We do not live an equal life, but one of contrast and patchwork; now a little joy, then a sorrow, now a sin, then a generous or brave action. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 151, Part I, 7 August 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 151, Part I, 7 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

* RUSSIA TO BORROW MORE ON FOREIGN MARKETS

* WORLD BANK LOAN APPROVED

* ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL MURDERED

End Note: UZBEKISTAN TURNS BELIEVERS INTO CRIMINALS

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RUSSIA

RUSSIA TO BORROW MORE ON FOREIGN MARKETS. The Russian
government on 6 August announced that it will borrow up to $3
billion abroad before the end of 1998, increasing its annual
hard-currency borrowing limit by almost one-quarter, Russian
news agencies reported. According to Bloomberg, the Ministry
of Finance said that it will still issue only $2 billion
worth of Eurobonds but that other forms of foreign borrowing
will increase (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1998). Only
last week, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said the
government would not consider new foreign borrowing until the
end of October. However, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said
on 6 August that Russia's total amount of borrowing will not
increase because the government will reduce the amount it
borrows domestically. JAC

WORLD BANK LOAN APPROVED. The board of directors of the World
Bank approved a $1.5 billion loan to Russia on 6 August.
Russia will receive the first installment, worth $300
million, on 10 August. The Bank will release another $500
million by the end of this year and the remainder in 1999.
The loan is the largest that the World Bank has ever extended
in Europe or Central Asia, and its adjustable interest rate
of 5.9 percent is consequently somewhat higher than usual.
The World Bank pledged $4 billion as part of the IMF-led
$22.6 billion package. JAC

SABOTAGE BY CENTRAL BANK? "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" on 6 August
charged Central Bank chief Sergei Dubinin with paralyzing the
Russian government for an entire day on 20 July. According to
the daily, the Central Bank froze the Finance Ministry's 8.7
billion ruble ($1.4 billion) account, leaving the Russian
government unable to fulfill any of its financial obligations
for one week. "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" sketches out different
scenarios to explain the Central Bank's action. It suggests
that Dubinin may have speculated with the Finance Ministry's
money and bought short-term Treasury notes or that the
Central Bank may have needed money to pay off its own
promissory notes. However, the daily believes that Dubinin's
motives were primarily "political" or personal. Not all the
Central Bank's past transactions have been "perfectly legal,"
the newspaper noted. Moreover, it continued, Dubinin wanted
to bring down the Kirienko government and trigger an economic
crisis before the bank's action was discovered. Boris
Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group is a financial backer of
"Nezavisimaya Gazeta." JAC

LABOR ACTION FORESTALLED... Russian air traffic controllers
have canceled their strike scheduled for 9 August after the
government pledged to pay back wages, ITAR-TASS reported.
Federal Aviation Service director Gennadii Zaitsev told a
press conference on 6 August that five large airline
companies, including Transaero and Aeroflot, will contribute
30 million rubles ($4.8 million).  According to "Kommersant-
Daily" on 6 August, the air traffic controllers union has
scored a number of successes with the government, winning
wage increases several times over the past three years. JAC

...WHILE OTHERS END, BEGIN. According to ITAR-TASS on 7
August, coal miners in the town of Partizansk in the Far East
have ended a hunger strike  in response to a promise of
assistance from the coal mine's management. The hunger strike
was launched on 28 July. And in Khabarovsk Oblast, 20 gold
miners who had stayed underground for seven months to protest
unpaid wages reemerged on 6 August after  receiving wages for
one year. Meanwhile, the union of railroad workers in Moscow
called a strike for midnight of 7 August to protest a
proposed change in the system of wages. According to ITAR-
TASS, railroad traffic so far has been unaffected, in part
because railway management considers the action unlawful.
Warning of the strike was given only six  hours in advance.
By law, at least 10 days' notice are required. JAC

SHELL UNINTERESTED IN GAZPROM, ROSNEFT. Royal Dutch Shell is
unlikely to enter a bid for either Gazprom or Rosneft, AFP
reported on 6 August. Shell Managing Director Jeroen van den
Veer said that despite the company's interest in Russia,
conditions there are still too unstable. Shell's rejection
follows earlier reports that Gazprom Chairman Rem Vyakhirev
wanted Shell--and only Shell--to purchase the soon-to-be-
available 5.87 percent stake (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August
1998).  Bloomberg reported on 6 August that to win the tender
for Gazprom, bidders will have to promise not to sell the
stake for a stipulated period. JAC

GOVERNMENT SAYS ALL IS WELL WITH GAZPROM. After visiting
Gazprom headquarters on 6 August, Prime Minister Kirienko and
Vyakhirev issued statements of mutual support. According to
Interfax, Kirienko pledged assistance for all the company's
export projects, singling out Gazprom's Bluestream project to
construct an underwater pipeline across the Black Sea to
supply Turkey. The project faces stiff competition from a
variety of other proposed gas export projects. The U.S.
government, for example, has funded a feasibility study for
an underwater gas pipeline across the Caspian that would
provide an outlet for Turkmen gas bypassing Russia. JAC

RUSSIAN PRISONERS TO BE OFFERED AMNESTY. According to "Vremya
MN" on 6 August, one-third of all Russians currently
incarcerated may be offered their freedom by the end of the
year. Speaking at conference in Krasnoyarsk, Minister of
Justice Pavel Krasheninnikov said that in September he would
submit to the State Duma legislation offering amnesty to
prisoners convicted of non-violent offenses. The amnesty
would be only the first step in a larger judicial reform
intended to substitute fines and other financial penalties
for jail sentences (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1998).
JAC

NEW TB STRAIN FOUND IN RUSSIAN PRISONS. Doctors have
discovered a new incurable form of tuberculosis in Russia,
which is concentrated primarily among prison inmates,
Interfax reported on 6 August. Medicins sans Frontieres,
Medical Emergency Relief International, and the Public Health
Institute of New York have sent a joint letter to President
Boris Yeltsin warning that Russia has become "an
international incubator of a new lethal illness." The new
strain of the disease resulted from Russian doctors' "non-
standard" use of antibiotics. Of the 15,000 to 20,000
Russians with drug-resistant TB, two-thirds are in prison.
JAC

KRASNOYARSK, KHAKASIYA TO CREATE UNITED LEBED REPUBLIC? The
Republic of Khakasiya, which split from Krasnoyarsk Krai in
1992 in the hope of receiving larger subsidies from the
federal center as a separate subject of the Russian
Federation, now wants that decision reversed, according to
"Tribuna" of 7 August. The governors of the two regions,
brothers Aleksei and Aleksandr Lebed, are reportedly holding
talks on a series of economic agreements intended to improve
economic conditions in Khakasiya. LF

GAZPROM TIGHTENS SCREWS ON TATARSTAN. A delegation from
Gazprom subsidiary Mezhregiongaz met with Tatarstan's Prime
Minister Rustan Minnikhanov  in Kazan on 6 August to discuss
repayment of Tatarstan's estimated 3.5 billion ruble ($553
million) gas debts, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Gazprom
halved deliveries of natural gas to Tatarstan in early June,
prompting Tatarstan's government to cancel gas deliveries to
debtor industrial enterprises and to preserve the gas
deliveries to private citizens. Mezhregiongaz is now
insisting that 30 percent of past and current debts  be paid
in cash, rather than with promissory notes or by barter
agreement. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL MURDERED. Henrik Khachatrian was
shot dead in his office on 6 August by senior prosecutor Aram
Karapetian, who then committed suicide. The motives for the
killing are unknown. A former member of the Armenian
Constitutional Court, Khachatrian was appointed prosecutor-
general in May 1997 by then President Levon Ter-Petrossian.
Speaking on national television on 6 August, President Robert
Kocharian praised Khachatrian for his honesty and
professionalism as well as for his efforts to establish the
rule of law in Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SIGNS DECREE ABOLISHING CENSORSHIP.  As
announced  by one of his advisers last week (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 31 July 1998), Heidar Aliev has signed a decree
officially abolishing censorship in Azerbaijan. But at the
same time, Aliev called for the creation of an alternative
body to protect state secrets, Reuters reported on 6 August.
Presidential administration official Ali Hasanov told
Azerbaijani Television that the move to abolish censorship
was not connected with the upcoming presidential elections.
LF

OPPOSITION LEADER CONDEMNS ALIEV'S ELECTION MOVE. Former
parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev has told RFE/RL's Baku
bureau  that  President Aliev's 5 August appeal to three
opposition politicians to drop their proposed boycott of the
presidential poll was intended to split the opposition ranks.
Guliev was one of two other opposition leaders who have
likewise declared their intention not to participate in the
election unless their demands for liberalization are met.
Guliev said that the "five" will continue to act in unison,
and he condemned what he termed an attempt by Aliev to drive
a wedge between them. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW STATE MINISTER. Meeting in
an emergency session on 7 August, the Georgian parliament
voted by 122 votes to two to approve the candidacy of former
ambassador to Russia, Vazha Lortkipanidze, as minister of
state, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi reported.
Lortkipanidze told lawmakers that  he will pursue a European-
oriented foreign policy, adding that this does not preclude
improving relations with Russia, which, he said,  also
aspires to closer integration into the European community. He
argued that there is no alternative to continuing economic
reforms but hinted that he might condone some protective
measures to help local producers. The Socialist, Labor, and
Popular factions had earlier announced that they will abstain
from voting. Following the resignation of almost the entire
cabinet last week, the former ministers of communications,
industry, education, foreign economic relations, justice, and
state property have not been renominated to those positions.
LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA, ABKHAZIA FORM ANTI-TERRORIST FORCE. Meeting
in western Georgia on 7 August, Georgian and Abkhaz
representatives and the commander-in-chief of the Russian
peacekeeping force deployed under CIS auspices in Abkhazia
agreed to create a joint force to investigate terrorist
attacks against the Russian peacekeepers, Caucasus Press
reported. More than 60 members of that force have fallen
victim to terrorist attacks over the past four years. LF

SUSPECTED MURDERER OF UN OFFICIAL ARRESTED IN TBILISI.
Georgian police on 6 August arrested 20-year-old Zurab
Bregvadze on suspicion of the 14 July shooting of a Polish
woman employed by the UN mission in Georgia, Caucasus Press
reported. LF

TALIBAN SUCCESS WORRIES RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD COMMANDER. The
commander of Russia's Border Guard Service, Colonel-General
Nikolai Bordyuzha, told journalists in Moscow on 6 August
that he is worried that forces of Afghanistan's Taliban
movement may soon advance to the border of Tajikistan, ITAR-
TASS and Interfax reported. Bordyuzha said border guards in
Tajikistan have already taken measures to secure the border
with Afghanistan in the event that Taliban forces reach that
frontier. Bordyuzha also said preparations are being made for
the possible arrival of thousands of refugees fleeing the
fighting in northern Afghanistan. BP

KAZAKH CENTRAL BANK CHIEF ON ECONOMIC PROSPECTS. The chairman
of Kazakhstan's National Bank, Kadyrjon Damitov, told a press
conference in Almaty on 6 August that inflation in the
country will stand at 8 percent by year's end, Interfax
reported. Damitov said in the first half of 1998, inflation
dropped by 3.1 percent, compared with the same period in
1997, and totaled 3.6 percent. Damitov predicted that GDP
will increase by 1.5 percent, well short of the planned 3
percent growth. He said the Financial Ministry's debt has
grown by more 50 percent,  compared with the same period last
year,  to reach 34.8 billion tenge (some $500 million).
However, Damitov said he does not expect the tenge to drop
significantly in value against the dollar in 1998, noting
that in the first half of this year it lost only 1.73 percent
of its value. BP

END NOTE

UZBEKISTAN TURNS BELIEVERS INTO CRIMINALS

by Felix Corley

	In Uzbekistan, religious believers of all faiths are
waiting in trepidation as the 15 August deadline for their
communities to lodge re-registration applications with the
Ministry of Justice approaches. Under registration
regulations issued in a 20 June decree of the Council of
Ministers, religious communities (such as mosques, churches,
synagogues, and temples) have to provide extensive
documentation to back up their applications, which the
ministry must process within three months.
	Even for those with documentation that meets the strict
new requirements set out under the revised law on freedom of
conscience and religious organizations, adopted by parliament
on 1 May, it is by no means certain that the Ministry of
Justice will grant registration. The government and, in
particular, President Islam Karimov have made clear their
dislike of Muslims outside the control of the government-
sponsored Muslim Board. Karimov has made frequent verbal
attacks on such Muslims, whom he routinely dubs "Wahhabi
fundamentalists," regardless of whether they have any links
with the form of Islam found in Saudi Arabia.
	Indeed, Karimov cited the presence of such Muslims in
Uzbekistan as the justification for the adoption of the harsh
new law. During debates in the parliament, Karimov blamed
such Muslims for instability in the country and declared that
"such people must be shot in the head".
	But many religious communities in Uzbekistan--even some
that now have state registration--will not be eligible to
apply for re-registration, as they have fewer than the 100
adult members required under the new law. In what is being
seen as a test case, the prosecutor-general of the
Zheleznodorozhny district of Samarkand ruled on 25 June that
a local community of Jehovah's Witnesses was functioning
illegally without registration and that, with only 30 to 40
members, the community would  be unable to gain registration
under the new law.
	Uzbekistan's new law on freedom of conscience, which
amends legislation first adopted in June 1991, is the
harshest in the former Soviet Union. Registration is
compulsory for all religious groups, whether local or
national, and groups need the approval of the government's
Committee for Religious Affairs before they can apply for
registration with the Ministry of Justice. All unregistered
religious activity is illegal, as is proselytism or any kind
of missionary activity. Only central religious
administrations have the right to publish religious
literature, and all imported religious literature must be
censored by the state.
	Under the same law, only centralized religious
administrations can set up schools "to train clergy and other
religious personnel". All other forms of religious education,
even in private, are illegal. Religious political parties and
social movements are banned. And only clerics may walk the
streets in religious garb.
	The law specifies that those conducting "any illegal
religious activity" will be subject to prosecution, as will
religious leaders who evade state registration and officials
who allow unregistered religious groups to function.
Amendments to the administrative and criminal codes adopted
by the parliament on 1 May spell out the penalties for the
new offenses. First offenses are generally punishable by
fines or short-term imprisonment of up to two weeks. Second-
time offenders risk up to three years in prison for
proselytism, for holding youth meetings, for teaching
religion without permission, or for encouraging others to
take part in illegal religious groups. For repeat offenses,
organizers of illegal religious groups risk a maximum penalty
of five years' imprisonment. Crimes of violence with a
religious coloring attract heavier penalties.
	Many of the provisions of the new law on freedom of
conscience clearly violate Uzbekistan's human rights
commitments, including the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social,
and Cultural Rights (Uzbekistan acceded to those two
covenants in September 1995), as well as commitments
enshrined in successive OSCE documents.
	The Uzbek government argues that tight restrictions are
necessary to prevent religious-related conflict from
spreading to Uzbekistan from neighboring Afghanistan and
Tajikistan. President Islam Karimov conjures up bloodcurdling
images of what would happen if Islamists came to power in
Uzbekistan. But the system of control over all religious
activity enshrined in the new law and backed up by the
criminal code and the registration regulations goes far
beyond the temporary derogations from international human
rights commitments permitted in times of "public emergency."
	The Uzbek authorities are clearly sensitive on the
subject of religion. On 1 August, Russian journalists Vitalii
Ponomarev and Nikolai Mitrokhin were assaulted and beaten in
the center of Tashkent by unknown attackers following their
meeting with Marat Zakhidov, a well-known Uzbek human rights
activist. The Glasnost Defense Foundation in Moscow believed
the assault was connected with the journalists' investigation
into "repression against religious organizations". The two
had already visited the Fergana valley, a region with a
strong Islamist presence.
	In one of the first responses to the new law, the local
union of Baptists complained to President Karimov at the end
of May that "the new law turns Baptists from peaceful
citizens who obey the law into criminals". However, it is not
just Baptists who will be subject to the full weight of the
new legislation. How numerous these "criminals" turn out to
be and how far Uzbekistan is prepared to go in flouting its
international commitments will soon be seen.

The author writes on religious liberty issues in the former
Soviet Union.

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