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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 162, Part I, 18 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 DELAYS BUDGET VOTE IN WAKE OF BOOK SCANDAL


*GAZPROM SIGNS COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH SHELL


*RUSSIA REJECTS GEORGIAN CRITICISM OVER ABKHAZIA


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RUSSIA

DUMA DELAYS BUDGET VOTE IN WAKE OF BOOK SCANDAL. The State
Duma Council has postponed for two days a debate on the draft 1998
budget, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 18 November. That
debate had been scheduled for 19 November. The Communist Party,
which controls the largest Duma faction, issued a statement on 17
November demanding that First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Chubais be sacked before the Duma debates the budget. Chubais is at
the center of a growing scandal over fees paid for a book on
privatization. But Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev announced the
next day that the Duma will consider the budget on 21 November
even if Chubais has not been fired, AFP reported. Seleznev failed to
convince Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin during a 17 November
meeting that sacking Chubais would facilitate passage of the budget
and several government-backed tax laws in the Duma, ITAR-TASS
reported. LB

COMMUNISTS PUSH FOR 'COUNCIL OF FOUR' MEETING... Communist
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 18 November that his
party is seeking a meeting of the president, prime minister, and
speakers of both houses of parliament on 20 November, Reuters
reported. Seleznev suggested convening the "council of four" during
his meeting with Chernomyrdin the previous day. President Boris
Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 18 November did not
rule out a possible meeting of the "council" within the next few days,
ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. However, he advised the
opposition not to try to force Yeltsin to fire Chubais by linking the
passage of laws to personnel changes in the government.
Yastrzhembskii commented that it is "hopeless" to talk to the
president "in terms of ultimatums and demands." LB

...BUT NOT CONFIDENCE VOTE. During the 18 November meeting of
the Duma Council, no faction sought to put a confidence motion on the
agenda for the following day's Duma session, ITAR-TASS reported.
Instead, Duma deputies will consider a non-binding resolution calling
for Chubais's dismissal. Aleksandr Shokhin, the leader of the pro-
government Duma faction Our Home Is Russia, argued on 17
November that the book scandal may lead to renewed efforts in the
Duma to pass a no-confidence vote, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. (Shokhin, a former government minister, has been
mentioned as a possible replacement for Chubais.) However, Valentin
Kuptsov, the deputy head of the Communist faction, told ITAR-TASS
that the Communists are not yet seeking a no-confidence vote. In
October, the Communists dropped a planned confidence motion after
obtaining some concessions from the Kremlin. LB

PROSECUTORS ORDER RAPID INVESTIGATION INTO BOOK SCANDAL.
The Prosecutor-General's Office has instructed the Moscow
Prosecutor's Office to complete "in the shortest possible time" an
investigation into fees paid to officials for a book on privatization,
ITAR-TASS reported on 17 November. The book's seven authors
allegedly received payments from a publishing house co-owned by
Oneksimbank, but of the seven, only Chubais and Federal Securities
Commission Chairman Dmitrii Vasilev retain official posts. Yeltsin has
already fired Aleksandr Kazakov as deputy head of the presidential
administration, Maksim Boiko as state property minister, and Petr
Mostovoi as Federal Bankruptcy Agency head. The other two authors,
former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh and former
Chubais aide Arkadii Yevstafev, did not hold state office when the
scandal broke. LB

FATE OF TAX CODE UNCLEAR. The Duma Council agreed on 18
November to schedule a debate on government-backed tax laws for
20 November, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The Duma recently
passed some tax laws in the first reading, but rejected several others
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 1997). The laws provide the
basis for planned 1998 budget revenues, as a new tax code is
unlikely to be adopted before spring 1998 at the earliest. Meanwhile,
Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov says the lower
house will consider the tax code in the first reading on 19 November,
ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma approved the code in the first
reading in June, but since then several thousand amendments to it
have been proposed. Consequently, deputies voted on 14 November
to return the tax code to a first reading, after which a conciliatory
commission of presidential, government, and parliamentary
representatives will be formed to work out a compromise. LB

RTR CHAIRMAN DENIES NETWORK LINKED TO ONEKSIMBANK. Nikolai
Svanidze, the chairman of fully state-owned Russian Television
(RTR), says his network has "no relationship with Oneksimbank or
with any other banks," ITAR-TASS reported on 17 November. A
report the previous day on the private network NTV listed RTR
among media outlets that are partly owned or financed by
Oneksimbank. However, Svanidze said RTR's funding comes only
from the state budget and from advertising revenues. RTR's news
coverage is considered to favor First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais.
A program hosted by Svanidze on 16 November took a sympathetic
view toward Chubais in light of the scandal over book fees, calling
attention to the likely consequences on Russian financial markets if
Chubais were dismissed. LB

OTHER MAJOR NETWORKS MORE CRITICAL OF CHUBAIS. In their
coverage of the book scandal, NTV and 51 percent state-owned
Russian Public Television (ORT) have been far more critical of
Chubais than has RTR. ORT journalist Sergei Dorenko devoted 40
minutes of his 15 November program "Vremya" to the scandal.
Among other things, he referred to Chubais as a "self-interested
machine," a "mercenary," and a "manipulator." ORT is partly financed
by former Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, and
Dorenko has frequently blasted Chubais and Oneksimbank on the air
in recent months. NTV, which is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's
Media-Most company, has also criticized Chubais and Oneksimbank,
although its attacks have been less severe than Dorenko's. LB

COURT NOT TO HEAR APPEALS ON ELECTORAL LAW. The
Constitutional Court has refused to hear two appeals against the
proportional representation system currently used to elect half of
Duma deputies, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 November. A student
organization and a group of Duma deputies charged that dividing up
half the Duma seats only among electoral blocs that gain at least 5
percent of the vote violates the rights of voters who support other
groups (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July and 28 August 1997). The
court decided that since the student organization did not compete in
the 1995 parliamentary election, its complaints against the electoral
law are merely "abstract." Judges rejected the Duma deputies' appeal
on the grounds that it is the parliament's prerogative to amend
legislation. The Constitutional Court has tended to sidestep highly
controversial issues since it reconvened in March 1995 following an
18-month lapse. LB

GAZPROM SIGNS COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH SHELL. Gazprom
on 17 November signed a cooperation agreement with Royal-Dutch
Shell, the world's largest oil company. The accord provides for a joint
venture to develop oil and gas deposits, beginning with the
Zapolyarnoye field in western Siberia. Shell is also to invest up to $1
billion in Gazprom convertible bonds, Interfax reported. In an
interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 November,
Gazprom board chairman Rem Vyakhirev said Russia currently has "a
unique chance" to move into "virgin territory" by expanding into the
south Asian market and exporting gas to Pakistan, India, China, and
South Korea. Also on 17 November, Gazprom, Shell, and LUKoil signed
a memorandum of understanding on drawing up a joint proposal on
participating in the Rosneft tender, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

BRITISH PETROLEUM BUYS INTO SIDANKO. British Petroleum signed
an agreement in London on 18 November on purchasing 10 percent
of the shares in one of Russia's largest oil companies, Sidanko. BP will
pay $571 million to Oneksimbank, which owns the controlling stake
in Sidanko. It will also buy 45 percent of Sidanko's 60 percent stake
in Russia Petroleum, which has a license to develop the Kovytkinskoe
gas deposit in Irkutsk. That deposit is one of the largest in Russia,
with estimated reserves of 1.5 trillion cubic meters. BP will invest
$172 million in developing the deposit. During Yeltsin's recent visit to
China, Russian and Chinese officials signed a memorandum on
exporting gas from the Kovytkiskoe field to China. Some of that gas
will be re-exported to Japan and South Korea. LF

ABDULATIPOV TRIES TO CALM CHECHEN-DAGESTANI TENSIONS.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov on 17
November appealed to Aslan Maskhadov and Magomedali
Magomedov, the leaders of Chechnya and Dagestan, to sign a treaty
on good neighborly relations in order to resolve tensions on their
common border, Russian agencies reported. Also on 17 November,
Magomedov asked Dagestani Minister for Nationality Affairs
Magomedsalikh Gusayev to propose such a treaty to the Chechen
leadership. A treaty was drafted in November 1996, but the Chechen
side has failed to comment on it. LF

TESTS CONFIRM AUTHENTICITY OF TSAR'S REMAINS. Forensic tests
have confirmed the authenticity of the remains of Tsar Nicholas II
and his family, Interfax reported on 17 November, citing Sergei
Abramov, a forensic expert with the Health Ministry. The tests were
carried out in Yekaterinburg, after the Prosecutor-General's Office
postponed a decision on whether the remains should be transported
to Moscow for testing. In January, Yeltsin is expected to announce
whether the remains will be buried in Moscow, St. Petersburg, or
Yekaterinburg, where the tsar and several family members were
executed in 1918. LB

DUMA ISSUES APPEAL OVER AIDS. The Duma on 14 November voted
unanimously to appeal to the government to take "urgent measures"
on combating the spread of AIDS in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported.
Deputies heard a report claiming the number of patients registered
with AIDS reached 6,232 in 1997, of which 3,600 were reported this
year. The number of HIV-infected people in Russia has risen twelve-
fold "in the last few years," and the situation is worse in cities such
as Moscow, Kaliningrad, Novorossiisk, Tver, and Nizhnii Novgorod.
The report also noted that 90 percent of registered cases are drug
users. BP

SVERDLOVSK GOVERNOR OPPOSES REGIONS BASED ON ETHNICITY.
Eduard Rossel told journalists in Yekaterinburg that he believes
Russia's regions should be divided on purely geographical lines,
without marking out territories for certain ethnic groups, ITAR-TASS
reported on 16 November. Russia has 21 republics named after
various nationalities, such as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, along with
10 autonomous okrugs representing smaller ethnic groups. Rossel,
himself an ethnic German, argued, "We should have only one nation:
citizens of Russia. We should not divide people by categories." Some
governors of Russia's oblasts and krais resent the special privileges
and greater economic autonomy that the federal government has
granted to certain republics. LB

RESISTANCE TO NEW PASSPORTS CONTINUES. Aslan Djarimov,
president of the Republic of Adygeya in the North Caucasus, has
followed Tatarstan in suspending issue of the new Russian passports,
ITAR-TASS reported. Djarimov told journalists he objects to the fact
that data in the new passports is only in Russian, while Adygeya has
two state languages. Altai Republic government chairman Vladilen
Volkov told journalists on 14 November that he considers the
omission of the holder's nationality in the new passports "premature"
and contrary to the wishes of many Russian republics and regions,
ITAR-TASS reported. Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov
told Ekho Moskvy on 14 November that people are afraid that
replacing old passports will be followed by "liquidation of the non-
Russian republics tomorrow and of the non-Russian nationalities the
day after." LF

COURT REFUSES TO RELEASE POET ACCUSED OF DRUG DEALING. A
Moscow court has refused to order the release of poet Alina
Vitukhnovskaya, who is accused of selling drugs, Interfax reported
on 17 November. Vitukhnovskaya wrote an article on drug-taking
for the magazine "Novoe vremya" in 1994. She was accused of selling
drugs after she refused to provide the Federal Security Service with
additional information about drug use in Moscow, since such
information would reveal her sources. Vitukhnovskaya spent nearly
a year in custody before being released pending trial in 1995 (see
"OMRI Daily Digest, 13 October 1995). However, she was re-arrested
last month. Her attorney says Vitukhnovskaya's continued detention
is unjustified, since during a three-year investigation she has
committed no new crimes and made no efforts to flee Moscow. LB

VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR ON HUNGER STRIKE. Viktor Cherepkov
continued his hunger strike for the second day on 18 November,
ITAR-TASS reported. He is demanding the dismissal of Primorskii
Krai prosecutor Valerii Vasilenko and some court officials. In a letter
to Yeltsin, Cherepkov vowed to continue his protest until officials
responsible for corruption and "arbitrary rule" in Primore have been
punished, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 November. The krai
administration has responded by accusing Cherepkov of trying to
pass the blame for his own poor management of the city. Krai
authorities have also convened a commission on emergency
situations and charged it with running Vladivostok. Meanwhile,
Aleksandr Rozanov, Russia's deputy prosecutor-general, told ITAR-
TASS on 17 November that there are no plans to fire Vasilenko.
Cherepkov, a long-time opponent of Primore Governor Yevgenii
Nazdratenko, recently announced that he plans to resign. He has
called early mayoral elections for March 1998. LB

PROBLEMS STILL PLAGUE SPACE STATION. Another computer failure
aboard "Mir" on 14 November caused a temporary loss of the space
station's orientation toward the sun, but the problem was repaired
within two days, Russian media. During that period, the temperature
aboard the station rose to 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). Scientists
explained the rise was a natural consequence of the station's orbit,
which "twice a year puts it...under the direct rays of the sun." They
added, however, that the station's cooling system did not function
"well enough." BP

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIA REJECTS GEORGIAN CRITICISM OVER ABKHAZIA. Russian
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 17 November rejected as
"unfounded" Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's criticism of
Chernomyrdin's recent decree allowing the export to Russia of
agricultural produce from Abkhazia. Shevardnadze charged that the
measure creates "hot-house conditions" for Abkhaz separatists and is
aimed at bolstering the dwindling authority of the CIS. Russian
government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov denied that Russian
imports of agricultural produce from Abkhazia violate previous
Georgian-Russian agreements on resolving the Abkhaz conflict.
Speaking in Tbilisi on 17 November, Georgian First Deputy Foreign
Minister Mikhail Ukleba reaffirmed that Georgia will not lift
economic sanctions on Abkhazia until a political settlement of the
conflict has been reached and ethnic Georgian displaced persons
allowed to return to their homes in Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Caucasus
Press reported. LF

ARMENIA WANTS COOPERATION WITH TURKEY ON NUCLEAR
SAFETY. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian on
17 November reaffirmed Armenia's commitment to both the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty and to agreements with the International
Atomic Energy Agency on the safe functioning of the Medzamor
nuclear power station. Gasparian said Yerevan is ready "to
reasonably address Turkey's concerns about the safety of our
WWER-type reactor." He proposed confidence-building measures,
including the regular exchange of information with Turkey. Ankara
has claimed that leaks of radio-activity from Medzamor have
affected areas of northeastern Turkey. In September, Azerbaijani
Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov charged that Medzamor is unsafe
and can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. Armenia has
denied both those charges. LF

ARMENIA RELUCTANT TO BAN LAND MINES. Gasparian also said on
17 November that while Yerevan welcomes international efforts to
ban the production and use of anti-personnel land mines, it will not
accede to the international convention banning such weapons unless
other states in the region do so. At the same time, Gasparian
expressed concern at Azerbaijan's refusal to join the convention. He
noted that some 6,000-8,000 land mines are concentrated along the
Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier. There are also heavily mined areas
on the former front line between Karabakh Armenian and
Azerbaijani forces. The draft peace proposal drawn up by the
Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe Karabakh
requires Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan to cooperate in clearing
those areas in order to allow the deployment of OSCE peacekeeping
forces. LF

KARABAKH PREMIER ON SETTLEMENT TIMETABLE. Leonid Petrossian
has hinted that Nagorno-Karabakh may drop its insistence on a
"package" rather than a "phased" solution to the conflict. Speaking on
17 November, he suggested that if the latter option is chosen,
Karabakh's status vis-a-vis the central Azerbaijani government
should be decided first, Noyan Tapan reported. Petrossian said the
second stage should involve "determining borders" and the third the
withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory.
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gasparian said on 17
November that Yerevan will use its right of veto if Azerbaijan pushes
for adopting a document that reaffirms Baku's sovereignty over
Nagorno-Karabakh at the December meeting of OSCE foreign
ministers, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT POSTPONES DEBATE ON ELECTION LAW.
The parliament has voted to postpone discussion of two draft election
laws until February 1998, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 17
November. The opposition Hayrenik faction called for the issue to be
included on the fall session's agenda. It opposes the draft law
prepared by the ruling Hanrapetutyun coalition, which it says
provides for the appointment rather than the election of deputies.
Hayrenik leader Eduard Yegoryan has prepared an alternative draft.
Adoption of a new election law is a precondition for Armenia's
admission to full membership in the Council of Europe. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT IN U.S. Nursultan Nazarbayev held talks with US
officials in Washington on 17 November, according to RFE/RL
correspondents in the U.S. capital. Nazarbayev met with U.S Vice
President Al Gore, with whom he later attended the opening of the
fourth session of the Kazakh-U.S. joint economic commission. Gore
stressed the need for multiple pipelines to bring Kazakh oil and gas
to markets both in the West and East. While Gore avoided mentioning
Iran, Nazarbayev said later at a Pentagon news conference with U. S.
Defense Secretary William Cohen that if a pipeline were to run
through either Iran or Iraq, "I will have to talk about security." BP

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIAN BROADCAST "PLANNED." Askar
Akayev has said the recent broadcasts by Russian television stations
of footage showing a Kyrgyz children's home were "planned" to
coincide with the 13 November visit of U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1997), ITAR-TASS reported.
He complained that the footage inaccurately portrayed Kyrgyzstan as
a country where "children die because of the absence of medicines
and food." He added that "no one explained this was a children's
home where there were sick children." Kyrgyzstan has sent official
protests to both the Russian government and the Russian television
stations that ran the footage. BP

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER RETURNS TO BISHKEK. Topchubek
Turgunaliev, the chairman of Kyrgyzstan's opposition Erkin
Kyrgyzstan Party, has been moved from a prison in Leilik to the
capital, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 17 November.
Earlier this year, Turgunaliev was found guilty of abuse of power
while dean of the Bishkek University of Humanities in 1994.
Turgunaliev will serve the remainder of his four-year sentence in a
Bishkek detention center. BP

TAJIK OPPOSITION SOON TO RECEIVE GOVERNMENT POSTS? Tajik
President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader
Said Abdullo Nuri have met to discuss which government posts the
UTO will receive, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported on 17
November. Under the terms of the peace agreement, the UTO is to
have 30 percent of government portfolios, but it remains unclear
which ones it will receive. Tajik presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov
is quoted by Reuters and Interfax as saying one of the government
power ministries will be handed over to the UTO. According to
RFE/RL correspondents, the UTO may instead receive the Ministry for
Emergency Situations. Saidov also said the government reshuffle
should take place within the next week. BP

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