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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 51, Part I, 16 March 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 51, Part I, 16 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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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN DELAYS RETURN TO KREMLIN

* FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON COOPERATION WITH IRAQ

* ARMENIANS VOTE FOR NEW PRESIDENT

* End Note: A NEW ELECTION PARADIGM

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN DELAYS RETURN TO KREMLIN. President Boris Yeltsin remained at his
residence outside Moscow on 16 March. The president's chief doctor, Sergei
Mironov, said in a statement released by the presidential press service
that Yeltsin still has cold symptoms and a hoarse voice and is to spend
part of the day in bed while being treated with antibiotics. The Kremlin
statement said Yeltsin's wife, Naina, is also sick. Sergei Shakhrai,
Yeltsin's representative in the Constitutional Court, met with the
president on 16 March and said Yeltsin's health is improving, although he
noted that the president's voice has not regained its full strength,
ITAR-TASS reported. Presidential spokesmen have not clarified whether
Yeltsin is expected to recover in time for a CIS Customs Union meeting on
18 March and a CIS summit to begin the following day in Moscow. LB

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONSIDERS PRESIDENT'S VETO POWER. The Constitutional
Court on 16 March starts hearings in the parliamentary appeal over
Yeltsin's refusal to sign the law on cultural valuables after both houses
of the parliament overrode his veto of that legislation last spring. The
court will not consider the legality of the "trophy art law" itself,
although Yeltsin has argued it contradicts international norms. Shakhrai,
Yeltsin's representative in the court, admits that the president is obliged
to sign laws within seven days if both houses of parliament override his
veto. However, Shakhrai argues that the parliament did not in fact override
Yeltsin's veto, because illegitimate balloting procedures were used in both
chambers. The Constitutional Court previously ruled that Yeltsin may return
laws unsigned to the parliament if he concludes there are procedural flaws
in the adoption of those laws (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 23 April 1996). LB

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON COOPERATION WITH IRAQ... The upper house
on 13 March rejected a law on expanding Russia's cooperation with Iraq,
Russian news agencies reported. Just 30 deputies supported the law, with 70
voting against and three abstaining. Federation Council Deputy Speaker
Vasilii Likhachev told ITAR-TASS that the vote does not signify that the
upper house has changed its position on cooperation with Iraq. But
Likhachev emphasized that any bilateral cooperation must correspond to UN
resolutions. Last July, the upper house rejected a similar law on Iraq for
the same reason (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997). LB

...AND LAW ON TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY. Also on 13 March, the Federation
Council rejected by 89 to seven a law on Russia's territorial integrity,
"Russkii telegraf" reported on 14 March. That law would have prohibited any
attempt to secede from the Russian Federation and would have allowed the
president to deploy  armed forces immediately to settle a
"non-international" conflict threatening Russia's territorial integrity
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 1998). It also would have given
regional legislatures the right to approve any exchange of territory with
neighboring states--a provision that would have made it even more difficult
for Russia to resolve territorial disputes with Japan and China. The
Council's Committee on Federation Affairs criticized various phrasings in
the law. "Russkii telegraf" also reported that the regional leaders may
have feared the law would allow even budgetary disputes to be branded
"separatist" attempts. LB

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL MULLING CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST ZHIRINOVSKY. Yurii
Skuratov has 10 days to consider a State Duma request that a criminal case
be opened against Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir
Zhirinovsky, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax on 13 March. The
Duma sent the Prosecutor-General's Office videotapes of Zhirinovsky's
recent behavior, when he insulted and threw water on fellow deputies. The
Yabloko faction has vowed to boycott Duma sessions until Skuratov evaluates
Zhirinovsky's conduct (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 1998). If the
prosecutor-general decides a criminal case is warranted, the Duma would
still have to vote to lift Zhirinovsky's immunity from prosecution.
Meanwhile, Zhirinovsky arrived in Tripoli on 14 March for talks with Libyan
leaders, AFP reported.  LB

CHUBAIS MAY SERVE IN GOVERNMENT, ELECTRICITY GIANT. First Deputy Prime
Minister Anatolii Chubais has sought to dispel speculation that he may
leave the government next month if he is appointed chairman of the board at
the electricity company Unified Energy System (EES). The government has
nominated Chubais to chair the EES board, and his candidacy is to be
considered at a 4 April board meeting. In an interview with Russian
Television on 15 March, Chubais said he would not have to leave the
government in order to work in the electricity company, Reuters reported.
EES chief executive Boris Brevnov, a close associate of First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov, on 12 March said he expects Chubais to be appointed
chairman of the EES board, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Anatolii
Dyakov, the current chairman, tried to oust Brevnov from the company
earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998). LB

BEREZOVSKII SLAMS CHUBAIS... Former Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris
Berezovskii, whom Chubais has sharply criticized in several recent
interviews, responded to that criticism in his own interview with
"Kommersant-Daily" on 13 March. Berezovskii again charged that Chubais has
a "revolutionary" mentality ill-suited to Russia's current conditions. He
compared Chubais to Gorbachev-era Politburo member Yegor Ligachev, who once
held fairly progressive views but by 1990 was viewed as a "retrograde."
Berezovskii also argued that Chubais's work in the government over the past
year has been "catastrophic" and expressed confidence that the first deputy
premier's "weeks, if not days, in power are numbered." In addition,
Berezovskii charged that Chubais and Nemtsov must "share responsibility"
for  a steadily "deteriorating" situation in Chechnya. Chubais and Nemtsov
were credited with convincing Yeltsin to remove Berezovskii from the
Security Council last November. LB

...CONTINUES TO RECEIVE TREATMENT IN SWITZERLAND. Interfax on 13 March
quoted "sources close to Berezovskii" as saying that Berezovskii has been
discharged from a Swiss hospital, where he was being treated for spinal
injuries he reportedly suffered in a 15 February snowmobiling accident.
However, Berezovskii is to continue rehabilitation treatment in Switzerland
for another two or three weeks. He flew to Switzerland a few days after his
accident and was originally expected to stay for only 10-12 days. LB

ACCUSED SPIES LEAVE NORWAY. Two Russian diplomats left Norway on 15 March,
three days after they were accused of spying and declared persona non
grata, Reuters and AFP reported. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry denied that
it will respond in kind if Moscow retaliates against Oslo's recent decision
to bar three other Russian diplomats from entering Norway. In a 14 March
interview with NTV, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov argued that
Norway acted "inappropriately" by expelling the diplomats and postponing a
visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. The same day,
Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek said he will visit Murmansk this
month, as planned. Vollebaek noted that despite the spying allegations, "we
cannot forget our cooperation with the Russians." Meanwhile, the Russian
Federation Council on 13 March voted 95 to four, with two abstentions, to
ratify a 1995 Russian-Norwegian agreement on investments, ITAR-TASS
reported. LB

MASKHADOV SAYS THATCHER TO STUDY RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TIES. On his return to
Grozny on 15 March, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov said  former British
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has agreed to head a group that will look
into the issue of relations between Russia and Chechnya, Interfax reported.
Maskhadov also said Thatcher had told him she wants to visit Chechnya.
However, Thatcher's spokeman told Reuters on 16 March that Thatcher has "no
plans to visit Grozny." In other remarks, Maskhadov said he used his
five-day visit to the British capital to seek investments in  Chechnya, to
reassure London that he is doing all he can to secure the release of two
English hostages, and to promote the idea of Chechen independence.  PG

PROGRESS AT MARGINS OF CHECHEN-RUSSIAN TALKS. In talks in the Ingush
capital of Nazran on 13 March, Chechen and Russian negotiators reached
agreement on accords whereby Grozny airport may  reopen for flights to CIS
countries and some $2 million may be donated for Chechen children, Interfax
reported. But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin and Movladi Udugov,
the leader of the Chechen negotiating team, made no progress on the basic
issue dividing Moscow and Grozny: Chechnya's status. Moreover, members of
the Chechen negotiating team said the real test of any progress in those
talks is whether Moscow will keep its earlier promises, which, they said,
it has so far not done. PG

ARMY INTRODUCES COST-CUTTING MEASURES. In accordance with an order issued
by Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, soldiers will not be issued dress
uniforms this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 March. They will receive only
winter and summer fatigues. The order is one of a series of cost-cutting
measures adopted recently by the Defense Ministry. Sergeev announced on 3
March that the ministry will sell 589 military compounds and 181 buildings
in connection with upcoming military reforms. The ministry's press service
said the same day that some 13,000 electricity meters will be installed in
order to promote energy conservation. The government has vowed to tighten
control over energy usage by budget-funded organizations. Military
installations frequently fail to pay their energy bills, contributing to
the non-payment crisis that leaves utilities unable to pay suppliers and
employees. LB

PLANS UNVEILED FOR 1998 MILITARY DRAFT. Defense Minister Sergeev on 13
March said 200,000 people are to be drafted this year, of whom
130,000-140,000 will be sent for military service, Interfax reported.
Sergeev said those who are in poor physical or mental health will be
excluded from the call-up. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Krasnaya Zvezda"
reported on 14 March that there are problems with the call-up because local
military induction centers are underfunded and therefore procedures for
screening potential recruits or rooting out draft dodgers are ineffective.
In Moscow, where dodging the draft is most widespread, the authorities plan
to introduce programs in schools whereby young people would be prepared,
both physically and psychologically, for military service. BP

REFORM OF AIR FORCE CONTINUES.  Air Force Commander Colonel-General
Anatolii Kornukov says that by the end of this year, personnel will be cut
by 125,000, of whom 48,000 will be officers, Interfax reported on 13 March.
Kornukov, who is overseeing reforms following the merger between the air
force and air defense forces, said the cuts will not effect combat
readiness. At the same time, he  admitted that current "combat fitness of
aviation equipment"  is only 45-55 percent. He also said new equipment,
including anti-aircraft missiles, will not be available until the year
2000. BP

MAJOR-GENERAL HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR VIETNAM CRASH. A military court has
found Vladimir Grebennikov responsible for the crash of four Su-27
airplanes in Vietnam in December 1995. Grebennikov was flying the lead
plane, an Il-76 cargo plane, into Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay airfield.
According to the court, he descended to an "inadmissably low altitude,"
causing the planes following his aircraft to collide into a mountain side.
Grebennikov was immediately released after the court determined that he
qualified for an amnesty declared by the Duma last December. BP

LATEST TANK ACCIDENT CLAIMS THREE LIVES. Two servicemen died immediately
and another on the way to the hospital when a tank overturned on a road
from Tuva to Khakassia on 13 March. A military commission is investigating
the incident, which is the second involving a tank in recent weeks. During
a training exercise near Novosibirsk on 2 February, a tank that had
apparently gotten lost in a blizzard suddenly rolled onto the field where
the exercise was taking place, killing four soldiers and injuring four
others. BP

GOVERNMENT LIMITS DUTY-FREE IMPORTS THROUGH KALININGRAD. The government on
12 March issued a directive limiting imports of 35 types of goods through
Kaliningrad Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 March. In accordance
with a law adopted in early 1996, Kaliningrad--a western enclave that does
not border the rest of the Russian Federation--is a "free economic zone,"
where customs duties and value-added tax are not charged on imports. Among
the goods affected by the directive are automobiles, furniture, meat,
cigarettes, and several types of alcoholic beverages. "Kommersant-Daily"
said the Kaliningrad administration lobbied for the government restrictions
in order to help protect Kaliningrad industry from foreign competition. LB

TOMSK MAYOR WINS SUIT AGAINST NEWSPAPER. A Tomsk district court has found
that the newspaper "Tomskaya nedelya" libeled the city's mayor, Aleksandr
Makarov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 March. The court awarded Makarov
damages of 91,000 rubles ($15,000) and ordered the newspaper to pay another
30,000 rubles to co-plaintiff Nina Igorenkova, a local official in charge
of fighting economic crime. The lawsuit was over one article on the
business practices of Makarov's relatives and another accusing the mayor of
ordering or carrying out attacks on the property of his political
opponents. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that Oleg Pletnev, the editor of
"Tomskaya nedelya," also serves on the Tomsk city council and is an
outspoken opponent of Makarov. Pletnev has vowed to appeal the ruling. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIANS VOTE FOR NEW PRESIDENT.  Most of the 2.2 million eligible voters
are expected to go to the polls on 16 March to choose a replacement for
former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, who recently resigned .
None of the 12 candidates is expected to receive the 50 percent of the vote
needed for election, and a runoff is expected on 30 March between two of
the three front-runners: Prime Minister and acting President Robert
Kocharian, former Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchyan, and
former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukian.  Observing the elections are 180
OSCE monitors and a variety of officials from the Council of Europe, the
CIS, and Russia (see also "End Note" below). PG

ABKHAZ VOTING SPARKS VIOLENCE.  Local elections in Abkhazia led to violence
on 14 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Several people were killed and many more
wounded in clashes between ethnic Abkhazians who wanted the poll to go
ahead and ethnic Georgians who opposed the vote. Both Russia and Georgia
had denounced the elections as likely to contribute to instability. The
previous day,  the UN Security Council President Abdoulie Momodou Sallah of
Gambia released a statement declaring the vote "illegitimate." PG

AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS TO YELTSIN OVER ARMS TO ARMENIA. Azerbaijani President
Heidar Aliev sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin last week
expressing Baku's serious concern about reports that Moscow will supply
Armenia with various new weapons systems, including the S-300 missile,
ITAR-TASS reported on 14 March.  In a related development, the Azerbaijani
Security Council has urged Aliev not to attend the CIS summit in Moscow on
19-20 March. PG

GEORGIA, TURKEY AGREE ON BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE.  During a visit to Tbilisi
on 13-14 March, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz signed accords with
President Eduard Shevardnadze and other Georgian officials calling for the
construction of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline to carry Caspian petroleum to the
West, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides also agreed to build power lines
and rail roads between their countries, and Turkey committed itself to
providing assistance to upgrade Georgian roads.  PG

SHEVARDNADZE TO ATTEND MOSCOW SUMMIT. Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze announced on 16 March that he has decided to go to Moscow to
attend the summit of CIS presidents on 19-20 March, an RFE/RL correspondent
in Tbilisi reported. The Azerbaijani Security Council recently recommended
that President Heidar Aliev skip the summit, and Shevardnadze said most
members on the Georgian Security Council had advised him to do the same.
However, he said he decided to attend the summit "out of respect for my
colleagues." Two days of "intensive consultations" between Russian,
Georgian, and Azerbaijani officials preceded Shevardnadze's announcement. LB

VIOLENCE BREAKS OUT IN CENTRAL TAJIKISTAN. Three members of the security
forces were seriously wounded in a violent incident in central Tajikistan
on 14 March, RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS reported. A group of 200
fighters loyal to Mullo Abdullo, who supports the Tajik opposition,
attacked the Ali-Galabon check point, beating  government soldiers and
taking their weapons. Earlier that week, on 9 March, the local headquarters
of the Interior  Ministry came under fire in Rogun. Said Abdullo Nuri,
chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission, and Amirkul Azimov,
secretary of the Security Council, are scheduled to visit the area on 16
March. BP

TAJIK PRISONERS APPEAL FOR PRESIDENTIAL PARDON. Six men who were sentenced
to death by a Tajik court last week have appealed to  President Imomali
Rakhmonov to pardon them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 1998), RFE/RL
correspondents reported. The six were found guilty of staging the attempted
assassination of Rakhmonov in Khujand in April 1997. The lawyer of
47-year-old Abdulkhafiz Abdullayev, who allegedly masterminded the attempt,
said her client has asked for the "humanism and compassion of the head of
state for a seriously ill man," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 March. Abdullayev
is terminally ill and more than twice the age of those convicted with him.
First Deputy Chairman of the Tajik Supreme Court Shukhrat Mustafakulov
called the verdict "severe" but "just." BP

END NOTE

A NEW ELECTION PARADIGM

by Liz Fuller

	It is possible to identify four factors that--either singly or
combined--have influenced  voting patterns in elections in the North
Caucasus and Transcaucasus over the past few years. None, however, is
relevant to the Armenian presidential elections that are taking place on 16
March.
	The first factor is the fear of jeopardizing the status quo when
fragile political stability has been restored following a period of
political chaos, war, and/or economic collapse.  That factor played a role
in Eduard Shevardnadze's election as Georgian president in November 1995
and in the emergence of his Union of Citizens of Georgia as the largest
faction in the parliamentary elections held at the same time.  It also
contributed to the recent re-election of Ruslan Aushev as president of
Ingushetia.
	The second, related factor is a desire on the part of individual
voters to play safe. Particularly among older voters, there is a preference
to vote for that candidate who is perceived as certain to win.  This, too,
contributed to Eduard Shevardnadze's 1995 presidential election victory and
to the re-election in November 1995 of Heidar Aliev as president of
Azerbaijan. It may also have contributed to Aslan Maskhadov's election as
Chechen president in January 1997 insofar as Moscow made clear that
Maskhadov, who together with former Russian Security Council secretary
Aleksandr Lebed had signed the agreement ending hostilities between
Chechnya and Russia,  was its preferred negotiating partner.
	The third factor is a protest vote against a status quo perceived
as no longer tolerable. Voting against a given individual and the policies
he stands for explains the meteoric rise in popularity of opposition
candidate Vazgen Manukian during the final weeks of the 1996 Armenian
presidential election campaign. It also explains why incumbent Akhsarbek
Galazov, who tried to distract the North Ossetian electorate's attention
from the repercussions of economic collapse by organizing  bombastic and
elaborate Soviet-style propaganda-cultural galas, lost the January 1998
presidential race to a rival former Soviet party apparatchik, Aleksandr
Dzasokhov.
	The fourth factor is the practice of restricting or prohibiting the
participation of various parties or candidates. For example, the alliance
between the suspended Dashnak Party and the Union for Constitutional Rights
was refused registration for  the July 1995 Armenian parliamentary
elections, and the Musavat party was similarly prohibited from registering
candidates for seats to be contested under the proportional system in the
November 1995 Azerbaijani parliamentary elections.
	The pre-term Armenian presidential elections differ from earlier
regional election scenarios insofar as on the eve of the poll it was
impossible to predict with any degree of certainty which of the main
candidates would win. Moreover, factors other than those listed above were
in play: nostalgia and the phenomenon of personality or charisma. Karen
Demirchian, who was Armenian Communist Party first secretary from 1974 to
1988, appeared set to benefit from the  former, and Prime Minister and
acting President Robert Kocharian and National Democratic Union chairman
Vazgen Manukian from the latter. It also seemed possible that Kocharian
would  profit from  a widespread desire for national consolidation, which
played a key role in Zviad Gamsakhurdia's election as Georgian president in
May
1991.
	Whether nostalgia, the phenomenon of personality, and/or the desire
for national consolidation will impact on the next Armenian parliamentary
elections or whether voters will return to traditional voting patterns is
impossible to predict at this point.


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