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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 132, Part I, 6 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

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Headlines, Part I

* OPPOSITION UNFAZED BY YELTSIN'S WARNING TO DUMA

* RUSSIA DENIES ECONOMIC BLOCKADE OF CHECHNYA

* CHERNOMYRDIN IN KAZAKHSTAN

End Note : THREE 'FREEDOM-LOVING' STATES

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RUSSIA

OPPOSITION UNFAZED BY YELTSIN'S WARNING TO DUMA. Prominent
opposition representatives in the State Duma have vowed not to back
down, despite President Boris Yeltsin's recent warning that he and
the people may lose patience with the lower house of the parliament
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 1997). Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev remarked that the lower house "is not an appointed
bureaucratic apparatus.... The people elected the Duma in the same
way they elected the president," Interfax reported. Duma Legislation
Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov, like Seleznev a Communist,
said the Duma was not to blame for rising tensions between the
executive and legislative branches. Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei
Baburin of the Popular Power faction again advocated that the Duma
pass a vote of no confidence in the government, ITAR-TASS reported
on 3 October. Baburin and Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii tried
unsuccessfully to put a no confidence vote on the Duma's agenda in
May.

YELTSIN ALLIES REACT CAUTIOUSLY TO ADDRESS. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS on 3 October that his
government is ready to work with the Duma toward compromise on
major legislation. Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the pro-government
Our Home Is Russia faction in the Duma, warned the same day that
the Duma should not escalate confrontation with the president by
voting no confidence in the government, Interfax reported. However,
Shokhin told ITAR-TASS that the government should also
compromise on its drive to pass a new tax code by the end of the
year "at any cost." Meanwhile, Federation Council Speaker Yegor
Stroev told ITAR-TASS that "only a madman" would risk dissolving
the Duma. Stroev generally supports Yeltsin but also has good
relations with the leftist opposition.

YAVLINSKII CRITICIZES ATTEMPT TO "INTIMIDATE" DUMA. Yabloko
leader Yavlinskii says Yeltsin's latest radio address was aimed at
intimidating Duma deputies before a key vote on the 1998 budget,
Interfax reported on 3 October. Yavlinskii, who has criticized the
budget, cast doubt on the sincerity of Yeltsin's claim to want to work
constructively with the Duma. While acknowledging that both
Yabloko and the president support full land ownership rights,
Yavlinskii expressed doubt that the officials who implemented
privatization policy "are capable of conducting a successful land
reform." He added that Yeltsin's address "covers up failures in
economic policy, unfulfilled promises to pay wages, and helplessness
in combating crime and corruption." At the same time, Yavlinskii said
he agrees with Yeltsin that the Duma's statements on foreign policy
matters are not always professional.

OPPOSITION MARKS OCTOBER 1993 EVENTS. Several thousand people
took part demonstrations in Moscow on 4 October to commemorate
the October 1993 events, which culminated in tanks shelling the
opposition-dominated parliament, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported.
Communist Party leader Zyuganov addressed the crowd near the
White House, which was shelled in 1993 and is now government
headquarters. He said Duma deputies are not frightened by Yeltsin's
threats to dissolve the parliament, and he predicted that if early
parliamentary elections are called, opposition representatives will
win at least two-thirds of the seats in the Duma. He also said the
opposition has collected 10 million signatures this year demanding
Yeltsin's resignation. In street fighting around the state television
building and White House between 2 and 4 October 1993, some 140
people were killed. Unofficial estimates put the number of fatalities
around 300.

RUSSIA DENIES ECONOMIC BLOCKADE OF CHECHNYA. Russian Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin on 3 October rejected Chechen charges that
Moscow has imposed an economic blockade against Grozny. Chechen
President Aslan Maskhadov, however, responded the next day by
repeating the claim that Russia is waging "economic war" against
Grozny. Also on 3 October, a spokesman for the Russian Federal
Security Service (FSB) denied that Major Vladimir Cherepanov, whom
the Chechen security service has captured and claim is one of its
agents, is an FSB employee. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime
Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov alleged that the intelligence services
of unspecified countries are engaged in destabilizing the situation in
Chechnya. He also argued that the time for concessions to Grozny has
passed, but he ruled out the possibility of a new war. The Azerbaijani
weekly "Zerkalo" on 4 October quoted Chechen First Deputy Premier
Movladi Udugov as suggesting that Chechnya form a federal state
with Azerbaijan.

LEBED ON NATO, BALTICS. Former Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed says he is not opposed to NATO membership for the
Baltic States, but only after Russia's economy has improved. Speaking
in Berlin at a conference on NATO enlargement, Lebed said, "I do not
dispute the right of the Baltic countries to self-determination," AFP
reported on 5 October. However, he argued that "Russia must have
the feeling that it is advancing economically and in other areas, that
its people can rely on something constructive." Lebed told Interfax
on 4 October that NATO will "aggravate the internal crisis in Russia"
if the alliance expands into the "zone of Russia's geopolitical
interests," which he identified as the Baltic States and Ukraine.
Earlier this year, Lebed argued that NATO expansion poses no threat
to Russia because "the rich and satisfied will never attack the poor
and hungry" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May and 9 July 1997).

TOP TV EXECUTIVES MEET IN TBILISI. Many of the most influential
figures in Russian television met in Tbilisi on 1 October, RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau reported. The group included Security Council
Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, who wields considerable
influence at Russian Public Television (ORT), financial director of ORT
Badri Patarkatsishvili, and prominent ORT journalists Aleksandr
Lyubimov, Sergei Dorenko, and Vladimir Pozner. The private
network NTV was represented by its president, Igor Malashenko,
and Vladimir Gusinskii, whose Media-Most company owns most
shares in the network. Eduard Sagalaev, a shareholder in the private
network TV-6, and Mikhail Lesin, deputy chairman of the state-run
Russian Television, were also present. In a telephone interview with
RFE/RL, Pozner said Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze called
the meeting to discuss Russian television coverage of the Caucasus.
However, many observers believe that the executives also discussed
strategy for coverage of Russian domestic political issues.

LUZHKOV ROUNDUP. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov continues to reach
out to key constituencies in his public remarks. Appearing at the
opening of a church in Moscow on 5 October, Luzhkov called for
doing everything possible to compensate the Russian Orthodox
Church for property confiscated or destroyed during the Soviet
period, Interfax reported. The previous day, Luzhkov visited the
Republic of Udmurtia to sign a cooperation agreement between
Moscow and the republic, ITAR-TASS reported. Appearing alongside
Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub in Moscow on 2 October,
Luzhkov said Russian regions should buy products from one another,
not from "foreigners." Speaking to business leaders in the Republic of
Mordovia on 3 October, he advocated reversing the privatization
sales of enterprises that "have been sold for a song" since 1992,
Interfax reported. Luzhkov has long been an outspoken critic of First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and the government's
privatization policy.

TOP OFFICIALS TO BE QUESTIONED IN CASE AGAINST KOKH. Top
government officials and Oneksimbank executives will be questioned
in connection with the criminal case against former State Property
Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh, Interfax reported on 3 October.
Yurii Semin, the deputy head of the Moscow Prosecutor's Office, said
the investigation into Kokh is expected to last two months. He is
suspected of abusing the powers of his office by accepting a payment
from a company with apparent links to Oneksimbank (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 29 September-2 October 1997). Meanwhile, investigators
have questioned Oneksimbank President Vladimir Potanin in
connection with alleged mismanagement of the Cherepovets Azot
factory, according to NTV on 5 October and "Kommersant-Daily" on 4
October. A company linked to Oneksimbank acquired a 41 percent
stake in that factory in 1994, but a court recently reversed the
privatization, saying investment commitments were not kept.

CRIMINAL CASE OPENED AGAINST WOULD-BE VLADIVOSTOK
MAYOR. The Vladivostok Prosecutor's Office on 3 October opened a
criminal case against Yurii Kopylov for continuing to carry out the
duties of mayor even after a court ruling, Russian news agencies
reported. The Primorskii Krai Duma recently appointed Kopylov
acting mayor of Vladivostok and suspended Mayor Viktor
Cherepkov. But the krai prosecutor challenged the legality of that
move and a district court suspended Kopylov's appointment. Kopylov
has vowed not to step down until instructed to do so by the krai
legislature, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 October. Meanwhile,
Cherepkov remains on sick leave. But his administration, led by
acting mayor Nikolai Markovtsev, has filed lawsuits against Kopylov
for allegedly squandering city funds and against the Bank of Primore,
which carried out financial transactions on Kopylov's orders, RFE/RL's
correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 3 October.

SOBCHAK SUFFERS HEART ATTACK DURING INTERROGATION. Former
St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak suffered a heart attack on 3
October while being questioned in connection with an investigation
into alleged corruption within his administration. Interior Ministry
troops picked up Sobchak for questioning by investigators from the
Prosecutor-General's Office. Speaking to ITAR-TASS from the hospital
on 4 October, Sobchak charged, "What happened to me...is an obvious
violation of human rights and law, the culmination of persecution
started in the spring of 1996." He told Interfax the next day that he
believes "pro-communist forces in Moscow" are seeking to discredit
him politically. He blamed former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr
Korzhakov, former FSB Director Mikhail Barsukov, and Interior
Minister Anatolii Kulikov. Sobchak lost his post in a June 1996
election. He is reported to be under investigation for corruption, but
no charges have been filed.

LEZGIN ACTIVIST ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH WIFE'S MURDER.
General Mukhuddin Kakhrimanov, a leader of the Lezgin National
Council, has been arrested in Makhachkala (Republic of Dagestan) in
connection with the 18 September murder of his wife, "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" reported on 4 October. The newspaper quoted police officials
as claiming that Kakhrimanov killed his wife because she had
discovered he was having an affair with a younger woman. Lezgin
activists have suggested that the murder, which happened two days
before the scheduled opening of a congress of the Lezgin National
Council, was intended to prevent the planned fusion of that
organization with another Lezgin movement, Sadval. Russian officials
recently accused Sadval of forming military units. Sadval spokesmen
deny those allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September and 1
October 1997).

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

CHERNOMYRDIN IN KAZAKHSTAN. Russian Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin held talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev
and top government officials in Almaty on 3-4 October. At a joint
press conference, the two leaders announced the creation of a new
intergovernmental commission to focus on unresolved issues. Those
include Russia's failure to honor the 1993 agreement on payment for
the lease of the Baikonor cosmodrome, the decline in bilateral trade,
and the conditions whereby Russian oil companies may participate in
the development of Kazakhstan's offshore Caspian oil. Nazarbaev
argued that those companies offering the best terms should receive
the rights to develop any given deposit, whereas Chernomyrdin said
Russian oil companies should have priority. The Russian premier also
visited the new Kazakh capital, Aqmola.

CHINA WANTS INCREASED MILITARY COOPERATION WITH
KAZAKHSTAN. Meeting in Beijing on 4 October with Kazakh Defense
Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev, Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian
said strengthening cooperation between the two countries' armed
forces, particularly along their common frontier, is "of great
significance," ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakhstan borders on China's
unstable Xinjiang Province. Altynbaev also met with Premier Li Peng,
who described the petroleum and gas accord signed on 24 September
as marking a "new stage" in bilateral relations.

TAJIK ROUNDUP. Four Tajik refugees were killed and 40 injured on 4
October when Taliban militia bombarded the Sakhi refugee camp in
northern Afghanistan. The previous day, UN Secretary-General Kofi
Annan had expressed concern over earlier Taliban attacks on the
camp. Meanwhile, at a press conference in Dushanbe on 4 October,
United Tajik Opposition chairman Said Abdullo Nuri said he is
satisfied with the work to date of the National Reconciliation
Commission, composed of both government and opposition
representatives. But he called for accelerating the amnesty for
former opposition fighters. The next day, during a stopover in
Moscow on his way home from the UN General Assembly in New
York, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov spoke on the telephone
with President Yeltsin, who assured him that Moscow will take "all
necessary measures" to ensure implementation of the peace accord,
ITAR-TASS reported.

KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES EXPLAIN CRACKDOWN ON "ASABA." The
presidential press service on 3 October issued an official statement
claiming that the independent newspaper "Asaba" is undermining
government efforts to implement political and economic reforms,
RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. It also accused the weekly of
publishing only articles that are biased against the president and
government and deliberately contain false and misleading
information. "Asaba" has recently criticized several top officials,
including President Askar Akayev and his relatives as well as
Almambet Matubraimov, the speaker of the People's Assembly of the
parliament. "Asaba" staff members, however, say that the newspaper
can prove its reports are accurate. It added that one of criticized
articles was based on information provided by the president's wife,
Mairam Akaeva.

GEORGIAN SOLDIERS HOSPITALIZED WITH RADIATION SICKNESS. Ten
servicemen have been hospitalized with serious radiation sickness
after 15 containers of cesium were found at a former training base
for Soviet border guards near Tbilisi. Georgian Defense Minister
Vardiko Nadibaidze, who previously was deputy commander of the
Transcaucasus Military District, told Interfax that after the collapse
of the USSR, some Russian commanders may have buried radioactive
substances without informing their superiors. President Eduard
Shevardnadze has ordered that a commission be set up to investigate
radiation levels at other former Soviet military bases in Georgia.

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST DETAINED. Norayr Khanzadyan, a
leading member of the radical Union for Self-Determination, was
detained in Yerevan on 2 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.
Khanzadyan is suspected of involvement in the 18 September
incident in which union leader Paruir Hairikyan physically attacked
former union member and parliamentary deputy Aramazd Zakaryan.
Zakaryan had accused Hairikyan of maintaining contacts with foreign
intelligence services and of having fathered illegitimate children.
Hairikyan told journalists in Yerevan on 3 October that Khanzadyan
had not participated in the attack but had tried to separate Hairikyan
and Zakaryan. The leader of the union suggested that Khanzadyan,
who is the union's representative on the Central Electoral
Commission, had been detained because Yerevan did not want
"honest and resolute" figures in the commission, Noyan Tapan
reported.

ROMANIAN SENATE SPEAKER IN ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN. Petre
Roman met with Armenia's President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Prime
Minister Robert Kocharyan, and parliamentary speaker Babken
Ararktsyan in Yerevan on 1-2 October, Armenian agencies reported.
The Romanian Senate speaker later described bilateral relations as
"problem free" and affirmed that Bucharest supports Armenia's bid
for full Council of Europe membership. He said the Romanian port of
Constanza could serve as a conduit for the export of Armenian goods.
In Baku on 3-4 October, Roman discussed the possible export of
Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Georgia to Constanza and said that
unspecified European organizations may provide financing for the
project. Roman also suggested that the Black Sea Economic
Cooperation may debate the reported clandestine supplies of Russian
arms to Armenia, Turan reported.

AZERBAIJANI-TURKMEN OIL ROW CONTINUES. Speaking in
Washington on 3 October, Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris
Shikhmuradov reaffirmed that Caspian littoral states recognized the
division of the Caspian Sea before the collapse of the USSR, Turan
reported. Shikhmuradov stressed that Turkmen ownership of several
Caspian oil fields currently exploited or claimed by Azerbaijan is
beyond dispute. He also said that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
Strobe Talbott told him that the U.S. is prepared to mediate the
dispute between Baku and Ashgabat. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister
Hasan Hasanov again dismissed Turkmen claims on the Azeri, Chirag,
and Gyuneshli fields. "The Turkmen side is trying to catch up with an
aircraft on foot," he commented. According to Turan, Turkmen
aircraft regularly overfly the disputed Kyapaz/Serdar field, which is
close to the border between the Azerbaijani and Turkmen sectors.

END NOTE

THREE 'FREEDOM-LOVING' STATES

by Paul Goble

        Russian involvement in the French-led consortium for the
development of gas deposits in Iran, which the U.S. has sought to
isolate economically and politically, has given Moscow three
important geopolitical victories.
        First, it has allowed Russia to side openly with the West
Europeans against the United States, thereby increasing Russian
influence over the former with apparently little cost to Russian
cooperation with the latter. Even though many West European
countries have withdrawn their ambassadors from Tehran, virtually
all of them believe that isolating Iran, as the Americans urge, will not
contribute to political change there. In addition, the Europeans
almost universally feel that Washington's threats of imposing
sanctions on non-U.S. firms investing in Iran is a most unfortunate
form of U.S. overreach.
        Second, Russian involvement has increased Moscow's influence
in Iran and thus given Moscow expanded opportunities to influence
when or even whether oil and gas can flow from Central Asia and the
Transcaucasus to the West. Such Russian leverage in Tehran on the
possible flow of petroleum will quickly translate into immediate
Russian political leverage in the capitals of the Transcaucasus and
Central Asia. Gazprom, the Russian partner in this latest project, is
unlikely to be able to make significant investments in Iran. But its
presence in the consortium, combined with Russian supplies of
nuclear materials and weapons systems to Tehran, will give it a
major voice.
        Third, Moscow's participation has increased its influence in
many countries of the Middle East both because Russia has proved
willing to cooperate with an Islamic state at odds with the West and
because the Russian government has taken this step over vocal U.S.
opposition.
        Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who has long had
close ties to anti-U.S. governments in the Middle East, is clearly
playing an old Moscow card: siding with radical Muslim regimes and
seeking to portray the U.S. as too closely tied to Israel.
        Until now, most observers in the West have downplayed
Moscow's role either because Washington has focused its criticism on
France or because they believe that Russian involvement in Iran is
the product of forces President Boris Yeltsin does not control. But in
an interview carried by Russian and French television on 1 October,
Yeltsin demonstrated that Russian involvement reflects a clearly
articulated policy and that Moscow may be the big winner in this
project, even if it does not reap the largest financial rewards.
        Discussing this latest international investment project in Iran
and U.S. opposition to it, Yeltsin said "Thank God, Russia, France, and
Iran are independent, freedom-loving states." He added that
interference by any state is not to be tolerated. Moreover, the
Russian leader went on to say that Moscow's cooperation with Paris
represented yet "another instance of the coincidence of views"
between the two countries.
        At the very least, this statement suggests Moscow is trying to
exploit a situation created by U.S. efforts to isolate Iran because of
Tehran's sponsorship of terrorism and by rising opposition to
Washington's policy in Western Europe and the Middle East.
        But Yeltsin's remarks may point to an even more important
shift in Moscow's policies. They suggest that Yeltsin and his
government have decided that, despite weaknesses at home, they
can now begin to recoup some of their past influence abroad. And
Yeltsin's words suggest that Russia will once again try to regain that
influence by exploiting or exacerbating tensions between the United
States, its allies, and the countries of the Middle East.
        Most of the discussion of the French-led consortium in Iran has
focused on either the profits the deal will bring to Paris or the
political breakout it may help Tehran to make. But the gains Russia
seems set to make as a result are likely to be far larger than any of
those being calculated in either the French or Iranian capital, let
alone anywhere else.

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