I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself. - Aldous Huxley
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 179, Part I, 15 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 SEEKS TO CALM FEARS OVER HEALTH

* PRO-LUZHKOV CANDIDATES WIN MAJORITY IN
MOSCOW DUMA

* ARMENIAN COURT SENTENCES OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS

* End Note: FATE OF ARMENIA'S DASHNAKS UNCERTAIN
AFTER CLOSE OF TRIAL

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN SEEKS TO CALM FEARS OVER HEALTH. President
Boris Yeltsin acknowledged on 14 December that he does not
feel well but assured Russians that his health does not give
cause for concern. In televised remarks made while casting his
ballot in Moscow city elections, Yeltsin said he is doing at least
four hours of paperwork a day and is keeping abreast of
events. Owing to below-freezing temperatures, Yeltsin voted
from inside the Barvikha clinic. Kremlin officials gave no
additional information on the president's health on 15
December. Reuters quoted a spokesman as saying, "People
could see the president on television last night, so they could
see things were fine. Nothing has changed since yesterday." On
12 December, spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii denied an
Ekho Moskvy report saying Yeltsin was hospitalized on 10
December with a "brain spasm" brought on by exhaustion and
sudden temperature changes, rather than with a respiratory
infection. LB

CHUBAIS UPBEAT ON RUSSIAN MARKETS. First Deputy
Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais told journalists on 15
December that Russia has overcome the worst of the crisis that
shook the country's financial markets in recent weeks, RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau reported. Chubais argued that purchases of
foreign exchange, which threatened to cause a significant
devaluation of the ruble, have declined significantly, saying
that "last week the central bank was not selling but buying
foreign currency on the markets." He confirmed that the
government is not seeking additional loans from abroad, an
apparent reference to the $2 billion credit  Russian officials
were reportedly negotiating with four Western banks (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 1997). Chubais also said
Russian corporate shares are undervalued and predicted that
they will appreciate in the future. Reuters quoted Chubais as
saying that despite the financial crisis, the government target
of 2 percent economic growth for 1998 may still be met. LB

IMF EXPERTS TO RECOMMEND RELEASING LOAN. An IMF
review team in Moscow on 12 December issued a statement
saying they will recommend that the fund's board release a
$700 million quarterly tranche of a three-year $10.1 billion
loan to Russia. IMF officials in Washington told an RFE/RL
correspondent that the board may consider the tranche as
early as the first week in January. The IMF delayed the tranche
in late October, saying poor tax collection had prevented the
fund's experts from completing a quarterly review of the
Russian economy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1997).
But the 12 December statement said Russian authorities have
"clearly confronted" their problems in tax collection and
spending. According to ITAR-TASS, the statement added that
Russia has good economic prospects for 1998, "provided that
the fiscal and monetary policies agreed during the review are
fully applied on a sustained basis." LB

PRO-LUZHKOV CANDIDATES WIN MAJORITY IN MOSCOW
DUMA... The Moscow City Duma will continue to be
consistently loyal to Mayor Yurii Luzhkov following the 14
December elections, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported.
Winners of 27 out of the 35 seats in the Duma had been
endorsed in a "mayor's list" published in various local
newspapers. Yet another seat was claimed by an adviser to the
city administration. Of the successful pro-Luzhkov candidates,
19 campaigned with no political party affiliation and eight
represented either Yegor Gaidar's party Russia's Democratic
Choice (DVR) or Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko movement.
Yabloko, the DVR, and the pro-government Our Home Is Russia
(NDR) movement agreed not to compete against one another in
13 districts and won in 11 of them (seven for the DVR, three
for Yabloko, and one for the NDR). Officials blamed extremely
cold weather for the low turnout of just 29 percent, ITAR-TASS
reported. LB

...WHILE MAYOR'S OPPONENTS WIPED OUT. Although
electoral legislation bars the mayor from active participation in
the campaign for the city Duma, Luzhkov appealed to
Muscovites not to vote for his most vocal critics, State Duma
deputy Nikolai Gonchar and DVR member Arkadii Murashev,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 15 December. Media
outlets that support Luzhkov published information
discrediting both Gonchar and Murashev during the campaign,
and both lost their districts. Not a single candidate aligned with
Gonchar won a seat, although Gonchar's bloc had been expected
to put up a strong showing. Some Russian commentators had
even touted him as a strong potential challenger to Luzhkov in
the next mayoral election. The Communist-backed movement
My Moscow also failed to win any seats in the Moscow City
Duma. LB

COMMUNISTS DO WELL IN STAVROPOL. Communist
candidates won 11 out of 25 seats in the Stavropol Krai Duma
in 14 December elections, ITAR-TASS reported. They are likely
to be able to elect their choice as Duma speaker. (Like regional
governors and republican presidents, heads of regional
legislatures automatically become members of the Federation
Council, the upper house of the parliament.) Communist
candidates have traditionally done well in Stavropol. Aleksandr
Chernogorov easily won a gubernatorial election in November
1996, and Communist-backed candidates won two by-elections
for State Duma seats from the krai earlier this year. Meanwhile,
police Colonel Nikolai Lyashenko won the 14 December mayoral
election in Stavropol's city of Budennovsk. Lyashenko was chief
of police when Chechen fighters seized more than 1,000
hostages in Budennovsk in June 1995. He was sacked shortly
thereafter, but a subsequent investigation praised his
professionalism during the hostage crisis. LB

POLITICIANS ADVOCATE AMENDMENTS ON
CONSTITUTION DAY. Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov, who has long called for amendments to reduce the
president's powers, says the current constitution is "ineffective
and dying" and fails to provide a balance of power between the
legislative and executive branches. Speaking to Interfax on 12
December, the national holiday marking the controversial 1993
referendum through which Russia adopted its constitution,
Zyuganov charged that the document "does not guarantee in
practice a single right it declares." Yabloko faction leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii argued that constitutional amendments
should increase parliamentary and judicial powers. Noting that
such amendments would affect not the incumbent but rather
subsequent presidents, Yavlinskii called on Yeltsin to take a
constructive attitude toward constitutional changes. In an
interview with Ekho Moskvy, Yavlinskii also argued that   "the
concentration of power in the hands of one man means that the
state authorities become very weak." LB

NEMTSOV SUPPORTS CHILEAN ECONOMIC MODEL.
Speaking in Venezuela on the last day of his tour to Mexico and
Latin America, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov
advocated the Chilean variant of economic reform for Russia, an
RFE/RL correspondent in Caracas reported on 12 December.
Nemtsov argued that having implemented liberal economic
policies, Chile has achieved 10 years of strong economic growth,
a stable currency, and a good level of social protection for its
population while not being burdened with a budget deficit. He
added that "the Chilean economy does not depend on American
capital [investment]. That experience is important for Russia.
We cannot count on attracting a large quantity of American
money now, for both political and economic reasons." Back in
Moscow on 14 December, Nemtsov told ITAR-TASS that the
Russian government is trying to implement "democratic
people's capitalism," which he argued is far better than
"oligarchic" capitalism. LB

KULIKOV WANTS WARRING FINANCIAL GROUPS TO
RECONCILE. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov has called on
leading Russian financial and industrial groups to reconcile
their differences, perhaps by creating a "supreme economic
council of bankers and entrepreneurs," ITAR-TASS reported on
13 December. Kulikov said members of such a council could
have the status of presidential financial advisers. He warned
that conflicts between financial and industrial groups could
undermine Russia's political and economic system and could
threaten the foundations of Russian statehood. LB

OMSK GOVERNOR AGAINST SEIZURE OF OIL REFINERY.
Appearing on local television in Omsk, Governor Leonid
Polezhaev has criticized the recent decision of a government
commission to seize and sell property of the Omsk Oil Refinery
in order to cover tax debts, ITAR-TASS reported on 12
December. Polezhaev proposed settling the refinery's debts of
some 500 billion rubles ($84 million) to the federal
government through offsets. Noting that the center owes some
300 billion rubles to the Omsk regional utility, which in turn
owes the same amount to the refinery, he argued that a series
of offsets would resolve the problem. A recent presidential
decree banned the practice of canceling tax arrears against
other debts owed to enterprises that fail to make tax payments
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November and 10 December 1997).
LB

AIR FORCE COMMANDER SUSPENDS FLIGHTS. Petr
Deinekin on 12 December ordered that all Air Force flights be
halted for one week pending an investigation into the previous
day's collision of a military plane with a civilian helicopter,
Russian news agencies reported. Deinekin's order does not
apply to aircraft either on "combat duty" or subordinate to the
air defense troops or to the navy. Deinekin recently requested
to be transferred to the reserves (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12
December 1997). That move was officially prompted by
Deinekin's reaching the retirement age of 60, but it is widely
believed to be linked to the recent crash in Irkutsk of a
military cargo plane. Appearing on Russian Public Television on
13 December, Deinekin denied media speculation that a poor
mixture of fuel caused that crash. A government commission is
investigating why three of the plane's four engines
malfunctioned shortly after takeoff. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN COURT SENTENCES OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS.
The Supreme Court on 12 December concluded handing down
prison sentences in the trial of 31 members and supporters of
the opposition Dashnak party (HHD), which was suspended by
President Levon Ter-Petrossyan in December 1994. The
defendants were arrested in July 1995 and brought to trial in
March 1996 on charges of publicly calling for the overthrow of
the Armenian government. Initial charges of plotting a coup,
terrorism, and high treason were dropped because of lack of
evidence. The key defendant, Vahan Hovanissian, received a
four-year prison sentence. The court found four other
defendants guilty of the murder of two policemen during their
arrest and handed down a death sentence to one of them (see
"End Note" below). LF

ARMENIAN INDEPENDENT UNION HOLDS FOUNDING
CONGRESS. At its founding congress in Yerevan on 12
December, the Federation of Independent Labor Unions
(AAMD) announced that its objectives are to create new jobs,
protect workers' rights, and promote private pension funds,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.  The AAMD  will represent
the interests of workers from various sectors of the economy,
including some journalists and other workers in the mass
media. It harshly criticized the official Confederation of Labor
Unions of Armenia for what it considers too close ties with the
government and disregard of workers' rights. In a statement
published in "Azg" on 11 December, the confederation accused
the government of preventing it from protecting workers'
rights. It also harshly criticized the cabinet's new draft law on
social insurance. LF

GEORGIAN PIPELINE TO BE COMPLETED BY OCTOBER
1998. The 388.5 kilometer pipeline carrying early oil from the
Caspian basin across Georgia will be completed by October
1998, officials at the Georgian International Oil Corporation told
ITAR-TASS on 13 December. PG

THREE CENTRAL ASIAN PRESIDENTS MEET. Askar Akayev
and Islam Karimov, the presidents of Kyrgyzstan and
Uzbekistan met with their Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan
Nazarbayev, in the new Kazakh capital, Akmola, on 12
December, RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS reported.
The leaders of the three countries that compose the Central
Asian Union signed a protocol establishing three international
consortia for energy and water resources, food production, and
minerals and raw materials. At the same time, they expressed
dissatisfaction that trade between their countries is down on
1996 levels. BP

TURAJONZODA TO RETURN TO TAJIKISTAN. Ali Akbar
Turajonzoda, formerly the head Muslim cleric of Tajikistan and
currently the deputy leader of the United Tajik Opposition
(UTO), is expected to return to Tajikistan soon, RFE/RL
correspondents reported on 15 December. Turajonzoda, who
remained in Tehran despite the fact that UTO leader Said
Abdullo Nuri returned to Dushanbe in September, has been
expected to receive a post in the new coalition government. In
meetings with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Nuri on
the sidelines of the recent Organization of the Islamic
Conference session in Tehran, Turajonzoda was offered and
accepted the post of first deputy prime minister. Turajonzoda is
reportedly waiting for the official announcement of his new
appointment before returning. BP

SHAKE-UP WITHIN TAJIK PARLIAMENT.  At a 13
December session of the parliament, President Rakhmonov
received the legislature's approval to remove eight deputies
from their posts and bring charges against them, RFE/RL
correspondents and ITAR-TASS reported. All those sacked
allegedly were linked to attempts to overthrow the
government. Among them was Yakub Salimov, the former
chairman of the Customs Committee who is wanted for his role
in attacks on government forces led by mutineer Colonel
Mahmud Khudaberdiyev in 1996-1997. Rakhmonov told the
parliament that if all lawmakers were subject to "intensive"
investigation, "half of the seats in the deputies' hall would be
empty." BP

NAZARBAYEV SUPPORTS USE OF RUSSIAN LANGUAGE.
President Nazarbayev on 13 December said that the citizens of
Kazakhstan should continue studying and using both Russian
and Kazakh, ITAR-TASS reported. Nazarbayev said he favored
"careful introduction" of Kazakh as the state language. He added
by the year 2030, Kazakhstan will be "one of the Eurasian
centers" and therefore knowledge not only of Kazakh and
Russian but also of English will be important. BP

FATE OF ARMENIA'S DASHNAKS UNCERTAIN AFTER CLOSE
OF TRIAL

by Emil Danielyan

        The end of the trial of 31 members and supporters of the
banned Dashnak party (HHD) has led to further uncertainty
about  prospects for the party's reinstatement. On 12
December,  the popular and prominent Dashnak leader Vahan
Hovannisian was sentenced to four years in prison, having been
found guilty of calling for the "violent overthrow of the
government." Armenia's Supreme Court also found four
defendants guilty of murdering two policemen during their
arrest. It handed down a death sentence to one of the four and
prison terms ranging between two-and-a-half and seven years
to 18 other defendants.
        All the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges, and
Hovannisian described the trial as the "political punishment"
of his party. Most of the defendants withdrew the pre-trial
"confessions" they had made shortly after court proceedings
were launched in March 1996, saying those confessions were
extracted by torture and psychological pressure. The
opposition and human rights groups in Armenia  have
repeatedly condemned the "case of the 31" as politically
motivated, citing what they consider to be breaches of the due
process of law.
        Article 65 of the criminal code, which envisages
punishment for an "organized group" that makes "public calls"
to topple the government, leaves significant room for
interpretation. Hovannisian's lawyer argued that his client
simply expressed his political convictions during "private
conversations." According to the attorney, the 31 defendants
cannot be considered an organized group because most of them
did not know one another before their arrest.
        Without discounting the fate of the dozens of defendants
involved, it can be said that the trial's significance lies in its
implications for the Dashnak party and for Armenian politics
in general. The 12 December verdict may either pave the way
for the HHD's re-legalization or put that process on hold for
another few years.
        Neither this latest trial nor the previous Dashnak-
related trial (the so-called "Dro trial") have found any link
between the HHD and the alleged conspirators and terrorists.
Hovannisian and the 30 other defendants were arrested in July
and August 1995 on charges of plotting a coup that would have
involved the assassination of Armenia's power ministers. At
the time, the government of President Levon Ter-Petrossyan
announced it had foiled a major Dashnak conspiracy.
        Later, the state prosecutors dropped the coup charges,
replacing them with accusations of having called for the
overthrow of the government. They were unable to prove that
the 31 were members of an organized group. Eleven defendants
were set free during the trial for lack of evidence. As for other
defendants, the court was unable to establish any links
between them and the murder of the two policemen, for which
Tigran Avetisian received the death penalty.
        The trial of the 31 thus followed the pattern of the Dro
trial, with the authorities implicating the leaders of the
Dashnak party and the court unable to establish a connection.
In fact, it was the accusations of harboring the clandestine
subversive group called Dro that resulted in the ban on the HHD
in December 1994. Now that the Dashnak leadership has been
cleared of criminal charges, there seems no major obstacle to
its re-legalization.
        But it is noteworthy that Hovannisian, who has already
been in jail for some two-and-a-half years, will not complete
his term until after the next parliamentary elections, slated
for July 1999. This may suggest that the authorities do not
want either him or his party participating in the vote. Under
Hovannisian's leadership, the Dashnaks would present a strong
challenge to Ter-Petrossyan's party. The authorities are
becoming increasingly reluctant to carry out political reform.
Moreover, their closed-door dialogue with the Dashnaks, which
began in April, is unlikely to prove successful as long as
Hovannisian is in jail.
        However, there is a facing-saving option for the
authorities and the HHD: namely, to pardon Hovannisian by
presidential decree, as has been urged by the country's leading
intellectuals and prominent public figures, including
supporters of the government. It is thought that such an option
would promote "national unity" ahead of possible international
pressure on Armenia to recognize Azerbaijan's territorial
integrity in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
        With their strong branches in the Diaspora (and in the
U.S. in particular), the Dashnaks may be able to help the
Armenian government avoid international isolation. Indeed,
they have recently hinted about a possible meeting with Ter-
Petrossyan in the near future. If such a meeting does take
place, it would doubtless play an major role in determining the
fate of Armenia's oldest party.

The author contributes regularly to RFE/RL.



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