When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 194, Part I, 13 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

* START-2 RATIFICATION AT LEAST SIX MONTHS AWAY

* RUSSIAN COMPANIES BUY MORE IRAQI OIL

* GEORGIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN DISCUSSES "BOSNIA
OPTION" FOR ABKHAZIA

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RUSSIA

START-2 RATIFICATION AT LEAST SIX MONTHS AWAY.
State Duma First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov announced
on 11 January that the Duma will not ratify the START-2 arms
control treaty during the next six months, ITAR-TASS reported.
Ryzhkov, a member of the Our Home Is Russia faction, said the
lower house of the parliament has not scheduled debate on
START-2 for its spring session, primarily because "there have
not been clear answers so far to the very many questions
members of parliament are asking." Defense Minister Igor
Sergeev and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov both support
ratification of START-2, but there is substantial opposition to
the treaty in the lower house. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev
recently accused U.S. President Bill Clinton of trying to
"pressure" the Duma on START-2 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19
December 1997). LB

DEFENSE BUDGET NOT FULFILLED IN 1997... According to
Defense Ministry experts, military spending in 1997 amounted
to just 55.6 percent of 1997 budget targets, ITAR-TASS
reported on 12 January. Funding in many areas fell below that
level. For instance, expenditures on medical services for
military personnel totaled just 41 percent of planned levels
and spending on clothing and equipment 23 percent. Similarly,
only 50 percent of funds budgeted to buy food for soldiers
were allocated. (It is not clear whether those figures refer to
original 1997 budget targets or planned spending after the
government enacted a "sequester," or spending cuts.) Military
experts say underfunding is to blame for the Defense Ministry's
debts to officers, since the armed forces have used money
earmarked for soldiers' wages and other payments to pay for
other necessities such as food. Other government officials have
blamed mismanagement by top generals for the debts. LB

...WHILE SPENDING TO REMAIN LOW IN 1998. Pending
the adoption of the 1998 budget, monthly federal spending this
year has been set at one-twelfth of total 1997 spending (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1997). Consequently, various
government agencies and ministries, including the Defense
Ministry, will receive less money in the first quarter of 1998
than the level foreseen by the draft 1998 budget. (First Deputy
Duma Speaker Ryzhkov has predicted that the budget will go
into effect in March at the earliest.) Furthermore, military
experts believe the planned 1998 Defense Ministry budget of
81.7 billion new rubles ($13.6 billion) would be insufficient
even if it were paid out in full. According to the 10 January
edition of "Segodnya," Defense Minister Igor Sergeev recently
sent a letter to the government warning that the 1998 defense
budget does not provide enough funding to meet the army's
basic needs or pay for planned military reforms. LB

RUSSIAN COMPANIES BUY MORE IRAQI OIL. Seven
Russian oil companies, including Alfa Eko,
Zarubezhneftegazstroy and Rosneft, signed contracts last week
with the Iraqi state oil company for further purchases of oil
under the UN-sanctioned oil-for-food program, Interfax
reported on 12 January.  The total volume of oil purchased is
approximately 28.84 million barrels. LUKoil, Sidanko, Onako,
and Tatneft are expected to sign similar agreements in the near
future. LF

DELAY IN ANNOUNCING NEW CHECHEN CABINET. ITAR-
TASS on 12 January reported that Chechen acting Prime
Minister Shamil Basaev has asked President Aslan Maskhadov
for another three days in which to complete drawing up his
new cabinet, but First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov
has said the line-up may be announced on 13 January. Also on
12 January, Russian Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov told
journalists in Moscow that regardless of Basaev's political
status in Chechnya, the criminal investigation into his role in
the Budennovsk hostage-taking in June 1995 will continue. LF

ABDULATIPOV ON CHECHNYA, DAGESTAN. Russian Deputy
Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov briefed journalists in
Moscow on 12 January on his talks with Chechen leaders in
Grozny two days earlier, Interfax reported. Abdulatipov said
cooperation with the new Chechen cabinet is essential but also
argued that President Yeltsin's planned visit to Chechnya
should be postponed until "concrete results" have been reached
in the ongoing Russian-Chechen talks. Russian presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 12 January also argued
that a visit by Yeltsin to Chechnya is "inexpedient" at present,
according to ITAR-TASS. Abdulatipov said the situation in his
native Dagestan is "extremely complicated" and claimed that
Dagestan's influence on the North Caucasus is greater than that
of Chechnya. LF

CAR BOMB DEFUSED IN MAKHACHKALA.  Police cordoned
off the center of the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala,  on the
evening of 12 December following the discovery of a car loaded
with 60 kilograms of explosives. The car had been parked close
to the government building. Police succeeded in defusing the
bomb, Russian media reported. LF

OFFICIAL SAYS REDENOMINATION HAS NOT INCREASED
MONEY SUPPLY. Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Arnold
Voilukov told journalists on 12 January that the
redenomination of the ruble has not led to an increase in the
total amount of Russian money in circulation, RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau reported on 12 January. Some commentators have
warned that the currency reform will spark inflation as old and
new banknotes circulate simultaneously. However, Voilukov
claimed that since the begining of the year, 5.8 billion new
rubles ($970,000) have gone into circulation, while old
banknotes worth 7.5 billion rubles  have been withdrawn. The
total money circulating in Russia as of 1 January was 137
billion rubles, Voikulov said. LB

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL VOWS TO COMPLETE HIGH-
PROFILE INVESTIGATIONS... Yurii Skuratov told journalists
on 12 January that his office will complete investigations into
several high-profile criminal cases, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. In particular, he cited the book scandal involving
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and several of his
associates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 17 November 1997).
Skuratov also mentioned the alleged embezzlement of more
than $180 million in state funds through a fraudulent contract
with the State Committee on Precious Metals (Roskomdragmet).
He said Russia has asked Greece to extradite Andrei Kozlenok, a
prime suspect in the case, who was recently arrested.
According to the 13 January edition of "Izvestiya," several
prominent political figures may be implicated in the
Roskomdragmet case, including former Finance Minister Boris
Fedorov, former top presidential adviser Viktor Ilyushin, and
former First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko. LB

...COMMENTS ON SOBCHAK, STANKEVICH CASES. At the
same 12 January press conference, Skuratov urged former St.
Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak to return to Russia, when
his health permits, to answer questions concerning corruption
allegations against his former associates, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported on 13 January. Sobchak sought medical treatment in
France in November and remains abroad. No criminal charges
have been filed against him. Skuratov also argued that the
refusal of Polish authorities to extradite former presidential
adviser Sergei Stankevich is "not based on the law," "Rossiiskie
vesti" reported on 13 January. He expressed the hope that
Warsaw will soon make the "correct decision" to allow
Stankevich to stand trial in Russia. Stankevich was arrested in
Poland in April on charges of taking a $10,000 bribe in Moscow
in 1992. LB

SELEZNEV WANTS FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTERS TO
GO. Duma Speaker Seleznev on 12 January called for the
cabinet's composition to be brought in line with the law on the
government, which does not foresee the post of first deputy
prime minister, Interfax reported. Yeltsin signed that law in
December. The government's two current first deputy prime
ministers, Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, have not held any other
cabinet portfolios since November, when Yeltsin took away the
Finance Ministry from Chubais and the Fuel and Energy
Ministry from Nemtsov. "Izvestiya" speculated on 6 January
that when the law on the government is implemented, Nemtsov
will agree to stay in the cabinet at the rank of deputy prime
minister, but Chubais will resign rather than be demoted.
Speculation is still rife in the Russian media that Yeltsin will
replace Chubais in the coming weeks. LB

MOSCOW TO IMPLEMENT MORTGAGE SYSTEM. The
Moscow city government and Harvard University have signed
an agreement on developing a system to allow Moscow
residents to acquire housing using mortgages, an RFE/RL
correspondent in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reported on 12
January. Mayor Yurii Luzhkov signed the deal on behalf of
Moscow at a Russian-U.S. investment symposium at Harvard's
Kennedy School of Government. Until now, Muscovites wishing
to buy new housing have been forced to pay in lump sums that
few can afford. Officials say the new system will give citizens
access to low-interest, long-term loans. Corporations including
Fannie Mae, the International Financial Corp., and Bank Boston
will help Harvard experts draft laws and regulations related to
the mortgage system within the next three months. LB

WATCHDOG SAYS MEDIA SUFFERED "RETREAT" IN 1997.
Aleksei Simonov, the president of the Glasnost Defense
Foundation, told ITAR-TASS on 12 January that 1997 was
marked by the "retreat of the Russian press" from hard-won
gains of recent years. He said new means of restraining the
press were found by authorities at various levels. For instance,
in the Russian regions, city and district newspapers are
returning to control by municipal governments, Simonov said.
He also warned that the Duma is drafting several laws that
would curtail media freedom. Also on 12 January, Oleg Panfilov
of the Glasnost Defense Foundation announced that 15 Russian
journalists were killed in 1997, up from 14 the previous year.
Panfilov said 21 Russian journalists were kidnapped in 1997,
according to dpa. LB

PRESIDENT TO CONSIDER ALL DEATH SENTENCES...
Yeltsin has signed amendments to the criminal-procedural code
giving the president the right to review all death sentences,
even if a prisoner on death row has not asked for a presidential
pardon, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 January. No execution may
be carried out without presidential approval. Abolishing capital
punishment is a condition of membership in the Council of
Europe, which Russia joined in February 1996. Yeltsin ordered
a moratorium on executions in August of that year, but Russian
courts continue to issue death sentences (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 15 October 1997). LB

...BUT RUSSIA NOT TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY.
Anatolii Pristavkin, who heads the presidential commission on
pardons, told ITAR-TASS on 11 January that Russia is obliged
to adopt a legislative ban on capital punishment by February
1998, two years after it joined the Council of Europe. However,
Duma First Deputy Speaker Ryzhkov announced the next day
that Russia will not meet that deadline, ITAR-TASS reported.
He noted that no bill on abolishing the death penalty has been
scheduled for consideration during the Duma's spring session.
The Duma rejected such a law in March 1997, and Ryzhkov
commented that it is "obvious that the Duma's mood [on capital
punishment] has not changed." At the same time, he
emphasized that the moratorium on executions in Russia will
remain in effect and expressed the hope that the Council of
Europe will "understand the situation." LB

COURT REJECTS REGIONS' APPEAL ON FOREST
RESOURCES. The Constitutional Court on 9 January upheld the
legality of the Federal Forestry Code, which outlines the
authority of the federal government and Russian regions in
managing timber resources, ITAR-TASS reported. The Republic
of Karelia and Khabarovsk Krai challenged the code on the
grounds that the 1992 Federation Treaty, signed by federal and
regional governments, stipulates that natural resources belong
to the people who live on the territory where those resources
are found. However, Article 72 of the 1993 Russian Constitution
says that both federal and regional governments have
jurisdiction over matters relating to the management and usage
of natural resources. The court found that the constitution
takes precedence over the 1992 treaty. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN DISCUSSES "BOSNIA
OPTION" FOR ABKHAZIA...  In his traditional weekly radio
address, Eduard Shevardnadze on 12 January again argued that
a "peace enforcement" operation in Abkhazia similar to that
carried out by the international community in Bosnia would not
violate UN statutes, Caucasus Press reported. He condemned the
Abkhaz leadership's policy as "a cynical challenge to the world
community" but added that "peace enforcement" should be
considered only if negotiations fail to produce a political
settlement. Shevardnadze also stressed that the "Bosnia option"
does not imply the division of Abkhazia into ethnic enclaves.
Before the mass exodus during the 1992-1993 fighting, ethnic
Georgians constituted a majority in the southern raions of
Abkhazia. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba warned on 8
January that any attempt at peace enforcement would
inevitably lead to renewed hostilities in Abkhazia and involve
a broader circle of participants, Interfax reported. LF

...ASSESSES RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA...  Shevardnadze
affirmed his commitment to resolving all outstanding problems
in bilateral relations with Russia by means of negotiations,
Interfax reported. But he conceded that "a lot of problems"
surfaced during the 5-8 January talks in Tbilisi  between
Russian and Georgian Defense Ministry officials, noting it will
probably take several years to resolve those problems. Colonel-
General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Russian delegation,
had rejected the Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko
Nadibaidze's demand that Russia pay  compensation for
military equipment and arms worth several billion dollars that
were removed from Georgia in 1992-1993.  The Russian and
Georgian officials agreed, however, to draw up regulations for
the transfer to Georgia of 10 sites belonging to the Russian
Defense Ministry, according to "Izvestiya" of 10 January. LF

...RULES OUT REPATRIATION OF MESKHETIANS.
Shevardnadze also affirmed during his 12 January radio
address that under present economic conditions, it is not
feasible to resume the repatriation to Georgia of the
Meskhetians deported en masse by Stalin to Central Asia in
1944, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze signed a
presidential decree in December 1996, giving the green light
for the return to Georgia of the Meskhetians (predominantly
ethnic Georgians who converted to Islam). Shevardnadze
added, however, that he considers it was "a mistake" to halt the
small-scale repatriation of the Meskhetians begun in the mid-
1980s (at which time Shevardnadze was first secretary of the
Georgian Communist Party). Thousands of Meskhetians fled
Uzbekistan during ethnic clashes in 1989. In October 1997,
Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalev charged that
Meskhetians are subject to blatant discrimination in Krasnodar
Krai. LF

GEORGIAN REFUGEE SPOKESMAN IN BOMB SCARE. Tamaz
Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament-in-exile
(which is composed of ethnic Georgian deputies in  the Abkhaz
parliament) told a news conference in Tbilisi on 12 January
that an attempt to kill him and his family had been thwarted
two days earlier, Caucasus Press reported.  The Georgian
National Security Ministry has denied, however, that any such
attempt took place. Nadareishvili claimed that unnamed
Russian political circles wanted to eliminate "the legitimate
Abkhaz authorities", because the latter had attempted to
prevent the transportation of valuable  property from
Abkhazia to Russia during the 1992-1993 war. Nadareishvili
ruled out any involvement in the alleged attempt to kill him by
a rival organization representing the interests of ethnic
Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia. Nadareishvili
further claimed that only a face-to-face meeting between
himself and Ardzinba could yield a solution to the Abkhaz
conflict. LF

AZERBAIJANI HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST CAUTIONED.
Eldar Zeinalov, the director of the Human Rights Center of
Azerbaijan, was summoned on 12 January by Prosecutor-
General Eldar Hasanov. Hasanov warned Zeynalov that an
article on political prisoners published in the opposition
newspaper "Azadlyg,"  to which Zeynalov had contributed
information, constituted a violation of the Azerbaijani media
law since  "there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan." LF

RASUL GULIEV DEFENSE COMMITTEES UNDER PRESSURE.
Regional branches of the committee created to defend former
Azerbaijani parliament speaker Rasul Guliev have complained
that the Azerbaijani authorities are trying to prevent the
collection of signatures in Guliev's support, Turan reported on
12 January.  Some 8,000 signatures have been collected to date.
Guliev was forced to resign as parliamentary speaker in
September 1996 and has lived abroad since then. Following the
Azerbaijani parliament's 16 December decision to strip him of
his deputy's mandate, Guliev announced he plans to return to
Baku to run in the 1998 presidential elections (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 17 and 18 December 1997). LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION UNHAPPY ABOUT DELAYS. A
spokesman for Said Abdullo Nuri, the leader of the United Tajik
Opposition (UTO), said on 12 January that the UTO is prepared
to quit the National Reconciliation Commission, RFE/RL
correspondents in Dushanbe reported. Nuri, who is also
chairman of the commission, claims the Tajik government has
waited too long to anounce which cabinet posts will be given to
the opposition under last June's peace agreement. Nuri said he
may appeal to the UN secretary-general. The opposition expects
a response from the government "in the next few days." BP

INDONESIAN FIRM WINS KAZAKH CONTRACT. Indonesia's
Central Asia Petroleum Ltd. has signed a contract with
Kazakhstan to explore and develop 15 hydrocarbon sites in the
Mangistausky region, Interfax reported on 12 January. Sagyn
Krymkulov, the president of the Indonesian-Kazakh joint
venture Mangistaumunaigaz, told journalists that  production
over 25 years is expected to total 106 million tons of oil and
10.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Investment over a 20-
year period will be at least $4.1 billion, with $2 billion being
invested in the first five years. The contract is valid for 31
years. BP

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