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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 192, Part I, 9 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * IMF TO RELEASE LOAN TRANCHE TO RUSSIA * CHECHNYA REINFORCES BORDERS * ABKHAZIA DENIES TAKING GEORGIANS HOSTAGE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA IMF TO RELEASE LOAN TRANCHE TO RUSSIA. A spokesman for the International Monetary Fund said on 8 January that the fund will release a $665 million loan installment to Russia. This latest tranche has been delayed since October because of IMF concerns about Moscow's ability to collect taxes. PG NEW BANKRUPTCY CHIEF APPOINTED. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 7 January appointed Georgii Tal as chief of the country's bankruptcy service, Interfax reported. Tal was the acting chief of that service since taking over for Pyotr Mostovoi, one of the officials fired in November 1997 for his role in a book royalty scandal. On 8 January, the government published an ordinance setting up a specialized tax inspectorate to deal with the largest taxpayers. And President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree that will allow the tax service to maintain a lien on accounts for past taxes due if the taxpayer does not have enough money to make payments on time. PG CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS CONDITIONS IN PLACE FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH... Prime Minister Chernomyrdin told the cabinet on 8 January that last year's developments have laid the foundation for economic growth in 1998, Interfax reported. He said Russia's GDP grew 1.2 percent in 1997 and would grow more in the year ahead. He noted that the country was beginning this year "without wage arrears." And he suggested that improving tax collection was the government's main task for 1998. PG ...URGES GREATER SPENDING ON SCIENCE... Prime Minister Chernomyrdin also told the government that Moscow must increase its funding of science to more than 4 percent of the budget, Interfax reported. His proposal came even though Deputy Premier Vladimir Bulgak said the brain drain from the country has eased, with only 15,200 scientists having permanently settled abroad. PG ...CONDEMNS BUINAKSK RAID. Also on 8 January, Chernomyrdin called on Russian power agencies to do all in their power to prevent further raids on Russian military facilities. He said that the perpetrators of the 22 December attack on the military base in Dagestan should be punished. But Chernomyrdin rejected as "intolerable" and "wishful thinking" the 6 January proposal by Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov that Russian forces should launch preemptive strikes against Chechen bases. LF INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS KULIKOV MISUNDERSTOOD. "Izvestiya" on 9 January quoted a Russian Interior Ministry spokesman as claiming that Kulikov's 6 January statement advocating preemptive strikes against Chechen guerrilla bases was "taken out of context." The spokesman said Kulikov's remark was made during an address to the widows and orphans of Interior Ministry staff killed on active service. LF CHECHNYA REINFORCES BORDERS. Following a conference with field commanders on 8 January, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov deployed some 4,000 customs and border officials along Chechnya's borders with Dagestan and Stavropol Krai in response to a buildup of Russian troops, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister told Interfax on 9 January. But Dagestani Security Council Secretary Magomed Tolboev denied that any such buildup of Russian troops in Dagestan has taken place. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakaev told Interfax that Kulikov's threat is evidence that the Russian government is both unwilling and unable to implement the peace agreement signed in May1997 by Maskhadov and Russian President Yeltsin. LF FOREIGN MINISTRY, FSB DISAGREE ON BLISS CASE. Valerii Nesterushkin, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on 8 January that "there is no strict necessity" for a U.S. citizen charged with spying to return to Russia anytime soon, but he added that the case of Richard Bliss has not been closed, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Interfax reported that the Russia's Federal Security Service is "bewildered" by reports that Bliss might extend his stay in the U.S. PG MOSCOW SAYS ROSS MISSION IN MIDDLE EAST UNPRODUCTIVE. Foreign Ministry spokesman Nesterushkin told Interfax on 8 January that the recent spate of visits to the Middle East by U.S. special envoy Dennis Ross has not brought any tangible results. Nesterushkin suggested that progress in those talks could be made only by the immediate participants in the conflict. PG THIRD RUSSIAN SUBMARINE FOR CHINA EN ROUTE. The third of four "Varshavyanka" submarines purchased by China from Russia is nearing its new home port of Xiangshan, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January. The news agency described the diesel-powered submarine as superior to comparable U.S. vessels and as having a very low level of sound emission, making it difficult to locate. Taiwan military authorities said on 6 January they monitored the submarine's passage through the Taiwan Straits. BP LUZHKOV DENIES HE WAS OFFERED PREMIERSHIP. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told ITAR-TASS on 8 January that there is no truth to rumors that he has been offered the post of prime minister. Luzhkov added that he still has work to complete in Moscow, thereby implying that he would have declined such an offer. LF EVEN LENIN'S EMBALMERS NEED SECOND JOBS. Many workers in the former laboratory taking care of the body of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, now housed in the Mausoleum on Red Square, have been forced to take second jobs to make ends meet, Interfax reported on 8 January. Many are now earning additional cash embalming the bodies of "new Russians" killed by violence or in accidents. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ABKHAZIA DENIES TAKING GEORGIANS HOSTAGE. Abkhaz Deputy Interior Minister Konstantin Adleiba on 8 January said that reports of some 30 ethnic Georgians having been taken hostage in Abkhazia's Gali Raion the previous day are an "invention by Georgian journalists." Adleiba said that 30 Georgian bus passengers were detained by Abkhaz police conducting a routine passport check and that nine men who did not have adequate identification were taken into custody. He said the men would be released on 8 January after paying a fine, but it is unclear whether they have been freed. Also on 8 January, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba criticized his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, for a statement in his New Year's address. Ardzinba said Shevardnadze's espousal of a Bosnian-style operation to impose peace in Abkhazia "is an attempt to erode the negotiating process," Interfax reported. LF ARMENIAN SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES KARABAKH. The Armenian Security Council convened on 7-8 January to discuss the ongoing Karabakh peace process, Armen Press reported. President Levon Ter-Petrossyan chaired the meeting, which was also attended by the president, parliamentary speaker, prime minister, and defense minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST ARRESTED. The Committee to Protect Journalists on 8 January wrote to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev expressing concern at the arrest on 22 December of Savalan Mamedov, the editor of the weekly newspaper "Istintag." Mamedov has been charged with libel for allegedly making "false and dishonoring comments" about a former local prosecutor, Nazim Tagiev. Mamedov had claimed that Tagiev had cooperated with Alikram Gumbatov, who was sentenced to death in February 1996 on charges of treason and attempting to stage a coup d'etat. LF LAWYERS IN AZERBAIJANI POLITICAL TRIAL THREATENED. Two lawyers representing Rasim Agaev, former press secretary to ex-President Ayaz Mutalibov, told journalists in Baku on 8 January that they have been charged by the Ministry of National Security with violating the confidentiality of the investigation into their client's case. The two lawyers denied the charge, which is based on an article by Social Democratic Party leader Zardusht Ali- Zade published in the opposition newspaper "Istiqlal." The lawyers claimed that a Security Ministry official had threatened them with imprisonment in the hope of pressuring them to abandon their defense of Agaev, who was arrested in November 1996 on charges of treason. LF IRANIAN OFFICIAL ISSUES WARNING ON CASPIAN. Deputy Oil Minister Ali Majidi on 8 January cautioned against the construction of under-water Caspian oil and gas pipelines before a new agreement is reached among the five littoral states on the status of the Caspian, according to IRNA, as monitored by the BBC. Majidi predicted that it will take a "long time" to reach such an agreement. LF STAND OFF CONTINUES IN TAJIKISTAN. The situation remains tense on the outskirts of Dushanbe as an unregistered opposition force loyal to Rahmon "Hitler" Sanginov continues to demand that the police release three of their members who were detained on 7 January, RFE/RL correspondents reported from the Tajik capital. Sanginov's group has established a checkpoint on the road outside eastern Dushanbe, and the government has moved armored vehicles into the area. The government and the United Tajik Opposition, with which Sanginov's group is not affiliated, are attempting to resolve the conflict peacefully. BP RUSSIAN-TAJIK TRADE GROWS IN 1997. Trade between Russia and Tajikistan more than doubled in 1997, compared with the previous year, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. Last year's figure was put at $324.5 million, compared with $153.4 million in 1996. Tajikistan exports to Russia were mainly agricultural produce but also cotton, tobacco, and aluminum. Russian exports to the Central Asian state include mineral fertilizers and energy supplies. BP KAZAKH PARTIES TO COOPERATE TO PROMOTE REFORM. Seventeen parties and movements in favor of reform have signed a memorandum on cooperation with the government, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. That move is seen as a response to opposition groups that do not support Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his reforms. Among the 17 groups are Democratic and People's Cooperative Parties, the Russian Community, the Federation Union Council, and the Muslim Women's Union. The opposition movement AZAT criticized the memorandum as containing leftist slogans and commented that the signatory parties and movements are in any case known to be loyal to Nazarbayev, according to RFE/RL correspondents. BP KAZAKHS RESPOND TO CHINESE COMPLAINTS. Kazakh border guard officials said recent complaints by the Chinese Embassy in Almaty that Chinese citizens are targeted by criminals and are even victims of illegal actions by the militia and border guards are "groundless" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1997), RFE/RL correspondents reported. The Border Guard Service referred to one instance, cited by the Chinese Embassy, in which a Chinese citizen on the Almaty-Urumqi train was allegedly attacked by a Kazakh border guard. According to the service, the border guard was attacked by Chinese conductors aboard the train. BP TURKMENISTAN RECEIVES CREDIT RATING. The London-based rating agency "Fitch Ibca" has given Turkmenistan a B credit rating for long- and short-term hard-currency loans, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 January. The rating was based on Turkmenistan's hard-currency reserves of $1 billion and the $1.5 billion owed to the country by CIS states, mainly Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia. The rating is sufficient for further loans to Turkmenistan from international organizations to develop the nation's industries, notably the development and export of natural gas deposits. BP FORMER KYRGYZ SECURITY MINISTER DIES. Anarbek Bakayev, who held the security portfolio from 1991 to 1996, died on 8 January after failing to regain consciousness following an October 1996 automobile crash. Bakayev was appointed security minister immediately after the August 1991 attempted coup in Moscow. He was 48 years old. BP REGIONAL AFFAIRS UKRAINE PROHIBITS RUSSIAN FLIGHT TO TRANSDNIESTER. The Ukrainian authorities prohibited on 8 January a military transport plane to overfly Ukrainian territory between the Russian Federation and Tiraspol because Moscow has not paid for the use of the air corridor, the Russian command in Moldova's Transdniester region told ITAR-TASS on 8 January. Russian military flights have been using this route on a daily basis for some time, but the Russian authorities have indicated they would use regular commercial flights in the future. PG xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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