Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 159, Part I, 13 November 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

EUROPE: Has The West Embraced The East? -- a five-part series about
Europe's multilateral organizations and whether and how they've
aided the integration of Central and Eastern Europe with the West --
is online at the RFE/RL Web site.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/multilateral/index.html

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Headlines, Part I

* DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT ROYALTY PAYMENTS TO OFFICIALS

* SARATOV LEGISLATURE PASSES LAND LAW

* AZERBAIJAN CELEBRATES FIRST "EARLY OIL"

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RUSSIA

DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT ROYALTY PAYMENTS TO OFFICIALS... The
State Duma voted 302 to zero on 13 November to ask the Prosecutor-
General's Office to investigate royalty payments to various officials
for a book on privatization that has not yet been published, ITAR-
TASS and RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Before the vote, Duma
Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading Communist,
cited allegations made by journalist Aleksandr Minkin during a 12
November appearance on Ekho Moskvy. Minkin charged that
Segodnya-Press, a publishing house co-owned by Oneksimbank, paid
$90,000 to each author of the book. Those authors include First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, State Property Minister
Maksim Boiko, Federal Bankruptcy Administration Chairman Petr
Mostovoi, and former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred
Kokh. Kokh is under criminal investigation for taking a $100,000
payment earlier this year from a Swiss firm, reportedly linked to
Oneksimbank, for a different forthcoming book on privatization. LB

...WHILE CHUBAIS RESPONDS TO ALLEGATIONS. Speaking to
journalists in the Duma on 13 November, Chubais charged that
"compromising material" against him was timed to obstruct the
passage of the 1998 budget, ITAR-TASS reported. Minkin made the
allegations on 12 November, the day before the Duma was scheduled
to consider the budget and a government-backed package of tax laws
in the first reading. Chubais confirmed that he, Boiko, Mostovoi, Kokh,
and others co-authored a book on the history of privatization. He also
confirmed that each author received a $90,000 honorarium from
Segodnya-Press. However, Chubais said the authors will give 95
percent of their book fees to the Foundation for the Protection of
Private Property. He added that no crime has been committed and
that he may sue Minkin for claiming the authors were paid for a
book that has not yet been written. LB

NO SURPRISES IN MEDIA COVERAGE OF LATEST SCANDAL. Media
outlets that have repeatedly attacked Chubais and Oneksimbank in
recent months gave prominent coverage to Minkin's allegations in
their 13 November editions. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," partly financed
by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, acknowledged that Minkin is
most likely "a mouthpiece for political and financial forces" that
oppose Chubais but said his accusations nonetheless appear to be
"close to the truth." The newspaper said the book's authors struck the
deal with Segodnya-Press in May, two months before an
Oneksimbank-led consortium won an auction for a major stake in the
telecommunications giant Svyazinvest. Both "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
and "Segodnya," owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most, gave
skeptical treatment to Chubais's claim that the book fees will go
primarily to the Foundation for the Protection of Private Property.
The newspapers noted that associates of Chubais run that foundation,
which is involved in investments rather than charitable activities. LB

COMMUNISTS WANT GUARANTEES BEFORE APPROVING BUDGET...
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 12 November said his
party will decide whether to support the 1998 budget only after the
government reports on its progress in implementing several
opposition demands, Reuters reported. The opposition gained the
concessions at a meeting between President Boris Yeltsin, Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, and
Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21
October 1997). But Zyuganov said the government has not yet kept
the promises. In particular, he noted that the parliament has yet to
receive additional air time on state-run Russian Television,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 November. Zyuganov also
claimed there has been insufficient preparation for a 22 November
roundtable discussion of the land code, in which officials from the
government, parliament, and presidential administration are to take
part. LB

...OPPOSE GOVERNMENT-BACKED TAX LAWS. Zyuganov also said the
Communist faction is opposed to the package of tax laws submitted
by the government, Interfax reported on 12 November. The cabinet
prepared those laws, on which the revenues in the draft 1998 budget
are based, after it became clear that a new tax code will not be
approved by the end of the year. Zyuganov claimed the laws would
increase the tax burden on both individuals and manufacturers. He
also said the legislation seeks to increase budget revenues "by
robbing citizens again." Among other things, the laws would raise the
tax on foreign-currency purchases from 0.5 percent to 1 percent,
allow local governments to introduce a sales tax of up to 5 percent,
and eliminate tax breaks currently granted to military personnel and
some other groups. LB

SARATOV LEGISLATURE PASSES LAND LAW. The Saratov Oblast
Duma on 12 November approved a land law that would allow the
purchase and sale of farmland, Russian news agencies reported. The
ground-breaking law is in apparent conflict with federal legislation
but has the support of Yeltsin as well as Saratov Governor Dmitrii
Ayatskov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1997). The Duma on 13
November passed a non-binding resolution denouncing the Saratov
land law as unconstitutional, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The
resolution also asked Saratov legislators to bring the regional law in
line with the land code approved by the Duma but vetoed by Yeltsin.
That code would prohibit the purchase and sale of farmland. LB

LUZHKOV CAUTIOUS ABOUT SARATOV EXPERIMENT. Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov argued on 13 November that Saratov Oblast should be
allowed to give farmers full land ownership rights, ITAR-TASS
reported. However, Luzhkov warned that the Saratov experiment
should not be extended to the rest of Russia, saying the issue should
be approached "with extreme caution." On 5 November, Luzhkov
vetoed a land law passed by the Moscow City Duma that would have
allowed investors involved in constructing or renovating buildings to
purchase plots of land underneath those buildings. LB

SLUMP ON RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET CONTINUES. The Russian Trading
System Index declined by nearly 9 percent and most liquid stocks by
more than 10 percent on 12 November, Russian news agencies
reported. Although trading was not halted on that exchange, the
Russian Federal Securities Commission twice halted share trading on
the Moscow Interbank Hard-Currency Exchange. Analysts say selling
by Russian investors has fueled the latest declines on the stock
market. In recent weeks, previous declines in Russian corporate
stocks were attributed primarily to selling by foreign investors. LB

PRIMAKOV IN JAPAN. Minister of Foreign Affairs Yevgenii Primakov
held talks with his Japanese counter-part, Keizo Obuchi, in Tokyo on
13 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The two agreed to head a new
structure for preparing a peace treaty formally ending hostilities
between their two countries. The two ministers also discussed
Japanese investment and guarantees for capital invested in Russia.
Primakov supported an idea proposed by Chinese Prime Minister Li
Peng that Russia, Japan, China, and the U.S. establish a system of
political consultations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1997).
Primakov also met with U.S. First Deputy Secretary of State Strobe
Talbott, who is currently in Japan. BP

ARE RUSSIAN ARMS EXPORTS UP OR DOWN? Foreign Economic
Relations Minister Mikhail Fradkov said in Moscow on 12 November
that Russia was the world's second-largest arms exporter after the
U.S. in 1996, with a market share of more than 20 percent. At the
same time, he noted that the number of customers for Russian arms
is diminishing but expressed the hope that the abolition of the
virtual monopoly previously enjoyed by the arms export concern
Rosvooruzhenie would reverse that trend. First Deputy Foreign Trade
Minister Aleksandr Kotelkin told Interfax on 12 November that arms
exports began to drop the day he was replaced as head of
Rosvooruzhenie in August. He predicted that the Russian arms
exports in 1997 will be "significantly lower" than in 1996. LF

SERGEEV ON STATE OF MILITARY. Opening a conference on raising
the general educational level within the armed forces, Defense
Minister Igor Sergeev conceded that the Russian army is still
suffering from the psychological impact of the withdrawal from
Afghanistan, the demise of the USSR, and the war in Chechnya,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 November. He complained that
the educational level of conscripts has fallen sharply over the past 10
years and that only 6 percent can name any of the classics of Russian
literature. Sergeev added, however, that he believes an increasing
number of military personnel are convinced of the need for military
reform. Also on 12 November, Valerii Spektor, the president of the
International Academy of Sciences for Problems of National Security,
advocated creating a military reserve in order to maintain Russia's
military capacity following the demobilization of some 100,000
officers. LF

NEW AIDS MENACE IN RUSSIA. After examining AIDS among
intravenous drug users, the Health Ministry has discovered that a
testing method by dealers may be responsible for the rapid spread of
the disease, AFP reported on 12 November. It reports that sometimes
the drugs themselves contain the virus and that to find out whether
the narcotic will coagulate blood, which would be fatal to users,
dealers cut their own veins and allow blood to drip onto the drug.
After the required additives are introduced and testing is completed,
the drug goes on sale. According to the Russian Institute for
Preventing and Combating AIDS, the incidence of the disease was 10
times higher from January-October compared with the same period
last year, Interfax reported on 11 November. That report also notes
the rate is increasing most quickly among intravenous drug users. BP

MORE CONFLICTING REPORTS ON SOBCHAK. Duma deputy Lyudmila
Narusova, the wife of former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak,
told journalists in Paris that her husband is in "satisfactory" condition
at an unspecified private clinic in the city, AFP and ITAR-TASS
reported on 12 November. Narusova said Sobchak recently had a
series of medical tests (not heart surgery as was previously
reported). She denied that he has been to the American Hospital in
Paris, although officials at that hospital have said they performed
tests on Sobchak (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1997).
Narusova also said that Sobchak went abroad because he had
received death threats but that he will return to Russia as soon as he
is well. Speaking in Moscow the same day, Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov expressed regret that Sobchak left Russia abruptly, without
informing the investigator who wants to question him as a witness in
a corruption case, Interfax reported. LB

LUZHKOV OBJECTS TO HIGH COST OF CATHEDRAL FRESCOES. Moscow
Mayor Luzhkov on 12 November blasted sculptor Zurab Tsereteli and
architect Aleksei Denisov for submitting a "reckless" and
"extravagant" budget for frescoes in the newly restored Cathedral of
Christ the Savior, Russian news agencies reported. Some 1.4 trillion
rubles ($240 million) has already been spent on rebuilding the
cathedral, which was consecrated in September. Speaking to a
meeting of the church's advisory council, Luzhkov said 370 billion
rubles, the cost estimate provided by Tsereteli, was too much to pay
for the frescoes. Tsereteli has produced several controversial
sculptures in the Russian capital, including a giant statue of Peter the
Great. In the past, Luzhkov has nearly always defended Tsereteli's
work. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJAN CELEBRATES FIRST "EARLY OIL"... President Heidar
Aliev on 12 November opened a valve on the Chirag 1 platform,120
km east of Baku, to allow the first "early oil" to flow into the
underwater pipeline that will transport it to the Sangachala terminal.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, U.S. Energy
Secretary Federico Pena, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, and
international oil company officials were all present at the opening
ceremony. Aliev said the beginning of production at Chirag "marks
the beginning of a new era not only in our country but for the entire
Caspian region," Turan reported. Nemtsov said the venture, in which
Russia's LUKoil has a 10 percent stake, forms the basis for
"integration and economic rapprochement between Russia and
Azerbaijan." He thanked Aliev for helping resolve the dispute with
Chechnya over oil tariffs, which had threatened to delay
commissioning of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline. LF

...AS COMPETITION FOR MAIN EXPORT PIPELINE INTENSIFIES.
Meanwhile, guests at the Baku ceremony lobbied for their respective
proposed routes for the Main Export Pipeline, which will export the
far larger volumes of Caspian oil that will come on stream in 2004.
Nemtsov said there is a "100 percent chance" that the pipeline will
run north through the Russian Federation to Novorossisk, which he
said is the cheapest variant, Interfax reported. Yilmaz said Turkey
"fully supports" the Baku-Ceyhan route, the "Turkish Daily News"
reported. Pena also expressed support for the Baku-Ceyhan route,
hinting that the U.S. would welcome routing this pipeline via
Armenia once the Karabakh conflict is resolved. But Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze, who met with Aliev in Baku on 12
November on his way home from Kazakhstan, told CAUCASUS PRESS
he is sure the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will be routed via Supsa. LF

PROTEST AT IRANIAN EMBASSY IN BAKU. Police on 12 November
quickly dispersed some 50 members of Azerbaijan's Turkish National
Youth Movement who were staging a protest outside the Iranian
embassy in Baku, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Azerbaijani capital
reported. Vugar Beyturan, the movement's leader, said the
demonstration was intended to protest Iranian President Mohammad
Khattami's failure to fulfill his campaign promise to grant greater
autonomy to all ethnic groups in Iran, including the estimated 25
million ethnic Azeris. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS REFERENDUM ON KARABAKH
PEACE PLAN. Several dozen Armenian opposition parties and NGOs
have demanded that the latest Karabakh peace plan proposed by the
Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe be submitted to a
referendum in both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported on 12 November. They condemned
President Levon Ter-Petrossyan's "defeatist" approach to resolving
the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, accusing him of trying to restore
Azerbaijan's sovereignty over the disputed region. LF

ARMENIAN PREMIER MEETS WITH KARABAKH WAR VETERANS.
Robert Kocharyan on 11 November met with members of the
Yerkrapahner parliamentary faction to discuss recent developments
over Nagorno-Karabakh, "Hayastani Hanrapetutyun" reported. That
faction is composed largely of Karabakh war veterans. The deputies
urged Yerevan not to disregard the 1992 Armenian parliament
decision that bars the government from signing any international
treaty referring to Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan. They also said
the conflict is a "pan-national issue and should be settled by the
whole nation." LF

PHONE LINKS RESTORED BETWEEN ABKHAZIA, RUSSIA. International
telephone links between Sukhumi and Sochi have been restored,
CAUCASUS PRESS reported on 12 November. In mid-April, the
Georgian authorities had re-routed all international telephone links
from Abkhazia via Tbilisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1997).
Abkhaz parliamentary speaker Sokrat Jinjolia told RIA-Novosti that
agreement on the restoration of telephone lines to Russia was
reached during bilateral talks in Tbilisi. LF

PROSECUTOR ABDUCTED IN TSKHINVALI. Guram Babutsidze, an
ethnic Georgian who is prosecutor in the capital of the former South
Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, was abducted by unidentified gunmen
near Tskhinvali on 12 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian
President Shevardnadze and his South Ossetian counterpart, Lyudwig
Chibirov, are scheduled to meet on 14 November to assess the
prospects for signing an accord formalizing relations between the
former autonomous region and the Georgian government. LF

PROBLEMS CONTINUE TO PLAGUE TAJIK PEACE PROCESS. More than
1,000 fighters belonging to United Tajik Opposition (UTO) were
officially registered in the Garm and Tavil-Dara areas on 12
November, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. But those
fighters have not yet been disarmed, a condition for their later
integration into the regular Tajik armed forces. Nor has construction
been completed on the barracks in the regions where they will be
relocated. Another group of 400 UTO fighters is waiting to be
transported out of Afghanistan, but there are reportedly no funds
available for that operation. Meanwhile, the Tajik National
Reconciliation Commission complains that the UTO has handed over
more POWs (over 200) than the government (58). BP

RFE/RL TURKMEN STRINGER FREED. Yovshan Annakurbanov has been
freed from police detention, according to RFE/RL correspondents in
Ashgabat on 12 November. Annakurbanov was taken into custody as
he attempted to board a plane in Ashgabat bound for Prague (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 1997). Police later claimed he was in
possession of a computer disc with material from opposition groups
in Turkmenistan. BP

RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER PUTS DAMPER ON HILLARY CLINTON'S TRIP.
The daily "Russkii Telegraf" on 12 November quoted an unnamed
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying U.S. First Lady Hillary
Clinton's trip to Central Asia is a "subtle attempt...to infiltrate the
zone of Russia's traditional interests." The article also questioned
Clinton's message on women's rights given the area's "local traditions
and peculiarities." Meanwhile, Clinton was in Bishkek on 12
November to opening the American University of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL
correspondents in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Clinton also
announced a $2 million donation to Kyrgyzstan for medical purposes.
BP




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