As courage endagers life even so fear preserves it. - Leonardo Da Vinci
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 121, Part I, 19 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

* YELTSIN BACKS STROEV

* TWO MORE PUBLIC EXECUTIONS IN GROZNY

* ROCKETS FROM AFGHANISTAN HIT UZBEK CITY

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN BACKS STROEV... During a one-day visit to Orel Oblast,
President Boris Yeltsin highly praised Federation Council Speaker
Yegor Stroev, who is also governor of the region, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported on 18 September. Yeltsin said Stroev has
brought "calm" and "prosperity" to Orel, expressing confidence that
Stroev will be re-elected governor in October. The president also
attended a signing ceremony between German company
representatives and Orel officials on a DM 114 million ($64 million)
loan for grain production in Orel. The Russian government will
guarantee that loan. RFE/RL's correspondent noted that Yeltsin needs
Stroev's backing in part because the Kremlin wants the upper house
to block initiatives of the State Duma, in which opposition groups
have a majority. Yeltsin also needs Stroev as a counterweight to
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov within the Federation Council. Luzhkov
has criticized some of the government's key economic policy
initiatives (see below).

...STRESSES SUPPORT FOR CHUBAIS, NEMTSOV. Yeltsin praised the
activities of First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris
Nemtsov, RFE/RL's correspondent in Orel reported . He repeated that
he had told Russian bankers not to attack Chubais and Nemtsov,
although he said no one in the government should be safe from
justified criticism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1997).
Yeltsin also hailed the admission of Russia into the Paris Club of
creditor nations and congratulated Chubais on being named finance
minister of the year by the magazine "Euromoney."

YELTSIN CONCERNED AT U.S.'S GROWING INFLUENCE IN EUROPE.
Yeltsin also noted that Russia would like to see U.S. involvement in
European security issues curbed. He said NATO is the means by
which the U.S. exercised its influence on European security. He again
expressed his opposition to NATO's eastward expansion, noting that
"Russia advocates a multi-polar world in which no single country
exercises a diktat," ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September. Yeltsin
warned he will stress at the upcoming Council of Europe summit in
Strasbourg that Europeans should take responsibility for their own
security.

YELTSIN AGAIN CALLS FOR UNRESTRICTED LAND OWNERSHIP
RIGHTS. Yeltsin announced in Orel that he will not sign a tax code or
land code unless they include a uniform land tax and guarantee full
land ownership rights to Russian farmers, RFE/RL's correspondent in
the oblast reported. Federation Council Speaker Stroev, appearing
alongside the president, remained silent. He has spoken out against
the unrestricted purchase and sale of farmland. Yeltsin repeated his
support for private land ownership in a 19 September nationwide
radio address, Russian news agencies reported. He also predicted a
"bumper crop" this year of nearly 80 million metric tons. That would
be roughly equivalent to the 1994 harvest and up from both last
year's harvest of 69.3 million metric tons and the 1995 harvest of
63.5 million metric tons (the worst harvest in 30 years), but below
the 1991 harvest of 90 million metric tons.

REACTION TO PARIS CLUB MEMBERSHIP. Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov told Interfax on 18 September that although his
party supports in principle efforts to reclaim debts owed to Russia,
Russia's admission to the Paris Club of creditor nations cannot be
evaluated until the terms under which Russia was admitted are
known. State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir
Lukin said joining the Paris Club will enhance Russia's authority and
help it recover some debts. But Lukin said that unlike First Deputy
Prime Minister Chubais, he is not in "a state of euphoria" about the
implications of club membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18
September 1997). Chubais on 18 September said Paris Club
membership, along with an upcoming debt rescheduling agreement
with the London Club, will improve Russia's credit rating and help
corporate borrowers in particular, ITAR-TASS reported.

OFFICIAL REVISES FIGURE FOR DEBT OWED TO RUSSIA. Deputy
Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told journalists on 18 September
that debts owed to Russia by 55 nations total $112.7 billion, Reuters
reported. Of that amount, $111.8 billion is from loans granted by the
USSR and $880 million from credits extended by Russia since 1991.
Russia expects to receive $26-$30 billion of the $111.8 billion in
debts inherited from the USSR, according to Kasyanov. Figures
released by government officials earlier this year suggested that
debtor countries owed Russia up to $140 billion. Speaking in Orel
Oblast on 18 September, Yeltsin claimed debtor nations owe Russia
$190 billion.

TWO MORE PUBLIC EXECUTIONS IN GROZNY. Two men convicted of
murdering three people were publicly executed by firing squad in
Grozny on 18 September. It was the second such public execution
since the beginning of the month. The first drew strong protests from
Russian leaders and the international community. First Deputy Prime
Minister Movladi Udugov told Ekho Moskvy that future executions
will not be carried out in public. The Russian Procurator-General's
Office, Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Deputy Prime
Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, deputy Security Council secretary
Boris Berezovskii all condemned the public killings. Yeltsin,
meanwhile, made no reference to the incident in his 19 September
nationwide radio address.

RUSSIA PARTLY SUPPORTS LAND MINE BAN. Russian Foreign
Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov, commenting on the recent
Oslo conference on banning anti-personnel mines, said such a
measure must not be taken "hastily," Russian media reported on 18
September. Tarasov said Russia respects efforts against the use of
such weapons but believes consideration should be given to special
"geo-strategic situations of different countries and the length of their
borders." A Foreign Ministry official commented that while Moscow
is in favor of continuing discussion on the issue, it gives higher
priority to the "nonproliferation of nuclear weapons." Russia, which
was an observer nation at the Oslo conference, did not sign the draft
convention banning land mines.

BABURIN BLASTS LEBED COMMENTS ON KURILE ISLANDS. Duma
Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin of the Popular Power faction has
criticized former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's
statements urging the Kurile Islands to be eventually returned to
Japan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1997), Russian media
reported. Baburin said the four islands "were, are, and must remain
Russian territory," adding that "no one ever gives away territory." He
went on to compare Lebed's comments to Yeltsin's "sad" view but
added that Lebed's ideas were "much coarser" because "Aleksandr
Ivanovich is a military man with no diplomatic polish." Yeltsin had
said that relinquishing ownership of the islands is possible but that it
will "require a generation" for the idea to become acceptable to the
Russian people.

CHERNOMYRDIN SIGNS GOVERNMENT DIRECTIVE ON CURRENCY
REFORM. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 18 September
signed a government directive on recalculating prices, wages, and
other payments in line with the ruble redenomination scheduled for
1 January 1998, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. The newspaper said
that contrary to a recent assessment by a presidential administration
official, Chernomyrdin expects the parliament to agree to make the
necessary technical changes in laws setting fixed ruble amounts for
taxes, tariffs, wages, and pensions. The government directive also
instructs the Central Bank to determine by 1 October how bank
accounts will be recalculated. Yeltsin on 18 September said the
redenomination will probably not be applied to saving accounts
opened in Sberbank before 1992, Russian news agencies reported.
Opposition politicians have advocated not removing three zeroes
from the old Sberbank accounts, which were rendered virtually
worthless by high inflation in the early 1990s (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 22 and 25 August 1997).

CHUBAIS, COMPETING BANKERS MEET U.K. BUSINESSMEN. First
Deputy Prime Minister Chubais and several of Russia's most
influential businessmen discussed investment projects with a high-
level U.K. business delegation in the British embassy in Moscow on
18 September. British Ambassador Andrew Wood said the motto of
the meeting was "transparency, predictability, and stability" in
economic relations, AFP reported. The Russian businessmen
attending the meeting included Oneksimbank President Vladimir
Potanin, Rosprom group head Mikhail Khodorkovskii (founder of the
Menatep bank), Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii, and Security
Council Deputy Secretary Berezovskii, who represented the LogoVAZ
group. Media outlets influenced by Gusinskii and Berezovskii have
sharply criticized Chubais and Oneksimbank in recent months.
"Kommersant-Daily" on 19 September argued that the recently bitter
enemies needed to appear together at the British embassy in order to
convince prospective foreign investors that the so-called "bank war"
has ended.

DUMA OPPOSITION SEEKS COOPERATION WITH FEDERATION
COUNCIL. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 18
September announced that some 200 Duma deputies have signed a
letter to Federation Council deputies asking for cooperation with
various Duma initiatives. In particular, the letter asks the Federation
Council to support opposition demands for a "round table" to be held
this fall, attended by representatives from parliament, the executive
branch, the judiciary, and the trade unions. The letter echoes many
points from an appeal recently issued by the Communist, Agrarian,
and Popular Power Duma factions, "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 19
September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1997).

NEMTSOV CRITICIZES MOSCOW SUBSIDIES FOR HOUSING, UTILITIES.
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov has criticized the Moscow
authorities for spending too much money to subsidize payments for
rent and utilities, Russian news agencies reported on 18 September.
After a cabinet meeting on housing policy, Nemtsov told journalists
that Muscovites pay just 17 percent of the costs of housing and
municipal services. The proportion of those costs paid by Russian
citizens on average has risen this year from 26 percent to 35 percent,
he said. Meanwhile, Moscow spends 17.5 trillion rubles ($6 billion),
or 43 percent of the city budget, on subsidies for housing and
municipal services. Nemtsov's criticism is likely to be welcomed by
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who has repeatedly criticized the
government for shifting too much of the burden for rent and utilities
payments onto citizens (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May and 2 July
1997).

LUZHKOV CRITICIZES DRAFT BUDGET, TAX CODE. Moscow Mayor
Luzhkov has again strongly criticized the government's draft 1998
budget, which would eliminate subsidies to the city of Moscow for
the cost of maintaining federal facilities. In an interview published in
"Izvestiya" on 19 September, Luzhkov vowed to appeal to the
Constitutional Court if the subsidies for Moscow are not added to the
budget. Luzhkov also argued that the government's proposed new
tax code, on which the 1998 revenue targets are based, would hurt
regional governments. Other regional leaders have also criticized the
tax code. During a recent visit to Kazan by State Tax Service chief
Aleksandr Pochinok, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev objected
to the plan to give the federal government all sales tax revenues,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 September. Proceeds from the
profit tax, which is far more difficult to collect, would be earmarked
for regional coffers.

LEZGIN CONFERENCE CANCELED AFTER MURDER. A conference of the
Lezgin National Council scheduled to take place in Derbent, Dagestan,
on 20 September has been canceled following the murder of the wife
of Council chairman Mukhuddin Kakhrimanov, ITAR-TASS reported
on 18 September. The council was formed in late 1990 and advocates
the creation of a separate Lezgin state that would include areas of
southern Dagestan and northern Azerbaijan. The Lezgins, a Caucasian
Muslim minority, have traditionally lived in those areas. Kahrimanov,
a retired Soviet army general, has headed the council for several
years.

POWER CUTS CONTINUE IN PRIMORE. Primorskii Krai was hit by
power cuts for the fifth consecutive day, RFE/RL's correspondent in
Vladivostok reported on 18 September. A coal miners' strike has left
power plants short of fuel, and the plants lack funds to pay for coal
shipments. Primore residents were without electricity for up to 12
hours. Krai officials have sent a letter to the president asking for
federal subsidies to lower the cost of electricity in Primore. But
Viktor Kondratov, Yeltsin's representative in Primore, refused to sign
the appeal, saying the burden for Primore's high electricity tariffs
should not be passed to the federal government or to other regions.
Instead, Kondratov flew to Moscow on 18 September to seek some 60
billion rubles ($10.3 million) to pay wage arrears to coal and energy
workers. The same day, Primore Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko met
with local bankers to try to secure emergency funding to pay wage
arrears.

COAL STRIKE PREVENTS STOCKPILING IN PRIMORE. Aleksandr
Gelbakh, the press secretary of Primore's regional utility, Dalenergo,
says the region is already behind schedule in amassing coal reserves
for the harsh winter months and that the situation will worsen if the
miners' strike continues. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's
Russian service on 18 September, Gelbakh said Primore's coal
reserves are sufficient only to supply power plants for 10-12 days.
They are not being used to alleviate the current fuel shortage,
because the weather is still warm. Asked why miners' strikes do not
frequently lead to power cuts in other Russian regions or in Ukraine,
Gelbakh noted that all Primore's power plants are coal-fired, whereas
other Russian regions and Ukraine have nuclear or hydro-electric
plants as well.


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ROCKETS FROM AFGHANISTAN HIT UZBEK CITY. During a battle for
control of the northern Afghan town of Khairaton, 10 rockets struck
the Uzbek border city of Termez, seriously wounding three people,
RFE/RL correspondents in Uzbekistan reported Khairaton and Termez
are located on opposite banks of the Amu-Darya, which divides
Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Uzbek security forces are positioning
themselves to ensure there is "no repetition of the incident."

TRIAL OF KYRGYZ JOURNALIST RESUMES. The trial of Yrysbek
Omurzakov resumed in Bishkek on 18 September, following a three-
month pause, RFE/RL correspondents in the Kyrgyz capital reported.
Omurzakov, who is accused of libel by the manager of a Bishkek
factory, told RFE/RL that the court claims to have lost documents on
his case, particularly witness testimony in his favor. Two other
people are also on trial for allegedly giving Omurzakov false
information about conditions at the factory. The Committee to Protect
Journalists has sent a letter of appeal to President Askar Akayev
asking him to intervene in the case.

NIYAZOV RETURNS TO TURKMENISTAN. Turkmen President
Saparmurat Niyazov returned to Ashgabat from Germany on 19
September, RFE/RL correspondents in Turkmenistan reported.
Niyazov underwent heart surgery in Germany at the start of
September, following an official visit to that country.

AZERBAIJAN COOL ON PROPOSED TREATY WITH RUSSIA. Azerbaijani
presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade told Interfax on 18 September
that the Azerbaijani leadership is not convinced by Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov's statement that the Russian-Armenian
treaty signed on 29 August is not directed against Azerbaijan or
another third country. The previous day, Primakov proposed that
Russia and Azerbaijan sign a treaty on friendship, cooperation, and
mutual assistance similar to the Russian-Armenian accord. Gulu-Zade
pointed out that the agreement between Moscow and Yerevan
focuses on military cooperation, specifically the Russian military base
in Armenia. Russia has no bases in Azerbaijan. Yeltsin and
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev signed a treaty on friendship and
cooperation in Moscow in early July.

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN ON KARABAKH. Gennadii
Tarasov told journalists on 18 September that unnamed leaders of
the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic are seeking to
"frustrate the ongoing negotiations on a peaceful settlement of the
conflict" by allegedly making statements on the need for a new war,
ITAR-TASS reported. Although no Karabakh official has advocated a
resumption of hostilities, Defense Minister Samvel Babayan has
argued in several recent interviews that another war may be
inevitable unless Azerbaijan makes compromises and the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group
proposes a peace plan acceptable to Karabakh. Asked by an
Armenian journalist to comment on Babayan's statements, Karabakh
President Arkadii Ghukasyan on 17 September said the Armenians
of Nagorno-Karabakh should "be ready to face the worst. But this
does not mean that war is inevitable," ARMENPRESS reported.

NO ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI COOPERATION TO COMBAT CRIME. The
Department of Public Relations of the Armenian Interior Ministry has
issued a denial that Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives have
discussed joint efforts to combat crime in the area of their common
frontier, ARMENPRESS reported on 18 September. Both the Armenian
agency and Turan had earlier reported that such a discussion took
place during the 11-12 September meeting of CIS interior ministers
in Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997).

AZERBAIJAN SENDS MIXED SIGNALS ON PRESS CENSORSHIP.
President Aliev on 17 September issued a decree prohibiting military
censorship of the media, Turan reported . Abulfaz Elchibey, Aliev's
predecessor, imposed such censorship in January1993, after
Azerbaijan had experienced major military defeats in Nagorno-
Karabakh. Aliev imposed political censorship on the media in late
1994. Military censorship will continue to be applied pending the
enactment of a law on state secrets, Jahangir Ildrym-zade, the head
of the department for the Protection of State Secrets, told Turan on
18 September. Meanwhile, Minister of Information Sirus Tebrizli has
informed the editor of the newly established weekly "Forum" that its
second issue will not be published because the paper propagates
opposition views, according to Turan. The first issue was published
on 12 September, but all copies were withdrawn on Tebrizli's orders
two days later.




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