The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 97 Part I, 22 May 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 97 Part I, 22 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

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN CRITICIZES MINERS' TACTICS

* STANDOFF IN MAKHACHKALA ENDS PEACEFULLY

* SITUATION ON GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ BORDER REMAINS TENSE
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN CRITICIZES MINERS' TACTICS. President Boris Yeltsin
on 22 May said coal miners "have gone beyond reasonable
boundaries" by blocking major railroads. In a nationwide
radio address, the president ruled out printing extra money
or taking funds away from other workers to meet the miners'
demands. He acknowledged that "strikes are certainly a good
way to make yourself heard" but argued that "nobody has the
right to make the lives of others even more insufferable."
The protests have gone on for more than a week in some areas
and have affected hundreds of trains on the Trans-Siberian,
Moscow-Vorkuta, and North Caucasus lines (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 20 and 21 May 1998). Officials have repeatedly
said the government has met its financial obligations to the
coal industry and that the massive wage arrears to miners
are caused by non-paying consumers and dubious financial
practices by coal enterprise directors. LB

KIRIENKO INSISTS GOVERNMENT WILL STICK TO BUDGET. Speaking
to journalists on 21 May, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko
repeated that the government will not deviate from the 1998
budget targets for spending on the coal industry, NTV
reported. He said allocating extra money to miners would
take money away from other vital social needs, such as
paying teachers and child allowances. Yeltsin and Kirienko
discussed the situation in the coal industry during a "big
four" meeting on 21 May with State Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev.
According to Seleznev and Stroev, Yeltsin and Kirienko
agreed to meet with deputies from both houses of the
parliament during the first 10 days of June in order to
discuss an "anti-crisis" program of economic and social
policies, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Kemerovo Oblast
Governor Aman Tuleev warned during a 21 May interview with
NTV that the coal miners' protests could soon "spin out of
control." LB

NEWSPAPER SLAMS NTV'S COVERAGE OF MINERS' PROTESTS. "Russkii
telegraf" on 21 May charged that NTV's coverage of the wave
of miners' strikes has resembled "propaganda" with the
subtext "Go for it, boys!" rather than news reporting. In
particular, the newspaper blasted an NTV report from
Moscow's Yaroslavl train station, which, it suggested, had
been edited misleadingly to give the impression that most
railroad workers and would-be passengers support the miners'
protests. (NTV on 21 May broadcast a segment from the same
station, in which many inconvenienced travelers said they
support the miners and believe that "the government should
be changed.") "Russkii telegraf" is fully owned by
Oneksimbank and generally supports the government. NTV is
owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most holding company. It
provided mostly positive coverage of the government from
1996 until summer 1997, when it began broadcasting sharp
criticism of some high-ranking ministers. LB

PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS AGREE TO PUSH FOR START-2
RATIFICATION. During the 21 May meeting of the "big four,"
Duma Speaker Seleznev and Federation Council Speaker Stroev
agreed to help push for speedy ratification of the START-2
arms control treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin again
argued that the treaty is in Russia's interests, and the
government agreed to submit documents to the parliament to
"remove the concern" of some deputies that implementation of
START-2 would be too expensive. LB

STANDOFF IN MAKHACHKALA ENDS PEACEFULLY. Several hundred
armed supporters of Union of Muslims of Russian chairman
Nadirshakh Khachilaev who occupied the government building
in Makhachkala on 21 May vacated it peacefully later that
day following talks with top Dagestani officials. Moscow had
responded to the seizure of the building by deploying
additional police and security forces in the town. On the
town's central square, Khachilaev told his supporters that
the republic's leadership has agreed to their demands that
the constitution be amended to provide for direct elections
of the chairman of the State Council. Khachilaev's elder
brother Magomed, who heads an emergency committee created to
stabilize the situation, told the demonstrators that his
committee has decided to drop its demand for the resignation
of the present State Council chairman, Magomed Magomadov,
"in order not to destabilize the situation further,"
Interfax reported. LF

DAGESTANI INTERIOR MINISTER RESIGNS. At an emergency session
of the State Council on 22 May attended by Russian Interior
Minister Sergei Stepashin, Dagestani Interior Minister
Magomed Abdurazakov submitted his resignation, thus meeting
one of the demonstrators' demands, ITAR-TASS reported. The
State Council issued a draft resolution blaming the
republic's Interior Ministry for not taking adequate
measures to prevent armed supporters of Khachilaev from
occupying the government building. LF

RUSSIA, TURKEY CLOSE TO AGREEMENT ON CAUCASUS FORCE.
Speaking to Turkish journalists in Moscow on 21 May, Turkish
Chief of General Staff General Ismail Hakki Karadayi said
that during his talks with Russian defense officials, a "95
percent agreement" had been reached on creating a Russian-
Turkish rapid reaction force for deployment during crises in
the Caucasus, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 22 May.
Karadayi did not say whether the force might also be
deployed for peacekeeping purposes. LF

LUKOIL PREPARING TO BUY SIDANKO. LUKoil president Vagit
Alekperov announced on 21 May that his company is
negotiating to buy the Sidanko oil company, Interfax
reported. Earlier this year, the two companies were rumored
to be considering a merger, but Alekperov denied those
reports. The press service of Oneksimbank, which owns a
controlling stake in Sidanko, issued a statement on 21 May
saying Oneksimbank and British Petroleum have not yet made
any decision on selling or merging Sidanko, ITAR-TASS
reported. BP owns a 10 percent stake in Sidanko. But
Alekperov's announcement raises more doubts as to whether
the auction for a 75 percent stake in the Rosneft oil
company will go ahead next week as planned. LUKoil, Gazprom,
and Royal Dutch Shell have held negotiations on submitting a
joint bid for Rosneft, while Sidanko and BP were planning to
form their own consortium for the Rosneft auction. LB

YELTSIN REPLACES HEAD OF RUSSIAN TELEVISION. Yeltsin on 21
May appointed Mikhail Shvydkoi as the chairman of the fully
state-owned Russian Television (RTR) network, which is being
transformed into a holding company for state-owned
electronic media. Shvydkoi, up to now chairman of the
Kultura television network, replaces Nikolai Svanidze, a
close ally of former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Chubais who had chaired RTR since February 1997. According
to "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 May, Svanidze will continue to
host RTR's Sunday analytical program, "Zerkalo." The
newspaper said Shvydkoi was chosen as a "compromise figure"
who is "not associated with any financial-industrial
groups." On 19 May, Prime Minister Kirienko signed a
resolution transforming the state-run RIA-Novosti news
agency into a subsidiary of RTR, which will be called RIA-
Vesti. RTR first deputy chairman Eduard Gindeleev will be
the new director of the news agency. LB

FSB OFFICER ALLEGES PLOT TO ASSASSINATE BEREZOVSKII. Federal
Security Service (FSB) officer Aleksandr Litvinenko has
alleged that late last year the deputy head of an FSB
department on organized crime instructed him to assassinate
Boris Berezovskii, one of Russia's most powerful
businessmen, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 22 May.
The newspaper said Litvinenko warned Berezovskii on 20 March
and soon after informed Yevgenii Savostyanov, deputy head of
the presidential administration, of the alleged plans. FSB
Director Nikolai Kovalev has ordered an investigation into
the allegation. "Moskovskii komsomolets" cast doubt on
Litvinenko's claim, noting that he is reportedly close to
Berezovskii and would not be chosen to carry out such a plot
if one indeed existed. It also suggested that Litvinenko has
given "invaluable help to the criminal world," because his
allegation has for more than a month paralyzed the FSB's
department on organized crime. "Moskovskii komsomolets" is
close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and its coverage of
Berezovskii is generally negative. LB

KOKH PRESENTS COPY OF CONTROVERSIAL BOOK ON PRIVATIZATION.
Former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh on 21
May held a press conference to show copies of his
forthcoming book, "The Selling of the Soviet Empire," NTV
reported. The book is being published in English and will
sell for $20, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 May.
A criminal case was opened against Kokh last year after it
emerged that he received a $100,000 advance from a Swiss
company for writing the book. Kokh argued on 21 May that his
advance was not excessive, adding that the book is aimed at
a mass audience. On 22 May, investigators in the Moscow
Prosecutor's Office questioned Kokh in connection with
allegations that he and other former officials embezzled
property when they acquired apartments in the capital (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 1998). LB

CUSTOMS ACCOUNTS DIVIDED AMONG 10 BANKS... A government
commission on credit, monetary, and financial policy has
approved the results of a tender for the right to service
bank accounts of the State Customs Committee, ITAR-TASS
reported on 19 May. Of the 28 commercial banks that bid for
the right to service the accounts, 10 were declared winners:
Sberbank, Oneksimbank, MFK (linked to Oneksimbank), Alfa
Bank, Rossiiskii Kredit, Most Bank, Avtobank, MDM-Bank,
Promstroibank, and Sobinbank. Yeltsin and government
officials have repeatedly promised to cease using
"authorized" commercial banks to handle state funds, but
exceptions have been made for the accounts of some
ministries and federal agencies. The arrangement is
lucrative for commercial banks, which can earn money on the
inter-bank market while delaying the transfer of funds to
federal coffers. LB

...FOLLOWING LAST-MINUTE ATTEMPT TO CANCEL COMPETITION. Most
Bank, Menatep, SBS-Agro and Tekhnobank sent a last-minute
appeal asking Prime Minister Kirienko to cancel the tender
for the State Customs Committee's bank accounts and transfer
the accounts to Sberbank. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on
14 May, the four banks argued that the system of conducting
such tenders has "discredited itself many times," since the
losers inevitably dispute the results and the ensuing
scandal "harms Russia's entire commercial banking system."
Oneksimbank serviced the bulk of the State Customs
Committee's accounts until late 1997. Some two months ago,
the government authorized the transfer of the Central Excise
Customs Service's bank accounts to Oneksimbank without a
tender--a decision former First Deputy Prime Minister
Anatolii Chubais later admitted was "unwise" (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 18 and 24 March 1998). LB

YELTSIN SIGNS MORE POWER-SHARING AGREEMENTS WITH REGIONS.
Yeltsin on 20 May attended a Kremlin signing ceremony for
power-sharing agreements between the federal government and
Amur, Voronezh, Ivanovo, and Kostroma Oblasts, as well as
the Marii-El Republic, ITAR-TASS reported. The president
praised the merits of such agreements, saying they "help
strengthen our federation" by adjusting the government's
regional policy to the specific conditions of each region.
Yeltsin said 45 out of the 89 regions of the Russian
Federation have signed bilateral treaties with the federal
government. Some regional leaders, including Federation
Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and Saratov Oblast Governor
Dmitrii Ayatskov, have criticized the practice of concluding
power-sharing treaties, saying they exacerbate inequalities
among regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January and 11
February 1998). LB

SARATOV GOVERNOR DOWNPLAYS PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS. Saratov
Governor Ayatskov has said he will run for re-election when
his current term expires and that he does not plan to seek
the presidency before 2004, Russian news agencies reported
on 19 May. Commenting on the fact that Yeltsin introduced
him to U.S. Bill Clinton as "the next Russian president"
during the recent G-8 summit in Birmingham, Ayatskov
speculated that Yeltsin was making a joke. Interfax on 18
May quoted Ayatskov as saying he will run for president in
2000 if Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor-elect Aleksandr Lebed does
so. Ayatskov has sought to maintain a high profile since his
election as governor in September 1996. On 20 May, he vowed
to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the land code
approved by the Federation Council if that code becomes law,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. A Saratov law permits the
purchase and sale of farmland. LB

IS TATARSTAN HEADING FOR ECONOMIC DECLINE? The sharp fall in
world oil prices may signal the end of Tatarstan's relative
economic prosperity, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on
22 May. The republican oil company Tatneft stands to lose
$250-300 million this year, and the republic's remaining
hard currency earnings will suffice only to service the
foreign loans and Tatneft's earlier credits. Earnings from
the oil sector enabled the Tatar leadership to subsidize
both the agrarian and the industrial sector and to provide
substantial social subsidies to cushion the impact of albeit
cautious moves toward market reform. Two major enterprises,
the KamAZ truck factory and Tatenergo, are close to
bankruptcy. The republic's leadership may be constrained to
surrender key enterprises to powerful Russian businessmen in
return for loans and credits that it is unable to repay. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

SITUATION ON GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ BORDER REMAINS TENSE. Sporadic
minor clashes are continuing in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali
Raion between Georgian guerrillas and Abkhaz forces after
the Abkhaz Interior Ministry sent another 800 men to the
district, Caucasus Press reported on 22 May. The Abkhaz are
setting fire to Georgian homes as they retreat. Addressing
an emergency session of the Georgian National Security
Council on 21 May, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze
said Tbilisi will use "both diplomatic talks and any other
methods" to defend its territorial integrity. In an implicit
denial of Georgian claims that the Russian peacekeeping
force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the
rest of Georgia is colluding with the Abkhaz, the Russian
Defense Ministry issued a statement on 21 May saying the
peacekeepers are acting in accordance with their mandate and
demonstrating "courage and endurance," ITAR-TASS reported.
LF

GEORGIA REJECTS ABKHAZ PRESIDENT'S OFFER OF TALKS. Vladislav
Ardzinba told journalists in Sukhumi on 21 May that he is
ready "at any time" for talks with Shevardnadze on the
recent clashes in Gali, Interfax reported. Ardzinba blamed
the leadership of the so-called Abkhaz parliament in exile,
composed of ethnic Georgian deputies elected to the Abkhaz
parliament in 1991, for the recent fighting. Russian Foreign
Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said in Moscow on 21
May that Russia favors a meeting between Ardzinba and
Shevardnadze in order to "normalize" the situation in Gali.
Rakhmanin said both Tbilisi and Sukhumi precipitated the
recent hostilities by failing to "show the necessary
political will" to expedite the repatriation of displaced
persons and curtail guerrilla activities in Gali. But
Shevardnadze's press spokesman, Vakhtang Abashidze, said a
meeting between the two presidents is "hardly possible' in
the near future as Ardzinba "has no new proposals" on
resolving the conflict. LF

GEORGIAN NAVAL COMMANDER FIRED. Newly appointed Georgian
Defense Minister David Tevzadze has dismissed Naval
Commander Otar Chkhartishvili for financial irregularities
and logistical incompetence, Caucasus Press and Interfax
reported on 20 May. Tevzadze had criticized Chkhartishvili
at a conference of defense officials the previous day.
Chkhartishvili was appointed in March 1997 by Tevzadze's
predecessor, Vardiko Nadibaidze, to replace Aleksandr
Djavakhishvili. Djavakhishvili was forced to resign several
months earlier following disagreements with Nadibaidze over
the size and structure of the country's naval forces (see
"OMRI Daily Digest," 16 December 1996). LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS DOWN ON TAX CUTS. Lawmakers on 21
May voted down a bill reducing value-added tax from 20
percent to 15 percent in order to avoid a confrontation with
the new government, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The
previous day, the parliament had approved in the first
reading a law substantially reducing government revenues
from income tax. Vartan Khachatrian, deputy chairman of the
Committee on Finance and Economics and author of both
initiatives, argued that a lower tax burden will spur
economic activity and boost economic growth. But Prime
Minister Armen Darpinian objected to the bill on VAT,
arguing that it would cut this year's projected budget
revenues. Under the Armenian constitution, the government
may seek a vote of no confidence if the parliament passes a
law that the cabinet considers unacceptable. The failure of
such a vote automatically overturns the law passed by the
legislature. LF

TAJIK PARLIAMENT VOTES DOWN OPPOSITION FIGURES. Lawmakers on
21 May voted against the appointment of Tajik opposition
leaders Khoja Akbar Turajonzoda and Davlat Usmon as first
deputy prime minister and economics minister, respectively,
RFE/RL correspondents reported. According to ITAR-TASS, the
vote against Turajonzoda was 112 to 15 and against Usmon,
106 to 21. Both were appointed to those posts by
presidential decree but required the parliament's approval
to take office. Interfax reported that many deputies wanted
to ask questions of Turajonzoda and Usmon, neither of whom
were present. RFE/RL correspondents say some saw the failure
of either to appear as a sign of disrespect. Another vote to
confirm both candidates is expected on 22 May. Under the
terms of the 1997 peace accord, 30 percent of cabinet posts
are to be given to representatives of the United Tajik
Opposition. BP

TEXT OF NEW LAWS ON RELIGION PUBLISHED IN UZBEKISTAN. In its
19 May issue, the Uzbek daily newspaper "Khalk Suzi"
published the text of laws aimed at regulating the
activities of religious groups in the country. The new
legislation stipulates that religious groups must register
and outlaws missionary activities aimed at converting
individuals to other religions, teaching religious subjects
without official permission, publishing material that
advocates extremism, separatism, and chauvinism. Some
clauses of the laws are vague, such as the one forbidding
people to wear religious clothing in public. Clergymen from
registered religious groups are exempt from that provision.
BP

KAZAKH INTERIOR MINISTER NAMES "GUILTY" PERIODICALS. Kazakh
Interior Minister Qayirbek Suleymenov on 21 May revealed the
names of some publications against which the government has
initiated criminal proceedings (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 7 May
1998), RFE/RL correspondents reported. Suleymenov listed
"Karavan," "Kazakhskaya Pravda," "Rabochaya Zhizn," and
"Biz-MY" but said that others are being investigated also on
charges of "igniting racial, ethnic, and religious hatred."
BP

IS ISSIK-KUL CONTAMINATED FOLLOWING TRUCK ACCIDENT? A truck
carrying 20 tons of sodium cyanide drove into the Barskoon
River near the Issik-Kul lake, which is Kyrgyzstan's biggest
tourist attraction, RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS
reported on 20 May. Reports vary as to the extent of the
damage to the environment. A spokeswoman for President Askar
Akayev said there were no "environmental consequences." But
"Komsomolskaya Pravda" on 22 May reported that 8 tons of
sodium cyanide spilled into the river. Independent
ecological experts told RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek
that the Kumtor gold mining operation, located in the
mountains not far from Issik-Kul, refused to allow them to
the site. Kumtor is a joint venture between Kyrgyzstan's
state gold company, Kyrgyzaltyn, and Canada's Cameco Corp.
BP

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                     All rights reserved.
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