He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom. - J.R. Tolkien
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 144, Part I, 22 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

CENTRAL ASIA IN TRANSITION: Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. This
six-part report on the RFE/RL Web site details how much has
changed since the collapse of the USSR -- and how much has not.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/asia/index.html

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Headlines, Part I

* COMMUNISTS DROP NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION

* YELTSIN SETS AGENDA FOR NEGOTIATIONS WITH PARLIAMENT

* ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES WANT KARABAKH
HEARINGS

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RUSSIA

COMMUNISTS DROP NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION. The Communist faction
on 22 October withdrew a motion to vote no confidence in the
government from the State Duma's agenda for the day, RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau reported. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov told
Duma deputies that his party is satisfied with the outcome of recent
talks in the Kremlin, which, Zyuganov said, would lead to "better
mutual understanding" and "a more rational balance" between the
legislative and executive branches. President Boris Yeltsin released a
letter on 21 October agreeing to regular meetings of the "council of
four" (composed of the president, prime minister, and Duma and
Federation Council speakers). Yeltsin's letter also called for a series of
round-table talks on important policy issues. However, Zyuganov
warned his faction reserves the right pursue a no-confidence vote in
the future if the round-table talks and "council of four" meetings
produce no results, Reuters reported.

OPPOSITION NOT UNITED OVER COMMUNIST STRATEGY. Most
deputies in the Communist-allied Popular Power and Agrarian
factions supported the 21 October decision by the Communist faction
to drop the no-confidence motion, Russian news agencies reported.
Popular Power leader Nikolai Ryzhkov argued that Yeltsin "met us
halfway" on most issues. However, Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei
Baburin told ITAR-TASS the next day that he and several other
Popular Power deputies will not withdraw their signatures in
support of a no-confidence motion. Baburin dismissed the settlement
as a "pseudo-compromise" and said Zyuganov made a "strategic
error." The opposition daily "Pravda-5" on 21 October warned that if
the Duma pursues a strategy of "appeasement," it will in effect
"commit suicide" as an opposition force. The paper said proposed
negotiations may be merely a "fig leaf" for the government and
asked rhetorically, "Why should the opposition play these games?"

CHERNOMYRDIN, YAVLINSKII SPAR OVER TAX CODE. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin and Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii
exchanged harsh words in the Duma on 22 October over the fate of
the tax code, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Yeltsin's letter the
previous day instructed the government to withdraw the tax code "in
accordance with current State Duma procedures for consideration of
a law that has been passed in the first reading." Yavlinskii repeatedly
asked Chernomyrdin whether he will fulfill the president's order, but
Chernomyrdin said the Duma must act on Yeltsin's instruction.
Yavlinskii argued that the order is clearly addressed to the
government. But speaking to ITAR-TASS, Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev supported Chernomyrdin. He noted that Duma procedures
on returning a law to the government after it has been approved in
the first reading are extremely complicated. Yavlinskii has said
Yabloko will support a no-confidence motion unless the government
withdraws the tax code.

YELTSIN SETS AGENDA FOR NEGOTIATIONS WITH PARLIAMENT.
Yeltsin's 21 October letter confirmed that the land code will be the
main item on the agenda in the first meeting of the round table,
scheduled for 22 November. The second session, to be held in
December, will discuss compensating citizens for pre-1992 savings
accounts that lost their value because of high inflation in the 1990s.
At the third round table, participants will discuss policy on energy
prices. Yeltsin's letter also ordered that a special commission of
government, Duma, and Federation Council representatives be
formed to discuss housing reform. "Kommersant-Daily" argued on 22
October that by offering to withdraw the tax code and by
acknowledging that housing policy needs refining, Yeltsin dealt a
serious blow to First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and
Boris Nemtsov. Chubais has overseen tax reform plans, and Nemtsov
has been responsible for the government's housing policy.

CONCILIATORY COMMISSION WILL REVISE LAW ON GOVERNMENT.
Yeltsin's 21 October letter also ordered that a conciliatory
commission of government and parliamentary representatives be
formed to discuss amending the law on the government. That law
would increase the Duma's influence over the government's
composition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 October 1997). In the
summer, the Duma and Federation Council overrode the presidential
veto of the law, but Yeltsin refused to sign it, charging that the
parliament used unconstitutional procedures to achieve the
necessary two-thirds majority vote. The Constitutional Court has
been asked to decide whether Yeltsin must sign the law, but no date
for court hearings has been set.

CHERNOMYRDIN SIGNS ORDER ON MEDIA CONCESSIONS. Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin on 21 October signed a government directive
on increasing parliamentary access to the media in accordance with
agreements reached at the previous day's meeting of the "council of
four," Russian news agencies reported. The directive orders the
creation of public oversight councils at the two state-controlled
nationwide television networks, Russian Public Television and
Russian Television (RTR). Parliamentary representatives will be
invited to join the councils. (Aleksei Simonov, who heads the
watchdog Glasnost Defense Foundation, expressed doubt that the
supervisory councils will genuinely influence the networks'
programming policy, ITAR-TASS reported.) The government
directive also stipulates that parliamentary activities receive two
hours of air time each week on state-owned national radio stations
and two hours on RTR. In addition, the draft 1998 budget will be
amended to provide funding for a new parliamentary newspaper.

DEPUTY ACCUSES INTERIOR MINISTRY OF SCAREMONGERING. Duma
deputy Vladimir Lopatin of the Russian Regions faction charged in
"Izvestiya" on 22 October that the Interior Ministry circulated false
rumors when it released an statement recently saying 20,000 prison
workers have resigned. The statement warned that prospects for
keeping order in prisons could be threatened by the mass departures
of staff, who, according to the Interior Ministry, oppose plans to
transfer the prison system to the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 1997). However, Lopatin said
prison officials in Vologda Oblast told him none of their employees
has resigned. Lopatin suggested that the Interior Ministry sought to
raise fears of prison riots because it stands to lose "an enormous
piece of the budget pie" if funds for maintaining prisons are allocated
to the Justice Ministry instead.

RUSSIA "CONCERNED" ABOUT U.S. LASER TEST. Russian Foreign
Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov on 21 October that a U.S. test
of a laser beamed at a satellite four days earlier is causing
"increasing concern in Moscow," Interfax reported. Tarasov added
that "Russia is closely following this work" because "objectively, the
development of laser programs may lead to the creation of anti-
satellite potential." Such systems, Tarasov suggested, might violate
the Anti-Ballistic Missiles Treaty and might "sharply change the
strategic situation," forcing the Russian government to review its own
policy of "restraint in this area."

RUSSIA WARNS GROZNY ON ENERGY PROJECTS. The Russian
government will not bear any responsibility for any energy project
that Chechnya concluded with international partners without
Moscow's consent, Russian government spokesman Igor
Shabdurasulov told journalists on 21 October. Shabdurasulov also
rejected as illegal a proposal by Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister
Movladi Udugov that the international consortium engaged in
exploiting three Azerbaijani Caspian oil fields lease the Chechen
sector of the Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk export pipeline. Shabdurasulov
affirmed that the pipeline belongs to the Russian federal
government.

DIAMOND MONOPOLY SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH DE BEERS. Executives
from the diamond monopoly Almazy Rossii-Sakha (Alrosa) and the
South African-based multinational corporation De Beers signed a
diamond exporting agreement in Moscow on 21 October. Under the
agreement, Alrosa must sell at least $550 million and up to $1.2
billion in uncut diamonds to De Beers between 1 December 1997 and
the end of 1998. Diamond exports that circumvent the De Beers
Central Selling Organization will be limited. Russian Deputy Finance
Minister German Kuznetsov hailed cooperation between Alrosa and
De Beers as a "guarantee of stability on the world diamond market,"
ITAR-TASS reported. De Beers Vice President Nicholas Oppenheimer
expressed hope that both sides will abide by the deal, which
"recommits Russia to the principle of single-channel marketing," AFP
reported. In recent years, De Beers has accused Alrosa of exporting
too many uncut diamonds without going through the Central Selling
Organization.

EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA HAS 1 MILLION HOMELESS CHILDREN. Aleksei
Severnii, the president of the Independent Association of Children's
Psychiatrists and Psychologists, told Interfax on 21 October that
there are at least 1 million homeless children in Russia. (According to
the State Statistics Committee, Russia's population was 147.2 million,
as of 1 August.) Severnii estimated that Moscow and St. Petersburg
each have some 60,000 homeless children, not including the
offspring of refugees and immigrants. He added that the State Youth
Committee has estimated that 40 percent of children suffer from
psychological or physical violence from teachers. In 1996, he said,
200 children were killed by family members and some 2,000
committed suicide.

SARATOV LEGISLATURE APPROVES LAND LAW IN FIRST READING.
The Saratov Oblast Duma has approved in the first reading a law that
would legalize the purchase and sale of farmland in the region, while
imposing some restrictions, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 October. The
law states that agricultural land must continue to be used for
farming, and it provides for fining owners who use such land for
other purposes. "Russkii telegraf" on 17 October quoted presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii as saying Yeltsin "fully and
wholeheartedly supports" the Saratov land law. (The communist
opposition strongly opposes legalizing the purchase and sale of
farmland.) Samara Governor Konstantin Titov told the 16 October
"Russkii telegraf" that a similar land law is being drafted in his
oblast. Such laws contradict current federal legislation, but Saratov
Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told "Izvestiya" that he will encourage the
parliament to amend the relevant federal laws. Speaking to "Russkii
telegraf," Titov expressed confidence that the constitution is "on our
side."

NORTHERNERS PROTEST NEW PENSION LAW. Murmansk Oblast
residents have collected more than 10,000 signatures demanding
special pension benefits continue for those who have worked in far
northern regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 October. The petition,
addressed to the president, government, and parliament, protests the
method for calculating pensions outlined in a law signed by Yeltsin in
July. Under that law, which will take effect in February 1998,
pension benefits would be determined in part by the number of
years of employment, regardless of where citizens worked. According
to ITAR-TASS on 14 October, the Murmansk residents want each
year of employment in northern regions with harsh climates to be
equivalent to 18 months' labor in other parts of the country.

GROWING OPPOSITION TO NEW RUSSIAN PASSPORTS. Leading
politicians and public organizations in several North Caucasian
republics are opposed to the new Russian passports, an RFE/RL
correspondent in Vladikavkaz reported on 22 October. In particular,
they object to the symbol of the two-headed eagle, which is
perceived as a remnant of Russia's imperial past. Dagestan
parliamentary chairman Mukhu Aliev warned that "an explosion of
nationalist sentiment" will protest the failure to designate the
passport holder's nationality. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev and
some Tatar politicians have similarly argued that the passports
should show the holder's nationality. Writing in "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" on 22 October, former Russian Nationalities Minister Valerii
Tishkov said the removal of the mention of nationality in the new
passports was one of the most significant developments in Russia's
nationalities policy in recent years.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES WANT KARABAKH
HEARINGS. The parliamentary faction Social State has demanded that
the legislature hold hearings on the current state of the Nagorno-
Karabakh peace process, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 21
October. Gegham Gharibjanyan, the group's leader and chairman of
the parliamentary committee on social affairs, said deputies must not
be excluded from the decision-making process on resolving the
conflict. He urged the parliament to take a clear stance on the latest
peace plan proposed by the Organization on Security and Cooperation
in Europe's Minsk Group, which sponsors the negotiations.

TEN DEPUTIES QUIT RULING ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARY BLOC. Ten
deputies have left the majority Hanrapetutyun parliament bloc to
join with four other deputies in a new faction called Yerkrapahner,
according to RFE/RL and Noyan Tapan on 21 October. The new group
will represent the pro-government yerkrapah volunteer militia that
is loyal to Defense minister Vazgen Sargsian. The group's leader,
Albert Bazeyan, told the parliament his faction will seek to support
Armenia's armed forces. In an interview with "Iravunk" on 10
October, Bazeyan said the faction will insist that a just solution to the
Karabakh conflict be based on the Karabakh Armenians' right of self-
determination." He rejected the proposed withdrawal of Armenian
forces from occupied Azerbaijani territories between Karabakh and
Armenia. The defection of the 10 deputies leaves Hanrapetutyun
with 96 mandates in the 189-seat parliament.

CHARGES AGAINST GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER
SUBSTANTIATED. Djemal Gogitidze, the chairman of the
Aghordzineba faction within the parliament, has corroborated former
Batumi Mayor Tamaz Kharazi's allegations against parliamentary
speaker Zurab Zhvania, according to Caucasus Press on 22 October.
Kharazi told Adjar Television three days earlier that Zhvania had
tried to enlist his support in ousting Aslan Abashidze, the chairman
of the Adjar Supreme Soviet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October
1997). The Aghordzineba faction originally numbered 31 deputies
from Abashidze's All-Georgian Union of Revival and was the third
largest within the Georgian parliament until nine deputies left the
faction earlier this year.

KAZAKH PROTEST MARCHERS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE. Police are still
preventing 2,000 workers from the Achisay Polymetal Plant from
continuing with their 900 kilometer protest march to Almaty,
RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 22 October. The workers, who
began their protest in early October, are demanding the payment of
wage arrears. They were halted by police at a bridge over the Aryz
irrigation canal, near the southern city of Turkestan (see "RFE/RL
Newsline", 16 October 1997). Some 150 workers have gone on a
hunger strike.

KAZAKH TOP BRASS IMPLICATED IN EMBEZZLEMENT SCANDAL. The
military prosecutor-general is considering whether to open criminal
proceedings against two senior military officials, RFE/RL's Almaty
bureau reported on 22 October. Major-General Alihan Jarbolov, the
chief of the Kazakh Defense Forces General Staff, and Lieutenant-
General Fedor Shcherbakov, the commander of the Kazakh army`s
ground forces, are accused of embezzling funds from the state
treasury. Jarbolov is reported to have used $60,000 from state funds
to purchase a house in Almaty, while Shcherbakov allegedly bought
an apartment in Almaty for his daughter.

FIRST KAZAKH OIL EXPORTED TO CHINA. A shipment of 1,700 metric
tons of Kazakh crude has been exported by rail to China's Xinjiang
Autonomous Province, where it will be refined, AFP and ITAR-TASS
reported on 21 October. A state-owned Chinese oil and gas company
signed an agreement with the Kazakh government in September on
exploiting oil fields in Aktyubinsk Oblast that have estimated
reserves of 130 million metric tons. Kazakhstan and China also signed
an agreement on construction of a 3,000 kilometer export pipeline
from Kazakhstan to Xinjiang.

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               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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