Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Naught may endure but Mutability. - Percy Shelley
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 150, Part I, 31 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

* DUMA RATIFIES CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION

* YELTSIN, JOSPIN AGREE ON IRANIAN GAS PROJECT

* AZERBAIJANI EX-PRESIDENT RETURNS TO BAKU

End Note
RUSSIAN DUMA POSTPONES BUDGET DEBATE

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RUSSIA


DUMA RATIFIES CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION. By 288 votes to
75 with two abstentions, the State Duma on 31 October voted to
approve a law on ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention. First
Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and General Staff head Anatolii
Kvashnin urged Duma deputies to ratify the treaty, which bans the
development, production, and use of chemical weapons, ITAR-TASS
and AFP reported. Kvashnin said chemical weapons currently
stockpiled in seven locations in Russia pose a public health hazard.
Earlier this year, the Duma postponed ratification of the convention,
saying Russia lacks the funds to meet requirements that chemical
weapons and production facilities be destroyed within 10 years. In a
30 October letter to Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin promised that the 1998 budget will earmark
500 million new rubles ($85 million) for destroying chemical
weapons, up from 80 million rubles in the government's original
draft, Interfax reported.

YELTSIN, JOSPIN AGREE ON IRANIAN GAS PROJECT. French Prime
Minister Lionel Jospin and Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 30
October agreed that a project to develop a gas field in Iran complies
with both the letter and the spirit of international law, Interfax
reported. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said
the two leaders agreed that attempts to thwart the contract, which
involves the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and the French company
Total, are unfounded. The U.S. government has criticized the project
but has not taken any concrete action against Gazprom or Total (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1997). Jospin and Russian Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin are to chair a session of the Russian-French
intergovernmental commission for economic cooperation on 31
October. The Chernomyrdin-Jospin Commission is modeled after the
commission co-chaired by the Russian prime minister and U.S. Vice
President Al Gore.

RUSSIA SENDS MIXED SIGNALS ON IRAQ. Meeting in Moscow on 30
October with the Iraqi ambassador, First Deputy Foreign Minister
Igor Ivanov said constructive cooperation between the Iraqi
government and the UN disarmament commission is the only
"correct" way to have UN sanctions lifted, Interfax reported.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told journalists in
Cairo on 31 October that Russia disapproves of Iraq's decision two
days earlier to expel U.S. disarmament experts. Primakov said the
Iraqi action puts Moscow "in a very difficult position." But he added
that Russia "strongly objects" to calls for the use of force against Iraq.
On 30 October unnamed Foreign Ministry sources told Interfax that
Moscow will take "an extremely negative attitude" toward the use of
force against any Arab country.

AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR IN MOSCOW. Following talks with Yeltsin on
30 October, Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima told journalists that
"the Russian side emphasized the advantages of Austria's neutrality"
since World War II but made clear that it will not apply pressure to
influence Austria's decision on whether to join NATO, Reuters and
Interfax reported. Meeting with Klima on 29 October, Russian Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin praised Austrian neutrality and described
NATO expansion plans as a "historic mistake," ITAR-TASS reported.
Chernomyrdin and Klima signed an agreement on scientific
cooperation. According to the Russian presidential press service,
Klima assured Yeltsin that Austria will work to improve cooperation
between Russia and the EU while it chairs the union in the second
half of 1998. Klima also said he favors Russian membership in the
World Trade Organization.

JAPANESE PREMIER HOPES FOR RAPID SOLUTION ON KURILS. Meeting
with Russian Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev in Tokyo on 31
October, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto expressed hope
that he and Russian President Yeltsin will settle territorial disputes
between Russia and Japan by the end of this century, AFP reported.
Japan claims four Kuril islands seized by the Soviet Union at the end
of World War II. Yeltsin has previously said the dispute is unlikely to
be settled for at least a generation . However, appearing on Ekho
Moskvy on 30 October, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii
Karasin did not rule out that Russia and Japan will propose a
"revolutionary approach" to solving the problem within the next five
or six years. Yeltsin and Hashimoto are to discuss the Kurils and
economic cooperation issues during informal talks in Krasnoyarsk
Krai on 1 and 2 November.

DUMA REJECTS LAW ON COMBINING SECURITY SERVICES. The State
Duma on 30 October rejected a law that would have combined the
Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR),
and the Federal Agency for Governmental Communications and
Information (FAPSI) into a single state security ministry, ITAR-TASS
and AFP reported. The law was proposed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Duma Security Committee
Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a prominent Communist, said the
proposed law is "senseless." He argued that "we have already begun
reforming the military without enough money to do so. We have no
right to put the security services in the same situation and thus
destroy them." Representatives of the FSB, SVR and FAPSI urged the
Duma to reject the law at recent hearings called by Ilyukhin's
committee, "Russkii telegraf" reported on 30 October.

AIDES DIFFER ON DUMA'S LATEST COURT APPEAL. Sergei Shakhrai,
Yeltsin's representative in the Constitutional Court, said the Duma's
request that the court rule on whether Yeltsin may seek a third term
is "absolutely legitimate," Interfax reported on 30 October. Shakhrai
added that the question "should not be left legally unsettled until the
year 2000" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1997). In contrast,
Yeltsin's legal adviser Mikhail Krasnov argued that the Duma's appeal
shows "contempt" for the president and the court, despite being
couched in "superficially legal terms." Krasnov argued that since
Yeltsin has said he will not seek a third term, the Duma's appeal
reflects "unhealthy suspicion." Meanwhile, in the latest nationwide
poll by the Public Opinion Foundation, 65 percent of respondents said
they are opposed to Yeltsin's seeking a third term, while only 13
percent were in favor.

GOVERNMENT REJECTS PENSION REFORM PLAN. The government on
30 October rejected pension reform plans prepared by the Labor
Ministry and agreed to consider the issue again in December, Russian
news agencies reported. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev, who is
also labor minister, presented the plans to the cabinet. He was then
criticized by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin for submitting a "rough
draft" that had not been approved by Labor Ministry experts. The
government was to have considered Sysuev's reform plans during a
23 October meeting chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais
while Chernomyrdin was out of the country. However, Chernomyrdin
ordered that the meeting be postponed so that he could attend the
discussion of pension reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October
1997).

YELTSIN PRAISES POWER-SHARING AGREEMENTS WITH REGIONS.
During a nationwide radio address on 31 October, Yeltsin said power-
sharing agreements between federal and regional authorities have
helped "strengthen the federal state" and keep the Russian
Federation intact, ITAR-TASS reported. Federal authorities have
signed such agreements with 37 of Russia's 89 regions, beginning
with the Republic of Tatarstan in February 1994. Most recently,
Yeltsin concluded accords with officials from Astrakhan, Kirov,
Murmansk, Ulyanovsk, and Yaroslavl Oblasts, ITAR-TASS reported on
30 October. On 1 November, he is to sign a power-sharing agreement
with Krasnoyarsk Krai and the Taimyr and Evenk Autonomous
Okrugs. Yeltsin did not mention Chechnya in his radio address.
Russian officials have sought to sign a power-sharing agreement with
Grozny, but Chechen officials have insisted that any agreement with
Moscow must recognize Chechnya as an independent state.

INGUSH FUGITIVES PICKET RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT. An unspecified
number of Ingush forced to flee their homes in North Ossetia during
the fighting five years ago have begun picketing the Russian
government building to draw attention to their plight, ITAR-TASS
reported on 30 October. The Ingush said their situation has not been
improved by the treaty on resolving the conflict signed in September
by the presidents of North Ossetia and Ingushetia or by subsequent
measures to expedite the return of the Ingush to their homes. Two
days earlier, North Ossetian President Akhsarbek Galazov rejected
Ingush allegations that an Ingush village was shelled from North
Ossetian territory.

MUSLIM REGIMENTS IN RUSSIAN ARMY? Top Muslim clergymen--
including Gabdulla Khazrat Galiulla, the chairman of the Spiritual
Board of Muslims of Tatarstan, and Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, the
chairman of the Council of Russian Muftis--met on 28 October with
Russian Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov and Russian
Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau
reported on 31 October, citing Tatarinform. The talks focused on the
possibility of forming special Muslim regiments in the Russian army
and setting up an Islamic University in Russia.

JEWISH CONGREGATION UNABLE TO REGISTER IN BRYANSK. The
Bryansk Oblast Justice Directorate has informed a local Jewish
congregation that in line with Russia's new religion law, "we are
disregarding the application for registration of the Jewish Religious
Congregation," the Keston News Service reported on 29 October. An
official said the directorate has merely requested more
documentation and has not taken a final decision to refuse to register
the congregation. The religion law recognizes Judaism as a
"traditional" Russian religion, and the Bryansk congregation is a
member of the Congress of Jewish Religious Societies and
Organizations of Russia, which has been registered with federal
authorities. However, the Bryansk congregation was founded in the
early 1990s, and the religion law stipulates that the status of
"religious organization" can be granted only to groups that have
existed in Russia for at least 15 years.

COURT SAYS LEGISLATURE ILLEGALLY SUSPENDED VLADIVOSTOK
MAYOR. The Primorskii Krai Court on 30 October ruled that the krai
Duma exceeded its authority when it suspended Vladivostok Mayor
Viktor Cherepkov and appointed Yurii Kopylov acting mayor, ITAR-
TASS reported. Earlier, the same court upheld the legislature's action,
but the Duma has since reversed its decision to suspend Cherepkov
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 23 October 1997). Vladivostok
prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation against Kopylov. In
addition, Cherepkov has vowed to file suit against Kopylov and the
krai Duma, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 31 October.

COURT RULES AMBULANCE DRIVERS' STRIKE ILLEGAL. The
Sverdlovsk Oblast Court has ruled that a recent strike by ambulance
drivers in Yekaterinburg was illegal, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on
31 October. The drivers staged a four-day strike to protest wage
arrears and inadequately equipped ambulances (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 13 October 1997). Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii
Chernetskii vowed to press criminal charges against the strikers, and
city health officials have already asked city prosecutors to open a
criminal case into the matter. The officials charge that four elderly
people died needlessly during the drivers' strike because the
ambulances they summoned were delayed by up to 90 minutes.

VORONEZH LEGISLATURE CRITICIZES NEW HISTORY TEXTBOOKS. The
Voronezh Oblast Duma has adopted a non-binding recommendation
to teachers urging them not to use an allegedly "anti-Russian"
textbook on 20th-century European history, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported on 31 October. The deputies charged that the book, written
by Saratov University professor Aleksandr Kreder, is unpatriotic and
tendentious, both belittling and distorting Russian history. They also
objected to the book's financing by U.S. billionaire George Soros's
Cultural Initiative foundation. The federal Education Ministry,
however, considers such criticism unfounded. Ministry officials argue
that Russian events receive comparatively little treatment because
the textbook covers European history as a whole. They also say a
group of Russian experts, not foreigners, selected the textbook for
publication.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJANI EX-PRESIDENT RETURNS TO BAKU. Abulfaz Elchibey,
who fled Baku during the June 1993 insurrection, returned to the
Azerbaijani capital on 30 October from his native village of Keleki in
Nakhichevan. Elchibey, who is head of the opposition Azerbaijan
Popular Front, told journalists he plans to unite the opposition and to
"restore and develop" democracy. Popular Front Deputy Chairman
Asim Molla-Zade said in an interview with Reuters that Elchibey
plans to contend the October 1998 presidential elections. Turan
reported that the Azerbaijani authorities approved Elchibey's return
and provided a plane for him to fly from Nakhichevan to Baku. The
1993 insurrection paved the way for the return to power of former
Communist Party First Secretary Heidar Aliev.

ARMENIA DENIES PKK OFFICE OPENED IN YEREVAN. Armenian
Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian on 30 October denied a
Turkish press report that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has
opened an information office in Yerevan. Gasparian told "RFE/RL
Newsline" that the Armenian authorities have never cooperated with
the PKK. He said the Turkish report is "groundless and provocative
and does not help the establishment of cooperation in our region."
The "Turkish Daily News" on 30 October cited the Anatolia news
agency as reporting that the PKK has opened an office in Yerevan
after the Georgian government refused to allow it to open one in
Tbilisi

TURKISH PRESIDENT STRESSES NO OPEN BORDER WITH ARMENIA.
Speaking in Kars on 30 October at a ceremony to mark the 77th
anniversary of the city's capture by Kemalist Turkish forces,
Suleyman Demirel again said Turkey will not open a frontier crossing
with Armenia until the Karabakh conflict is resolved, the "Turkish
Daily News" reported on 31 October. (Under the Treaty of Sevres of
August 1920, Van, Mush, Bitlis, Erzrum, Kars, and Ardahan were
formally ceded to Armenia.) Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Gasparian told "RFE/RL Newsline" that Turkey should open a frontier
crossing with Armenia. He also argued that as a member of the
Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group,
Turkey should establish diplomatic relations with Armenia without
stipulating conditions in order to expedite a solution to the Karabakh
conflict.

DASHNAK MEMBERS TO MEET ARMENIAN PRESIDENT. Apo Boghikian
, a senior member of the banned Dashnak party (HHD), told
journalists in Yerevan on 30 October that HHD representatives will
meet with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan in early
November. Ter-Petrossyan issued a decree in December 1994
suspending the HHD's Armenia organization on the grounds that it
sponsored a secret terrorist organization. On 29 October, the HHD was
allowed to retake control of its offices in Yerevan and other towns,
fueling hopes that the ban on its operations will soon be lifted. But on
29 October, parliamentary deputy speaker Ara Sahakyan told
visiting Russian journalists that political parties financed from
abroad should be banned in Armenia, according to ARMENPRESS. The
HHD falls into that category.

PROTESTS IN KAZAKHSTAN. The opposition movement Azat began
picketing the Kazakh parliament on 31 October in solidarity with the
Achisay Polymetal plant workers who are still prevented by police
from continuing their protest march to Almaty, RFE/RL's bureau in
the Kazakh capital reported. Parliamentary deputy Esenbay
Belgibayev told RFE/RL that the government has allocated 150
million tenges ($2 million) to the Achisay plant to pay the wage
arrears that the protest marchers are demanding. Employees of the
Balhash-Stroy State Construction company also started demanding
back wages since1995. In Janatas (Taraz Oblast), workers from the
Karatau Plant pitched tents in the central square to express solidarity
with the Achisay workers and to demand a total of 515 million
tenges in wage arrears. Meanwhile workers at the Aqtau Nuclear
Power station in Western Kazakhstan requested permission from the
local administration to organize a protest in Aqtau to demand their
overdue salaries, which have not been paid since 1994.

RUSSIAN-KAZAKH DEFENSE AGREEMENT SIGNED. Russian Defense
Minister Igor Sergeev and his Kazakh counterpart, Muhtar
Altynbaev, signed agreements in Almaty on 30 October on Russian
compensation to Kazakhstan for leasing defense facilities and on the
removal of toxic missile fuel from the Sary Shagan testing site, ITAR-
TASS reported. Sergeev later told journalists that Moscow may give
Kazakhstan additional weaponry, including two mine-sweepers and
two patrol boats. It has already agreed to hand over 73 military
aircraft. In response to an RFE/RL correspondent's question, Sergeev
said Russia is reducing the number of its bases in Kazakhstan but will
not leave that country, which he said is Russia's most reliable partner
in the region.

UZBEK-TAJIK STANDOFF CONTINUES. As talks between Uzbek and
Tajik government representatives continued in Tashkent, Uzbek
President Islam Karimov on 30 October denied charges by Gaffar
Mirzoyev, the head of the Tajik presidential guard, that Uzbekistan is
aiding and abetting anti-government forces in Tajikistan, Interfax
reported. Karimov termed the current fighting in Tajikistan "not just
a political struggle for power but a struggle between rival clans" to
shore up President Imomali Rakhmonov's hold on power. Karimov
further affirmed that "Uzbeks will never fight against Tajiks." Also on
30 October, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii
Nesterushkin said Russia is concerned by the recent reported clashes
on the Tajik-Uzbek frontier. He reaffirmed Moscow's readiness to
contribute to the implementation of the May Tajik peace agreement.

REBEL COLONEL VOWS TO CONTINUE FIGHTING. Colonel Mahmud
Khudoiberdiev on 30 October denied claims by Mirzoyev that his
forces were routed after attacking the presidential guard near
Tursunzade, 75 kilometers west of Dushanbe. Khudoiberdiev told
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 31 October that his men have repelled an
attack by government forces. He added that he is prepared to
continue fighting for 10 years, if necessary, to put an end to the
killings of his supporters in Tajikistan and to win the right to return
and live peacefully. The Russian newspaper also reported growing
disagreement between the Tajik government and the United Tajik
Opposition over the ongoing repatriation from Afghanistan of UTO
fighters.

TURKMEN-UKRAINIAN GAS AGREEMENT. Meeting in Ashgabat on 30
October, Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Holubchenko
and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov agreed that
Turkmenistan will supply Ukraine with 3 billion cubic meters of gas
next year and 20 billion cubic meters in 1998, Interfax reported. In
exchange, Ukraine will help Turkmenistan build chemical plants and
a bridge across the Amudarya River. The estimated cost of the latter
project is $80 million. The question of how Ukraine will settle its
outstanding $1.5 billion debts for earlier gas deliveries was not
resolved.

END NOTE

RUSSIAN DUMA POSTPONES BUDGET DEBATE

by Floriana Fossato

        Despite a plea by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russia's
State Duma decided not to debate the 1998 budget by 1 November.
Analysts say the move suggests the Duma, in which Communists and
their allies have a virtual majority, may be seeking more concessions
from the Kremlin and the government. President Boris Yeltsin
recently promised regular consultations and roundtable discussions
with parliamentary and opposition figures. In return, the
Communists withdrew a vote of no confidence from the Duma's
agenda.
        Some of the Communists' political opponents believe other
motives lay behind the Duma's decision to delay the budget vote.
Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the pro-government "Our Home is
Russia" faction, commented that the Communist leadership "did not
want to show to its electorate that it is voting in favor of the budget
ahead of the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution [on 7
November]."
        On 28 October, the Duma Council scheduled the 1998 budget
debate for 12-14 November. The same day, the government
approved the guidelines of a compromise 1998 draft budget drawn
up by a trilateral commission of government, Duma, and Federation
Council representatives. The revised budget meets deputies'
demands for increased funding of the military, agriculture, and social
programs by raising estimated revenues by some 6 percent to more
than 360 billion new rubles (some $62 billion) from the original
projection of $340 billion rubles. Projected expenditures are also
increased.
        First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais commented that
the new revenues projection "strains the limits of common sense"
and cannot be increased further. Despite the government's poor
performance in improving tax collection, the main source of
additional revenues is expected to come from taxes and the
rescheduling of tax arrears.
        Also on 28 October, the government approved 10 draft taxation
laws, which, according to Chernomyrdin "will ensure the fulfillment
of the revenue part of the 1998 budget." The debate in November
will begin with consideration of the new draft tax legislation.
        Yeltsin's concessions to the opposition included regular, high-
level roundtable talks on political, economic, and social issues as well
as Duma supervisory boards on two nationwide television channels
and two hours of programs weekly on Russian Television devoted to
parliamentary procedures. Yeltsin and other top Russian politicians,
both from the government and the opposition, have said the
roundtable talks, which are scheduled to begin in November, will
signal a new era of cooperation, rather than confrontation, between
the Duma and the government.
        But analysts say those talks are mainly a public relations
exercise and will be equally advantageous both for the Kremlin and
the Communist opposition. Accused by many critics in Russia and
abroad of being unable to work with the Duma in a productive way,
Yeltsin obviously stands to gain by showing his ability to draw the
Communists to the negotiating table. And for Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov, the roundtable is important because it displays
his party's "political weight."
        Visiting St. Petersburg recently to mark the 80th anniversary
of the October Revolution, Zyuganov told a group of supporters that
"today is a new era, and we must avoid such revolutionary
uprisings." That message appeared to be directed mainly at critics
within his own party and its allies, including Duma Deputy Speaker
Sergei Baburin, the co-leader of the Popular Power faction. Baburin
has accused the Communist leadership of giving in to the Kremlin. He
commented that by failing to carry out the "no-confidence threat,"
the Communist opposition "lost political initiative" and showed "it is
now in deep crisis." Baburin has also suggested that the Communists
may begin to lose popularity in the regions.
        The results of recent gubernatorial elections suggest that good
relations with the Kremlin can be advantageous for some regional
candidates. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev--a former top
Communist Party member, turned Yeltsin ally--was recently re-
elected as governor of Orel Oblast with more than 94 percent of the
vote.
        Stroev, who ruled Orel in Soviet times, was one of the first
conservative regional bosses to choose cooperation with Yeltsin,
instead of confrontation. He formally quit the Communist Party after
he was elected Orel governor for the first time in 1993. According to
RFE/RL correspondents in the oblast, local media displayed a strong
pro-Stroev bias during the election campaign. Mostly subsidized by
the regional administration, local media outlets publicized numerous
appeals from citizens to vote for Stroev.
        Stroev's landslide victory came one week after Aman Tuleev,
one of Yeltsin's prominent former foes, was elected governor of
Kemerovo Oblast. As chairman of Kemerovo's legislature, and later as
a presidential candidate, Tuleev often strongly criticized Yeltsin and
members of the government. He softened his criticism when Yeltsin
appointed him to the cabinet in August 1996.
        After the president appointed Tuleev governor of Kemerovo in
July 1997, some observers expected Tuleev to become an opposition
voice in the Federation Council. But in televised comments broadcast
during a visit to Paris on 28 October, Tuleev argued that Russia's
political situation has "stabilized" and that "more cooperation" is
needed between Moscow and the regions "in order to attract much
needed investment" in regional economies.

The author is a Moscow-based RFE/RL correspondent.




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