History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 184, Part I, 22 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


xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN SAYS WILL RETURN TO KREMLIN

* RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD CHIEF RESIGNS

* ARMENIA BLOCS ADOPTION OF KARABAKH
DOCUMENT IN COPENHAGEN

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

RUSSIA

YELTSIN SAYS WILL RETURN TO KREMLIN. President
Boris Yeltsin told journalists on 22 December, "Tomorrow I'm
going back to the Kremlin and to work. There are no traces of
the illness left," ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin has been at the
Barvikha clinic since 10 December, reportedly for treatment of
a respiratory infection. On 19 December, after the president
was examined at the Moscow Cardiological Center, Kremlin
doctor Sergei Mironov and cardiologist Yurii Belenkov
announced that the president's heart has not been affected by
his recent illness. Nonetheless, they recommended that Yeltsin
spend five or six more days at Barvikha, although Mironov
said he would not be surprised if the president decided to
leave the clinic sooner. Meanwhile, Ekho Moskvy on 21
December quoted presidential spokesman Sergei
Yastrzhembskii as saying that Yeltsin may take an
unscheduled vacation at the end of December or at the
beginning of January. LB

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD CHIEF RESIGNS... Yeltsin on19
December accepted the resignation of Federal Border Service
head Colonel-General Andrei Nikolaev, Russian agencies
reported. Meeting with Yeltsin on 9 December, Nikolaev had
complained that the1998 budget provides inadequate funding
for the border troops. Several observers suggest that Nikolaev
was dissatisfied with the Russian government decision to
transfer the disputed Verkhnii Lars post on the Russian-
Georgian border back to its original position (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 19 December 1997). Yeltsin's Press Spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that Yeltsin was "seriously
displeased" with many aspects of the border guards' work,
including Nikolaev's alleged failure to coordinate with other
power ministries. LF

... FOR REASONS UNCLEAR. Former Russian Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed charged that Nikolaev's resignation
was due to pressure from Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze, and that it would result in a increase in the
import of illegal alcohol into the Russian Federation, Interfax
reported. Lebed characterized Nikolaev as " a strong-willed
and smart man with exceptional organizational abilities." But
ITAR-TASS quoted unnamed Russian government sources as
claiming that Nikolaev was dictatorial and had numerous
disagreements with government ministries. The Russian State
Duma instructed the heads of its Security, Defense and Foreign
Affairs Committees to investigate the circumstances of
Nikolaev's resignation, which Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky claimed was "engineered
by the Georgian mafia." LF

ZHIRINOVSKY THREATENS NOT TO SUPPORT BUDGET.
Duma deputies from Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia (LDPR) say they will not vote for the 1998 budget
unless Andrei Nikolaev is reinstated as head of the Border
Service, Interfax reported on 20 December. In a press release,
Zhirinovsky also said LDPR deputies will not support the
budget unless top civil aviation officials in Russia are sacked.
If the LDPR withheld its support, it would be extremely
difficult for the government to secure approval for the budget
in the Duma. Even with the unanimous support of the LDPR
faction, the budget was passed in the first reading by just five
votes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1997). The second
reading of the budget is scheduled for 24 December. LB

DUMA APPROVES TAX LAWS... The Duma on 18 and 19
December approved a package of tax laws in the third and
final reading, "Kommersant-Daily" and ITAR-TASS reported.
On 18 December, deputies approved a law that would force
regional branches of corporations to pay property taxes in the
regions where they operate rather than where company
headquarters are located (usually in Moscow). The same day,
deputies backed changes to the land tax and a law raising the
tax on foreign-currency purchases from 0.5 percent to 1
percent. On 19 December, the Duma approved changes in
income taxes that would charge the maximum rate of 35
percent on all income above 8 million rubles per month
($1,345). The same day, the Duma passed amendments to the
law on excise duties, which introduced an excise duty on oil
transport. The Duma also approved laws introducing taxes on
water, alcohol production and industrial use of animal
products. LB

...AND CHANGES 1997 BORROWING PLAN. The Duma on
19 December approved changes to Russia's 1997 borrowing
program, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The amendments
to the 1997 budget allow the government to reduce its
planned domestic borrowing this year by $1.1 billion and to
increase its foreign borrowing from $9.8 billion to $10.9
billion. The government proposed the changes following
turmoil on Russian financial markets, which has made internal
borrowing significantly more expensive. When debating the
amendments, Communist Duma Deputy Valentin Romanov
warned that loans from abroad often come with political
strings attached. Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the pro-
government faction Our Home Is Russia, argued that the
government should borrow where it is cheaper. LB

YELTSIN WANTS TO CHANGE ELECTORAL SYSTEM...
Yeltsin has called for changing Russia's electoral law to
eliminate the proportional representation system now used to
elect half the 450 State Duma deputies, Russian news agencies
reported on 19 December. In a letter to Duma Speaker
Gennadii Seleznev, the president charged that the current
system is unrepresentative, because in December 1995
roughly half of voters backed groups that gained less than 5
percent of the vote and consequently did not win any of the
seats distributed proportionally. Yeltsin also claimed that the
current system is to blame for what he called "the over-
politicization and bellicose nature of the present parliament."
Although the president now wants all 450 deputies to be
elected in single-member districts, he introduced the mixed
electoral system in an October 1993 decree. He also signed the
1995 law on parliamentary elections, which retained the
mixed system. LB

...BUT DUMA IS UNLIKELY TO SUPPORT HIS PROPOSAL.
The Duma is almost certain to reject Yeltsin's request to
change the electoral system. Several prominent Duma
deputies, including Seleznev and Duma Legislation Committee
Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov, denounced the proposal on 19
December. However, the president's representative in the
Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, has expressed confidence that the
next parliamentary elections will be conducted using only
single-member districts, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20
December. Kotenkov did not explain how Yeltsin would be able
to force changes in the electoral system. The president does
not have the right to issue a decree overriding a federal law.
The Constitutional Court has up to now refused to consider
appeals charging that the proportional representation system
violates the rights of voters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18
November 1997). LB

YELTSIN VETOES ANTI-CORRUPTION LAW. Yeltsin has
vetoed a law on fighting corruption, which was passed by the
Duma in November and by the Federation Council earlier this
month, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 December. The law would
bar officials from accepting various forms of gifts and
payments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 1997).
Yeltsin's veto message to the speakers of both houses of
parliament charged that the law violated the constitution, the
Civil Code, and several federal laws. Meanwhile, the Duma on
19 December failed to override a presidential veto of
amendments to the law on police, Interfax reported. Those
amendments would have provided for police forces to be
funded from local budgets and would have allowed police to
search individuals if "there are sufficient reasons to believe"
that those individuals are carrying illegal weapons or drugs.
Yeltsin charged that the amendments were unconstitutional.
LB

DUMA WANTS HELP FOR NUCLEAR CENTERS... The Duma
on 19 December passed a resolution asking Yeltsin to
intervene to help solve the problems of nuclear weapons
producers, ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution cited wage
arrears to nuclear arms designers and a federal debt of 175
billion rubles ($29 million) to the Federal Nuclear Center in
Arzamas-16 (also known as Sarov, Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast).
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin visited Sarov in July,
shortly before a gubernatorial election in Nizhnii Novgorod,
and promised that the government would support the nuclear
research center (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1997). LB

...MORE REGULATION OF PRIVATE ELECTRONIC MEDIA.
Also on 19 December, the Duma passed a resolution "on state
regulation on the television company NTV and other non-state
television and radio companies," "Kommersant-Daily" reported
the next day. The resolution, proposed by LDPR leader
Zhirinovsky, accused NTV of "stoking political confrontation in
society," broadcasting "erotic and pornographic programs" and
ignoring "the religious feelings of believers." The Duma urged
the government to charge NTV more for the use of
transmission facilities. According to Interfax, the resolution
also recommended that the government impose "extremely
tough sanctions" against private radio and television
companies that violate the terms of their broadcasting
licenses. The resolution also instructed the Duma's committees
on the budget and on information policy to draft a law on
taxing private radio and television companies. LB

WORLD BANK APPROVES TWO MORE LOANS FOR
RUSSIA. The World Bank announced on 19 December that its
board has approved two new loans to Russia: an 800- million-
dollar structural adjustment loan, and an 800-million-dollar
loan earmarked for supporting the coal industry, an RFE/RL
correspondent in Washington reported. The structural
adjustment loan is to finance reform of Russia's natural
monopolies, banking, trade policy, and privatization projects.
The coal loan will help finance restructuring of the coal
industry, which is to involve the closure of many unprofitable
mines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November and 11 December
1997). First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais
announced on 20 December that the first 400-million-dollar
tranche of the coal loan will arrive in Moscow within three or
four days, and that the government will allocate $118 million
to the coal industry by the end of December, ITAR-TASS
reported. LB

YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW STATE PROPERTY MINISTER.
Yeltsin on 20 December appointed Farit Gazizullin, up to now
first deputy state property minister, to head the State
Property Ministry, Russian news agencies reported. He
replaces Maksim Boiko, who was fired last month after it
emerged that he received $90,000 from a publisher linked to
Oneksimbank for a book on privatization that has not yet been
published (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1997).
Gazizullin held various high posts in the government of the
Republic of Tatarstan before being appointed first deputy
chairman of the federal State Property Committee in June
1996. That committee became a ministry on 30 September. LB

GOVERNMENT APPROVES PENSION REFORM PLAN. The
government on 18 December approved a pension reform
program, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Beginning on 1
February 1998, state pensions will depend in part on how long
individuals have worked (the government hopes to create an
incentive for delaying retirement). Other aspects of the reform
plan will take effect in 2000. Pensions for individuals will be
provided in part by the state and in part out of individual
contributions to the Pension Fund. (Details on this part of the
plan are sketchy.) Individuals may also make voluntary
contributions to private pension funds. Although Pension Fund
Chairman Vasilii Barchuk on 15 December said the pension age
will gradually be increased, Deputy Prime Minister and Labor
Minister Oleg Sysuev indicated on 18 December that the
government's plan does not foresee an increase in the
retirement age. A previous pension reform plan was rejected
at an October cabinet meeting, at which Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin sharply criticized Sysuev (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 23 and 31 October 1997). LB

RUSSIA-IRAN UPDATE.  Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov
was in Tehran last week for talks with Iranian Interior
Minister Hojatoleslam Abdollah Nouri on combatting drugs and
arms smuggling and terrorism, Russian agencies reported.
Meeting on 19 December with Nouri and First Vice President
Hassan Habibi, Kulikov also expressed Moscow's gratitude to
the Iranian leadership for forestalling an attempt by Turkey
to include Chechnya on the agenda of the 9-11 December
Organization of the Islamic Conference summit, Interfax
reported. LF

RUSSIA WILL GO AHEAD WITH S-300 SALES TO
CYPRUS. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii
Tarasov on 19 December rejected as "groundless and
misleading" a "Financial Times" article claiming that  Yevgenii
Primakov had announced at the OSCE Foreign Ministers'
meeting in Copenhagen that Russia  is prepared to suspend the
planned delivery of S-300 air defense systems to Greek
Cyprus in exchange for finncial compensation from NATO,
Interfax reported. Tarasov reiterated Moscow's position that
the S-300s are "a purely defensive weapon."  LF

HOSTAGE ORDEAL IN MOSCOW ENDS WITH DEATH OF
TERRORIST... A six-hour hostage ordeal in Moscow ended
when a terrorist and was killed in the early morning of 20
December outside the Swedish Embassy. The terrorist,
identified as 34-year-old Sergei Kobyakov from Chelyabinsk
Oblast, took Swedish Embassy worker Jan Olaf Nystrom
hostage on the evening of 19 December when Nystrom
returned to his car, parked near the embassy. Kobyakov had a
pistol and a grenade and demanded $3 million and a plane for
the release of Nystrom. He later agreed to trade the Swede for
a member of the Alpha force (antiterrorist unit). Kobyakov's
behavior became erratic later and commandos decided to open
fire. Kobyakov was killed in the exchange. BP

...AND SECURITY FORCE OFFICER. The terrorist Kobyakov
swapped the Swede for Alpha unit's Colonel Anatoly Savelev.
But when Kobyakov placed a noose around Savelev's neck the
colonel appeared to suffer a heart seizure, the Alpha force
commandos attacked. Kobyakov was killed outright. Savelev
was wounded, according to some accounts several times.
Savelev died at a hospital officially of a heart attack but
footage of the action and accounts by some present at the
scene raise the possibility the Colonel died of gunshot wounds.
BP

OLD DEFENSE MINISTERS NEVER DIE, THEY SIMPLY GET
NEW, CUSHIER JOBS. Former Russian Defense Minister Pavel
Grachev is likely to become an advisor to Yevgenii Ananev,
named in August as head of the arms export concern
Rosvooruzhenie, Russian media reported on 18 December.
"Kommersant-Daily" on 19 December reported that Grachev
has already begun work in that position, which he owes to his
former school friend, Rear Admiral Oleg Belavintsev, who is
Rosvooruzhenie's first deputy general director. LF

YELTSIN APPROVES NATIONAL SECURITY CONCEPT.
Yeltsin on 17 December signed into law the Russian National
Security Concept, "Izvestia" reported on 21 December. That
concept makes provision for the first use of nuclear weapons
(see "End Note", RFE/RL Newsline, 30 April 1997). LF

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER PASSES DEATH SENTENCE
ON YELTSIN. Addressing a 3,000-person rally in Grozny on
20 December, Salman Raduev threatened to execute Yeltsin
during the Russian president's visit to Chechnya next month in
accordance with a death sentence pronounced by the
"Supreme Caucasus Sharia Court" on Russian officials deemed
responsible for the 1994 invasion of Chechnya, AFP reported.
The Russian Presidential Press Service termed Raduev's
statement appalling and charged it aimed to derail dialogue
between Moscow and Grozny. Rally participants also passed a
vote of no-confidence in Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov
and the Chechen government and called on the latter to resign,
Interfax reported.  Raduev's supporters had issued a similar
demand at a rally in Grozny five weeks ago (See "RFE/RL
Newsline," 17 November 1997). LF

MASKHADOV, RYBKIN OUTLINE PRIORITIES FOR
CHECHNYA. Addressing the first session of an international
conference on Chechnya, Maskhadov on 19 December  again
called on Yeltsin to sign a full-scale treaty recognizing
Chechnya's independence and establishing diplomatic
relations, Interfax reported. But Russian Security Council
Secretary Ivan Rybkin told the final session of the conference
in Kazan on 20 December that the 43 agreements already
signed between Moscow and Grozny constitute "a rich
contractual basis" for structuring bilateral relations, and that
the primary problem facing Chechnya is restoring its economy.
Rybkin warned against "over-hasty" decisions on Chechnya's
status, expressing the hope that the conference, attended by
experts on international law, would make it possible to find a
formula acceptable to both parties. LF


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA


ARMENIA BLOCS ADOPTION OF KARABAKH DOCUMENT
IN COPENHAGEN. The Armenian delegation to the OSCE
foreign ministers meeting in Copenhagen on 19 December
blocked a decision reiterating the principles of the 1996
Lisbon OSCE summit. It also blocked a statement by the
current OSCE chairman couched in virtually identical terms,
Noyan Tapan , a correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service,
reported. The 1996 Lisbon statement had affirmed that a
solution to the Karabakh conflict must be based on
autonomous status for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan.
The Armenian delegation in Copenhagen likewise registered
its disapproval of the OSCE's preference for a "phased"
settlement of the conflict, which the Nagorno-Karabakh
leadership categorically rejects.  LF

CORRUPTION TERMED 'MOST DANGEROUS' CRIME IN
ARMENIA. Interior and National Security Minister Serzh
Sarkisian on 18 December characterized corruption and
economic crime as the most serious problem facing his
ministry, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said that
growing ties between state officials at various levels and the
criminal underworld are "extremely dangerous" and "weaken
the country." Sarkisian complained that present legislation
does not permit his ministry to combat these evils effectively.
He also said that although no attempts have been made during
his tenure as minister on the life of President Levon Ter-
Petrossyan, the security ministry and presidential guards
"have had numerous occasions to be worried," according to
Interfax.  LF

HAPPY BIRTHDAY COMRADE STALIN. Admirers of Josef
Vissarionovich Djugashvili (Stalin) congregated in his
hometown of Gori on 21 December to mark the 118th
anniversary of his birth there. Stalin's great-great-grandson
was baptized the same day in a nearby monastery. Similar
celebrations organized by the Stalin Society and other
organizations took place in Tbilisi and Kutaisi. LF

WAHHABIS BLAMED IN NAMANGAN KILLINGS. The
Uzbek government is blaming the murders of four policemen
in Namangan on members of a Wahhabi sect (See "Newsline"
18 December), according to RFE/RL corespondents and Reuters.
One suspect killed in the 17 November gunfight with police
has been identified as a Wahhabi. Police in eastern Uzbekistan
are now looking for other members of the sect. Mikhail
Ardzinov, the chairman of the Independent Organization for
Human Rights in Uzbekistan, says authorities in the Namangan
area have detained or arrested hundreds of people in
connection with the killings of police officers. " He said the
town is under semi-siege. BP

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


SUBSCRIBING:
1) To subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to
        listserv@listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu
2) In the text of your message, type
        subscribe RFERL-L YourFirstName YourLastName

UNSUBSCRIBING:
1) To un-subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to
        listserv@listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu
2) In the text of your message, type
        unsubscribe RFERL-L

Current and Back Issues
Back issues of RFE/RL Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest are
online at:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/

Listen to news for 13 countries
RFE/RL programs for countries in Eastern Europe, the
Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia and the South Slavic region are
online daily at RFE/RL's 24-Hour LIVE Broadcast
Studio.
http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/index.html

Reprint Policy
To receive reprint permission, please contact
Paul Goble, Publisher
Email: GobleP@rferl.org
Phone: 202-457-6947
Fax: 202-457-6992
Postal Address:  RFE/RL,  1201 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC  20036  USA

RFE/RL Newsline Staff:
* Paul Goble, Publisher, GobleP@rferl.org
* Liz Fuller, Editor-in-Chief, CarlsonE@rferl.org
* Patrick Moore, Team Leader, MooreP@rferl.org
* Laurie Belin, BelinL@rferl.org
* Bruce Pannier, PannierB@rferl.org
* Michael Shafir, ShafirM@rferl.org
* Jan Cleave, CleaveJ@rferl.org

Freelance And Occasional Contributors
* Fabian Schmidt
* Matyas Szabo
* Jeremy Bransten
* Jolyon Naegele
* Anthony Wesolowsky
* Julia Guechakov

RFE/RL Newsline Fax: (420-2) 2112-3630

[English] [Russian TRANS | KOI8 | ALT | WIN | MAC | ISO5]

F&P Home ° Comments ° Guestbook


1996 Friends and Partners
Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole
Please visit the Russian and American mirror sites of Friends and Partners.
Updated: 1998-11-

Please write to us with your comments and suggestions.

F&P Quick Search
Main Sections
Home
Bulletin Board
Chat Room
F&P Listserver

RFE/RL
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
Search

News
News From Russia/NIS
News About Russia/NIS
Newspapers & Magazines
Global News
Weather

©1996 Friends and Partners
Please write to us with any comments, questions or suggestions -- Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole