The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. - Eden Phillpotts
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 125, Part I, 25 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

ECONOMIC NEWS from this week's annual meeting of the IMF and
World Bank is online at RFE/RL's Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/imfmeeting/index.html

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Headlines, Part I

* MOST REGIONAL LEADERS PLEASED WITH TAX PROPOSALS

* CHERNOMYRDIN, GORE IN SAMARA

* KAZAKHSTAN, CHINA SIGN OIL DEAL

End Note : A DANGEROUS NEW ORTHODOXY
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RUSSIA

MOST REGIONAL LEADERS PLEASED WITH TAX PROPOSALS... Almost
all regional leaders welcomed proposed tax concessions to the regions
advocated by President Boris Yeltsin during his speech to the
Federation Council, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 24
September. In particular, Yeltsin called for forcing regional branches
of companies to pay corporate taxes in the regions where they are
based. Currently, such enterprises pay taxes only where company
headquarters are located. If incorporated into the new tax code, such
a measure would reduce Moscow's tax revenues, since most company
headquarters are in the capital. Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov
told RFE/RL that "it is about time" that Moscow share some of its
wealth with other regions. Arkhangelsk Governor Anatolii Yefremov
said his government has been trying to collect taxes from local
branches of companies based in Moscow and St. Petersburg. He
added he was glad to hear the president support that policy.

...BUT LUZHKOV REACTS CAUTIOUSLY TO PRESIDENT'S SPEECH.
Leaving the Federation Council after Yeltsin's address, Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov looked decidedly gloomy and did not stop to give
interviews to journalists, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 24
September. Speaking to Russian news agencies later, the mayor did
not criticize the speech, saying Yeltsin had articulated some "very
interesting ideas" on economic matters. Nor did he comment on the
proposal to make regional branches of companies pay taxes in the
regions or on Yeltsin's call for enterprises in the regions to pay their
federal and regional taxes through regional branches of the Federal
Treasury, rather than directly to Treasury offices in Moscow (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 1997). However, Luzhkov repeated
that he doubts regional leaders will support the government's draft
tax code, ITAR-TASS reported.

PRESIDENT'S REMARKS ON LAND REFORM DRAW MIXED REVIEW.
Federation Council deputies applauded Yeltsin's call for full land
ownership rights and a single land tax to replace several different
taxes currently levied on land, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on
24 September. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev told NTV the
same day that farmland should be given to rural dwellers free of
charge, after which farmers would have the right to decide whether
to keep, lease, or sell the land. In contrast, several regional leaders,
speaking to RFE/RL, expressed reservations about allowing the
purchase and sale of farmland. Bashkortostan President Murtaza
Rakhimov said Russia "is not ready" for such a move. In July, the
Council approved a land code that would have prohibited the
purchase and sale of farmland. Yeltsin vetoed the code, but the State
Duma sent it back to the upper house after overriding his veto on 24
September.

OFFICIAL VOWS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT APPEAL ON LAND CODE.
Ilya Yuzhanov, chairman of the State Committee on Land Resources,
told Interfax on 24 September that his committee will appeal to the
Constitutional Court if the Federation Council overrides Yeltsin's veto
of the land code. Yuzhanov added that "even if both houses override
the veto, the president will never sign the most reactionary of
documents ever passed by the Russian parliament." Yeltsin's
representative in the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, has already said
the president may appeal to the Constitutional Court against the
procedure by which the Duma overrode his veto of the land code (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 1997).

YELTSIN CRITICIZES DUMA... Yeltsin told journalists on 24 September
that he will not address the Duma this year. He added, "let [Prime
Minister Viktor] Chernomyrdin, [First Deputy Prime Minister
Anatolii] Chubais, and other cabinet members fight in the Duma,"
Interfax reported. (Earlier this month, Duma deputies invited the
president to address the lower house on the opening day of its fall
session, but Yeltsin declined, citing a busy schedule.) Yeltsin argued
that the Federation Council lacks the "political anarchy" observed in
the Duma. In his speech to the Council earlier in the day, Yeltsin
praised the upper house of parliament as a "stabilizing force" and
said it should reject laws passed by the Duma more often to reduce
the number of times he has to use his veto power. When Yeltsin had
the power to hire and fire regional governors, the Council more
frequently rejected laws that the Kremlin opposed.

...SNUBS LUKASHENKA. Also on 24 September, Yeltsin indicated that
the diplomatic conflict between Moscow and Minsk over the
continuing imprisonment of a journalist for Russian Public Television
(ORT) has not blown over. When asked to comment on Belarusian
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent offer to resign as head of
the council of the four-country customs union (whose members are
Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan), Yeltsin remarked, "I
don't want to comment on his moves any more. Pass this message to
him," Interfax reported. Yeltsin recently accused Lukashenka of
failing to abide by an agreement to release ORT journalist Pavel
Sheremet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1997). Sheremet
has been in custody since July for allegedly crossing the Belarusian-
Lithuanian border illegally.

CHERNOMYRDIN, GORE IN SAMARA. Russian Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore concluded three days
of meetings in the city of Samara on 24 September. They toured
companies with U.S. investment in order to promote an initiative of
the joint U.S.-Russian Commission for Economic and Technological
Cooperation, which also involves U.S. investment projects in Sakhalin
and Novgorod Oblasts and Khabarovsk Krai. According to
"Kommersant-Daily" on 25 September, Gore offered Samara Oblast a
$10 million U.S. loan in 1998 for agricultural production and land
reform. That credit still requires the approval of the U.S. Congress,
the newspaper noted.

RUSSIA TO DEMAND FULL PARTNERSHIP IN G-8. Following a meeting
with the G-7 finance ministers on the sidelines of the annual meeting
of the World Bank and the IMF in Hong Kong, Russian Finance
Minister Anatolii Chubais said Moscow will "insist" on full
participation in the G-8, Russian media reported. The G-7 finance
ministers are scheduled to meet in Washington in April 1998.
Chubais said that by then, "the formula 'seven plus one' must be
done away with." Germany has already announced it favors such a
move, but Japan continues to say Russia is not economically fit to
participate in sessions devoted to macroeconomic issues,
international finances, and foreign currency exchanges.

RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TALKS RESUME. A Chechen delegation headed by
First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov has resumed talks in
Moscow on Chechnya's future status vis-a-vis Moscow. Russian
presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 24 September
that Moscow is not preparing, and will not sign, an inter-state treaty
with Chechnya. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin similarly told
Interfax the previous day that "Chechnya should have maximum
liberties and powers, but within...the Russian Federation." Udugov,
however, said Chechnya insists that Moscow recognize Chechnya's
state sovereignty. He added that Grozny will never agree to sign the
power-sharing treaty proposed by Moscow. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on
20 September quoted Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav
Mikhailov as admitting that Moscow and Grozny have never
discussed what precisely the Chechens mean by "independence."
Meanwhile, Rybkin canceled a planned trip to Grozny for talks with
Chechen President Aslan Maskahdov, NTV reported on 24
September.

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES PENSION HIKE. The Federation
Council on 24 September approved a law that would raise the
minimum pension by 10 percent to 76,533 rubles ($13) as of 1
October and by another 10 percent to 84,186 rubles as of 1
December, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin is expected to sign the law
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 1997).

DEFENSE INDUSTRY WORKERS PROTEST GOVERNMENT DEBTS. Some
200 defense industry workers picketed government headquarters in
Moscow for the third straight day to protest more than 2.5 trillion
rubles ($430 million) in wage arrears and some 15 trillion rubles in
unpaid government orders for military equipment, Russian media
reported on 24 September. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris
Nemtsov, together with officials from the Finance and Economics
Ministries, met with representatives of the protesters on 23-24
September. Nemtsov promised them that the government will clear
its debts to defense enterprises by April 1998, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported on 25 September. "Sovetskaya Rossiya" reported the same
day that defense industry trade unions have vowed to continue
protesting until "concrete steps" are taken to settle the debts. The
newspaper said the government has not kept promises made to
nuclear industry workers earlier this summer (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 14 and 17 July 1997).

GOVERNOR ON CONTROVERSY OVER SIBERIAN MAYOR. Kemerovo
Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev has blasted law enforcement officials
for not warning voters in the city of Leninsk-Kuznetskii about the
criminal record of Gennadii Konyakhin, who was elected mayor in the
spring. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 24
September, Tuleev said that a recent investigative series published
in "Izvestiya" was accurate but told only part of the story (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 1997). He claimed that police and
procurators, at both the city and oblast level, ignored his repeated
requests that they inform the public about Konyakhin's record before
the mayoral election. (At that time, Tuleev had not yet been
appointed governor of Kemerovo.) Tuleev, who faces a gubernatorial
election on 19 October, has vowed that law enforcement officials who
knew about Konyakhin's record but remained silent will be held
criminally responsible.

SOLZHENITSYN ON CULTURE, CHECHNYA, LUZHKOV. Nobel laureate
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn bemoaned "the utilitarian demands of
culture and the absolute power of money" at a Moscow round table
organized by the Academy of Sciences, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported on 25 September. Solzhenitsyn warned that the
"globalization" and commercialization of culture destroy the incentive
for artists to create for "true connoisseurs." He said the future of
Russian culture will depend on whether creative genius can
overcome such difficult conditions. Asked about Russia's policy
toward Chechnya, Solzhenitsyn said, "We must now understand that
Chechnya has been separated from us." Far from destroying Russia,
this separation may even benefit Russia if Chechnya is prevented
from "living at Russia's expense," he added. Solzhenitsyn also praised
Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, who spoke at the same round table, for both
the clarity of his ideas and the high quality of the language in which
he expressed them.

RUSSIAN GENERAL DENIES EXISTENCE OF SUITCASE NUKES. Senior
Russian Defense Ministry official Lieutenant-General Igor Volynkin
told journalists on 25 September that Russia has never manufactured
suitcase-size nuclear bombs, ITAR-TASS reported. Volynkin admitted
that it is theoretically possible but expensive--and therefore not
economically viable--to manufacture such weapons. Two days
earlier, government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov similarly
rejected claims made recently by former Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed. Lebed said that up to 100 such suitcase bombs
were unaccounted for (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1997).

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO RESTRUCTURE DEBT TO RUSSIA.
The National Assembly on 24 September ratified an agreement on
restructuring Armenia's estimated $73.7 million debt to Russia,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The debt is repayable over 11
years, beginning in 2000, at a 5 percent annual interest rate. The
agreement specifies that the debt may be repaid in hard currency,
Russian rubles, and Armenian state assets, including shares of stock
in state enterprises. In 1994, Armenia pledged a 15 percent stake in
its Medzamor nuclear power station, the Nairit chemical plant, the
Yerevan cognac distillery, and the Armelektromash electrical
engineering plant as collateral for a 110 billion ruble credit. The
1997 Armenian state budget earmarked some $62 million for debt
servicing (excluding the debt to Russia), but less than one-third of
that amount has been repaid in the first nine months of this year.

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE SUSPENDS ACTIVITIES. Paruir
Hairikyan, leader of the radical Union for Self-Determination, told
journalists on 24 September that the opposition parties belonging to
the National Accord Alliance (AHD) have decided to "freeze" their
coordinated activities, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hairikyan
added, however, that the constituent parties are "ready to reunite, if
necessary, to protect human rights, democracy, and the rule of law."
Hairikyan said he is confident the bloc will reform before the 1999
parliamentary elections. The AHD was created in September 1996 to
support National Democratic Union leader Vazgen Manukyan's
presidential candidacy. Manukyan recently pronounced the alliance
"dead" but not buried (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1997).
The leaders of three other parties within the AHD told "Hayots
Ashkhar" on 23 September that Manukyan has no right unilaterally
to dissolve the bloc.

HEAD OF UN OBSERVER MISSION RETURNS TO GEORGIA. A UN
spokesman said on 24 September that no disciplinary action will be
taken against the commander of the UN observer mission in Georgia,
Reuters and AFP reported. Major General Haroun ar-Rashid was
recalled to New York to explain why he violated UN regulations by
paying a $7,000 ransom for two of his men recently taken hostage in
western Georgia. The spokesman said that in light of unspecified
"mitigating circumstances," no action will be taken against the
general.

AZERBAIJANI EARLY OIL COUNTDOWN. An unnamed spokesman for
the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AOIC), which is
currently developing three Azerbaijani Caspian oil fields, told
Interfax on 24 September that the first oil from the Chirag field will
start flowing in the first week of October. Drilling of the first well at
the Chirag field is almost completed. The AIOC also denied reports
that its president canceled a visit to Georgia scheduled for 22
September, according to TURAN. An AIOC commission recently
visited the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa to monitor construction
of a $225 million terminal from which Azerbaijani oil from Baku will
be loaded onto tankers, "Delovoy mir" reported. Construction is
proceeding on schedule.

DISAGREEMENT OVER COST OF AZERBAIJAN/CASPIAN PIPELINE.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 22 September rejected
as "wishful thinking" Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris
Nemtsov's claim that the planned oil export pipeline bypassing
Chechnya is cheaper than that through Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported.
A Transneft press spokesman told Interfax on 24 September that the
Chechen bypass pipeline will be guarded by Russian Interior
Minister and Federal Security Service personnel. He added that
construction will be completed in May 1998 and that the pipeline
will have an annual throughput capacity of 40 million metric tons.
French ambassador to Moscow Hubert Colin de Verdiere said on 24
September that France has no objections to the export of Azerbaijan's
Caspian oil via Russia, noting that cost and security are the key
factors. French companies are represented in two of the five major
consortia currently operating in Azerbaijan.

RUSSIAN OBLAST APPROVES KAZAKHSTAN/CASPIAN PIPELINE. The
Astrakhan Oblast authorities on 24 September approved construction
of that sector of the Tengiz-Novorossiisk export pipeline that
traverses the oblast, Interfax reported. The oblast leadership also
requested that the neighboring regions of Kalmykia, Stavropol, and
Krasnodar, which must also approve construction of the pipeline
across their territory, make a joint appeal to the Russian government
to guarantee that the four regions will receive part of the income
from the export of oil via the pipeline. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy
in Almaty is distributing "Happiness Is Multiple Pipelines" bumper
stickers, according to the "Baltimore Sun" on 24 September.

KAZAKHSTAN, CHINA SIGN OIL DEAL... Almaty and Beijing on 24
September signed an estimated $9.5 billion deal on oil shipments and
the construction of two pipelines, according to RFE/RL
correspondents. China's number two leader Li Peng arrived in
Almaty for a one-day visit to sign the deal with Kazakh President
Nursultan Nazarbayev. The China National Oil Corporation will
develop the Uzen and Aktyubinsk oil fields in western Kazakhstan. It
will also build a 3,000 kilometer pipeline to China's western border
and a 250 kilometer pipeline to the Turkmen border. Under the deal,
the pipelines will begin operating within five years. Li called the deal
a "new page" in Sino-Kazakh relations, while Nazarbayev said it was
the "contract of the century."

....AND BORDER AGREEMENT. Nazarbayev and Li also signed an
agreement demarcating an 11-kilometer section of the Sino-Kazakh
border near the Khan Tengri mountain peak, according to RFE/RL
correspondents. Sections of the border near Almaty and in eastern
Kazakhstan are still being negotiated.

FIRST STAGE OF TAJIK REPATRIATION COMPLETED. The last 300
Tajik refugees from camps near the Nizhni Pyanj border crossing
have entered Tajikistan from Afghanistan, RFE/RL correspondents
reported on 25 September. This wraps up the first stage of the
repatriation program. According to ITAR-TASS, 6,000 refugees from
Afghanistan's Kunduz Province have crossed the border into
Tajikistan since 17 July. The next stage, which is due to begin shortly,
will repatriate about 7,000 refugees living in camps near the Afghan
city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Those refugees will pass through Termez,
Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, Tajik Prime Minister Yakhyo Azimov, who is
attending the annual meeting off World Bank and the IMF in Hong
Kong, has asked for $80 million in aid through the end of 1998 to
help implement the Tajik General Agreement on Peace.

END NOTE

A DANGEROUS NEW ORTHODOXY

by Paul Goble

        New Russian legislation restricting missionary activity in
particular and religious freedom in general could threaten Moscow's
relations with the West and especially with the U.S. On 19
September, the State Duma approved a revised law on religious
organizations by a vote of 358 to six. Four days later, the Federation
Council approved it by 137 to zero. It now goes to President Boris
Yeltsin, who is expected to sign it.
        Yeltsin's office drafted the revised bill after he had vetoed the
original version in July, following protests by human rights groups
and a threat by the U.S. Senate to block some $200 million in aid if
he did not. But despite his promises that the problems of the first
draft would be eliminated, the new version of the law contains
virtually all the provisions of the original as well as a number of new
and even more restrictive ones.
        Like the original bill, the new legislation divides denominations
into two groups: those with 15 years of recognized operation that
could function openly and those without such standing that could not
legally their religions, publish, or maintain a bank account. Advocates
of the law, including the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy, have
suggested that such legislation is needed to protect historical Russian
faiths from the impact of missionaries for other religious groups who
have entered Russia since the fall of communism. And they argue
that the law protects not only Russian Orthodoxy but also Roman
Catholicism, the Baptist church, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism.
        But such claims are not justified by the text of the law. While
the legislation might protect congregations and hierarchies already
registered with the state, it would do little to protect congregations
within those faiths not registered in the past. Thus, the many Jewish
synagogues that have arisen since the end of Soviet power might not
be protected by the law, and the large number of Roman Catholic
congregations active underground even before 1991 might not have
the right to continue to exist.
        Moreover, the new legislation, which its advocates say is
designed to keep out "dangerous" sects, would make it extremely
difficult for groups not registered with the Soviet state in the past or
with the Russian state now to survive long enough to gain the
protections enjoyed by registered groups.
        Because of those restrictions, both human rights activists and
Western governments have already indicated their dismay. For
example, Lawrence Uzzell--the Moscow representative of Britain's
Keston Institute, a group that monitors religious life in Russia--said
the new measure is "not a law that protects tradition but a law that
protects Stalinism, as it protects only those religious bodies that were
most loyal to the Soviet state." As such, he said, the measure is
"manifestly unconstitutional," even if it enjoys widespread support in
the Russian Orthodox hierarchy, the Russian state, and the Russian
public.
        A spokesman for President Bill Clinton said that the U.S. leader
had expressed his concerns about the law during a meeting with
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov in New York on 22
September. Similarly, Vice President Al Gore told Russian Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow one day later that he, too,
is worried about the new legislation.
        But despite such expressions of Western concern--and possibly
even because of them--Yeltsin seems unlikely to veto the law this
time. Not only is he under pressure from the increasingly influential
Russian Orthodox hierarchy, but he is confronted by an almost
unanimous Duma and broad support for the measure among many
ordinary Russians.
        But both he and Russia more generally are likely to learn
quickly that Americans and others who may not always understand
all the intricacies of other human rights issues will immediately
recognize violations of religious liberty. And their attitudes are likely
to affect the way in which their governments deal with a Russian
government apparently committed to a new and not very free
orthodoxy on religious questions.


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