A disagreement may be the shortest cut between two minds. - Kahlil Gibran
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part I

* IMF TO RELEASE LOAN TRANCHE TO RUSSIA

* CHECHNYA REINFORCES BORDERS

* ABKHAZIA DENIES TAKING GEORGIANS HOSTAGE

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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

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