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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN POSTPONES MEETINGS

* DUMA DELAYS SECOND READING OF BUDGET

* KARABAKH FOREIGN MINISTRY APPEALS TO OSCE

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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

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