The last of the human freedoms- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way. - Victor Frankl
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 129, Part I, 1 October 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

* YELTSIN PROMISES CITIES MORE FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE

* RUSSIAN REPRESENTATIVES TEMPORARILY EXPELLED FROM
CHECHNYA

* ARMENIAN OPPOSITION SLAMS PRESIDENT'S KARABAKH POLICY

End Note
DEFENSE OFFICIALS DENY LEBED'S NUCLEAR SUITCASE CLAIMS

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN PROMISES CITIES MORE FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE...
President Boris Yeltsin on 30 September said he has signed a new
law on the financial foundations of local government in order to
provide "some legal guarantees of the financial independence" of
municipalities, Russian news agencies reported. Yeltsin and First
Deputy Finance Minister Anatolii Chubais discussed the implications
of the legislation at a Kremlin meeting of the presidential Council on
Local Government. The new law is expected to decrease the financial
leverage that regional governors and republican presidents currently
wield over local authorities. In particular, municipalities will be
allowed to keep a larger share of federal and regional taxes,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 September and 1 October. The
Federation Council, which is comprised of regional leaders, rejected
the law on local government in July. The State Duma overrode the
upper house's decision on 10 September, and Yeltsin signed the law
two weeks later.

...WANTS CHANGES TO ELECTORAL LAW. Addressing the Council on
Local Government, Yeltsin advocated changes to the electoral law to
prevent "criminal elements" from coming to power, ITAR-TASS
reported on 30 September. Central Electoral Commission Chairman
Aleksandr Ivanchenko told the council that loopholes in the current
law allow candidates with criminal records to be elected. He
proposed that law enforcement agencies be required to publish
information on candidates' past criminal records during election
campaigns. Yeltsin and Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev have
recently blasted law enforcement agencies for not informing the
public about the criminal record of Gennadii Konyakhin before his
election as mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetskii, Kemerovo Oblast, earlier
this year.

RUSSIAN REPRESENTATIVES TEMPORARILY EXPELLED FROM
CHECHNYA. Almost the entire staff of the Russian representation in
Chechnya was evacuated on 30 September at the insistence of Vice
President Vakha Arsanov. Arsanov had demanded an apology from
Moscow for refusing to open an air corridor across Russian territory
to enable him to fly from Grozny to Baku on 28 September. A
bilateral Russian-Chechen agreement signed in August permits
international flights from Grozny, but a spokesman for the Russian
Security Council told Interfax that the company that Arsanov
intended to use was not licensed for international flights. Chechen
President Aslan Maskhadov on 1 October ruled that the Russian
mission be allowed to return to Grozny and resume work, First
Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov told ITAR-TASS. Udugov said
Maskhadov's ruling "shows his personal trust in Boris Yeltsin."

RADICAL CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER INJURED BY CAR BOMB.
Salman Raduev, commander of the so-called General Dudaev army,
was seriously injured in an assassination attempt on 30 September,
Russian agencies reported. One of his bodyguards was killed and a
second injured when the car in which the three men were traveling
blew up in Grozny. Speaking from his hospital bed on 1 October,
Raduev accused Russian intelligence of masterminding the attack,
according to ITAR-TASS. Raduev gained notoriety for his leadership
of the Pervomayskoye hostage-taking in January 1996. He was
injured and reported dead in a shoot-out two months later but
resurfaced in July 1996, after plastic surgery. There have been at
least two previous attempts on his life this year. The Chechen
leadership has distanced itself from Raduev's threats to stage
terrorist bombings in Russian cities and has cast doubt on his sanity.


ZYUGANOV SAYS DISSOLUTION OF DUMA POSSIBLE. Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov believes that the State Duma may be
dissolved this fall and says certain "obedient" mass media are
preparing the ground for such a move, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported on 30 September. The president has the right to dissolve
the Duma if the lower house three times refuses to confirm the
president's nominee for prime minister or twice votes no confidence
in the government. Asked whether his party will press for a no-
confidence vote, Zyuganov said the Communist Duma faction is
considering that option and will decide its strategy on 7 October.
Government officials are scheduled to address the Duma the next day
to report on the implementation of the 1997 budget. Recent opinion
polls have indicated that opposition groups are likely to fare better
than pro-government movements if early parliamentary elections
are called.

SPOKESMAN SAYS REPORT EXAGGERATES ORGANIZED CRIME.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 30 September
charged that a report recently released in the U.S. exaggerates the
threat posed by organized crime in Russia, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. The report, issued by the Washington-based Center for
Strategic and International Studies on 29 September, warned that if
it is "left unchecked, Russia is on the verge of becoming a crime-
dominated oligarchy, controlled by shady businessmen, corrupt
officials, and outright criminals." Yastrzhembskii acknowledged that
organized crime poses a threat. He recalled Yeltsin's recent pledge to
crack down on "criminals in power." But Yastrzhembskii also argued
that allegations that the Russian economy is inextricably linked with
organized crime are frequently used in order to cast doubt on
Russia's status as a market economy.

GAZPROM DEFENDS IRANIAN GAS DEAL. A spokesman for Gazprom
told ITAR-TASS on 30 September that his company "fully backs" the
right of France's Total to participate in the international consortium
that signed an agreement on 28 September with the National Iranian
Oil Company to develop Iran's South Pars Caspian gas deposit. Other
participants in the consortium, in which Total has a 40 percent stake,
are Gazprom and Malaysia's Petronas (30 percent each). Washington
claims that the deal falls under U.S. legislation providing for the
imposition of sanctions on companies that invest more than $20
million in Iranian energy projects. French Prime Minister Lionel
Jospin, however, argues that U.S. legislation does not apply in France.

STATE PROPERTY COMMITTEE BECOMES MINISTRY. Yeltsin issued a
decree on 30 September transforming the State Property Committee
into the State Property Ministry. The committee's chairman, Maksim
Boiko, was simultaneously appointed state property minister and will
retain the title of deputy prime minister. According to "Kommersant-
Daily" on 1 October, a 1993 presidential decree granted the State
Property Committee the status of a ministry but that decree was
rescinded in July 1997. Boiko told Interfax on 30 September that he
will reorganize the ministry over the next two to three months. Its
main task will be to become "a conscientious manager of state
property," he added.

FORMER PRIVATIZATION CHIEF RESPONDS TO NEW ALLEGATIONS.
Former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh has denied
any wrongdoing in connection with a $100,000 royalty payment he
received earlier this year for a book on privatization that has not yet
been published. In an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on
1 October, Kokh said that he had not known that a key executive at
the Swiss firm Servina was connected with Oneksimbank when that
executive offered to publish his book (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29
September 1997). He said the book will be published later this year,
after he has written a final chapter on the most recent privatization
sales. As for his alleged close personal ties with Oneksimbank
President Vladimir Potanin, Kokh admitted taking his family on a
vacation recently with Potanin and his family but argued there is
"nothing shameful" in that.

NEWSPAPER ACQUIRES FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER'S MERCEDES. At a
30 September auction in Moscow, the popular daily "Moskovskii
komsomolets" purchased for $35,400 a Mercedes once used by
former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. In line with a March
presidential decree, the government is selling foreign cars formerly
used by top officials. The newspaper repeatedly criticized Grachev
before his June 1996 dismissal, accusing him of corruption and
derisively referring to him as "Pasha Mercedes." Vadim Poegli, the
journalist who bid for the car on behalf of "Moskovskii komsomolets,"
faced criminal charges in 1995 for an article he wrote entitled "Pasha
Mercedes: A thief should be in prison, not the defense minister." Also
on 30 September, military sources said General Anatolii Krivolapov
has been appointed Russia's military envoy to NATO headquarters in
Belgium, AFP reported. Grachev was rumored to be under
consideration for that job.

CELEBRITIES ASKED TO PAY TAXES. State Tax Service chief Aleksandr
Pochinok on 29 September met with several stars of Russian show-
business, including the pop singer Alla Pugacheva, in a bid to
persuade them to pay their taxes, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on
30 September. A tax police official recently criticized some celebrities
for not filing tax returns or underreporting their incomes (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 1997). He asked the celebrities to set a
good example for other citizens. Pugacheva and the singer Aleksandr
Malinin argued that some stars should be given a two-year tax
exemption in order to save money for their retirement. Pugacheva
told ITAR-TASS on 30 September that the tax authorities should
remember that popular artists have high expenses. Artists should be
told how their tax payments will be spent, she noted, adding that "no
one would object" if they were used to pay pensions of retired
artists.

WHO IS MAYOR OF VLADIVOSTOK? Confusion reigns in Vladivostok
over who is the city's legitimate mayor, RFE/RL's correspondent in
Vladivostok reported on 30 September. Shortly after declaring that
the Primorskii Krai Duma's attempt to suspend him was illegal,
Mayor Viktor Cherepkov went on sick leave and appointed Nikolai
Markovtsev acting mayor. However, Yurii Kopylov, who was
appointed acting mayor by the krai legislature, has set up an
alternative city administration and is implementing his own policies
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1997). Although the krai
prosecutor and Yeltsin's representative in Primore have both
denounced the attempt to remove Cherepkov from office as illegal,
the current confusion is likely to continue until a court resolves the
dispute. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 October that
Kopylov now claims that all six banks holding the Vladivostok
administration's accounts have agreed to honor only financial
instructions signed by Kopylov.

COMBINATION OF FACTORS LED TO "MIR" COLLISION. A report by a
Russian commission has concluded that "methodological, technical,
and human error were to blame" for the 26 June collision of Russia's
"Mir" space station with a U.S. cargo ship, Russian media reported.
The commission's findings help exonerate Russian cosmonauts Vasilii
Tsibliev and Aleksandr Lazutkin, who have been blamed for the
crash by the head of the company that built the station.
"Kommersant daily" on 1 October noted that Tsibliev, who manually
guided the cargo ship toward "Mir" when the impact occurred, had
not been informed that the cargo ship was overloaded. The daily also
argued that Russian mission control is unlikely to admit technical
problems caused the collision since that would "discredit" it in
NASA's eyes.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION SLAMS PRESIDENT'S KARABAKH POLICY...
Opposition National Democratic Union leader Vazgen Manukyan on
30 September harshly criticized statements by President Levon Ter-
Petrossyan at a 26 September press conference, RFE/RL's Yerevan
bureau reported. Manukyan rejected Ter-Petrossyan's endorsement
of a phased resolution of the Karabakh conflict as "capitulation" and
"treason," saying the president's arguments "substantially undermine
Armenia's negotiating position." Using uncharacteristically harsh
language, Manukyan said Ter-Petrossyan "should be barred from
leading a country" and warned that "aggressive haste" in seeking to
resolve the Karabakh conflict could prove counter-productive. The
phased solution to the conflict proposed by the co-chairmen of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group
envisages postponing a decision on Karabakh's future status until
after the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories
and the repatriation of displaced persons.

...BUT BAKU MAKES POSITIVE ASSESSMENT. Interfax on 29
September quoted an unnamed source within the Azerbaijani
presidential administration as interpreting Ter-Petrossyan's
statements as a "constructive change in Yerevan's position". He
added, however, that they could prove a tactical ploy whereby
Armenia's seeks to off load responsibility for the outcome of the
negotiating progress onto the Karabakh Armenians. Stepanakert
rejects a "phased" solution of the conflict and wants all contentious
issues, including Karabakh's future political statement, resolved
within one framework document. Azerbaijani presidential foreign
policy adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade told Interfax on 30 September that he
is "personally satisfied" with Ter-Petrossyan's statements. In
particular, he pointed to Ter-Petrossyan's rejection of suggestions by
Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan that a new war may
prove the only way to resolve the conflict.

ABKHAZIA TO DEMAND COMPENSATION FOR WAR DAMAGE? Igor
Akhba, Abkhazia's permanent representative in Moscow, told
Interfax on 30 September that Sukhumi will demand $60 billion
compensation from the Georgian government for damage to property
during the 1992-1993 war. Akhba also affirmed that Abkhazia will
never accept "even the broadest autonomous status" within Georgia.
Several days earlier, Anri Djergenia, personal envoy of Abkhaz
President Vladislav Ardzinba, had similarly said that Abkhazia
proposes signing a protocol drafted by the Russian Foreign Ministry
in early 1996 as a basis for negotiations. That document provides for
Georgia and Abkhazia creating a common state of two legally equal
constituent republics. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 29
September said this hardening of the Abkhaz position could
jeopardize the negotiating process.

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS ACCUSE LEZGIN SEPARATISTS. A
commander of the Russian border guards in Dagestan has claimed
that a group of armed militants affiliated with the Lezgin
organization Sadval is preparing "armed provocations" on the
Russian-Azerbaijani frontier, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported on 30
September. Spokesmen for Sadval, which advocates the creation of
an independent Lezgin state, have denied the allegations. The wife of
one of Sadval's leaders, General Mukhuddin Kakhrimanov, was
murdered in Makhachkala in mid-September (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
19 September 1997). A prominent Lezgin businessman who
reportedly provided funding for Sadval's activities was shot dead in
southern Dagestan on 24 September, Turan reported.

MORE VIOLENCE AGAINST JOURNALISTS IN AZERBAIJAN. Four Baku
police officers on 22 September beat two correspondents for the
newspaper "Mozalan," one of whom is still hospitalized, Turan
reported on 30 September. The journalists were investigating
irregularities in registering residents of a hostel run by Baku
transport authorities.

AZERBAIJAN EARLY OIL COUNTDOWN. Repairs to the Chechen sector
of the Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk-Novorossiisk oil export pipeline will
be completed on 16 November, Radio Rossii reported on 30
September, quoting a spokesman for Chechnya's Yunko oil company.
The repairs began on 25 September. Five brigades of Russian
workmen are undertaking the repairs, while 400 members of the
Chechen national guard are ensuring their security. Terry Adams--
the president of the Azerbaijan International Operating Committee,
which is exploiting three Caspian oil fields--said at a news conference
in Tbilisi on 29 September that the first 40,000 metric tons of oil
from the Chirag field will be loaded into the pipeline beginning on 1
October. Adams said that repairs to the Baku-Supsa pipeline are
proceeding on schedule and should be completed during the fourth
quarter of 1998. He added that the planned $350 million budget for
those repairs is unlikely to be exceeded.

OTHER PIPELINE NEWS. Dagestani oil industry officials
wholeheartedly support the Russian initiative to build an oil export
pipeline through Dagestan bypassing Chechnya, Interfax reported on
30 September. Dagneft Director-General Gadzhi Makhachev estimated
that a 500 kilometer pipeline through Dagestan could generate $30
million a year in transit fees. "Kommersant-Daily" on 30 September
suggested, however, that at the recent consultations between US Vice
President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin,
a secret agreement was reached on oil exports. Under that deal,
Kazakhstan's oil would be exported via Russia to Novorossiisk, while
Azerbaijan's oil would flow west to Georgia. Such a scheme would
obviate the need for a pipeline bypassing Chechnya.

PROTEST IN KAZAKHSTAN. Some 1,000 people, mostly workers at the
Achisay Polymetal factory, began a march from the southern city of
Kentau to Shymkent on 1 October to protest declining living
standards, RFE/RL correspondents reported. From Shymkent, the
protesters will take trains to Almaty to deliver a petition to
President Nursultan Nazarbayev. They are demanding unpaid wages
amounting to 100 million tenge ($1.3 million). They also complain
that 80 million tenge allocated by the government for their wages
has been used for other purposes by the factory's management. In
Almaty some 200 pensioners gathered in front of the Mayor's Office
on 30 September demanding that their pensions be increased and
that the government pay more attention to their situation .

TAJIK PRESIDENT ADDRESSES UN. Imomali Rakhmonov, addressing
the UN General Assembly on 30 September, thanked the countries
and organizations that aided his country in restoring peace, RFE/RL
correspondents in New York reported. Rakhmonov paid special
tribute to the role of Russia, Iran, and the UN. He said he hopes for
continued help from those who have already contributed to peace in
Tajikistan, especially the UN. At the same time, Rakhmonov warned
that events in neighboring Afghanistan threaten the Tajik peace
process, and he encouraged efforts to mediate peace there as well.

SOARING COSTS IN TAJIKISTAN. The National Statistical Agency has
released figures showing that prices of basic consumer goods have
risen more in Tajikistan than in any other CIS state so far this year,
ITAR-TASS reported on 30 September. Consumer prices have
increased by 222 percent since the beginning of 1997, with an 123.5
percent increase in August alone. Whiles crops of potatoes,
vegetables, fruits, and grain harvest have increased compared with
1996, the cost of vegetables has risen by 3.1 percent and potatoes by
61.9 percent. As of 1 September, the basket of basic food stuffs cost
14,230 Tajik rubles ($17-18). ITAR-TASS, however, notes that only
the highest paid officials make so much money. Public education and
health workers can "buy eight or nine loaves of bread and nothing
else" with their wages, according to the agency.

END NOTE

DEFENSE OFFICIALS DENY LEBED'S NUCLEAR SUITCASE CLAIMS

by Floriana Fossato

Top Russian defense officials have been vigorously denying recent
claims by former government officials that Moscow possesses
miniature nuclear bombs but has lost track of some of them. Military
observers say some statements--particularly those by General Igor
Volynkin, the head of the Defense Ministry's 12th department, which
oversees nuclear security--are "surprising on account of their
openness."
        In an interview with a U.S. television network aired on 8
September, former Security Council Secretary General Aleksandr
Lebed alleged that the former Soviet Union had produced 132 such
bombs in the 1970s but had since lost track of 84 of them. He said
the portable devices were designed for sabotage behind enemy lines.
On 21 September, Aleksei Yablokov, President Boris Yeltsin's former
environmental security adviser, said he knew people who had been
involved in the making of the bombs, which, he stressed, were
intended for "terrorist purposes." However, Yablokov said he could
not confirm that the bombs are indeed missing.
        Official denials followed immediately. Defense Minister Igor
Sergeev said he has "no fears" and insisted Russia's nuclear arsenal is
under firm control. Volynkin, for his part, told reporters that such
portable devices "have never been produced in the past and are not
produced now." Conceding that building nuclear suitcases is "possible
in theory," he said the Defense Ministry came to the conclusion that
they were "too costly" to produce and "ineffective." He said the
device could last only a few months, after which it would have to be
replaced at an exorbitant cost. He remarked that "not even the U.S.
would attempt to do that."
        According to Russian military commentator Aleksandr Golts,
such a statement is surprising because it breaks the Russian military
habit of avoiding comment on issues of this kind.
        Volynkin went on to rule out the possibility that structures
such as the Soviet-era KGB could have produced such devices. He said
that since it was established 50 years ago, his department at the
Defense Ministry has had "sole responsibility over nuclear stocks." He
noted, however, that the Defense Ministry works closely with the
Ministry of Atomic Energy to keep detailed records of the
whereabouts of all nuclear stocks. He added that all weapons
belonging to Russia's nuclear arsenal have been withdrawn from
military units and are now located in his department's storage
facilities under tight supervision.
        According to the general, Yablokov may have confused nuclear
suitcases with nuclear mines, whose existence he admitted. At the
same time, Volynkin ruled out the possibility of nuclear mines
disappearing. Golts told RFE/RL that "nuclear mines were part of the
nuclear arsenal that the former Soviet Union kept in former East
Germany." He added that they "are extremely big, won't fit into any
suitcase or backpack, and are transported only by specially designed
trucks."
         General Vyacheslav Romanov, the head of the National Center
for the Reduction of Nuclear Threat, told the daily "Komsomolskaya
pravda" that "to say that a single person could deliver a nuclear
device--whose minimum weight usually is 200 kilograms--to the site
of an explosion without being noticed and then set it off on his own is
absurd." He added that "no device could be used by a single person--
such is the technology."
        In the light of such statements, Lebed's claims may seem
surprising because the general, a professional soldier, should be
aware of many key details concerning the production of portable
nuclear devices. But according to Golts and other Russian military
observers, a possible explanation could be Lebed's political ambitions
and his "necessity to remain in the spotlight." Golts says that Lebed's
popularity has been threatened recently by the growing popularity
of another soldier-turned-politician: Lev Rokhlin.
        Lebed came third in last year's presidential election and went
on to serve briefly as Security Council secretary. Since being fired by
Yeltsin last fall, he has been seeking to create his own political party
and has made no secret of his plans to run for president in the year
2000. But recent developments suggest that Lebed's plans may be
thwarted by Rokhlin.
        On 26 September, the communist- and nationalist-dominated
State Duma refused to remove Rokhlin as chairman of the Duma
Defense Committee. Rokhlin was ousted from the pro-government
party and parliamentary faction Our Home Is Russia in early
September, after he launched a strong attack on the Kremlin's
military reform program and called for Yeltsin's removal from office.
        Following Lebed's example, Rokhlin then set up his own
political movement. That formation already seems to be gaining
popularity among the military as well as many opposition forces,
including communist and nationalist groups. In addition, many
people in Russia consider him a hero of the war in Chechnya.
        Golts points out that "Rokhlin, not Lebed, has grown during the
past few months to become the main military leader" opposed to
Yeltsin and the government. He added that it is somehow "natural"
that, as a consequence, Lebed is making every effort to maintain his
popularity, "including sensational statements that undoubtedly
attract attention in Russia and abroad."

The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.




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