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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 14, Part I, 22 January 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 14, Part I, 22 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

* SEROV SAYS YELTSIN "SERIOUSLY CONCERNED" ABOUT
CIS
* CABINET MINISTERS DIFFER ON ECONOMIC GROWTH
PROSPECTS
*ARMENIAN RULING PARTY AFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR
PRESIDENT

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REGIONAL AFFAIRS

SEROV SAYS YELTSIN 'SERIOUSLY CONCERNED' ABOUT
CIS... Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov told journalists on 21
January that President Boris Yeltsin is seriously concerned by the state of
the
CIS, ITAR-TASS reported. But Serov added that the Russian government has
recently adopted a more "workmanlike" approach to CIS problems. Presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin may propose
new initiatives for strengthening CIS ties at a meeting on 22 January with the
presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, which are Russia's
partners within the CIS Customs Union. Kazakh President Nursultan
Nazarbaev told Interfax on 21 January that the  presidents will discuss
creation
of a common economic space, which he said all four support. LF

...BUT ADAMISHIN MORE UPBEAT. Appearing on NTV on 21
January, Russian Minister for CIS Relations Anatolii Adamishin argued that the
time has come to determine whether the CIS should be a "consultative organ" or
a forum for economic integration. He suggested that the center of gravity is
increasingly shifting to the economic sphere, saying he believed agreement
will
be reached on the creation of a free trade zone. Adamishin conceded that the
problems that have accumulated in inter-CIS relations do not mean that "the
CIS
is in need of rescuing." He expressed the hope that the March summit of CIS
heads of state will yield agreement on a document outlining political
relations
within the CIS. LF

PRIMAKOV UPBEAT ON RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE.
Following a meeting in Moscow with his Ukrainian counterpart, Gennadiy
Udovenko, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said Moscow and
Kyiv have no problems "that would divide us or place us on different sides
of a
barricade," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Udovenko came to Moscow to
prepare the ground for an informal meeting between Yeltsin and Ukrainian
President Leonid Kuchma on 30-31 January. The two presidents are scheduled
to have an official summit next month. Primakov dismissed speculation that the
impromptu informal meeting was arranged because of problems related to
February's official meeting. In addition, he predicted that the Russian State
Duma will ratify the friendship treaty signed with Ukraine last May. Duma
Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has also said the Duma will approve that treaty
when it comes up for debate in early February. LB

BALTIC PRESIDENTS CRITICIZE RUSSIAN STANCE ON 1940
ANNEXATION. The presidents of the three Baltic States have criticized an
official letter reportedly sent by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr
Avdeev to the State Duma denying that  the USSR forcefully annexed the Baltic
States in 1940 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 1998), according to
Interfax on 21 January. Reports of the letter appeared recently in the Baltic
media . Estonia's Lennart Meri is quoted as saying that Avdeev's letter shows
"there are several people at the Russian Foreign Ministry who want to use the
rhetoric of the past." According to BNS, Lithuania's Algirdas Brazauskas
stressed that the "entire world" has acknowledged  Lithuania was occupied from
1940 to 1990. Interfax reports that the Russian Foreign Ministry disagrees
that
the 1940 events can be viewed as occupation or annexation. It also declined to
comment on whether the letter exists, saying "such information is
confidential."
JC

VILNIUS ARGUES RUSSIA HAS ACKNOWLEDGED
ANNEXATION. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry maintains that
Russia has already officially acknowledged that the Soviet Union annexed
Lithuania in 1940, BNS reported on 21 January,  "The treaty between Lithuania
and Russia, signed on 29 July 1991, states that the USSR will establish
additional conditions for mutual trust between Lithuania and Russia after
eliminating the consequences of the annexation of Lithuania in 1940," the
ministry said in a statement. This, the ministry argued, indicates that the
signatory countries acknowledged that Lithuania was annexed by the USSR. JC

RUSSIA

CABINET MINISTERS DIFFER ON ECONOMIC GROWTH
PROSPECTS. Speaking on Ekho Moskvy on 21 January, First Deputy
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov predicted that Russia will achieve 4-5 percent
economic growth this year. He added that growth is "as inevitable as the
sunrise" but that the pace of growth will depend on how well the government,
State Duma, and president coordinate their actions, ITAR-TASS reported. The
same day, minister without portfolio Yevgenii Yasin told journalists that
Russia
is likely to register 2 percent growth in 1998, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. In an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 January,
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said the main threat to Russian
economic growth this year is another potential crisis on Asian financial
markets.
Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov recently cited domestic factors in
explaining
why he is not optimistic that Russia will achieve economic growth this year
(see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1998). LB

DUMA ASKS COURT TO CLARIFY GROUNDS FOR ENDING
PRESIDENT'S TERM. The Duma on 21 January asked the Constitutional
Court to clarify Article 92 of the constitution, Interfax reported. Part 2
of that
article says the president's term ends early if he resigns, is impeached,
or shows
"persistent incapacity to carry out his duties for health reasons." New
presidential elections must then be held within three months. Part 3 of
Article 92
says the prime minister will execute the president's duties "in all cases
when"
the president is unable to fulfill those duties. The Duma wants to know
whether
this provision refers only to the cases mentioned in part 2 or whether it
foresees
other circumstances under which the prime minister can become acting
president. The Duma also wants the Court to clarify whether the president may
resume his term after the prime minister has served as acting head of state. LB

HEARINGS ON TROPHY ART CASE DELAYED. On 22 January,
the Constitutional Court was to have considered the appeal by the Duma and
Federation Council against Yeltsin's refusal to sign the trophy art law
after both
houses of the parliament overrode his veto. However, those hearings have been
postponed indefinitely because the judge who was preparing the case for
consideration has fallen ill, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 January.
Article 107 of the constitution says the president is to sign a laws within
seven
days if both houses of the parliament override his veto. LB

DUMA FAILS TO OVERRIDE VETO ON BANKING LAW... The
Duma on 21 January failed to override a presidential veto on amendments to the
law on banks and banking activities, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Those
amendments would have given regional branches of the Audit Chamber access
to information on bank accounts of entrepreneurs whose companies receive
money from regional budgets. It is widely believed that many companies misuse
funds they receive from federal or regional governments. LB

...ASKS YELTSIN TO HELP PENSIONERS. Also on 21 January, the
Duma adopted an appeal asking Yeltsin "to defend the older generation" in
light
of the upcoming revision of pensions, ITAR-TASS reported. As of 1 February,
individual pensions will be recalculated, and the average monthly wage for the
fourth quarter of 1997 will be used as a base for the new calculations.
Earlier
this month, the government issued a directive approving the Labor Ministry's
estimate of that average at 760,000 old rubles ($127). However, the Duma's
appeal cites data from the State Statistics Committee, which indicate that the
average monthly wage from January to November 1997 was 945,000 rubles,
while the average wage for December exceeded 1.2 million rubles. Government
spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov commented that the wage estimate approved by
the government was based on contributions to the Pension Fund.  LB

YELTSIN ORDERS EQUAL TERMS FOR 'ALL-RUSSIAN'
BROADCASTERS. Yeltsin has signed a decree ordering the government to
provide equal conditions for "all-Russian television and radio broadcasting
organizations," defined as media outlets that broadcast in more than half
of the
Russian regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 January. The decree names fully
state-owned Russian Television, 51 percent state-owned Russian Public
Television (ORT), the private network NTV, and the state-owned Radio Mayak
as "all-Russian television and radio broadcasting organizations." It also
orders
the government to charge such organizations equal rates for transmission
services. LB

DECREE IS VICTORY FOR NTV. Yeltsin's latest decree is a victory for
the private network NTV, which will continue paying government rates for the
use of state-owned transmission facilities, rather than the much higher
commercial rates charged to other private broadcasters. The State Anti-
Monopoly Committee recently ordered that NTV be forced to pay commercial
rates, and NTV appealed that decision to the Moscow Arbitration Court (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 29 December 1997). NTV gained the right to pay
government rates for transmissions under a January 1996 agreement with the
Communications Ministry. In subsequent months, the network strongly
supported Yeltsin's re-election bid. NTV is 70 percent owned by Vladimir
Gusinskii's Media-Most company and 30 percent owned by Gazprom. In recent
months, the network's news coverage has been favorable to Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin and highly critical of First Deputy Prime Ministers
Chubais and Nemtsov. LB

UNPAID TEACHERS STAGE ONE-DAY STRIKE. Schools were
closed in 78 Russian regions on 20 January as teachers staged a one-day strike
to protest continuing wage arrears, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported.
Teachers were supposed to have received all back wages by the end of 1997,
but many are still owed several months' salaries. In addition, funds for
textbooks and child allowances have not been paid out in many Russian
regions. The situation is reported to be particularly bad in Krasnoyarsk
Krai and
in Sakhalin, Chita, Kamchatka, Orenburg, Perm, Vladimir, Voronezh, and
Ulyanovsk Oblasts. LB

NEWSPAPER SAYS GOVERNMENT FAILED TO PAY DEBTS.
"Trud" charged on 21 January that according to State Statistics Committee
data,
"there was not a single region where debts to state employees were paid in
full
by the beginning of this year." The newspaper said debts to teachers totaled
1.382 billion new rubles ($230 million) as of 1 January. Workers in the health
care sector were owed 574 million rubles, while debts to workers in science
and
culture totaled 530 million and 132 million, respectively. LB

ANOTHER MAJOR OIL MERGER IMMINENT? Ekho Moskvy
reported on 21 January that LUKoil and Sidanko may soon announce plans to
merge. Spokesmen for LUKoil and for Oneksimbank, which owns a
controlling stake in Sidanko, neither confirmed nor denied the report.
LUKoil is
the largest Russian oil company and ranks 224th on the Financial Times 500
list
of corporations in terms of market capitalization, the "Financial Times"
reported
on 22 January. However, if the merger of the Yukos and Sibneft oil companies
is approved, the new corporation Yuksi will surpass LUKoil in terms of oil
production. In November, British Petroleum agreed to purchase 10 percent of
Sidanko in preparation for a joint bid in the upcoming auction for Rosneft.
The
same month, LUKoil signed a memorandum of understanding with Gazprom
and Royal-Dutch Shell on drawing up a joint proposal on participating in the
Rosneft tender (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1997). LB

ROKHLIN ALLEGES 'PLOT' TO REMOVE HIM. Duma Defense
Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin alleged during an interview with ORT on 21
January that the president, government, and Communist faction in the Duma
have plotted to remove him from the Defense Committee. Presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii and government spokesman Igor
Shabdurasulov on 21 January denied that any such plot exists, Russian news
agencies reported. Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the Our Home Is Russia
faction in the Duma, recently announced that the heads of several Duma
factions
have agreed to replace Rokhlin when a January 1996 agreement on senior posts
in the Duma is reviewed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1998).
Meanwhile, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a
Communist, announced on 21 January that if Communist leader Gennadii
Zyuganov has agreed to allow Rokhlin to be replaced, "that does not mean that
our whole faction agrees." LB


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN RULING PARTY AFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR
PRESIDENT. In a one-page statement issued after its 21 January session, the
Board of the Armenian Pan-National Movement--the senior member of the
ruling Hanrapetutyun coalition--affirmed its support for President Levon Ter-
Petrossyan's efforts to preserve constitutional order and guarantee the
security
and independence of the state. The board called on the Armenian authorities
and
on political forces in both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh to avoid
jeopardizing the continuation of talks under the aegis of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe on resolving the Karabakh crisis. It also
requested they refrain from "representing differences that can be resolved
as a
standoff between two factions of the Armenian people" and from inappropriate
and insulting behavior during political debate.  They called for "resolute
measures" to prevent further terrorist attacks. LF

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT NOT TO  RESPOND TO CHARGES
OF INDIFFERENCE.  An Armenian government spokeswoman on 21
January told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that the government will not issue an
official statement in response to accusations  made earlier that day by
leading
members of the Armenian Pan-National Movement. Board members had
accused the government of Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan of "indifference"
in the wake of the recent attacks on the head of the presidential security
service,
the head of the internal troops, and the head of Yerevan's  Avan district. The
spokeswoman said it is "questionable" whether there is a connection between
the three attacks. LF

CORRECTION:  "RFE/RL Newsline" on 21 January misquoted members of
the Armenian Pan-National Movement as telling RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that
they plan to call on President Levon Ter-Petrossyan to fire Interior and
National
Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian and possibly the entire government. This
report was based on a editorial error by RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau.

STROEV VISITS TBILISI. On the first leg of a tour of the Transcaucasus
States, Russian Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev met in Tbilisi on 21
January with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, ITAR-TASS and
Caucasus Press reported. Stroev and Shevardnadze affirmed their shared
commitment to resolving problems in bilateral relations, particularly the
refusal
by Russian border guards to allow trucks carrying alcohol to cross the
frontier
from Georgia to Russia. Shevardnadze expressed his appreciation for Russia's
role in seeking to mediate a settlement of the South Ossetian and Abkhaz
conflicts. LF

GEORGIA WILL NOT FORMALLY RECOGNIZE CHECHNYA.
Georgian First Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Ukleba told Interfax on 21
January that Tbilisi will coordinate its Chechen policy with Moscow. Acting
Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov, speaking to the Georgian press on
18 January, said bilateral ties should be "invigorated" and that he would
attempt
to establish "official contacts" with the Georgian Foreign Ministry.  In
his New
Year's address, Georgian President Shevardnadze affirmed that while Georgian
relations with Chechnya must be normal and neighborly, they are nonetheless
based on the principle of the territorial integrity of the Russian
Federation. LF

GEORGIA, ARMENIA DISCUSS REGIONAL COOPERATION.
Meeting in Tbilisi on 21 January, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli
Menagharishvili and Armenian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian
discussed bilateral and regional cooperation. Their talks focused on the
TRACECA project to create a transport corridor from Central Asia via the
Caucasus to Europe and on possible joint projects within the framework of
NATO's Partnership for Peace program, Oskanian informed "RFE/RL
Newsline" on 22 January. They also evaluated the potential for coordinating
the
two countries' policies on integration into European structures and agreed to
intensify engagement in southeast European regional initiatives. LF

GEORGIA WANTS MILITARY COOPERATION WITH CHINA,
NATO. Georgian and Chinese military experts are drafting a series of
agreements on military and military-technical cooperation between the two
countries, Caucasus Press reported on 20 January. That announcement follows
a meeting between Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze and Chinese
Ambassador to Georgia Zhang Yongquan. Nadibaidze has also  suggested to
German Ambassador to Georgia Norbert Bass that Georgia host the maneuvers
scheduled for later this year under NATO's Partnership for Peace program. LF

MKHEDRIONI TRIAL CONTINUES. Giving evidence at the trial of 15
members of the now banned paramilitary organization Mkhedrioni, former
Deputy Interior Minister Temuri Khachishvili denied any involvement either in
the failed attempt to kill Georgian head of state Eduard Shevardnadze in
August
1995 or in several political assassinations, Caucasus Press reported on 21
January. But Khachishvili said the  Ministry of National Security had been
aware of plans to kill Shevardnadze. He claimed that former National Security
Minister Shota Kviraia and Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili had asked
him to kill Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze. He also said that
the 1993 assassination of Shevardnadze's close associate Soliko Khabeishvili
was contracted by a Georgian businessman living abroad. LF

UN OFFICIAL ATTEMPTS TO BREAK TAJIK DEADLOCK. Gerd
Merrem, UN special envoy to Tajikistan,  is in Dushanbe attempting to persuade
the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to resume their efforts
toward cooperation, RFE/RL correspondents there reported. On 21 January,
Merrem met with UTO leader and head of the National Reconciliation
Commission Said Abdullo Nuri, who had suspended the UTO's participation in
the commission on 15 January claiming the government was not fulfilling its
obligations under the June 1997 peace agreement. Merrem secured a promise
from Nuri to meet with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov. Merrem is
scheduled to meet with Rakhmonov on 23 January. BP

NAZARBAYEV WANTS CONSORTIUM CHIEF REPLACED.
"Rossiiskaya gazeta" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 January that
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is currently in Moscow for the
CIS Customs Union summit, will seek the dismissal of the Caspian Pipeline
Consortium director-general, Vladimir Stanev, in private meetings with his
Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" writes that the
Kazakh leadership believes the consortium is "not operating efficiently and
needs restructuring." "Rossiiskaya gazeta" suggests that U.S. oil companies
involved in the project "managed to persuade Kazakhstan to take their side and
demand Stanev's replacement by a U.S. representative." It adds that U.S.
companies have "effectively ceased to fund work" within the consortium until
Stanev is replaced. BP

PENSIONERS DEMONSTRATE IN KYRGYZ CAPITAL. RFE/RL
correspondents in Bishkek reported that on 22 January, some 1,000 people
picketed the government building. Most were pensioners protesting the
parliament's rejection several days earlier of amendments whereby all
pensioners would receive 500 som (about $30) a month. Currently, only those
who retired after 1994 receive that amount;  those who retired before 1994
receive 200 som a month. Government statistics show there are currently
547,000 pensioners in Kyrgyzstan, of whom 412,000 retired before 1994. BP

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               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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Updated: 1998-11-

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