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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 130 Part I, 9 July 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 130 Part I, 9 July 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 VOWS RUSSIAN LEADERS WILL DEFEND RUBLE

* DEFENSE INDUSTRY WORKERS LEAD NATIONWIDE PROTESTS

* NATO PEACEKEEPERS FOR ABKHAZIA?
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN VOWS RUSSIAN LEADERS WILL DEFEND RUBLE. President
Boris Yeltsin told journalists on 9 July that the Russian
leadership "will firmly protect the ruble against
devaluation." In remarks shown on nationwide television, he
added that there are "means, ideas, proposals, and a plan of
action" to defend the ruble. Earlier the same day, the
Central Bank announced that Russia's gold and hard-currency
reserves fell from $16 billion to $15.1 billion from 26 June
to 3 July. As investors continue to sell off Russian stocks
and bonds, the Central Bank has been forced to intervene to
prop up the value of the ruble. Meanwhile, Russian officials
led by Unified Energy System head Anatolii Chubais on 9 July
continued negotiations with representatives of the IMF and
the World Bank over a multibillion-dollar stabilization
loan. Two days earlier, Chubais predicted that "all
principal issues" concerning that loan will be resolved by
10 July. LB

NEWSPAPER SAYS DEVALUATION IS INEVITABLE. "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" argued on 8 July that devaluation is inevitable,
even if international financial institutions provide Russia
with a $10-15 billion stabilization loan. The newspaper
charged that only political considerations--not economic
ones--are holding back devaluation: namely, the fear among
high-ranking Central Bank officials that they will lose
their jobs. The newspaper also disputed claims by some
officials that certain exporting industries would benefit
from devaluation and that those industries are behind
Russian media reports predicting the collapse of the ruble.
In addition, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" cited the prominent
economist Andrei Illarionov's arguments in favor of
devaluation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 1998).
"Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is financed by CIS Executive
Secretary Boris Berezovskii, has in recent months repeatedly
criticized the Central Bank's leadership and the policies of
Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko's government. LB

KREMLIN BATTLES NEW HEALTH RUMORS... Presidential spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 9 July denied that Yeltsin is ill
and charged that "someone is putting out" rumors concerning
Yeltsin's health in order to achieve political, economic, or
financial aims, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier the same day,
the Kremlin denied various rumors circulating on Asian
financial markets, which suggested that Yeltsin had died or
been overthrown by a military coup, Reuters reported. Rumors
that Yeltsin has fallen ill or died have also made the
rounds on Russian financial markets during the last week. LB

...AS KREMLIN OFFICIAL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST THIRD TERM. Igor
Shabdurasulov, a deputy head of the presidential
administration, believes it would be "optimal" for Russia if
Yeltsin did not seek a third term in 2000. In an interview
published in "Russkii telegraf" on 9 July, Shabdurasulov
noted that "one can't say Yeltsin's physical condition is
ideal, that he's absolutely full of vigor and energy for
round-the-clock work." Commenting on the interview,
presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii told ITAR-TASS that
Shabdurasulov was expressing his own opinion and not the
views of the presidential administration. Shabdurasulov is
considered close to former Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, having served as the top government spokesman
until Yeltsin sacked Chernomyrdin in March. Yeltsin recently
dismissed his representative in the Constitutional Court,
Sergei Shakhrai, who has urged Yeltsin not to run for re-
election and publicly announced his support for Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov as a presidential candidate. LB

DEFENSE INDUSTRY WORKERS LEAD NATIONWIDE PROTESTS. Thousands
of workers in the defense industry staged protests on 8 July
in more than 20 Russian cities, Russian news agencies and
RFE/RL correspondents reported. In addition to calling for
the payment of wage arrears, many protesters carried signs
or shouted slogans calling for the resignation of Yeltsin
and the government. Labor Minister Oksana Dmitrieva met with
trade union representatives and promised that the government
will fulfill a plan to pay some 2.5 billion rubles ($403
million) in back wages to defense industry workers. Speaking
to some of the 1,500 workers picketing the Defense Ministry,
Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov said the back
wages will be paid soon, but he gave no timetable for
settling the rest of the debt to the defense industry, which
he estimated at 15 billion rubles. Others put that figure at
nearly 20 billion rubles. LB

PROTESTERS IN PRIMORE UNHAPPY WITH MEDIA COVERAGE. Political
demands dominated protests by thousands of workers across
Primorskii Krai on 8 July, RFE/RL's correspondent in
Vladivostok reported. Protesters led by employees of the
Zvezda submarine repair factory called for Yeltsin's
resignation, the temporary transfer of all powers to the
federal parliament, and early presidential elections.
Demonstrators in Vladivostok demanded an explanation from
one correspondent from a Moscow-based television network for
allegedly distorted coverage of the last major protest
staged by Primore's defense industry workers (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 24 June 1998). The correspondent admitted that
orders came from Moscow not to air the protesters' political
demands. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 July that unpaid
energy workers remain on strike in Primore. That strike has
caused power cuts for more than 12 hours a day for krai
residents, who have been afflicted by similar energy crises
many times in recent years. LB

POLITICIANS ASK YELTSIN TO HELP END MINERS' PROTEST.
Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev and regional trade
union leader Anatolii Chekis on 8 July sent a telegram to
President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Kirienko urging them to
take action to end the week-long blockade of the Trans-
Siberian Railroad by coal miners demanding the payment of
wage arrears, Russian Television reported. Alexander
Shokhin, the head of the Our Home is Russia Duma faction,
told a press conference the same day that Yeltsin must "act
as arbiter between the government and protesters" because
the current impasse is potentially "explosive." The
government claims it has fulfilled its obligations to the
miners, while the miners demand the government's
resignation. Also on 8 July, the Kemerovo legislature sent a
telegram to Prime Minister Kirienko demanding that Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev return to the region to review
the implementation of protocols signed in May, ITAR-TASS
reported. Meanwhile, regional unions of metallurgy and
chemical workers have appealed to the miners to lift the
blockade. BT

NEMTSOV RULES OUT SURRENDER OF KURILS. The transfer of the
Kuril Islands to Japan contravenes constitutional guarantees
of Russia's territorial integrity and is therefore
inadmissible, Deputy Premier Boris Nemtsov told Sakhalin
Oblast leaders on 8 July following a tour of the region.
Nemtsov noted that a Russian-Japanese commission has been
formed to draw up a treaty officially ending World War II
between the two countries, but he added that "the Japanese
are repeatedly raising the issue of the [islands] at the
highest level." He also expressed support for plans to
remove visa requirements between Sakhalin Oblast and Japan.
And he signed an economic agreement with Sakhalin Governor
Igor Farkhutdinov, similar to one Nemtsov recently signed
with Magadan Oblast authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8
July 1998). Nemtsov cut short his tour of the Far East to
return for Moscow for the congress of the Independent Trade
Union of Coal Miners on 9 July. BT

NIKOLAEV'S MOVEMENT HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS. Duma deputy
Andrei Nikolaev, the former director of the Federal Border
Service, on 8 July convened the founding congress of his
Union of Popular Power and Labor, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. In his address to more than 200 delegates, who
reportedly came from every region of the Russian Federation
except Chechnya, he said his "centrist" movement will
promote the formation of a law-governed state with a
regulated market economy. Co-founders of the movement
include 1996 presidential candidate Martin Shakkum, Duma
deputy Telman Gdlyan, and Duma deputy Aleksei Podberezkin,
head of the Communist-allied Spiritual Heritage movement.
"Kommersant-Daily" noted on 9 July that Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov did not attend the congress, but it interpreted his
absence as a "tactical" step. Nikolaev's movement is
expected to lead pro-Luzhkov forces in the 1999
parliamentary elections, but too close an association with
Luzhkov might depress support for the movement outside the
capital. LB

ABDULATIPOV ELECTED ASSEMBLY OF PEOPLES OF RUSSIA CHAIRMAN.
At its constituent congress in Moscow on 8 July, the
Assembly of Peoples of Russia elected former Deputy Premier
Ramazan Abdulatipov as its chairman, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported. The stated aim of the assembly is to contribute to
inter-ethnic accord and to broaden dialogue between the
organ of state power and of local administration and ethnic
communities. But Abdulatipov confessed that he does not know
how the assembly will achieve that dialogue with the
authorities. Russian Security Council First Deputy Secretary
Vyacheslav Mikhailov, a former minister for nationalities,
was more optimistic, predicting that given the weakness of
the legal foundation of Russia's nationality policy, the
assembly could exert "serious influence" on the authorities.
Both Abdulatipov and Mikhailov warned that Russia's law
enforcement organs are not prepared to combat fascism and
nationalism, which they consider pose a serious threat. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT TAKES OVER PREMIER'S DUTIES. Aslan
Maskhadov will perform the duties of prime minister
following the resignation of acting Premier Shamil Basaev,
Interfax reported on 8 July. Maskhadov has also asked the
Chechen parliament to agree that he assume control over the
National Security Service, which reports directly to the
parliament. The head of that service, Lecha Khultygov, was
shot dead in a confrontation with supporters of maverick
field commander Salman Raduev on 21 June. On 8 July, the
Chechen Shariat Court issued a warrant for Raduev's arrest
in connection with the incident, which it described as an
attempted coup d'etat, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9
July. Raduev has affirmed his readiness to submit to a "just
ruling" of the Shariat Court, RFE/RL's Grozny correspondent
reported on 9 July. LF

TATAR PRESIDENT DEFENDS YELTSIN, VYAKHIREV, MASKHADOV.
Mintimer Shaimiev told journalists in Moscow on 8 July that
the leaders of Russia's regions have chosen the wrong moment
to call for Yeltsin's impeachment, according to Interfax.
Shaimiev reasoned that "in the present unstable situation,"
the resolution of socio-economic problems should take
priority. Shaimiev added that the Russian government's
ultimatum to Gazprom to pay its outstanding debts can be
attributed to "a lack of coordination between the tax organs
and the Cabinet of Ministers," "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported on 9 July. Shaimiev added that he considers any
attacks on Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev "impermissible." In
addition, Shaimiev called on the Russian government to back
Chechen President Maskhadov, who, he said, is "having a hard
time." Shaimiev argued that it is in Chechnya's interests to
remain within the Russian Federation, but with "special
status." LF

CHERNOMYRDIN REGISTERED FOR DUMA RACE. The electoral
commission in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug on 8 July
registered former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin as a contender
for a vacant State Duma seat, Russian news agencies
reported. Chernomyrdin is the first candidate registered to
compete in the 27 September by-election. He is expected to
have no trouble winning the seat. The gas monopoly Gazprom,
which Chernomyrdin headed before joining the government in
December 1992, is the largest employer in Yamal-Nenets. Duma
First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov, a member of
Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia movement, told journalists
on 8 July that the former premier will become leader of the
movement's faction in the Duma if he wins the by-election,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. LB

PRINTING PRESS IN KHAKASSIA CUTS OFF OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER.
The main printing press in Khakassia will no longer print
the weekly "Fakty i komentarii," the only newspaper in the
republic that criticizes the Khakassian government and its
leader, Aleksei Lebed, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 July.
Aleksandr Tereshchenko, the director of the printing press,
told the news agency that his enterprise's equipment is worn
out. But Vladimir Plotnikov, the newspaper's editor, has
expressed doubt that technical reasons are behind the
decision. He told ITAR-TASS that "Fakty i komentarii" has a
circulation of some 3,000--not large enough to affect
equipment on which most newspapers in Khakassia and some
from the neighboring Republic of Tyva are printed. Plotnikov
argued that the regional authorities have gained influence
over the printing press since the enterprise was transferred
from federal to regional ownership. LB

ENVIRONMENTALIST WINS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST 'NEZAVISIMAYA.'
Aleksei Yablokov, a scientist and former adviser to Yeltsin
on environmental issues, has won a libel lawsuit against
"Nezavisimaya gazeta," Interfax reported on 7 July. Yablokov
has repeatedly warned of the dangers posed by so-called
"nuclear suitcase bombs." In testimony during U.S.
Congressional hearings in October 1997 as well as in the
Russian press, he has charged that such weapons were built
during the Soviet period and that not all of them can
currently be accounted for (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23
September and 1 October 1997). Yablokov objected to an
article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in late 1997 that
accused him of revealing state secrets and slandering his
country. A Moscow municipal court ordered the newspaper to
print a retraction by 9 September 1998 and pay Yablokov
30,000 rubles ($4,800) in damages . Yablokov had sought
450,000 rubles as compensation. LB

ONGOING CONFUSION OVER S-300 MISSILES. Russian Defense
Ministry experts told Interfax on 8 July that the planned
deployment of Russian S-300 air defense missiles in Greek
Cyprus will not fundamentally alter the balance of power in
the region. They argued that the S-300 is "a purely
defensive weapon" and that it cannot pose a threat to
Turkey, which has the largest army in Europe. The experts
conceded, nonetheless, that Cypriot Defense Minister
Yiannakis Omirou, who is currently visiting Russia, may
reach agreement with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev
on delaying deployment until late 1998. Speaking in
Washington on 7 July, Greek Defense Minister Akis
Tsohatzopoulos said that Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides
has already postponed the delivery of the missiles in order
not to disrupt initiatives by the UN and U.S. envoy Richard
Holbrooke for a peaceful settlement on the island, Reuters
reported. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

NATO PEACEKEEPERS FOR ABKHAZIA? Speaking at his first news
conference in Tbilisi, newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to
Georgia Kenneth Spencer Yalowitz said the U.S. intends to
promote the deployment of a peacekeeping force in Abkhazia
under the aegis of NATO, Interfax reported on 8 July. He
noted, however, that Georgia and Abkhazia must first request
the deployment of such a force. Turkish Deputy Chief of
General Staff General Cevik Bir said in Ankara on 30 June
that Turkey will propose the creation of a peacekeeping
force to be deployed in the Caucasus as part of NATO's
Partnership for Peace program. During a meeting of the Euro-
Atlantic Partnership Council in Luxembourg in May,
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov discussed
prospects for the deployment of a NATO peacekeeping force
along the "line of contact" between Armenian and Azerbaijani
forces, according to "Moskovskie novosti." LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BAKU. Irakli Menagharishvili
with his Azerbaijani counterpart and President Heidar Aliev
in Baku on 7 July , Caucasus Press reported. The main issues
discussed were cooperation within the Georgia-Ukraine-
Azerbaijan-Moldova alignment, the Eurasian Transport
Corridor, and selecting the optimum route for the Main
Export Pipeline for Azerbaijani Caspian oil, which is likely
to run through Georgia. The two sides reaffirmed their
shared commitment to the Declaration of Peace, Security, and
Cooperation in the Caucasus, signed by Aliev and Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze in March 1996. That document
abjures aggression, separatism, and terrorism. LF

KAZAKH-RUSSIAN PREMIERS SIGNED 10 AGREEMENTS IN MOSCOW.
During the visit to Moscow on 6-7 July of Kazakh President
Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakh Prime Minister Nurlan
Balghymbayev and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Kirienko,
signed 10 bilateral agreements, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau
reported on 8 July. Those agreements cover economic
cooperation, transportation, military and technical
cooperation, as well as joint space programs. The
contentious issue of Russia's debt to Kazakhstan for the
lease of the Baikonur space complex will reportedly be
discussed during Russian President Boris Yeltsin's visit to
Kazakhstan in September. LF

PROTESTERS CALL ON KAZAKH PRESIDENT TO RESIGN. Residents of
the city of Kentau, southern Kazakhstan, and four other
cities have collected some 21,000 signatures calling for the
resignation of President Nazarbayev, ITAR-TASS reported on 8
July. The signatories complain of wage arrears and the
inactivity of law enforcement bodies. They also vow to force
the president's resignation if he does not step down
voluntarily. LF

RUSSIAN-KAZAKH-KYRGYZ JOINT MANEUVERS BEGIN. Russian, Kazakh
and Kyrgyz army units, together with a detachment of Kazakh
Interior Ministry special troops began joint maneuvers on 7
July in Almaty Oblast, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. The
Russian contingent is commanded by Deputy Chief of General
Staff General Aleksandr Skvortsov and General Vladimir
Popov, who is deputy commander of the Privolzhskii Military
District. LF

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