Coleridge declares that a man cannot have a good conscience who refuses apple dumplings, and I confess that I am of the same opinion. - Charles Lamb
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 48, Part I, 11 March 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 48, Part I, 11 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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ALL BROADCASTS FOR SIX SERVICES LIVE ONLINE
All programs of RFE/RL's Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Kyrgyz, Russian
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Headlines, Part I

* GORE-CHERNOMYRDIN COMMISSION MEETS IN WASHINGTON

* YELTSIN CONCERNED ABOUT INSTABILITY IN NORTH CAUCASUS

* GEORGIA TO PRESENT NEW PLAN FOR CIS

* End Note: WHAT PRICE BAKU-CEYHAN?

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RUSSIA

GORE-CHERNOMYRDIN COMMISSION MEETS IN WASHINGTON... The 10th session of the
Russian-U.S. Commission on Economic and Technical Cooperation, also called
the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, began in Washington on 10 March. The
commission focused initially on Russia's contribution to the Alpha space
station. Construction of that station is scheduled to begin this summer,
but it seems unlikely Russia will be able to come up with the $21 billion
it has pledged. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice
President Al Gore are scheduled to meet with executives of the U.S.
companies Lockheed-Martin and Boeing to discuss cooperation in launching
commercial satellites and helping Russia raise money for its space program.
Cooperation in health care was also discussed, particularly with regard to
AIDS and tuberculosis. Russian Health Minister Tatyana Dmitrieva, who also
attended the meeting, said "never before have the questions of health care
been examined in such detail." She added Russia is requesting loans from
the U.S. to help fund the fight against infectious diseases. BP

...WILL LIKELY DISCUSS RUSSIA'S USE OF SUPERCOMPUTERS. U.S. State
Department deputy spokesman James Foley said on 10 March that Russia has
twice turned down formal U.S. government requests for information on
U.S.-made supercomputers allegedly being used in Russian nuclear research
facilities. Foley said the issue will likely be a topic of discussion among
commission members. The U.S. government is concerned that five high-speed
Silicon Graphics and IBM computers, sold in 1997 without licenses, are now
in use at the Chelyabinsk and Arzamas nuclear development facilities. The
Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has rejected a request from the U.S.
Justice Department for assistance in investigating the sale and use of
those computers, the "Washington Times" reported on 10 March. BP

YELTSIN CONCERNED ABOUT INSTABILITY IN NORTH CAUCASUS. At a Kremlin meeting
on 10 March with elders from all regions in the North Caucasus except
Chechnya,  President Boris Yeltsin said he is "worried by the unstable
situation" there and especially by "the growing distaste that people show
for local as well as federal officials," Interfax reported. But while
promising assistance to the region and even suggesting he might pay a
personal visit there, Yeltsin said that Russia is a "great multinational
state that feared no one from [U.S. President Bill] Clinton to anyone else"
and will do what it has to do to ensure stability across its territory.
Earlier, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov said Moscow is
ready for any compromises on problems in the North Caucasus as long as they
do not undermine Russia's territorial integrity, ITAR-TASS reported. But he
suggested that there are no ethnic conflicts in that region, only
"struggles for high posts." PG

QUESTIONABLE CRITERIA USED FOR CHOOSING ELDERS. While the Kremlin built up
expectations over Yeltsin's  meeting with the elders, the regions of the
North Caucasus do not have consensus figures whose views carry widespread
authority and influence over political developments. In most cases,
residents of the regions learned the names of their "elders" only a few
days before the delegations flew to Moscow, RFE/RL's correspondent in
Vladikavkaz reported on 10 March. Many delegates were former Soviet
officials. For instance, the North Ossetian delegation included a
Brezhnev-era trade minister. Among the "elders" chosen by the Republic of
Kabardino-Balkaria was a former NKVD officer who participated in the
deportation of Balkars in 1945, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. RFE/RL
commentator Andrei Babitskii, an expert on the North Caucasus, described
the concept of "elders" as grounded in "fairy tales" rather than current
political realities. LB

IDEA OF 'ELDERS' TAINTED IN CHECHNYA. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov
snubbed Moscow by not sending any elders from the breakaway republic to
meet with Yeltsin. But even if he had wanted to send representatives to the
meeting, selecting them would have been extremely problematic, RFE/RL's
Grozny correspondent reported on 10 March. The term "elder" has negative
connotations in Chechnya, where it is assumed to refer to a person
appointed by Moscow. The last person to use the services of "elders" was
Doku Zavgaev, who headed the pro-Moscow Chechen government during the war
in Chechnya. Those elders were mainly old party officials and veterans of
Soviet agencies who, on behalf of their villages, signed a protocol
recognizing Zavgaev's government in the hope of escaping bombardment by
Russian forces. LB

CHECHEN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION. In remarks to the
London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs,  Maskhadov said he
had told former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that he would like
an international commission to examine the extent to which Russia has kept
to its promises on Chechnya.  Citing Winston Churchill's observation that
Russia has no tradition of living up to its commitments, Maskhadov said he
did not expect the commission to find that it had. And noting that Russia
had no money, he added that Grozny does not expect to obtain promised funds
from Moscow. In conclusion, Maskhadov repeated his argument that Chechnya
is an independent country: "To those who say we have to break away from
Russia, we say: 'Find a single document which says we are legally part of
Russia. Such a document does not exist.'" PG

LONDON PRESSES MASKHADOV ON HOSTAGES.  A British Foreign Office official
told Maskhadov that London cannot consider providing any assistance to
Chechnya until there is a settlement of the conflict and until all hostages
are released, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 March. Maskhadov told the BBC that
he has done everything he can to secure the release of the hostages and
will continue to do so.  PG

BASAEV PESSIMISTIC ABOUT TALKS WITH RUSSIA. Chechen acting Prime Minister
Shamil Basaev on 11 March questioned the use of holding further talks
between Moscow and Grozny, saying Russia has "proved to be a bad partner,"
Interfax reported. Basaev charged that the Russian side has not implemented
any of the agreements it signed with Chechen authorities. As for a planned
meeting between Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov and Russian Deputy
Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin, Basaev predicted the two men will "have a cup
of tea, exchange diplomatic niceties, and...interpret the results of the
meeting differently." Basaev led a raid on the town of Budennovsk
(Stavropol Krai) in June 1995. The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office
brought criminal charges against him, which have not yet been dropped. LB

YELTSIN WANTS TIGHTER CONTROL OVER WELFARE SPENDING. Deputy Prime Minister
Oleg Sysuev says Yeltsin has called for tougher measures to ensure that
federal funds earmarked for social programs do not go astray in the
regions, Russian news agencies reported on 10 March. Following a meeting
with Yeltsin, Sysuev said the president is to appoint a commission to
monitor how social benefits funds are allocated there. Sysuev and Mikhail
Shmakov, the leader of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, are to
head that commission. According to Sysuev, Yeltsin sharply criticized some
regional authorities for using federal funds "to solve their own problems."
Regional officials say that because the federal government fails to meet
its spending obligations, funds intended to pay wages, pensions, and child
benefits sometimes must be diverted to pay for other vital needs, such as
fuel supplies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1998). LB

MINISTRY REGISTERS ROKHLIN'S MOVEMENT. The Justice Ministry on 10 March
registered State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin's Movement to
Support the Army, Rokhlin told Interfax. Last fall, the ministry refused to
register the movement on the grounds that its charter does not describe it
as a "political" movement, even though it is pursuing political aims.
Rokhlin subsequently called a second congress of his movement to revise the
charter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1998). He told Interfax that
branches of the Movement to Support the Army have been formed in 68 out of
Russia's 89 regions. Meanwhile, Duma deputy Aleksandr Shokhin on 10 March
confirmed that the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction will continue its
efforts to replace Rokhlin as Defense Committee chairman, ITAR-TASS
reported. Last September, Rokhlin left the pro-government faction, which
had nominated him for that post. LB

AGENCY LEAVES RUSSIAN CREDIT RATING UNCHANGED. The international credit
rating agency Fitch IBCA announced on 10 March that it has decided not to
downgrade Russia's sovereign debt rating. The agency recently reviewed the
financial situation in Russia. Some market analysts had expected a
downgrade, because IBCA's rating for Russia was one notch higher than that
of either Moody's or Standard & Poor's, Reuters reported. Both of those
agencies are also considering whether a downgrade is warranted, but they
have not yet announced their decision. A lower Russian sovereign debt
rating would mean higher costs of foreign borrowing for both the government
and commercial banks since those banks' credit ratings would automatically
be lowered. LB

LUZHKOV VOWS TO FLOUT COURT RULING. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 10 March
announced that the capital will not do away with residence permits,
ITAR-TASS reported. The Constitutional Court recently ruled that local
authorities can keep records of citizens' places of residence but cannot
use the registration process to grant or deny citizens permission to live
in a given location (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1998). Luzhkov
called for overruling that decision, saying that residency permits (also
known as "propiski") are needed to protect Moscow from an influx of
citizens seeking benefits. He noted that social benefits payments already
make up 41 percent of city budget expenditures. He did not specify how the
court's decision could be overruled. Article 27 of the constitution grants
citizens the right to choose their place of residence. LB

CHICKEN LEGS TO PAY FOR TSAR'S BURIAL? "Novye izvestiya" reported on 10
March that proceeds from imports of chicken legs from the U.S. will fund
the funeral for Russia's last tsar. Nicholas II and his family are to be
buried in St. Petersburg this July, and the event will be financed from
non-budgetary sources. "Novye izvestiya" alleged that a firm linked to
Oneksimbank will import the chicken legs through the government commission
on burying the tsar's remains, thereby gaining exemptions from various
taxes and customs duties. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov heads
that commission. The newspaper charged that Oneksimbank has unparalleled
access to both Nemtsov and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais.
"Novye izvestiya" was founded last year by journalists who left
"Izvestiya," in which Oneksimbank is a major shareholder. Boris
Berezovskii's LogoVAZ empire, a leading business rival of Oneksimbank,
reportedly helps finance "Novye izvestiya." LB

ARKHANGELSK SEEKS ILLEGAL 'CO-AUTHOR' OF OBLAST LAW. The Arkhangelsk Oblast
Prosecutor's Office has opened a criminal case in connection with illegal
alterations to a law on the oblast's human rights commissioner, "Izvestiya"
reported on 11 March. The text published in the local press differed from
the version of the law that had been approved by the oblast legislature and
signed by Governor Anatolii Yefremov. For example, a passage prohibiting
the commissioner from belonging to political parties or movements had been
mysteriously removed. According to the 26 February edition of "IEWS Russian
Regional Report," a scandal erupted in Arkhangelsk last October when the
legislature appointed Yefremov's chief of staff as human rights
commissioner. It emerged that the published version of the law had been
revised to grant only the governor the right to nominate candidates for
that post. A process to select a new commissioner is under way. LB

NORTHERN PENSIONERS ANGRY ABOUT NEW LAW. Residents of Komi Republic are
outraged over the federal law on the procedure for calculating pensions,
which went into effect on 1 February, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11
March. Moscow-based critics of the government say that pension increases
have been insignificant under the new law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 27
January 1998). Residents of Russia's northern regions have in fact seen
their pensions decline, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." The law ties
pension benefits to the number of years a citizen was working and does away
with the practice of granting special benefits for those who worked in the
Far North. Meanwhile, during his meeting with the North Caucasus elders on
10 March, Yeltsin promised that pensions will be raised by 20 percent in
1998 and increased further in coming years, ITAR-TASS reported. LB

REGIONAL AFFAIRS

LATVIA OFFICIALLY PROTESTS RUSSIAN RESPONSE TO PENSIONERS' RALLY... The
Latvian Foreign Ministry on 10 March officially protested to Russia over
Moscow's sharp criticism of the way Riga handled the 3 March rally staged
by mainly ethnic Russian pensioners. Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrejs
Pildegovic said a note that included  a full description of the incident
had been handed to the Russian ambassador. He commented that some remarks
made by Russian officials over the incident "went beyond diplomatic and
even ethical norms." He also said Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs
has suggested an official visit to Moscow to clarify Latvia's position and
"directly inform" the Russian government and the State Duma on the
incident. Also on 10 March, Birkavs's Estonian counterpart, Toomas Hendrik
Ilves, said in Riga that "everything we have seen from the so-called
incident is that Latvia behaved entirely properly and that the accusations
made
are groundless," Reuters reported. JC

...DENOUNCES DESECRATION OF SOVIET SOLDIERS' TOMB. The Latvian Foreign
Ministry also expressed regret over the desecration of a tomb of Soviet
soldiers in Liepaja, Latvia, BNS and ITAR-TASS reported. The statement came
one day after the Russian Foreign Ministry had expressed outrage over the
incident, claiming that vandalism is a logical extension of "nationalism,
Russophobia, and trampling on human rights" in Latvia (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 10 March 1998). Riga appealed to Russian senior officials to
refrain from "hasty and non-objective comments." It also expressed
confidence that the Latvian authorities will conduct a thorough
investigation into the incident and punish those responsible. JC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIA TO PRESENT NEW PLAN FOR CIS.  Georgia will present a draft plan to
the CIS summit in Moscow on 19-20 March calling for the establishment of a
special commission to monitor CIS decisions and a special administrative
region in Abkhazia's Gali district to facilitate the return of refugees.
The plan also calls for CIS member states to turn to the UN and other
international organizations if the CIS does not make progress soon on the
Abkhaz crisis, Vakhtang Abashidze, a spokesman for Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze told ITAR-TASS on 11 March.  Abashidze added that the
Georgian president has sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin
arguing that it is well and good "if the CIS promotes the independence of
CIS member countries"; if it does not, then "disintegration processes may
develop" within the commonwealth. Abashidze said the letter made clear that
CIS membership must not block expanded ties between member states and
European and international institutions.  PG

ATTACK AT ARMENIAN ELECTION RALLY STILL GRABBING HEADLINES. The 8 March
attack on participants at an election rally held by supporters of Vazgen
Manukian in the town of Ararat continues to dominate the presidential
campaign, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 10 March.  While Manukian
expressed his satisfaction with the way the authorities are investigating
the matter, other candidates have either criticized the government or
sought to place the blame for the attack on one or another faction.  Acting
President and Prime Minister Robert Kocharian suggested that the attack was
directed "against the prestige of our country and me personally."
Meanwhile, Self-Determination Union candidate Paruir Hayrikian suggested to
Kocharian that he withdraw as a presidential candidate but continue as
premier. PG

ANOTHER UZBEK OFFICIAL SACKED. Uzbek President Islam Karimov signed a
decree on 10 March dismissing Deputy Prime Minister Komiljon Rakhimov,
ITAR-TASS reported. The news agency commented that Rakhimov has been
relieved of his duties "on the traditional pretext of being transferred to
another post," which "usually means a considerable reduction in rank." Last
week, a security adviser to the president was replaced (See "RFE/RL
Newsline," 5 March 1998). BP

KAZAKH NAVY TO PATROL CASPIAN SEA. Tursun Uazhanov, a senior official from
the Kazakh border guards, said that beginning this spring, Kazakh navy
vessels will patrol the Kazakh section of the Caspian Sea, Interfax
reported on 10 March. Uazhanov said initially naval operations will focus
on "countermeasures against poaching." But he added that once there is an
official division of the Caspian,  "we will start full-fledged patrolling
of our maritime borders." BP

END NOTE

WHAT PRICE BAKU-CEYHAN?

by Lowell Bezanis and Liz Fuller

	At the beginning of this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem
invited his counterparts from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and
Turkmenistan to attend talks in Istanbul aimed at reaching a consensus on
the merits of what may prove to be a $2.5 billion white elephant  The
project in question is the planned 1,730 kilometer pipeline from Baku via
Georgia to the southern Turkish terminal at Ceyhan, which could pump  35-50
million tons of Caspian oil a year to a soft Mediterranean market.
	The Baku-Ceyhan route is one of three options for the so-called
Main Export Pipeline (MEP) currently being evaluated by the government of
Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), which
is developing three Azerbaijani offshore oil fields. The others are the
northern route from Baku via Grozny to Novorossiisk and the western route
through Georgia to the Black Sea port of Supsa. The final choice is slated
for October 1998 but may well be postponed.
	Turkey's publicly stated reason for plugging Baku-Ceyhan is to
preclude an increase in the volume of oil tanker traffic through the
Turkish Straits, which could pose a serious environmental hazard to
Istanbul and its population of 10 million as well as slow up traffic in an
already congested waterway. Another complication is that  the projected
volume of AIOC oil--2 million barrels a day to come on stream years from
now--could be consumed by the Black Sea littoral states, including Turkey,
which imports about 700,000 barrels a day. Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine
also have an interest in using Caspian oil for domestic consumption and
possibly re-export. In any event, the MEP could not rely on AIOC oil alone
but would have to include not only volumes from fields currently still
being explored in the Caspian but also Kazakh and possibly Turkmen oil, too.
	Turkey remains upbeat, however, not only because the project is
viewed as a means to realize Ankara's geopolitical ambitions and its bid to
become a regional energy and transport hub for Caspian and Central Asian
gas but also because Washington is aggressively supporting the Turkish
leadership as part of a larger scheme to funnel gas westward via Turkey by
piggy-backing gas and oil pipelines. Turkey needs gas to fuel power plants
worth $40 billion to be tendered in the next decade.
	As for the producer and other potential transit countries,
Azerbaijan has repeatedly affirmed its preference for the Baku-Ceyhan
route, although Azerbaijani oil is already being exported northward through
the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline. Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan see
Baku-Ceyhan as a possible alternative or additional outlet to international
markets. But that would likely necessitate laying a technically problematic
underwater Trans-Caspian pipeline to Baku, which Russia and Iran jointly
oppose. Turkmenistan's only other export routes are via Iran or
Afghanistan. Kazakhstan has a choice between the westward-bound
Tengiz-Astrakhan-Novorossiisk pipeline and eastwards via China but will go
with whichever pipeline is operational first. It will also likely pursue a
swap option with Iran, which many in the AIOC would presumably like to see
if only Washington would tolerate it.
	Georgia, meanwhile, will be laughing all the way to the bank
whether the MEP terminates in Supsa or Ceyhan. Russia wants to see the bulk
of oil flow north and argues--with justification--that the northern route
is more economical. But the U.S., whose oil companies are major players in
the Caspian, favors Baku-Ceyhan as a means of anchoring Azerbaijan,
Georgia, and Turkey to the West and thereby further undercutting Russia's
already waning influence in the Transcaucasus.
	In the event, the Istanbul talks revealed significant differences
between Turkey and all participants except Georgia and failed to result in
an unequivocal public endorsement of the Baku-Ceyhan option, as Turkey had
hoped. The talks also irked Russia, which was not invited to participate.
But that does not necessarily reflect a lack of determination to proceed
and to find ways of buying off Moscow. Since 1994, Turkey has been talking
about Russian participation in Baku-Ceyhan on the production side. It also
wants to see Russian oil exported through Baku-Ceyhan.
	In late January, Cem floated the idea of giving "all regional
states," including Russia, a cut of the profits from exporting Caspian oil
to Ceyhan. That offer is likely to engender more cut-throat,
behind-the-scenes bargaining. Given the magnitude of the stakes involved,
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's 2 March assertion that "an oil
pipeline is not a tug-of-war" is simply wishful thinking.

Lowell Bezanis is a Washington-based specialist in Turkish and
Transcaucasian affairs.


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