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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 36, Part I, 23 February 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 36, Part I, 23 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:
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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN "SATISFIED" WITH UN-IRAQ AGREEMENT

* DUMA REJECTS BUDGET IN FOURTH READING

* ABDUCTORS RELEASE ONE UNOMIG HOSTAGE

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN 'SATISFIED' WITH UN-IRAQ AGREEMENT. President Boris Yeltsin has
said he is satisfied with the agreement reached between UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, ITAR-TASS
and AFP reported on 23 February. According to Yeltsin, an agreement was
already close the previous day. Interfax quoted Yeltsin as saying "Hussein
has given the word. The UN Security Council meets on Tuesday. Let us await
the results." The Russian president also praised his country's diplomats
for their efforts in resolving the crisis, noting "Russia has from the
start been advocating a peaceful solution." BP

RUSSIA, JAPAN FINALLY SIGN FISHING AGREEMENT. Following 13 rounds of
discussions between Russian and Japanese representatives over nearly three
years,  visiting Foreign Minister Keidzo Obuchi and Russian First Deputy
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov signed a fishing agreement in Moscow on 21
February. Under that agreement, Japanese fishermen have the right to fish
about 2,500 tons of fish and octopus annually in the waters around the
Kuril Islands. In return Japan will pay $400,000 yearly and donate funds to
develop Russia fisheries on islands in the western Pacific. BP

OBUCHI, PRIMAKOV MEET...  Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met
with his Japanese counterpart, Obuchi, on 22 February to discuss a wide
range of issues, ITAR-TASS and Kyodo reported. The two ministers agreed
that peaceful means must be used to resolve the Iraqi crisis, and they
discussed the situation on the Korean peninsula. Obuchi agreed to speed up
the process for Russian businessmen to obtain a Japanese visa and promised
to help Russia gain entry into the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation group
and the World Trade Organization. The two also agreed that a bilateral
peace treaty formally ending World War Two would be signed by the year 2000
and that their deputy foreign ministers will meet in Tokyo next month to
begin discussions on the treaty. BP

...EXCHANGE NECK-TIES. Following his meeting with President Boris Yeltsin
on 23 February, Obuchi said Japan will provide $1.5 billion for
construction of housing for the Russian military. Yeltsin announced he will
meet with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto  from  11-13 April in
Kawana, Japan. In the spirit of the first informal meeting between the
leaders of the two countries, which took place in November and was dubbed
the "meeting without neckties" Yeltsin encouraged Foreign Minister Primakov
to trade neck-ties with Obuchi. BP

DUMA REJECTS BUDGET IN FOURTH READING. The State Duma on 20 February
rejected the draft 1998 budget in the fourth reading. In two votes, only
191 and 187 deputies supported the document, short of the 226 needed for
passage, Interfax reported. Earlier that day, the Duma had rejected by 282
to 64 the most important of the 12 government-backed amendments to the
budget. Only the Yabloko faction supported that amendment, which would have
made the allocation of 27.9 billion rubles ($4.6 billion) in spending
conditional on receiving enough revenues to cover the expenditures (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 February 1998). The Duma is to consider the
budget in the fourth reading again on 4 March. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin said he was disappointed by the Duma's vote but expressed hope
that a "reasonable compromise" on the budget can be found. LB

SELEZNEV BLAMES GOVERNMENT FOR BUDGET VOTE. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev
blamed the government for the Duma vote, charging that the government
"finds it much easier" to work without a budget, Russian news agencies
reported on 20 February. A government directive issued last December set
monthly spending in 1998 at one-twelfth of total 1997 expenditures, pending
the adoption of a budget. That spending level is significantly lower than
that foreseen by the draft 1998 budget. Seleznev also noted that without a
budget, the Duma is unable to monitor the government's allocation of funds
and cannot request examinations of government spending by the Audit
Chamber. Meanwhile, Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin on 20 February began
collecting signatures for a vote of no confidence in the government. He is
unlikely to be able to collect the 90 signatures needed to call such a vote
unless Communist leaders decide to back his efforts. LB

DUMA BANS TORTURE BUT NOT DEATH PENALTY... The Duma on 20 February voted by
348 to nine to ratify the European Convention for the Prevention of
Torture, Interfax reported. Earlier that day, the Duma had ratified the
European Convention on Human Rights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February
1998). However, deputies rejected ratification of a protocol on banning
capital punishment. Abolishing the death penalty is a condition of
membership in the Council of Europe, which Russia joined in February 1996.
Hundreds of Russian prisoners remain on death row, although no executions
have been carried out since August 1996. LB

...APPROVES LAW ON TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY. The Duma on 20 February passed a
law "on ensuring the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation,"
which would prohibit the secession of any part of the federation, Russian
news agencies reported. Territorial exchanges with neighboring foreign
states could occur only if such an exchange were approved by the
legislature of the Russian region containing that territory. The law would
allow the president to deploy the armed forces immediately if a
"non-international" armed conflict developed that threatened Russia's
territorial integrity. The president would only have to report his action
to both houses of the parliament. Article 102 of the constitution empowers
the Federation Council to approve presidential decrees establishing martial
law or a state of emergency. Yeltsin did not declare either in Chechnya and
never sought the Council's approval for the deployment of troops there. LB

OPPOSITION RALLY BEFORE RED ARMY DAY. Some 15,000 people attended a rally
on Moscow's Lubyanka Square on 22 February marking the 80th anniversary of
the creation of the Red Army, ITAR-TASS reported.  Defenders of the
Fatherland Day (formerly Red Army Day) is celebrated on 23 February.
Leaders of several communist groups attended the rally, along with members
of the Communist, Agrarian, and Popular Power Duma factions. Duma Defense
Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, the leader of the Movement to Support the
Army, predicted that the opposition will take to the streets in April or
May to "force the regime to resign," Interfax reported. Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov called for holding a nationwide protest on 9
April. He also charged that there are few ethnic Russians in the government
and presidential administration. Zyuganov recently called for policies to
revive the (ethnic) Russian people (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February
1998). LB

ANOTHER SUSPECT ARRESTED IN KHOLODOV CASE. The Prosecutor-General's Office
on 19 February arrested Vladimir Morozov, a major in the Airborne Troops,
in connection with the October 1994 murder of journalist Dmitrii Kholodov,
"Kommersant-Daily reported on 21 February. Morozov is a former subordinate
of Pavel Popovskikh, the first suspect to be arrested and charged in the
Kholodov case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 13 February 1998). On 20
February, Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov said former Defense Minister
Pavel Grachev, who has already been questioned on the Kholodov murder, may
again be interrogated on the matter, ITAR-TASS reported. LB

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS BACK RADUEV. A congress of some 10,000 Chechen
freedom fighters in Grozny on 21 February unexpectedly evolved into a
massive demonstration of support for maverick field commander Salman
Raduev, ITAR-TASS reported. The congress was convened by acting Prime
Minister Shamil Basaev with the express aim of condemning Raduev's claims
of responsibility for the failed 9 February attempt to assassinate Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze. Basaev and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov
had argued that those claims, which Raduev has since retracted, constitute
"anti-state activity."  Raduev told journalists on 22 February that he has
resolved his differences with Chechen leaders and will work with them "as a
united team to strengthen our state and construct an Islamic republic." LF

ANOTHER GOVERNOR CALLS FOR LEGALIZING PROSTITUTION. Saratov Oblast Governor
Dmitrii Ayatskov has become the second regional leader to advocate
legalizing prostitution in order to combat the spread of AIDS. Ayatskov
told Interfax on 21 February that the Saratov legislature is drafting a
bill that would allow registered brothels. Prostitutes would have to
undergo regular medical examinations, and customers would have to practice
"safe sex," he said. According to Ayatskov, such a law would also increase
the oblast's revenues, since prostitutes would pay taxes "to the regional
budget rather than to pimps." Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Leonid Gorbenko
has advanced a similar proposal, but some analysts say federal crime
legislation would have to be changed before regions could legalize
prostitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1997). LB

GOVERNOR WANTS FULL-TIME DEPUTIES IN UPPER HOUSE. Leningrad Oblast Governor
Vadim Gustov argued in an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 20
February that the law on forming the Federation Council should be changed.
Under current legislation, the top executive and top legislative officials
from each region become deputies in the Council "ex officio." They work in
the upper house of the federal parliament only two or three days each
month. Gustov argued that the system impedes the Council's legislative
work. He advocated making half the Council members full-time deputies
chosen specially for that job in regional legislative elections. But Gustov
supported retaining the right of leaders of republics and governors of
oblasts, krais, and okrugs to become Council deputies automatically. LB

HEALTH EXPERTS SOUND ALARM ON TUBERCULOSIS. Representatives of
international medical organizations warned on 18 February that shortages of
medicine and improper use of antibiotics are facilitating the spread of
tuberculosis in Russia, especially the drug-resistant form of the disease,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. New York-based doctor Alexander Goldfarb
told journalists that medical workers and patients often do not understand
that antibiotics must be taken daily for several months, even after
symptoms have disappeared. Goldfarb added that 20 percent of Russian prison
inmates are believed to have drug-resistant tuberculosis. Some 22,000
Russian citizens died of tuberculosis last year, and another 2.2 million
are estimated to have the disease, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 13
February. The government  recently approved an anti-tuberculosis program
calling for 17.5 billion rubles ($2.9 billion) in spending from 1998
through 2004. LB

REGIONAL AFFAIRS

RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN PREMIERS INITIAL ECONOMIC PROGRAM. Viktor Chernomyrdin
and Valery Pustovoytenko, meeting in Kyiv on 20 February, initialed a
10-year economic cooperation program, AFP reported. Chernomyrdin, who was
in the Ukrainian capital to prepare for President Leonid Kuchma's trip to
Moscow, said the program "deals with all main aspects of economic relations
between our two countries." The agreement is to be signed by Kuchma and his
Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin. Chernomyrdin said the program will more
than double bilateral trade in the next decade. Last year, the volume of
trade between the two countries was some $15.3 billion. Chernomyrdin also
extended a $180 million technical credit to Ukraine toward the construction
of two new nuclear reactors needed to enable Kyiv to permanently close
Chornobyl, the "Eastern Economist" reported on 21 February. PB

YELTSIN HAILS IMPROVEMENT IN RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE. Russian President
Yeltsin announced on 20 February that Russia and Ukraine left  behind "the
most difficult phase" in their relations last May, when the two countries
signed a wide-ranging friendship treaty and an agreement on dividing the
Black Sea Fleet, Russian news agencies reported. He added that Moscow has
since made some concessions to Kyiv, such as the bilateral agreement not to
charge value-added tax on each other's imports. But Yeltsin said such
concessions were worth making in order to protect the "friendship" between
the two countries. He attributed the progress in bilateral relations to
more frequent meetings and telephone conversations between himself and
President Kuchma. Kuchma paid an informal visit to Moscow in late January
and is to make a state visit to Russia on 26-27 February. LB

LUZHKOV WANTS RUSSIAN JURISDICTION OVER SEVASTOPOL. Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov promised on 21 February to demand "that Sevastopol be placed under
Russia's jurisdiction again," Interfax reported. Addressing a group of
Sevastopol residents and Black Sea Fleet sailors, he again denounced the
"forced Ukrainianization" of ethnic Russians and warned that "relations
between Ukraine and Russia will never be transparent or sincerely fraternal
if injustice continues with regard to Sevastopol and Crimea." Luzhkov came
to Sevastopol for the opening of a new apartment block for families of
Black Sea Fleet sailors, which was funded by the Moscow city government.
Russia renounced all territorial claims on Ukraine in a treaty signed last
May, but Russia has not yet ratified that treaty. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ABDUCTORS RELEASE ONE UNOMIG HOSTAGE. The 20 armed supporters of former
Georgian President Zviad Gamasakhurdia who have been holding four UN
military observers and six Georgians hostage in the west Georgian village
of Djikhaskari since 19 February released two of the Georgians on 21
February and an Uruguayan captain the following day. But the kidnappers are
now demanding that the Georgian Interior Ministry forces surrounding the
village be withdrawn and that the Georgian authorities cease hounding
Gamsakhurdia's followers. They also want talks between Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze and  members of Gamsakhurdia's government. Shevardnadze
agreed to this last demand on 22 February. The previous day,  following
appeals by Czech President Vaclav Havel and Swedish Prime Minister Goeran
Persson, Shevardnadze ruled out the use of force to secure the hostages'
release. He agreed that UN representatives should join the Georgian
security officials engaged in negotiating the hostages' release. LF

KARABAKH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS. Speaking on Armenian television on 19
February,  one day before the 10th anniversary of the Nagorno-Karabakh
Oblast Soviet's  appeal to the Soviet leadership to transfer the oblast to
Armenia's jurisdiction, Armenian Prime Minister and acting President Robert
Kocharyan criticized the Karabakh policy of former President Levon
Ter-Petrossyan as counter-productive. Karabakh Prime Minister Leonid
Petrossyan said on 19 February that Baku and the international community
should recognize that the Karabakh Armenians' determination to build an
independent state is unshakable.  Former Russian Security Council secretary
Aleksandr Lebed said in Stepanakert on 20 February that the ongoing
Karabakh mediation effort by the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe is "moving in the wrong direction," according to Interfax. Also
on 20 February, the Azerbaijani parliament condemned the visit to Karabakh
by Lebed and some 30 other Russian State Duma deputies as "open support for
separatism" and an "example of double standards," Turan reported. LF

CRIMINAL CHARGES FILED AGAINST HASANOV. Former Azerbaijan Foreign Minister
Hasan Hasanov has been charged with abuse of power and with forgery,
Prosecutor-General Eldar Hasanov (who is not related to Hasan) announced on
20 February. Those charges could carry a prison sentence of up to eight
years, Interfax reported. Hasan Hasanov was fired on 16 February for
misappropriating Turkish credits to finance construction of a luxury hotel
and casino complex. He is also implicated in drug-trafficking, according to
Turan on 21 February. LF

IRAN DENIES ENDORSING CASPIAN AGREEMENT. The Iranian Embassy in Moscow has
denied Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov's claim that President
Mohammed Khatami wrote to his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov,
earlier this month approving the Turkmen-Azerbaijani agreement on
delineating those countries' sectors of the Caspian, Interfax reported on
21 February. In an official press release, the embassy affirmed that Tehran
continues to insist that all matters related to the Caspian should be
resolved jointly by the littoral states. On the eve of a trip to Moscow,
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told "al Hayat" on 21 February that
Iranian-Russian cooperation is in the interests of both countries and is
not directed against the U.S., ITAR-TASS reported. LF

CHANGES IN KAZAKHSTAN'S TOP ECONOMIC POSTS. President Nursultan Nazarbayev
has signed a decree dismissing Aleksandr Pavlov as finance minister and
replacing him with his deputy, Sauat Mynbayev, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported
on 20-22 February. National Bank Chairman Uraz Jandosov has been appointed
first deputy prime minister and chairman of the State Investment Committee.
He is replaced by his deputy, Kadyrjon Damitov, who is also adviser to the
prime minister. Akhmetzhan Yesimov, until now first deputy prime minister,
is to take over as head of the presidential administration. BP

TROUBLES IN SOUTHERN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbekistan's southwestern Surkhandarya
Oblast was the scene of a shooting and a major narcotics bust last week,
ITAR-TASS reported. Uzbek authorities revealed on 22 February that five
days earlier, a dispute had broken out between Uzbek border guards over
food rations. One of the guards shot dead eight of his colleagues  before
being disarmed. Meanwhile on 21 February, customs guards seized 444
kilograms of various narcotics from two citizens of Kazakhstan. BP

KYRGYZ ORGANIZATION ENDORSES AKAYEV FOR THIRD TERM. The Assembly of the
Peoples of Kyrgyzstan on 20 February endorsed President Askar Akayev as a
candidate for the 2000 presidential elections, RFE/RL correspondents in
Bishkek reported. "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" the same day carried an article by
the group's chairman, Sopubek Begaliev, calling on Akayev to run again. But
under the Kyrgyz Constitution, a president may serve only two terms in
office. Akayev was elected president of the Kirghiz SSR in October 1990. He
was elected president of Kyrgyzstan in October 1991 and again in December
1995. BP


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