You see things and you say 'Why?' But I dream thing that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'. - Geroge Bernard Shaw
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 149 Part I, 5 August 1998


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* DUMA WILL RECONVENE BEFORE SEPTEMBER

* GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO PROTECT MINORITY SHAREHOLDERS

* PROMINENT AZERBAIJANI POLITICIAN SET TO REGISTER AS
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
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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

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               Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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