The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness. - Dostoevsky
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 190, Part I, 7 January 1998



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

* SPOKESMEN STRESS YELTSIN'S BUSY SCHEDULE

* KULIKOV PROPOSES PREEMPTIVE STRIKES AGAINST
CHECHNYA

* RUSSIA OPPOSES "BOSNIAN VARIANT" FOR ABKHAZIA

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RUSSIA

SPOKESMEN STRESS YELTSIN'S BUSY SCHEDULE. A
presidential spokesman told Reuters on 7 January that Boris
Yeltsin will have a "full schedule" when he returns to work
on 19 January. The previous day, Interfax reported that the
president will not hold any official meetings before 19
January. However, unnamed officials from the presidential
press service issued several statements saying Yeltsin is
keeping up an active schedule while vacationing in the
resort town of Valdai. Officials on 6 January said the
president sorted through his mail, held telephone
conversations with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and went ice fishing and
snow-mobiling. According to Reuters, a Kremlin spokesman
could not confirm an Interfax report saying Yeltsin was
planning to go swimming in an indoor pool on 6 January. No
pictures of Yeltsin's outdoor activities in Valdai have been
released. LB

CONFUSION SURROUNDS YELTSIN'S MEETING WITH
CHERNOMYRDIN. An unnamed presidential spokesman said
on 6 January  that a meeting between Yeltsin and
Chernomyrdin scheduled for this week will not take place.
Government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov, however,
denied that any such meeting was scheduled, ITAR-TASS
reported. He added that the premier has not scheduled any
trip to Valdai to meet with the president. Yeltsin and
Chernomyrdin hold regular weekly meetings when both men
are in Moscow. LB

AIDE HINTS YELTSIN STILL CONSIDERING THIRD TERM.
Appearing on Ekho Moskvy on 5 January, presidential legal
adviser Mikhail Krasnov said Yeltsin will decide whether to
run for re-election in 2000 only after the Constitutional
Court rules on whether he is legally entitled to seek a third
term. Last fall, the State Duma asked the court to rule on the
issue after several presidential aides hinted that Yeltsin may
run again. Krasnov's comments may be aimed at quelling
speculation about the president's health. Krasnov has
previously criticized the Duma's court appeal, saying it
reflects "unhealthy suspicion" on the part of the Duma and
even "contempt" toward Yeltsin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31
October 1997). Anna Malysheva, the head of the
Constitutional Court's press service, told RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau on 6 January that the court has not set a date for
considering the Duma's appeal. LB

CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS REGIONAL LEADERS RESPONSIBLE FOR
WAGE PAYMENTS. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin says that
regional leaders are responsible for ensuring that funds
earmarked to pay wages to state employees are spent for
that purpose, ITAR-TASS reported. According to a statement
issued by the presidential press service, Chernomyrdin told
Yeltsin during a 6 January telephone conversation that
although the federal government transferred enough funds
to pay back wages by 31 December, people are still waiting
for wage payments in some localities. "Everything depends
now on the efficiency of regional authorities," he added.
Federal officials have frequently blamed regional leaders for
persistent wage arrears, saying funds meant to settle wage
debts are often misallocated after arriving in the regions. LB

NEWSPAPER SAYS MANY DEBTS STILL OUTSTANDING.
"Novye izvestiya" charged on 6 January that triumphant
reports about the payment of wage arrears to state
employees are misleading because federal and regional
authorities still owe other massive debts to citizens. By way
of example, the newspaper cited non-payment of child
allowances and wage arrears owed to workers at private
enterprises that have not been paid for state orders. "Novye
izvestiya" is reportedly partly financed by former Security
Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii. LB

CONFLICTING REPORTS ON GOVERNMENT DEBT TO
MILITARY. Government spokesman Shabdurasulov on 6
January said that the government has allocated sufficient
funds to pay wage arrears and financial benefits to military
personnel, ITAR-TASS reported. However, he acknowledged
that many soldiers are still owed various payments in kind,
which, he added, they will receive sometime in 1998.
Shabdurasulov argued that media reports on debts owed to
the military often confuse monetary payments with
payments in kind. He also noted that the Defense Ministry is
responsible for making sure funds allocated toward paying
debts to soldiers are not misused. Meanwhile, "Trud"
reported on 6 January that most army personnel have not
received their wages for December. The newspaper also said
officers have only just received their year-end bonuses from
1996 and will not receive those for 1997 until summer
1998. "Trud" is financed by the gas monopoly Gazprom. LB

KULIKOV PROPOSES PREEMPTIVE STRIKES AGAINST
CHECHNYA. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov on 6 January
argued that the 22 December attack by Chechen militants on
a Russian military base in neighboring Dagestan is
justification for the  Russian security forces to carry out
"precautionary operations" against the hideouts of
"gangsters" in Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. Russian
government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov, however, told
ITAR-TASS that Kulikov was expressing his personal opinion
and that the possibility of such preemptive strikes has been
neither discussed with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin nor
suggested to President Yeltsin. In Grozny, Chechen First
Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov condemned
Kulikov's statement as a provocation aimed at undermining
the peace process. Also on 6 January, Russian Deputy Prime
Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov proposed that Kulikov and
himself be given emergency powers to take measures aimed
at stabilizing the situation in the North Caucasus. LF

FOREIGN MINISTRY SLAMS U.S-TURKISH-ISRAELI NAVAL
MANEUVERS... Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on
6 January, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii
Tarasov said the upcoming U.S.-Turkish-Israeli naval
exercises in the eastern Mediterranean "may aggravate
mistrust" and undermine efforts to bring stability to the
region, Russian agencies reported. Tarasov pointed out that
the exercises have already been postponed several times
because of Egyptian and Syrian protests that they
constituted a move toward creating a military axis between
Israel and Turkey. Such a configuration would threaten the
security of Arab countries, he added. LF

...PRAISES RELATIONS WITH JAPAN. Also on 6 January,
Tarasov said the Russian-Japanese agreement on fishing
rights around the Kuril Islands is evidence of a growing
partnership, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He said "the
positive experience gained from the talks" will help boost
cooperation, particularly "joint economic activities." Since the
early November meeting between Yeltsin and Japanese
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, Japanese investment in
Russian projects has grown rapidly, particularly in the off-
shore oil fields near Sakhalin Island. BP

JAPAN'S HASHIMOTO RETURNS COMPLIMENT. Hashimoto, for
his part,  told the Japanese cabinet on 6 January that one of
the country's priorities in 1998 is developing relations with
Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. In his New Year's address, he
also said Russia's participation in the Asian Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) group would further strengthen
economic and political relations among member countries,
Japan's NHK television reported. At the same time,
Hashimoto said a peace treaty with Russia could not be
signed until territorial disputes are resolved. ITAR-TASS on
7 January dismissed that statement as "designed to appease
Japanese public opinion." Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister
Minoru Tamba is to visit Moscow later this month to discuss
concluding a treaty formally ending Second World War
hostilities. BP

AMNESTY FOR SOME OFFICERS CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION.
Deputy Military Prosecutor-General Yurii Yakovlev
announced on 6 January that the amnesty recently approved
by the Duma will apply to about half of the 30 generals and
admirals who have been charged with corruption, Interfax
reported. The amnesty covers veterans of the Chechen war
and other combat operations. It also applies to those who
served in the Russian armed forces in Azerbaijan, Armenia,
Georgia, Tajikistan, and the Baltic States after 1 December
1991 . However, Yakovlev said the amnesty will not apply to
former Deputy Defense Minister Konstantin Kobets, who was
arrested last May. Kobets faces charges on bribery, abuse of
office, and illegal possession of firearms (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 19 May 1997). LB

MINISTER OUTLINES OIL COMPANY PRIVATIZATION PLANS.
State Property Minister Farit Gazizullin announced on 6
January that auctions will be held in January for stakes in
the Tyumen, Eastern, and Slavneft oil companies, Russian
news agencies reported. An auction for a 19.68 percent
stake in Slavneft was canceled in December, as no bids were
offered, Interfax reported on 25 December. The previous
month, officials called off a tender for a 34 percent stake in
the Eastern Oil Company because only one bid was
submitted for that tender. They also postponed the sale of a
48.68 percent stake in the Tyumen company pending a court
challenge to the auction. Gazizullin said that before the end
of January, a resolution will be approved on the sale of a 50
percent plus one share in the Rosneft oil company during the
first quarter of 1998. A 46.15 percent stake in Rosneft will
be sold in a special cash auction later, and the remaining
shares are to be distributed to Rosneft employees. LB

YELTSIN HERALDS "RETURN TO ROOTS" IN CHRISTMAS
ADDRESS. In an address broadcast on Russian Television on 6
January, Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve, Yeltsin said the
celebration of Christmas "marks the restoration of our lost
cultural values and traditions, a return to our roots." While
noting that Russia is a secular state, Yeltsin remarked that
more and more churches are being restored or built, which
reflects how "people are striving to find lost moral values."
In a year-end radio address broadcast on 26 December,
Yeltsin had said "spiritual values and civic responsibilities"
have been neglected in Russian society. He noted that while
concentrating on economic reform in recent years, the
authorities "overlooked certain things" and "forgot [about]
the ethics of entrepreneurship." It is unclear whether the
president recorded his Christmas address before leaving for
a two-week vacation on 4 January. LB

PATRIARCH CALLS FOR UNITY WITHIN CHURCH. In his
Christmas message, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
Aleksii II said unity within the Orthodox Church is "the most
important concern" and called for increasing the Church's
social, educational, and missionary activities, ITAR-TASS
reported. The Russian Orthodox Church has come into
conflict with other Orthodox Churches in Russia, Ukraine, and
Estonia. Aleksii strongly supported a religion law adopted in
September 1997, which puts restrictions on religious groups
that cannot prove they have existed in Russia for at least 15
years. Critics of that law say it discriminates against
denominations and faiths that were banned or repressed
during the Soviet period. In a Christmas message to Aleksii,
Yeltsin praised the historical role of the Russian Orthodox
Church and expressed hope that the Church will help
promote morality, civic peace, and accord in Russian society.
LB

OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CRITICIZES REDENOMINATION.
"Sovetskaya Rossiya" on 6 January argued that the
redenomination of the ruble, which took effect on 1 January,
will inevitably increase inflation and thereby hurt most
Russian citizens. The newspaper said that the money supply
will increase as old and new ruble bank notes are circulated
simultaneously. Government officials have denied that the
redenomination will be accompanied by an increase in the
money supply (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1998).
"Sovetskaya Rossiya" questioned the need to remove three
zeroes from the ruble, noting that countries such as Italy
and Japan have never carried out a redenomination. It also
charged that issuing new ruble notes will facilitate
swindling, money laundering, and counterfeiting. It went on
to quote an article in the "Financial Times" that argued that
issuing new bank notes will not in itself make the ruble a
stable currency, since Russia's most pressing economic
problems remain. LB

MURMANSK SITE OF WORST DYSENTERY OUTBREAK IN 50
YEARS. Sources in the Health Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 6
January that 573 people contracted dysentery in Murmansk
Oblast between 23 and 31 December. More than 400 people
were hospitalized in the worst outbreak of dysentery in
Russia since the Second World War. Investigators from the
Health Ministry concluded that contaminated dairy products
from a local collective farm were the source of the outbreak.
The farm's factory continued to produce goods in unsanitary
conditions after equipment failures deprived the factory of
hot and cold running water. The outbreak was contained
several days after dairy products from the farm were
recalled from local shops. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIA OPPOSES "BOSNIAN VARIANT" FOR ABKHAZIA.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov on 6
January rejected the "constructive use of coercion" to resolve
the Abkhaz conflict. Tarasov argued that it would be
"dangerous" if options that have proved justifiable in one
conflict region would be systematically applied in  another.
The use of violence in Abkhazia would lead to new
bloodshed, he argued. Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze had said on 1 January that he plans to raise
the possibility of a Bosnian-style operation in Abkhazia at
the next NATO Euro-Atlantic Council summit, which is
scheduled for May. Meanwhile, Abkhaz Presidential
Representative Anri Djergenia told Interfax on 6 January
that the "potential of the Abkhaz-Georgian peace process has
been exhausted." Djergenia said Abkhazia will continue to
insist on equal status with Georgia. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER IN ISRAEL.
Azerbaijani government sources have given contradictory
explanations for the ongoing visit to Israel of Azerbaijani
presidential adviser Vafa Guluzade. Turan on 5 January cited
an unnamed diplomat as claiming that Guluzade is on a
"working visit" at the invitation of Israeli State Adviser for
Foreign Policy Uzi Arad. The diplomat stressed the trip is not
intended as preparation for President Heidar Aliev's planned
visit to Israel. However, Interfax the next day quoted an
unnamed Azerbaijani government source as saying the
primary purpose of Guluzade's trip is to prepare for Aliev' s
visit. LF

INDEPENDENT AZERBAIJANI NEWS AGENCY UNDER FIRE.
Reporters sans Frontieres on 6 January wrote to President
Aliev to express concern at Azerbaijani Foreign Minister
Hasan Hasanov's criticism of the independent news agency
Turan. Hasanov had claimed on 22 December that Turan's
coverage of Armenian Foreign Minister Alexander
Arzoumanian's speech to the 18-19 December Copenhagen
meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organization on
Security and Cooperation in Europe constituted "anti-
government activities." Hasanov subsequently accused Turan
of disseminating false information about the meeting. On 23
December, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Tofik
Zulfugarov threatened to bar Turan employees from
entering the ministry building. LF

NEW POLITICAL PARTY FOUNDED IN AZERBAIJAN. Equality,
a political party representing the estimated 780,000
Azerbaijanis forced to flee their homes during the war for
control of Nagorno-Karabakh, will hold its founding congress
in late January at a camp for displaced persons, Turan
reported on 5 January. The party currently claims some
4,000 members. It aims to protect the political and economic
rights of displaced persons and to fight worsening corruption
and the stratification of Azerbaijani society. LF

CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS RELEASE STATEMENT. In a
statement released on 6 January following the end of the
Ashgabat summit, the leaders of the five Central Asian
countries that belong to the Commonwealth of Independent
States said that the CIS is an "acceptable model for
cooperation at the transitional stage" but stressed that each
individual country must decide for itself what level of
participation best suits its needs. The five said they will
improve relations among themselves "based on long-term
partnership." Turkmenistan, citing its neutral status,
declined an invitation to join the Central Asian Union,
formed by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan; but
Tajikistan's bid to join found support among the member
countries and Turkmenistan did not rule out an observer
role later. The five presidents again said they favored
negotiations to end the Afghan conflict. Help was also
offered to Tajikistan to establish a "democratic, secular
regime." BP

FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT IN TAJIKISTAN. Burhanuddin
Rabbani has met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov
and Abdullo Nuri, the chairman of the National
Reconciliation Commission, in an attempt to enlist their
support in mediating the Afghan conflict, Reuters and ITAR-
TASS reported on 6 January. Rabbani proposed that an
international conference under the aegis of the UN  be held
and that all parties involved in the conflict send
representatives. He noted that all major groups in
Afghanistan support such a conference, except the Taliban
movement, which currently controls the majority of the
country. Rakhmonov and Nuri said they are in favor of such
a conference. BP

CHINA COMPLAINS ABOUT TREATMENT OF CHINESE IN
KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakh Television on 6 January broadcast a
statement by the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan
complaining about the treatment of Chinese citizens in
Kazakhstan, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The
embassy expressed concern  about the increasing number of
crimes committed against Chinese traders at markets in the
Kazakh capital. Those crimes include thefts and beatings. The
statement added that Kazakh border guards and militia have
on occasion taken part in such crimes. BP

REGIONAL AFFAIRS

CIS JANUARY SUMMIT CANCELED. The CIS summit scheduled
for 23 January has been canceled, Interfax reported on 6
January, citing a source within the CIS Executive Secretariat.
However, the next summit, planned to take place on 16
March, will go ahead as scheduled, according to the same
source. Interfax reports that Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma proposed postponing the January summit in a letter
to his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin. LF

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