The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 173, Part I, 5 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

* COMMUNIST DEPUTIES TO VOTE AGAINST DRAFT BUDGET

* COMMUNIST DEPUTIES TO VOTE AGAINST DRAFT BUDGET

* NO PROGRESS IN KARABAKH TALKS

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RUSSIA

COMMUNIST DEPUTIES TO VOTE AGAINST DRAFT
BUDGET... Communist party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 4
December announced that his parliamentary faction has
"decided unanimously" to vote against the draft 1998 budget.
Earlier the same day, the party leadership recommended that
its deputies reject the government's proposal, which is to be
debated on 5 December. Zyuganov told journalists that the
draft is "not ready for passage" and that his faction cannot
support it "because it does not change the socio-economic
course." Zyuganov's announcement is somewhat surprising,
since State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a Communist, had
recently said he expects the Duma to back the budget on the
first reading. The Communist faction, along with its allies,
accounts for 212 seats in the 450-seat Duma. JG

...AS WILL YABLOKO FACTION. The liberal opposition
Yabloko faction has also announced it will oppose the draft
1998 budget, Russian news agencies reported on 4 December.
Yabloko deputy leader Sergei Ivanenko told reporters that the
faction will instead urge a no-confidence vote in the
government. Ivanenko said Yabloko deputies are convinced
that "adopting a bad budget would make matters even
worse...than having no budget at all." Yabloko has 54  of the
450 Duma seats. JG

CHERNOMYRDIN DEFENDS BUDGET PROPOSAL. Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, commenting on the
Communists' decision to vote against the draft budget, said
there are no real grounds for putting off the budget debate or
rejecting the draft in the first reading, ITAR-TASS reported on
4 December. At the same time, Chernomyrdin noted that
another delay of the budget debate or a rejection of the draft
will not find the government "unprepared." First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov accused the Communists of being
indifferent to how the country's citizens live. He added he
expects the government to find a way to pass the 1998 budget.
JG

RUSSIA, WORLD BANK WRAP UP NEGOTIATIONS. Michael
Carter, the head of the World Bank's mission in Moscow,  said
on 3 December that his mission and the Russian government
have completed talks on extending a second coal loan and on an
economic restructuring loan to Russia, Russian news agencies
said. Carter told reporters the loans are expected to total $1.6
billion but that a final decision will be taken at a World Bank
board of directors' meeting in Washington on 18 December. The
economic restructuring loan is intended for overhauling the
banking and tax systems as well as for privatization projects. JG

IMF SAYS NO FINANCIAL CRISIS IN RUSSIA.  IMF
Managing Director Michel Camdessus told a news conference in
Tokyo on 4 December that the Asian financial crisis has not
spread to Russia and that Russia's financial situation is not at a
crisis point. Camdessus, however, said that if necessary, the
IMF would be ready to discuss a financial assistance package
for  Moscow. JG

DEUTSCHE MORGAN GRENFELL CONFIRMS TALKS WITH
MOSCOW. The head of Deutsche Morgan Grenfell's office in
Moscow said on 4 December that, at Moscow's request, the
bank is holding talks with the Russian government on a major
loan from Western banks. Nicholas Chorton, however, declined
to reveal the size of the loan. A spokesman for Credit Suisse
First Boston also said that several banks are involved in
discussions about the Russian government's request for
additional credit, an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow reported.
The "Financial Times" reported that First Deputy Prime
Minister Anatolii Chubais has asked four Western banks,
including Deutsche Morgan Grenfell and Credit Suisse First
Boston, to raise a syndicated loan of up to $2 billion (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 1997). JG

YELTSIN WRAPS UP VISIT TO SWEDEN, REASSURES
INVESTORS. President Boris Yeltsin met on 4 December with
Swedish business leaders and again urged them to invest more
actively in the Russian economy. First Deputy Prime Minister
Nemtsov, who was accompanying Yeltsin, said in Stockholm
that even though a government-proposed draft tax code may
not be passed by the parliament, he is sure Russia will succeed
in streamlining its tax system within the next few months. The
reassurances came after the head of the Swedish forestry
group AssiDoman told the business newspaper "Dagens
Industri" that the risks of working in Russia are too great and
that his company faces numerous problems such as bribery
and red tape. Later the same day, Nemtsov signed a
memorandum with Swedish car maker Volvo on the production
of buses and trucks in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. JG

GOVERNMENT DISCUSSES CRACKDOWN ON CRIME. At a 4
December meeting, the government approved a two-year draft
plan to step up the fight against crime, Russian news agencies
reported. A final version of the plan is to be drawn up within
the next two weeks. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said
implementation of the plan will cost the equivalent of $3.9
billion. He added that some 20,000 crimes by organized groups
have been solved this year. Noting that weapons are now
"freely available throughout Russia," Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin instructed the Interior Ministry to draft a law
stipulating harsher punishments for the illegal production,
possession, and sale of arms, Interfax reported. JG

RUSSIAN, ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTRIES TO
COOPERATE. Also on 4 December, Interior Minister Kulikov
met with his Estonian counterpart, Robert Lepikson, in Moscow
to sign an agreement on cooperation between their ministries,
BNS and ETA reported. Kulikov said the main aim of the
agreement, which took some two-and a-half years to prepare,
was to step up the fight against organized crime, drug
trafficking, car theft, illegal migration, weapons-smuggling, and
tax fraud. Under the agreement, Estonian police prefectures
and Russian oblast interior affairs administrations will be able
to conclude regional cooperation protocols. The accord must
now be ratified by the Estonian and Russian parliaments. JC

SYSUEV URGES REOPENING OF KEMEROVO MINE. Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev, who is leading the government
inquiry into the 2 December  explosion at the Zyryanovskaya
mine in  Kemerovo Oblast, says the mine should be reopened.
Sixty-seven people were killed in the methane blast, making it
one of Russia's worst coal-mining accidents. Sysuev, speaking in
Kemerovo on 5 December, said the mine "must regain its
previous profitability." According to ITAR-TASS, the
Zyryanovskaya mine was among the most modern and
profitable in the region. JB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

NO PROGRESS IN KARABAKH TALKS.  The co-chairmen of
the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk
Group made no progress during talks in Stepanakert on 3-4
December, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported.  The Karabakh
authorities rejected the OSCE's principle of a step-by-step
approach, which both Armenia and Azerbaijan have accepted.
They also repeated their insistence on a package deal. PG

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR CHANGES IN
BUDGET.  During a 4 December debate on the government's
proposed 1998 budget, various political groups criticized the
draft for alleged failing to promote the "development" of
Armenia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The parliament
asked that the cabinet revise the budget and resubmit it on 5
December.  The government may seek a vote of confidence as a
means of pushing through its budget proposal. Under the
Armenian constitution, the government can ask for a vote of
confidence and, if it wins that vote, the draft becomes law. PG

MESKHETIANS PROTEST DRAFT LAW ON RIGHTS OF
REPRESSED.  Representatives of the Muslim Meskhetians who
were deported from Georgia in November 1994 are continuing
their protest against a new draft Georgian law that would give
special benefits to Georgian citizens who were repressed in the
past but would not help them because they are not citizens of
the Republic of Georgia. According to a 4 December appeal by
the International Meskhetian Youth Association, the group
hopes to meet with President Eduard Shevardnadze. It also
called on international organizations to intercede on the behalf
of the Meskhetians. PG

AJARIAN LEADER SEES GEORGIANS BEHIND DEATH RAY
ATTACK.  Aslan Abashidze, the outspoken leader of the
autonomous Ajarian region in southern Georgia, said on local
television on 4 December that assailants from Georgia used a
special death ray camera to cause him to have a heart attack
last summer.  "The camera gave off electromagnetic rays, which
led to my heart attack," Abashidze said. "Without the quick
intervention of the doctors, I would have died." Georgian
officials did not comment on his charges. PG

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT IN TURKMENISTAN. Shevardnadze,
paying a one-day visit to Turkmenistan on 5 December, met
with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, RFE/RL
correspondents in Ashgabat reported. The two  signed eight
agreements, including one on avoiding double taxation and
another on industrial cooperation Discussions also focused on
rescheduling Georgia's debt to Turkmenistan for gas supplies,
which  totals $464.9 million. BP

NAZARBAYEV WARNS OPPOSITION PARTY. At a 4
December press conference in Almaty, Kazakh President
Nursultan Nazarbayev warned the leaders of AZAMAT that  a
repeat of the 30 November demonstration in front of the
Kazakh parliament building could lead to criminal charges
being filed against them, RFE/RL correspondents reported.
Nazarbayev called such demonstrations illegal, saying it would
be up to the Constitutional Court to make any changes to the
1995 decree banning unsanctioned rallies. He added that
anyone who organizes such meetings could face between three
and five years in jail. BP

CHAIRMAN OF KYRGYZ STATE PROPERTY FUND SACKED.
Askar Sarygulov was dismissed by presidential decree on 4
December, ITAR-TASS reported. His sacking followed a six-
month investigation by a special commission that found the
chairman had been "incompetent" in carrying out his duties
and had "lost control" of the fund. The commission also found
that Kyrgyzstan lost 25 million som (some $1.5 million) during
Sarygulov's tenure as chairman of the fund and that 10 percent
of state property  so far  privatized was sold at below market
prices. Seven criminal charges have been filed against
Sarygulov. BP

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