Change is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast. In the pool where you least expect it, will be a fish. - Ovid
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 99 Part I, 26 May 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 99 Part I, 26 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
CRISIS ON UKRAINIAN FARMS
The decline of Ukraine's agriculture sector has been
continuous since Kyiv declared independence from the Soviet
Union in 1991. This report includes articles and photos.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/ukraine-farms/index.html

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Headlines, Part I

* SECURITY COUNCIL APPROVES NEW STATE PROGRAM FOR MINERS

* RUSSIA SLAMS NEW U.S. SANCTIONS BILL

* ABKHAZ FIGHTING CONTINUES, DESPITE CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENT
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RUSSIA

SECURITY COUNCIL APPROVES NEW STATE PROGRAM FOR MINERS. The
Security Council on 25 May approved new plans on state
support for employees of coal mines slated for closure,
Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov told NTV. Earlier this
year, the government approved plans to close 86 out of some
200 Russian coal mines. According to Nemtsov, the program
approved by the Security Council calls for providing miners
with funds to help them relocate and buy new housing. That
money will be deposited into "personal accounts" for
individual miners in order to cut out the "middlemen," whom
government officials blame for many of the coal industry's
financial problems. He said miners in the far north of Perm
Oblast will be the first to benefit from resettlement aid,
while miners in Rostov Oblast, in the south, will receive
money through personal accounts and assistance in finding
new jobs. LB

YASTRZHEMBSKII BLAMES PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT FOR MINERS'
PROBLEMS. Following the 25 May Security Council meeting,
which was chaired by President Boris Yeltsin, presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii blamed the government
Yeltsin sacked in March for the latest wave of protests by
coal miners, Ekho Moskvy reported. Yastrzhembskii said "the
previous government did very little in practice to
restructure the coal sector." He did not mention former
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin or former First Deputy
Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais by name. Chubais headed a
commission on socio-economic problems of coal-mining regions
in the last government. LB

KEMEROVO GOVERNOR CALLS OFF STATE OF EMERGENCY. Aman Tuleev
on 25 May lifted the state of emergency he had recently
imposed in Kemerovo Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. The blockade
of the Trans-Siberian Railroad by Kemerovo coal miners ended
on 24 May. Tuleev was involved in negotiations between
federal government officials and the Kemerovo miners, and he
has promised to act as a "guarantor" to make sure the
government keeps its promises to the miners. He warned on 24
May that protests may resume if the government has not made
progress by 1 July in implementing its plans to help the
coal sector. LB

YELTSIN SAYS MEDIA OWNERS ARE SOMETIMES 'WORST CENSORS'...
Yeltsin assailed the influence of private media owners on
media coverage during a 25 May speech to a world congress of
the International Press Institute in Moscow, which was
published in full in "Kommersant-Daily" the following day.
Yeltsin lamented the fact that "only a handful of
publications have genuine independence." He added that "the
media owners are sometimes the worst censors. They openly
interfere in editorial policy, deciding what should or
should not be written or said." Such conditions jeopardize
"the people's right to objective and truthful information,"
the president said. He did not criticize any media outlets
by name. Yeltsin benefited from almost unanimous support in
the Russian media during his 1996 re-election campaign, when
journalists helped spread his campaign's message and keep
his health problems out of public view. LB

...AS SPOKESMAN CRITICIZES MEDIA COVERAGE OF MINERS'
PROTESTS. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii told
journalists on 25 May that the Russian media's coverage of
the recent blockades by coal miners of railroads "went
beyond reasonable limits," Reuters reported. He did not give
any examples of what he considers to be excesses in media
coverage. Reports on the miners' protests often featured
calls for the dismissal of the government and the
resignation of the president. Yastrzhembskii said that on 28
May Yeltsin plans to meet with the heads of Russia's three
major networks--51 percent state-owned Russian Public
Television, fully state-owned Russian Television, and
private NTV--to discuss "cooperation between the authorities
and the media." Appearing on NTV on 25 May, Deputy Prime
Minister Nemtsov said he has "no complaints" about the
media's coverage of the miners' protests. LB

SECURITY COUNCIL ESTABLISHES SPECIAL BODY ON NORTH CAUCASUS.
The Security Council also decided at its 25 May meeting to
establish a special government body, which will be headed by
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, to stabilize the
"unpredictable" situation in the North Caucasus,
"Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 26 May. Security Council
Secretary Andrei Kokoshin said that Russia's policy toward
the region will combine social-economic incentives with "all
the means at the state's disposal." Presidential spokesman
Yastrzhembskii claimed after the meeting that "an
overwhelming majority of government orders and decisions on
stabilizing the socio-economic situation in North Caucasus
regions, including Dagestan" were not implemented by the
previous government, Reuters reported. LB/LF

DAGESTANI PREMIER ACCUSED OF PROVOKING CONFRONTATION. Union
of Muslims of Russia Chairman Nadirshakh Khachilaev has
suggested that Prime Minister Khizri Shikhsaidov provoked
the clash with police in Makhachkala on 20 May,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 May. That incident
prompted the premier's followers to lay siege to the
government building the following day. Khachilaev claimed
that Shikhsaidov had requested him to travel with a group of
armed followers to the Dagestani-Chechen border and had
ordered the local police to intercept the group on its
return to the capital. Khachilaev also claimed that several
leading Russian government officials had telephoned him on
21 May to express their support for his demand that the
chairman of Dagestan's State Council, Magomed-Ali Magomadov,
resign. Khachilaev has agreed to meet with investigators
from the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service,
and the Prosecutor-General's office to answer questions
about the 20-21 May events, Interfax reported on 25 May. LF

RUSSIA SLAMS NEW U.S. SANCTIONS BILL. The Russian Foreign
Ministry on 25 May issued a statement criticizing a bill
adopted by the U.S. Senate three days earlier that provides
for sanctions against foreign companies and individuals
suspected of supplying nuclear technology to Iran, Reuters
and Interfax reported. The statement said Russia
"categorically opposes attempts to prevent the free
development of legitimate trade and economic ties with
Iran." It also claimed that the bill is aimed at
"complicating U.S.-Russian relations by accusing Russia of
helping Iran create nuclear missiles." LF

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS KILL CHINESE POACHERS. A Russian
patrol boat on 25 May fired on a Chinese fishing vessel
caught poaching in the Bering Sea, killing two on board,
ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed
regret at the incident but supported the action of the
border guards, saying they "acted fully in conformity with
the legislation of the Russian Federation." Recently,
Russian border guards have caught 14 Chinese poaching along
the Amur River, which divides Russia and China in the Far
East. Russia recently cut the fishing quota in that area by
nearly 60 percent. On 22 May, First Deputy Foreign Minister
Igor Ivanov called for revising the visa-free agreements
reached between Russian and Chinese border regions, saying
that while they played a positive role, the visa-free regime
has been "criminalized to some extent." He urged that
similar, more precisely defined agreements be signed by the
Russian and Chinese governments. BP

YELTSIN PLANS MEETING WITH BUSINESS LEADERS. Yeltsin has
scheduled a meeting with nine business leaders on 29 May,
presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 26
May. Six of those on the guest list participated in a
similar Kremlin meeting last September: Oneksimbank founder
Vladimir Potanin, Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii, Yukos-
Rosprom head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, SBS-Agro bank head
Aleksandr Smolenskii, Alfa group head Mikhail Fridman, and
Inkombank head Vladimir Vinogradov. Yeltsin has also invited
Unified Energy Systems chief executive Anatolii Chubais,
LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov, and Gazprom head Rem
Vyakhirev. The president plans to listen to the
businessmen's views on the current financial crisis,
according to Yastrzhembskii. During last September's
meeting, Yeltsin urged influential businessmen not to use
the media to "sling mud" at one another and at some high-
ranking government officials. That appeal, however, had no
discernible effect on the tone of Russian media coverage. LB

YUKSI MERGER HALTED INDEFINITELY. The Yukos and Sibneft oil
companies on 25 May issued a joint statement saying they
have halted talks on merging the two companies, Russian news
agencies reported. In January, Yukos chief executive Mikhail
Khodorkovskii and major Sibneft shareholder Boris
Berezovskii signed preliminary documents on creating a new
company, to be called Yuksi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and
21 January 1998). But the 25 May press release said the
companies will instead concentrate on internal restructuring
"in connection with the instability of the Russian financial
market and the continuing fall in world prices for oil." In
addition, each company will conduct independent negotiations
with potential Western partners. The French oil company Elf
Aquitaine agreed in April to purchase a 5 percent stake in
Yuksi for $528 million. LB

NUMBER OF BIDDERS FOR ROSNEFT UNCLEAR. First Deputy State
Property Minister Aleksandr Braverman told Interfax on 25
May that the ministry will not comment on how many groups
are competing to purchase 75 percent plus one share in the
state-owned oil company Rosneft. The deadline for submitting
bids is 26 May, and the results of the privatization auction
are scheduled to be announced three days later. If fewer
than two bids are submitted, the auction will be invalid.
ITAR-TASS on 25 May quoted an unnamed source as saying that
the consortium of Gazprom, LUKoil, and Royal Dutch Shell
does not plan to bid for the Rosneft stake. The recent
announcement that LUKoil is holding talks on purchasing
Sidanko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1998) suggests that
the consortium of Sidanko and British Petroleum, formed last
November, will not take part in the Rosneft auction either.
LB

YELTSIN RESHUFFLES KREMLIN OFFICIALS. Yeltsin on 25 May
appointed Vladimir Putin as first deputy head of the
presidential administration, Russian news agencies reported.
Putin joined the administration in 1996, when Anatolii
Chubais was Yeltsin's chief of staff, and has headed the
Kremlin's Main Controlling Department since March 1997. Also
on 25 May, Yeltsin appointed former government spokesman
Igor Shabdurasulov, an ally of former Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin, as deputy head of the administration in charge
of the media, public relations, and speech writers.
Meanwhile, the president sacked Viktoriya Mitina, who was
appointed deputy head of the administration last November.
Mitina has been blamed for several regional election results
that embarrassed the Kremlin, most recently the Nizhnii
Novgorod mayoral election and the Krasnoyarsk Krai
gubernatorial race. The president also sacked two advisers:
Mikhail Krasnov (legal issues) and Anatolii Korabelshchikov
(regional issues). Krasnov announced plans to leave the
Kremlin earlier this year. LB

KULIKOV TAKES UP ACADEMIC POST. The Institute of Social and
Political Research of the Russian Academy of Science has
appointed former Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov as its
senior scientific fellow, Interfax reported on 25 May,
quoting Sergei Rogachev, the institute's deputy director for
scientific work. He said the appointment was made last month
and that Kulikov, who has a doctorate in economics, may
either lecture or teach. Kulikov was interior minister from
June 1995 until last March. LB

DUMA DEPUTIES SUGGEST WAYS TO PROMOTE START-2 RATIFICATION.
Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich of the Our
Home Is Russia faction told Interfax on 25 May that
agreements between Russia and NATO member states on not
expanding the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe would
speed up the process of ratifying the START-2 arms control
treaty. During negotiations before the Russia-NATO Founding
Act was signed in May 1997, NATO refused to make a binding
pledge not to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new
member states. Meanwhile, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee
Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko argued on 22 May that the
Duma would be more likely to ratify START-2 if Yeltsin
agreed to drop his attempts to change the system for
parliamentary elections, Interfax reported. Meanwhile,
Communist Duma deputy Albert Makashov published an article
in the 26 May edition of "Sovetskaya Rossiya" arguing
against ratification of the START-2 treaty on principle. LB

BEREZOVSKII TURNS AWAY FROM LEBED. CIS Executive Secretary
Boris Berezovskii, who provided substantial financial
support to Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed's
recent gubernatorial campaign, on 25 May said Lebed would be
"extremely dangerous as the president of Russia," Interfax
reported. Speaking at the world congress of the
International Press Institute in Moscow, Berezovskii argued
that Russia currently has only "four realistic alternatives"
for the next presidential election: Lebed, Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and
Yeltsin. But he predicted that Luzhkov will not run for
president if Yeltsin decides to seek a third term. Popular
singer and Duma deputy Iosif Kobzon, an adviser to Luzhkov
on cultural issues, also argued on 25 May that Luzhkov will
not run for president if Yeltsin is in the race. Both
Luzhkov and Yeltsin have said they have no plans to seek the
presidency in 2000, but Russian commentators regard such
statements with skepticism. LB

GOVERNOR ADVOCATES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES. Novgorod Oblast
Governor Mikhail Prusak advocates changing the constitution
to alter procedures for electing leaders. Speaking to
Interfax on 24 May, Prusak called for indirect presidential
elections whereby elected regional representatives would
choose the president. (Article 81 of the constitution
stipulates that direct elections must be held to choose the
president.) In an interview with "Argumenty i fakty" last
month (No. 15), Prusak also called for doing away with
elections for regional and local leaders. Instead, he
advocated giving the president the right to appoint
governors, who themselves would appoint local leaders. He
argued that elections "continually destabilize the
situation. Every time it's a shock for the state. Enormous
amounts of money are spent, to no avail." Prusak has been
widely praised in Russia and abroad for managing his
region's economy. In terms of per capita foreign investment,
Novgorod ranks second among Russia's 89 regions, after the
city of Moscow. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ABKHAZ FIGHTING CONTINUES, DESPITE CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENT.
Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and his
Abkhaz counterpart, Sergei Shamba, signed a protocol in the
Abkhaz resort of Gagra on 25 May on a cease-fire between the
warring sides and guarantees against the renewed use of
force. The UN special envoy to Georgia and the head of the
Russian contingent to the CIS peacekeeping forces also
signed the protocol, which was drafted by Abkhaz President
Vladislav Ardzinba and Georgian Ambassador to Russia Vazha
Lortkipanidze. UN observers and officers from the CIS
peacekeeping force were to monitor compliance with the
cease-fire agreement, which was scheduled to take effect at
6 a.m. local time on 26 May. Caucasus Press, however,
reports that hostilities are continuing and that volunteers
from the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus are
fighting on the Abkhaz side. LF

AZERBAIJAN BANS OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION. The Baku City
authorities have refused a request by the opposition
Movement for Democratic Reforms and Democratic Elections to
be allowed to hold a demonstration on Baku's Freedom Square
on 28 May, the 80th anniversary of the founding of the
Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, Turan reported on 25 May.
The Movement now plans to convene a meeting in a Baku suburb
instead. On 24 May, 11 pro-government political parties
issued a statement calling for "consolidation" in support of
President Heidar Aliev. The statement claims that the
opposition knows its candidates have no chance of winning
the October presidential elections and are therefore intent
on destabilizing the internal political situation. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER REJECTS EMBEZZLEMENT
CHARGE. In a statement released on 23 May, Rasul Guliev
denied charges by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the
Prosecutor-General's office that he misappropriated billions
of dollars during his tenure as director of one of
Azerbaijan's largest oil refineries, Turan reported two days
later. Guliev squarely lays the blame for astronomical
financial losses on President Aliev. Speaking at a press
conference in Baku on 25 May, Guliev's lawyers said they
have not yet had the opportunity to familiarize themselves
with the criminal charges against Guliev, who is currently
in the U.S. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION APPEALS TO PEACE GUARANTORS OVER PARTY BAN.
Said Abdullo Nuri, leader of the United Tajik Opposition,
appealed on 25 May for the guarantor nations and
organizations of the Tajik peace accord to use their
influence to have the law banning religious parties
suspended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1998), RFE/RL
correspondents reported. Iran, one of the guarantor nations,
urged both sides to "show self-restraint and avoid actions
that would damage the peaceful atmosphere," Reuters
reported. Meanwhile, the UTO has issued a statement
criticizing the "troika" formed by the Tajik, Russian, and
Uzbek governments to combat the spread of "fundamentalism."
According to the statement, "such plans...seriously
jeopardize the divided Tajik society" and may "prompt
retaliation, conflict, and resumption of the armed
confrontation." The UTO called on the three governments to
"give up the tendency [toward] escalating tension." BP

EXTREMISTS TO BE EXTRADITED TO UZBEKISTAN? Tajik President
Imomali Rakhmonov sent a letter to UTO leader Nuri asking
that the UTO locate and hand over 45 of its members wanted
by the Uzbek government for terrorism, RFE/RL correspondents
reported on 25 May. Uzbek President Islam Karimov had
requested the extradition of the extremists earlier this
month, saying they were ethnic Uzbeks who were involved in
the violence in the eastern Uzbek city of Namangan last
December. However, some of those on the list are reportedly
close to the UTO leadership and are unlikely to be handed
over. BP

TURKMEN PRESIDENT DISMISSES AGRICULTURE MINISTER. Saparmurat
Niyazov lashed out at the country's agricultural officials
on 22 May, RFE/RL correspondents and Interfax reported.
Niyazov said he had flown over areas west of the capital and
had noted that there is "not a single normal field there."
He dismissed Agriculture Minister Ata Nabatov and appointed
him chairman of the State Grain Products Enterprise. Niyazov
added that if Nabotov's work was satisfactory, he would
regain his ministerial post after this year's harvest. Also
sacked was the governor of the Kara-Kala district, Amangeldy
Rejepov. Niyazov has warned that failure to meet grain
quotas could result in the launching of criminal charges. BP

TURKMENISTAN, EU WANT BETTER RELATIONS. The EU and
Turkmenistan on 25 May signed an agreement to improve
political and economic relations, ITAR-TASS reported. The
agreement gives Turkmenistan most-favored-nation status for
trading with EU countries and provides for increased foreign
investment in oil and natural gas projects. All the former
Soviet republics, except Tajikistan, have now signed a
cooperation agreement with the EU. BP

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