The road uphill and the road downhill are one and the same. - Heraclitus
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 176, Part I, 10 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

* ATTEMPTED HIJACKING OF RUSSIAN PASSENGER
PLANE

* ZYUGANOV WANTS WEEKLY MEETINGS OF 'BIG FOUR'

* KAZAKH PARLIAMENT BEGINS WORK IN NEW
CAPITAL

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RUSSIA

ATTEMPTED HIJACKING OF RUSSIAN PASSENGER
PLANE. There was an attempted hijacking of a Russian
passenger plane flying from Magadan to Moscow on 10
December. First reports indicated three individuals aboard the
plane were demanding passage to Switzerland and $10 million
to release the 157 people, including the crew, on the Il-62
plane. On the ground at Moscow's Sheremetovo-1 airport,
Russian security forces surrounded the plane but did not close
the airport. After releasing 48 passengers, 59 year-old
Gennadii Todikov came out to negotiate with Russian security
agents and was captured. Todikov turned out to be the only
hijacker and the bomb he claimed to have was fake. Todikov, a
pensioner from Magadan, is described by ITAR-TASS as "a
psychologically unbalanced person." BP

MINISTER PUTS DEATH TOLL OF PLANE CRASH AT 67.
Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu announced on
10 December that the recent crash of a military cargo plane
into a residential area in Irkutsk claimed 67 lives, RFE/RL's
correspondent in Irkutsk reported. Rescue operations were
discontinued the previous day, and demolition of the buildings
destroyed in the crash has begun. Shoigu estimated that the
disaster caused some 1 trillion rubles ($170 million) in
damages. He confirmed that three of the plane's four engines
failed shortly after takeoff but said investigators have not yet
determined why. ITAR-TASS on 9 December quoted an
unnamed Defense Ministry official as speculating that a poor
mixture of fuel may have caused the malfunction. Shoigu,
Irkutsk Oblast Governor Boris Govorin, and Irkutsk Mayor
Vladimir Yakubovskii attended a public mourning ceremony
for the crash victims on 10 December. LB

SELEZNEV, STROEV ON GOVERNMENT FORMATION
PROPOSAL. Following a meeting of the "Big Four" in the
Kremlin, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said President
Boris Yeltsin agreed to consider a proposal on forming a
government that would have the support of a parliamentary
majority, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 9 December.
Seleznev said the president noted that such procedures for the
cabinet's formation are at odds with Russia's constitution and,
even if approved, would not take effect until after the next
presidential election. Meanwhile, Federation Council Speaker
Yegor Stroev told Russian news agencies that he supports the
idea of a "government of accord" rather than a coalition
government, as some opposition leaders have demanded.
Stroev said the president should retain the right to appoint
ministers but should also be aware of parliament's opinion of
his appointees. LB

SPEAKERS URGE CREATION OF COMMITTEE ON DEFENSE
INDUSTRY. During their meeting with Yeltsin and Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin, Seleznev and Stroev also called for the
creation of a special committee to supervise the defense
industry, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December. Chernomyrdin
said the government is considering that issue, according to
Seleznev. The Ministry of the Defense Industry was eliminated
during a cabinet reshuffle in March, and its duties were
transferred to the Economics Ministry, which is headed by
Yakov Urinson. Last month, the Federation Council voted to ask
Yeltsin to remove the military-industrial complex from the
competence of the Urinson's ministry and to appoint a deputy
prime minister to coordinate defense industry issues,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 November. Seleznev and
Stroev also raised the issue in a recent joint letter to Yeltsin,
according to the 6 December "Nezavisimaya gazeta." LB

ZYUGANOV WANTS WEEKLY MEETINGS OF 'BIG FOUR.'
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on 9 December
that the "Big Four" should meet every week, ITAR-TASS
reported. In October, the Kremlin promised to call regular
meetings of the president, prime minister and parliamentary
speakers, a key demand of the Communist opposition. In
return, the Communist Duma faction dropped a planned vote of
no confidence in the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21
October 1997). LB

MANEUVERING ON LAND REFORM AHEAD OF
ROUNDTABLE TALKS. Zyuganov also said that during 11
December roundtable talks on land reform, the opposition will
try to persuade Yeltsin to sign the Land Code passed by the
Duma, Interfax reported on 9 December. Yeltsin vetoed that
code in July because it would prohibit the purchase and sale of
farm land. The Duma overrode his veto in September, and the
Federation Council has postponed consideration of the issue
pending the roundtable talks. On 9 December, Seleznev and
Stroev encouraged Yeltsin to sign the Duma's version of the
code. But State Land Committee Chairman Ilya Yuzhanov said
that the government supports revising the code and in the
meantime adopting a law on land relations that would allow
regions to decide how to regulate the buying and selling of
farm land on their territory, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on
10 December. LB

OFFICIAL SAYS AMENDMENTS TO LAW ON
GOVERNMENT AGREED. Aleksandr Kotenkov, Yeltsin's
representative in the Duma, told ITAR-TASS on 9 December
that presidential, government, and parliamentary officials have
agreed on a package of amendments to the law on the
government. In particular, Kotenkov said they agreed that
since the president is the commander-in-chief, it should be his
prerogative to determine who leads the armed forces and law
enforcement agencies. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 10
December, the current version of the law on the government
would give the Duma the right to confirm presidential
appointments of the foreign minister and the "power ministers"
(defense, interior, security services). Kotenkov said Yeltsin will
not sign the law until he receives written guarantees that
parliament will adopt the amendments. Both the Duma and the
Federation Council approved the law on the government in the
spring   LB

YELTSIN PLEASED WITH RUSSIAN-JAPANESE
RELATIONS.  Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 9 December
praised the Japanese government for switching its emphasis in
relations with Russia from political to economic, Russian media
reported on the same day. Yeltsin said Japan's earlier insistence
on solving the Kuril Islands territorial dispute kept the two
countries from developing better relations but that Japan has
realized "you will never get anywhere with Russia like that."
Officials from both countries are still confident that a peace
treaty ending Russian-Japanese hostilities from World War Two
will be ready before the end of the century. Russian officials
also say the next (13th) round of fishing talks with Japan may
be the final round. In a related story, the Japanese government
has raised 500 million yen ($4 million) to give Japanese
language lessons to Russian inhabitants of the southern Kuril
Islands  BP

ROKHLIN SLAMS YELTSIN FOR STOCKHOLM
PERFORMANCE. Speaking to supporters in St. Petersburg,
Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin charged that
"only a sick person" could make mistakes such as those made
by Yeltsin during his recent visit to Stockholm, RFE/RL's
correspondent in St. Petersburg reported on 9 December.
Rokhlin said "a healthy person" could not refer to Germany and
Japan as nuclear powers or say that Russia will carry out a
unilateral reduction in its nuclear arsenal. He accused the
president of lacking a sufficient command of the Russian
language and argued that Yeltsin's public remarks frequently
have to be explained away by officials from the Foreign and
Defense Ministries. LB

OIL COMPANY PROTESTS DECISION TO SEIZE PROPERTY
OF SUBSIDIARY. Executives of the Sibneft oil company have
vowed to fight attempts to seize and sell property of the Omsk
Oil Refinery, owned by Sibneft, in order to pay tax debts, ITAR-
TASS and Reuters reported on 9 December. The government's
emergency commission for strengthening tax and budget
discipline approved the seizure at an 8 December session
chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais. The
Omsk refinery owes some 525.8 billion rubles ($88 million) to
the budget. Sibneft is part of the business empire of former
Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, a leading
opponent of Chubais. The government commission also ordered
the seizure of assets of the Angarsk Petrochemical Company,
which owes 766 billion rubles to the federal budget. That
company is owned by the Sidanko oil company, which is
controlled by Oneksimbank. Oneksimbank president Vladimir
Potanin is considered close to Chubais. LB

YUKOS ACQUIRES CONTROLLING STAKE IN EASTERN OIL
COMPANY. The oil company Yukos spent some 4.8 trillion
rubles ($800 million) to acquire more than 44 percent of the
Eastern Oil Company in a special cash auction of 50 percent
minus one share in the company, "Kommersant-Daily" reported
on 9 December. Since Yukos owned 9 percent of the Eastern Oil
Company prior to the auction, it now has a controlling stake.
Yukos is part of the Rosprom-Yukos group headed by Mikhail
Khodorkovskii, the founder of the Menatep bank. According to
the Russian Federal Property Fund, the special cash auction for
shares in the Eastern Oil Company attracted a total of 5.188
trillion rubles. Ninety percent of the proceeds will go to the
federal government and 10 percent to regional governments.
LB

ADMIRAL GETS SUSPENDED SENTENCE IN CORRUPTION
CASE. The military court of the Pacific Fleet on 8 December
convicted Admiral Igor Khmelnov, former chief of staff of the
Russian Navy, of abusing his office and gave him a suspended
sentence of four years in prison, plus two years of probation,
Russian news agencies reported. The court lifted embezzlement
charges against Khmelnov, who was commander of the Pacific
Fleet between 1992 and 1995. Citing sources in the military
prosecutor's office, "Russkii telegraf" reported on 9 December
that investigators could not confirm allegations that Khmelnov
illegally sold 64 ships from the Pacific Fleet to India and South
Korea. Despite the relatively light sentence imposed,
Khmelnov's attorney Boris Kuznetsov has vowed to appeal to
the Supreme Court's Military Collegium in order to have all
charges against his client dropped. LB

INGUSH PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR SECOND TERM.  Speaking
at a conference of the Daimokh (Motherland) Union on 9
December in Nazran, Ruslan Aushev announced that he will
run, after all, for reelection in the 1 March 1998 presidential
poll, Interfax reported. In late November, Aushev had told
Ingush administration heads that he "had worked enough" and
wanted "to make way for others," according to "Segodnya" of 25
November. To date, the republican Central Electoral Commission
has registered six initiative groups which will collect the
required number of signatures to register their respective
candidates. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT BEGINS WORK IN NEW CAPITAL.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev chaired the first
session of parliament in the new capital of Kazakhstan, Akmola,
on 10 December , RFE/RL correspondents there reported. The
first order of business for the parliament was adopting the
resolution which confirms the change of the capital from
Almaty. Housing for many of the newly arrived government
officials has not been completed, forcing deputies to
temporarily live in hostels. About 150 local construction
workers in Akmola staged a demonstration on 9 December over
their working conditions, ITAR-TASS reported.    BP

ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER IN PARIS.  On the second
day of his official visit to France, Armenian Prime Minister
Robert Kocharian met on 9 December with French President
Jacques Chirac at the Elysee palace, a correspondent for
RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported from the French capital.
The meeting was scheduled to last 30-40 minutes, but
continued for well over an hour. Kocharian subsequently told
reporters that the two sides had discussed the Nagorno-
Karabakh issue, and that the French president had presented
his ideas on possible ways of peacefully resolving the conflict.
Kocharian refused to give more details, but emphasized that
France does not exert economic pressure on Armenia to make
concessions. He characterized the talks as open and frank. LF

STEPS TO DEFUSE GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN TENSIONS.
Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 9 December after
the second session of the Russian-Georgian Economic
Commission, Georgian Minister of State Niko Lekishvili and
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov announced that
agreement had been reached on the joint control by Russian
and Georgian border guards of goods vehicles wishing to enter
the Russian Federation from Georgian territory, Russian
agencies reported. Since the early summer of this year, Russian
border guards had unilaterally refused to permit vehicles
carrying alcohol to enter Russia. Two bilateral commissions on
border issues will resume their work. Georgian and Russian
officials also signed agreements on the mutual convertibility of
their respective currencies. LF

OIC OFFICIAL AFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR AZERBAIJAN.  In
an exclusive interview with Turan on 9 December, Organization
of the Islamic Conference General-Secretary Azeddine Laraki
said that  "The OIC will always come out in favor of the
territorial integrity of Azerbaijan."  On 8 December, Laraki met
with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, who expressed the
hope that the ongoing eighth OIC summit in Tehran will adopt a
resolution on "Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan." Laraki
assured Aliev that the OIC will provide "multi-lateral assistance
and support" to Azerbaijan. Aliev also met in Tehran on 8
December with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. LF

CASPIAN MAIN EXPORT PIPELINE ROUTES UNDER
DISCUSSION ... Ilham Aliev, son of the Azerbaijani president
and deputy president of the state oil company SOCAR, told
journalists on 8 December that Baku "cannot consider" routing
the main export pipeline for its Caspian oil via Armenia, "no
matter what concessions Armenia makes over Nagorno-
Karabakh," Interfax reported. Ilham Aliev added that Baku will
begin negotiations in January 1998 with all countries through
which the main export pipeline may be routed. The decisive
factors in the final choice of route will be transit tariffs and
security guarantees. The Azerbaijan International Operating
Company that is currently exploiting three Azerbaijani Caspian
oil fields declared earlier this year that the economic factor
would be decisive.   LF

INCLUDING GEORGIA, ROMANIA OPTIONS. Following a
meeting on 9 December with Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze, Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov, who travelled
to Tbilisi with the Russian government delegation, said that his
company plans to invest $15 million in Georgia in the near
future, Interfax reported. He said Lukoil is interested in
participating in construction of an oil export pipeline via
Georgia, and in building a network of gas stations in Georgia
and other countries in the Eurasian transport corridor. Also on
9 December, Romanian Presidential envoy Dan Capatine met in
Baku with Deputy Foreign Minister Albert Salamov and handed
him a proposal from Romanian President Emil Constantinescu
on shipping Azerbaijani oil exported via the Georgian Black Sea
port of Supsa via the Danube port of Constanta to Trieste,
ITAR-TASS reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI, TURKMEN PRESIDENTS SEEK TO RESOLVE
OIL DISPUTE. Meeting in Tehran on 8 December on the eve of
the OIC summit,  Heidar Aliev and Saparmurat Niyazov agreed
to set up a bilateral commission jointly headed by the two
countries' foreign ministers to delineate the border between
their sectors of the Caspian Sea, Turan and Russian agencies
reported.  The commission will hold its first meeting in late
December. In July, Turkmenistan had protested a contract
concluded between Azerbaijan and two Russian oil companies
to develop the Kyapaz (Serdar) deposit, to which both
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan lay claim. Azerbaijan Foreign
Minister Hasan Hasanov said that Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan
have already reached agreement on the median and horizontal
divisions between their respective sectors of the Caspian. LF

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