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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 139, Part I, 15 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

* CHUBAIS WARNS DUMA ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE

* CHUBAIS WARNS DUMA ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE

* STANDOFF IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN CONTINUES

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RUSSIA

CHUBAIS WARNS DUMA ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. First Deputy
Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais announced on 15 October that Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will resign if the State Duma approves
a vote of no confidence, after which "everything will be in the hands"
of President Boris Yeltsin, Russian news agencies reported. Speaking
to a meeting of the State Property Ministry, Chubais said that
"deputies in several weeks will have either to drop their decision or
prepare for new [parliamentary] elections." He added that
government experts calculate that a no-confidence vote could mean
that Russian companies' shares trading on European financial
markets lose $300-400 million in value. The same day, First Deputy
Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko warned that a no-
confidence vote would harm the economy by causing a 30-50
percent drop in share values for Russian energy companies, ITAR-
TASS reported. The Duma is to debate the confidence motion on 15
October.

SELEZNEV WARNS CHUBAIS COULD BE APPOINTED PREMIER.
Appearing on NTV on 14 October, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a
prominent Communist, warned that if Prime Minister Chernomyrdin
steps down, Yeltsin could appoint Chubais prime minister. Chubais is
far more disliked by the left opposition in the Duma deputies than is
Chernomyrdin. The constitution gives the president the right to
dissolve the Duma if deputies refuse three times to approve his
nominee for prime minister. Interfax quoted Seleznev as saying that
Duma deputies "are prepared to work and find common ground with
the prime minister," who, according to Seleznev, supports many of
the Duma's positions. "The worst injustice is that by removing the
prime minister we will still have to deal with the same deputy prime
ministers and ministers with whom the differences are the greatest,"
he added.

DEPUTIES TO CAST OPEN BALLOTS ON CONFIDENCE VOTE. The Duma
on 15 October rejected a proposal by Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, which would have
allowed deputies to cast secret ballots on the upcoming confidence
motion, ITAR-TASS reported. Zhirinovsky has announced that the
LDPR faction will not support the no-confidence motion. His proposal
would have allowed government opponents to vote against the
motion without losing face. However, Duma procedures require open
voting on confidence motions. Communist deputy Igor Bratishchev
said the communist faction will insist on a roll-call vote.

YABLOKO, COMMUNISTS DIFFER OVER WORDING OF CONFIDENCE
MOTION. Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction, which has repeatedly
called for voting no confidence in the government, is at odds with
communist deputies over the wording of the motion to be submitted
to the Duma, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 15 October.
Yabloko and the Communists have proposed different drafts of the
statement, which outlines why the Duma is dissatisfied with the
government. Reuters quoted Yavlinskii as saying that the
Communists' motion criticizes market reforms, while Yabloko
believes the government should do more to establish a market
economy. If Yabloko's 46 deputies back the no-confidence motion, it
is expected to pass. It is unclear whether the Communist, Popular
Power, and Agrarian factions can find enough allies from other
factions or independents to attain the necessary 226 votes if Yabloko
and the Communists are unable to agree on an acceptable wording.

FEDERATION COUNCIL DEPUTIES AGAINST NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. The
Federation Council on 15 October adopted a resolution calling for
cooperation between the president, government, and both houses of
the parliament. The resolution says that the upper house shares the
concerns of Duma deputies over Russia's current condition and the
implementation of economic reforms. It calls for a "round table"
representing all branches of government, political parties, regional
leaders, and trade unions. (Communist politicians and their allies
have repeatedly called for such a round table.) Although the
resolution does not directly address the upcoming no-confidence vote
in the Duma, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and other
influential members of the upper house told journalists on 15
October that Russia would not benefit from a government crisis.
Noting that he recently met with Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov and Seleznev, Stroev predicted that the crisis will be
resolved, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported.

OFFICIAL THREATENS KREMLIN COULD CHANGE ELECTORAL LAW. An
unnamed government official told ITAR-TASS on 15 October that if
the Duma is dissolved and new parliamentary elections called, the
procedures for conducting those elections are likely to be changed.
The official said Yeltsin could issue a decree eliminating the current
system of proportional representation whereby half of the 450 Duma
deputies are elected. Kremlin strategists believe that proportional
representation benefits opposition parties and that pro-government
candidates have better prospects if they campaign in single-member
districts. Neither Yeltsin nor the government has the right to change
the law on parliamentary elections, adopted in 1995, without
parliamentary approval. Article 90 of the constitution stipulates that
the president cannot issue decrees that contradict federal laws.

DUMA HEARINGS ON CHECHNYA INCONCLUSIVE. Russian Security
Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav
Mikhailov, and the chairman of the Duma Committee on Nationalities,
Vladimir Zorin, addressed a closed Duma session convened on 14
October to consider two draft accords on Russian-Chechen relations.
Rybkin stressed the need for "great patience" in the negotiating
process and expressed regret that Grozny had decided not to send a
delegation to attend the hearings. He called on the "legally elected
Chechen parliament" to engage in a dialogue with the Duma. But in
Grozny, the Chechen parliament issued a statement affirming that
Chechnya's sovereignty is "permanent and not subject to division."
The statement also warned against attempts to "drag Chechnya into
Russia," Interfax reported. In an interview in "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
on 15 October, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov
stressed again that by signing the 12 May peace treaty, Russia
formally acknowledged Chechnya is an independent state.

MOSCOW TO STOP PAYING FOR MAINTENANCE OF FEDERAL
FACILITIES? The Moscow city government will stop paying
maintenance costs for federal facilities if compensation payments for
the capital are not added to the planned 1998 budget expenditures,
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 14 October. Luzhkov charged
that the plan to deprive Moscow of the compensation payments is a
"political measure" taken by some government officials against him,
Russian news agencies reported. He called for signing contracts
between city and federal institutions on maintenance payments for
federal facilities. In addition, the Moscow Property Committee is to
draft regulations on federal institutions' rent payments whereby
Moscow would reduce its contributions to the federal budget if
federal institutions fell into debt to the city.

HIV, TUBERCULOSIS CASES IN PRISONS INCREASING. Major-General
Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, the head of the prison department of the
Interior Ministry, says some 1,179 Russian convicts have HIV (the
virus that causes AIDS), an almost fourfold increase over 1996,
ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October. Ovchinnikov said 74,000
prisoners are infected with tuberculosis. Yeltsin has proposed that
the Duma amnesty some prisoners, including those infected with
tuberculosis, although opponents have warned that such an amnesty
could lead to a major outbreak of tuberculosis in Russia. Ovchinnikov
also expressed doubt that a rapid transfer to the jurisdiction of the
Justice Ministry will solve the main problem of the prison system,
which, he said, is a lack of financing, Reuters reported. But Justice
Minister Sergei Stepashin told journalists the same day that the
transfer will be completed by the end of 1998 (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 21 August and 13 October 1997).

DEATH SENTENCES CONTINUE DESPITE BAN ON EXECUTIONS.
Ovchinnikov also announced on 14 October that 846 Russian
prisoners are currently on death row, Interfax reported. He predicted
that the number of criminals sentenced to death could grow to 5,000
over the next three years, although he noted that no executions of
Russian prisoners have been carried out since Yeltsin declared a
moratorium in August 1996. In his recent speech to the Council of
Europe summit, Yeltsin said Russia will continue to observe a ban on
capital punishment in accordance with recommendations of the
Council of Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). But
Russian courts may still hand down death sentences. A court in the
Jewish Autonomous Oblast on 14 October sentenced two men to
death for planning and carrying out a hired killing.

IRREGULARITIES MAR OREL GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN. Governor
Yegor Stroev, the speaker of the Federation Council, continues to
benefit from the way the gubernatorial campaign in Orel Oblast is
being conducted, an RFE/RL correspondent in Orel reported on 14
October. Only Stroev and collective farm head Vera Yenina have been
registered for the 26 October election. Supporters of two other
would-be candidates have appealed to the Orel Oblast Court. Those
candidates are Vladimir Isakov of the Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia and Vladimir Kapustyanskii, who is supported by the regional
branch of Yegor Gaidar's party Russia's Democratic Choice. Although
the court is legally obliged to resolve the case within 72 hours, court
hearings have dragged on for 12 days. The delay helps Stroev, since
unregistered candidates may not engage in campaign activities.
Valerii Savin, the chairman of the Orel Oblast Duma's Legislation
Committee, told RFE/RL that the case is likely to reach the Supreme
Court eventually.

REGISTRATION RESTORED TO LUTHERAN MISSION IN KHAKASSIA.
The Justice Ministry of the Republic of Khakassia has restored the
registration of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in the republic, the
Keston News Service reported on 10 October. Khakassian authorities
recently revoked the mission's registration, citing Russia's new
religion law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 1997). The Justice
Ministry reversed the decision following complaints by two pastors
working for the mission. But in a meeting with the pastors, Nikolai
Volkov, the Khakassian official in charge of religious affairs, pledged
to continue trying to close down the mission and warned the pastors
not to seek help from outside the republic. According to Pastor
Vsevolod Lytkin, Volkov said staff working for Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin had called his office to inquire about the case. The
mission continues to hold Lutheran services.

RUSSIA DENIES THREATENING TURKEY. Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 14 October condemned Turkish
media statements alleging Russia has "aggressive intentions toward
Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean," Interfax reported. The
"Turkish Daily News" on 11 October had quoted Russian Ambassador
to Greek Cyprus Georgii Muradov as saying that if Turkey attacked
ships carrying S-300 missiles to Cyprus via the Turkish straits,
Moscow would consider such an attack a "reason for war." Two days
later, ITAR-TASS quoted Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Ioannis
Cranidiotis as saying the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles will be deployed
on Cyprus only "after the summer of 1998," which, he said, allows
time for the demilitarization of the divided island. Under the original
purchase agreement, the S-300s were to be delivered to Cyprus in
early 1998.

KARABAKH PRESIDENT IN MOSCOW. Arkadii Ghukasyan, the
president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, held talks
in Moscow on 13 October with Duma Speaker Seleznev and the
leaders of four Duma factions, including Gennadii Zyuganov of the
Communists, Russian media reported. In an interview in
"Kommersant-Daily" on 15 October, Ghukasyan said he met with
"understanding" at the talks. At the same time, he stressed the
Russian Foreign Ministry has "a monopoly" on mediating a solution to
the Karabakh conflict and regards the Organization on Security and
Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group as the optimal forum for such
mediation. He also said he neither shares nor approves Armenia's
current "superconstructive" approach to resolving the Karabakh
conflict. Meanwhile, the Karabakh presidential press service on 14
October issued a denial that Ghukasyan had said in an interview with
Ekho Moskvy that Karabakh "is ready to submit to Azerbaijan's
authority," Noyan Tapan reported.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT IN BAKU. During a week-long visit to Baku,
Vakha Arsanov held talks with Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zade and
Deputy Premier Abbas Abbasov to discuss economic cooperation, in
particular Azerbaijani assistance in restoring the Chechen oil, power-
generating, and machine-building sectors, Turan and Russian
agencies reported. Before departing for Tbilisi on 14 October,
Arsanov met with President Heidar Aliev, who called for a peaceful
solution to all conflicts in the Caucasus. Arsanov and Aliev also
discussed the possibility of building an oil export pipeline from
Grozny through Georgia to the Black Sea.

THREE CIS PRESIDENTS SUPPORT BALTIC-BLACK SEA SUMMIT
PROPOSAL. At meetings in Strasbourg on 10-11 October on the
sidelines of the Council of Europe summit, Eduard Shevardnadze
(Georgia), Heidar Aliev (Azerbaijan), and Petru Lucinschi (Moldova)
affirmed their support for Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's
proposal to convene a summit of Baltic and Black Sea leaders in
Crimea in 1999. Kuchma made the proposal in Vilnius in early
September at a meeting of Eastern and Central European leaders. In a
statement released by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on 14
October, the four presidents called for greater cooperation among
themselves in order to build a "stable and secure Europe." Georgia,
Azerbaijan, and Ukraine created an informal alignment in late 1996
as a counterbalance to the CIS.

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CASTS DOUBT ON CIS'S FUTURE... Meanwhile,
Kuchma told journalists in Almaty, where he arrived on 14 October
for an official visit, that the CIS "in its current form" has exhausted
itself as an institution, ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma was particularly
critical of the customs union of four countries within the CIS, which,
he said, is a serious obstacle to trade within the commonwealth as a
whole.

...MEETS WITH KAZAKH COUNTERPART. Also on 14 October, Leonid
Kuchma met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev,
Russian agencies reported. At a joint press conference, Nazarbayev
characterized bilateral relations as "amicable" and affirmed that the
two countries have the same views on all global problems, according
to Interfax. He also said that Kazakhstan will consider any option for
exporting its oil, including via Ukraine. The two presidents signed a
declaration on bilateral cooperation, and five inter-governmental
agreements were signed, including one designating an area of
Kazakhstan in which parts of Ukraine's Zenit rockets will fall back to
earth. Several Kazakh Senate members, including Engels Gabbasov,
protested that accord at a meeting with Kuchma on 15 October,
RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Gabbasov said he opposes
allowing Ukraine or any other CIS state to use Kazakh territory for
military experiments.

STANDOFF IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN CONTINUES. The 2,000
Achisay Polymetal plant workers prevented by police from
continuing their protest march to Almaty have refused an offer by
the governor of Southern Kazakhstan Oblast to pay some of the wage
arrears they are demanding, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 15
October. The protesters continue to hold out for full payment of back
wages totaling 100 million tenges (some $1.35 million). They warn
they will seek the ouster of President Nazarbayev if their demands
are not met by 16 October. The plant's administration has begun
paying wage arrears from January and February to staff members
not taking part in the protest march.

KAZAKH PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW CHIEF OF STATE OIL COMPANY.
Nazarbayev on 14 October issued a decree naming Baltabek
Quandiqov, the director of the Kazakhstan Kaspishelf Consortium, as
president of Kazakhoil, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Observers
had predicted that Nazarbayev's son-in-law Timur Kuligov, who is
deputy head of Kazakhoil, would be promoted to that position
following the 10 October appointment of the company's former
director, Nurlan Balgimbaev, as prime minister. Also on 14 October,
Grigorii Marchenko, an economist tasked with creating a national
stock market, resigned because of delays in launching the market,
Reuters reported.

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WANTS MORE FOREIGN INVESTMENT. Addressing
the opening session of the parliament on 14 October, Askar Akaev
said attracting private investment is one of the government's top
priorities over the next three years, ITAR-TASS reported. Increased
investment is one of the main pillars of the 1998-2000 economic
stabilization program to be drawn up by the government and the
IMF. Akaev noted that GDP grew by 19.2 percent over the first nine
months of this year and exports by 10 percent. At the same time, he
noted that trade with other CIS states has fallen by 20 percent. He
warned that the government will cease privileged subsidies to large
and medium-sized enterprises in 1998. More than 50 percent of all
the country's enterprises are either idle or unprofitable.

UPDATE ON TURKMEN-IRANIAN OIL TALKS. Speaking at a press
conference in Ashgabat on 14 October at the end of Iranian Foreign
Minister Kamal Kharrazi's two-day visit, Turkmen Foreign Minister
Boris Shikhmuradov said Turkmenistan will not offer for tender oil
and gas deposits located on the border between the two countries'
sectors of the Caspian, Interfax reported. Shikhmuradov said
Ashgabat and Tehran will jointly exploit those deposits with the
possible participation of foreign companies. The two foreign
ministers also affirmed their support for the creation of a coalition
government in Afghanistan in which all warring factions would be
represented, ITAR-TASS reported.


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