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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 86 Part I, 6 May 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 86 Part I, 6 May 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

* KIRIENKO FORMS GOVERNMENT PRESIDIUM

* FORMER PRIVATIZATION CHIEF CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLEMENT

* THIRD ATTACK ON GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ANTICIPATED
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RUSSIA

KIRIENKO FORMS GOVERNMENT PRESIDIUM. Prime Minister Sergei
Kirienko on 5 May appointed an eight-member government
presidium, Russian news agencies said. The presidium will
consist of Kirienko, Deputy Prime Ministers Boris Nemtsov,
Viktor Khristenko and Oleg Sysuev, Economics Minister Yakov
Urinson, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, State Property
Minister Farit Gazizullin, and Science and Technology
Minister Vladimir Bulgak. Officials have not yet announced
the precise functions of the presidium. Meanwhile,
presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told
journalists on 5 May that Kirienko's government will have
more authority than the government Yeltsin sacked in March,
but also more responsibilities, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. Draft government documents will no longer have to
be cleared by the presidential administration (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 5 May 1998). LB

YELTSIN APPOINTS LAND POLICY MINISTER. Also on 5 May,
President Boris Yeltsin appointed Ilya Yuzhanov head of the
newly created Ministry of Land Policy, Construction and the
Housing and Utilities Sector, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. Since May 1997, Yuzhanov has headed the State Land
Committee, which no longer exists. Before that, he chaired
the St. Petersburg Committee on Land Resources for three
years. His appointment suggests that there will be continued
friction between the legislature and the executive over the
adoption of a land code. Yuzhanov was a harsh critic of the
code passed by the parliament last year, and he also opposed
a protocol Yeltsin signed last December, which called for
drafting a compromise version of that code (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 7 July and 25 September 1997 and 8 January 1998).
Several cabinet posts remain unfilled, including the head of
the newly created Trade and Industry Ministry and the head
of the renamed Ministry for Regional and Nationalities
Policy. LB

RYBKIN'S FUTURE STATUS UNCLEAR. Presidential spokesman
Yastrzhembskii announced on 6 May that Ivan Rybkin will stay
in the government and will continue to be involved in CIS
affairs, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that Rybkin's future
status has not yet been determined. His most recent post,
that of deputy prime minister for CIS affairs, no longer
exists, and the Ministry for Cooperation with CIS States has
been liquidated. Rybkin is rumored to be under consideration
for the job of deputy foreign minister in charge of
relations with the CIS. But ITAR-TASS quoted unnamed sources
in the presidential administration as saying Rybkin is also
a candidate for the post of presidential representative in
the North Caucasus. Former Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan
Abdulatipov is reportedly being considered for that post as
well. LB

TOP GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN RESIGNS. Igor Shabdurasulov has
resigned as the head of the government's Culture and
Information Department, a post he has held since October
1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. Shabdurasulov declined to
specify the reason for his resignation from the government
apparatus, where he has worked since 1992. He is considered
a close ally of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
He said he has not yet decided on a new job. Once he leaves
public service, it is not clear whether Shabdurasulov will
be able to remain on the board of directors of the 51
percent state-owned Russian Public Television network (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 18 February 1998). LB

YELTSIN ORDAINS STRICTER CONTROLS ON MILITARY TECHNOLOGY
EXPORTS. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii told
journalists on 5 May that Yeltsin has instructed the
government to draft measures to ensure that exports of
military and dual-purpose technology are more stringently
monitored, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin termed
such controls an important national security policy. LF

THE MOSCOW-BEIJING HOTLINE STARTS FUNCTIONING. The Russian
and Chinese Foreign Ministries exchanged notes on 3 May
confirming the start of the hotline between the two
countries' presidents, ITAR-TASS reported. It is the first
hotline between the Chinese president and leader of another
state. In other news, a senior official from Russia's
airplane manufacturing company, Aviaprom, said Russia and
China are ready to set up a joint corporation, Interfax
reported on 5 May. Aleksandr Batkov said his company
together with China will produce aircraft to compete on
world markets in the 21st century including long-haul,
short-haul and supersonic transport planes. BP

TASHKENT, MOSCOW TO COORDINATE POLICY ON FUNDAMENTALISM.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov on his first official visit to
Russia, met with Boris Yeltsin at the Kremlin on 6 May.
Prior to their meeting Yeltsin spoke of a need for the two
countries to strengthen ties which have seriously
deteriorated in recent years. Yeltsin later told Karimov,
Russia is "aware of your influence on the countries that
surround you." During their meeting the two presidents
promised to sign a ten-year economic cooperation agreement
when Yeltsin visits Uzbekistan in October. They also signed
an agreement for cooperation in building Il-76 and Il-78
aircraft and an agreement guaranteeing the rights of each
others journalists on the other's soil. In a surprise
announcement following the meeting, Karimov said his
country, Russia and Tajikistan will coordinate efforts to
combat the spread of fundamentalism in Central Asia. Tajik
President Imomali Rakhmonov gave his consent by phone. BP

RUSSIA CRITICIZES U.S. SENATE VOTE ON NATO. Russian Foreign
Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 5 May said the
U.S. Senate's recent vote in favor of NATO membership for
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic is "unlikely to
contribute to stabilization on the European continent,"
Russian news agencies reported. Nesterushkin repeated that
Russia considers the policy of NATO enlargement to be
"incorrect." But he expressed the hope that regular meetings
at the ministerial and ambassadorial level between Russian
and NATO officials will alleviate some of the "concerns"
that will arise during the expansion of the western military
alliance. Meanwhile, Anatolii Kvashnin, the head of the
Russian General Staff, flew to Brussels on 5 May to attend a
session of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council the
following day. LB

TATARSTAN'S PARLIAMENT SPEAKER APPOINTED RUSSIAN ENVOY TO
EU. Presidential press spokesman Yastrzhembskii said on 5
May that Yeltsin has appointed Vasilii Likhachev as Moscow's
permanent representative to the European Union. Likhachev
was born in Gorky in 1952 and graduated from Kazan State
University, after which he taught for several years in
Africa before embarking on a career as a party functionary
in Kazan. He was named parliament speaker in 1995 and has
been deputy speaker of the Federation Council since January,
1996. "Vechernii Kazan" on 6 May quoted Likhachev as saying
that representing the interests of Russia's regions,
including Tatarstan, is an important aspect of his new job.
LF

YELTSIN SETS GOALS OF FUTURE BUDGET POLICY. Yeltsin on 5 May
sent the government a message on budgetary policy for 1999,
Russian news agencies reported. The president instructed the
government to enact "budget reform," which involves the
adoption of a new tax code and a budget code. Yeltsin said
the budget code should impose strict deadlines for adopting
the document. He added that the government's draft budget
should take effect if the parliament failed to meet those
deadlines or included budget expenditures not covered by
realistic revenue projections, Interfax reported. (The
constitutionality of such a provision is questionable, since
the constitution states that both houses of parliament are
required to approve the federal budget.) The president also
instructed the government this year to prepare a realistic
budget for 1999, reduce state expenditures, and complete the
transition away from using authorized commercial banks to
handle budget funds. LB

GOVERNMENT TO IMPOSE NEW CONDITIONS ON REGIONAL AUTHORITIES.
Yeltsin has signed a decree outlining additional measures to
improve state finances and ensure that salaries are paid to
state employees, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 5 May.
According to presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii, the
decree instructs the government and regional authorities to
sign agreements within two months on new conditions for
federal transfer payments. For instance, regions seeking the
payments will be required to collect all taxes in "real
money" and prohibit the common practice of cancelling tax
debts against debts owed to enterprises. Regional
authorities will also have to implement policies to reduce
subsidies for rent and municipal services, ITAR-TASS
reported. In addition, the decree stipulates that companies
that owe taxes to federal or regional budgets will be
ineligible for financial aid from regional budgets. LB

FORMER PRIVATIZATION CHIEF CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLEMENT. The
Moscow Prosecutor's Office has charged former State Property
Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh with embezzlement in
connection with an alleged scheme to distribute prime
apartments to officials, Russian news agencies reported on 5
May. Two other former officials have already been charged in
connection with the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March
1998). Moscow Deputy Prosecutor Yurii Semin told Interfax
that charges will also be filed against others allegedly
linked to the scheme. He mentioned former State Property
Committee Chairman Sergei Belyaev (now a deputy in the State
Duma) and former Federal Bankruptcy Administration chief
Petr Mostovoi (now first vice president of the diamond
monopoly Almazy Rossiya-Sakha). Kokh is not currently in
Russia, but Moscow Prosecutor Sergei Gerasimov told ITAR-
TASS on 6 May that "Kokh's whereabouts are known, and he has
gone abroad with the permission of the Moscow Prosecutor's
Office." LB

GOVERNMENT GIVES OIL COMPANIES MORE INCENTIVE TO PAY TAXES.
Oil companies that have no tax debts to the federal or
regional budgets will be allowed more access to state-owned
pipelines as of 1 July, according to a new government
directive, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. Since pipeline
capacity is limited, the greater access for companies that
pay their taxes will come at the expense of firms that are
tax debtors. In addition, oil companies that owe taxes will
have to set up special bank accounts so that the State Tax
Service will be able to collect taxes directly out of the
proceeds earned through oil exports. In March, the
government reduced some taxes and transport charges for oil
companies in response to the slump in oil prices on world
markets. But the government is also under pressure to take
steps to improve tax collection. LB

KIRIENKO TO HEAD COMMISSION ON MILITARY REFORM. Presidential
spokesman Yastrzhembskii says Yeltsin favors creating a
state commission on restructuring the armed forces, to be
chaired by Prime Minister Kirienko, Interfax reported on 5
May. The last Russian government had two commissions on
military reform: one headed by then Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, the other headed by then First Deputy Prime
Minister Anatolii Chubais. LB

ZYUGANOV SAYS COMMUNISTS TO CHANGE STRATEGY... Communist
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 5 May that
"working with the masses" is now his party's top priority,
Interfax reported. He called for a "direct dialogue with the
masses at plants, factories, [and] military settlements,"
since, in his view, dialogue with Yeltsin has not yielded
any results. Commenting on meetings of the "big four"
(president, prime minister, speakers of both houses of
parliament) and roundtable talks, Zyuganov said they were
merely a cover used by Yeltsin in order to continue his
"barbarous, destructive, absolutely anti-popular and anti-
humane" policies. In a concession to the Communist-led
opposition, Yeltsin agreed last year to hold occasional "big
four" meetings and roundtable talks, but the talks do not
appear to have affected government policies. LB

...URGES VOTERS TO REJECT LEBED. At the same press
conference, Zyuganov urged residents of Krasnoyarsk Krai not
to vote for former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr
Lebed in the 17 May runoff gubernatorial election, Russian
news agencies reported. Zyuganov warned that a Lebed victory
"would mean misfortune beyond your worst dreams. Think of
your children and grandchildren." Alluding to the
circumstances under which Adolf Hitler rose to power,
Zyuganov said the current situation in Krasnoyarsk reminds
him of Germany from 1931 to 1933. However, he stopped short
of endorsing the current governor of Krasnoyarsk, Valerii
Zubov. Meanwhile, Zubov has promised to form a "government
of popular trust" in Krasnoyarsk if he is re-elected, ITAR-
TASS reported on 6 May. The pledge is aimed at winning over
the 13 percent of the electorate who backed Communist
candidate Petr Romanov in the first round of the election.
LB

YASTRZHEMBSKII CRITICIZES KRASNOYARSK GOVERNOR'S WARNING.
Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii on 5 May castigated
Zubov, saying it is "inadmissible" to play "games with the
fire of [regional] separatism," Reuters and Interfax
reported. During a recent televised address, Zubov warned
Yeltsin that if the federal government does not settle its
debts to Krasnoyarsk Krai, the krai will stop transferring
taxes collected in the krai to the federal budget (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1998). LB

BUDDHIST BOOK FROM BURYATIA BOUND FOR USA. Despite protests
from the local Buddhist community in Buryatia, a 19th
century copy of a 17th century "Atlas of Tibetan Medicine"
was put on a flight to the United States where it will be on
exhibit until the end of 1999 (See "RFE/RL Newsline 5 May,
1998), ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. An investigation has
been launched into police treatment of the protesting
Buddhists. There are reports that riot police struck monks
who were attempting to prevent the book from being taken
away from a museum where it was housed. BP

OFFICIALS CONFIRM FORMER MINISTER'S ELECTION TO DUMA.
Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko
confirmed on 6 May that former Deputy Prime Minister
Aleksandr Zaveryukha's election to the State Duma is valid,
ITAR-TASS reported. Zaveryukha won a recent by-election for
a vacant seat in Kamchatka Oblast, but his narrow victory
was contested by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic
Party of Russia, which nominated the candidate who came in
second (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1998). The Kamchatka
Oblast Electoral Commission recently informed Zhirinovsky
that it uncovered no evidence that the election results were
falsified, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 April. LB

YELTSIN VOWS RETRIBUTION FOR VLASOV KIDNAPPING. Speaking to
journalists on 5 May before meeting with Defense Minister
Igor Sergeev, Yeltsin said said the "hotheads" who abducted
his Chechen envoy Valentin Vlasov on 1 May should understand
that "we will not forgive" that action. Russian Deputy
Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilev told journalists in
Moscow on 5 May that the search for Vlasov is focusing on
three possible alternative reasons for his abduction: to
torpedo the peace talks between Moscow and Grozny, to demand
a ransom, or to exchange him for Chechens detained in
Russia. Chechen National Security Chief Lecha Khultygov told
Interfax that he believes Vlasov was abducted by the Russian
Federal Security Service, and that he will be exchanged
within days for former Grozny mayor Beslan Gantemirov, who
is under investigation in Moscow on charges of embezzling
federal funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 1998). LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

THIRD ATTACK ON GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ANTICIPATED. Security
measures in Tbilisi have been intensified to counter a
possible third attempt to assassinate Eduard Shevardnadze,
Interfax reported on 5 May, quoting security service head
Vakhtang Kutateladze. Mamuka Areshidze, chairman of the
Georgian parliament commission for relations with Caucasian
peoples, said last month that the Georgian Ministry of
National Security is aware that preparations are being made
in the North Caucasus for a further attempt on
Shevardnadze's life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April, 1998).
Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Demuri Mikadze and several
other senior ministry officials were fired on 5 May for
alleged incompetence in reacting to and investigating the 9
February mortarbomb attack on Shevardnadze's motorcade,
Caucasus Press reported. LF

SOUTH OSSETIA CONCERNED AT SLOW PACE OF RECONSTRUCTION. In a
statement addressed to the Georgian and Russian leaderships
and to international organizations, the Ministry for Foreign
Relations of Georgia's unrecognized Republic of South
Ossetia complains that the central Georgian government is
not complying with agreements it signed in 1993 and 1997 on
providing funding for the reconstruction of buildings
devastated during the 1990-1992 war, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported on 6 May. The ministry statement argues that the
delay in reconstruction is holding up the repatriation of
tens of thousands of displaced persons who fled during the
fighting, and consequently undermines the entire peace
process. The ministry calls on Russia and the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe to accelerate that
process, which it denies is Georgia's exclusive prerogative.
The Georgian government has suspended free bread supplies to
some displaced persons from South Ossetia, Caucasus Press
reported on 6 May. LF

CONTROVERSY OVER DRAFT AZERBAIJANI ELECTION LAW CONTINUES.
The 13 Azerbaijani opposition parties that make up the Round
Table union are demanding that parliament debate an
alternative draft law on presidential elections prepared by
the Azerbaijan Popular Front, Turan reported. In a
statement, the Round Table charged that the official draft
law, which has been widely criticized by opposition (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 4-5 May 1998), "is aimed against the
state system, territorial integrity and political stability
of Azerbaijan." That version was adopted on first reading
last week. On 5 May, the parliament briefly debated the law
but failed to adopt it on second reading. LF

LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER VISITS ARMENIA. Rafik Hariri paid a
one-day visit to Yerevan on 5 May to present his
congratulations to newly elected President Robert Kocharian
and meet with the new government, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported. Hariri denied that his visit had
been prompted by criticism from the Lebanese Armenian
community of his February visit to Baku. Hariri's talks with
Kocharian and Prime Minister Armen Darpinian focused on
expanding economic cooperation; the two sides reached
agreement on creating a joint commission on banking, energy
and telecommunications. During a previous visit to Armenia
in October, 1997, Hariri and then Prime Minister Kocharian
signed a friendship and cooperation agreement and an
agreement on creating an Armenian-Lebanese bank (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 21 October 1997). LF

LACK OF FUNDING HURTS TB CLINIC IN KAZAKHSTAN. A
tuberculosis clinic in the northern Kazakh region of
Kustanai has temporarily discharged 300 patients due to lack
of funding, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. Another 200
patients are receiving only part-time care. The clinic's
management said it has received only 10 percent of the money
it was promised. In the country of 16 million, 53,000 people
are registered as suffering from tuberculosis and the death
rate among them has reached 50 percent. BP

TAJIK PRESIDENT IN KYRGYZSTAN. Imomali Rakhmonov paid a
visit to neighboring Kyrgyzstan on 6 May, RFE/RL
correspondents in Bishkek reported. Rakhmonov met with
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev and Kyrgyz Prime Minister
Kubanychbek Jumaliev. Akayev and Rakhmonov signed documents
on deepening bilateral relations and cooperation in law
enforcement. An additional 15 agreements were signed on such
matters as refugees, customs, and mining. Rakhmonov's
delegation includes Deputy Prime Minister Khoja Akbar
Turajonzoda and two other members of the United Tajik
Opposition. BP

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