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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 78 Part I, 23 April 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 78 Part I, 23 April 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 ASKS ZYUGANOV TO PUT COUNTRY BEFORE PARTY

* DUMA PASSES REVISED LAND CODE

* BAKU DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST RFE/RL BAN

End Note: MOVES TOWARD A REAL PEACE IN TAJIKISTAN
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN ASKS ZYUGANOV TO PUT COUNTRY BEFORE PARTY. President 
Boris Yeltsin telephoned with Communist Party leader 
Gennadii Zyuganov on 23 April to lobby for the confirmation 
of Sergei Kirienko as prime minister. According to Interfax, 
Yeltsin argued that the Communist leadership should "think 
about the state, not about [the interests of] their party," 
when considering Kirienko's candidacy in the third and final 
vote. The State Duma would seal its own dissolution if 
deputies rejected Kirienko a third time. Earlier on 23 
April, Zyuganov told journalists that 21 senior members of 
the Communist Party have agreed to urge the party's Central 
Committee to oppose Kirienko's confirmation, Reuters 
reported. Meanwhile, Yeltsin told Federation Council Speaker 
Yegor Stroev and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev during a 
Kremlin meeting that he does not plan to visit the State 
Duma on 24 April to present Kirienko in person. LB

DUMA VOTE LOOKS TOO CLOSE TO CALL. Our Home Is Russia Duma 
faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin, Liberal Democratic Party 
of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Russian Regions 
faction leader Oleg Morozov have all confirmed that their 
factions will support Kirienko on 24 April, ITAR-TASS 
reported. Those three factions can deliver a combined total 
of some 160 votes. Agrarian faction leader Nikolai 
Kharitonov announced on 23 April that more than half of the 
Agrarians in the Duma plan to vote for Kirienko, RFE/RL's 
Moscow bureau reported. Opinion is also divided in the 
Popular Power faction. Even if most Agrarians and Popular 
Power deputies, along with some independent deputies, vote 
for Kirienko, the acting prime minister would still need 
some Communist support in order to obtain the 226 votes 
needed for confirmation. Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko 
faction will either unanimously reject Kirienko or, if the 
Duma conducts the vote by secret ballot, will decline to 
participate. LB

FEDERATION COUNCIL ASKS DUMA TO CONFIRM KIRIENKO. The 
Federation Council on 22 April adopted an appeal calling on 
the Duma to ensure that all branches of government will be 
able to function without interruption, RFE/RL's Moscow 
bureau reported. The Council's appeal, adopted shortly after 
Kirienko addressed the upper house, does not mention the 
acting premier by name. Council deputies do not necessarily 
support Kirienko but do not want to see legislative activity 
halted for several months pending new Duma elections. The 
appeal also calls on Yeltsin to take the opinions of members 
of parliament into account when forming the next government. 
Although the upper house does not have a formal role in 
confirming the prime minister, the views of regional leaders 
are believed to carry weight in the Duma (see "RFE/RL 
Newsline," 16 April 1998). LB

OFFICIAL SAYS EARLY ELECTIONS REQUIRE NEW RULES... Central 
Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko announced 
on 22 April that Yeltsin will be required to issue decrees 
regulating new parliamentary elections if such elections 
become necessary, ITAR-TASS reported. He argued that the 
September 1997 law on the rights of voters contradicts some 
passages of the 1995 law on parliamentary elections and that 
only presidential decrees can resolve those contradictions. 
Ivanchenko implied that Yeltsin could do away with the 
proportional representation system currently used to elect 
half the Duma. He pointed out that the law on the rights of 
voters says political parties and movements cannot compete 
in parliamentary elections unless they have amended their 
charters at least one year prior to those elections. No 
existing party or movement could meet that requirement if 
the Duma were dissolved and new elections held this year. LB 

...BUT YELTSIN'S RIGHT TO CHANGE SYSTEM REMAINS 
QUESTIONABLE. There is no consensus regarding Ivanchenko's 
assertion that Yeltsin could change the electoral system by 
decree. Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai recently 
argued that Yeltsin has no right to issue decrees overriding 
the 1995 electoral law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 
1998). "Kommersant-Daily" commented on 23 April that the 
Kremlin "could not think up a more frightening threat" for 
Duma deputies than Ivanchenko's announcement. But even if 
Yeltsin did order that the new Duma be elected only in 
single-member districts, it is unclear whether such a Duma 
would be more amenable to the president's policies. 
Abolishing proportional representation would be devastating 
for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and would also 
harm Yabloko, but the Communist Party and its allies would 
likely win far more seats than pro-government or pro-Yeltsin 
movements. LB 

DUMA PASSES REVISED LAND CODE. The Duma on 22 April passed a 
revised version of the land code by 265 to three with two 
abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma overrode Yeltsin's 
veto of an earlier version of the code last year, but the 
Federation Council did not override that veto (see "RFE/RL 
Newsline," 18 and 19 February 1998). Duma Agrarian Affairs 
Committee Chairman Aleksei Chernyshev said Yeltsin's 
comments were taken into account when the land code was 
revised. But like the previous version, the code approved on 
22 April would prohibit the purchase and sale of farmland--a 
provision Yeltsin is almost certain to find unacceptable. 
Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 April that 
Saratov Oblast has now held four auctions at which 
agricultural land was sold. The legislature of the Republic 
of Tatarstan has also approved a law allowing the purchase 
and sale of farmland. LB

UPPER HOUSE APPROVES LAW ON ELECTRICITY GIANT. The 
Federation Council on 22 April overrode Yeltsin's veto of a 
law regulating the distribution of shares in the electricity 
monopoly Unified Energy System (EES), Russian news agencies 
reported. Deputies voted by 131 to two with one abstention, 
in favor of the law, which requires the state to hold at 
least a 51 percent stake in EES and more than half of the 
state-owned shares to be managed by regional authorities. 
The law also restricts foreign ownership of EES to 25 
percent of the company. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and 
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 April that foreign 
shareholders currently own some 30 percent of the company's 
shares. Anatolii Sliva, Yeltsin's representative in the 
Federation Council, told Interfax that the law "will 
undermine foreign investors' confidence in the Russian stock 
market." Yeltsin is constitutionally obliged to sign the law 
within seven days. LB

IRAN AGAIN DEFENDS NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA. Iranian 
Foreign Ministry official Mahmud Mohammadi on 22 April said 
that Iran's cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear 
energy serves "exclusively peaceful means" and is carried 
out "in strict compliance with international law," ITAR-TASS 
reported. The previous day, Russian acting Nuclear Energy 
Minister Yevgenii Adamov told visiting U.S. Under-Secretary 
of State John Holum that Russian-Iranian cooperation in 
nuclear-power engineering has purely peaceful purposes and 
observes both the spirit and the letter of the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty, Interfax reported. Also on 22 April, a 
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that visiting U.S. 
special envoy on nuclear non-proliferation Robert Gallucci 
and Yurii Koptev, director of the Russian space agency, 
discussed new U.S. claims that Moscow has provided nuclear 
weapons technology to Iran. LF

GOVERNMENT SEEKING WAYS TO FILL BUDGET GAP. Acting Prime 
Minister Kirienko announced on 22 April that the government 
is drafting plans to reduce 1998 budget expenditures by 35-
40 billion rubles ($5.8-$6.5 billion), Russian news agencies 
reported. Addressing the Federation Council, Kirienko said 
one such measure, which would save an estimated 10 billion 
rubles, would impose limits on the energy and heat 
consumption of budget-funded organizations. The 1998 budget 
calls for some 500 billion rubles in total expenditures, but 
analysts agree cuts will be necessary because tax collection 
remains low and falling oil prices have cut into government 
revenues. Also on 22 April, the State Property Ministry 
announced that planned 1998 revenues from privatization and 
the management of state property have been raised from the 
targeted 9.5 billion rubles to 17.5 billion rubles. LB

SKURATOV CALLS FOR REPAYING DEBTS TO DEFENSE INDUSTRY. 
Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has sent a letter to 
acting Prime Minister Kirienko calling for steps to repay 
debts to defense enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 
April. Those enterprises produced military equipment 
requested by the Defense Industry Ministry, which was 
dissolved in March 1997. The Economics Ministry took over 
its duties but has yet to repay the debt to the enterprises 
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February and 20 March 1998). 
Skuratov said his office receives many complaints about the 
debts, since defense enterprises often find it difficult or 
impossible to pay their employees. LB

SERGEEV DOUBTS SOLDIERS' WAGES CAN BE RAISED THIS YEAR. 
Acting Defense Minister Igor Sergeev has expressed doubts 
that Russia can afford to increase salaries for military 
personnel this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 April. Earlier 
this year, officials promised to increase soldiers' wages 
substantially in 1998. However, Sergeev said the authorities 
must concentrate their efforts on paying 11.4 billion rubles 
($1.9 billion) currently owed to military personnel. He also 
spoke out against adopting laws that contain funding 
requirements that exceed the government's capabilities. The 
Duma recently overrode a presidential veto on a law that 
would raise soldiers' wages significantly. The Federation 
Council has yet to consider that law. LB

YELTSIN WANTS TO KEEP CRIMINALS OUT OF PUBLIC OFFICE. 
Yeltsin has submitted to the Duma a draft law aimed at 
preventing convicted criminals from gaining public office, 
Russian news agencies reported on 21 April. The bill would 
amend the law on voters' rights to require convicted 
criminals to disclose all information about their criminal 
records in order to compete in elections. If they concealed 
such information, they could be denied registration as 
candidates. The president also proposed amending a law on 
requirements for government employees in order to prohibit 
the appointment of people with certain types of criminal 
convictions. Several people with alleged criminal ties or 
criminal records have won elections in the Russian regions, 
most recently in the Nizhnii Novgorod mayoral election, 
which was subsequently annulled. LB

FORMER GROZNY MAYOR IMPLICATES GRACHEV, KULIKOV, KORZHAKOV. 
In an interview with the most recent issue of "Ogonek," 
Beslan Gantemirov claimed that former Defense Minister Pavel 
Grachev, former Federal Security Service director Mikhail 
Barsukov, former Yeltsin bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, and 
current Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov diverted billions 
of rubles allocated for reconstruction programs in Chechnya 
in 1996. Gantemirov said that Russian officials knew in 
advance of the planned terrorist attack in Budennovsk in 
June 1996 but did nothing to prevent it in order to create a 
pretext for the replacement of then Interior Minister Viktor 
Yerin by Kulikov. A former head of Djokhar Dudaev's 
presidential guard, Gantemirov split with Dudaev in 1992 on 
"ideological grounds" He was mayor of Grozny under President 
Doku Zavgaev until May 1996, when he was arrested and 
extradited to Moscow on charges of embezzling 7 billion old 
rubles ($1.7 million) intended for reconstruction in 
Chechnya. LF

TATAR NEWSPAPER CLOSED OVER TECHNICALITY. A district court 
in Tatarstan ordered the closure of "Altyn Urda," the 
newspaper of the opposition Ittifaq Tatar National 
Independence Party, on a minor technicality. According to 
Tatar-Inform on 22 April, the newspaper has violated Article 
11 of the republic's media law by publishing some articles 
in Russian when it is registered as a Tatar-language 
publication. Tatar-Inform also noted that "Ittifaq" has 
systematically published articles insulting President 
Mintimer Shaimiev, which the Ministry of Information cited 
in instigating legal proceedings to have the newspaper 
closed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1998). LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

BAKU DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST RFE/RL BAN. Police and security 
officials on 22 April forcibly dispersed some 100 young 
protesters who picketed the Ministry of Communications to 
protest the government's decision to suspend the 
rebroadcasting on medium-wave of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani-
language programs. Fifteen demonstrators were detained and 
an unknown number injured, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. 
The opposition Liberal Party has created a Radio Liberty 
Defense Committee, and that body has drafted a letter to the 
UN and U.S. leaders protesting the Azerbaijani government's 
move. Representatives of four newspapers and 26 political 
parties in Baku have signed the letter. LF

AZERBAIJAN PREVENTS EXPORT OF DUAL TECHNOLOGY TO IRAN. 
According to a statement released on 22 April by the 
Azerbaijani National Security Ministry, Azerbaijani customs 
officials at the Astara frontier crossing with Iran on 26 
March intercepted a consignment of stainless steel plates 
allegedly intended for construction of liquid-fuel ballistic 
missiles, Turan and ANS-Press reported. International law 
prohibits the export of such components to third countries. 
The consignment was shipped by a Russian company. LF 

CRIME RATE IN ARMENIA CONTINUES TO FALL. Interior and 
National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian told journalists 
in Yerevan on 22 April that some 1,300 crimes were committed 
in the country during the first quarter of 1998, RFE/RL's 
Yerevan bureau reported. That figure represents a 25 percent 
decrease, compared with 1,724 crimes committed during the 
first quarter of 1997, and a continuation of the fall in 
crime registered last year. Sarkisian said the investigation 
into the case of some two dozen men arrested in February on 
charges of murder, armed robbery, and illegal possession of 
weapons has yielded "interesting revelations." But he 
declined to confirm speculation that the group is connected 
with the chairman of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National 
Movement, former Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghian. LF

ADJAR-GEORGIAN TENSIONS INTENSIFY. The Revival faction 
within the Georgian parliament has announced that it will 
boycott future parliament sessions, an RFE/RL correspondent 
in Tbilisi reported on 22 April. The same day, the chairman 
of the Adjar Supreme Council, Aslan Abashidze, said Adjaria 
will boycott the next Georgian parliamentary elections 
unless his republic's demands are met. Those demands include 
the creation in the Adjar capital, Batumi, of a free 
economic zone and the revision of the Georgian election law 
to reduce the number of deputies elected by proportional 
representation. He also announced that Adjaria plans to 
amend its constitution and that in cases where those 
amendments contradict the Georgian Constitution, the Adjar 
basic law will take precedence. Abashidze did not rule out 
the possibility that he will run against incumbent Eduard 
Shevardnadze in the presidential elections in 2000. LF

KULIEV RETURNS TO MOSCOW. Avdy Kuliev, a Turkmen opposition 
leader and former Turkmen foreign minister, returned to 
Moscow on 22 April after nearly a week in Turkmenistan, 
RFE/RL correspondents reported. Kuliev had been detained by 
Turkmen authorities after his arrival in Ashgabat on 17 
April; following his release, he was kept under house 
arrest. Officials from the Russian Embassy requested that 
Kuliev, a Russian citizen, return to Moscow. They said that 
Turkmenistan and Russia had agreed it would be better for 
Kuliev to leave Turkmenistan to avoid creating turmoil 
there. BP

FOUR DIE IN DUSHANBE SHOOT-OUT. Four men were killed in a 
shoot-out in Dushanbe on 22 April, RFE/RL correspondents 
reported. All four were reportedly members of the Tajik 
armed forces. The reasons for the shoot-out are unclear, but 
RFE/RL correspondents in Tajikistan say a group loyal to the 
Chalov brothers in Kulyab was involved. One of the Chalov 
brothers was arrested several weeks ago in possession of a 
large amount of heroin. Since then, some of his relatives 
and their followers have been disarming guards at roadside 
checkpoints between the southern city of Kulyab and 
Dushanbe. The group, which is reported to be just outside 
the capital, is seeking the release of the arrested brother. 
BP

WORLD BANK TO LOAN TAJIKISTAN $50 MILLION. Tajik President 
Imomali Rakhmonov met with a representative of the World 
Bank in Dushanbe on 22 April, Interfax reported. After the 
meeting,it was announced that the World Bank will extend $50 
million in soft loans to Tajikistan this year. The first 
installment of the loan, worth $20 million, will be released 
in the third quarter and is intended for health care, 
education, telecommunications, highways, and public 
transportation. The release of the remainder will depend on 
how successfully the first installment is used. BP

KYRGYZ LAWMAKERS APPROVES PLAN FOR FURTHER PRIVATIZATION. 
The upper house of the Kyrgyz parliament has approved a plan 
for the fourth stage of privatization, RFE/RL correspondents 
in Bishkek reported on 22 April. That stage will involve 
sales of state enterprises in sectors such as 
telecommunications, mining, and energy industries. Deputy 
Daniyar Usenov called for an investigation into whether 
members of parliament are making personal profit from the 
privatization process. Another deputy, Adakhan Madumarov 
echoed Usenov's call, noting that many mistakes have been 
made already. By way of example, Madumarov pointed out that 
former Bishkek Mayor Boris Silayeva sold a large home 
repairs store for 4 million som (about $220,000) when its 
real value was 60 million som. Silayev is now deputy prime 
minister. BP

END NOTE

MOVES TOWARD A REAL PEACE IN TAJIKISTAN 

by Roland Eggleston

	The chairman of Tajikistan's Commission for National 
Reconciliation, Said-Abdullo Nuri, says that by the end of 
this week, most opposition armed forces should have gathered 
in demobilization centers in the Garm and Karatigen valleys. 
	Nuri told the visiting chairman of the Organization 
for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Polish Foreign 
Minister Bronislaw Geremek, at the weekend that those forces 
include about 5,000 armed men in Tajikistan and about 500 
others across the border in the Taloquan region of 
Afghanistan. The men are supposed to surrender their weapons 
on arrival at the demobilization centers. Within a month or 
less, they are to be offered the chance of either joining 
the regular Tajik forces or taking a civilian job.
	The disarmament of the armed forces is a core element 
in the peace agreement reached between the government and 
opposition last June to end five years of civil war that 
cost the lives of thousands. However, this first stage of 
what is called the "military protocol" of the peace 
agreement is months behind schedule. As a result, the 
elections scheduled for this June or July will now probably 
be delayed until next year.
	Despite the delay, Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov 
told journalists accompanying Geremek that--if the 
disarmament is successful--it will be a "considerable step 
forward" in implementing the peace agreement. But he warned 
that the peace progress is "at the very beginning.... It is 
not easy to pass from the dialogue of the Kalashnikov to the 
dialogue of words and thoughts," he said.
	Both Nazarov and Nuri acknowledged that even under the 
best circumstances, not all the armed forces in Tajikistan 
would be brought safely under control in the demobilization 
center. Large areas of the countryside outside Dushanbe is 
under the control of local warlords who have unknown numbers 
of troops and have ignored the demands of the peace 
agreement.
	Despite the peace agreement, tensions remain high in 
Dushanbe, and kidnapping is a constant danger. A curfew is 
enforced from 7:00 p.m., but the silence of the night is 
still shattered by gunfire. Nuri himself lives in constant 
danger of assassination. His meeting with Geremek took place 
in a heavily guarded building in central Dushanbe. Men armed 
with Kalashkinovs, pistols, and other weapons stood outside 
the entrance and lined the stairways to the meeting place on 
the second floor. Nuri spends each night in a guarded 
government compound in downtown Dushanbe, where officials 
sent to Dushanbe by the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank also 
live.
	Officials attached to the OSCE' s permanent mission in 
Dushanbe said they are "hopeful" that the gathering of 
opposition armed forces in the demobilization centers will 
bring a real end to the outbursts of fighting, but they say 
it is unlikely that all shooting will come to an end.
	"The peace treaty ended real fighting, but there are 
still frequent skirmishes," said one official who preferred 
not to be identified. "Both sides have a problem with 
teenage boys who have known nothing but conflict since they 
were young. They don't have work and so they run around with 
their guns. Often it comes to shooting."
	Some officials query the figure of 5,000 opposition 
fighters named by Nuri. They say not all opposition fighters 
are in the "regular" opposition. Officials believe there are 
also others who have jobs in the countryside and a gun at 
home. At times, they leave those jobs to become involved in 
a shooting operation and then return to their daily work. 
There are also armed gangs, some of which seize foreigners 
as hostages. 
	Opposition leader Nuri told journalists accompanying 
Geremek that the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) genuinely 
wants the peace agreement to work and elections to be held. 
He added that he believes that President Imomali Rakhmonov 
also wants peace. "We are on the threshold of 
democratization," he said. "But it is impossible to move 
toward democracy in the situation we now have in 
Tajikistan."
	Nuri said the reason for the delay in implementing 
last year's peace agreement is the lack of trust between the 
government and the opposition. He also said that the war was 
"imported from outside" and had involved "those who wanted 
democracy and freedom and those who wanted totalitarianism 
and bureaucracy." He charged that those who favored 
totalitarianism had "misused the religious and nationalist 
feelings of the people."
 	There are eight legal political parties in Tajikistan 
and several others that were banned, including Nuri's own 
group the Islamic Revival party . Last year' s peace 
agreement included a lifting of that ban.
	Nuri said he is confident that the UTO will do well in 
the elections, whenever they are held. That vote must be 
preceded by meetings of various commissions on military, 
political, and legal issues in which the government and the 
opposition have equal representation. The ideas generated by 
those groups are intended to produce a series of amendments 
to the 1994 constitution, which must first be approved by 
President Rakhmonov and then put to the public in a 
referendum. With considerable luck, such a referendum may be 
held later this year.

The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Munich, 
Germany.

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