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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 178, Part I, 12 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

* DOCTORS TERM YELTSIN'S HEALTH 'SATISFACTORY'

* BEREZOVSKII TERMS CHECHEN WAR "A TRAGIC
MISTAKE"

* ARMENIAN FM SLAMS OPPOSITION KARABAKH
STATEMENTS

* End Note: SLOW PROGRESS ON NEW CONVENTIONAL
ARMS TREATY

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RUSSIA

DOCTORS TERM YELTSIN'S HEALTH 'SATISFACTORY.' The
presidential press service on 12 December issued a statement
saying that doctors met with President Boris Yeltsin earlier in
the day and described his condition as "satisfactory." The
statement said Yeltsin's temperature has returned to normal,
and that the president is working on documents at the
Barvikha sanitorium while recovering from a respiratory
infection. Yeltsin cancelled plans to record a radio address on
11 December. Soundless television footage broadcast that day
showed him looking tired while meeting with his chief of staff,
Valentin Yumashev. Also on 11 December, Yeltsin's spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii and Renat Akchurin, who performed
bypass surgery on Yeltsin last year, both denied reports that
the president's latest illness is linked to his past heart
problems. LB

YELTSIN ISSUES DECREE ON CUTTING FEDERAL
SPENDING . . .  Yeltsin on 11 December signed a decree
ordering several cost-cutting measures, Russian news agencies
reported. The decree calls for unspecified reductions in both
the number of enterprises that receive budget funding and the
number of employees in budget-financed organizations.
Beginning in the first quarter of 1998, budget-funded
organizations will have to submit monthly reports on their
receipts and expenses, as well as quarterly reports on their
facilities, maintenance and utility charges. By 1 April 1998, the
government must draw up an inventory of federal buildings,
and federally-funded construction or purchases of buildings
will be halted in 1998 and 1999. In addition, the decree
instructs the government not to take steps in 1997 or 1998 to
increase payments if those increases would cause federal
spending to rise above the level outlined in that year's budget.
LB

. . . RESTRICTS USE OF GOVERNMENT PLANES. The decree
issued by Yeltsin on 11 December also stipulates that only six
officials will be entitled to use government planes when they
travel, Russian news agencies reported. Those officials are the
president, prime minister, foreign minister, Security Council
secretary, and speakers of the State Duma and Federation
Council. All other officials will be required to fly on commercial
flights. Since joining the government in March, First Deputy
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and Deputy Prime Minister Oleg
Sysuev have both called for saving money by restricting use of
government aircraft. LB

CHERNOMYRDIN MARKS FIVE YEARS IN OFFICE. Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin congratulated his cabinet
colleagues when opening a session of the government on 11
December, nearly five years to the day since he was appointed
prime minister, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported.
Chernomyrdin is the only person to serve as Russian prime
minister since the collapse of the USSR. Prior to his
appointment in December 1992, Yegor Gaidar served as acting
prime minister. Only three other ministers have served in the
cabinet during Chernomyrdin's entire tenure: Minister for
Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, Deputy Prime Minister
Vladimir Bulgak, and Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov.
LB

AIR FORCE COMMANDER RESIGNS. Petr Deinekin requested
to be transferred to the reserve on 11 December, Russian news
agencies reported. Yeltsin accepted his resignation, despite
Defense Minister Igor Sergeev's request that Deinekin be
allowed to continue to serve after he turns 60 on 14 December.
(The president has the power to make exceptions for soldiers
who reach the mandatory retirement age of 60.) There was
speculation in the Russian media that Deinekin would resign
following the 6 December crash of a military cargo plane in
Irkutsk. In a speech to the State Duma on 10 December, which
was published in "Sovetskaya Rossiya" the next day, Duma
Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin alleged that military
aircraft are poorly maintained. He also accused Deinekin of
facilitating corruption in the Air Force and charged that
military planes have repeatedly been rented to private firms at
a huge financial loss to the state. LB

MILITARY PLANE COLLIDES WITH HELICOPTER. Eight
people were killed on 11 December when the helicopter in
which they were riding collided with an An-12 military cargo
plane on an airport runway in Naryan-Mar (Nenets
Autonomous Okrug). ITAR-TASS quoted unnamed sources as
saying that the collision was caused by poor communication
between civilian and military air traffic controllers, who
cleared both the helicopter and plane for landing within
minutes of each other. LB

INVESTIGATION OF ACCUSED SPY COULD TAKE THREE
MONTHS. A representative of the Federal Security Service
(FSB) says his agency may take up to three months to complete
its investigation of U.S. citizen Richard Bliss, who has been
accused of espionage, Interfax reported on 11 December. Bliss,
an employee of the telecommunications firm Qualcomm, was
arrested in Rostov Oblast on 25 November. He has been
released from custody but could still face trial. U.S. officials
have asked Russian authorities to resolve the case quickly and
drop all charges against Bliss. In an interview with an RFE/RL
correspondent in Moscow on 11 December, U.S. Ambassador
James Collins commented, "I think [the Bliss case] is based in
part on a conflict between what I suspect are existing Russian
laws and a man who ended up as a victim, because he was
using modern technologies, which those laws never
contemplated." LB

AUDIT CHAMBER SEES GROUNDS FOR ANNULLING
AUCTIONS. The Audit Chamber announced on 11 December
that there are grounds to annul four controversial privatization
auctions, Interfax reported. An investigation found that the
August auction for 38 percent of Norilsk Nickel was rigged,
allowing an Oneksimbank affiliate to buy the shares for below
market value. The chamber determined that currency rules
were violated in the July sale of a 25 percent stake in the
telecommunications giant Svyazinvest. The chamber also found
that 51 percent of the oil company Sibneft was sold in May for
too little in an unfair auction. Finally, the chamber said the
winner of a July auction for 40 percent of the Tyumen Oil
Company paid too little and has not fulfilled its obligations to
pay debts of that company's subsidiaries. The government
frequently ignores the Audit Chamber's recommendations and
is unlikely to ask a court to annul the auctions. LB

JUDICIAL CHAMBER REPRIMANDS JOURNALISTS ON
BOOK SCANDAL. The President's Judicial Chamber on
Information Disputes determined on 11 December that
journalists Aleksandr Minkin and Sergei Dorenko violated the
law on the mass media when they accused First Deputy Prime
Minister Anatolii Chubais of bribe-taking and money-
laundering in connection with a scandal over book fees. Minkin
made the allegations on Ekho Moskvy, and Dorenko echoed the
charges on Russian Public Television (ORT). The chamber ruled
that Minkin and Dorenko were entitled to report on the book
deal, in which a publisher linked to Oneksimbank paid Chubais
and several co-authors $90,000 each, but should not have used
"insulting" terms and epithets. The chamber did not support
Chubais's request that ORT be reprimanded as well. The
chamber is merely a consultative body. A Moscow court is
scheduled to hear Chubais's slander suit against Minkin and
Ekho Moskvy in February. LB

SELEZNEV SLAMS PRO-PRESIDENTIAL MEDIA BIAS.
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev charged that the Russian
media "serves only one power: presidential power," ITAR-TASS
reported on 10 December. Speaking during an official visit to
Paris, Seleznev claimed that Russian newspapers and electronic
media often send journalists to Duma press conferences but
then publicize either distorted information or no information at
all. However, he said he is pleased with the first few editions of
"Parlamentskii chas," a program on state-run Russian
Television, adding that the parliament is receiving some air
time on state-run Radio Rossii and Radio Mayak. Seleznev also
said the Duma and the Federation Council will launch a
newspaper in January and have already begun publishing a
magazine. In October, the government persuaded the Duma not
to hold a no-confidence vote, in part by promising to give
parliamentary activities more air time in state-controlled
media. LB

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT FINDS VIOLATIONS IN
TAMBOV CHARTER. The Constitutional Court has ruled that
several articles in the Tambov Oblast charter are
unconstitutional, "Russkii telegraf" reported on 11 December.
The oblast legislature adopted the charter as part of a long-
running battle with Tambov Governor Aleksandr Ryabov. The
court appeal was filed on behalf of Yeltsin. The court struck
down articles in the charter giving the Tambov legislature the
right to fire ministers in the oblast government and giving the
speaker of the legislature (rather than the governor) the power
to sign laws into effect. Judges also struck down an article
providing for the early termination of the governor's authority
if he takes up permanent residence outside Tambov Oblast. The
court ruled some points in the charter legal; for instance, the
Tambov legislature may determine the basic structure and
financing of organs of the executive branch. LB

JUSTICE MINISTER ASSESSES REGIONAL LAWS. Sergei
Stepashin has charged that thousands of laws adopted in the
regions violate federal legal norms. In an interview published
in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 11 December, Stepashin said the
Justice Ministry has evaluated some 9,000 laws adopted by
regional authorities, and has found that more than a third of
them contradict either the Russian constitution or federal
legislation. He expressed regret that regional authorities
sometimes ignore his ministry's recommendations on changing
such laws. Stepashin said the Justice Ministry is preparing a
government appeal to the Constitutional Court against some
regional laws and will take steps to better monitor the
activities of regional legislators. LB

NEMTSOV IN VENEZUELA. Russian First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov met in Caracas on 11 December with
Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera, ITAR-TASS reported.
Nemtsov handed Caldera a letter from Russian President
Yeltsin calling for broader political and economic relations.
Nemtsov also discussed the possible sale of Russian military
helicopters to Venezuela and cooperation in the oil sector.
Nemtsov subsequently told journalists that Russia is
particularly interested in reviving the oil swap agreement
whereby Venezuelan oil is refined in Cuba in return for Russian
oil refined in Germany, an RFE/RL correspondent accompanying
Nemtsov reported on 11 December.  LF

YELTSIN AGREES TO RESTRUCTURE FEDERAL BORDER
SERVICE.  Meeting on 9 December with the head of the
Russian Federal Border Service, Colonel-General Andrei
Nikolaev, Yeltsin issued a decree  removing the border service
from its present subordination to the Ministry of Defense and
designating it a state special service, "Russkii telegraf" and
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 and 11 December
respectively. Yeltsin also agreed to Nikolaev's request to
increase federal funding for the border service in 1998.
Nikolaev had complained that only 3 trillion rubles ($505
million) had been allocated for his service's needs rather than
the minimum 8 trillion rubles needed. LF

BEREZOVSKII TERMS CHECHEN WAR "A TRAGIC
MISTAKE."  Former Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary
Boris Berezovskii admitted on 11 December that the war in
Chechnya could have been avoided if Moscow had realized that
"the problem of the Caucasus will remain with Russia forever,"
and endeavoured to establish new relations with the regions
taking into account specific ethnic factors, Interfax reported.
Berezovskii said the war was "a tragic mistake," and criticized
what he termed the Russian government's inability to conclude
a final peace agreement with Grozny. LF

CHECHNYA CRACKS DOWN ON OIL THEFTS. About one
thousand metric tons of crude oil has been confiscated from
thieves since President Aslan Maskhadov announced a major
crackdown on 7 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 11
December. Maskhadov's press secretary Kazbek Khadzhiev told
Interfax on 8 December that Chechnya's oil output had
increased in recent months from 1,500 to 4,000 metric tons per
day, but that during Maskhadov's November trip to Turkey and
the U.S. the incidence of illegal tapping of pipelines had again
risen sharply. Maskhadov estimated the weekly financial loss
from such thefts at 5 billion rubles (more than $830,000).
Stolen Chechen oil is increasingly being illegally sold to
middlemen in North Ossetia for refining there into gasoline, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported on 11 December from
Vladikavkaz. LF


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN FM SLAMS OPPOSITION KARABAKH
STATEMENTS. Alexander Arzoumanian on 11 December
criticized as "illiterate" and "misleading" two statements
addressed by the Armenian opposition to the country's
leadership and to the Organization on Security and Cooperation
in Europe. The statements, demanding that the Armenian
leadership reject any proposed settlement of the Karabakh
conflict that returns Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani
jurisdiction, were adopted at an opposition rally in Yerevan on
10 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 1997).
Arzoumanian said his ministry will continue to defend
Armenia's national interests despite the dissemination by the
opposition of "slander, lies and suspicion." On 10 December
Arzoumanian met with his Nagorno-Karabakh counterpart
Naira Melkumian to discuss the Karabakh peace process,
Armenian agencies reported. LF

CHEVRON TO BUILD ITS OWN TRANS-GEORGIA
PIPELINE? The U.S. oil company Chevron plans to begin
construction in 1998 of a pipeline from Baku to the Georgian
Black Sea port of Batumi to export crude from Kazakhstan's
Tengiz field, according to "Finansoviye izvestiya" of 9
December. The pipeline will cost an estimated $600 million and
have an annual throughput capacity of 5 million tons. It is not
clear how the transport tariffs for oil exported through Georgia
to Batumi would be shared between the central Georgian
government and the autonomous Republic of Adjaria, of which
Batumi is the capital. Chevron President Richard Matzke visited
Tbilisi and Batumi in October 1996, to discuss the planned
export of Tengiz oil via Georgia.  LF

KYRGYZ MUFTIAT DENOUNCES WAHHABISM. The six
senior members of Kyrgyzstan's Muftiat met in Bishkek on 10-
11 December to discuss the activities of Wahhabis in the
country, RFE/RL correspondents report. Members of the
Muftiat have been especially vocal in their denunciation of
Wahhabism since the Kyrgyz weekly newspaper "Kyrgyz
Rukhu" printed an article in early December alleging two
deputies of the Mufti  Absatar-Agy Majitov, as well as the
former head Mufti Sadykjan Kamalov, were disseminating the
sect's ideas. The Muftiat stated that it is not responsible for
activities of Kamalov's International Center for Islamic
Cooperation located in Osh and excluded the center from the
Muslim community of Kyrgyzstan. The members also reviewed
the activities of Imams in Kyrgyzstan and discussed the
formation of an expert commission to translate the Koran into
Kyrgyz.  BP

PROTEST AT TURKMEN EMBASSY IN MOSCOW.
Demonstrators gathered in front of Turkmenistan's Embassy in
Moscow on 11 December to protest what they claim is the
oppressive rule of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov,
RFE/RL correspondents reported. The "Memorial" human rights
organization and the Turkmen opposition Diaspora in Moscow
coordinated the demonstration. Some people carried signs
calling on Niyazov to free political prisoners and stop using
psychiatric hospitals as a place to incarcerate dissidents.
Participants were able to hand a letter of protest to officials at
the Embassy. The demonstration took place on the eve of the
second anniversary of Turkmenistan's recognition by the
United Nations as a "Neutral State" such as Switzerland. BP

UZBEK-CHINESE RELATIONS. Uzbek Foreign Minister
Abdulaziz Kamilov met with his Chinese counterpart Qian
Qichen in Beijing on 11 December, according to ITAR-TASS and
Xinhua. The two ministers expressed their satisfaction at the
course of bilateral relations and noted that the volume of trade
between the countries was not yet big enough, but has grown
steadily in recent years. Agreements were signed on civilian
and criminal judicial assistance and environmental protection.
Qian said the two countries are still neighbors even though
they do not share a common border.   BP

SAUDI EMBASSY OFFICIAL KILLED IN KAZAKHSTAN. The
second Secretary of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Kazakhstan
was found dead from multiple stab wounds in his apartment on
11 December, RFE/RL correspondents reported. According to
neighbors, Ahmed Assaui hosted a party on the night of 10
December and police concluded it was later that night or early
the next morning that he was murdered. BP


SLOW PROGRESS ON NEW CONVENTIONAL ARMS
TREATY

by Roland Eggleston

        Negotiators in Vienna hope that a new treaty limiting the
danger of an arms build-up in Europe can be achieved by the
end of next year, although they warn considerable political will
to reach agreement will be required on the part of some
countries.
        The negotiators are revising the 1990 CFE treaty between
NATO and the former Warsaw Pact, which placed limits on the
number of tanks, artillery, armored cars, war planes, and battle
helicopters located between the Atlantic and the Urals. The
new treaty will replace the bloc-to-bloc ceilings imposed on
both alliances with national and territorial ceilings.
        National ceilings place a limit on the size of each country's
armed forces, while the territorial ceilings impose a limit on the
overall number of military forces deployed in any single
country. In most cases, the territorial ceilings will be higher
than the national ones, but the actual limits are still being
worked out.
        A senior negotiator told RFE/RL that the national and
territorial ceilings on the number of tanks, artillery, and other
weapons are among the most difficult issues to resolve. "They
go to the heart of the security of individual states, many of
which remain suspicious of each other" he said. "Each
government wants to be certain that the treaty allows it
enough forces to meet its legitimate defense requirements."
        Thirty countries are participating in the negotiations,
including the U.S., Russia, and most of the states of Western,
Central and Eastern Europe, including Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Georgia, and Moldova. The neutral countries and Central Asian
states, with the exception of Kazakhstan, are not involved.
        Gregory Govan, the chief U.S. negotiator, told RFE/RL  that
the talks are proceeding "slowly but methodically." He said one
of the biggest political problems is Russia's attempts to impose
conditions that would limit the effects of NATO enlargement.
For example, Russia wants to restrict  the degree to which the
original 16 members of NATO can deploy forces on the
territory of the alliance's new members, either permanently or
temporarily.
        NATO believes fixed limits should be established only for
ground forces, while Russia wants also to include fixed limits
for warplanes and battle helicopters. NATO argues that
including aircraft and helicopters is unrealistic. It is relatively
easy for inspectors to determine whether ground forces are
within the limits set by a treaty. But aircraft and helicopters
can be flown in and out of a territory within minutes, making
effective inspection virtually impossible.
        NATO diplomats say the alliance considers Russia's fears
of  a possible buildup of Western military power in countries
near its borders to be exaggerated. However, it understands
those fears and is trying to quell them. To this end, the  U.S. has
proposed the creation of a  "zone of stability" in which the size
of military forces would be limited. However, it insists that the
zone include other countries as well as the new NATO
members.
        Under the U.S. proposal--which has now been accepted
by NATO as a whole--the "zone of stability" would include
Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belarus, northern Ukraine,
and Kaliningrad. The U.S. suggests that territorial limits in this
zone would be the same as the present national limits,
effectively preventing a build-up of foreign forces in any of
those countries. The same conditions would apply until the next
review of the treaty,  scheduled for 2001. The U.S. further
proposes that the treaty be reviewed every five years.
        Govan says that, in addition to political issues, there are
many technical problems to be resolved. Among them is the
system for checking that signatories are honoring the treaty.
"One of the best features of the 1990 CFE treaty was its system
of verification and transparency," he said. "Everyone agrees
that it worked well and should be continued. The problem is
how to maintain the same degree of assurance and confidence
in a much more complicated treaty."
        According to Govan, the attitude of some countries is also
a problem. "One group of countries at the talks has strong ideas
on how a future treaty on conventional forces should look," he
said. "There are other countries that don't have this outlook.
Some have difficulties adjusting to a new kind of treaty that is
not based on a bloc-to-bloc approach. Govan did not identify
any countries but acknowledged that some NATO countries are
among those nostalgic for the ease of decision-making under
the old system.
        Originally, the new CFE treaty was expected to be ready
by summer 1998, but few diplomats believe this timetable is
realistic. Most now hope the negotiations can be completed by
November 1998, allowing the new treaty to be signed in
December by the heads of government attending a summit
meeting of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in
Europe.  However, the signing ceremony is still many months
and many problems away.

The author writes regularly for RFE/RL.

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