You always pass failure on the way to success. - Mickey Rooney
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 11, Part I, 19 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

* YELTSIN RAPS MINISTERS OVER WAGE ARREARS

* REPORTS CONTINUE TO STRESS YELTSIN'S GOOD
HEALTH

* KARABAKH OFFICIAL ADMITS POLICY DIFFERENCES
WITH YEREVAN

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN RAPS MINISTERS OVER WAGE ARREARS... On his
first day back in the Kremlin following a two-week vacation,
President Boris Yeltsin told top government ministers that
they "failed to meet [their] obligations last year," RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau reported on 19 January. During a meeting with
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and First Deputy Prime
Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, Yeltsin in
particular cited the failure to pay all wage arrears to state
employees. Chernomyrdin claimed that by paying an extra 3
trillion old rubles ($500 million) to regional governments in
December, the government met and even exceeded its
obligations on settling the wage debts, ITAR-TASS reported.
But Yeltsin replied "that is not so." Government spokesman Igor
Shabdurasulov announced on 16 January that wage debts have
still not been settled in several regions, including Volgograd
and Sverdlovsk Oblasts, Primorskii Krai, and the Altai
Republic. LB

...DEMANDS ACTION TO CURB SHADOW ECONOMY.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 16 January
announced that Yeltsin has given the government and Security
Council one month to submit a plan to reduce the shadow
economy, Russian news agencies reported. The instruction
came after a report by Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin
claimed the shadow economy now accounts for some 40
percent of Russia's GDP and represents a threat to the
country's economic security. LB

REPORTS CONTINUE TO STRESS YELTSIN'S GOOD HEALTH.
National television networks on 16 January showed Yeltsin
skiing at the Valdai resort. Novgorod Oblast Governor Mikhail
Prusak, who met with Yeltsin at Valdai on 16 January, told
ITAR-TASS the next day that the president appeared to be in
good health. Prusak added that "I don't believe an ill person
would be out skiing" or riding a snowmobile. Russian officials
continue to emphasize that Yeltsin, who returned to Moscow on
17 January, will have a busy schedule through the end of the
month. An official visit to Moscow by South African President
Nelson Mandela, scheduled for early February, has been
postponed, but the Russian Foreign Ministry said on 16 January
that Pretoria requested the delay, Interfax reported. LB

CHERNOMYRDIN ACKNOWLEDGES RECENT CHECKUP. In
televised remarks on 16 January, Chernomyrdin acknowledged
that he recently underwent a routine medical checkup, Reuters
reported. Government spokesmen had denied reports that
Chernomyrdin missed a 15 January cabinet meeting because he
went to the Barvikha sanitarium. LB

PRESIDENT APPROVED REDISTRIBUTION OF MINISTERIAL
DUTIES. Yeltsin's spokesman Yastrzhembskii announced on 16
January that Chernomyrdin informed Yeltsin about his planned
redistribution of duties among the deputy prime ministers, and
Yeltsin approved the changes, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. In his new assignment of duties within the cabinet,
Chernomyrdin took some key supervisory roles away from First
Deputy Prime Ministers Chubais and Nemtsov (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 January 1998). Citing an unnamed source in the
government apparatus, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17
January that Chernomyrdin originally planned to reduce the
first deputy prime ministers' powers even further. However,
following Nemtsov's meeting with Yeltsin in Valdai on 13-14
January, the president reportedly interceded with the prime
minister, and the final version of the document approved by
Chernomyrdin returned some responsibilities to Chubais and
Nemtsov. LB

BEREZOVSKII EMERGES AS 'REAL WINNER' FROM
CHANGES? Most commentaries have named Chernomyrdin and
Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak as the beneficiaries of
the new distribution of powers within the government. Bulgak
replaces Chubais as supervisor of media-related issues and
replaces former State Property Minister Maksim Boiko, a
Chubais ally, as head of the collegium of state representatives
at Russian Public Television (ORT). But in an interview with
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 16 January, political analyst
Andrei Piontkovskii argued that the "real winner" from the
shakeup is Boris Berezovskii, who will be able to maintain his
extensive influence over editorial policy at 51 percent state-
owned ORT. Chubais and Nemtsov pledged in recent months to
"strengthen state control" over ORT and had looked poised to do
so last November, when Berezovskii was fired from the
Security Council and Boiko appointed to chair the collegium of
state representatives at ORT. LB

KULIKOV ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR REVENUES. According to
the new distribution of duties in the government, Chubais and
Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Kulikov
will share responsibility for supervising revenue collection
from the State Customs Committee, the State Tax Service, the
Federal Tax Police, and the Federal Currency and  Export
Control Service. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is financed by
Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, predicted on 17 January that
Chubais and Kulikov are likely to become engaged in a
bureaucratic battle for control over those agencies. LB

DETAILS OF DUTIES ASSIGNED TO OTHER DEPUTY
PREMIERS. The 16 January announcement did not significantly
change the responsibilities of the cabinet's other deputy prime
ministers. Ramazan Abdulatipov will continue to supervise the
Nationalities Ministry and government policy toward the Far
North. Valerii Serov will remain coordinator of relations with
the CIS. Oleg Sysuev, who is also labor minister, will
supervise non-budgetary funds such as the Pension Fund, as
well as government relations with trade unions, political
movements, and religious organizations. Farit Gazizullin, who
is also state property minister, will oversee the Russian
Federal Property Fund. Yakov Urinson, who is also economics
minister, will supervise the State Land Committee. But
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau noted that oversight of that
committee's most crucial task--drafting land reform plans--
now belongs to Agriculture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister
Viktor Khlystun, a Chernomyrdin loyalist. LB

'RUSSKII TELEGRAF' CRITICIZES CHANGES. "Russkii
telegraf" on 17 January argued that Chernomyrdin reorganized
the government with a view toward upcoming Russian
elections. While other officials will be responsible for
bringing in budget revenues, Chernomyrdin will directly
supervise the Finance Ministry and, consequently, how
government funds are spent. The newspaper noted that the
purse strings are the "best means to influence the regions."
"Russkii telegraf" added that a government geared toward
elections is unlikely to implement key structural economic
reforms, partly because such policies would incur social costs
and partly because "natural monopolies" and financial groups
are key potential "business partners" during election
campaigns. The newspaper concluded that the redistribution of
duties in the cabinet could cause the government to waste its
"window of opportunity" for economic growth in 1998. "Russkii
telegraf" is fully owned by Oneksimbank, which is considered
close to Chubais. LB

RUSSIA, CHECHNYA HOLD MORE TALKS. Russian Security
Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and Chechen Deputy Prime
Ministers  Movladi Udugov and Ahmed Zakaev met on 17 January
at the residence of Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, outside
Nazran, Russian media reported. Both sides later characterized
the talks as "difficult." However, agreement was reached on
appointing an investigative team to determine the reasons for
Russia's failure fully to meet its commitment to fund
reconstruction of Chechnya's shattered infrastructure.
Aleksandr Shokhin, the leader of the NDR Duma faction and a
member of the Russian delegation to the talks, said the
Chechen side insisted that Russia recognize Chechnya's
independence before economic and other accords are
implemented, according to ITAR-TASS. The two sides also
agreed to intensify efforts to locate Russian prisoners of war
held in Chechnya and Chechen fighters listed as missing in
action. LF

INCUMBENT DEFEATED IN NORTH OSSETIAN
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Russian State Duma deputy
Aleksander Dzasokhov garnered an estimated 75.7 percent of
the vote in the 18 January North Ossetian presidential
elections, Russian media reported. Incumbent Akhsarbek
Galazov--who succeeded Dzasokhov as North Ossetian Obkom
first secretary in 1990, when the latter was elected a full
member of CPSU Central Committee secretariat and Politburo-
-polled only 9.1 percent. Voter turnout was estimated at 72
percent of the 429,000 electorate.  The unexpectedly low vote
for Galazov reflects popular dissatisfaction with the
disintegrating economy and with his failure to resolve the
deadlocked conflict over North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion,
RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladikavkaz reported on 19 January.
LF

ANOTHER FATAL COAL MINE EXPLOSION. At least four
miners were killed and five injured following a 18 January
explosion of methane gas in the Tsentralnaya coal mine in the
Vorkuta basin (Komi Republic), RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. The explosion caused an underground fire and the
collapse of a mine shaft. Efforts to rescue 23 miners trapped
underground continued overnight, but spokesmen on 19 January
expressed little hope of finding survivors, Reuters reported. A
government commission headed by Deputy Prime Minister
Urinson flew to Vorkuta on 18 January to investigate the
causes of the disaster. According to ITAR-TASS, 103 people
were killed in five separate disasters at Russian mines in
1997. A 2 December explosion at the Zyryanovskaya mine in
Kemerovo Oblast killed 67 miners in what was the worst such
incident last year. LB

DUMA COMMISSION STILL CHECKING PRIVATIZATION
AUCTIONS. The State Duma commission investigating four
major privatization sales last year has requested that the
deadline for completion of its work be extended until 1 March,
ITAR-TASS reported on 16 January . The commission was
created last September and originally scheduled to complete
its work by 1 November. The deputies are reviewing last May's
auction for a stake in Sibneft, the July auctions for stakes in
the Tyumen Oil Company and the telecommunications holding
company Svyazinvest, and the August sale of a stake in Norilsk
Nickel. The Audit Chamber investigated the same four auctions
and recommended in December that the Sibneft, Norilsk Nickel,
and Syazinvest sales be annulled. The chamber also concluded
that the stake in the Tyumen Oil Company had been undervalued
but did not recommend that the sale be declared void. LB

RUSSIA TO SHUT DOWN MOST 'BABYFLOTS.' Ivan Valov, the
first deputy head of the Federal Aviation Service, announced on
16 January that the number of registered Russian airlines will
fall from 315 to no more than 53 over the next three years,
Reuters reported. Valov said the Federal Aviation Service will
enact tougher safety and financial standards for airlines,
revoking the certification of those companies that fail to pass
the new tests. When the process is completed, eight airlines
will have federal status and 40-45 will be regional carriers. In
1992, the airline Aeroflot, which had a monopoly during the
Soviet period, split up, and some 500 Russian airlines were
created. According to Valov, more than 100 of those companies
went bankrupt in 1996, and another 65 went out of business
the following year. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

KARABAKH OFFICIAL ADMITS POLICY DIFFERENCES WITH
YEREVAN.  Differences between Yerevan and Stepanakert on
how to resolve the Karabakh conflict have deepened following
the 7-8 January session of the Armenian Security Council,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 16 January, quoting an
unnamed Nagorno-Karabakh official. The official criticized
Yerevan for allegedly "joining with the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe and Azerbaijan" in trying to
push through the OSCE's latest peace plan, which he said is
"unrealistic" and endangers Karabakh's security. He added that
Stepanakert will take "more drastic steps to strengthen its
independence," but he gave no details. Also on 16 January, the
Security Council of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic convened in Stepanakert to discuss how to overcome
its differences with Yerevan over the best approach to
resolving the conflict, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

ARMENIAN STRESSES ONLY OSCE CAN RESOLVE
KARABAKH CONFLICT. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Arsen Gasparian on 15 January told Armenpress that Armenia
would welcome efforts by various countries, including Iran, to
promote confidence building measures among the parties to the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But Gasparian pointed out that the
sole forum empowered to mediate a formal solution to that
conflict is the OSCE. Iran is not a member of that organization.
IRNA had cited Armenian Foreign Minister Alexander
Arzouamian as having told the Iranian ambassador in Yerevan
on 5 January that Armenia and Azerbaijan would welcome
Iranian mediation in the conflict. LF

ARMENIA'S KURDISH POPULATION DWINDLING.  Almost
half of Armenia's 60,000 Yezidi Kurdish community has
emigrated in recent years, primarily because of adverse socio-
economic conditions, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 January,
quoting Aziz Tamoyan, the chairman of the Yezidi National
Union of Armenia. The Yezidi National Union of Armenia was
formally registered by the Armenian Justice Ministry in
November 1997.  Kurds in Armenia have newspaper and radio
broadcasts in their native language.  The Yezidis are
Zoroastrians, whereas most Kurds are Muslims.  LF

GEORGIA ACCUSES RUSSIA OF OBSTRUCTING ABKHAZ
SETTLEMENT. Presidential adviser Levan Aleksidze  told
Interfax on 16 January that the Russian Foreign Ministry is
obstructing implementation of Russian President Boris
Yeltsin's August 1997 proposals for resolving the Abkhaz
conflict. Aleksidze said that "intentionally or unintentionally,"
the Russian Foreign Ministry's actions are encouraging Abkhaz
separatist forces and thus undermining Georgia's stability. On
17 January, Georgian Ambassador to Moscow Vazha
Lortkipanidze told ITAR-TASS that Georgia is "extremely
dissatisfied" with the lack of progress toward resolving the
conflict and expediting the repatriation of ethnic Georgian
displaced persons. He repeated President Eduard
Shevardnadze's proposal that the international community
launch a "Bosnia-type" operation to enforce peace in Abkhazia.
LF

ABKHAZIA REJECTS "BOSNIA OPTION." Meanwhile, Abkhaz
presidential adviser Anri Djergenia told "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
on 17 January that international intervention to enforce peace
in Abkhazia  is inappropriate, given that the situation in
Abkhazia does not pose a threat to the international
community.  He argued that the UN statutes permit such an
operation only in the case of aggression by one conflict party.
Djergenia further denied Georgian charges that Abkhazia is
obstructing the repatriation of Georgian fugitives. He claimed
that some 100,000 Georgians have so far returned to Abkhazia,
of whom half have settled in their former homes in Gali Raion.
LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT SEES CUSTOMS UNION AS NUCLEUS
OF EURASIAN UNION.  Nursultan Nazarbaev told military
cadets on 16 January that, in a telephone conversation the
previous day, he and  Russian President Yeltsin agreed that the
only item on the agenda of the 22 January CIS Customs Union
meeting will be the upgrading of that body to a full-fledged
economic union comparable to the EU, Interfax reported.
Nazarbaev said he is counting on the other three members of
the CIS Customs Union to back his proposal, for a Eurasian
union of CIS states. He first made that proposal in March 1994.
LF

TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION EXCHANGE SWIPES.
Following the 15 January decision by the United Tajik
Opposition to suspend its participation in the National
Reconciliation Commission, the UTO and Tajik government have
accused each other of violating the 1997 peace agreement. The
UTO has claimed,  among other things, that the government had
not yet amnestied all eligible UTO members and has failed to
approve cabinet posts for UTO representatives, especially UTO
deputy leader Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, who remains in Tehran.
The government counters that the UTO continues to recruit new
members and that former fighters of the UTO have hidden
weapons rather than handing them over.  Nonetheless, both
sides have said all problems will be resolved shortly and that
the work of the commission will resume. BP

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN TASHKENT. Ukrainian
Prime Minister Valerii Pustovoitenko was in the Uzbek capital
on 16 January to attend the second meeting of the Ukrainian-
Uzbek cooperation commission, Tashkent Radio reported.  The
commission signed five agreements on cooperation in science
and technology and improving communications between the two
governments. Pustovoitenko also met with Uzbek Prime
Minister Utkur Sultanov and reached a "preliminary agreement"
on Uzbek shipments of up to 6 billion cubic meters of gas to
Ukraine this year. They also discussed joint projects in
passenger and cargo airplane construction and Ukrainian
assistance in building new rail tracks in Uzbekistan. BP

TURKMENISTAN RECEIVES SEAT ON UN SECRETARIAT. UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent Turkmen President
Saparmurat Niyazov a letter on 17 January confirming
Turkmenistan's seat in the UN Secretariat, ITAR-TASS
reported. BP

TURKMENISTAN READY TO BUY FRENCH OIL EQUIPMENT.
The state-owned Turkmengeologiya corporation has made
public its intention to purchase more than $9 million worth of
equipment from the French company Sercel, ITAR-TASS
reported on 18 January. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov
ordered the Bank of Foreign Economics Activities to complete
the necessary paper work to buy the equipment, which is
expected to "increase the effectiveness of oil and gas
prospecting and production" in Turkmenistan. BP

FIRST KAZAKH OIL ARRIVES IN CHINA. A train carrying the
first shipment of oil from Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field to
China arrived in western China's Uyghur Autonomous Republic
on 17 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The 3,500 tons will be
refined in western China. If Chinese experts approve the
quality of the refined oil, Kazakhstan will ship up to 1 million
metric tons of oil to China this year by rail. BP

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