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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 133, Part I, 7 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

* YELTSIN REASSURES DUMA SPEAKER

* RUSSIA, LONDON CLUB SIGN DEBT RESTRUCTURING DEAL

* ARMENIA DENIES POSSESSING NUCLEAR MISSILES

End Note
WALKING THE ABKHAZ TIGHTROPE

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN REASSURES DUMA SPEAKER. Three days after he issued his
sharpest warning yet to opposition State Duma deputies, President
Boris Yeltsin invited Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev to the Kremlin,
Russian news agencies reported on 6 October. Seleznev told reporters
that the president assured him that he "is not a supporter of the
dissolution of the Duma." Seleznev said Yeltsin also supported
reviving the consultative "Council of Four," consisting of the
president, prime minister, and speakers of both houses of
parliament. Yeltsin created that council in fall 1996, but it never got
off the ground because of Yeltsin's protracted illness. Duma Foreign
Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko commented
to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that Yeltsin has again adopted a "carrot
and stick" approach in dealing with the Duma. Also on 6 October,
Seleznev and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin discussed the
draft budget and Chernomyrdin's report to the Duma, scheduled for 8
October.

CHUBAIS LOBBIES DUMA COMMITTEE ON BUDGET. First Deputy Prime
Minister Anatolii Chubais presented the government's draft budget
for 1998 at a 6 October session of the Duma Budget Committee,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Chubais said the government
hopes to provide for 2 percent GDP growth next year, a 3 percent
increase in industrial production, and a 3 percent increase in the
average real income. He said those goals can be achieved by reducing
the tax burden on enterprises (one of the aims of the new tax code),
lowering rates for services provided by natural monopolies in the
energy and transportation sectors, and adopting a "realistic budget."
Chubais said defense spending will be increased significantly in light
of the costs of military reform. He added that funding for the courts
will be raised by 60 percent and spending on health and culture also
increased.

COMMITTEES RECOMMEND REJECTING BUDGET. Despite Chubais's
lobbying, both the Duma Budget Committee and the Duma Economic
Policy Committee have recommended that the lower house of
parliament reject the 1998 budget in the first reading, RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau reported on 6 October. The committees
recommended that the document be sent to a conciliatory
commission of government and parliamentary representatives.
Communist representatives have previously indicated that their
faction will support sending the budget directly back to the
government, which is considered a "tougher" form of rejection than
the creation of a conciliatory commission. Speaking to RFE/RL,
Chubais expressed optimism that the Duma will support forming a
conciliatory commission so as not to "stop the [budget] process." He
said deputies from most factions, with the exception of Yabloko, had
adopted a "reasonable" stance on the budget. Also on 6 October, the
Duma Budget Committee recommended that the Duma declare the
government's implementation of the 1997 budget "unsatisfactory."

YABLOKO LEADER ON GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES. Grigorii Yavlinskii
announced on 6 October that his faction has decided unanimously to
vote against the 1998 budget, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He
again charged that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin has an alliance with
leaders of the Communist Party and Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia . The Duma factions of both those parties voted for the 1997
budget, which Yabloko opposed. Yavlinskii also repeated that Yabloko
supports "radical tax reform" but opposes the government's proposed
new tax code. With regard to Yeltsin's recent call for the Duma to
adopt a law on corruption and organized crime, Yavlinskii said the
president could better fight corruption by removing officials who are
generally believed to be corrupt from the government. When asked
about Chubais, Yavlinskii declined to accuse any minister of
corruption but blamed Chubais for helping create the "corrupt" and
"oligarchic" system that, Yavlinskii said, now dominates Russia.

RUSSIA, LONDON CLUB SIGN DEBT RESTRUCTURING DEAL. Russia and
the London Club of creditor banks signed a deal in Moscow on 6
October to restructure the $33 billion debt inherited from the Soviet
Union, Reuters and an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow reported. In
December, Russia is scheduled to pay $3 billion toward overdue
interest on the debt. Other payments on interest and principal will
begin in 2002 and continue until 2020. First Deputy Prime Minister
Chubais told reporters, "Today leaders of the biggest banks in the
world recognized the irreversibility of our reforms and the prestige
of Russia in the international community." He also said the deal will
spur more foreign investment in Russia. Market analysts predicted
that the London Club deal will earn Russia an upgrade in its credit
rating, making it less expensive for Moscow to borrow money on
world financial markets.

BLAIR IN MOSCOW. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Yeltsin
exchanged warm words during Blair's first official visit to Moscow on
5-6 October. Yeltsin greeted Blair with a bear-hug rather than a
handshake, and he praised Blair's youth and energy during a press
conference after the meeting. Blair expressed his admiration for
Yeltsin and called for more military cooperation between Russia and
the U.K., as well as full membership for Russia in the group of the
world's leading economic powers, which will hold its next summit in
the British city of Birmingham. Blair and Russian Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin signed an agreement on cooperating in the fight
against organized crime. Blair also met with Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov. On 5 October, Blair had dinner with First Deputy
Prime Ministers Chubais and Boris Nemtsov.

GROZNY SETS CONDITIONS FOR RETURN OF RUSSIAN
REPRESENTATIVES. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on 6
October issued a statement ruling that the Russian representation in
Grozny will be able to return and resume its work only when
Moscow implements bilateral agreements signed in recent months
and abstains from "economic blackmail," Russian agencies reported.
The Russian mission was forced to leave Grozny after Moscow
refused permission for Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov to fly
from Grozny to Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1997).
Maskhadov also stressed his intention of concluding an inter-state
treaty with Moscow. Russian Security Council spokesman Igor
Ignatev told ITAR-TASS that there will be no official response to
Maskhadov's statement as "everything has already been said."

CONFLICTING REPORTS ON SOBCHAK CASE. Spokesmen for the
Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office have denied
that Interior Ministry troops were sent to pick up former St.
Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak for questioning on 3 October,
ITAR-TASS reported on 6 October. According to the prosecutor's
office, investigators collected Sobchak from his office because
Sobchak had on 12 previous occasions ignored a summons to be
questioned in a corruption investigation against former St.
Petersburg officials. Sobchak and his wife, Duma deputy Lyudmila
Narusova of the Our Home Is Russia faction, have charged that at
least 10 armed Interior Ministry troops picked up the former mayor,
who is now hospitalized with heart trouble (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6
October 1997). Sobchak and Narusova have drawn parallels with
Stalin-era police techniques, and Narusova told the 7 October
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" that she has filed an official protest with
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov and Prosecutor-General Yurii
Skuratov.

PROSECUTOR ACCUSES KEMEROVO GOVERNOR OF SLANDER. Valentin
Simuchenkov, the chief prosecutor of Kemerovo Oblast, has filed
several slander lawsuits against Governor Aman Tuleev, "Izvestiya"
reported on 7 October. Tuleev recently denounced the oblast law
enforcement authorities for not informing the public about the
criminal record of Leninsk-Kuznetskii Mayor Gennadii Konyakhin
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1997). Simuchenkov told
journalists that he could not stand by while "we are accused of
unprofessionalism and corruption." In addition, he accused Tuleev of
accepting payments from businessman Timur Tsoriev in 1996, when
Tuleev chaired the Kemerovo legislature and then ran for president.
After the election, when he was appointed CIS affairs minister,
Tuleev appointed Tsoriev to head his ministry's department in
charge of hard currency operations, Simuchenkov commented.
Tuleev faces two challengers in the 19 October gubernatorial election.

FORMER DUMA DEPUTY ACQUITTED OF TERRORISM. The Moscow City
Court on 6 October acquitted Nikolai Lysenko, the leader of the
extreme nationalist National-Republican Party of Russia, and his aide
Mikhail Rogozin of several charges, including terrorism, Russian news
agencies reported. Lysenko was accused of staging a bomb attack in
his office in the State Duma in December 1995, shortly before the
parliamentary election. No one was hurt in the blast, but property
damage was estimated at 100 million rubles ($20,800 at 1995
exchange rates). Lysenko's party gained less than 1 percent of the
vote, despite the huge publicity surrounding the explosion. The court
convicted Lysenko of stealing a computer from the Duma. It
sentenced him to 16 months in prison but ordered his immediate
release on the grounds he has already spent more than 16 months in
custody since his May 1996 arrest.

ORT NAMES NEW ACTING DIRECTOR-GENERAL. The board of directors
of Russian Public Television (ORT) has appointed Kseniya
Ponomareva acting director-general, Interfax reported on 6 October.
Until now, Ponomareva headed the news division of the 51 percent
state-owned network. The ORT board will decide in November
whether to make her appointment permanent. On 1 October, Yeltsin
met with Ponomareva and publicly recommended that the ORT board
appoint her director-general. Ponomareva is believed to have good
relations with Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, a
highly influential figure at the network. Her appointment suggests
that Berezovskii's influence at ORT has not declined, despite First
Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov's recent call for establishing
state control over the finances and the "ideological foundations" of
the network (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August and 18 September
1997). Ponomareva's predecessor, Sergei Blagovolin, occasionally
criticized ORT management.

GAZPROM CHAIRMAN DEFENDS COOPERATION WITH IRAN. Gazprom
board chairman Rem Vyakhirev said on 6 October that his company
will not withdraw from the 28 September contract with Iran and
France's Total to develop Iran's South Pars Caspian gas deposit,
Russian agencies reported. That deal is valued at $2 billion.
Vyakhirev said "we have considered what we stand to lose and to
gain if sanctions are imposed on us.... It would be madness not to
take part in the project." Vyakhirev was addressing a roundtable of
Russian and EU industrialists in Moscow.

U.S. EX-IM BANK TO OPEN BRANCH IN TATARSTAN. Meeting with
Prime Minister Farit Mukhametshin and the economy and finance
ministers in Kazan on 4-6 October, a delegation from the U.S.
government's Ex-Im Bank agreed to open a Regional Development
Bank in Kazan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Tatarstan TV cited
Mukhametshin argued that the controlling shares in the new bank
should belong to Tatarstan. Ex-Im Bank has been active in Tatarstan
since 1994 and has invested about $220 million in the Tatneft and
Nizhnekamskneftekhim companies.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIA DENIES POSSESSING NUCLEAR MISSILES. Foreign Ministry
spokesman Arsen Gasparyan told Interfax on 6 October that Armenia
has no nuclear arms and that its nuclear potential "serves only
peaceful purposes." Two days earlier, parliamentary deputy speaker
Ara Sahakyan similarly denied charges by Azerbaijani Foreign
Minister Hasan Hasanov that Russia has supplied Armenia with
medium-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Sahakyan pointed out that Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Valerii Nesterushkin has told journalists that Russia destroyed its
medium-range missiles before May 1991 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3
October 1997).

AZERBAIJAN POPULAR FRONT CONGRESS POSTPONED. Azerbaijan
Popular Front deputy chairman Ali Kerimov told Turan on 6 October
that the front's planned congress has been postponed because the
Azerbaijani authorities have refused to provide premises for it. In
recent months, members of the front's board have been repeatedly
prevented from traveling to the village of Keleki in Nakhichevan to
visit front chairman Abulfaz Elchibey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8
September 1997).

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ON RAPPROCHEMENT WITH EUROPE, RUSSIA.
Eduard Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio address on 6 October
that Georgia's desire for integration into Europe does not preclude
rapprochement with Russia, Russian media reported. Shevardnadze
noted that it is "strange" for Russian political figures to reproach
Georgia for seeking closer integration with Europe when Moscow is
pursuing a similar policy. He predicted that his participation in the
upcoming Council of Europe summit in Strasbourg will speed up
Georgia's integration into Europe. Shevardnadze also expressed
satisfaction with growing Russian investments in Georgia.

ANOTHER BOMB IN TAJIK CAPITAL. Four people were injured when
a bomb exploded near the presidential palace in Dushanbe on 6
October, Russian media reported. A Tajik Security Ministry
spokesman attributed this latest explosion as well as the series of
bomb attacks in September to extremist groups not aligned with the
opposition. Also on 6 October, Russian Federal Border Service chief
Colonel-General Andrei Nikolaev said a total of 6,500 refugees have
been repatriated from Afghanistan. He added that once the initial
stage of repatriating civilian refugees has been completed, the first
group of some 300 opposition fighters will also be allowed to return
to Tajikistan. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told
Interfax on 4 October that three land corridors will be opened to
permit the fighters to transit the border, where their arms and
ammunition will be monitored. Nuri had earlier said that financial
and logistical problems are delaying the repatriation of the
opposition fighters.

KAZAKHSTAN VALUES MILITARY COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA.
Kazakh Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev, who is currently on an
official visit to China, told ITAR-TASS on 6 October that consolidated
defense ties with Russia remains one of his country's top policy
priorities. Altynbaev singled out anti-aircraft defense as an area in
which the two countries cooperate closely. He also argued that the
trilateral defense pact between Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and
Kyrgyzstan complements, rather than runs counter to, the CIS
Collective Security Treaty. Two days earlier, Altynbaev met in Beijing
with Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian, who called for expanding
Chinese-Kazakh military cooperation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6
October 1997).

POLICE HALT PROTEST MARCHERS IN KAZAKHSTAN. Several
thousand workers from the Achisay Polimetal plant in Kentau were
intercepted by police near the southern city of Turkestan, RFE/RL's
Almaty bureau reported on 6 October. The workers were marching to
the capital to protest the non-payment of wages. The Turkestan
authorities are providing tents and free meals for the stranded
marchers but are apprehensive about allowing them to continue for
fear that thousands more protesters will join the march, according to
Reuters.

END NOTE

WALKING THE ABKHAZ TIGHTROPE

by Liz Fuller

        Less than two months after the presidents of Georgia and
Abkhazia signed a landmark agreement abjuring the use of force, the
search for a solution to the Abkhaz conflict has ground to a halt yet
again. In late September, two Abkhaz spokesmen reasserted that the
only acceptable status for their republic is that of equal partner with
Georgia within a confederation. The central Georgian government has
consistently rejected that demand, however.
         Georgia, in effect, lost control of its western province in
September1993, following a 13-month war that culminated in the
flight of some 300,000 ethnic Georgians from their homes in
Abkhazia. An agreement mediated by Russia and the UN in April
1994 stipulated conditions for the repatriation of the displaced
persons. But that accord has not been systematically implemented,
despite deployment of a CIS peacekeeping force along the border
between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia to oversee the repatriation
process.
        In June and July 1997, Georgian and Abkhaz diplomats met in
Moscow with top Russian leaders to discuss a protocol, drafted by the
Russian Foreign Ministry, that was intended to pave the way for a
political solution to the conflict. Some of the seemingly irreconcilable
differences between the two sides were overcome at those talks,
largely as a result of concessions by the Abkhaz. But the discussions
broke down after Georgia demanded substantive amendments to a
version of the protocol that the Abkhaz delegation had already
endorsed. Under the terms of that document, Georgia and Abkhazia
affirm their "consent to live within the confines of a shared state
within the boundaries of the Georgian SSR as of 21 December 1991.
Each of the two sides preserves its constitution, and relations
between them will be regulated by a special treaty, which both sides
agree to invest with the force of a constitutional law."
        On 14 August--the fifth anniversary of the Georgian attack on
Sukhumi-- Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba and Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze in Tbilisi. The following day, Ardzinba and
Shevardnadze signed a declaration abjuring the use or threat of force
against each other. The accord led to government-level meetings
aimed at restoring economic ties, transport links, and
communications between the central government and the breakaway
province. But two such rounds of talks have yielded virtually no
results.
        With hindsight, it appears that the Shevardnadze-Ardzinba
meeting created false expectations of a breakthrough in removing
the obstacles to a political settlement. It also seems to have fueled
the arguments of hard-line elements on either side who opposed
even the slightest concessions. On 26 September, Ardzinba's personal
negotiator, Anri Djergenia, told Interfax that Abkhazia is ready to
sign not the compromise version of the Russian Foreign Ministry
protocol discussed in June but an earlier version based on the
principle of the legal equality of the two constituent parties forming
a common Georgian state.
        In other words, the earlier version provided for the creation of
a confederation, not a federation. Within this common state,
according to Djergenia, Georgia and Abkhazia would pursue a
common foreign and defense policy. They would also jointly conduct
policy in minority rights, foreign trade, border control, customs, and
environmental issues. Igor Akhba, who is Abkhazia's permanent
representative in Moscow, told Interfax on 30 September that the
Abkhaz leadership intends to demand from Tbilisi $60 billion in
compensation for war damage. He ruled out any kind of autonomous
status for Abkhazia within the proposed future common state.
Shevardnadze, responding to Djergenia's 26 September statement,
warned that if the Abkhaz continue to adhere to such a maximalist
position, then "future talks have no sense."
        It is conceivable that Djergenia's and Akhba's statements
merely reflected Abkhaz displeasure with Tbilisi's plans to stage
mass military maneuvers in early October in a region of western
Georgia that borders Abkhazia. But such hard-line rhetoric could
equally reflect differences of opinion within the Abkhaz leadership.
Taras Shamba, Ardzinba's former rival and the informal head of the
World Congress of the Abkhaz People, has told Russian journalists he
considers there are equally qualified candidates for the Abkhaz
presidency.
        The Georgian leadership, too, has to contend with hard-line
elements beyond its control. The White Legion guerrilla formation
continues to target the Russian peacekeeping force, claiming that the
Russian peacekeepers regularly side with the Abkhaz. And
representatives of the ethnic Georgian fugitives from Abkhazia have
vowed to create a parliamentary faction to press their demands for
financial compensation and for a formal agreement facilitating their
repatriation. Some 70 parliament deputies (of a total of 233) have
indicated they are ready to join the proposed For Abkhazia faction.
        While the militant rhetoric emanating from hard-line elements
in Tbilisi and Sukhumi is unlikely to derail the tenuous negotiating
progress, it increases the pressure on the leaders of either side. That,
in turn, reduces the ability and willingness of those leaders to make
further concessions.




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