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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 95 Part I, 20 May 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 95 Part I, 20 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

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SPECIAL REPORT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE: MAKING IT WORK FOR HUMANITY Next
month, work will begin on the creation of a permanent
International Criminal Court. This four-part series explores
the ramifications of a new criminal court and how the
current war crimes tribunals are handling cases related to
the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/courts/index.html

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Headlines, Part I

* NO END TO MINERS' STRIKES IN SIGHT

* CENTRAL BANKER WARNS FOREIGN 'SPECULATORS'

* STORMS HIT CENTRAL ASIA

End Note: STILL NO POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH
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RUSSIA

NO END TO MINERS' STRIKES IN SIGHT. Kemerovo Oblast Governor
Aman Tuleev on 20 May declared a state of emergency in the
region after miners in Prokopevsk blocked the Great Siberian
Ring railroad, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. That
railroad was being used to reroute some traffic from the
Trans-Siberian, which miners have blocked for six days (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 May 1998). Coal miners in
Rostov Oblast and Komi Republic continue to block major
railroads, ITAR-TASS reported. Miners in the Republic of
Buryatia, Chelyabinsk and Sakhalin Oblasts also staged
protests on 20 May, and former gold miners in Krasnoyarsk
Krai blocked a railroad connecting the Trans-Siberian to the
Republic of Khakassia. Meanwhile, during negotiations with a
group of federal officials in Perm Oblast on 19 May, miners
placed the group under "house arrest" until urgent steps are
taken to solve their problems. LB

KIRIENKO ORDERS MINISTERS TO VISIT COAL-MINING REGIONS.
Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has ordered Deputy Prime
Ministers Oleg Sysuev and Boris Nemtsov to cancel planned
trips abroad in order to visit regions that have been
affected by the unrest among coal miners, Russian news
agencies reported on 20 May. Sysuev will go to Kemerovo,
instead of South Korea, and Nemtsov, who was scheduled to
fly to Italy, will travel to Rostov Oblast. The previous
day, Nemtsov discussed the crisis in the coal industry with
leaders of some 20 regions of the Russian Federation.
Meanwhile, Kirienko on 20 May ruled out the use of force
against coal miners taking part in civil disobedience, ITAR-
TASS reported. The same day, the State Duma passed a
resolution calling on President Boris Yeltsin to convene an
emergency joint session of the two houses of the parliament
to discuss the situation in the coal industry. LB

STRIKES HURTING RAILROADS. The wave of protests by unpaid
coal miners is taking a huge financial toll on railroads,
"Izvestiya" reported on 20 May. The Railroad Ministry lost
12.7 million rubles ($2.1 million) during the first three
days of the blockade of the Trans-Siberian. The blockage of
the North Caucasus railroad by miners in Rostov Oblast
caused losses of 3 million rubles in two days. Protesters in
Komi Republic are allowing passenger trains to use the
Vorkuta-Moscow route, but cargo traffic remains at a
standstill, ITAR-TASS reported. On 19 May, the management
and trade union committee of the West-Siberian railroad
warned Kemerovo miners that their actions are leaving
railroad workers and their families without money. Vladimir
Starostenko, the head of that railroad, told ITAR-TASS that
more than 100 freight trains are stalled on the Trans-
Siberian and that many would-be passengers are demanding
refunds on train tickets. LB

COMMUNISTS TO LAUNCH IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS. Communist
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced during a 20 May
Duma session that the Communist and allied factions are
collecting signatures demanding Yeltsin's removal from
office, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. By the end of the
day, they are likely to obtain the 150 signatures needed in
order to place an impeachment vote on the Duma's agenda. But
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir
Zhirinovsky has already said his faction will not support
the impeachment motion, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May.
Without Zhirinovsky's support, such a motion is highly
unlikely to gain the 300 votes needed in the Duma. Even if
the Duma calls for Yeltsin's impeachment and sends the
motion to the Supreme Court, as required by law, the court
is almost certain to rule that there are no grounds for
removing the president from office. LB

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES REVISED LAND CODE. The
Federation Council on 20 May passed a revised version of the
land code by 97 to 21, with eight abstentions, RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau reported. The new draft is somewhat different
from the version passed by both houses of the parliament
last year, but it retains a prohibition on the purchase and
sale of farmland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 1998).
Yeltsin has said he will not sign any land code that does
not give farmers full land ownership rights. While the State
Duma would likely override a presidential veto, their allies
in the Federation Council would probably find it difficult
to gain the two-thirds majority needed to force Yeltsin to
sign the code. LB

CENTRAL BANKER WARNS FOREIGN 'SPECULATORS.' Central Bank
Chairman Sergei Dubinin on 19 May called for the government
to "reconsider its relationships" with foreign financial
institutions that have been involved in the latest
speculative attacks on the ruble and on Russian treasury
bills, Reuters and Interfax reported. During the last week,
the Central Bank spent some $520 million defending the
ruble, bringing Russia's gold and hard-currency reserves
down to $15.5 billion. It also raised interest rates to
their highest level in the last 18 months (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 19 May 1998). Dubinin said that "it's hard to
imagine that some Western investment institution can
simultaneously be both a consultant to the government for
some deal on distributing Eurobonds and so on and be
involved in the collapse of the government securities market
and national currency." Nevertheless, he advised speculators
not to "count on" a sharp devaluation of the ruble. LB

'RUSSKII TELEGRAF' BLAMES MARKET TURMOIL ON 'NEZAVISIMAYA.'
"Russkii telegraf" on 19 May blamed "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
for the recent collapse in the market for government
treasury bills (GKOs). "Russkii telegraf" argued that the
widespread sell-off of GKOs was not an inevitable result of
events in southeastern Asia. It charged that an article in
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" alleging that the GKO market is a
dangerous "debt pyramid" was translated and widely
distributed to foreign investors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15
May 1998). It also accused "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of
publishing unfounded claims that a law on shares in the
electricity monopoly Unified Energy System will lead to the
"nationalization" of company shares currently held by
foreigners. "Russkii telegraf," which is owned by
Oneksimbank, claimed that a ruble devaluation and declining
share values for Russian companies would be advantageous for
Boris Berezovskii, an Oneksimbank rival and financial backer
of "Nezavisimaya gazeta." LB

'NEZAVISIMAYA' SAYS RUSSIA 'ON THE BRINK OF DEVALUATION.'
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 May claimed that the Central
Bank is "ready to sharply devalue" the ruble but wants the
president or prime minister to take the political
responsibility for such a decision. The newspaper compared
Russia's current financial condition to a patient in a coma
who can be saved only by a major operation--in this case, a
ruble devaluation. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" also noted that in
a recent article for the weekly "Ekspert," Central Bank
First Deputy Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko acknowledged that
devaluation is one instrument for improving a country's
trade balance, even as he argued against devaluing the
ruble. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" challenged the official
government viewpoint that there are no "objective" reasons
for the current market turmoil in Russia. It also warned
that Russia's financial crisis "is developing on the
Indonesian model." LB

GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO INVALIDATE LAW ON ELECTRICITY GIANT. The
government has announced plans to appeal to the Supreme
Court and the Constitutional Court to prevent the
implementation of the law on shares in Unified Energy System
(EES), Russian news agencies reported on 19 May. The
government believes the law violates the civil code and the
constitution. The law's most contentious provision restricts
foreign shareholders to at most a 25 percent stake in EES.
More than one-quarter of the company's shares are currently
in foreign hands. Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov on 19 May
attributed the recent declines on the Russian stock market
in part to the adoption of the law, which Yeltsin was forced
to sign after both houses of the parliament overrode his
veto. Also on 19 May, Federal Securities Commission Chairman
Dmitrii Vasilev told journalists that his commission will
take "all necessary measures" to protect the rights of EES
shareholders. LB

RUSSIA TO ATTEND OPEC ANNUAL MEETING. Following a meeting in
Moscow on 19 May with OPEC Director-General Rilwanu Lukman,
Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov said Russia will attend the
annual OPEC summit next month for the first time, Russian
agencies reported. Nemtsov told journalists that Moscow and
OPEC reached agreement on coordinating their efforts to
stabilize world oil markets following the slump in world oil
prices. Russia is the world's third-largest oil exporter. LF

ROSVOORUZHENIE HEAD SLAMS PREVIOUS MANAGEMENT. In a
interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 May,
Yevgenii Ananev, head of the arms export monopoly, accused
his predecessor, Aleksandr Kotelkin, of financial
mismanagement, saying that he invested millions of dollars
in Russian banks that subsequently collapsed, tolerated
kickbacks, and lacked a long-term strategic blueprint to
maintain Russia's position in international arms trade.
Ananev expressed concern that as a result of Kotelkin's lack
of vision, Rosvooruzhenie lost valued customers, including
most former Warsaw Pact countries. He also said claims that
Russia could earn $10 billion annually from arms exports are
"unrealistic." LF

WOMEN GAIN TOP POSTS IN KARELIAN LEGISLATURE. Women will
head both chambers of the Karelian legislature, which has
chosen its top officials following 26 April legislative
elections in the republic, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 May.
Valentina Pivnenko has been re-elected as head of the House
of Representatives. Natalya Kotsyuba, up to now director of
the Karelian branch of the Federal Bankruptcy Service, has
been chosen to head the House of the Republic and has
announced plans to step down as head of the Karelian branch
of Victor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia movement.
Karelian legislators have not yet determined whether
Pivnenko or Kotsyuba will represent the republic in the
Federation Council. (The top legislator in each region of
the Russian Federation automatically becomes a member of the
upper house of the parliament.) The only other woman in the
Federation Council is Koryak Autonomous Okrug Governor
Valentina Bronevich. LB

OPPONENTS OF NIKOLAEV FAIL TO HAVE BY-ELECTION REVIEWED. The
Supreme Court on 19 May upheld a Moscow City Court ruling
that rejected an appeal for a review of the Duma by-election
won last month by former Federal Border Service chief Andrei
Nikolaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 14 April 1998).
Several politicians who dropped out of the race for the Duma
seat shortly before the election filed the lawsuit. They
claimed that Nikolaev's campaign staff committed numerous
violations of the law on parliamentary elections and the law
on the electoral rights of voters. The Moscow city
authorities supported Nikolaev's campaign, which, opponents
charged, gave the former federal border chief an unfair
advantage. LB

CHECHEN PARLIAMENT CALLS ON SECURITY MINISTER TO RESIGN.
Lawmakers on 19 May called on Islam Khalimov to resign,
blaming him for the inadequate performance of his Sharia
Security Ministry in combatting kidnappings and murders.
Russian agencies reported. Khalimov had been summoned to the
parliament, together with heads of other power ministries,
but failed to appear. The parliament's call for his
resignation must be approved by President Aslan Maskhadov.
LF

DAGESTANIS BLOCKADE BORDER CROSSINGS TO CHECHNYA. For the
past two days, residents of Dagestani border districts have
been blocking traffic on several main roads leading from
Dagestan to Chechnya, including the main Rostov-Baku
highway, to protest continued cross-border raids and
abductions by Chechen criminal groups, ITAR-TASS and
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 May. In an interview
published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" the next day, Russian
Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said that the "most
varied, mutually exclusive forces" are on a rampage in
Dagestan. He added that his ministry must provide the
maximum assistance to its Dagestani counterpart "before the
situation gets out of control." LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

STORMS HIT CENTRAL ASIA... Heavy rains and strong winds have
left many parts of Central Asia without power and cut off
from roads and other transport links. At least three people
died in floods in eastern Kazakhstan, after heavy rains on
18 May washed away sections of roads and submerged some 50
houses, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Gale force winds in
the eastern Caspian Sea are thought to have been responsible
for the sinking of a patrol boat belonging to Kazakhstan's
Customs Service. The boat's crew was lifted to safety by a
helicopter. The same day, storms in southern Kyrgyzstan
caused damage to more than 1,000 houses in the Suzdak
district, and some 40,000 residents of the Jalalabad Region
were forced to leave their homes by the worst mud slides in
20 years. BP

...AND PARTICULARLY TAJIKISTAN . In Tajikistan, torrential
rains cut off power to regions in the south on 18 May, while
Dushanbe was without power for several hours after lines to
the Nurek hydro-electric dam were severed, ITAR-TASS
reported. All roads to the capital were flooded. A 19 May
broadcast from Radio Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran
reported than more than 16,000 people have been left
homeless. Last month, the central regions of Tajikistan were
heavily flooded. The Red Cross/ Red Crescent has already
sent aid to the affected areas, and neighboring Uzbekistan
and Kyrgyzstan are continuing to send help as well. BP

WORLD BANK PLEDGES AID TO KYRGYZSTAN WORTH $610 MILLION. The
World Bank has pledged to extend aid worth $610 million to
Kyrgyzstan over the next two years to help continue economic
reform, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. Speaking at a donor
conference in Paris, World Bank Vice President for Europe
and Central Asia Johannes Linn noted that the Kyrgyz economy
has grown by 7 percent annually over the last two years and
that great progress has been made in the privatization of
agriculture and industry. He added, however, that poverty
remains a problem in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz Prime Minister
Kubanychbek Jumaliev, who attended the conference, said "not
everyone can find their place in the new socio-economic
conditions." He said that 60 percent of the population earns
less than the minimum wage, calculated on the basis of the
consumer food basket, and 18 percent live in "absolute
poverty." BP

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS COMMISSION ON CONSTITUTIONAL
REFORM. Robert Kocharian on 19 May issued a decree creating
a commission tasked with drafting amendments to the
constitution, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The
commission is to be headed by his adviser on legal reform,
Paryur Hayrikian. The draft amendments are expected to
include measures on curtailing the extensive powers of the
president and augmenting those of the parliament and cabinet
of ministers. They will be put to a nationwide referendum.
LF

ARMENIA, ISRAEL ASSESS BILATERAL RELATIONS. At a 19 May
meeting, Armenian President Kocharian and Israeli Ambassador
Ehud Moshe Eidman discussed establishing closer ties and
expanding economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau
reported. Kocharian said Armenia is particularly interested
in agriculture and high technology, noting that Israel's
experience "may be useful" to Armenia. He added that the
Israeli experience is all the more relevant to Armenia as
both countries are not rich in natural resources but possess
"strong intellectual potential." LF

NEW GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER OUTLINES PRIORITIES. At his
first press conference since his appointment as defense
minister last month, David Tevzadze said conditions in the
Georgian armed forces are "unbearable" and one of the
reasons for a recent upsurge in desertion among conscripts,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 May. Tevzadze cited no
figures, but the Georgian newspaper "Kavkazioni" last summer
estimated that some 3,000 servicemen, or 10 percent of the
nominal strength of the army, were on the run. In a move to
bring the Georgian army closer to NATO standards, Tevzadze
proposed introducing civilian structures and appointing a
civilian as one of his deputies. He also said that Georgia
will use every opportunity to train its officers abroad.
Georgia has concluded training agreements with Turkey and
the U.S. LF

REGIONAL AFFAIRS

BEREZOVSKII ADVOCATES POSTPONING CIS INTERSTATE FORUM.
Addressing a meeting convened in Minsk on 19 May to prepare
for the CIS interstate forum tentatively scheduled for July,
CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii proposed
postponing that forum until the fall, Interfax reported. The
forum is to debate reforming the CIS. Berezovskii said that
he concluded from his meetings earlier this month with the
presidents of Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, and
Georgia that it is "unrealistic" to hold the forum in July,
given that "no hasty moves will bring a radical
improvement," according to ITAR-TASS. Almost all
participants at the April CIS summit in Moscow expressed
dissatisfaction with the way the CIS operates. Berezovskii
positively assessed the role of the CIS in containing
conflicts between its members. And he warned against blindly
copying the experience of other international bodies such as
the EU. LF

END NOTE

STILL NO POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH

by Emil Danielyan

	It has been four years since the fighting ceased in
Nagorno-Karabakh. That respite has saved thousands of
Armenian and Azerbaijani lives but has failed to materialize
into a lasting peace. Recent developments in the region
suggest that the peace process still has a long way to go
before the parties to the conflict will reach an agreement.
Although there is little information about the visit last
week to Yerevan, Stepanakert, and Baku by the three co-
chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe's Minsk Group, they evidently made scant progress
toward breaking the stalemate.
	Yet the very fact that the cease-fire has largely held
for four years without the presence in the region of peace-
keepers is quite remarkable. Initially signed for three
months only on 12 May 1994 by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the
self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with Russia's
mediation, the cease-fire agreement has come to acquire a
permanent nature. It has suspended a bitter war, in which
more than 20,000 people were killed, and left Karabakh
Armenians in control of virtually the entire disputed region
and territories in Azerbaijan proper, which surrounds
Karabakh. Minor skirmishes from time to time disturb the
calm on the front line around the Armenian-populated
enclave, but they have so far not developed into all-out
hostilities. However, many believe that it is only the
parties' own interests that prevent the war from resuming.
	The latest toughening of Armenia's position will
either provoke strong pressure from the Minsk Group or cause
the latter to restart its peace efforts from scratch. The
new authorities in Yerevan reject the group's most recent
"phased" plan, which provides for the return of the occupied
Azerbaijani territories ahead of an agreement on Karabakh's
status. Armenia and Karabakh favor a "package" deal,
settling all contentious issues by means of a single
framework accord. The Armenians also vigorously oppose any
kind of "subordination" in future relations between Baku and
Stepanakert.
	Under such circumstances, it is reasonable to expect
pressure on the Armenians as the recalcitrant party
(Azerbaijan has accepted the OSCE's plan). But there are few
indications that the Russian, U.S., and French co-chairmen
of the Minsk Group will go so far as to advocate "peace
enforcement." Hence the "wait-and-see" strategy of Armenian
President Robert Kocharian, who appears to want to stick to
the harder line, avoiding "hasty" concessions.
	Indeed, Kocharian may well be in a position to
continue that line for several years to come. With the flow
of the "main" Azerbaijani oil expected no earlier than 2003,
Azerbaijan will hardly be able to embark on a large-scale
military build-up before then. Kocharian may also think that
Western oil giants, too, have a vital interest in peace and
will therefore pressure Baku to make concessions. The
constant threat of war puts their multi-billion-dollar
investments at enormous risk.
	In one respect, the package strategy is more conducive
to peace than a step-by step one, which is full of pitfalls,
as evidenced by the Middle East peace process. The formal
establishment of Nagorno-Karabakh's status would pave the
way for settling other bones of contention, such as security
guarantees and a land corridor with Armenia. Such a
development would require reconciling "the highest degree of
autonomy for Karabakh in Azerbaijan," supported by the
international community, and "horizontal" ties between two
equal entities, as demanded by Armenia. "Horizontal ties"
resemble the Bosnia option, with each ethnic community
having its own army and enjoying an equal, internationally
guaranteed status. This would be a face-saving solution
whereby the principle of the inviolability of existing
frontiers would not be compromised.
	But it is unlikely that Azerbaijan will agree to
serious concessions at this juncture, not least because of
presidential elections scheduled for October. Although
President Heidar Aliev is virtually assured an election
victory, he will nonetheless be reluctant to discuss a
compromise during the election campaign. And Azerbaijani
presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade insisted last week that
direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert are possible only
if the latter agrees beforehand to autonomous status within
Azerbaijan.
	Moreover, the co-chairmen's visit to the Transcaucasus
failed to clarify whether they will press on with the
current plan or shift to the package option. (Armenia and
Karabakh both stressed their desire to resume peace
negotiations in the hope of quickly reaching a solution.)
Thus, a delay in the peace process until the fall now seems
likely and would give the mediators more time to consider
which strategy to adopt. Even more than till now, the future
of the troubled region will depend on that strategy.

The author is a Yerevan-based RFE/RL correspondent.

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