Experience is in the fingers and head. The heart is inexperienced. - Henry David Thoreau
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 109 Part I, 9 June 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 109 Part I, 9 June 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

* YELTSIN THANKS KOHL FOR SUPPORT

* HEAD OF STATE STATISTICS COMMITTEE ARRESTED

* UN OBSERVERS INJURED IN ABKHAZIA

End Note: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WEARING A BEARD IN CENTRAL
ASIA
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN THANKS KOHL FOR SUPPORT... Ending a two-day official
visit to Germany, President Boris Yeltsin on 9 June thanked
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl for backing reforms in Russia,
saying such support is essential in maintaining investor
confidence in Russia. During a joint press conference at the
end of the visit, Kohl said "Germany will support the reform
process with great commitment." Asked whether direct
financial aid was discussed during his talks with the
chancellor, Yeltsin replied, "not directly." Kohl and
Yeltsin had met for talks over dinner the previous evening
and discussed Russia's financial crisis "in a friendly,
relaxed atmosphere," German government spokesman Otto Hauser
said. Earlier, Yeltsin economic adviser Aleksandr Livshits
had said that Yeltsin is seeking nothing more than political
support. AW

...SAYS RUSSIA CAN SUPPORT RUBLE. On 8 June, Yeltsin gave
assurances that Russia has sufficient reserves to support
the ruble, Reuters reported. "The Western press is already
playing up this question, that there is already a crash
going on in Russia..., There is not and there will not be,"
Yeltsin told reporters before informal talks with Kohl. The
deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, Sergei
Aleksashenko, said a week ago that Russia's gold and
foreign-currency reserves amounted to $14.6 billion. AW

GERMANY, RUSSIA SIGN PACTS ON NUCLEAR TRADE. Also during
Yeltsin's visit to Bonn, German Foreign Minister Klaus
Kinkel and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov
signed two agreements on trade in nuclear materials on 8
June, Reuters reported. One agreement allows Russia to ship
weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium to a research reactor
currently under construction in southern Germany. The second
limits German firms' liability in the event of a nuclear
accident at Russian plants they serve. AW

HEAD OF STATE STATISTICS COMMITTEE ARRESTED. The director of
the State Statistics Committee, Yurii Yurkov, was arrested
on 9 June, along with an unspecified number of senior
workers in charge of data processing, ITAR-TASS quoted
government spokesman Aleksei Volin as saying. They were
charged with "systematic distortion of statistical data on
big companies, which allowed [those companies] to evade
taxes," Volin said. Yurkov and his alleged accomplices are
accused of manipulating economic data to hide the real
output of companies and reduce their tax liability. They are
also alleged to have sold classified information about rival
companies' performances. Yurkov was appointed director of
the State Statistics Committee in 1993. AW

COMMUNISTS SUBMIT SIGNATURES TO LAUNCH IMPEACHMENT
PROCEDURES. The Communist Party submitted to the State Duma
Council on 9 June its request to launch impeachment
procedures against Yeltsin. The impeachment request, which
accuses Yeltsin of multiple violations of the constitution
since the break up of the Soviet Union, was signed by 215
Duma deputies. Communist deputy Viktor Ilyukhin told
reporters that at a 11 June meeting of the State Duma
council, a commission will be set up to consider the charges
before the Duma votes on them. But Ilyukhin said it will be
"very difficult" to muster the necessary 300 votes in the
Duma to back the impeachment bill. AW

BEREZOVSKII SEES 'BLOODY' FIGHT FOR RUSSIAN PRESIDENCY.
Controversial Russian tycoon and CIS Executive Secretary
Boris Berezovskii predicted on 8 June that the 2000
presidential elections could trigger a "bloody" settling of
accounts and that chances among so-called reformers were
slim. "We have a very complex and dangerous situation.... I
don't see any clear, able candidate among the reformers,"
Berezovskii told NTV. After suggesting earlier this year
that he might support former Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, Berezovskii mentioned only Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and
Krasnoyarsk Krai governor, reserve General Aleksandr Lebed
as the leading presidential candidates. With regard to
Lebed, Berezovskii said he is a "serious politician" capable
of garnering support from Russians who have suffered during
the country's transition. AW

RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT TO CUT RAIL TRANSPORTATION FEES. Deputy
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said on 8 June that the
government will reduce by 25 percent fees for transporting
coal, iron ore, oil, and fuel oil by rail, Interfax
reported. "This is a key step in the government's industrial
policy," Nemtsov said in announcing that policy, which is
aimed at supporting Russia's industries. The railroads,
which are expected to lose 6 billion rubles (some $1
billion) when the fees take effect on 15 June, have
"volunteered to take the financial blow," according to
Nemtsov. Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom, and electricity
monopoly, Unified Energy Systems, are expected to introduce
similar cuts in gas and energy rates, Nemtsov said. AW

RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT TO LAY OFF STATE EMPLOYEES. The Russian
government on 8 June announced plans to lay off 231,000
employees this year, Interfax reported. Government officials
told Duma deputies that the layoffs represent 3.6 percent of
government employees and will save 5.86 billion rubles ($953
million), according to the agency. The Finance Ministry has
said it plans to cut 62.4 billion rubles from this year's
planned spending of 499.9 billion rubles. AW

AIDS CASES SOAR AMONG DRUG USERS. First Deputy Health
Minister Gennadii Onishchenko told a parliamentary hearing
on 8 June that Russia will be forced to spend its entire
health budget on people with the HIV virus in a few years
unless steps are taken now to stop the disease spreading. A
three-year federal program on educating Russians about the
risk of contracting AIDS expired in 1996, just when the
number of AIDS cases began to increase, Onishchenko
explained. The number of people registered as having the HIV
virus, which causes AIDS, is still relatively low at 8,313,
he said. Onishchenko said the number of AIDS cases has
quadrupled since 1996, mainly because of the rapid spread in
intravenous drug-taking among young people. AW

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS KILL TWO MORE CHINESE POACHERS.
Russian border guards from the Far Eastern Border District
shot and killed two Chinese citizens caught poaching in
Makarikha Bay, ITAR-TASS reported. The incident occurred on
4 June but was made public only four days later when
commander of the district informed the Chinese governor of
Heilongjiang Province. When the border guards sought to
apprehend the poachers, one of the Chinese attempted to
attack a border guard with an ax. This incident comes two
weeks after Russian border guards killed two Chinese
fishermen and wounded five others caught poaching in the
Bering Sea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1998). BP

SIBERIAN MAYOR TO STAND TRIAL FOR EMBEZZLEMENT, TAX FRAUD.
Prosecutors have formally charged the mayor of the Siberian
city of Leninsk-Kuznetskii, Gennadii Konyakhin, with tax
fraud and embezzlement, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 June.
Konyakhin has been in custody since his arrest in October
1997. The charges against him stem from his activities as a
businessman before he became Leninsk-Kuznetsky mayor in
spring 1997. President Yeltsin had called for an
investigation into Konyakhin after "Izvestiya" accused him
of being linked to organized crime. AW

MISSING JOURNALIST FOUND DEAD IN RUSSIAN REPUBLIC. Russian
police say the body of a newspaper editor has been found in
Elista, capital of Russia's southern republic of Kalmikiya,
ITAR-TASS reported on 9 June. Larisa Yudina, editor of
"Sovetskaya Kalmikiya," was reported missing two days
earlier, after reportedly meeting with unknown people who
had offered her important documents relating to an unknown
topic. Police said her body bore signs of a violent attack
and was found by a pond in the city. Yudina was also co-
chairwoman of the local branch of Yabloko. Yabloko leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 9 June
that he considers Yudina's death to be a politically
motivated act. Yavlinskii said his party will call for a
federal investigation into the slaying. AW

TATARSTAN REACHES AGREEMENT WITH GAZPROM. Tatar President
Mintimer Shaimiev has reached a compromise agreement with
Gazprom on resuming gas supplies to Tatarstan, RFE/RL's
Kazan bureau reported on 9 June, citing Tatarstan
Television. Gazprom threatened to halt deliveries in
retaliation for Tatarstan's failure to pay its debts to the
company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 1998) LF

SHAIMIEV RULES OUT UNILATERAL AMENDMENTS TO CONSTITUTION.
Commenting on the 5 June meeting in Moscow between Russian
President Yeltsin and the leaders of Russia's republics,
Shaimiev said he refuses to back down from his insistence
that any amendments to the Tatar Constitution be accompanied
by changes to the Russian Constitution, RFE/RL's Kazan
bureau reported. The Russian State Duma has protested that
the Tatar Constitution, adopted in 1992, contravenes its
Russian counterpart as it does not explicitly state that
Tatarstan is a constituent part of the Russian Federation.
Some Russian politicians have also objected to Tatarstan's
introduction of dual citizenship. LF

INGUSH BUS PASSENGERS ABDUCTED IN NORTH OSSETIA. Five ethnic
Ingush are still being held hostage after the two busses in
which they were traveling were intercepted in the North
Ossetian village of Zilgi on 8 June, ITAR-TASS reported the
next day. Another 10 Ingush passengers have been released.
The Ingush were abducted in retaliation for the kidnapping
of seven Ossetians in Zilgi on 7 June. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

UN OBSERVERS INJURED IN ABKHAZIA... Two members of the UN
observer force in western Georgia and an interpreter were
injured on 8 June when their armored vehicle ran over an
anti-tank mine in Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Russian agencies
reported. Six Abkhaz police officers were killed in a
similar incident in Gali on 2 June. LF

...AS ABKHAZ TALKS REACH IMPASSE. Russian Foreign Ministry
officials Lev Mironov and Gennadii Ilichev joined Georgian
and Abkhaz presidential representatives Vazha Lortkipanidze
and Anri Djergenia at their sixth day of talks in Moscow on
8 June, Russian agencies reported. They failed, however, to
overcome differences between the two sides. The talks are
intended to prepare a draft peace agreement, a protocol on
the repatriation of ethnic Georgians to Gali Raion, and
another protocol on control mechanisms. Those documents are
intended to be signed at a meeting between Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze and his Abkhaz counterpart,
Vladislav Ardzinba. Shevardnadze said on 8 June that the
Abkhaz proposals on repatriation are unacceptable as they
stipulate no time frame, according to Interfax. Abkhazia has
rejected Tbilisi's proposal that the Russian peacekeeping
contingent currently deployed in Abkhazia under the CIS's
aegis be augmented by a Ukrainian force. Abkhazia also
demands that Tbilisi and Sukhumi jointly petition Moscow to
lift the economic embargo on Abkhazia. LF

TALKS ON SOUTH OSSETIA POSTPONED. The meeting scheduled for
9 June between Georgian President Shevardnadze and his South
Ossetian counterpart, Lyudvig Chibirov, has been postponed
"for a couple of weeks." Caucasus Press reported on 9 June
quoting Irakli Machavariani, who heads the Georgian
delegation to the Georgian-South Ossetian talks.
Machavariani said the postponement was necessitated by
Shevardnadze's need to concentrate on the Abkhaz situation.
LF

ARMENIAN JOURNALIST FACES LIBEL CASE. Armenian parliamentary
speaker Khosrov Harutiunian has opened libel proceedings
against Haik Babukhanian, editor of the Union of
Constitutional Rights newspaper "Iravunk," RFE/RL's Yerevan
bureau reported on 8 June. Speaking on national television
on 2 June, Babukhanian said that the current parliament is
"95 percent criminal" and was elected in 1995 by "illegal"
means. Those charges were subsequently reprinted in the 5
June issue of "Iravunk." Babukhanian told journalists after
being summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office on 8 June
that he will summon in his defense members of the former
opposition electoral commission and their proxies who were
"beaten up and intimidated" during the1995 elections. Union
of Constitutional Rights chairman Hrant Khachatrian, who
endorsed Robert Kocharian's candidacy after receiving only
0.21 percent of the vote during the first round of the March
presidential elections, says his party backs Babukhanian.
Khachatrian condemned Harutiunian's decision to open libel
proceedings as "outrageous." LF

KARABAKH GOVERNMENT CRISIS CONTINUES. Arkadii Ghukasian,
president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic,
announced on 8 June that he has accepted the resignation of
Prime Minister Leonard Petrosian, an RFE/RL correspondent in
Stepanakert reported. Ghukasian did not say whether he will
assume the duties of prime minister himself, as he hinted
last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 1998.) Speaking at
a news conference in Stepanakert on 5 June, Nagorno-Karabakh
Defense Minister Samvel Babayan said he would not accept the
post of prime minister if it were offered him. At the same
time, he said he will not remain indifferent to the
composition of the new cabinet, warning that he is prepared
to resign unless "young, experienced, and skillful people"
are included in the new government. Babayan also said his
brother Karen has resigned as interior minister to put an
end to what he termed "unnecessary gossip." LF

KARABAKH PRISONER SWAP FAILS. An exchange of prisoners of
war between Armenia and Azerbaijan planned for last month
failed to take place, Noyan Tapan reported on 8 June.
Azerbaijan proposed exchanging Armenian civilians for
Azerbaijani POWs, but Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh rejected
that proposal. LF

AZERBAIJANIS PROTEST IRANIAN POLICE ACTION. Members of the
Movement for the National Independence of South Azerbaijan
have lodged a protest with the Iranian Embassy in Baku
against the detention by Iranian security forces of some 60
ethnic Azeris in Tabriz on 3 June, Turan reported on 8 June.
Thousands of Iranian Azerbaijanis participated in a rally in
Tabriz to protest the 29 May adoption by the French National
Assembly of a resolution recognizing the 1915 genocide of
Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. LF

ANOTHER DEATH LINKED TO ISSYK-KUL SPILL? Doctors say that,
according to preliminary finding, the death of a 71-year-old
man from the Issyk-Kul area on 6 June was from sodium
cyanide poisoning following the spill last month, RFE/RL
correspondents reported. An autopsy is currently being
performed in Bishkek. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 9 June
that 40 people assisting in the clean-up of the area have
been taken ill and brought back to the capital, for
treatment. Meanwhile, the department head of the Kumtor gold
mining venture, which is being held responsible for the
spill, told RFE/RL correspondents on 8 June that Kumtor
president Gerhardt Glattis has resigned and will be replaced
by one of his predecessors, Len Homeniuk. BP

KAZAKH PLANE WITH RADIOACTIVE CARGO ALLOWED TO LEAVE
UKRAINE. Ukrainian customs authorities have given permission
to a Kazakh airliner with radioactive material aboard to
continue its journey after they found all documents to be in
order, Radio Rossiya reported on 8 June. The plane was
grounded at the Rovno airport, outside Kyiv, when officials
found unusually high levels of radiation from metal barrels
aboard the plane. RFE/RL correspondents quoted officials in
Kazakhstan as saying the radioactive material comes from
Africa and the U.S. and is not dangerous. They added that it
is intended for use at the Oskemen Metallurgical Plant as
"raw material." BP

END NOTE

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WEARING A BEARD IN CENTRAL ASIA

by Salimjon Aioubov

	It may seem absurd, but wearing a beard has acquired
more importance politically in some Central Asian countries
than any reforms, parties, movements, cease-fires, or
agreements.
	While Afghanistan's Taleban measure beards and punish
the wearer if the beard is shorter than required, in
neighboring Uzbekistan people are persecuted if they have
bushy or long beards.
	Before the civil war in Tajikistan, a beard was a
demonstration of political support for the Islamic
opposition. However, during the unrest, which broke out
after 1992, it became a recognized attribute of army
generals and opposition fighters.
	In the view of many bureaucrats, having a beard was
the same as having links to armed groups. It was unimportant
whether those groups are governmental or belonged to the
Islamic opposition. But today, the hidden meaning of the
beard has disappeared because of acute shortages of money,
water, soap, and safety razors.
	Wearing a beard was a political thing in Soviet times,
too. Communists claimed that men with beards were
dissidents. In 1975, when poet and university teacher Foteh
Abdullo grew a beard, the authorities--from the rector of
the university to the ideology secretary of the Tajik
Communist Party's Central Committee--invited him several
times for the toughest reprimands. Many people followed that
development closely and speculated about the longevity of
Abdullo's beard.
	Abdullo's reply to the ideology secretary became a
folk legend. Abdullo told the secretary that he was a
passionate follower of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and
Comrade Fidel Castro. The Communist authorities could not
continue their campaign against Abdullo's beard because they
feared showing a lack of respect for the "people's love" for
those three communist leaders.
	"In the past, only geologists and artists were allowed
to grow a beard," said old men. Indeed, during the Soviet
era, a beard was associated with Western hippies, U.S.
surrogate radio broadcasts, and Soviet dissidents. Uzbek
President Islam Karimov's predecessor, former communist boss
Sharaf Rashidov, associated the occasional growing of a
beard among Uzbekistan students with the pernicious
influence of Western culture. However, Karimov's opinion is
not very far from this viewpoint, though it emphasizes an
undesirable Islamic influence. "If you have noticed.
Wahhabis have a characteristic feature--they have beards,
untidy beards.... There is perhaps a certain sense in it."
	 A Kyrgyz newspaper echoed Karimov's statement: "The
basic sign according to which the Uzbek special services
distinguish Wahabbis from other citizens has become a beard.
A [beard] wearer can at any moment be stopped and subjected
to a humiliating search and even arrest."
	Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov does not emphasize a
beard as a political sign because many of his army generals
sport beards. But in 1992, during the short reign of the
National Reconciliation Government, every television
broadcast featured someone with a beard. What is more, the
inhabitants of the capital city, Dushanbe, have never seen
such a large number and variety of beards.
	When power changed hands in Dushanbe in December 1992,
a large number of people immediately shaved off their
beards, except those who thought beards were not a political
statement. But they were wrong. Armed supporters of the
government often caught those wearing beards and pulled out
each hair.
	Now wearing a beard in Tajikistan generally has only
one meaning: people have neither the time nor opportunity to
shave. But it will be a long and difficult road for those in
the neighboring countries before they can wear a beard that
similarly has an apolitical meaning.

The author works for RFE/RL's Tajik Service.

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