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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 175, Part I, 9 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

* 'COUNCIL OF FOUR' MEET IN KREMLIN

*  NEXT CLINTON-YELTSIN SUMMIT TO BE HELD AFTER START-
2 RATIFICATION

* NEW RUSSIAN PLOT TO KILL SHEVARDNADZE?

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RUSSIA

'COUNCIL OF FOUR' MEET IN KREMLIN. President Boris
Yeltsin again urged parliament to pass the 1998 budget during
a 9 December meeting with Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, and
Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau and Russian news agencies reported. Yeltsin's chief of
staff Valentin Yumashev also attended the meeting of the
"council of four," who discussed preparations for roundtable
talks on the land code, scheduled for 11 December. Presidential,
government, and parliamentary representatives will take part
in the roundtable talks. Personnel changes in the government
were reportedly not discussed at the "Council of Four" meeting.
However, ITAR-TASS quoted Seleznev as saying that Yeltsin
agreed to consider a proposal, to be prepared by Seleznev and
Stroev, on procedures for forming a government that would
have the support of a majority in parliament. LB

GOVERNMENT REPORT TO YELTSIN POSTPONED AGAIN.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 8
December that the government's report to Yeltsin has been
postponed until January 1998 at the earliest, RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau reported. The report was originally scheduled for 1
December, then postponed for a week to 10 days.
Yastrzhembskii said a second delay was imposed because
Yeltsin wants to hear the government assess its work for all of
1997. The president is expected to reshuffle the cabinet after
hearing the government report, particularly if, as appears
likely, the government fails to pay all wage arrears to state
employees by the end of the year. LB

SPOKESMAN CLARIFIES YELTSIN'S INTENTIONS ON
LAW ON GOVERNMENT. Yastrzhembskii also announced on 8
December that Yeltsin intends to sign the law on the
government, but only after parliament has approved a package
of amendments to that law, Russian news agencies reported.
While addressing Duma deputies on 5 December, Yeltsin said he
would sign the law on the government. At that time, he
appeared to be consenting to sign the version of the law that
has been passed twice by the parliament. According to
"Kommersant-Daily" on 9 December, the amendments
demanded by the Kremlin would remove, among other things, a
provision granting the Duma the right to confirm deputy prime
ministers. (Currently the lower house of the parliament has the
right to confirm only the prime minister.) Yeltsin's public
statements are frequently modified by spokesmen or other top
officials. LB

ZYUGANOV ALLY DEFENDS COMMUNISTS ON BUDGET
VOTE. Duma deputy Aleksei Podberezkin defended the
Communist Party stance regarding the recent budget vote in an
interview with ITAR-TASS on 8 December. Podberezkin, an
adviser to Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, was one
of 29 members of the Communist Duma faction who voted to
approve the budget in the first reading on 5 December (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1997). Contrary to those who
depict the vote as evidence of a "schism" or "retreat" within the
Communist Party, Podberezkin argued that the budget vote
reflected the "democratic" practice of the Communist faction,
which, he said, is willing to take minority views into account.
Podberezkin argued that Yeltsin's visit to the Duma shortly
before the vote influenced the position of several Communist
deputies who might otherwise have voted against the budget.
LB

CAUSE OF PLANE CRASH STILL UNKNOWN. Fuel samples
and black boxes from the military cargo plane that crashed in
Irkutsk on 6 December have been sent to Moscow for analysis,
RFE/RL's correspondent in Irkutsk reported on 8 December.
Investigators are concentrating on four scenarios that could
explain why at least two, and possibly all four, of the plane's
engines malfunctioned. Pending the results of the investigation,
the Defense Ministry has banned all flights of the An-124
military cargo planes, although the ban does not apply to
civilian An-124 aircraft, Russian news agencies reported.
According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 December, the plane
that crashed in Irkutsk was scheduled to have an overhaul
earlier this year, but the overhaul was never carried out.
Meanwhile, families whose apartments were destroyed in the
crash are to receive 50 million rubles ($8,400) from the
Irkutsk Oblast budget, along with housing vouchers from the
Finance Ministry. LB

NEXT CLINTON-YELTSIN SUMMIT TO BE HELD AFTER
START-2 RATIFICATION. Presidential spokesman
Yastrzhembskii said on 8 December that the next summit
between Russian President Yeltsin and his U.S. counterpart Bill
Clinton, to be held in Russia sometime in 1998, should take
place only after the Russian parliament ratifies the START-2
arms control treaty, Russian news agencies reported. The U.S.
Congress has ratified START-2, which was signed in 1993, but
there is considerable opposition to ratification in the Russian
State Duma. Yeltsin and Clinton are to discuss negotiations on
the START-3 treaty during their next summit. LB

FSB QUESTIONS U.S. BUSINESSMAN CHARGED WITH
SPYING. Investigators from the Federal Security Service (FSB)
on 8 December questioned U.S. businessman Richard Bliss, who
was charged with espionage on 5 December, Interfax reported.
No details about the interrogation were released. Meanwhile,
presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told journalists
that the Kremlin does not plan to get involved in the FSB's
investigation of Bliss, Reuters reported. Yastzhembskii also
discounted suggestions that the case against Bliss, who works
for the telecommunications firm Qualcomm, could deter foreign
investment in Russia. Earlier in the day, U.S. State Department
spokesman James Foley called on Russian authorities to drop
charges against Bliss, warning that the case could have a
"chilling effect" on U.S. investment. Some 28 U.S. Senators
signed a letter to Yeltsin saying the charges against Bliss pose
"a major threat to the future of U.S.-Russian relations," AFP
reported. LB

GOVERNMENT PROPOSES SALES TAX. The government has
submitted to the Duma a law that would establish a sales tax of
5 percent on retail purchases of alcohol and tobacco products
and 3 percent on other goods and paid services, "Segodnya"
reported on 9 December. Food, medicine, and children's
products would be exempt from the new sales tax, as would
payments for rent, medical services and utilities. The proposed
sales tax would not replace or affect the value-added tax of 20
percent already levied on most Russian goods. The Duma is
expected to consider the law on the sales tax on 17 December,
the same day deputies are scheduled to vote on other
government-backed tax laws. LB

NEW PRIMORE LEGISLATURE TO BE LESS LOYAL TO
GOVERNOR. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko
has enjoyed the firm support of the Primore legislature in
recent years, but the situation will change dramatically
following 7 December legislative elections in the krai.
Candidates backed by the Communist Party won 14 out of the
39 seats in the legislature, and supporters of Vladivostok
Mayor Viktor Cherepkov--Nazdratenko's bitter rival--won 8
seats (all in Vladivostok districts). Figures loyal to Nazdratenko
will now hold only a minority of seats in the legislature. In a
telephone interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Aleksandra
Zolotova, a sociologist in Primore, said Cherepkov's allies did
surprisingly well, particularly in light of the fact that recent
opinion polls in Vladivostok have put Cherepkov's approval
rating in the 12-15 percent range. LB

HALF OF SEATS IN KRASNOYARSK LEGISLATURE
UNFILLED. In Krasnoyarsk Krai, which has a mixed electoral
system, a winner could be declared in only one out of 21
single-member districts following 7 December elections,
"Kommersant-Daily" and "Izvestiya" reported on 9 December.
The winner was Anatolii Bykov, the controversial chairman of
the board of directors of the Krasnoyarsk aluminum factory.
Runoff elections will be held in the other 20 single-member
districts. Meanwhile, 20 seats in the Krasnoyarsk legislature
were allocated using a proportional representation system.
Those seats were divided only among parties that gained more
than five percent of the party-list vote: eight for a Communist-
led alliance (24 percent of the vote), five for Aleksandr Lebed's
Honor and Motherland movement (14 percent), four for a bloc
representing the oblast authorities (13.5 percent), and three for
Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko movement (7.5 percent),
"Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported. LB

INDEPENDENTS DO WELL IN SAMARA... In the 7 December
elections in Samara Oblast, candidates representing the
Communist Party or allied groups won four out of 25 seats in
the legislature, while candidates running as independents won
the other 21 seats, Russian news agencies reported. The
independents included eight officials in the regional or local
governments, seven directors of factories or companies and
four businessmen. Samara Governor Konstantin Titov was
reportedly concerned that the new legislature would be less
willing to support his initiatives. As a result, he sought to hurry
approval of the oblast's 1998 budget. The budget was passed
by the Samara legislature on 5 December, during the final
session prior to the election, according to "Kommersant-Daily"
on 6 December. LB

...AND IN OTHER REGIONS. Although 24 out of 25 seats in
the Murmansk Oblast legislature were filled in 7 December
elections, just four seats were won by candidates representing
political parties, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 December. Of those,
the Communist Party gained two seats, and Our Home Is Russia
and Yabloko each gained one. The majority of the winners were
entrepreneurs. In Khabarovsk Krai, winners were determined
in 23 out of the 25 seats in the legislature, and 14 seats were
won by prominent businessmen or by regional and local
officials, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 December.
Communist-backed candidates gained eight seats in
Khabarovsk. LB

COMMUNISTS DO WELL IN PENZA. The Communist Party
gained a working majority in the Penza Oblast legislature
following 7 December elections, "Kommersant-Daily" reported
on 9 December. Communist-backed candidates won more than
a third of the 45 seats, and some 10 other successful candidates
are considered likely to cooperate with the Communists in the
legislature. LB

LDPR COMES UP SHORT IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia was
wiped out in the regional elections held on 7 December,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9
December. Zhirinovsky's party did not win a single seat in the
legislatures of Khabarovsk and Krasnoyarsk Krais, or in Samara
and Murmansk Oblasts, despite fielding numerous candidates
in all of those regions. The result is consistent with the party's
electoral history. The LDPR fielded 184 candidates in single-
member districts during the 1995 elections to the State Duma--
more than any other party. However, only one LDPR candidate
won a seat in a single-member district. Similarly, the LDPR has
contested many gubernatorial races but met with success only
once, in Pskov Oblast in November 1996. LB

NEMTSOV PROPOSES CREATING ALTERNATIVE "OPEC."
Following a meeting with Mexican government officials in
Mexico City on 8 December, Russian First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov told journalists that he favors creating
an organization to protect the interests of oil-producing
countries that are not members of OPEC, Reuters reported.
Mexican Energy Minister Luis Tellez commented that Nemtsov's
proposal "merits study." Russia, a non-member of OPEC, is the
world's third largest oil producer. In January 1995,
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev had suggested
that Russia and Kazakhstan might form the nucleus of an
alternative organization of oil-producing countries.  Russian
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin similarly advocated in
May 1996 that the CIS create its own OPEC-style organization.
LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT DELEGATES SOME POWERS. Aslan
Maskhadov, who under the Chechen Constitution also serves as
Prime Minister, announced on 8 December that he has
delegated to acting First Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Basaev
responsibility for chairing cabinet sessions, reviewing
correspondence and management of the economy, according to
Interfax. In February 1997, Maskhadov offered Basaev, whom
he had defeated in the presidential elections, the post of first
deputy prime minister. Basaev resigned from that post in July
but was again designated acting First Deputy Prime Minister in
November during Maskhadov's trips to Turkey and the U.S.
Maskhadov has repeatedly denied rumors of tensions between
himself and Basaev, and conceded that he "cannot work
without him."  LF

TATAR PRESIDENT SUPPORTS RIGHT TO SELL, BUY
LAND.  Mintimer Shaimiev stated on 8 December that the lack
of the right to the free sale and purchase of land is one of the
weakest points of the Russian agrarian legislation, RFE/RL's
Kazan bureau reported. Addressing an inter-regional
conference on land legislation in Kazan, Shaimiev argued that
the Land Code adopted by the Russian State Duma contradicts
both the Constitution and the Civil Code of the Russian
Federation. He added that Tatarstan will adopt legislation
permitting the private ownership of land no later than January
1998. Saratov Oblast has already enacted such a law.
Conference participants called on the federal authorities to
adopt a framework for land legislation that would permit
individual federation subjects to adopt their own specific land
laws, rather than endorse the code adopted by the Duma,
according to "Segodnya" on 9 December.  LF


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA


GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN LEADERS MEET.  Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze met on 8 December with visiting Russian
Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov, Russian agencies
reported. The two men discussed bilateral relations, including
the tensions that have arisen as a result of the moving of a
Russian frontier post into Georgian territory (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 8 December 1997). Serov handed Shevardnadze a
response from Russian President Yeltsin to Shevardnadze's
letter of 5 December protesting that move. Serov subsequently
told journalists that the situation on the Russian-Georgian
frontier "is not a conflict but a misunderstanding that must be
cleared up," according to ITAR-TASS. In his traditional Monday
radio address, Shevardnadze said on 8 December that the
moving of the border post may have been undertaken by
unspecified Russian circles interested in exacerbating relations
between Georgia and the neighboring Russian republic of North
Ossetia, Interfax reported. LF

NEW RUSSIAN PLOT TO KILL SHEVARDNADZE?  Speaking
at a press conference in Tbilisi on 8 December, Revaz Adamia,
chairman of the Georgian parliament commission for defense
and security, claimed that the confrontation on the Russian-
Georgian frontier was masterminded by Russian security
services in order to destabilize the internal situation in Georgia.
He said that unnamed Russian forces are plotting to assassinate
Shevardnadze in order to expedite the return to power in
Georgia of pro-communist forces, and are trying to discredit
other leading Georgian political figures, including parliament
speaker Zurab Zhvania. Adamia added that the latest demands
by the Meskhetians to be allowed to return to Georgia, whence
they were deported by Stalin in November 1944, is part of this
campaign. Also on 8 December, parliament deputy Eldar
Shengelaya said the Georgian parliament will not ratify the
September 1995, bilateral treaty permitting Russia to maintain
military bases in Georgia, Interfax reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES LUSTRATION.  Former
Georgian Interior Minister Eduard Shevardnadze categorically
opposes opening KGB archives dating from the Stalinist period
and lists of KGB agents, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9
December. Shevardnadze argued that during 70 years of
Communist rule "tens of thousands" of people were constrained
to collaborate with the KGB. He said that opening archives "at
this juncture" would inevitably give rise to "a new wave of
resistance, mistrust and hatred" and would "reopen old
wounds." LF

FORMER SOUTH OSSETIAN PRIME MINISTER ARRESTED.
Oleg Teziev, who served from 1991-3 as Prime Minister of the
secessionist Republic of South Ossetia in northern Georgia, was
arrested on 5 December in Vladikavkaz for illegal possession of
a firearm, RFE/RL's correspondent in the North Ossetian capital
reported on 8 December. Teziev, now a businessman living in
Poland, was detained by the Russian Prosecutor's office in
connection with a June 1992 attack on a military store in
Vladikavkaz. Several people were killed in the attack. Teziev
was subsequently released. He is also implicated, together with
former South Ossetian Supreme Soviet deputy Chairman Alan
Chochiev, in large-scale embezzlement from the region's
budget. Moreover,  he supports one of 11 candidates
challenging incumbent Akhsarbek Galazov in the presidential
elections scheduled for 18 January, according to "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" on 9 December. LF

ARMENIAN INFORMATION DEPARTMENT HEAD
DISMISSED. Garegin Chukazizian, the chief of the
government's Department of Information and Book Publishing,
was fired on 6 December following the 4 December one-day
strike by most of Armenia's print and electronic media.
Chukazizian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 8 December that
the strike means that the media have lost their confidence in
him, and that it was organized by unspecified forces that
sought his dismissal. Also on 8 December, the Council of Mass
Media Organizations of Armenia issued a statement  expressing
concern that Chukazizian's dismissal will delay still further a
solution to the media's problems, and denying that the strike
was in any way directed against him personally, Noyan Tapan
reported. LF

OIC FOREIGN MINISTERS ADOPT RESOLUTION ON
NAGORNO-KARABAKH.  Meeting in Tehran on 6-7 December
prior to the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit,
foreign and deputy foreign ministers of 49 OIC member states
on 7 December adopted a resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh, a
correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported from
the Iranian capital on 8 December. No details of the resolution
were divulged. Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev told
journalists in Baku on 8 December prior to his departure to
attend the summit that the OIC has condemned "Armenia's
aggression against Azerbaijan" several times in the past, and
expressed the hope that the summit would again affirm its
support for Azerbaijan, Interfax reported. LF


KYRGYZ PRESIDENT VETOES MEDIA LAW.  Askar Akayev
has vetoed the Media Law passed by the parliament on 11
November and asked parliament to make several amendments
to it, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service reported on 8 December.
Presidential spokesman Kanybek Imanaliyev told journalists in
Bishkek that Akayev had said that the law "considerably
curtails media rights and freedoms." The Kyrgyz president
specifically objected to the article of the law that forbids
journalists to publish information on ongoing legal proceedings
until a verdict has been handed down. The law also limits the
permitted volume of advertising media outlets may contain
and pegs the rate of tax newspapers are required to pay to the
size of their print runs, regardless of how many copies are
actually sold. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION TO GET 14 GOVERNMENT POSTS. The
Tajik leadership and United Tajik Opposition representatives
have reached agreement on which government ministries the
opposition will head in a new government, according to
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 December. They include the posts
of first deputy prime minister and deputy prime minister,
ministers of defense, agriculture, and foreign economic
relations, plus the heads of the Customs Committee, the
Committee for the Oil and Gas Industry, the Committee for the
Meat and Dairy Industry and the Committee for Industrial
Affairs. The Democratic Party of Tajikistan will head the
Ministries of Labor and of Land Reclamation and Water
Resources, plus the Committee for Precious Metals and the
State Technical Oversight Committee. The Islamic Renaissance
Party will receive two government posts.  LF

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