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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 128, Part I, 30 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

RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES. Government and business entities control
many major Russian media. This special report on the RFE/RL Web
site lists the important players.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia/index.html

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Headlines, Part I

*COURT REVERSES PRIVATIZATON OF ONEKSIMBANK-CONTROLLED
FACTORY

*YELTSIN RULES OUT INTER-STATE TREATY WITH CHECHNYA


*KYRGYZ JOURNALIST SENTENCED


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RUSSIA

COURT REVERSES PRIVATIZATON OF ONEKSIMBANK-CONTROLLED
FACTORY. The Moscow Arbitration Court on 29 September ordered
that a 41 percent stake in the Cherepovets Azot factory, Vologda
Oblast, be returned to the state, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported.
Oneksimbank acquired those shares in late 1994. The Federal
Property Fund lodged the court appeal in July 1997, claiming that
Oneksimbank had not met investment conditions under which the
privatization contract was awarded. Informing journalists of the
court decision, State Property Committee Chairman Maksim Boiko
said the Cherepovets Azot investor had used funds that were
intended to be invested in the enterprise for other purposes, Interfax
reported. Boiko added that the state's privatization agencies "will
work to ensure the honest implementation of the investment terms"
following privatization sales. Boiko did not mention that
Oneksimbank was the investor that failed to keep its commitments to
Cherepovets Azot.

DID MEDIA COVERAGE INFLUENCE COURT DECISION? Oneksimbank's
management of the Cherepovets Azot factory first gained widespread
attention following an investigative report aired on Russian Public
Television (ORT) on 26 July, the day after an Oneksimbank-led
consortium won the controversial auction for Svyazinvest. The report
was the first shot fired in the summer "bank war," which was waged
by media outlets influenced by competing financial groups (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 28-29 July 1997). Among other things, ORT
alleged that Cherepovets Azot had transferred some $41 million
abroad while not paying its debts to the state budget. Appearing on
RFE/RL on 29 September, Sergei Dorenko, the anchor of the ORT
program, claimed that before the ORT report aired in July, the
Moscow Arbitration Court rejected the Federal Property Fund's
attempt to regain the stake in Cherepovets Azot. After the publicity,
Dorenko claimed, the court considered the case again. This time "the
state won," he added.

YELTSIN RULES OUT INTER-STATE TREATY WITH CHECHNYA. In a
communique following his talks with Russian Security Council
Secretary Ivan Rybkin on 29 September, Russian President Boris
Yeltsin said he is aware that Grozny has drafted a Russian-Chechen
inter-state treaty but that "it will never be implemented," Russian
agencies reported. Yeltsin added that "mutually-acceptable solutions"
to Chechnya's future status must be found but noted that sovereignty
for Chechnya is possible only within the Russian Federation. Any
treaty between Moscow and Grozny should be modeled on those
already concluded between Moscow and other federation subjects
such as Tatarstan, he argued. Earlier the same day, Yeltsin had
rejected Rybkin's suggestion that a meeting between Yeltsin and
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov could resolve the deadlock.
Maskhadov's press secretary, however, told ITAR-TASS on 29
September that Maskhadov has asked the Chechen delegation to the
bilateral Russian-Chechen talks to prepare such a meeting.

ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Romano Prodi met with
Yeltsin in Moscow on 29 September to discuss bilateral relations and
international issues, including Russia-NATO cooperation and the
peace process in former Yugoslavia, Russian agencies reported. Prodi
later discussed bilateral economic cooperation with Russian Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Among the issues discussed were
increased Russian exports of natural gas to Italy (to which end Italy
is prepared to finance repairs to the existing export pipeline) and
cooperation in the auto industry. A memorandum was signed on joint
construction of a plant in Nizhnii Novgorod that will assemble Fiat
automobiles. The plant will be financed by the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development, Russia's GAZ (Gorky Car Plant), and
Fiat. A contract on the manufacture of 150,000 Fiat cars annually will
be signed when Yeltsin visits Italy in February 1998. Prodi assured
Chernomyrdin that Italy will support Russia's bid for membership in
the World Trade Organization.

YELTSIN CRITICIZES DUMA'S STANCE. Yeltsin has sharply criticized
the State Duma for displaying "discord with the government" since
the beginning of its fall session, Russian news agencies reported on
29 September. During a meeting with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin,
Yeltsin noted that the Duma recently rejected a government-backed
package of social benefits reductions and said deputies are dragging
their feet on the 1998 budget. Yeltsin also said he will never sign the
land code approved by the Duma because it would not allow farmers
to buy and sell agricultural land. He added that the Duma committed
"flagrant procedural violations" when it overrode his veto of that
code (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 26 September 1997). Also on 29
September, Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, Aleksandr
Kotenkov, warned that if the Duma votes no confidence in the
government, it will "set in motion the constitutional process of [its
own] dissolution," ITAR-TASS reported.

OPPOSITION LEADERS CONFER ON STRATEGY. Leaders of 32
opposition parties and movements met in Moscow on 29 September
to discuss strategy, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Nikolai
Ryzhkov, leader of the Popular Power State Duma faction, chaired the
meeting. Participants included Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov; Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, leader of
the Movement in Support of the Army; Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei
Baburin, leader of the nationalist Russian All-People's Union; and
Viktor Anpilov, the leader of the radical communist movement
Workers' Russia. The participants agreed to support a series of
protest actions planned for this fall. In interviews with RFE/RL, both
Anpilov and Baburin stressed that the opposition groups represented
at the meeting sought to coordinate their actions against current
government policies but did not agree to join a common organization.
Ryzhkov told reporters that similar consultations will be held every
month, Interfax reported.

YELTSIN, PROSECUTOR-GENERAL DISCUSS CORRUPTION
INVESTIGATIONS. Yurii Skuratov met with Yeltsin on 26 September
to discuss the investigation of the local authorities in Leninsk-
Kuznetskii, Kemerovo Oblast, Russian news agencies reported.
Following an investigative series in "Izvestiya," a commission
representing the Prosecutor-General's Office, Interior Ministry, and
the Federal Security Service was sent to Leninsk-Kuznetskii (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 24-25 September 1997). Skuratov told Interfax
that similar commissions will be sent to other regions. (Yeltsin
recently announced that some 2,500 officials in Russia are being
investigated for corruption.) Skuratov also said a presidential decree
currently being drafted will increase the prosecutor-general's role in
fighting economic crime. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Dementev, the head
of the Interior Ministry's Main Department on Economic Crime, was
recently replaced, "Segodnya" reported on 27 September. That
department was transferred to the supervision of Deputy Interior
Minister Vladimir Vasilev, who heads the ministry's Main
Department on Organized Crime.

DUMA FORMS COMMISSION ON FALL 1993 EVENTS. The Duma on 26
September voted to form a commission to investigate the events
from 21 September to 5 October 1993, Russian news agencies
reported. That period spans from Yeltsin's decree No. 1400 "on
gradual constitutional reform," which dissolved the parliament, to the
aftermath of the shelling of the legislature by tanks. The Duma also
proposed making 4 October a holiday to honor "the defenders of the
constitution and the law." Yabloko deputy Sergei Ivanenko pointed
out that the Duma disbanded a similar commission after declaring an
amnesty in February 1994, which applied to participants in the fall
1993 events. Meanwhile, the Duma on 26 September voted down a
proposal by a Communist deputy that the lower house investigate
some of the claims made by Duma deputy Aleksandr Korzhakov,
Yeltsin's former bodyguard, in his recent book (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 12 August 1997).

DUMA DEPUTIES SUSPECT DEPUTY PREMIER OF WRONGDOING. Duma
deputies have vowed to conduct their own investigation into Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev's activities as mayor of Samara,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 September. Responding to a
request from two Communist and Agrarian Duma deputies, the
Prosecutor-General's Office informed Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev on 26 September that investigators had found no evidence
of crimes committed by Sysuev. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that a
previous investigation by the Samara tax police uncovered various
"dubious documents" signed by Sysuev between 1994 and 1996. On
several occasions, Sysuev authorized the use of city budget funds to
guarantee bank loans to commercial enterprises. In one case, city
funds were used to pay a debt of an enterprise belonging to Sysuev's
friend Aleksandr Sidorenko, the chairman of the Samara Oblast
Property Committee. Sysuev resigned as mayor when he joined the
government in March.

LUZHKOV AGAIN CRITICIZES HOUSING REFORM... Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov has again criticized the government's planned reductions of
subsidies for housing and municipal services, Interfax reported on 29
September. Speaking at a ceremony to award medals to leading
Duma deputies, Luzhkov argued that while "privatization robbed the
entire country without making an impact on individuals, the housing
and utilities reform can affect every family." He added, "First let the
people make a living, then raise the tariffs. Otherwise a catastrophe
will occur." Luzhkov also encouraged the Duma to pass a law to
protect Russian language and culture. He slammed television
networks, especially state-controlled Russian Public Television and
the privately owned NTV, for showing "death, blood, murders,
pornography," and even condom advertisements. Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Our Home Is Russia faction leader
Aleksandr Shokhin were among the Duma deputies who received an
award from Luzhkov.

...NEMTSOV RESPONDS. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov
says he and Luzhkov have no "conceptual" differences in their
approach to housing reform, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 September.
Speaking to students at a Moscow school, Nemtsov argued that the
"heated political debates" over housing reform have come up because
"certain people apparently want to score [political] points" on the
issue. Nemtsov also repeated that he believes Moscow is spending too
much money on subsidies for rent and utilities (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 19 and 24 September 1997). Nemtsov is the cabinet
minister responsible for coordinating housing reform. He is also
considered a likely candidate for president in the next election,
although on 29 September he again denied having presidential
ambitions.

ST. PETERSBURG ELECTIONS INVALID IN MOST DISTRICTS. Despite an
extension of the voting period, St. Petersburg municipal elections will
be declared invalid in most districts because of low turnout, RFE/RL's
correspondent in St. Petersburg reported on 30 September. Governor
Vladimir Yakovlev on 28 September ordered that the elections be
extended for one day in 90 districts after it became apparent that
turnout in those districts would fall far short of the required 25
percent. But few additional voters turned out on 29 September. In
the end, citywide turnout was 18 percent, and turnout was high
enough to elect a representative in only 33 of the city's districts,
according to ITAR-TASS. Repeat elections are likely to be held in
three months. Yakovlev has warned that the ballot will cost the St.
Petersburg budget some 15 billion rubles ($2.6 million).

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS SCORE SUCCESS WITH STRIKE. Air traffic
controllers at 50 airports throughout Russia launched a strike on 29
September to demand the payment of wage arrears and to protest
their employers' failure to abide by updated wage scales and
vacation agreements, Russian agencies reported. Federal Aviation
Service President Valerii Yezhov agreed to meet the strikers'
demands one hour after the strike began. Previously, talks between
the Federal Aviation Service and representatives of the air traffic
controllers had failed to resolve the dispute.

INGUSH CONGRESS GIVES THUMBS DOWN TO YELTSIN
REPRESENTATIVE. Delegates to a 27 September congress of the
peoples of Ingushetia passed a vote of no confidence in Aleksandr
Kovalev, Yeltsin's representative in Ingushetia and North Ossetia,
Interfax reported. They accused Kovalev of failing to take legal
measures to restore the constitutional rights of the Ingush people,
who were deported to Central Asia in 1944. Addressing the congress,
Ingush President Ruslan Aushev reaffirmed his approval of the 10-
15 year moratorium on territorial claims, which both he and North
Ossetian President Akhsarbek Galazov had agreed to on 4 September,
according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 September. Aushev
expressed concern at the delay in creating the conditions for Ingush
displaced persons to return to their homes in North Ossetia's
Prigorodnyi Raion. He also said he was worried about the high crime
rate in Ingushetia. The congress agreed that presidential elections in
Ingushetia will be held , as scheduled, on 1 March 1998.



TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

KYRGYZ JOURNALIST SENTENCED. Yrysbek Omurzakov on 29
September was sentenced to 30 months in a penal colony, RFE/RL
correspondents in Bishkek reported. Omurzakov was found guilty of
libel for writing an article that claimed a Bishkek factory manager
was abusing his authority. He based the article on statements made
by factory employees, two of whom also went on trial. They received
six months in a penal colony but are pardoned under a 30 July
amnesty law signed by President Askar Akayev. Omurzakov is not
included in the amnesty because of previous convictions. Meanwhile,
the Kyrgyz weekly newspaper "Asaba" was criticized by presidential
spokesman Kanybek Imanaliyev as trying to discredit Akayev's
economic and political reforms. Imanaliyev, who earlier was a
journalist for "Asaba," said the 26 September issue of the newspaper
carried eight articles that gave a negative portrayal of Akayev.

UZBEK GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE. President Islam Karimov on 29
September signed a decree relieving Rustam Akhmedov of his duties
as defense minister and reappointing him as minister for emergency
situations, RFE/RL correspondents in Tashkent reported. First Deputy
Prime Minister Ismail Jurabekov was removed as minister for
emergency situations to make room for Akhmedov but retains his
deputy premiership. The new defense minister is Major-General
Khimatullah Tursunov, until now the head of the Uzbek border
guards.

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD CHIEF IN KAZAKHSTAN. Colonel-General
Andrei Nikolayev, the director of the Russian Federal Border Service,
and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev met in Almaty on 29
September and agreed that they will sign a border accord, Russian
media reported. Nazarbayev said the goal of the accord is not to "fix a
rigid border" but "safeguard our citizens." Nikolayev commented that
"no informal units will guard the border," referring to Russia's recent
"experimental" use of Cossack units to patrol its side of the border.
That move drew heavy criticism from the Kazakh government.
Nazarbayev and Nikolayev also said there is a need to strengthen the
borders of the four countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and
Belarus) belonging to the intra-CIS customs union.

CENTRAL ASIAN WATER COMMISSION MEETS. The Central Asian
water resources commission met in Tashkent on 26 September,
Interfax reported. Representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan agreed to install equipment
to measure the flow of water into the Aral Sea. Under a 1992
agreement between the five countries, 14 billion cubic meters of
water were to flow into the sea each year. However, that goal has not
been met. The five countries also decided to set up a Central Asian
water and energy consortium.

AZERBAIJAN RADIO BROADCASTING TO IRAN. Azerbaijani Radio
currently broadcasts three hours each day to an estimated audience
of 30 million Azeris in Iran, according to an article by Movlud
Suleymanli, the head of Azerbaijani Television and Radio, published
in "Azerbaijan" on 20 September and summarized by "Turkistan
Newsletter" on 29 September. Suleymanli said that programming in
Azerbaijani to Iran was discontinued in 1990 but has now resumed.
Suleymanli argued that his audience in Iran has "made revolutions
many times in the 20th century" and needs to be informed about its
language and history. He added that his staff must carry out its
duties "rationally" and "without false patriotism." Azerbaijani Radio
also broadcasts to Azerbaijan's Kurdish, Lezgin, and Georgian
minorities.

NEW LEFT-WING ALLIANCE FORMED IN ARMENIA. Several tiny
socialist oriented political parties and groups have united to create a
Union of Socialist Forces, Noyan Tapan reported on 26 September.
Representatives of the Democratic Party of Armenia and the banned
Dashnak Party attended the founding meeting as observers. The
union's primary objective is to draft social programs and submit
them to the government. "Molorak" on 26 September quoted Aghasi
Arshakyan--one of the leaders of the National Initiative, which is
lobbying for Armenia's accession to the Russia-Belarus union--as
saying the new alliance may support the National Initiative.

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