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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 92 Part I, 15 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 92 Part I, 15 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxSPECIAL REPORTxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx COMMUNIST HOUSING: A FLAW IN THE DESIGN More than 170 million people in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union live in decaying housing complexes. This five-part series examines the issues, compares East Berlin's rehabilitation success story with Prague's less than successful efforts, and describes the state of U.S. public housing. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/housing/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * COAL MINERS TAKE EXTREME MEASURES TO PROTEST WAGE ARREARS * DUMA TO HOLD CLOSED HEARINGS ON START-2 * UN PROLONGS OBSERVER MISSION IN TAJIKISTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA COAL MINERS TAKE EXTREME MEASURES TO PROTEST WAGE ARREARS. Some 1,000 unpaid miners in Anzhero-Sudzhensk (Kemerovo Oblast) blocked the Trans-Siberian Railroad on 15 May, the eighth day of their strike, ITAR-TASS reported. In Komi Republic, more than 100 miners are on hunger strike and hundreds more have blocked the Vorkuta-Moscow Railroad since 13 May, although they allowed some passenger trains through on 15 May. Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov met with representatives of miners' unions in Moscow the previous day and promised that the government will take steps to help the coal industry. He estimated total wage arrears to miners at 3.5 billion rubles ($573 million). RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 13 May that since ordinary strikes and demonstrations gain little attention, coal miners more frequently stage hunger strikes, block railroads, and blockade coal enterprise directors and city officials in their offices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1998). LB RADIOACTIVE CESIUM STOLEN IN VOLGOGRAD, TULA. Police in Volgograd Oblast have discovered that six lead containers of radioactive cesium have been stolen from a local oil refinery, NTV reported on 14 May. The theft may have occurred as long as a week ago, the network said. Citing a representative of the Federal Security Service, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May that two containers of cesium were stolen in Tula Oblast but have already been found. The official said the containers are not dangerous if they remain sealed but would release high levels of radioactivity if opened. ITAR-TASS said similar containers were stolen from a chemical factory in Volgograd in 1994. Six people who allegedly intended to sell the cesium abroad were arrested and convicted for that crime. LB DUMA TO HOLD CLOSED HEARINGS ON START-2. The State Duma voted on 14 May against a proposal by its Foreign Relations Committee to form a 20-strong commission to conclude the Duma's review of the START-2 treaty and to prepare ratification documents relating to the 1972 U.S.-Soviet agreement on limiting anti-ballistic missile systems. At the same time, the lower house instructed the committee to hold closed hearings on 9 June on ratifying START-2, Russian agencies reported. Speaking in Moscow on 14 May, Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that the Duma does not have the right to begin debating ratification until the Russian government allocates the necessary funding for implementing the treaty. No such funds are included in the 1998 budget. Former Russian Deputy Defense Minister and Duma deputy Boris Gromov argued in favor of ratification on the grounds that it would cost more to maintain Russia's "exhausted" nuclear potential than to reduce it, Interfax reported. LF TURKEY WARNS RUSSIA OVER S-300S. Defense Minister Ismet Sezgin told journalists in Izmir on 14 May that Ankara will purchase arms only from those countries that "support our causes." He condemned as "madness" the planned deployment in southern Cyprus of Russian S-300 air defense missiles. The Russian Foreign Ministry and the arms export concern Rosvooruzhenie said earlier this week that Moscow intends to proceed with the planned deployment, which Turkish Chief of Staff General Ismail Hakki Karadayi has called the most serious threat to Turkey's security since World War II. LF DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT CHUBAIS APPOINTMENT... The Duma on 14 May instructed its committees on legislation, privatization, and industrial policy to examine the Audit Chamber's findings on an April shareholders' meeting at the electricity giant Unified Energy System (EES), Russian news agencies reported. The board of directors elected at that meeting later chose former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais as the company's chief executive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April and 7 May 1998). The Audit Chamber says the meeting was conducted in violation of Russian legislation and the EES charter. Also on 14 May, the Duma appealed to President Boris Yeltsin to reconsider his decision to eliminate the State Committee on Youth Affairs, which was among several committees abolished under a recent presidential decree (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1998). LB ...FORMS COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE FALL 1993 EVENTS. The Duma on 14 May formed a commission to investigate the events that took place in Moscow in September-October 1993, ITAR- TASS reported. On 21 September of that year, Yeltsin issued a decree disbanding the Supreme Soviet. His opponents did not comply with the decree, which the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional, and sought to replace Yeltsin with then Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi. Yeltsin ultimately settled the standoff by ordering tanks to shell the parliament. According to official estimates, almost 150 people died during the street fighting in the capital (other estimates put the figure at several hundred). LB RYBKIN BECOMES YELTSIN'S ENVOY TO CIS. Yeltsin has appointed Ivan Rybkin as his envoy to the CIS states, Russian news agencies reported on 14 May. According to presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, the holder of the new post in the presidential administration will have a rank equivalent to that of deputy prime minister. In March, Yeltsin transferred Rybkin from Security Council secretary to deputy prime minister in charge of CIS issues, but that government post no longer exists. Last month, the CIS presidents voted to appoint Boris Berezovskii, an ally of Rybkin, as CIS executive secretary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April 1998). LB NEMTSOV TO HEAD STATE REPRESENTATIVES IN GAZPROM. Yeltsin has appointed Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov as chairman of the 10-member collegium of state representatives in the gas monopoly Gazprom, Russian news agencies reported on 14 May. Yeltsin created the collegium in May 1997, and then First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov repeatedly promised to increase the state's influence in managing the company. (The state owns a 40 percent stake in Gazprom.) But Yeltsin removed Nemtsov from the collegium last December in a move seen as a signal of the rising influence of then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 23 December 1997). Chernomyrdin headed Gazprom before joining the government in December 1992. LB CHERNOMYRDIN CONSIDERING BID FOR DUMA SEAT. Aleksandr Shokhin, the head of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) Duma faction, announced on 14 May that Chernomyrdin, the NDR leader, is considering a bid for the State Duma, Russian news agencies reported. Several NDR deputies want him to run for the seat in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug that has been vacated by Vladimir Goman, who left the Duma's Russian Regions faction to become chairman of the State Committee on the North. Shokhin said the former premier has not decided whether to run. Yamal-Nenets has immense gas reserves, and Gazprom has vast political influence in the okrug. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 May that Vladimir Babichev, head of the NDR's political council and former head of the government apparatus, plans to compete in a Duma by-election in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. LB NEWSPAPER ASSAILS 'DEBT PYRAMID,' CENTRAL BANKER. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 May charged that the federal government's system of issuing treasury bills (GKOs) has created a dangerous "debt pyramid." Noting that new GKOs are issued to repay the holders of old GKOs and that one-third of federal expenditures are currently spent on internal debt servicing, the newspaper drew repeated comparisons between the GKOs and Sergei Mavrodi's infamous MMM pyramid scheme, which defrauded millions of investors in the mid-1990s. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" also slammed Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin, saying that under his leadership the bank has failed to create a stable banking network, make the ruble fully convertible, or protect Russian financial markets from "shocks" in the world economy. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is financed by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ empire, has accused the Central Bank of contributing to instability on Russian financial markets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 1998). LB BANKER FINED FOR REFUSING TO DISCLOSE CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION. A city court in Vladivostok has fined Valentina Panteleeva, the acting head of the Primorskii Krai branch of the Central Bank, for refusing to reveal confidential information about a local commercial bank, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 12 May. Panteleeva refused to comply with a request from krai prosecutors to send information obtained during a Central Bank audit of the commercial bank. The case highlights the contradictions between the federal law on the activities of Russian prosecutors (which gives prosecutors the right to demand information necessary for conducting an investigation) and the federal law on banking secrets (which does not list the prosecutor's office among the agencies that have the right to ask for confidential information about banks). LB KRASNOYARSK INCUMBENT WAGES ACTIVE CAMPAIGN. In the final days before the runoff gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai, incumbent Valerii Zubov is waging a far more active campaign than is his challenger, Aleksandr Lebed, RFE/RL's correspondent in Krasnoyarsk reported on 14 May. The pop singer Alla Pugacheva arrived in Krasnoyarsk on 14 May and held a press conference and television interview in support of Zubov. Although she did not attack Lebed, she said he would not be a good governor. Another famous singer, Lyudmila Zykina, has come to the krai in order to give two concerts in support of Zubov, Russian news agencies reported. Meanwhile, Lebed and his supporters continue to express confidence about the election. A newspaper published by his campaign staff has appeared with a headline heralding "the final hours" of the current authorities. LB FORMER POLITICAL ALLY SLAMS LEBED. Duma deputy Dmitrii Rogozin, the chairman of the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), sharply criticized Lebed at a 14 May press conference in Moscow, Russian news agencies reported. Lebed ran on the KRO's party list for the 1995 Duma elections, but relations soured after he became Security Council secretary in summer 1996 and especially after he negotiated a ceasefire agreement in Chechnya. Rogozin recently returned from a visit to Krasnoyarsk, where the KRO is campaigning against Lebed. He accused Lebed of spending $10 million, some of it foreign money, on his gubernatorial bid. Rogozin also charged that Lebed's campaign staff have broken campaign rules more than 60 times but have received only three warnings from the krai electoral commission. LB CAMPAIGN HEATS UP IN KARELIA. Emotions are running high in the final days before the 17 May runoff election for the top post in the Republic of Karelia. The incumbent, Viktor Stepanov, has the backing of the Communist Party and the heads of many large enterprises. Supporters of former Petrozavodsk Mayor Sergei Katanandov include the Our Home Is Russia movement, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and the Moscow city government. In the first round, Katanandov narrowly outpolled Stepanov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1998). LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky blasted Stepanov during a recent appearance on local television. The incumbent subsequently announced plans to sue Zhirinovsky for going beyond "all acceptable boundaries" of human behavior and the television station "for providing air time during the campaign to a citizen having dubious personal characteristics," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. LB NIZHNII COURT CONSIDERS WOULD-BE MAYOR'S APPEAL. A Nizhnii Novgorod raion court is considering Andrei Klimentev's appeal against the decision to annul the 29 March mayoral election in the city, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 and 14 May. Klimentev won the election by a narrow margin, but the city electoral commission canceled the results, citing violations committed by several candidates during the campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March and 1 April 1998). Klimentev is in custody facing trial for alleged embezzlement. Because of mistakes made by his representative in filing court papers, he is not allowed to attend the hearings on the election annulment. LB DUMA CALLS ON CHECHEN PARLIAMENT TO EXPEDITE VLASOV'S RELEASE. The Duma Nationalities Committee appealed to the Chechen parliament on 14 May to take all measures to secure the release of abducted Russian presidential envoy to Chechnya Valentin Vlasov, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian government envoy to Chechnya Georgii Kurin said on 14 May after meeting with Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev that he believes Vlasov may be freed within the next few days. Kurin also discussed with Makhashev the planned reopening of a Russian Interior Ministry mission in the Chechen capital. Sixty Chechen police officers are to undergo a training course in Moscow, Interfax reported on 14 May, quoting Russian Deputy Interior Minister General Valerii Fedorov. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA UN PROLONGS OBSERVER MISSION IN TAJIKISTAN. The UN Security Council on 14 May voted unanimously to extend for six months (until 15 November) the mandate of its 70-strong observer mission in Tajikistan. The subsequent council resolution expressed concern at the recent renewal of hostilities between government and opposition troops. Meeting with Paolo Lembo, the UN representative in Dushanbe, United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri expressed reservations about UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal that parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year be postponed, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in the Tajik capital. LF KYRGYZ RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS FORM COMMITTEE TO PROTECT ISLAM. A number of religious organizations have established a committee in Bishkek to counter anti-Islamic measures by the Kyrgyz leadership, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 14 May. Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan Chairman Tursunbek Akunov said that the Kyrgyz government is cracking down on religious organizations under the pretext of combatting Wahhabism, which, he claimed, does not pose a threat in Kyrgyzstan. Also on 14 May, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii invited Kyrgyzstan to join the tripartite alliance created by Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan earlier this month to combat religious extremism, ITAR-TASS reported. LF SHEVARDNADZE, BEREZOVSKII DISCUSS CIS, ABKHAZIA. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said after his 14 May meeting with CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii that their views on the CIS "are not contradictory" even if they do not coincide. The two men did agree, however, on the need to overcome what Berezovskii termed "political alienation" within the CIS and on priorities for reform within that body. Alluding to the unresolved Abkhaz conflict, Shevardnadze said the CIS cannot function effectively if it is unable to guarantee the territorial integrity of member states, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi reported. Berezovskii said he believes it is "quite possible" that a solution to that conflict can be reached. He called for increasing efforts to that end, including bilateral negotiations between the Georgian and Abkhaz leadership. LF ABKHAZ LEADERSHIP AGAIN REJECTS FEDERATION. Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba continues to insist that Abkhazia's status is already defined in the region's constitution and is not a subject for discussion with Tbilisi, Interfax reported on 14 May. Shamba ruled out the idea of a federation with Georgia. Shevardnadze has advocated that Georgia become an "asymmetric federal state" in which Abkhazia would have broader autonomy than Adzharia or South Ossetia. LF MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN IN STEPANAKERT. The three co- chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group met with the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic behind closed doors in Stepanakert on 14 May. Those taking part included the republic's Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian and President Arkadii Ghukasian, Noyan Tapan reported. Ghukasian stressed his commitment to a peaceful settlement of the conflict and appealed to the co-chairmen to ensure that negotiations resume. LF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ARGUES AGAINST PRE-TERM ELECTIONS. Khosrov Harutiunian said on 14 May that there is no need to dissolve the parliament and hold pre-term parliamentary elections as there is no "internal political crisis" in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said the current parliament should be allowed to complete its four-year term, which expires in the summer of 1999. Some of the political parties aligned in the Justice and Unity bloc, created in March to support acting President Robert Kocharian's presidential bid, want early elections as they are under-represented in the legislature. President Kocharian met on 14 May with members of the Justice and Unity bloc to discuss their proposal for creating a "consultative political council" on which all main political parties would be represented. LF REGIONAL AFFAIRS CONTINUED CONTROVERSY OVER RATIFYING RUSSIA-UKRAINE TREATY. Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told ITAR-TASS on 14 May that "the treaty with Ukraine will be ratified when the Supreme Council of Ukraine considers the issue of the division of the Black Sea Fleet." Hennadiy Udovenko, former Ukrainian foreign minister, commented to the news agency that Seleznev's stance is "absolutely erroneous" and that the ratification of the treaty should not be linked to the ratification of a package of three agreements on the Black Sea Fleet's division. Meanwhile, speaking to journalists on 13 May and in an interview with the Kyiv official daily "Uryadovyy kuryer" published the next day, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said he hopes the Russian-Ukrainian treaty will be ratified prior to Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's visit to Kyiv scheduled for 26-27 May. The treaty was signed by the presidents of the two countries last May. JM UKRAINE, BP DISCUSS CASPIAN OIL EXPORT. President Leonid Kuchma held talks in Kyiv on 14 May with the president of British Petroleum, Ian Rushby, Interfax reported. The talks touched on the export of Azerbaijani Caspian oil via the Odessa-Brody pipeline, which is currently under construction. A major partner in the first international consortium created to develop Azerbaijan's offshore oil fields, BP is lukewarm about the proposed construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline. Rushby confirmed that more than one pipeline would be used for the export of Azerbaijani oil from Baku. Also on 14 May, the Ukrainian government issued instructions to the State Committee for the Oil and Gas Industry to draw up plans for creating an international consortium to complete construction of the Odessa-Brody pipeline and the Odessa oil terminal, which will have an annual capacity of 12 million metric tons. 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