Logic, n. The act of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human understanding. - Ambrose Bierce
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 182, Part I, 18 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 SAYS HE'LL LEAVE HOSPITAL SOON

* PRIMAKOV DISCUSSES RUSSIA-NATO COOPERATION

* KAZAKH OPPOSITION, PRESIDENT COMMEMORATE
1986 UNREST

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN SAYS HE'LL LEAVE HOSPITAL SOON...
President Boris Yeltsin on 18 December told journalists that
he is leaving the Barvikha clinic and will go back to work on
19 December, Russian news agencies reported. Speaking
before a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin,
Yeltsin denied his illness is related to past heart problems,
saying that he "had a cold and there was a danger of
complications." On 17 December, Yeltsin met with his chief of
staff, Valentin Yumashev, and spoke by telephone with
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Meanwhile, presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii confirmed that the
president still plans to visit Chechnya and India in January.
Also on 17 December, Naina Yeltsin said her husband is
feeling better but added that "he should work less because
he never finishes his treatment," ITAR-TASS reported. LB

...SIGNS LAW ON GOVERNMENT. Yeltsin on 18 December
signed the law on the government, which would strengthen
parliamentary oversight of the cabinet, Russian news
agencies reported. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii
said the executive and legislative authorities have already
agreed on a set of amendments to that law. Among other
things, the amendments would confirm that the "power
ministries" remain subordinated directly to the president.
Yastrzhembskii described Yeltsin's action as "unusual," since
the parliament has not yet approved the amendments. But
he said State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has promised
Yeltsin that the amendments will be adopted shortly.
Yeltsin's earlier refusal to sign the law prompted
parliamentary deputies to appeal to the Constitutional Court.
The law on the government is a federal constitutional law,
and Article 108 of the constitution requires the president to
sign such laws within 14 days of their approval by two-
thirds of Duma deputies and a three-quarters majority in
the Federation Council. LB

PRIMAKOV DISCUSSES RUSSIA-NATO COOPERATION...
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met in Brussels
on 17 December with NATO foreign ministers and Secretary-
General Javier Solana to discuss the 1998 work program for
the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. Primakov
advocated transforming NATO into an organization "aimed
mainly at peacekeeping and at the strengthening of stability
and security by political means," Interfax reported.  An
unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry source also told
Interfax that Primakov proposed that "the combined level of
armaments of an enlarged NATO would not exceed the
ceiling set for the Alliance for its present composition by the
[Conventional Forces in Europe] Treaty." A NATO spokesman
denied Interfax's claim that NATO has agreed to Russia's
request to hold talks in 1998 on the modernization of
military facilities in the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary,
which are scheduled to become NATO members in 1999. LF

...EXPRESSES OPTIMISM ON START-2 RATIFICATION.
Meeting on the sidelines of the NATO talks with U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Primakov said he is
hopeful that the State Duma will ratify the Start-2 treaty in
1998. The U.S. Senate  has already ratified that treaty, which
limits Russia and the U.S. to a maximum of 3,500 warheads
each. Also on 17 December, Colonel-General Vladimir
Yakovlev, the commander of Russia's strategic rocket forces,
told journalists in Moscow that Russia is fully complying
with the START-1 treaty. He added that its ratification could
be expedited if the economic benefits of START-2 were
explained to Duma deputies. Primakov and Defense Minister
Igor Sergeev failed in September to overcome opposition
within the Duma to ratification of START-2 (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 17 September 1997). LF

COMMISSION GIVES COMPANIES ONE WEEK TO PAY
TAX DEBTS... At a 17 December meeting chaired by Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin, the government's emergency
commission on tax and budgetary discipline ordered the
Omsk Oil Refinery and the Angara Petrochemical Company to
pay their debts to the federal budget in full by 25 December,
Russian news agencies reported. The Omsk refinery's debts
are estimated at 470 billion rubles ($79 million), while the
Angara company owes at least 700 billion rubles. If they fail
to meet that deadline, steps including the possible seizure of
property of those companies will be taken, Economics
Minister Yakov Urinson said. An 8 December meeting of the
government commission, which was chaired by First Deputy
Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, called for the seizure of
property of Angara and the Omsk refinery. But government
spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov said Chernomyrdin
considered that decision "hasty." LB

...OR PARENT COMPANIES WILL BE HELD
RESPONSIBLE. Urinson told journalists on 17 December
that the companies that own the Omsk Oil Refinery and
Angara Petrochemical Company will be held responsible if
those companies do not pay their tax debts by 25 December,
Russian news agencies reported. The Sibneft oil company,
part of Boris Berezovskii's business empire, owns the Omsk
refinery. The Sidanko oil company, part of Vladimir
Potanin's Oneksimbank empire, owns the Angara company.
Urinson also said the government commission on tax and
budgetary discipline has asked the Prosecutor-General's
Office to examine whether "individuals who are to blame for
the nonpayment of taxes to the federal treasury" may be
liable. In addition, the commission ordered the majority
state-owned electricity utility Unified Energy Systems to pay
its debts to the federal budget by 31 December. LB

DECISION COULD AFFECT ROSNEFT AUCTION. The
commission's decision comes as Berezovskii and Potanin are
gearing up to bid for a stake in the oil company Rosneft in
early 1998. Mikhail Khodorkovskii has announced that his
Rosprom-Yukos group and Sibneft have formed an alliance
for the Rosneft auction, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on
17 December. Khodorkovskii recently visited New York and
Houston, reportedly to look for a foreign partner to join his
and Berezovskii's consortium. Oneksimbank and British
Petroleum announced in November that they have formed a
consortium to bid for Rosneft shares (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
18 November 1997). Being forced to pay substantial tax
arrears could put Sibneft and Oneksimbank at a
disadvantage vis-a-vis the third major consortium that
intends to bid for Rosneft: an alliance between the gas
monopoly Gazprom and the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell.
LB

'NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA' BLAMES FOREIGN
PRESSURE FOR DECISION. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is
financed by Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, on 18 December
slammed the decision of the government commission under
the headline "Why does Russia need its own government?"
The article alleged that Chernomyrdin recently received
letters with "ultimatums" from IMF Managing Director
Michel Camdessus and World Bank President James
Wolfensohn. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Camdessus
listed "preconditions" for the issue of a $700 million loan
tranche from the IMF in January and noted that he "attaches
enormous significance" to the government commission's 8
December decision on tax debtors. The newspaper said
Wolfensohn informed Chernomyrdin that in order to secure
the approval of two World Bank loans worth a total of $1.6
billion, Russia must confirm that commission's 8 December
decision. LB

GAZPROM ANNULS AGREEMENT WITH EX-IM BANK.
Gazprom has annulled a memorandum signed with the U.S.
Ex-Im Bank in November 1994 whereby the U.S. bank was
to provide Gazprom with a $750 million credit for purchases
of equipment, Russian agencies reported on 17 December.
Interfax quoted an unnamed Gazprom representative as
saying Gazprom has decided to annul the contract rather
than risk that Ex-Im Bank will renege on the agreement as a
way of pressuring Gazprom. The Russian gas monopoly may
face sanctions from the U.S. government in retaliation for the
$2 billion contract it signed in September with Iran. Under
that contract, Gazprom, France's Total, and Malaysia's
Petronas will jointly develop Iran's South Pars Caspian gas
deposit. LF

CHUBAIS IN INDIA.  First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais
attended the fourth session of the Indian-Russian
commission on trade, economic, scientific, and cultural
cooperation in Delhi on 17 December, ITAR-TASS reported.
Chubais and Indian Finance Minister Palaniappin
Chidambaram held talks on ways to improve trade between
the two countries. They noted  bilateral trade this year will
reach $1.2 billion but that possibilities exist to increase that
figure to $5 billion "in the near future." Chubais is also laying
the groundwork for Yeltsin's visit to India in late January.
BP

DUMA PROPOSES FEDERAL AGENCY FOR RELIGION...
The Duma on 17 December asked Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin to form a federal agency for religion, Russian
news agencies reported. The proposed agency would oversee
the implementation of Russia's law on freedom of conscience
and religious organizations, which was adopted in
September. It would draw up rules for the registration of
religious groups and monitor those groups' compliance with
the law. The Duma's request argued that the registration
rules should not contain loopholes for "destructive sects and
pseudo-religious organizations." Russian officials and leaders
of the Russian Orthodox Church have argued that the religion
law is mainly directed against cults, but human rights
defenders have warned that the law sanctions official
persecution of some minority religious groups. LB

...ASKS GOVERNMENT ABOUT MOSTOVOI
APPOINTMENT. Also on 17 December, the Duma voted to
ask the government about the recent appointment of Petr
Mostovoi as first vice president of the state-controlled
diamond monopoly Almazy Rossiya-Sakha, Russian news
agencies reported. Mostovoi, former head of the Federal
Bankruptcy Administration, was among several officials
sacked in November over a book fees scandal (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 December 1997). LB

ANOTHER REGION GAINS PERMISSION TO ISSUE
EUROBONDS. Yeltsin on 17 December granted Chelyabinsk
Oblast permission to issue Eurobonds, ITAR-TASS reported.
Chelyabinsk becomes the 11th Russian region to receive
such permission from the president (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
17 November 1997). Meanwhile, Leningrad Oblast Governor
Vadim Gustov told Interfax on 16 December that his oblast,
which is among those allowed to issue Eurobonds, has
postponed its foreign borrowing plans until the situation on
the world financial markets stabilizes. LB

ZHIRINOVSKY ALLEGES CAMPAIGN VIOLATIONS IN
REGIONS... Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader
Vladimir Zhirinovsky announced on 17 December that
deputies representing his party will not participate in State
Duma proceedings for three days in protest of what he
described as official attempts to hinder his party's
candidates in regional elections, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. He claimed LDPR candidates are being blocked
from campaigning for legislative elections in Novosibirsk
Oblast and a presidential election in the Republic of
Chuvashia. Both elections are scheduled for later this month.
The LDPR has generally done poorly in regional elections
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1997), but the party
has a strong organization in Novosibirsk. The LDPR gained
more seats than any other party on the Novosibirsk city
council in December 1996 elections. LB

...FAILS TO TURN UP IN COURT FOR SLANDER SUIT.
Also on 17 December, a slander suit filed against Zhirinovsky
by the private network NTV and one of its journalists,
Yelena Masyuk, was postponed for the second time after
neither the LDPR leader nor his lawyer turned up for court
hearings, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Masyuk
became famous for her reports on the Chechen war and
conducted interviews with several prominent Chechen field
commanders. In December 1995, Zhirinovsky accused
Masyuk of taking bribes from Chechens to broadcast
favorable reports about them. LB

CHECHNYA REPEATS TERRITORIAL CLAIMS ON
DAGESTAN.  A 17 December congress of First Deputy Prime
Minister Movladi Udugov's Islamic Nation party has
repeated calls for Chechnya to annex territories in
neighboring Dagestan populated by some 70,000 Akkin
Chechens, RFE/RL's North Caucasus correspondent reported.
The party wants to create an independent state in the North
Caucasus. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Basaev
said Chechnya intends to "liberate" Dagestan from its present
"unworthy" status as a Russian colony. Nadirshah Khachilaev,
the chairman of the Union of Muslims of Russia, expressed
his support for the concept of an independent Dagestan. But
Dagestani Security Council secretary Magomed Tolboev said
that Chechen attempts to "export its ideology" are
"impermissible." He added that he would like Russia to give
Dagestan greater autonomy in acknowledgment of its loyalty
to Moscow. LF

DAGESTAN DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY. Following
the interruption of natural gas supplies from Turkmenistan,
the Dagestani government on 17 December declared a state
of emergency and issued an appeal for assistance to Russian
Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and Gazprom chairman Rem
Vyakhirev, Interfax reported. Gazprom promised to supply
additional gas, but Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Batyr
Sardzhaev denied responsibility for the shortage, claiming
Turkmenistan has never exported gas to Dagestan. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

KAZAKH OPPOSITION, PRESIDENT COMMEMORATE
1986 UNREST. The Azat movement and the Union of
Participants in the December 1986 Uprising held a
demonstration in Almaty on 17 December to mark the 11th
anniversary of the spontaneous uprising against the election
of ethnic Russian Gennadii Kolbin as first secretary of the
Kazakhstan Communist Party's Central Committee, RFE/RL's
Almaty bureau reported. Dozens of people were killed when
police used violence to dispel the 1986 unrest.  President
Nursultan Nazarbaev unexpectedly joined the
commemorative meeting to participate in prayers for those
killed. He then told the demonstrators that he is realizing the
political aspirations of those Kazakhs killed in 1986 and
during the Stalin era. Some demonstrators responded by
criticizing the president's economic policies, prompting
Nazarbaev to make a hasty departure. LF

POLICEMEN MURDERED IN EASTERN UZBEKISTAN.
RFE/RL correspondents in Tashkent report that three
policemen were killed  in the eastern Uzbek city of
Namangan on 16 December. These latest murders follow the
killing in late November of a senior police official in the area.
And on 12 December, a couple were murdered in a village
outside Namangan. Police have questioned a number of
people in connection with those crimes but have not yet
arrested or charged anyone. BP

UZBEK, RUSSIAN AIRLINES SIGN COOPERATION
AGREEMENT. The managing director of Uzbekistan's
national airlines on 17 December, signed a cooperation
agreement with the managing director of Russia's Transaero,
ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement, entitled the "CIS
Alliance," aims to increase contacts between the national
airlines of former Soviet republics in order to compete
against foreign carriers. The two directors emphasized they
hoped other newly independent states would join the
alliance. BP

BOMB EXPLODES IN ABKHAZIA, TALKS DELAYED.
Three people were injured on 17 December when a bomb
exploded in a passenger train in Abkhazia's Ochamchire
Raion, Russian agencies reported. Abkhaz Security Minister
Astamur Tarba blamed "Georgian sabotage groups" for the
incident.  The same day, adverse weather conditions
prevented the Georgian delegation from flying to Sukhumi
for talks with Russian, Abkhaz, U.S., and European
representatives on implementing the decisions of the
November UN-sponsored talks on establishing working
groups on security issues in the border region and on
repatriating Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during the
1992-1993 hostilities, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze said in Tbilisi on 16
December that he has received a letter from U.S. President
Clinton  expressing the U.S.'s readiness to play a more active
role in mediating a political settlement of the Abkhaz
conflict, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER TO
RUN FOR PRESIDENCY. In an interview with Turan on 17
December, former Azerbaijani parliamentary speaker Rasul
Guliev announced his candidacy for the 1998 presidential
elections. Guliev said he is not intimidated by the
parliament's 16 December decision to strip him of his
deputy's mandate. He charged that violations of the
constitution "have become the norm rather than the
exception." Guliev did not say when he plans to return to
Azerbaijan from the U.S., where he currently lives. LF

REGIONAL AFFAIRS

RECORD LOW TEMPERATURES IN AZERBAIJAN... In
Azerbaijan, the temperature has fallen to minus 50 degrees
Celsius, the lowest recorded in that country for 25 years,
ANS Press reported on 18 December. All the country's
airports were closed the previous day because of heavy
snow and high winds. State Committee for Refugees
chairman Gulabbas Gakhramanov said the adverse weather
has not affected conditions in the 12 refugee camps where
families made homeless by the Karabakh conflict are
spending their fifth winter in tents. Meanwhile, storms off
the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk have delayed the loading
of tankers with the first consignment of Azerbaijan's Caspian
oil, Caucasus Press reported on 18 December. LF

...AND IN RUSSIA. Record-breaking cold temperatures in
Moscow have killed 22 people in recent days, Reuters
reported on 17 December. A state of emergency was
declared in Krasnodar Krai when a winter storm brought
down power lines and shut off electricity supplies to many
cities, ITAR-TASS reported. Schools have been closed in
many other Russian regions as temperatures dropped below
minus 40 degrees Celsius. LB

FREEZING WEATHER CREATES HAVOC IN EASTERN
EUROPE.  Snow, ice, and temperatures below minus 10
degrees Celsius have disrupted traffic in several parts of
Serbia and severely strained power supplies, local media
reported on 17 December.  Twenty people were reported

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