease. According to an official in the regional branch of the
Interior Ministry, about 90 percent of those arrested for prostitution
or drug-related crimes in Kaliningrad are infected with HIV.
Gorbenko proposes legalizing a few brothels and providing close
medical monitoring of the prostitutes who work in them. "Izvestiya"
argued that even if approved by the regional legislature, such a
decision probably requires changes in federal crime legislation and
therefore cannot be made at the regional level.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK OPPOSITION RELEASES PRISONERS. Mirzo Zieyev, a field
commander of the United Tajik Opposition, has released 25
government soldiers, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 17
September. Zieyev's unit captured the soldiers during fighting in the
Tavil-Dara region of central Tajikistan. Originally, five ethnic Russian
soldiers taken prisoner were to be handed over. But as a gesture of
goodwill, the UTO released an additional 20. Helicopters from the CIS
peacekeeping force air-lifted the released soldiers from Tavil-Dara.

ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER IN KAZAKHSTAN. Romano Prodi was in
Almaty on 15-16 September to discuss trade with Kazakh leaders
and businessmen, RFE/RL correspondents and Interfax reported.
Prodi met with President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Prime Minister
Akezhan Kazhegeldin on the second day of his visit. At a news
conference following the meeting, it was announced that Italian firms
will be granted the right to explore and develop two hydrocarbon
fields in Kazakhstan's sector of the Caspian Sea. Nazarbayev praised
the Italian company Agip for its work in the Karachangansk oil and
gas field in western Kazakhstan. He also said that Almaty is
interested in importing Italian equipment for producing machine-
tools and processing farm products. The volume of trade between the
two countries in the first half of this year totaled $187 million.

KYRGYZ HOMELESS THWARTED IN BID TO REGISTER. The Justice
Ministry has rejected an application by the Yntymak movement to
officially register, a ministry official told RFE/RL correspondents on
16 September. Yntymak was formed by homeless people who moved
to Bishkek from the countryside in search of work. The group filed
registration papers on 11 July but had received no reply by the time
of the two-month deadline for a decision. Justice Ministry officials
now say there were mistakes in the registration form. Yntymak
members have demonstrated several times in front of the
government building, asking for plots of land on which to build
dwellings. They began constructing homes without permission, but
the authorities demolished the home of the movement's chairman,
Nurlan Alymkulov, on 10 September. Local authorities have filed
charges against Alymkulov and other members of the movement.

JAPAN TO BUILD OIL REFINERIES IN KYRGYZSTAN, GEORGIA. Japan's
Sumitomo Corporation has signed an agreement to build an oil
refinery in Bishkek, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 16
September. It has also promised long-term loans to the Kyrgyz
government. President Askar Akaev met with a group of Sumitomo
executives on 16 September. Five days earlier, the Itochu corporation
signed a memorandum on building an oil refinery at the Georgian
Black Sea port of Supsa, the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy,
and Development reported, citing the 12 September issue of
"Kavkasioni." Members of the Turkish-Japanese Business Council
visited Baku and Tbilisi in early September to discuss projects
connected with the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, according to
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 September.

GEORGIAN POLICE, SVANS CLASH OVER DRUGS HARVEST. Georgian
police engaged in destroying illegal poppy plantations in the remote
Mestia Raion of northwestern Georgia were attacked by local Svan
mountain dwellers on 15 September, Russian agencies reported. Four
police and two Svans were killed and several more police officials
wounded in the shoot-out that followed. The Svans are a Kartvelian
ethnic group who speak a language related to Georgian.

GEORGIAN HOSTAGES RELEASED. Four ethnic Georgians abducted by
Abkhaz police on 14 September were released two days later as a
result of the Abkhaz and Georgian governments' coordinated efforts,
RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17
September suggested the motive for the abduction was not political.
The newspaper noted that rival Abkhaz and Georgian gangs are
engaged in the export of walnuts from Abkhazia's Gali Raion to
Turkey. The Abkhaz police confiscated two trucks transporting
walnuts when they took the Georgians hostage.

ABKHAZIA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON POLITICAL STATUS. The
Abkhaz authorities plan to hold a referendum to determine the
region's future political status, the Caucasian Institute for Peace,
Democracy, and Development reported, citing the 12-15 September
issue of "Meridiani." Ethnic Georgian residents of Gali Raion will be
allowed to participate in the vote. Participants will be asked to
decide whether Abkhazia should be part of Georgia, part of Russia, or
an independent state.




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                     All rights reserved.
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