When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. - Mark Twain
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 27, Part I, 10 February 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 27, Part I, 10 February 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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FIVE NEW LANGUAGES ADDED TO REAL AUDIO SCHEDULE
Listen to one hour of news in Bulgarian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and
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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN, ITALIAN PREMIER SIGN 'PLAN OF ACTION'

* GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

* ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS NO NEW DANGER OF HOSTILITIES

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN, ITALIAN PREMIER SIGN 'PLAN OF ACTION.' President Boris Yeltsin and
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi on 10 February signed a "plan of
action" for Russian-Italian cooperation, an RFE/RL correspondent in Rome
reported. The plan calls for bilateral cooperation over the next 10-15
years in various spheres, including aviation, space travel,
telecommunications, and conversion of the defense industry, Interfax
reported on 9 February. Several agreements between Russian and Italian
companies are to be signed during Yeltsin's visit to Rome, his first
foreign trip since he was hospitalized for two weeks in December. Italy is
Russia's second-largest European trading partner, after Germany. Shortly
after arriving in Rome on 9 February, Yeltsin met with Italian President
Oscar Scalfaro. Few details about their talks have been released. LB

RUSSIAN DEPUTIES AWAIT UN APPROVAL OF IRAQI VISIT... The plane bound for
Baghdad with State Duma deputies and humanitarian aid aboard remains on the
runway at Yerevan airport, Armenia. Russian representatives at the UN
sought on 9 February to obtain official permission from the UN Sanctions
Committee to fly to Iraq. But representatives from the U.S. and the U.K.
have asked for a list of the plane's 207 passengers and requested that UN
officials be allowed to inspect the humanitarian cargo. In Moscow, Deputy
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov accused the deputies in Yerevan of "theatrics"
by departing Moscow before UN permission had been obtained.  On 10
February, the Duma voted to reduce to 30 the number of people flying to
Baghdad in order to facilitate UN official permission. BP

..WHILE REQUIRED LIST IS DRAWN UP. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev
said on 9 February that the list of passengers required by the UN is being
prepared. Seleznev said there is nothing unusual in the request as "when
207 people appeared, naturally questions were asked." The speaker also said
it would be difficult to file a protest with the UN if the plane is not
allowed to land in Baghdad "because Russia also participates in the
sanctions." Meanwhile on the ground in Yerevan, Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said permission has been granted "in New
York, Moscow, and Tehran" for the flight to continue but that air-traffic
controllers in Yerevan have not yet been informed of this. BP

YELTSIN PREMATURELY ANNOUNCES ANNAN VISIT TO IRAQ. President Yeltsin said
on 9 February that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will  soon travel to
Iraq, Interfax reported. But in New York, Annan said that while he does not
rule out making such a trip, he has no such immediate plans. Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov, accompanying Yeltsin on the trip to Italy, met
with his counterpart, Lamberto Dini, to discuss the Iraqi crisis. While
Dini said his country is concerned and would welcome a peaceful settlement,
he also made it clear that Iraq must comply with UN resolutions. Diplomatic
pressure toward that end is justified, he argued. BP

RUSSIAN MILITARY SPECIALIST ON IRAQI CRISIS. An interview in the 10
February issue of the official government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta"
offers an alternative view of the U.S.'s motives for a possible attack on
Iraq. Lieutenant.-General Leonid Gulev, described as one of Russia's
"leading military specialists on the U.S.," says Washington  is ready to
replace military testing sites in the state of Nevada with new "firing
ranges" in Iraq. Gulev said it is better for the U.S. to test the
effectiveness of weapons on targets in Iraq because the "firing ranges" in
that country are "inhabited by people." He added that the U.S. needs to
test its smart bombs and stealth aircraft. According to Gulev, there are
"significantly more" ground troops, planes, and naval vessels in the area
than was the case during the 1991 UN operation against Iraq. BP

GENERAL STAFF HEAD SAYS MILITARY NEEDS MORE FUNDING. First Deputy Defense
Minister Anatolii Kvashnin  said in Duma hearings on 9 February that the
armed forces need a budget of 400 billion rubles ($67 billion), Russian
news agencies reported. The draft 1998 budget, which the Duma recently
approved in the third reading, foresees 81.76 billion rubles in
expenditures for "national defense." The Duma also voted to allocate 1
percent of budget spending toward military reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5
February 1998). Kvashnin noted that defense spending in the U.S. this year
is projected at some $250 billion. According to "Izvestiya" on 10 February,
experts in the Fuel and Energy Ministry have calculated that this year,
the Defense Ministry will receive only 20 percent of the funds needed to
pay for heating and electricity supplies to  military installations. LB

KULIKOV OPPOSES PLANS TO ABOLISH DRAFT... Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov has sharply criticized the military reform plans endorsed by
Yeltsin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 February. Speaking to a meeting at the
Academy of Military Sciences on 7 February, Kulikov spoke out against
transforming the army into an all-volunteer force. Instead, he argued, the
army should be 70 percent staffed with contract soldiers and 30 percent
with draftees. Yeltsin pledged in 1996 to create an all-volunteer army by
2000, and top military officials have not backed away from that goal
(although they have conceded that it will not be achieved by 2000). Kulikov
also called for raising the draft age to 19 and conducting the draft
year-round in response to the declining quality of conscripts (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 21 January 1998).

...DISAGREES WITH PRIORITIES OF MILITARY DOCTRINE. During his 7 February
speech, Kulikov also criticized the idea that the Russian military should
focus on preparing to fight small localized conflicts, "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" reported on 10 February. He argued that "we are obliged to prepare
the army and the state to conduct a prolonged war." Last May, Yeltsin said
that Russia's military doctrine should focus on potential localized wars,
not global conflicts, as the main military threat to the country. That
concept was incorporated into a new military doctrine (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 25 August 1997). LB

CHUBAIS'S LAWSUIT AGAINST JOURNALIST DELAYED. A Moscow municipal court on 9
February delayed proceedings in First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Chubais's libel lawsuit against the journalist Aleksandr Minkin and the
Ekho Moskvy radio station, Russian news agencies reported. Neither Chubais
nor his attorney, Mikhail Barshchevskii, turned up in court. In an
interview with Ekho Moskvy last November, Minkin first raised the
allegations that Chubais and several other officials each accepted a
$90,000 honorarium from a book publisher linked to Oneksimbank. In the
aftermath of that scandal, Chubais lost the post of finance minister and
several of his associates were fired. Chubais is seeking 250 million old
rubles ($42,000) in damages from Minkin for claiming that the book payments
were bribes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1997). Chubais also wants
Ekho Moskvy to retract the allegation. LB

SUSPECT ARRESTED IN KHOLODOV MURDER. The Prosecutor-General's Office on 10
February confirmed reports that a suspect was recently arrested in
connection with the October 1994 murder of journalist Dmitrii Kholodov,
ITAR-TASS reported. Kholodov, an reporter for "Moskovskii komsomolets" who
was investigating military corruption, was killed when he opened a
booby-trapped briefcase. Law enforcement officials have repeatedly claimed
to be on the verge of solving the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October
1997). The arrested suspect, a retired colonel, has not officially been
named, but Interfax on 9 February quoted unnamed sources identifying him as
Yakov Popovskikh, who formerly served in military intelligence. LB

DEPUTY PROPOSES COMPROMISE ON ELECTORAL LAW. Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov
has proposed  a compromise over the electoral law, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported on 9 February. Yushenkov, a member of the Russia's Democratic
Choice party of Yegor Gaidar, favors electing half the Duma in
single-member districts and half using proportional representation, as
under the current system. But he has called for the seats allocated
proportionally to be distributed among all groups that gain more than 5
percent of the vote or win more than 10 single-member districts.
(Currently, those seats are divided only among groups that win more than 5
percent of the vote.) Yushenkov has also called for tightening the
registration rules to make it more difficult for tiny groups to compete.
Forty-three electoral blocs were registered for the December 1995 Duma
elections, and 26 of them gained less than 1 percent of the vote. LB

IS KREMLIN READY FOR COMPROMISE? No Kremlin official has commented on
Yushenkov's proposal, but there are signs that Yeltsin may not insist that
the 1999 elections to the Duma be carried out only in single-member
districts. Although some officials have suggested holding a referendum on
changing the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 1998), Mikhail
Komissar, the deputy head of the presidential administration, recently
argued that it might be better to improve the proportional representation
system than do away with it. In an interview with "Russkii telegraf" on 7
February, Komissar said more criminals would win seats in the parliament if
the entire Duma were elected in single-member districts. In addition, he
argued that separatism would increase if the Duma consisted mostly of
deputies who would lobby for narrow regional interests. LB

RUSSIA TO STUDY CHECHEN BORDER ARRANGEMENTS. Russian Deputy Prime Minister
Ruslan Abdulatipov told ITAR-TASS on 9 February that the first meeting of
the Russian Security Council interagency commission on Chechnya, scheduled
for 11 February, will focus on guaranteeing security along the
Chechen-Russian border. Abdulatipov also commented that the two sides are
beginning "real work" to overcome the tragedy of the war, but he added that
there are powerful forces in both Russia and Chechnya opposed to any peace
agreement.  Those forces, he said, continue to profit from the impasse. PG

CHECHENS DEFINE NEGOTIATING APPROACH.  President Aslan Maskhadov on 9
February said that all Chechen negotiating contacts with Moscow must be
coordinated by the State Negotiating Commission, ITAR-TASS reported. That
commission is headed by Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov, who said he
expects Russia and Chechnya to sign an accord by the end of this year,
according to Interfax.  PG

RUSSKOE RADIO DENIED BROADCAST LICENSE IN BELGOROD. The Moscow-based
private radio station Russkoe Radio, which broadcasts to more than 200
Russian cities, has been unable to broadcast in Belgorod for nearly two
months, an RFE/RL correspondent in that city reported on 9 February. The
Belgorod Oblast Commission on Television and Radio Broadcasting has denied
the station a license, citing "the special mentality of residents of the
oblast." The commission charged that Russkoe Radio programs "contradict the
moral and ethical foundations of Belgorod residents" and harm the young
generation. Supporters of Russkoe Radio, which broadcasts exclusively
Russian music and mainly cultural news, have collected more than 3,000
signatures demanding that the station be granted a license to broadcast in
Belgorod. They argue that the station is entitled to a license under the
federal law on the mass media and the constitutional guarantee of free
distribution of information. LB

ST. PETERSBURG RESIDENTS INDIFFERENT TO LOCAL ELECTIONS. Elections to local
government bodies in St. Petersburg on 8 February were declared valid in
all districts despite an average citywide turnout of just 16.4 percent,
ITAR-TASS reported on 9 February. In the first attempt to elect local
councils in the city's 111 districts last September, turnout reached the
required 25 percent in just 32 districts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30
September 1997). The St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly subsequently
abolished the mandatory turnout requirement so as not to waste funds on
holding new local elections. LB

LEGISLATURE IGNORES GOVERNOR'S OBJECTIONS ON CITY CHARTER. The St.
Petersburg legislature recently defied the city's governor, Vladimir
Yakovlev, when deputies adopted a new city charter and refused to adopt
amendments to that charter supported by Yakovlev, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported on 30 January. The charter gives the St. Petersburg Legislative
Assembly the power to confirm some of the governor's cabinet appointments
and stipulates that the assembly will be a full-time legislature following
elections to be held later this year. It also limits the governor's power
to issue directives and retains a two-round system for gubernatorial
elections. (Past elections in Russian regions show that incumbent governors
tend to do better when elections are held in one round.) According to the 5
February edition of the "IEWS Russian Regional Report," the St. Petersburg
Legislative Assembly is rare among Russian regional legislatures in that it
has significant influence. LB

FACTORY DIRECTOR WINS DUMA SEAT IN BASHKORTOSTAN. Vladimir Protopopov, the
director of an automobile factory in Neftekamsk, easily won an 8 February
by-election in Bashkortostan for a seat in the State Duma, ITAR-TASS
reported on 9 February. Protopopov gained 46.7 percent of the vote in a
field of nine candidates. His closest rival, Communist-backed candidate
Firgat Khabibullin, won just 23.9 percent. Proptopopov takes up the seat
vacated following the death of Alzam Saifullin, who was elected to the Duma
in 1995 as an Agrarian Party candidate. ITAR-TASS reported on 8 February
that some local observers consider the by-election a "rehearsal" for the
presidential election to be held later this year in Bashkortostan. Current
President Murtaza Rakhimov has said he will not seek re-election. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Eduard Shevardnadze
escaped unharmed from an assassination attempt against him while he was
returning to his residence on 9 February. Two presidential guards and one
attacker were killed during the attack, ITAR-TASS reported the next day.
Shevardnadze, who survived an assassination attempt in August 1995, told
journalists that "international terrorism" was behind this latest bid on
his life. He speculated that one possible motive is the desire of "very
powerful forces" to prevent Caspian basin oil from transiting Georgia. The
attack came shortly after Shevardnadze had said in his weekly radio address
that "there is no alternative to peace and stability in the southern
Caucasus." PG

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEMANDS BLOCKADE OF RUSSIAN BASES. In the wake of the
assassination attempt on President Shevardnadze, the Georgian parliament
called for a blockade of Russian military bases in the country, Georgian
media reported. Deputies suggested that the possibility could not be
excluded that those who launched the attack on Shevardnadze were dispatched
to Georgia from Russia. Meanwhile, Shevardnadze went on national television
to appeal for calm, and Georgian security agencies have sealed the border,
according to Georgian media. PG

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS NO NEW DANGER OF HOSTILITIES. In a statement
released on 10 February, the Armenian Foreign Ministry has denounced
suggestions that new hostilities with Azerbaijan are imminent and stressed
Yerevan is committed to observing the May 1994 truce, ITAR-TASS reported.
The statement said that predictions of new hostilities are a "deliberately
distorted interpretation" of events in Armenia since the resignation of
President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. PG

KOCHARIAN TO RUN FOR ARMENIAN PRESIDENCY. Prime Minister and acting
President Robert Kocharian said on 9 February that he will run in the 16
March presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported. A native of
Nagorno-Karabakh, Kocharian would seem to face one major obstacle: the
Armenian Constitution stipulates that the president must be an Armenian
citizen.  Meanwhile, Khosrov Arutyunyan, the speaker of the Armenian
parliament, said that the recent political changes in Yerevan will not
affect Armenia's close relationship with Moscow.  PG

EXXON AZERBAIJAN, SOCAR SIGN GAS EXPLORATION DEAL. Exxon Azerbaijan, a
subsidiary of the U.S. petroleum company, and SOCAR, the state oil company
of Azerbaijan, signed an agreement 9 February to explore the gas resources
on Azerbaijani territory, Interfax reported.  The research study is
scheduled to last for one year.  PG

EIGHT PEOPLE KILLED IN WESTERN TAJIKISTAN. At least eight people were
killed in the western city of Tursun Zade on 9 February. A group of armed
men broke into the house of a Tajik businesswoman, killing her and her two
sons. The gunmen then opened fire on a group of people waiting at a nearby
bus stop; at least five were killed in that attack. An investigation is
under way. During the five-year civil war in Tajikistan, Tursun Zade was
often controlled by outlaw groups and was the scene of shoot-outs between
rival gangs competing for possession of the aluminum factory there. That
facility is Tajikistan's biggest money-making enterprise. BP

KAZAKH OFFICIALS MEET WITH DEMONSTRATORS. Local officials in the southern
city of Kentau met with demonstrators outside government offices on 9
February, AFP reported. The demonstrators, mostly mothers and their
children, are protesting poor living conditions and unpaid wages and child
support. The officials promised that overdue wages will be paid, but
demonstrators remained skeptical about that promise and vowed to continue
their protest. The same day, some 150 health-care workers who have not been
paid in 10  months joined the demonstrators. BP


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