Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 137, Part I, 13 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 VOWS TO FOLLOW ALL COUNCIL OF EUROPE
RECOMMENDATIONS

* RUSSIA SUPPORTS LAND MINE BAN

* KORZHAKOV IMPLICATED IN SHEVARDNADZE ASSASSINATION
ATTEMPT

End Note : YABLOKO SEEN AS YELTSIN'S TOUGHEST OPPONENT
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN VOWS TO FOLLOW ALL COUNCIL OF EUROPE
RECOMMENDATIONS... President Boris Yeltsin pledged on 10 October
that Russia will adhere to all Council of Europe recommendations,
including a ban on capital punishment. Addressing the Council of
Europe summit in Strasbourg, Yeltsin said Russia has not carried out
any executions in more than a year. With regard to the recent public
executions in Chechnya, Yeltsin said the Russian leadership is taking
"all necessary measures for localizing such manifestations of
medieval barbarianism," Interfax reported. Russian courts still
occasionally hand down the death sentence, and the State Duma
voted down a law on banning capital punishment earlier this year.
But according to Council of Europe Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys,
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has promised that the lower house
will ratify the European Human Rights Convention and honor other
obligations Russia undertook when it joined the Council of Europe in
February 1996, ITAR-TASS reported.

...AGREES TO REGULAR SUMMITS WITH KOHL, CHIRAC. While in
Strasbourg, Yeltsin, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French
President Jacques Chirac agreed to hold annual three-way summits.
The Russian president accepted Chirac's suggestion that the first such
summit be held in Yekaterinburg, the capital of Yeltsin's native
Sverdlovsk Oblast. In several recent interviews and public
appearances, Yeltsin has said Russia seeks more cooperation with
Europe and has spoken out against U.S. influence on the continent.
Shortly before departing for the Council of Europe summit, he argued
that Europe does not need any "overseas uncle," an RFE/RL
correspondent in Strasbourg reported on 9 October.

RUSSIA SUPPORTS LAND MINE BAN. Yeltsin also announced on 10
October that Russia supports a ban on anti-personnel land mines and
will sign a convention to that effect. That statement caused some
confusion, since Russia is a major manufacturer of land mines and
was only an observer at the recent negotiations in Oslo on banning
land mines. The next day, Yeltsin's press service clarified the
statement, saying Russia supports the goal of banning land mines and
will sign the convention "when the necessary conditions are created,"
Russian news agencies reported. While in Strasbourg, Yeltsin did not
discuss any concrete dates for signing the Oslo accord, the press
service added. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman recently said a
ban on anti-personnel mines should not be implemented "hastily"
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 1997).

CHERNOMYRDIN ON BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS. In an interview with
Russian Public Television (ORT) on 11 October, Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomrydin said that in upcoming negotiations with the
parliament, the government will not compromise on the "key
parameters" of the draft budget for 1998, including the projected
inflation rate of 5 percent. However, he said, the government may
consider raising expenditures--currently planned at 472 billion new
rubles ($80 billion)--by 0.5 percent. Chernomyrdin also remarked
that the government's decision to cut subsidies to Moscow may have
been hasty. A trilateral commission on the 1998 budget, comprised
of government, Duma, and Federation Council representatives, is
expected to hold its first meeting on 13 October. Duma Budget
Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksander Zhukov of Our Home Is
Russia has said that the trilateral commission may agree to increase
projected revenues and expenditures by 30 to 40 billion new rubles,
ITAR-TASS reported on 11 October.

LUZHKOV BLASTS CHUBAIS. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 10
October charged that all of First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Chubais's policy initiatives have failed, Russian news agencies
reported. Luzhkov added that Chubais's recent address to the Duma
was "disgraceful and unskilled." Chubais recently argued that
Moscow does not need compensation for the costs of maintaining
federal facilities in the capital, particularly in light of the recent
celebrations of Moscow's 850th anniversary (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
10 October 1997). Luzhkov countered that Moscow had earned
substantial revenues from those celebrations. For his part, Chubais on
10 October accused Luzhkov of turning policy disputes into personal
attacks and argued that Moscow "can provide for itself and for other
[Russian] regions," although to do that the Moscow authorities "would
have to build one less monument." Meanwhile, speaking to
journalists in Berlin on 11 October, Luzhkov again denied that he
plans to run for president.

GATES FIGHTS SOFTWARE PIRACY DURING MOSCOW VISIT. During a
visit to Moscow, Bill Gates, the president of the U.S. software giant
Microsoft, encouraged top Russian politicians to crack down on
unlicensed sales of computer products. More than 90 percent of
software sold in Russia is believed to be pirated. Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin on 11 October promised Gates that the Russian
government will take steps to solve the problem. The previous day,
Gates discussed the issue with First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais
and signed a deal with Sberbank Chairman Andrei Kazmin whereby
the bank will pay Microsoft $1.65 million in order to legalize the
company's software already in use at the bank. Gates also discussed
the use of Microsoft products at the Central Bank and the oil
company LUKoil with Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin and
LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov.

DUMA APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. The Duma on 10
October appealed to the Constitutional Court against Yeltsin's failure
to sign the law on the government, ITAR-TASS reported. That law
would require the entire cabinet to resign if the prime minister quit
or was dismissed. Both houses of the parliament overrode a
presidential veto of the law earlier this year, but Yeltsin charged that
unconstitutional voting procedures were used (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 1 and 7 July 1997). On similar grounds, the president
refused to sign a law that would ban the removal of "trophy art"
from Russia. The Duma's appeal, which does not cover the trophy art
law, argues that the president does not have the right to refuse to
sign "federal constitutional laws," a special category that includes the
law on the government. Such legislation must be approved by a two-
thirds majority in the Duma and a three-quarters majority in the
Federation Council.

CONTROVERSY OVER PRESIDENTIAL FOREIGN POLICY DEPARTMENT.
Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 October, Karen Khachaturov
accused the Department for Foreign Policy within the presidential
administration of seeking to usurp the functions of the Foreign
Ministry. The department, created under a September decree issued
by Yeltsin, replaced the Presidential Council on Foreign Policy and
has more extensive powers than its predecessors. Khachaturov
described the department as a "bureaucratic monster" that ignores
the executive branch and is unconstitutional. He pointed out that its
creation has fueled rumors of the imminent dismissal of Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov. In September, Primakov was named as
chairman of a commission on international security that is
subordinate to the Russian Security Council. Khachaturov described
the commission as "purely decorative."

RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TALKS OVERCOME TENSIONS TEMPORARILY...
Meeting in Dagomys on 9 October, Russian and Chechen
representatives agreed that Moscow's representation in Chechnya
may return to Grozny once that city's airport is granted international
status, Russian media reported, quoting Chechen Deputy Premier
Akhmed Zakaev. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris
Berezovskii said on10 October that the two sides also agreed that
Chechnya will submit to the Russian State Duma two separate drafts
of an accord specifying Chechnya's political status. Berezovskii said
fundamental disagreement on that issue persists but noted both
sides are committed to resolving their differences by "legitimate,
peaceful means." Meanwhile, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin
said after meeting with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov in
Grozny on 11 October that the recent crisis in bilateral relations is
over and that both he and Maskhadov pledged their readiness to
continue talks.

...BUT NEW STANDOFF LOOMS. However, at a session of Chechen
negotiating team convened by Maskhadov later on 11 October, it was
agreed that Grozny will not send representatives to the 14 October
Russian Duma session at which the two draft documents on
Chechnya's future political status are to be discussed, Interfax
reported, quoting presidential press spokesman Kazbek Khadzhiev.
Duma deputies are "unwilling" to approach the issue of Chechnya's
status "constructively," Khadzhiev said. He added that "Chechnya is
ready to discuss with Moscow the need to establish full-scale
diplomatic relations of a friendly nature." Also on 12 October,
Chechen parliamentary speaker Ruslan Alikhadzhiev warned that the
Chechen parliament will not ratify a bilateral accord that makes
Chechnya dependent on Russia.

DUMA TO MONITOR GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION IN OREL. The Duma
on 10 October voted to send a commission to Orel Oblast to monitor
the 19 October gubernatorial election following accusations that two
candidates were unfairly denied registration, RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau reported. Incumbent Yegor Stroev, who is also speaker of the
Federation Council, is expected to win the election easily. But in a
speech to the Duma, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader
Vladimir Zhirinovsky accused Stroev of trying to stage a sham
election. Only one other candidate, a little-known head of a collective
farm, was registered for the race. The Orel Electoral Commission
denied registration to two candidates, including the head of the
LDPR's Orel branch. After the Duma rejected his call that the lower
house demand Stroev's removal as Federation Council speaker,
Zhirinovsky told RFE/RL that LDPR deputies will stage a protest at
the Council's upcoming session.

BEREZOVSKII, NTV ON U.S. BANKER'S VISA. Security Council Deputy
Secretary Berezovskii said on 10 October that U.S. banker Boris
Jordan was recently deprived of his multiple entry visa because he
had gained access to classified military and financial information that
could "harm the Russian state," ITAR-TASS reported. An ORT
commentary the next day endorsed Berezovskii's version of events
and criticized First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov for
defending Jordan. Jordan heads the MFK investment bank, which is
part of the Oneksimbank empire. Berezovskii, an influential figure at
ORT, is considered a leading business rival of Oneksimbank head
Vladimir Potanin. Meanwhile, a 12 October commentary on NTV's
influential weekly program "Itogi" was largely sympathetic to Jordan.
The network linked Jordan's visa problems to a battle for
management control over a large steel mill. NTV is owned by the
Media-Most company of Vladimir Gusinskii.

YEKATERINBURG MAYOR BLAMES DEATHS ON STRIKING AMBULANCE
DRIVERS. Arkadii Chernetskii has charged that a strike by
Yekaterinburg ambulance drivers cost 13 lives because of delays in
emergency aid for patients, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11
October. The drivers went on strike on 6 October to protest
inadequately equipped ambulances and wage arrears. Chernetskii on
9 October vowed to fire the strikers and file criminal charges against
them. ITAR-TASS quoted him as calling the protest "blackmail
verging on terrorism." City prosecutors, for their part, said the strike
was illegal. The drivers ended the strike on 9 October, after one of
their key demands--the dismissal of the director of the
Yekaterinburg ambulance service--had been met. The city's
ambulance drivers staged a similar protest in January.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

KORZHAKOV IMPLICATED IN SHEVARDNADZE ASSASSINATION
ATTEMPT. Georgian businessman Temur Maskhulia claims that
Yeltsin's former bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov and former Russian
Federal Security Service chief Mikhail Barsukov were involved in the
August 1995 failed attempt to assassinate Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze, according to Interfax. Maskhulia made the allegations
during a conversation with Georgian intelligence service head
Avtandil Ioseliani, a videotape of which was shown at a news
conference in Tbilisi on 10 October. Maskhulia said he had been
informed of Korzhakov's and Barsukov's role by Yevgenii Marusin,
the former intelligence chief of the Group of Russian Forces in the
Transcaucasus. Maskhulia also claimed that while under arrest
earlier this year, he was pressured by Ioseliani to give false
testimony implicating leading Georgian political figures (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 9 October 1997). Speaking at the 10 October news
conference, Ioseliani denied having pressured Maskhulia.

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEET. Levon Ter-Petrossyan
and Heidar Aliev, meeting in Strasbourg on 10 October on the
sidelines of the Council of Europe summit and in their respective
addresses to the meeting, reaffirmed their shared commitment to
resolving the Karabakh conflict by peaceful means, Reuters reported.
In a joint statement, they said they consider it necessary to facilitate
talks between all three parties to the conflict within the framework
of the Minsk Group. The previous day, Russian President Boris Yeltsin
had proposed inviting Ter-Petrossyan and Aliev to Moscow for talks
with himself and French President Jacques Chirac on resolving the
conflict. Yeltsin, however, had not included, Arkadii Ghukasyan, the
president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, in the
invitation to the proposed Moscow talks.

NAGORNO-KARABAKH PROPOSES IRAN AS CO-GUARANTOR OF ITS
SECURITY. Naira Melkumyan, the permanent representative in
Yerevan of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told
RFE/RL on 11 October that Karabakh has formally rejected the most
recent peace plan proposed by the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group. Melkumyan said the "step-by-
step" approach advocated by the Minsk Group is unacceptable
because it fails to address the Karabakh Armenians' security
concerns. She said Karabakh will continue to push for a "package"
solution that would resolve all contentious issues within one
framework document. She added that Karabakh is prepared to
withdraw from six occupied districts of Azerbaijan in return for
international guarantees of its security. Melkumyan also suggested
that Armenia and other countries, including Iran, could act as
guarantors.

NEW PRO-GOVERNMENT BLOC IN AZERBAIJAN. Eight pro-government
political parties on 8 October aligned themselves with the New
Azerbaijan party, which holds an overwhelming majority of seats in
the parliament, Turan reported two days later. New Azerbaijan was
founded in 1992 by President Aliev, who at that time was chairman
of the Nakhichevan Supreme Soviet. The members of the new bloc,
which is named Democratic Azerbaijan, agreed to propose joint
candidates for the upcoming municipal elections.

KAZAKH PRESIDENT ON ECONOMY. Addressing the parliament on 10
October, Nursultan Nazarbaev outlined his concept for the country's
development between now and 2030, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported. Nazarbaev proposed that Kazakhstan aim for intensive,
rather than extensive, economic development and that it take as its
model the "little tigers" of southeastern Asia with the aim of
becoming "Central Asia's mountain lion." He said the number of
ministers in Nurlan Balgimbaev's government will be reduced to 15
and that the cabinet will focus on implementation of the president's
new economic strategy. Nazarbaev also announced that referenda
will be held in the next few months on banning abortion and
introducing the death penalty for drug-trafficking. He denied that
the next presidential elections, due in 2000, will be held earlier.

CHERNOMYRDIN IN BISHKEK. Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, CIS Affairs Minister Anatolii Adamishin, and Defense
Minister Igor Sergeev held talks with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev
and Prime Minister Apas Djamagulov in Bishkek on 9-10 October,
RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Four agreements
were signed: on cooperation in fighting drug-smuggling, on Moscow's
leasing military facilities in Kyrgyzstan, on scientific-technical
cooperation, and on creating a bilateral commission on trade and
economic cooperation. Akaev told journalists on 9 October that
bilateral relations are "strategic" and "developing well," according to
Interfax. Chernomyrdin on 10 October said the two countries
continue to seek "new forms of higher integration" but do not plan
"in the near future" to conclude a union comparable to that of Russia
with Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported.

END NOTE

YABLOKO SEEN AS YELTSIN'S TOUGHEST OPPONENT

by Floriana Fossato

        The State Duma's recent debate on the 1998 budget shows that
the reformist bloc Yabloko, rather than the Communists or the
nationalists, is the most uncompromising opponent of the Russian
government's spending plan.
        On 9 October, the Duma voted against the draft budget in the
first reading and pledged to soon hold a no confidence vote in the
government. Communist Party legislators joined pro-government
deputies to vote 326 to 13 to reject the draft but agreed to create a
trilateral commission, composed of members of the cabinet and of
both chambers of the parliament, to revise the budget proposal.
Political analysts in Moscow say that in the budget debate, the
Communists used tough rhetoric but backed off from some of their
demands.
        Analysts also say that the Yabloko faction, led by economist
Grigorii Yavlinskii, is the only group to put up uncompromising
opposition to President Boris Yeltsin and his government. Foreseeing
the outcome of the budget debate, Yavlinskii on 8 October had
questioned the logic of the Communists' strategy, which he called
"absurd." Yavlinskii told RFE/RL that his faction opposes the 1998
budget because it is linked to the approval of a new tax code, which,
he said, will not decrease the tax burden and therefore will not help
collect revenues.
        Yevgenii Yasin, an influential economist and a minister without
portfolio, told RFE/RL that much of Yavlinskii's criticism of the
government is fair, adding that "it is impossible to change the course
of economic reform now." He said "if Yavlinskii had accepted to be
part of the government, he would have realized this is the case."
        Before the 9 October vote, Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov also had tough words to describe his faction's stance on
both the draft budget and the tax code. He said the Communists have
no confidence in the "socio-economic course" taken by Yeltsin and his
government, as it is "doomed to failure." He also said he does not fear
Yeltsin's recent veiled threats to dissolve the uncooperative Duma
and call new parliamentary elections. The previous day, the Duma
had approved a non-binding resolution declaring the government's
performance during the first nine months of this year unsatisfactory.
        Also on 8 October, Communist legislators gave the first sign
that they were ready to cooperate with the government by voting
against a Yabloko motion to include a no confidence vote on the
session's agenda. The move came before Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin addressed the Duma on the government's
performance and pledged the cabinet is ready to compromise with
deputies in order to avoid the draft budget's rejection and a no
confidence vote.
        First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said after the vote
on the budget draft that since the government and the parliament
would now be working together on the budget, a no confidence vote
is "unlikely." If approved, a no confidence vote would still be non-
binding. But if the Duma voted no confidence twice within three
months, Yeltsin would have to decide whether to dismiss his cabinet
or the Duma. New parliamentary elections would follow if he
disbanded the lower house.
        Zyuganov stressed on 9 October that the decision on a no
confidence vote had not been dropped altogether but simply
postponed until the following week. In the past, the Communist
faction has backed down from threats of a no confidence vote. Many
commentators believe that behind-the-scenes compromises will lead
to the same outcome this year.
        Yeltsin and his government seemed triumphant after the vote.
Speaking to journalists upon his arrival in Strasbourg for the Council
of Europe summit, the president predicted that "now everything will
be in order with the budget." Chubais called the outcome of the vote
a "great victory for common sense and a defeat for extremism."
        Rory McFarquhar, an analyst with the Russian-European center
for Economic Policy, told RFE/RL that "everyone knows the
Communists oppose Yeltsin and his government." He added that the
Communists use threats of no confidence votes "to gain as much as
they can" from the budget debate, out of the political necessity to
stay afloat. But he also said Yabloko's position that slashing taxes will
boost revenues is unrealistic at the moment. Such a move could raise
inflation, McFarquhar commented.
        Michael McFaul, a senior associate at the Moscow Carnegie
Center, wrote recently that the Communist Party looks increasingly
marginalized since last year's presidential election. He notes that,
with its established network of grassroots regional organizations and
its strong identification with democratic principles, Yabloko could
benefit from the "end of polarized politics" and emerge as a powerful
parliamentary opposition in the next elections.

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

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