The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts. - Charles Darwin
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 15, Part I, 23 January 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 15, Part I, 23 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

* YELTSIN "PLEASED" WITH CIS CUSTOMS UNION
SUMMIT

* YELTSIN BLAMES REGIONS FOR UNPAID DEBTS

* ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ANTI-TERRORISM
MEASURE

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

REGIONAL AFFAIRS

YELTSIN "PLEASED" WITH CIS CUSTOMS UNION
SUMMIT. Meeting in Moscow on 22 January, the presidents of
Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan focused on "eight
global political problems." Their prime ministers, meanwhile,
discussed and signed documents on joint customs tariffs,
coordination of their  tax systems, forming a transport union,
and unified transit tariffs. But the four presidents failed to
reach agreement on  a draft proposal by Kazakh President
Nursultan Nazarbaev, who was chairing the meeting, to create a
"common economic space" modeled on the EU. That draft,
published by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 January,  will be
amended and resubmitted for discussion at the next Customs
Union summit on 3 April. Nazarbayev told journalists that
Yeltsin "resolutely supports" further integration among the four
Customs Union members. Yeltsin,. meanwhile, said he was
"pleased" by the "serious negotiations" at the summit,  adding
that "we must strive to make the CIS as a whole work in this
way." LF

RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTS PRAISE UNION.
Yeltsin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka  have hailed the results of
a 22 January session of the Supreme Council of the Russian-
Belarusian Union, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin
commented that cooperation between the two countries is
"serious, it is for a long time, and it is not to be played with."
The council  passed a union budget of 5 trillion old rubles
($830 million), and coordinated a common foreign policy for
1998 and 1999. Lukashenka, who is also chairman of the
council, said  he and Yeltsin are satisfied with the results of the
Union for the first time since it was founded. Russian State
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said the budget is for
financing joint programs "in priority spheres of cooperation."
He added that the introduction of a common currency is not
"too distant." PB

GOVERNMENT LEADERS IN RIGA FOR BALTIC COUNCIL
SUMMIT. Eleven heads of government from the Baltic and
Nordic countries have arrived in Riga for a summit of the
Council of Baltic Sea States, which aims to promote regional
cooperation. On the agenda for the 23 January talks are the
development of economic and trade relations, fighting crime,
and EU expansion eastward. EU Commission President Jacques
Santer is attending the talks. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is
making his first visit to the Baltics since those countries gained
independence and is scheduled to hold separate meetings with
the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian premiers. Russia's Viktor
Chernomyrdin is the first premier of that country to visit
Latvia since 1991. He  is to meet with Latvian President Guntis
Ulmanis. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs told BNS that
Riga hopes the meeting will bring about agreement on signing
the bilateral border accord. JC

POLISH PRIME MINISTER MEETS WITH CHERNOMYRDIN.
Jerzy Buzek met with Russian Premier Chernomyrdin in Riga on
22 January, Interfax reported. It was the first meeting between
the two men. Main topics discussed were the possibility of
building a gas pipeline across Poland, new border regulations
imposed by Poland that have angered Russians, and the
formation of a working group to help provide security for the
Brest to Warsaw railroad. PB

MOSCOW SAYS RUSSIA NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WW2
EVENTS. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii
Nesterushkin told RIA-Novosti on 22 January that "it would be
naive to hope that Russia could take all responsibility for the
acts committed by the pre-war Soviet Union." Nesterushkin
was answering a question about Baltic reactions to an alleged
letter from the Russian Foreign Ministry to the State Duma
denying that the USSR forcefully annexed the Baltic States in
1940 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 22 January).
Nesterushkin commented that instead of digging up "pre-World
War Two events," more attention should be paid to future
Russian-Baltic relations and to concrete steps in increasing
trust and understanding in the Baltic Sea region. JC

PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF ORTHODOX STATES IN
CHISINAU. Anti-Western and anti-NATO statements were
made at a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodox
Church States that took place in Chisinau on 21 January.
Russian philosopher Valerii Alekseev said that  NATO is a
"serious danger to mankind" and its eastward expansion will
bring about a division of Europe. Moldovan parliamentary
deputy Vlad Cubreacov told an RFE/RL Chisinau correspondent
that the meeting marked "the first serious attempt by Russia
since the dismemberment of the Soviet Union to re-establish
and expand its influence zone, taking advantage of the
Orthodox community of faith."  The meeting was attended by
representatives of Orthodox Churches from Russia, Ukraine,
Belarus, Armenia, Bulgaria, and Georgia. MS

RUSSIA

YELTSIN BLAMES REGIONS FOR UNPAID DEBTS. President
Yeltsin on 23 January charged that regional leaders are to
blame for the failure to pay all back wages to state employees
by the end of 1997. In a nationwide radio address, Yeltsin
claimed that "the money left Moscow on time" but that
"significant sums went astray" in the regions. He specifically
cited allegations that money earmarked for wages was used for
other purposes in Tyumen and Volgograd Oblasts, adding that
those responsible must be found and punished. Yeltsin said he
has already ordered officials to determine how the money was
spent and tell him within a week "who sabotaged the
presidential decree" on paying the wage debts. In a recent
meeting with top government ministers, the president
appeared to reject attempts to blame regional officials for the
failure to settle the debts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January
1998). LB

RUSSIA TO INTENSIFY CONTROL OVER ARMS
TECHNOLOGY EXPORTS. Government spokesman Igor
Shabdurasulov told Reuters on 22 January that Russia will
tighten control over exports of goods and services that could be
utilized to manufacture nuclear weapons. Shabdurasulov added
that the agreement was reached during a telephone
conversation on 17 January between Russian Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore. But he declined
to confirm that it is part of an effort to prevent Iran from
manufacturing nuclear missiles. LF

KOTELKIN TO BE FIRED AFTER ALL.  Minister of Foreign
Relations and Trade Mikhail Fradkov has said that Aleksandr
Kotelkin, appointed as one of his first deputies in September,
1997, will be dismissed in March,  Interfax reported on 22
January. Fradkov said the move is in accordance with a 27
December government directive reducing the number of his
first deputies by one and his deputy ministers  by two. Over
the past week, Russian government officials, including Fradkov,
have made contradictory statements on Kotelkin's future (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 21 January 1998). LF

RUSSIA, JAPAN FORM COMMISSION FOR "PEACE"
TREATY. Grigorii Karasin and Minoru Tamba, the deputy
foreign ministers of Russia and Japan, met on 22 January in
Moscow, Russian and Japanese media reported. The two sides
agreed to form a commission, headed by the countries' foreign
ministers, that will flesh out details for a treaty officially
establishing peace between Russia and Japan. The Soviet Union
and Japan signed a declaration in 1956 ending the state of war
that existed between them during the Second World War, but
they never concluded a formal peace agreement. Japanese
Foreign Minster Keidzo Obuchi is due in Moscow in February
for the first session of those peace talks. BP

TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER WANTS BETTER
RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA... In an  interview with the
"Turkish Daily News" on 23 January, Ismail Cem affirmed that
both Turkey and Russia stand to gain a lot from improving
bilateral relations as much as possible.  Cem acknowledged
there are "some barriers" to doing so, including Turkey's
displeasure over Russia's planned sale to Greek Cyprus of S-
300 missiles. But he acknowledged the validity of Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's argument that the deal is
"purely commercial."  Cem affirmed that Russia has "no
intention, and no interest" in trying to prevent the export of
Caspian oil via Turkey. He indicated he would not oppose
Russia's receiving a   share of the oil to be exported via the
projected Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. "We are seeking a framework
in which all the related countries will be given shares," he
added. LF

...AS DOES PKK CHAIRMAN. Meanwhile, Abdullah Ocalan,
chairman of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), said in
an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 22 January, that he
recently discussed with a visiting Russian State Duma
delegation the prospects for a "strategic partnership" between
Russia and the PKK.  Ocalan argued that Turkey's increasing
investments in Russia present a threat to Russian interests.
Ocalan also admitted that the Russian authorities have cracked
down on Kurdish organizations in Russia since Russian Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin's visit to Turkey in December 1997. LF

AIR FORCE CHIEF ORDERED DOWNING OF KAL-007.
Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov, the newly appointed
commander of the Air Force, admitted during a 22 January
interview with NTV that he issued the order to shoot down
KAL flight 007 in September 1983. Kornukov was commander
of air defense forces on Sakhalin when he ordered the downing
of the South Korean airliner, which had 269 people aboard,
including a U.S. congressman. Soviet officials charged that the
civilian airplane, which was in Soviet air space, had been on a
spy mission. Kornukov told NTV that he is convinced his
decision was correct, adding, "sometimes in front-line
operations, battalions were sacrificed to save armies. In this
particular situation, I am absolutely sure even now that [the
KAL flight] was planned, with very definite intentions." LB

OIL COMPANIES WANT REDUCTIONS IN EXCISE DUTIES.
Leaders of seven large Russian oil companies on 22 January
issued an open letter to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and the
parliament asking that various excise duties affecting the oil
industry be reduced, in light of falling prices for oil on world
markets, ITAR-TASS reported. The letter, signed by executives
from LUKoil, Yukos, Sibneft, Sidanko, Komitek, Surgutneftegaz,
and Slavneft, calls for excise duties on oil, gasoline, and various
fuels and lubricants to be cut by half or more. It also calls for
abolishing the new excise duty on oil transports, which Yeltsin
signed into law earlier this month. Commenting on the appeal,
minister without portfolio Yevgenii Yasin told ITAR-TASS that
current taxes on Russian oil companies are "very high" and
should be reduced. He added that the government has long
been divided on the issue. LB

LUKOIL-GAZPROM-SHELL MAY SKIP ROSNEFT AUCTION.
LUKoil issued a statement on 22 January saying  the
consortium of LUKoil, Gazprom, and Royal Dutch Shell may not
bid for a stake in the Rosneft oil company, Interfax reported.
The consortium was formed last November. The new terms of
the auction have not yet been made public, but it is rumored
that the government may sell 50 percent plus one share of
Rosneft rather than 75 percent of the company. The LUKoil
statement said such terms "substantially limit the investment
attractiveness of the company" and "will not provide for
effective management of the company's subsidiaries." ITAR-
TASS quoted Gazprom as confirming that the consortium may
not bid for Rosneft. Royal Dutch Shell also said the new
privatization plan makes acquiring Rosneft less attractive. Two
other major consortia plan to bid for Rosneft: Sidanko and
British Petroleum, and Yukos and Sibneft. LB

ZYUGANOV DENIES PLOT AGAINST ROKHLIN. Communist
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 22 January denied that he,
Yeltsin, and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin are involved in a
"plot" to replace Lev Rokhlin as Duma Defense Committee
Chairman, Russian news agencies reported. In a 21 January
interview with Russian Public Television, Rokhlin alleged that
Zyuganov has agreed to support his ouster and that, in
exchange, the government has agreed to accept Communist
proposals on forming a coalition government. Zyuganov said
"Rokhlin's information is absolutely untrue," adding that no one
has promised the Communists any government posts.
Aleksandr Shokhin, the leader of the Our Home Is Russia Duma
faction, recently announced that Duma leaders have reached
agreement on replacing Rokhlin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21
January 1998). LB

AUTHORITIES SEEKING REFERENDUM ON ELECTORAL
SYSTEM? The Kremlin wants to hold a referendum on whether
Russia's electoral system should be changed, "Izvestiya"
reported on 23 January, citing unnamed sources in the
presidential administration. Under the current electoral law,
half of the 450 State Duma deputies are elected from party lists
using a proportional representation system, while the other
half are elected in single-member districts. The Kremlin wants
all Duma deputies to be elected in districts (thereby decreasing
the influence of political parties). However, the Duma is likely
to reject such changes to the electoral law (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 22 December 1997 and 16 January 1998). Sergei
Shakhrai, Yeltsin's representative in the Constitutional Court,
has proposed that the referendum question be phrased as
follows: "Do you want to be represented in the federal
parliament by [political] parties, or do you want to elect your
deputies directly?" LB

SUICIDE RATE IN MILITARY REMAINS HIGH. Chief
Military Prosecutor Yurii Demin announced on 22 January that
suicides accounted for 487 out of the 1,103 non-combat deaths
in the Russian military in 1997, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported
on 23 January. In 1996, 430 suicides were recorded out of a
total 1,046 non-combat deaths in the military; in 1995 there
were 459 suicides and 1,017 non-combat deaths. Demin argued
that draft commissions are partly to blame for the high suicide
rate, since they sometimes admit conscripts who "suffer from
chronic and psychiatric illnesses." Afanasii Kim, the military
prosecutor of the Federal Border Service, called for laws to hold
draft commissions responsible for drafting people who are
unfit for military service. Other commentators have attributed
the high suicide rate to other factors, such as frequent delays in
wage payments, widespread hazing of young soldiers, and poor
food and working conditions in the armed forces. LB

GOVERNMENT BACKS PRIVATIZATION OF SOME
CULTURAL MONUMENTS. The government announced at a
22 January cabinet meeting that it will support the
privatization of many cultural assets currently owned by local
and regional governments, Russian news agencies reported.
According to First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, less
than 1 percent of some 70,000 buildings listed as cultural
monuments have been privatized. Both Nemtsov and First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, who chaired the
cabinet meeting, argued that privatization can attract funds
needed to restore such buildings. At the same time, the
government agreed to prohibit the privatization of cultural
assets of national significance, such as the state cinema
archives. It also decided to seek various non-budgetary sources
to finance cultural programs. According to Culture Minister
Natalya Dementeva, government spending on culture in 1997
totaled just 12 percent of budget targets. LB

CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST FORMER HEAD OF HOCKEY
LEAGUE. The Prosecutor-General's Office has dropped all
charges against former International Hockey League president
Robert Cherenkov, who was arrested last August on suspicion
of ordering the April 1997 murder of Russian Hockey League
President Valentin Sych. Prosecutors have also issued an
official apology to Cherenkov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on
23 January. Investigators say that they have solved the
murder, and that five suspects are already in custody. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ANTI-TERRORISM
MEASURES.  Levon Ter-Petrossyan on 22 January called on
Prosecutor-General Henrik Khachatrian and Interior and
National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian to take  "exhaustive
measures" to preclude further attacks on senior officials,
adding that he fears for the lives of senior government
members. Presidential security chief Roman Ghazaryan, who
escaped unhurt when shots were fired on his jeep on the night
of 18 January, told ITAR-TASS on 22 January that additional
security measures have been taken to protect Russian
Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev during his two-day
visit to Armenia, which began that day. LF

ARMENIAN OFFICIALS DIFFER OVER SHOOTINGS.
Parliamentary deputy speaker Ara Sahakian and Armenian
Pan-National Movement board chairman Vano Siradeghian
have both characterized the shootings over the past six days as
"terrorist incidents."  Prime Minister Robert Kocharian told
Interfax on 22 January that it is premature to pass such a
judgment. He said he does not believe the shootings are
connected to internal differences of opinion within the
Armenian leadership, which, he added, concern tactics rather
than the long-term objective of achieving a settlement to the
conflict acceptable to the Karabakh leadership. Sahakian ,
however, suggested a connection between the shootings and
the discord within the country's leadership. He also commented
that the current situation of "diarchy...cannot last long,"
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.  Siradeghian told AFP on 22
January that the movement does not want Kocharian to resign
but does want the president to ensure the efficient functioning
of the government.  LF

NEW MOVEMENT FORMED IN AZERBAIJAN.  Ilyas
Ismailov, leader of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, told
journalists on 22 January that he has reached agreement with
former Azerbaijani parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev on
forming a new movement that will seek to prevent election
fraud, Turan reported. Last month, Guliev confirmed his
intention to contest the presidential elections, scheduled for
October. The Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's Office recently
accused him of planning a coup against President Heidar  Aliev.
LF

CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL MEETS IN TBILISI.  Georgian
and Abkhaz delegations to the Consultative Council for
regulating the Abkhaz conflict met in Tbilisi on 22 January,
Caucasus Press reported. Vazha Lortkipanidze, the head of the
Georgian delegation, rejected as "preposterous" allegations by
his Abkhaz counterpart, Tamaz Ketsba, that Georgian
intelligence is responsible for ongoing sabotage in Abkhazia.
Revaz Adamia, the chairman of the Georgian parliamentary
commission on defense and security issues,  said the Abkhaz
agreed at the meeting to unspecified measures to counter
terrorism. But he added that the problem of terrorism and
crime in Abkhazia "will not be solved" until all ethnic Georgians
forced to flee the region during the 1992-1993 hostilities have
been allowed to return. LF

AZERBAIJAN TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY.  President
Aliev on 22 January announced he will amend the criminal
code to abolish the death penalty and hopes that the
parliament will endorse that decision. Azerbaijan imposed a
moratorium on capital punishment in 1993.  The 128 people
currently sentenced  to death in Azerbaijan will have their
sentences commuted to prolonged prison terms.  Abolition of
the death punishment is one of the preconditions for full
membership in the Council of Europe. Meanwhile, the "Neue
Zuercher Zeitung" on 22 January quotes International Red Cross
officials as warning that the incidence in Azerbaijani prisons of
a strain of tuberculosis resistant to several  medications has
risen dramatically and constitutes a "time bomb" that threatens
the entire country. The disease has also spread to refugee
camps and military barracks. LF

TAJIK COMMISSION RESUMES WORK. The National
Reconciliation Commission has met for the first time since
United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri suspended his
group's participation in the commission on 15 January, ITAR-
TASS reported on 23 January. According to the news agency,
representatives from the contact group, made up of guarantor
nations of the Tajik peace accord, took part in the meeting.
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov is scheduled to meet first
with UN special envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem and later
with Nuri. BP

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
               Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

SUBSCRIBING:
1) To subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to
        listserv@listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu
2) In the text of your message, type
        subscribe RFERL-L YourFirstName YourLastName

UNSUBSCRIBING:
1) To un-subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to
        listserv@listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu
2) In the text of your message, type
        unsubscribe RFERL-L

Current and Back Issues
Back issues of RFE/RL Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest
are online at:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/

Listen to news for 13 countries
RFE/RL programs for countries in Eastern Europe, the
Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia and the South Slavic region
are online daily at RFE/RL's 24-Hour LIVE Broadcast
Studio.
http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/index.html

Reprint Policy
To receive reprint permission, please contact
Paul Goble, Publisher
Email: GobleP@rferl.org
Phone: 202-457-6947
Fax: 202-457-6992
Postal Address:  RFE/RL,  1201 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC  20036  USA

RFE/RL Newsline Staff:
* Paul Goble, Publisher, GobleP@rferl.org
* Liz Fuller, Editor-in-Chief, CarlsonE@rferl.org
* Patrick Moore, Team Leader, MooreP@rferl.org
* Laurie Belin, BelinL@rferl.org
* Bruce Pannier, PannierB@rferl.org
* Michael Shafir, ShafirM@rferl.org
* Jan Cleave, CleaveJ@rferl.org

Freelance And Occasional Contributors
* Fabian Schmidt
* Matyas Szabo
* Pete Baumgartner
* Jeremy Bransten
* Jolyon Naegele
* Anthony Wesolowsky
* Julia Guechakov

RFE/RL Newsline Fax: (420-2) 2112-3630

[English] [Russian TRANS | KOI8 | ALT | WIN | MAC | ISO5]

F&P Home ° Comments ° Guestbook


1996 Friends and Partners
Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole
Please visit the Russian and American mirror sites of Friends and Partners.
Updated: 1998-11-

Please write to us with your comments and suggestions.

F&P Quick Search
Main Sections
Home
Bulletin Board
Chat Room
F&P Listserver

RFE/RL
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
Search

News
News From Russia/NIS
News About Russia/NIS
Newspapers & Magazines
Global News
Weather

©1996 Friends and Partners
Please write to us with any comments, questions or suggestions -- Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole