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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 149 Part I, 5 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 149 Part I, 5 August 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * DUMA WILL RECONVENE BEFORE SEPTEMBER * GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO PROTECT MINORITY SHAREHOLDERS * PROMINENT AZERBAIJANI POLITICIAN SET TO REGISTER AS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA WILL RECONVENE BEFORE SEPTEMBER. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 5 August reluctantly accepted Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko's request that the Duma interrupt its summer recess to debate those parts of the anti-crisis program that the lower house failed to pass before its vacation. According to ITAR-TASS, he said the Duma will likely reconvene from 15-20 August. President Boris Yeltsin has introduced some parts of the anti-crisis program by decree, but the constitution stipulates that only the parliament can change fiscal legislation. According to "Vremya MN" the previous day, Yeltsin has already vetoed eight laws included in the anti-crisis plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1998). The Duma was not scheduled to resume work until 21 September. JAC GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO PROTECT MINORITY SHAREHOLDERS. Bloomberg reports that the cabinet has approved draft legislation to force Russian companies to make their finances more transparent and increase minority shareholders' rights. The legislation would give the Securities Commission the right to fine companies that do not file earnings reports on time. It would also make asset-stripping and insider-trading punishable in a criminal court. According to Bloomberg, investors are concerned that the commission does not have sufficient powers to enforce the legislation, which must still be approved by the Duma and Federation Council. JAC MOSCOW CONTEMPLATES SOLUTIONS FOR SAKHALIN. More federal officials descended on Sakhalin on 5 August. Interior Ministry officials arrived to collect data on economic damage inflicted by the miners' strike, while Deputy Fuel Minister Viktor Kudryavii was there to assess the energy situation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1998). Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported that the federal government is considering permanently replacing local coal supplies with shipments from Australia and China. Despite transportation costs, such shipments would reportedly cost less than local deliveries. JAC ZADORNOV CLAIMS BUDGET SURPLUS. In an interview with "Komsomolskaya Pravda" on 4 August, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said that in the first half of this year, budget revenue exceeded spending by 0.4 percent of GDP. He noted that this was the first time in several years that such an increase has been registered. But this is only the case if one excludes the not inconsiderable sum Russia spent on debt payments--one-third of the budget in the first six months. On the topic of devaluation, Zadornov pledged that the government will do "everything it can to avoid such a possibility." JAC RUSSIA TO ABOLISH CAPITAL PUNISHMENT... The current ban on capital punishment will be followed by its abolition in April 1999, Minister of Justice Pavel Krasheninnikov told Interfax. This is in keeping with Russia's commitment under the terms of its membership in the Council of Europe. According to ITAR-TASS, Krasheninnikov said on 5 August that the Justice Ministry will create three or four new penitentiaries for criminals sentenced to life imprisonment. JAC ...WHILE PURSUING OTHER PENAL REFORMS. On 4 August, "Rossiiskaya Gazeta" reported that other changes are planned in Russia's penal system. The Justice Ministry intends to transfer management of the nation's entire prison system to the Justice Ministry, to separate adult prisoners from juvenile ones, and to assign prisoners to a jail close to where the crime was committed. JAC RUSSIA SOON WORLD'S TOP ARMS PRODUCER? According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Russia and France are vying to overtake the U.S. as the world's biggest arms supplier, "The New York Times"reported on 4 August. However, Yevgenii Ananev, director of the main arms exporter Rosvooruzheniye, claims that Russia ranks only fourth and trails considerably behind Great Britain and France. Writing in "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" on 22 July, he claims that Russia exported only $2.5 billion worth of arms in 1997. CRS reports that Russia currently has 40 percent of the Asian market. India, which bought 409 Russian fighter jets last year, and China, which purchased two destroyers, are its top customers. Iran, one of the Soviet Union's principal weapons purchasers, has had to curtail its arms purchases because of lack of funds. JAC CHANGE OF VENUE FOR RUSSIAN-U.S. NAVAL EXERCISES. Russian- U.S. naval exercises that were scheduled to take place near Vladivostok on 6-7 August have been moved to another venue following protests by local communities, Interfax and ITAR- TASS reported. Since last week, Vladivostok citizens, backed by some local officials, have been protesting the landing of U.S. troops on Russian soil When the U.S. landing ship "Germantown" entered a Vladivostok port on 4 August, it was met by about 50 protesters waving communist flags and signs reading "Yankee Go Home!" The exercises, which simulate a response to a natural disaster, will now be held at Cape Clark in the Khasan district. BP CHECHEN PRESIDENT IN TURKEY. Aslan Maskhadov held talks with former parliamentary speaker and Democratic Turkey Party chairman Husamettin Cindoruk in Istanbul on 3 August and was scheduled to meet with diplomats at the British Consulate in Istanbul the following day, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 4 August. A group of wealthy British investors has expressed an interest in plans for a Caucasus Common Market, in which Chechnya would play a key role. But Maskhadov canceled a planned visit to Ankara, the newspaper reported. LF MUSCOVITES TO GET MORTGAGES. Home ownership will become a more realistic option for Moscow's middle class in September, when a Moscow city-sponsored mortgage agency will be launched. According to Interfax, Moscow city officials announced on 4 August that during the program's first stage, Moscow will borrow more than $500 million from major foreign banks and provide 10,000 mortgages repayable over 10-15 years. The program became possible when Russia's new law on mortgages went into effect in late July. Other municipalities are expected to follow suit. JAC SAMARA GOVERNOR WILL FIGHT TAX CHANGES. "Vremya MN" reported on 4 August that in two weeks, Konstantin Titov, governor of Samara, will file a law suit in the Constitutional Court against the government's revision of rules for levying value-added tax. He maintains that the changes are illegal because the parliament did not approve them. JAC RUSSIAN POPULATION DECLINE TO REVERSE? Beginning in October, Russian men should be able to purchase Viagra, the anti- impotence drug, for $10 to $12 a pill, roughly one-tenth of its reported price on Russia's black market. Nikolai Lopatkin, director of the Russian Institute of Urology, told reporters in Moscow that roughly 52 percent of Russian men aged between 40 and 70 have difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA PROMINENT AZERBAIJANI POLITICIAN SET TO REGISTER AS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. Supporters of National Independence Party of Azerbaijan chairman Etibar Mamedov have collected 65,000 signatures in support of his registration as a candidate for the 11 October presidential elections, Turan reported on 4 August. The election law requires candidates to submit a minimum of 50,000 signatures in order to qualify for registration, which is to take place between 15-22 August. Nine candidates have announced their intention to run, and several initiative groups or political parties have proposed the candidacy of incumbent Heidar Aliev. LF WORK OF ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM COMMISSION CRITICIZED. Self-Determination Union chairman Paruyr Hayrikian has expressed dissatisfaction that the commission set up in May by President Robert Kocharian to draft amendments to the constitution has rejected his party's proposal that the posts of Armenian president and prime minister be combined, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 August. Hayrikian told journalists in Yerevan that the existing semi-presidential system makes the president dependent on the parliament. But Hayrikian said that he will continue to take part in the work of the commission, even though it is "impossible" to implement the constitutional changes his party wants by working with the commission. LF ABKHAZ PRESIDENT SAYS GEORGIA UNWILLING TO COMPROMISE. Vladislav Ardzinba told journalists in Sukhumi on 4 August that Abkhazia made "many concessions" during the most recent round of UN mediated talks in Geneva in late July. But he added that the Georgian delegation refused to sign the documents that had been agreed on, Interfax reported. Ardzinba also noted that the 30 July UN Security Council resolution on the Abkhaz conflict for the first time explicitly condemns attacks by Georgian guerrillas on the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia. UN special envoy for Abkhazia Liviu Bota traveled to Sukhumi on 4 August for talks with Ardzinba aimed at breaking the deadlock in peace talks. LF GEORGIA MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF SUBSERVIENCE TO TSARIST RUSSIA. Georgian politicians on 4 August marked the 215th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Georgievsk, whereby the kingdom of eastern Georgia became a protectorate of the Tsarist Empire. Deputy Parliamentary Chairman Giorgi Kobakhidze said the signing of that treaty by King Irakli II was "a tragic page" in Georgia's history, adding that its repercussions continue to be felt today. Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, similarly told Caucasus Press that the signing of the treaty resulted in the loss of Georgian independence for 200 years. Nadareishvili added that "even now Russia cannot change its imperial attitude toward Georgia." LF GAMSAKHURDIA ALLY REPORTEDLY STABS GEORGIAN POLITICAL PRISONER. Loti Kobalia, former commander of deceased president Zviad Gamsakhurdia's national guard, attacked and seriously injured Petre Gelbakhiani in a Tbilisi prison on 19 July, according to the German branch of the International Society for Human Rights press release of 5 August. A second political prisoner, Irakli Dokvadze, was injured trying to protect Gelbakhiani. Gelbakhiani was arrested shortly before the 1992 Georgian parliamentary elections for criticizing the Georgian leadership. He was sentenced to death in 1995, but that sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment. Prison director Shota Kobadze told Caucasus Press on 23 July that Kobalia denied stabbing Gelbakhiani and Dokvadze, although he admitted that there was "a little incident" between them. LF RUSSIAN, UZBEK OFFICIALS DISCUSS AFGHANISTAN. As the Taliban movement reportedly advanced on Mazar-i-Sharif, the only remaining major city it does not yet control, the head of the Russian General Staff, Anatolii Kvashnin, and First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov were in Tashkent on 4 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Uzbek Defense Minister Hikmatulla Tursunov and Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov met with the Russian officials and later released a statement calling on the Taliban to stop their advance. The statement also said that Russian and Uzbek representatives are ready to meet with representatives from the opposing Afghan factions to mediate a settlement. The Russian and Uzbek officials also reserved the right to take all necessary measures to preserve the integrity of the CIS border. BP UZBEKISTAN DENIES AFGHAN WARLORD ON UZBEK SOIL. Sources at the Uzbek Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs denied on 4 August that Afghan warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum has fled to Uzbek territory, ITAR-TASS reported. Dostum's headquarters in Sheberghan were overrun by forces of the Taliban movement on 2 August. Subsequent reports suggested that Dostum had crossed into Uzbekistan. Last year, Dostum fled to Turkey via Uzbekistan following a mutiny within his ranks. BP GAS SUPPLIES RESUME TO KYRGYZSTAN. The head of the Kyrgyz state oil and gas company, Shalkar Jaysanbayev announced in Bishkek on 4 August that gas supplies from neighboring Uzbekistan have been restored, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Uzbekistan cut off supplies on 1 August because of unpaid bills. The Kyrgyz government has paid $900,000 of the debt and sent a letter to the Uzbek authorities guaranteeing future payments. BP ANTHRAX OUTBREAK IN CENTRAL ASIA. Some 50 cases of anthrax have been registered during the last two weeks in southern Kyrgyzstan and northern Tajikistan, according to RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS. Two villages in the Jalalabad region of Kyrgyzstan are affected, as are a number of villages in the Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan. In all cases, the cause is reported to be contaminated beef and milk. BP DRUG SMUGGLER SENTENCED TO DEATH IN TAJIKISTAN. A drug smuggler has been sentenced to death by a Tajik court, ITAR- TASS reported on 4 August. Bobo Boboyev was found guilty of seeking to smuggle more than 300 kilograms of raw opium into Russia. He is the first person in Tajikistan to receive the death penalty for drug smuggling. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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