A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 171, Part I, 3 December 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

* YELTSIN SAYS RUSSIA READY TO CUT TROOPS ON
NORTHWESTERN BORDER

* RUSSIA, WESTERN CREDITOR BANKS CONCLUDE LANDMARK
DEAL

* OPERATION AGAINST TAJIK TERRORISTS CONTINUES

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN SAYS RUSSIA READY TO CUT TROOPS ON
NORTHWESTERN BORDER... President Boris Yeltsin  has said that
Russia is ready to unilaterally cut its land and naval forces in the
northwest of the country by more than 40 percent, ITAR-TASS
reported. Yeltsin, who was addressing the Swedish parliament on 3
December, said the reductions would take place by 1 January 1997.
He did not say, however, exactly how many troops would be cut or
which areas would be affected. Yeltsin also proposed introducing "a
regime of confidence" in the Baltic region. He said Russia wants "a
border of peace, not strife" with its Baltic neighbors. Lithuania,
Latvia, and Estonia all rejected Russia's recent offer of security
guarantees, while Sweden has said it does not support the initiative.
According to Yeltsin in his address to the Swedish parliament, only
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe can serve as
the basis for a sound security system in Europe. JG

...MAKES SURPRISE STATEMENT ON NUCLEAR WARHEADS. The
previous day, Yeltsin had announced at a press conference in the
Swedish capital that Russia will unilaterally reduce its nuclear
warheads by another third.  Presidential spokesman Sergei
Yastrzhembskii explained later that Yeltsin was simply proposing to
go beyond reductions already discussed with the U.S. in preliminary
talks on a START III treaty. Under the START II treaty,  Russia and
the U.S. agreed to cut their strategic nuclear arsenals to some 3,500
warheads each  by 2000. That treaty still has to be ratified by the
Russian parliament. U.S State Department spokesman James Rubin
responded that while Washington would welcome unilateral
reductions in Russia's nuclear arsenal, the main item on the U.S.-
Russian arms control agenda is the Russian parliament's ratification
of START II. JG

RUSSIA, SWEDEN AGREE TO RESTRUCTURE SOVIET DEBT. Also
on 2 December, Yeltsin and Swedish Premier Goran Persson attended
the signing of several agreements, including one on restructuring the
former Soviet Union's debt to Sweden, Russian news agencies
reported. Russia is repaying that debt, which is estimated at $50
million. Other agreements were on fighting money-laundering and
tax evasion, closer cooperation between the two countries' Justice
Ministries, and cooperation in space research and nuclear energy.
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who is accompanying
Yeltsin, met with Swedish Finance Minister Erik Asbrink and called
on Swedish businessmen to increase their investments in the
Russian economy, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin's visit to Sweden is
the first by a Russian head of state since 1909. JG

RUSSIA, WESTERN CREDITOR BANKS CONCLUDE LANDMARK
DEAL. Russia and its Western creditor banks  concluded a landmark
$32.3 billion deal on 2 December. Andrei Kostin, the chairman of
state-owned Vneshekonombank, told a news conference in London
that Russia considers the London  Club deal another step toward the
stabilization of Russia's financial situation and increased
investments. He added that Russia can now look forward to an
improved credit rating in the first quarter of next year. Meanwhile in
Moscow, IMF representative Martin Gilman said the Russian
government needs to do more to expedite the release of a $700
million loan from the fund, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that a
decision on issuing the delayed loan would not be taken until
February. On 1 December, the Central Bank had issued a statement
saying it expects the IMF to release the loan by the end of the month
following the government's new fiscal measures. JG

RUSSIA EXTENDS BAN ON EXPORT OF LAND MINES. The
presidential press service announced on 2 December that Russia has
extended its moratorium on the export of land mines for another five
years, Interfax reported. The extension of the ban was decreed by
Yeltsin. In October, the president had said Russia supports a world
ban on anti-personnel land mines and that he does not rule out being
among the signatories of such a treaty at the international
conference in Ottawa, which began on 2 December. The Kremlin,
however, said no date has been set for Russia's accession to the
treaty. JG

67 PEOPLE KILLED IN KEMEROVO MINE BLAST. The Emergencies
Ministry has announced  that a methane gas explosion killed 67
people in a southern Siberian mine on 2 December, Russian news
agencies reported. The blast occurred in the Zyryanovskaya mine in
Kemerovo Oblast, but its cause was not immediately known. The
blast is said to be Russia's worst mining disaster in decades.
Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev said it indicates the critical plight
of the regional coal industry. JG

RUSSIA TO FILE SPY CHARGES AGAINST U.S. CITIZEN.
Aleksandr Zdanovich, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Security
Service (FSB), said on 2 December that Russia will file espionage
charges against U.S. citizen Richard Bliss, Interfax reported.
Zdanovich said that if convicted, Bliss faces between 10 and 20
years in prison. The FSB announced on 1 December that Bliss was
detained the previous week in Rostov Oblast after he had been found
taking land surveys of "sensitive sites" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2
December 1997). JG

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAYS CIS CRIME RATE HAS DOUBLED.
Russia's Yurii Skuratov said on 2 December that the number of
crimes committed in CIS member states has almost doubled over the
past five to seven years, ITAR-TASS reported. Skuratov was
speaking at a meeting in Moscow of CIS law-enforcement officials.
Also on 2 December, a Russian Interior Ministry official said a total
of 150 people were killed and some 470 injured in bomb explosions
throughout Russia so far this year. Major-General Igor Khromov, the
deputy chief of the ministry's criminal investigations department,
told a Moscow news conference that the number of bombings
increased from 185 to 740 over the past five years. JG

SKURATOV ON DEMAND FOR STANKEVICH'S EXTRADITION. Also
on 2 December, Prosecutor-General Skuratov said Russia will take
"appropriate measures" if Poland does not fulfill the Russian
authorities' demand to extradite former Moscow Deputy Mayor Sergei
Stankevich, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. He did not, however,
specify what those measures would be. Skuratov said Russia will
continue to insist that Stankevich be extradited, despite a recent
Warsaw court decision that Stankevich is not liable for extradition
under Polish law. "I do not think Poland wants to become a safe
haven for international criminals," Interfax quoted Skuratov as
saying. Stankevich is accused of bribe-taking. JG

YUGOSLAV FEDERAL PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Radoje
Kontic arrived in Moscow on 2 December for a three-day official
visit, ITAR-TASS said. Before leaving for Moscow, Kontic told
reporters he expects trade turnover between Yugoslavia and Russia
to triple by the end of the century, reaching $3-3.5 billion . Kontic
and his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, are expected to
sign an agreement whereby Russia will extend a credit for federal
Yugoslavia to buy Russian goods worth $150 million. They are also
expected to sign several cooperation accords and to discuss a wide
range of international issues, including implementation of the
Dayton peace accords. JG

CHINESE GENERALS VISIT RUSSIAN WARSHIP. Six Chinese
generals, led by the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese
Armed Forces Xiong Guangkoi, have inspected the Russian destroyer
"Admiral Vinogradov," ITAR-TASS reported on 3 December. The
vessel is currently docked in Vladivostok, the headquarters  of the
Russian Navy's Pacific Fleet Command. The Chinese used the
opportunity to discuss further military cooperation, including joint
naval exercises. China has shown great interest in purchasing
Russian naval military technology, such as destroyers and
submarines. BP

CHECHEN PARLIAMENT OVERRULES PRESIDENTIAL VETO.  The
Chechen parliament on 2 December overruled President Aslan
Maskhadov's veto of its October ruling that all Chechen officials who
held power under pro-Moscow President Doku Zavgaev must be fired
by 1 January 1998, Interfax reported. On three occasions, the
parliament has postponed a vote on Maskhadov's request for expanded
powers enabling him to rule by decree. Also on 2 December, Russian
State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev announced he plans to visit
Chechnya later in December. But his Chechen counterpart, Ruslan
Alikhadzhiev, told ITAR-TASS that Seleznev will not be admitted if
he insists Chechnya is still a subject of the Russian Federation. LF

DUMA DEPUTY CONDEMNS "GUAM-2."  Speaking at a press
conference in St. Petersburg on 2 December, Colonel-General Eduard
Vorobev, a member of the State Duma Defense Committee, said the
alignment of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova "cannot be
seen as a friendly gesture toward Russia," Interfax reported.
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev had said on 25 November that the
new union "is not directed against anyone." But Vorobev claimed it
aims to further the "military and strategic" interests of the four
member countries. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

OPERATION AGAINST TAJIK TERRORISTS CONTINUES... Tajik
government security forces are continuing their operation against a
terrorist group responsible for several kidnappings, despite the
death of the group's leader, Rezvon Sadirov. The government wants to
eliminate the group and free 12-15 hostages believed to  be held by
the outlaws. Authorities in Dushanbe believe that among the
hostages are the two sons of the head mufti of Tajikistan, who were
kidnapped in the summer. BP

...WHILE GOVERNMENT SAYS FOREIGNERS SAFE. Tajik Deputy
Prime Minister Abdurahmon Azimov on 2 December told diplomats
and heads of international organizations that they need not worry
for their or their co-workers' safety, ITAR-TASS reported. Azimov
said there is now a "90 percent probability" that there will be no
repetition of the recent hostage-taking incident in which one French
woman was killed.  Security Minister Saidamir Zuhurov, however,
noted that "bandit groups" may be among  repatriated United Tajik
Opposition members and even representatives of Tajikistan's law
enforcement agencies in Dushanbe. The next day, the UN observer
mission in Tajikistan announced it is operating as normal. BP

ONE AZAMAT LEADER FINED IN ALMATY... Murat Auezov, the co-
chairman of Kazakhstan's Azamat movement, was fined 2,480 tenge
($33) by a district court on 2 December for "organizing and
participating in an unauthorized rally," Interfax reported. Azamat
called for the 30 November demonstration in front of the Kazakh
parliament building to protest the government's "arbitrary rule "
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1997). BP

...WHILE ANOTHER BEATEN IN BISHKEK. Peter Svoik, also a co-
chairman of the Azamat movement, was beaten in a hotel room in the
Kyrgyz capital on 1 December, RFE/RL corespondents in Bishkek and
Almaty reported. Four masked men entered Svoik's room, hit the
Kazakh politician on the head, and also injured his wife. Svoik was in
Bishkek  to attend a conference on "Democratic Changes in Central
Asia." Several of Kazakhstan's opposition movements and parties
have sent a protest letter to the Kyrgyz embassy in Kazakhstan. BP

SHELL CHOSEN TO HEAD TURKMEN PIPELINE CONSORTIUM.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov met with Royal Dutch Shell
President John Parsley on 2 December in Ashgabat, ITAR-TASS
reported. Niyazov proposed that Parsley's company  form a
consortium to build a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Turkey via
Iran. The British-Dutch company's president agreed to head such a
consortium. The results of France's Sofregaz company feasibility
study on the project are expected to be made available by year's end.
BP

GEORGIAN WARLORD TO BOYCOTT TRIAL. Djaba Ioseliani, the
leader of the banned Georgian paramilitary formation Mkhedrioni,
has refused to attend further sessions of his trial on charges of
terrorism and attempting to assassinate then parliamentary
chairman Eduard Shevardnadze in August 1995, Interfax reported on
2 December. In a letter addressed to the chairmen of the Supreme
Court and the parliamentary Commission on Constitutional and Legal
Affairs, Ioseliani said the requirement that he and the other 14
defendants  sit in steel cages during the court proceedings
constitutes "arbitrary rule and  a tragic farce." LF

TBILISI-BATUMI TENSIONS INCREASE.  Adjar Supreme Soviet
Chairman Aslan Abashidze has declared his intention to institute
criminal proceedings against Rostom Dolidze, the chairman of the
Georgian parliamentary  committee on procedures, Caucasus Press
reported on 3 December. In October, former Batumi Mayor Temur
Kharrazi accused both Dolidze and parliamentary speaker Zurab
Zhvania, Dolidze of conspiring to oust Abashidze (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 21 and 22 October 1997). But Anzor Tsutsunava, the
chairman of the Georgian parliamentary commission created to
investigate those accusations, told Caucasus Press that the Adjar
Prosecutor's Office is not empowered to start proceedings against
Dolizde and Zhvania. Dolidze complained on 2 December that the
investigative commission has failed to demonstrate that Kharrazi's
charges were fabricated. LF

ESTONIAN, GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKERS MEET.
Estonian parliamentary speaker Toomas Savi and his Georgian
counterpart, Zurab Zhvania, signed a cooperation agreement in
Tbilisi on 2 December, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Savi
told journalists later that Georgia has "great economic potential,"
adding that he is certain Georgia will soon become a member of the
EU. Zhvania again charged that Georgia's relations with Russia are
reverting to the level of a "Cold War" owing to Moscow's failure to
expedite a settlement of the Abkhaz conflict. He suggested that
Georgia may reconsider its membership in the CIS, which, he said,
has failed to bring "anything positive."  LF

ARMENIA'S MANUKYAN SAYS DEMOCRACY KEY TO KARABAKH
CONFLICT. National Democratic Union chairman and former
presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan told RFE/RL's Yerevan
bureau on 2 December that democratization and public trust in the
government, together with a strong army, will help Armenia and
Nagorno-Karabakh to secure a "just solution" to the Karabakh
conflict. Speaking about his recent visit to South America (where an
estimated 100,000 ethnic Armenians live), Manukyan said he was
primarily interested in those countries' peaceful transition to
democracy after decades of military rule. He said their experience is
very useful for Armenia, which "has retreated from democracy since
1991." LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION  REJECTS PRESIDENT'S CRITICISM.
Spokesmen for Azerbaijan's three leading opposition parties have
taken issue with  President Heidar Aliev's statements at a 29
November meeting, Turan reported three days later. Aliev accused
the opposition of "hostility" and called for the "normalization" of
relations between the leadership and the opposition (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 2 December 1997). Azerbaijan Popular Front Deputy
Chairman Mirmahmud Fattaev noted that Abulfaz Elchibey, the
front's chairman, recently called for establishing "civil peace" in
Azerbaijan. Fattaev said the present Azerbaijani leadership is a
"guarantee not of democracy but its suffocation."  Party of National
Independence Secretary-General Elshad Musaev said it is "abnormal"
that the Azerbaijani leadership is ready for talks with Armenia but
not with its own opposition. And Musavat Party secretary Sulhaddin
Akper charged that, contrary to Aliev's assertion, it is the
leadership, not the opposition, that demonstrates hostility. LF


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