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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 47, Part I, 10 March 1998


RFE/RL Newsline. We are resending the March 10, 1998 edition (Vol. 2, No.47).]

RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 47, Part I, 10 March 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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RFE/RL CAUCASUS REPORT: A WEEKLY REVIEW OF POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN
THE NORTH CAUCASUS AND TRANSCAUCASIA FROM RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO
LIBERTY

This new email weekly covers Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia's
North Caucasus. To subscribe, send an email message to
caucasus-report-request@list.rferl.org with the word "subscribe" in
the subject line or body of the message. The first issue (March 3,
1998) and all future issues will be online at the RFE/RL Web site.
http://www.rferl.org/caucasus-report/

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Headlines, Part I

* CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS NO MISSILE TECHNOLOGY TO IRAN

* CHECHEN PRESIDENT IN BAKU, LONDON

* ARMENIAN POLICE ARREST FOUR AFTER RALLY MELEE

* End Note: PLAYING THE ETHNIC CARD

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RUSSIA

CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS NO MISSILE TECHNOLOGY TO IRAN... Speaking to
reporters in Moscow on 9 March, Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin said in reference to nuclear weapons technology that "we
have not and will not transfer anything to Iran or other countries,"
ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, Chernomyrdin arrived in
Washington. to attend the 10th session of the bilateral Commission on
Economic and Technological Cooperation. The Russian premier reassured
U.S. officials that "we do not overstep any limit where missile
technology and nuclear matters are concerned." He added that "Russia
borders Iran, so we are aware of all responsibility...in fields like
nuclear weapons, missile technology, and missile carriers." In fact,
Russia does not border Iran, although the CIS states of Armenia and
Azerbaijan do. BP

...HOPES FOR U.S.-RUSSIA SUMMIT THIS YEAR. On arriving in the
U.S. capital, Chernomyrdin expressed the hope that the planned summit
between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his U.S. counterpart Bill
Clinton will take place this year, ITAR-TASS reported. Both Russian
and U.S. officials have called for holding the summit only after
Russia has ratified the START-2 arms control treaty (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 13 and 15 January 1998). Chernomyrdin said the government
is seeking the State Duma's approval of that treaty. Duma Foreign
Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko, a supporter of
START-2, said after a recent visit to Washington that he sees no
reason for "haste" in ratifying the treaty, Russian news agencies
reported on 3 March. Lukin noted that both sides are one year ahead of
schedule in implementing the START-1 treaty. LB

YELTSIN SAYS HIS HEALTH IS FINE. Yeltsin announced on 10 March that
doctors gave him a clean bill of health following routine medical
tests five days earlier, Russian news agencies reported. He urged
journalists to "close the subject" of his health, adding that he
"would have said honestly if something had been left undone" during
his November 1996 heart surgery. Journalists have long reported
skeptically on official pronouncements concerning Yeltsin's health,
which in past years often concealed serious health problems. Some
Russian commentators expressed doubt that Yeltsin had suffered from
nothing more than a respiratory infection when he spent two weeks in
the Barvikha clinic last December--especially after the president
canceled a planned trip to India in January. Erroneous statements made
by Yeltsin during visits to Italy last month and to Sweden in December
also fueled speculation about the president's health. LB

MIKHAILOV RETURNS TO ATOMIC ENERGY MINISTRY.  Russian Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin has appointed Viktor Mikhailov first deputy atomic energy
minister and chairman of that ministry's scientific council, ITAR-TASS
reported on 8 March. Mikhailov was dismissed as atomic energy minister
earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 March 1998).
Introducing Mikhailov's successor, Yevgenii Adamov, to the ministry's
staff on 4 March, Chernomyrdin spoke warmly of Mikhailov's tenure and
said "his experience must be preserved." LF

INSPECTION UNDER WAY OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS STOCKPILES. Inspectors from
the International Organization for the Prohibition on Chemical Weapons
began on 5 March inspecting Soviet-era chemical weapons stockpiles
outside the city of Dzerzhinsk, Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast. The weekly
"Novaya gazeta" reported in its 2-8 March edition that there are eight
sites in Russia where chemical weapons were produced and an estimated
40,000 tons of chemical weapons (compared with 30,000 tons in the
U.S.), which are to be destroyed over the next 10 years The weekly
writes that destruction of the weapons may prove as dangerous as their
use for military purposes. It also points out that "acceptable limits"
of toxins from various gases are still being debated. Russia ratified
the convention prohibiting chemical weapons late last year and handed
over initial reports on stockpiles in January. BP

DUMA SUPPORTS EXTRA PENSION BENEFITS FOR RURAL DOCTORS... The Duma on
6 March overrode a presidential veto on an amendment to the law on
state pensions granting extra pension benefits to doctors who work in
rural areas, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Duma First Deputy
Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov of the Our Home Is Russia faction told RFE/RL
that the amendment "deceives doctors" by promising them support that
cannot be sustained by the Pension Fund. He noted that the Federation
Council is far from certain to muster the two-thirds majority needed
to override Yeltsin's veto. The Duma has recently criticized the way
the government is calculating pensions, but government officials say
pension benefits must correspond to the resources available to the
Pension Fund (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 27 January 1998). LB

...AND PAY HIKE FOR SOLDIERS. Also on 6 March, the Duma overrode a
presidential veto of the law on the status of those in military
service, which would raise soldiers' wages and tie such hikes to
increases in the minimum wage, ITAR-TASS reported. Aleksandr Kotenkov,
Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, said the 1998 budget cannot
cover the expenditures foreseen by the law. Government officials
including Prime Minister Chernomyrdin have promised to increase
soldiers' pay this year, but Kotenkov said those increases would be
more modest than the law envisages. Meanwhile, the Duma on 6 March
also approved a law on military duty and military service but refused
to include an amendment proposed by Yabloko deputy Yelena Mizulina,
which would have barred conscripts from being forced to serve in "hot
spots." LB

DUMA WANTS LAWS PUBLISHED IN PARLIAMENTARY NEWSPAPER. The Duma on 6
March passed in the first reading amendments to a law on the procedure
for publishing federal laws, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. The
amendments would transfer the right to publish laws from the official
government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" to a parliamentary
newspaper. The Russian parliament has not had its own newspaper since
October 1993, but Yeltsin agreed last October to allow the parliament
to found a publication. The 1998 budget calls for 31.4 million rubles
($5.2 million) in funding for "Parlamentskaya gazeta," which is
scheduled to begin publishing in September. "Kommersant-Daily" noted
that since laws cannot go into effect until after they have been
published, Yeltsin benefits from the current arrangement, in which the
loyal "Rossiiskaya gazeta" does not publish laws even when Yeltsin has
not signed them within the time limit stipulated by the
constitution. LB

REALLOCATION OF TOP DUMA POSTS STALLED. Negotiations on reallocating
the top Duma committee posts are at an impasse, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported on 6 March. Talks on revising the 1996 agreement between the
seven Duma factions were set to resume after the Duma approved the
1998 budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1998). The main
stumbling block is the Budget Committee, which Russian Regions faction
member Aleksandr Zhukov has chaired since Mikhail Zadornov, formerly
of Yabloko, became finance minister last November. Yabloko is
unwilling to "give up" the chairmanship of that committee without
gaining another prominent post. Zhukov has reportedly refused
invitations to join either the Yabloko or the Our Home Is Russia
factions in order to break the impasse. The government strongly
objected to a proposal to divide the Budget Committee into two
separate bodies, one chaired by Zhukov and the other by a Yabloko
member. LB

LOOPHOLES IN REQUIREMENTS ON INCOME DECLARATIONS. In accordance with
revisions to a May 1996 presidential decree, judges and military
personnel will not have to submit income and property declarations,
"Russkii telegraf" reported on 6 March. All government and
presidential administration officials must submit two documents by 1
April: one disclosing 1997 income and all property holdings, the other
giving full information about bank accounts and holdings of stocks or
other securities. Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has said the
requirements will aid the battle against corruption, but "Russkii
telegraf" questioned the legal basis for not requiring army officials
to reveal their income and property holdings. The newspaper also noted
that as before, officials will only be requested--not required--to
declare their relatives' income and property, creating an easy method
for hiding assets. Some top officials submitted suspiciously modest
declarations last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 1997). LB

GAZPROM-MEDIA PURSUES BROAD POLITICAL AIMS. Sergei Karaganov, board
member of the gas monopoly Gazprom's subsidiary Gazprom-Media, says
Gazprom will not restrict its political efforts to influencing the
next presidential election. In an interview published in
"Kommersant-Daily" on 5 March, Karaganov said Gazprom-Media was
founded in order to "build up [the gas monopoly's] political muscles
in accordance with Gazprom's economic might" and to give Gazprom
"proper means for influencing politics, regardless of any presidential
elections." Gazprom, which has close ties to Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin, owns a 30 percent stake in the private network NTV and
shares in many regional television stations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14
January 1998). The company is also a major financial backer of the
newspapers "Trud" and "Rabochaya tribuna." Karaganov is better known
as a foreign-policy specialist who is a prominent member of the
non-governmental Council for Foreign and Defense Policy. LB

JUSTICE MINISTRY REGISTERS NEW VETERANS' MOVEMENT. The Justice
Ministry has registered Duma deputy Boris Gromov's Brotherhood of
Fighters movement, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 March. Gromov, who
commanded the last Soviet troops to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989,
founded the movement in order to lobby for changes in government
policy toward veterans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1998). He has
said Brotherhood of Fighters will fund the work of a laboratory in
Rostov-na-Donu that is trying to identify the bodies of Russian
soldiers killed in Chechnya, and will seek the return of soldiers
reportedly still held on Chechen territory, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported on 5 March. The Justice Ministry has to date refused to
register the Movement to Support the Army, founded last year by Duma
Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, who is seeking the removal of
Yeltsin and the government. LB

WIVES PROTEST WAGES PAID IN VODKA. A group of women whose husbands
work for the Preobrazhensk Trawler Fleet in Primorskii Krai have
demanded that the company stop paying employees' wages in vodka,
Interfax reported on 8 March. In an open letter, the women accused the
firm of "deliberately addicting" their husbands to alcohol, while the
fishermen's families do not have enough money to buy food. They say
company policies have caused an increase in alcohol-related accidental
deaths. In recent years, many Russian firms have resorted to paying
wages in consumer goods for lack of cash. LB

CHECHEN PRESIDENT IN BAKU, LONDON. Aslan Maskhadov made a stopover in
Baku on 9 March on his way to the U.K. In welcoming him, Azerbaijani
President Heidar Aliev praised Chechnya for its role in exporting
Caspian basin oil and pledged to increase assistance to Grozny. But
the same day, Chechen officials said they may block a pipeline there
if Russia continues to violate the peace accords, ITAR-TASS
reported. That threat followed an exchange of fire on 9 March in which
nine Chechens were killed. Following his arrival in London, Maskhadov
attended a dinner hosted by former British Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher.  PG

NON-TATARS DISCRIMINATED AGAINST IN KAZAN? The Kazan City Council has
ruled that Tatar employees in the culture, education, and
transportation sectors are to receive a 15 percent salary increase
over those received by non-Tatars on the basis of their knowledge of
the republic's two state languages (Tatar and Russian), "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" reported on 6 March. Ethnic Russians are under-represented in
the republican government, given their proportion of the population of
Tatarstan. LF

INGUSHETIAN POLICE CHIEF ARRESTED IN MOSCOW. Acting Ingushetian
Interior Minister Daud Korigov was arrested in Moscow on 3 March on
charges of abusing his authority and thwarting the work of the
republic's prosecutor-general, Russian media reported. Ingush
President Ruslan Aushev said in a televised address on 7 March that he
does not believe reports that Korigov is implicated in abductions,
according to ITAR-TASS. Aushev said he has asked Korigov to establish
contact with Chechen field commanders in an attempt to secure the
release of hostages held in Chechnya. The previous day, Aushev
described the arrest as a "purely political affair" aimed against
himself. LF

REGIONAL AFFAIRS

RIGA TO OFFICIALLY RESPOND TO MOSCOW OVER PENSIONERS' RALLY. Foreign
Ministry spokesman Andrejs Pildegovics said on 9 March that Riga will
send a diplomatic note to Moscow over the response by Russian
officials to the 3 March pensioners' rally in the Latvian capital, BNS
and AFP reported. "Latvia finds unacceptable the tone and manner of
Russian statements...about the illegal picket," Pildegovics said. He
added that because Russia has "politicized the incident" and "deceived
the public," the Latvian Foreign Ministry must comment on those
statements. Also on 9 March, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas
Saudargas said his ministry is closely watching the deterioration of
Latvian-Russian relations and will make its position known at a later
date. And in Tallinn, the United Opposition-- the strongest opposition
force in the Estonian parliament--issued a statement criticizing
Russia's reaction to the rally and saying that "restoring and
maintaining order on its own territory is an internal matter of any
country" (see also "End Note"). JC

RUSSIA OUTRAGED OVER TOMB DESECRATION IN LATVIA. The Russian Foreign
Ministry on 9 March issued a statement denouncing the desecration the
previous day of a tomb of Soviet soldiers in Liepaya, Latvia, Russian
news agencies reported. The statement demanded that the perpetrators
be punished and charged that the Latvian authorities failed to provide
adequate protection for the memorial. It claimed that vandalism is a
logical extension of "nationalism, Russophobia, and trampling on human
rights" in Latvia. And it accused the Latvian authorities of
encouraging "militant nationalism," singling out the breakup of the 3
March pensioners' rally in Riga. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN POLICE ARREST FOUR AFTER RALLY MELEE. Police arrested four
people on 9 March in connection with their alleged role in the beating
of several participants at an election rally staged by presidential
candidate Vazgen Manukian the previous day, RFE/RL's Armenian Service
reported. Representatives of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe who are currently in Armenia to observe the
presidential race there called on Yerevan to vigorously pursue the
investigation of those involved.  PG

TBILISI CONDEMNS ABKHAZ ELECTION PLANS. In statements issued on 7 and
9 March, respectively, the Georgian parliament and Foreign Ministry
have condemned the Abkhaz local elections scheduled for later this
week, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Georgian lawmakers said
the election plans demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the CIS
peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between
Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. The Foreign Ministry said the
planned poll is illegal and a "provocation," given that ethnic
Georgians who fled during the 1992-1993 war are unable to
participate. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT UNDECIDED ABOUT ATTENDING CIS SUMMIT. In his weekly
radio address on 9 March, Shevardnadze said he has not yet made a
final decision on whether to attend the CIS summit meeting in Moscow
on 19-20 March. Noting that the trail of those who attempted to
assassinate him last month disappeared in the Russian capital,
Shevardnadze suggested he might be subject to another attack if he
were to attend. The Georgian president also commented that an upcoming
visit by Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev might help resolve the
question of Russian military bases in Georgia and thus ease tensions.
PG

TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER TAKES UP GOVERNMENT POST. Khoja Akbar
Turajonzoda, the deputy leader of the United Tajik Opposition, has
officially taken up his post as first deputy prime minister, RFE/RL
correspondents reported on 10 March. Turajonzoda will be responsible
for economic and trade relations with other CIS countries. BP

END NOTE

PLAYING THE ETHNIC CARD

by Paul Goble

	Riga's handling of a demonstration last week and Moscow's
	response to it are an object lesson in how sensitive certain
	ethnic issues remain in the region and how quickly they can be
	exploited for broader political ends.

	Last Tuesday, police used batons to disperse a protest march
	by some 1,000 elderly residents of the Latvian capital against
	increases utility rate hikes. The Latvian authorities said the
	protesters lacked a permit and were blocking traffic, and the
	police insisted that they had not used excessive force.

	But because most of the demonstrators were ethnic Russians,
	their protest and even more the Latvian handling of it
	immediately set off a political firestorm in Russia. At least
	some in Moscow now appear to be using the incident to isolate
	Riga and to pressure Latvia on a broader front.

	The day of the demonstration, Russia's ORT television carried
	footage of the clash between demonstrators and the Latvian
	police but gave little space to statements by Latvian
	authorities that the police had acted within the law. That
	report generated a crescendo of statements and actions by
	Russian officials. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Yevgenii
	Primakov denounced Latvia's handling of the protest as a
	"flagrant violation of human rights."

	On Thursday, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman
	Sergei Yastrzhembskii described the Latvian action as a
	"blatant violation of elementary human rights," saying there
	"can be no talk" now about setting a date for a meeting
	between Yeltsin and Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis.

	Also on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov
	called for international pressure on Latvia to change its
	approach to ethnic Russians more generally. And some 60 people
	gathered in front of the Latvian embassy in Moscow to protest
	Riga's policy.

	On Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said he was
	"indignant" at Latvia's behavior, for which, he said, there
	could be "no justification." The Russian Duma called on
	Yeltsin to take firm steps, including economic sanctions and
	political reprisals, to force Riga to change its policies.

	And finally on Saturday, Yastrzhembskii told Ekho Moskvy that
	Yeltsin's advisers now favor imposing economic sanctions on
	Latvia, thus setting the stage for a further escalation of the
	crisis.

	Throughout the week, Latvian officials repeatedly denied that
	the police had acted illegally and suggested that the Russian
	authorities were responding on the basis of insufficient
	information.

	To give but one example, Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts
	on Saturday repeated that the police had acted "very
	correctly" and that they had not violated anyone's human
	rights.

	Regardless of what happens next in this crisis, the events of
	the past week yield three conclusions.

	First, relations between Russia and the Baltic States remain
	far more finely balanced than many on either side had
	believed. A single incident can suffice to shift that balance.

	Prior to the events of last Tuesday, relations between Russia
	and Latvia in fact had been on the upswing. As recently as 19
	February, a Latvian government spokesman said Yeltsin had sent
	Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis a letter that was
	characterized as "hopeful and positive" about relations
	between the two countries.

	Second, many in the Russian government believe that they can
	play the ethnic card against Latvia and its neighbor Estonia
	because neither country gave automatic citizenship to all
	residents at the time that they recovered
	independence. Instead, both countries required a
	naturalization process for all those who moved onto their
	territories while they were under Soviet occupation. Although
	consistent with international law, as any number of
	authorities have concluded, their decision to do so has
	offended many in Russia and has on occasion left them
	vulnerable to criticism from abroad.

	Indeed, since 1992, Moscow has routinely sought to enlist
	Western support against these two states on this issue and,
	failing that, to isolate Latvia and Estonia from their Western
	partners by appealing to human rights concerns among Western
	populations.

	And third, and perhaps most disturbing, at least some in the
	Russian government appear to be willing to exploit such
	situations to generate support for themselves. Given recent
	polls suggesting that many Russians dislike, or are
	indifferent to, the current Russian government, some officials
	there may have concluded that the exacerbation of relations
	between Moscow and its neighbors could serve their personal
	interests.

	To the extent that some in the Russian capital have indeed
	reached that conclusion, protests from Moscow over the status
	and treatment of ethnic Russians outside the Russian
	Federation may soon be directed at other countries as well.


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