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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 152 Part I, 10 August 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 152 Part I, 10 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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SPECIAL REPORT: TURKEY AT A CROSSROADS
A veteran RFE/RL correspondent reports from Turkey on
politics and religion, minorities, economics and foreign
relations.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/turkey

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN TO REMAIN IN CONTROL IN SICKNESS OR IN HEALTH

* RUSSIAN TITANIUM MONOPOLY ESTABLISHED

* TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN STRENGTHEN DEFENSES ALONG
AFGHAN BORDER

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN TO REMAIN IN CONTROL IN SICKNESS OR IN HEALTH.
On 8 August,  Russian President Boris Yeltsin firmly rejected
a draft law submitted by the Duma that would have allowed the
prime minister to assume the president's duties in case of
either illness requiring a hospital or sanitoria stay, or
even a vacation. According to Interfax, Yeltsin believes that
the proposed law is unconstitutional, because it allows a
temporary removal of the president from office. Article 92 of
the Constitution permits the prime minister to act as
president when the head of state is unable to perform his
duties, but hospitalization alone is not sufficient grounds
for a president to delegate his duties to the prime minister,
he argued. JAC

RUSSIAN MEMBERSHIP IN WTO STILL LONG-TERM PROSPECT.
Russian chief negotiator to the World Trade Organization
Georgii Gabunia told Interfax on 7 August that there is
little chance that Russia will join the WTO in 1998.
According to Gabunia, Russia and the WTO still need to work
out a compromise on a detailed market-access proposal that
the Russian government submitted in March. Last year,
President Clinton promised Yeltsin at their March meeting in
Helsinki to help Russia get into the WTO by the end of 1998.
However, US trade officials have urged Russia to lower its
proposed import duty levels on agricultural products,
particularly on poultry, the US's largest export to Russia.
The next round of talks between Russia and the WTO is
scheduled for December. JAC

MIR TO REMAIN OPEN UNTIL MID-1999. On 7 August, Deputy
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov announced that the space station
Mir will remain operational until mid-1999 when the Alpha
international space station will come online. According to
Interfax, the next crew to visit Mir will depart on 13
August. The first segment of Alpha will enter space in
November 1998, and in April 1999 a service module will be
launched. Last year, the launch of the first module of Alpha
was postponed from November 1997 to June 1998 (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 12 August 1997). Nemtsov told reporters that both
Mir and the Alpha programs would get part of their funding
from the private sector through charging cellular providers
for use of communication satellites and the sale of Russian
space industry property. JAC

RUSSIAN TITANIUM MONOPOLY ESTABLISHED. "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" reported on 6 August that one industrial holding has
control over 100% of Russia's titanium production, which
accounts for almost one third of total world output. The
holding is the result of amalgamating two Russian companies,
Avisma, located in Perm oblast, and the Verkhne-Saldinskoye
Metallurgisheskoye Proizvodstvennoye Obyedineniye (VSMPO) in
Sverdlovsk oblast. The process was initiated by Austria's
Kreditanstalt Bank, which owned Avisma. The bulk of Russian
titanium is exported. In March 1998, Boeing agreed to buy
$175 million worth of titanium from VSMPO (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 12 March 1998). JAC

CHELYABINSK MINERS END BLOCKADE. After Deputy Prime
Minister Nemtsov agreed to transfer 25 million rubles in back
wages, coal miners in Chelyabinskugol company agreed on 7
August to end their two-week long blockade of the Trans-
Siberian railroad. According to Interfax, Chelyabinsk
governor Petr Sumin arranged for debtors to the local budget
to provide another 12 million rubles to the striking miners.
Yeltsin administration officials have suggested that money to
compensate the railroad for the financial losses caused the
miners' blockade be taken out of state monies for the coal
industry. JAC

GOVERNMENT TRIES TO REDUCE ENERGY CONSUMERS'
DEPENDENCE ON BARTER. On 8 August, the government decided
to offer industrial enterprises and consumers who rely on
government funding an incentive to settle their energy bills
with cash. According to ITAR-TASS, the government approved a
draft resolution offering enterprises a 1% reduction and
consumers a 3% reduction in the price of gas if they pay 20%
or more of their bill in cash. JAC

GOVERNMENT TO SELL MORE OIL COMPANY STAKES. On 8
August, Yeltsin signed a decree authorizing the auction of
additional stakes in Russian oil companies, Interfax
reported. These companies  included Vostsibneftegaz, Eastern
Oil, SIBUR, Tyumen Oil, KomiTEK, and NORSI Oil. The
government is currently in the process of trying to sell
Rosneft for the third time and an additional %5 stake in
Gazprom. JAC

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR MEETS NEW SOUTH KOREAN FOREIGN
MINISTER. Russia's ambassador to South Korea, Yevgenii
Afanasev, met South Korea's new foreign minister, Hong Soon-
young, in Seoul on 7 August, ITAR-TASS and the "Korean Times"
reported. Hong told Afanasev that good relations with Russia
are "very important" to his country. Hong was appointed as
foreign minister on 4 August when his predecessor Park Chung-
soo was sacked for mishandling the July spy scandal between
Russia and South Korea. One of those caught up in that
scandal, Russian diplomat Oleg Abramkin, was expelled from
South Korea, but Park hinted to Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov at the ASEAN conference in Manila at the
end of July that Abramkin would be allowed back. The "Korean
Times," however, reports that is no longer the case as
Primakov's public interpretation of Park's remarks as an
official apology "hurt the national sentiment" in South
Korea. BP

RUSSIA, INDIA GROWING CLOSER? Interfax reports from 8
August say a "large-scale treaty of strategic partnership"
could be signed when President Yeltsin pays a visit to Delhi
late this year. Besides that treaty, a memorandum on arms
trade and related services through the year 2010 is being
planned. Yeltsin's India trip was originally planned for
January 1998, but was postponed "under a mutual
understanding." Interfax "sources" in Moscow noted that
details of the original agreements are being changed to
reflect the new realities on the Asian sub-continent, notably
India's tests of nuclear weapons in May. Russia is officially
opposed to imposing sanctions on Delhi for conducting the
tests. BP

CHECHEN PRESIDENT IN U.S. Aslan Maskhadov told journalists
in Washington on 7 August that Chechnya has a right to be an
independent state, but is ready to conclude a single economic
and defense space with Russia, according to ITAR-TASS and an
RFE/RL correspondent. Maskhadov termed U.S. interest in
events in the Caucasus justified, noting that the U.S. policy
towards Chechnya is "cautious." Maskhadov said he hopes for
foreign investment to help rebuild Chechnya's devastated
infrastructure, and that Chechnya is prepared to repay such
investement, which he has asked Russian officials not to
interfere in, with crude oil. Chechen domestic oil production
in the first three months of 1998 was 320,000 metric tons. LF

CHECHENS CLAIM, RUSSIANS DENY CLASH ON DAGESTAN
BORDER. Acting Chechen Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev told
Interfax on 7 August that Chechen forces had been placed on
the alert following an incident early that morning on the
border between Chechnya and Dagestan. Atgeriev claimed that
there were casualties on both sides when two Russian armored
vehicles opened fire on a Chechen customs post, after which
Russian combat helicopters subjected several Chechen posts to
heavy machinegun fire. Both the Dagestan Interior Ministry
and Russian Deputy Interior Minister Colonel-General Leontii
Shevtsov, who is commander of the Russian Interior Ministry
force in the North Caucasus, denied that any such incident
had taken place. A joint Chechen-Russian commission is to
investigate the alleged clash. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN STRENGTHEN DEFENSES ALONG
AFGHAN BORDER. The commander of the Russian border guards
in Tajikistan, Nikolai Reznichenko, said on 8 August that
"stand-by" rapid reaction forces are being formed in
Tajikistan to bolster defenses along the Tajik border with
Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. Reznichenko's comments
followed reports that troops of Afghanistan's Taliban
movement had entered the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-
Sharif the same day. Tajik Deputy Prime Minister Abdurakhmon
Azimov told ITAR-TASS on 10 August that armed Taliban troops
have been seen as close as 20 kilometers from the border with
Tajikistan. The Russian Border Guard Service commander, Col-
General Nikolai Bordyuzha, is expected in Tajikistan on 18
August. Uzbekistan is also taking extra precautions along its
border with Afghanistan, but reports from Tashkent indicate
there is no fighting near the Uzbek-Afghan border, though
Mazar-i-Sharif is located 60 kilometers south. BP

TAJIK OPPOSITION PROTESTS ARRESTS. The United Tajik
Opposition (UTO) released a statement to local and foreign
media on 8 August protesting the arrests of several UTO
members in northern Tajikistan's Leninabad Region, two days
earlier, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Eight UTO members,
including the chief cleric of the mosque in the city of
Isfara, were arrested by police on 6 August for illegal
possession of weapons. The statement from the UTO claims that
even during the Tajik civil war UTO members in the Leninabad
Region did not have weapons, and that the charges against the
eight are "a pure lie." The statement demands the Tajik
government release the eight men and "stop any steps aimed at
undermining the peace process." BP

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN CALLS FOR CONSENSUS ON
ELECTION LAW. Addressing the presidential human rights
commission on 7 August, Robert Kocharian again called on
Armenia's political parties to overcome their differences
over the new election law, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.
Kocharian declined to say whether he supports the preference
of the Yerkrapah union of war veterans, the largest
parliamentary group, for the majority of seats to be
allocated in single-mandate constituencies, or that of most
remaining parties for proportional representation. "I am
ready to accept whatever political parties and the National
Assembly agree upon," he said. But Kocharian warned that if a
consensus is not reached in September, the government, which
shares responsibility for ensuring that the 1999
parliamentary elections are free and fair, will propose an
alternative draft in October or November. Kocharian again
said that he would only consider dissolving parliament in the
event of a "political crisis." LF

MOTIVES FOR ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR'S MURDER STILL
UNCLEAR. On 7 August the Armenian Prosecutor-General's
office isisued a statement denying media speculation that a
third person may have been present at the killing of
Prosecutor-General Henrik Khachatrian the pervious day.
Khachatrian was apparently shot dead by his subordinate,
former transport prosecutor Aram Karapetian, who then
committed suicide. According to a second statement carried by
Armenpress on 8 August, an investigation opened by the
transport procuracy at the time it was headed by Karapetian
was later inxplicably shelved. One of Khachatrian's
predecessors, former procurator-general Vladimir Nazarian,
told the daily "Aravot" on 8 August that relations between
Khachatrian and Karapetian were "not tense." Nazarian added
that Karapetian and Armenian railways director Arbartsum
Ghandilian, whose murder in 1994 was never solved, witnessed
largescale embezzlement in the rail sector in the early
1990s. LF

AZERBAIJANIS COMMENT ON ABOLITION OF CENSORSHIP ...
Opposition party leaders and newspaper editors have greeted
President Heidar Aliev's 6 August decree abolishing political
censorship, Turan reported. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar
termed the move "the result of joint efforts by democratic
forces," while Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman
Abulfaz Elchibey says he believes it is irreversible. But
Yashar Aliyev, assistant editor of "525 gazeti," wondered if
the move is indeed permanent, and Democratic Party Secretary-
General Sardar Djalaloglu expressed doubt that the abolition
of censorship will resolve the problem of the lack of press
freedom, given that "moral censorship still exists." LF

... AS OPPOSITION PROTESTS RENEWED HARASSMENT. The
Azerbaijan Popular Front Party issued a statement on 7 August
reporting the arrest of four of its activists in three rural
districts for their refusal to endorse Heidar Aliev's
presidential candidacy, Turan reported. The party's Ordubad
branch was prevented by Nakhichevan police from holding a
planned meeting on 7 August, after the chairman of the
Nakhichevan branch was interrogated and physically attacked
by a local police official the previous day. Azerbaijan
Popular Front Party chairman Elchibey told Turan in an
interview that the necessary conditions for holding
democratic elections still have not been created. Elchibey
accused Aliev of insincerity in calling for dialogue with the
opposition while condoning the arrest of its local
representatives. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DENIES PRESIDENTIAL
ASPIRATIONS.  In Moscow, former president Ayaz Mutalibov
said President Aliev's abolition of media censorship is "a
wise decision," adding that he would also have released
political prisoners "in order to promote national unity."
Mutalibov denied media reports that he either plans to
contend the upcoming presidential election or that he has
established contact with the five opposition leaders who
intend to boycott the poll, Turan reported on 8 August. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES FOUR NEW MINISTERS.
Meeting in emergency session on 8 August, the Georgian
parliament confirmed four of five candidates nominated by
President Eduard Shevardnadze for vacant cabinet posts,
Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Former First Deputy Foreign
Minister Mikhail Ukleba was confirmed as State Property
Minister, National Library Director Aleksandre Kartozia as
Education Minister, law professor Lado Chanturia as minister
of justice, and Tbilisi mayor and former Georgian Communist
Party functionary Badri Shoshitaishvili, who served as first
secretary of a Tbilisi raion party committee in the mid-
1980s, as industry minister. Deputies also approved the
candidacy of Foreign Trade Minister Konstantine
Zaldastanishvili as ambassador to the EU, but rejected Otar
Zumburidze's candidacy for the post of communications
minister.LF

THREE ABKHAZ POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN CLASH Three
Abkhaz police officers were shot dead by Georgian police in
Khurcha village in Georgia's Zugdidi raion on the evening of
8 August, Russian agencies reported. The Abkhaz had
reportedly crossed the Inguri river, which marks the border
between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, by car and opened
fire at houses in Khurcha. On 7 August, General Sergei
Korobko, who commands the Russian peacekeeping force deployed
under CIS auspices in Abkhazia, called for that force to be
doubled from its present strength of 1,500 to 3,000 men,
ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 7 August, the Abkhaz Foreign
Ministry issued a statement querying why the Georgian
authorities allow the leader of the "White Legion" guerrilla
force, Zurab Samushia,  to give interviews to local media
instead of arresting him, Caucasus Press reported. LF

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