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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 180, Part I, 16 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN POSTPONES MEETINGS * DUMA DELAYS SECOND READING OF BUDGET * KARABAKH FOREIGN MINISTRY APPEALS TO OSCE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN POSTPONES MEETINGS. Although Yeltsin's temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate are reported to be "normal," his meetings scheduled for this week have been postponed, Russian media and AFP reported on 16 December. Yeltsin had planned to attend the session of the Russian-Belarusian High Council on 17 December and meet with the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus on 18 December. According to Interfax, Yeltsin's 19 December meeting with Bulgarian President Pyotr Stoyanov has been rescheduled. BP DUMA DELAYS SECOND READING OF BUDGET. The State Duma Council on 16 December approved a government request to postpone the second reading of the 1998 budget from 18 to 24 December, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Duma Budget Committee Acting Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov said deputies need more time to consider government-proposed amendments on planned 1998 expenditures. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov on 15 December told the Duma Budget Committee that the government has revised its estimate of debt servicing costs in light of recent developments on the Russian financial markets, which have made borrowing more expensive. The government wants planned 1998 spending on debt servicing to be increased by 10 billion new rubles ($1.7 billion), while projected spending on "international activities" and contributions to the Social Insurance Fund are to be cut by 7 billion and 3 billion rubles, respectively, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. LB CHERNOMYRDIN ISSUES DIRECTIVE ON 1998 SPENDING. Also on 16 December, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed a government directive stipulating that monthly expenditures in the first quarter of 1998 will be equal to one-twelfth of total 1997 expenditures, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the directive, federal spending in the early months of 1998 will be below the level foreseen in the draft 1998 budget, but that budget is unlikely to be adopted before late January or February. LB CHERNOMRYDIN IN TURKEY FOR LANDMARK VISIT. Chernomyrdin arrived in Ankara on 15 December on the first ever visit by a Russian prime minister to Turkey. Chernomyrdin and his Turkish counterpart, Mesut Yilmaz, signed a major agreement whereby beginning in 2000, Russia will provide Turkey with 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually for a period of 25 years. Approximately half of that amount is to be exported via the planned pipeline from Dzhughba across the Black Sea to Samsun. Turkey will pay $105 per 1,000 cubic meters, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 16 December. Chernomyrdin and Yilmaz acknowledged disagreements over restrictions on shipping through the Turkish straits and Russian deliveries of S-300 missiles to Greek Cyprus. At the same time, they affirmed their commitment to developing a friendly partnership in which neither bilateral political nor economic relations are dependent on external factors, ITAR-TASS reported. LF RUSSIAN-CHECHEN-INGUSH TALKS ON NUCLEAR WASTE PROBLEM. Russian Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu held talks in Grozny on 15 December with Chechen and Ingush Presidents Aslan Maskhadov and Ruslan Aushev on conditions at the Radon facility, north of Grozny, where hundreds of tons of nuclear waste are stored, Russian agencies reported. Also on 15 December, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Basaev expressed doubts that President Yeltsin's planned visit to Chechnya in January will take place. Basaev also dismissed further Russian- Chechen talks as pointless, arguing that Chechnya is already an independent state. Commenting on Basaev's statement, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax that no orders have been issued to cancel Yeltsin's Chechen visit. LF VIETNAM TO RECEIVE RUSSIAN PLANES IN 1998. General Aleksei Fodorov, the director of the Sukhoi aircraft construction company, said two military planes will be sent to Vietnam next year to replace the two destroyed when a transport plane crashed in Irkutsk on 6 December, Interfax reported on 15 December. Fodorov said two Su-27s marked for delivery to India may be sent to Vietnam or two more modern Su-30s may be offered in their place. BP CONFUSION OVER AIR FORCE COMMANDER'S RETIREMENT. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 December comments on Yeltsin's decision not to exempt air force commander General Petr Deinekin from the requirement that military personnel must retire on reaching the age of 60. The daily suggests that decision was not prompted solely by the need to find a scapegoat for the recent catastrophes involving Russian military aircraft. Deinekin was known to oppose various provisions of the planned reform and downsizing of the Russian armed forces, particularly the subordination of the air force to the new operative-strategic command. Moreover, his relations with the military-industrial complex are reportedly strained. Yeltsin, however, has not yet signed a decree releasing Deinekin from his post, Interfax reported on 15 December. LF BOOK SCANDAL CASUALTY FINDS NEW JOB. Petr Mostovoi, whom Yeltsin sacked as Federal Bankruptcy Administration chairman in November, has been appointed first vice president of the diamond monopoly Almazy Rossiya-Sakha (Alrosa), Russian news agencies reported on 15 December. Mostovoi previously served as government representative on the Alrosa supervisory board and co-chairman of that board. In his new job, he will have far more authority at the company and will be in charge of Alrosa's financial and credit policy, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 December. The newspaper added that the appointment of Mostovoi, an ally of First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, will increase Chubais's influence over Russian diamond exports, a major source of budget revenues. Mostovoi and Chubais were among several officials who received $90,000 each from a publisher linked to Oneksimbank for co-authoring a book on Russian privatization. LB NTV CONTINUES TO BOOST CHERNOMYRDIN. The private network NTV devoted nearly 30 minutes of its 14 December analytical program "Itogi" to a flattering profile of Chernomyrdin on the fifth anniversary of his appointment as prime minister. NTV, which is mostly owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most company, has devoted generally positive coverage to Chernomyrdin during the last several months. Since the July auction of a major stake in the telecommunications holding company Svyazinvest, NTV has regularly broadcast strong criticism of First Deputy Prime Ministers Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, who previously enjoyed mostly favorable coverage on the network. Also on 14 December, NTV's "Itogi" hardly mentioned the third anniversary of the Russian military intervention in Chechnya. NTV's hard-hitting coverage of the Chechen war earned the network a reputation for professionalism in late 1994 and 1995. LB MOSCOW OBLAST HOLDS CONTROVERSIAL REFERENDUM... The Moscow Oblast referendum on 14 December on whether half the deputies in the oblast Duma should also hold jobs outside the legislature was illegal, "Kommersant-Daily" argued on 16 December. The Moscow Oblast Court called the referendum, and its action was approved by the Supreme Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 1997). However, the Presidium of the Supreme Court on 10 December declared the vote illegal. "Kommersant-Daily" argued that the question asked in the Moscow referendum violates federal law on issues that may be resolved by referenda. In addition, oblast law grants the oblast legislature- -not the oblast court--the right to set referenda. Preliminary results suggest that the referendum was passed. If not overturned by another court ruling, the vote is likely to strengthen Moscow Oblast Governor Anatolii Tyazhlov's influence over the region's legislature. LB ...WHILE OPPONENT SAYS STATED GOAL OF REFERENDUM ONLY PRETEXT. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 13 December, State Duma deputy Aleksei Zakharov of Yabloko alleged that Moscow Oblast is "one of the most criminalized oblasts in Russia" and that Governor Tyazhlov sought to hold the referendum in order to increase his control over the oblast's budget spending. Although the plebiscite was ostensibly a cost-cutting measure allowing the oblast to save money on legislators' wages, Zakharov charged that holding the vote cost the oblast twice as much as the potential savings in wages. Zakharov also noted that while the oblast legislature has 316 employees (including all deputies and their staff), the oblast administration employees some 1,600 people. LB ALTAI REPUBLIC ELECTS LEADER BY SLIM MAJORITY. State Duma deputy Semen Zubakin narrowly won the 14 December election for the head of government of the Altai Republic with some 23.5 percent of the vote in a field of seven candidates, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 December. The Altai electoral law requires the winner to gain only a plurality of the vote, not an overall majority. Zubakin's closest competitor, Yurii Antaradonov, finished a little more than 200 votes behind with 23.2 percent. He was supported by the first Kurultai [congress] of the Altai People. Communist State Duma deputy Viktor Romashkin finished third with 17.5 percent, followed by Our Home Is Russia candidate Vladimir Petrov (13.9 percent) and the incumbent, Vladilen Volkov (11.9 percent). Zubakin was elected to the Duma in 1995 representing an electoral bloc led by Yegor Gaidar's party, Russia's Democratic Choice. LB LENINGRAD VOTERS SHUN CANDIDATES FROM PARTIES. No candidate representing a political party won a seat in the 14 December election to the Leningrad Oblast legislature, RFE/RL's correspondent in St. Petersburg reported two days later. The losers included 19 candidates representing Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, six candidates from Aleksandr Lebed's Honor and Motherland movement, and four candidates from the Communist Party. Directors of enterprises won 26 of the 48 districts in which elections were declared valid. Observers believe the results are explained partly by the electorate's distrust of political parties and partly by the complicated procedure for registering as a candidate from a political party, which prompted many would-be deputies to campaign as independents. Governor Vadim Gustov said he was pleased with the results and with the fact that the new legislature will have 50 deputies rather than 25, as in the previous legislature. LB GOVERNOR'S MOVEMENT SWEEPS CHELYABINSK ELECTIONS. Candidates backed by the movement Revival of the Urals on 14 December won a majority of seats in the Chelyabinsk Oblast legislature and in several local legislatures, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin and Vladimir Utkin, the chairman of the regional government, head the Revival of the Urals movement. It was also reportedly supported by former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and by politicians in the Communist Party and Yabloko. Also on 14 December, by-elections were held in Chelyabinsk Oblast for three seats to the State Duma. The winners were Aleksandr Chershintsev, chairman of the Chelyabinsk Oblast Property Fund; Vladimir Gorbachev, deputy mayor of the city of Snezhinsk; and factory director Valerii Gartung. Both Chershintsev and Gorbachev were backed by Revival of the Urals, while Gartung represented the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. LB RUSSIA RUNS TRADE DEFICIT IN OCTOBER. Russia ran a foreign trade deficit of some $700 million in October 1997, the first month during the last three years that imports have exceeded exports, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 December, citing a joint report by the Russian-European Center for Economic Policy and the government's Working Center on Economic Reforms. The report says that Russian exports totaled some $6 billion in October 1997, down 28 percent on the October 1996 level. Russian imports totaled $6.7 billion in October 1997, a 28 percent increase over the previous October. The results are consistent with a trend that has seen Russia's monthly foreign trade balance shrink from $2.7 billion in January 1997 to $1 billion in September. LB 'ZAVTRA' EDITOR ATTACKED. Aleksandr Prokhanov, the editor in chief of the nationalist opposition weekly "Zavtra," was attacked while entering his apartment building on 11 December, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 December. Prokhanov was struck on the head and suffered concussion. Neither the identity of the assailant nor the motive for the attack is known. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that Prokhanov had not received any threats related to recent publications in "Zavtra." In recent years, Prokhanov has been a close adviser to Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. LB SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS BAN ON TRANSPORTING TSAR'S REMAINS. The Supreme Court on 15 December ruled that the Sverdlovsk Oblast Court acted illegally when it barred the transportation of the remains of Tsar Nikolai II and his family outside Yekaterinburg. Federal officials want further tests on the remains to be conducted in Moscow before Yeltsin decides whether they are to be buried in Moscow, St. Petersburg, or Yekaterinburg. Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel, who wants the burial to take place in Yekaterinburg, has vehemently opposed conducting further tests in Moscow, arguing that the bones could be damaged or stolen in transit. Sverdlovsk Oblast Court judge Valerii Romashkov told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that he is unconvinced by the Supreme Court ruling and will appeal to the Supreme Court's Presidium and to the Constitutional Court if necessary. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KARABAKH FOREIGN MINISTRY APPEALS TO OSCE. The Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh on 15 December addressed a statement to the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe ahead of the OSCE foreign ministers' meeting in Copenhagen, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement called on the OSCE to formalize Nagorno-Karabakh's status as an equal participant in the conflict throughout the negotiating process. (At present, Karabakh will forfeit that status after the signing of a political agreement formally ending the armed conflict.) The statement calls on the Copenhagen summit to adopt a document fostering the resumption of negotiations and containing no "preconditions [that will] predetermine their results." The statement says Stepanakert is concerned that the priority currently given by the OSCE Minsk Group to "methodological issues" impedes the search for a lasting solution to the conflict. LF REACTIONS TO "TRIAL OF 31" VERDICTS. Two defense lawyers in the trial of 31 members and supporters of Armenia's banned Dashnak party (HHD) have condemned the 12 December court verdict as "unjust" and politically motivated and said they will appeal it, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. One defendant was sentenced to death, and others, including Dashnak party leader Vahan Hovannisian, to prison terms ranging from two-and-a-half to seven years for the murder of a policeman and calls for the violent overthrow of the government. Hovannisian's lawyer characterized his client as a "classical political prisoner." Similarly, the HHD Executive Council of Armenia issued a statement condemning the trial as based on "political considerations, innuendo, fabricated evidence and contradictory statements." It also said that the trial was aimed at "removing the political competition from the arena," Noyan Tapan reported. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CANCELS NETHERLANDS VISIT. Heidar Aliev has indefinitely postponed a visit to The Netherlands scheduled for 15-16 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 December, quoting a Dutch government spokesman. Aliev had been scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Wim Kok and sign several bilateral agreements. LF TAJIK PLANE CRASHES IN MIDDLE EAST. A plane of the Tajik national airline crashed in the United Arab Emirates on 15 December killing 85 people. The Tu-154 airliner was en route from the Tajik city of Khujand to the city of Sharja, when it went down 13 kilometers from the Sharja runway. Most of the 77 passengers were Tajik citizens. The navigator is the only survivor and reportedly is in critical condition at a local hospital. BP ONE TAJIK HOSTAGE RELEASED, ONE FOUND DEAD. Security forces seeking to hunt down the remaining members of the Rezvon Sadirov gang have found Nuriddin Tabarov, who was captured by the outlaws on 3 October, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Tabarov was discovered in a house where he had been abandoned by the fleeing bandits. However, the body of Tabarov's father was found in an outlaw camp in the mountains 20 kilometers north of Dushanbe. The elder Tabarov had died of an unspecified illness. Presidential guard commander General Gafar Mirzoyev is a relative of the Tabarovs. BP TAJIK GOVERNMENT TO CUT NUMBER OF CIVIL SERVANTS. President Imomali Rakhmonov has said the government will sack "superfluous" civil servants, Interfax reported on 15 December. Rakhmonov was referring to body guards for parliamentary deputies, some of whom have as many as 30 armed protectors. He noted that the Tajik people are "fed up with the brandishing of arms and escalating tension." He also called some of the guards "puppets of foreign special services," but he did not name any individuals or countries. BP KYRGYZ STUDY REVEALS EVERY FIFTH CIVIL SERVANT "PROFESSIONALLY INADEQUATE." A recently completed six-month study of the performance of government workers at the district, city, and regional levels has revealed that some 20 percent are "professionally inadequate," Interfax reported on 15 December. Of the 93 officials who failed to pass a test on the country's legal system, 33 are deputy governors or deputy mayors, some of whom will be required to pass another test. BP SAUDI ARABIA WANTS RESULTS IN KAZAKH INVESTIGATION. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry said on 15 December, it is certain Kazakh authorities "will do their best to uncover the circumstances" of the murder of the second secretary of the Saudi Embassy in Kazakhstan, according to AFP. However, Saudi Arabia is sending its own team of investigators to Kazakhstan to help discover who murdered Ahmad al-Sawi in his apartment on 10 December. The ministry also called on Kazakhstan to "guarantee the safety of all diplomats so they can carry out their mission." BP REGIONAL AFFAIRS OECD PREDICTS ECONOMIC GROWTH. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a report on 15 December saying that Russia's economy is likely to expand by 0.5 percent in 1997, 3 percent in 1998, and 5 percent in 1999. The OECD expects GDP in Poland and Hungary to grow by 4-5 percent in the next two years. But it says the Czech economy is unlikely to expand by more than 2 percent in the same period. Slovakia is a cause for concern because of what the OECD calls a "twin deficit" problem--a current account deficit of 10 percent of GDP and a deepening fiscal gap. The OECD says Romania's GDP is likely to grow by 1 percent in 1998, after a 4 percent fall in 1997. Bulgaria is also expected to see a 2 percent growth in its GDP, following a 6 percent decline this year. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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