This communicating of a man's self to his friend works two contrary effects; for it redoubleth joy, and cutteth griefs in half. - Francis Bacon
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 160 Part I, 20 August 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 160 Part I, 20 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

* KIRIENKO SAYS RUSSIA CAN MEET FOREIGN OBLIGATIONS AND PAY
WAGE ARREARS

* CABINET APPROVES DRAFT BILLS ON DOMESTIC DEBT

* RUSSIA, TAJIKISTAN RELEASE STATEMENT ON AFGHANISTAN

End Note: THIRTY YEARS LATER, CZECHS STILL DEBATE LEGACY OF
1968
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RUSSIA

KIRIENKO SAYS RUSSIA CAN MEET FOREIGN OBLIGATIONS AND PAY
WAGE ARREARS. Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko told
Russian Television on 19 August that Moscow will fulfill all
its state obligations "on foreign debts, forex-denominated
bonds, and state guarantees included," Interfax reported.
Only securities denominated in rubles will be converted into
longer term treasury bills and federal bonds, Kirienko said.
Arrangements for doing that will be announced on 24 August.
The prime minister noted that Moscow currently must pay some
4-5 billion rubles ($590 to $740 million) each week to
service its ruble-denominated debt. By stretching out
repayments and not repudiating the debt itself, he
suggested, the government would be able to spend that money
on paying back wages. PG

CABINET APPROVES DRAFT BILLS ON DOMESTIC DEBT. At a meeting
on 20 August, the Russian government approved draft
legislation that would reduce Russian obligatons on treasury
bills by 14-30 billion rubles ($2-4 billion) in 1998 and 44-
80 billion rubles ($6-12 billion) in 1999 as a result of
reschedulilng, ITAR-TASS reported. If the Duma fails to pass
the two bills, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said the
government will have to repay securities valued at 113
billion rubles ($16 billion) in 1998 and 260 billion rubles
($37 billion) the following year. At the same meeting, Prime
Minister Kirienko said that the government plans to balance
the budget by this fall and to prepare a new budget for next
year to be submitted to the State Duma by 21 September. PG

RUBLE LOWER, MARKETS QUIET. The ruble continued to decline
on 19-20 August but less dramatically than the day before,
Russian agencies reported. The difference between rates to
buy or to sell rubles also generally declined across the
country--less in response to the Central Bank's threat to
impose penalties on those institutions where it was greater
than 15 percent and more as a result of competition in the
marketplace. Across the country, demand for foreign currency
tended to decline as well, allowing some observers to argue
that the largest ruble decrease is over. Meanwhile, the
equity markets drifted lower, but the declines in price were
less striking than the lack of any interest in trading.
Traders told ITAR-TASS on 19 August that the market is
likely to "remain inert" until the government resolves the
treasury bill swap issue. PG

A DAY OF DISCOURAGING ECONOMIC NEWS. The State Committee for
Statistics on 19 August released statistics suggesting that
the Russian economy may be in even worse shape than many had
thought, ITAR-TASS reported. GDP, industrial output, oil
production, automobile production, and exports all fell in
July. The GDP drop was the largest monthly decline since
September 1996. Unemployment rose to 8.3 million. Real
income dropped almost 9 percent from the year before. And
wage arrears grew by 6.5 percent. In most of these indices,
the trends appeared to be accelerating from earlier in the
year. PG

INFLATION PREDICTED TO BE UNDER 10 PERCENT IN 1998. Central
Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin said on 19 August that the rate
of inflation will be "slightly below 10 percent by the end
of the year" even if it fluctuates above that level before
that time, Interfax reported. PG

BANK ASSOCIATION CHIEF CALLS FOR CALM, HELP. Sergei Yegorov,
the chairman of the Association of Russian Banks, told a
news conference on 19 August that the country's banking
system can survive if the government succeeds in preventing
panic, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that for that to happen,
the Central Bank will have to provide some banks with
additional funds. Yegorov also said that only 200 to 250 of
the country's 1,600 banks are in any immediate danger of
failing, a figure other bankers disputed. He suggested that
the banking system and the economy itself can be saved if
Russians put some of the approximately $80 billion they keep
in cash into the banks. PG

HOTLINES TO EXPLAIN FISCAL MEASURES, FIGHT SPECULATION. The
Central Bank set up a special telephone hotline to allow the
population to receive answers to questions about the
government's efforts to stabilize the situation, ITAR-TASS
reported on 19 August. Meanwhile, the government set up a
special hotline for people to turn in those violating rules
against speculation and making superprofits, the Russian
agency reported. In addition, the Federal Tax Service will
levy special taxes on any such profits, Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Fedorov told ITAR-TASS the same day. PG

IMF FUNDS GO TO DEFENSE OF RUBLE. Central Bank chief Dubinin
told a Duma committee on 19 August that his bank has spent
approximately $3.8 billion to support the ruble since 20
July, Russian and Western agencies reported. "We received
$4.8 billion from the IMF, of which $1 billion went to fund
budget spending, and the Bank of Russia spent the rest on
defending the exchange rate," the central banker said.
Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported that Moscow expects an IMF
delegation to visit the Russian capital in September to
discuss the disbursement of the next tranche of the IMF
loan. PG

MOSCOW MAY CHANGE TAXES ON OIL COMPANIES. Responding to a
World Bank argument that Russia's current system of
collecting taxes on oil company earnings rather than on
profits could make it more difficult for the firms to
compete internationally, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov
told an interagency stabilization commission on 19 August
that the Russian government will review the situation,
Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported.

YELTSIN PLANS "NO MEETINGS." Boris Yeltsin's press spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax on 19 August that the
president has "no meetings" on his schedule but will make a
one-day trip to Severomorsk on 21 August to observe a
Northern Fleet exercise. Yastrzhembskii said that it is
possible for Yeltsin, who is currently at his dacha outside
Moscow, to stay in touch with developments in the capital by
telephone. PG

RUSSIAN PUBLIC INCREASINGLY ANGRY AT GOVERNMENT. Some 65
percent of 6,000 Russians surveyed earlier this month said
that the government "can no longer count on the patience of
the population," Interfax reported on 19 August. That figure
was up from 50 percent in March. But the number prepared to
join strikes, participate in armed insurrection, block
traffic or seize enterprises remains low, ranging from 6 and
11 percent, according to the Sociology and Parliamentarism
Institute, which conducted the poll. PG

LEFT TO CALL FOR YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION. Representatives of
40 leftist organizations agreed on 19 August to call for
Yeltsin's resignation when the Duma convenes on 21 August,
Interfax reported. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov said
he is "absolutely confident" that at least 300 deputies will
support a resolution calling for the president's resignation
or impeachment. "The president has made everybody sick,"
Zyuganov said. And he suggested that "when the legislators
and broad masses of working people join their efforts, the
president can be forced to resign." PG

DUMA COMMITTEE FOR CENSURE, NOT RESHUFFLE OF GOVERNMENT. At
a meeting on 19 August, the Duma Budget and Finance
Committee urged deputies to find the work of the government
and Central Bank "unsatisfactory," ITAR-TASS reported. But
committee chairman Aleksandr Zhukov warned against any
effort to reshuffle the government during the crisis.
(Central Bank chief Dubinin said he is prepared to resign if
necessary.) Meanwhile, Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev urged
both houses of the parliament to develop "an emergency anti-
crisis program," ITAR-TASS reported. "The government should
stop talking about proposing a stabilization program. So far
there has been nothing to stabilize," Seleznev said. PG

CHERNOMYRDIN CALLS FOR MASSIVE INCOME TAX CUT. Viktor
Chernomyrdin, the former prime minister and current leader
of Our Home is Russia, told Interfax on 19 August that the
government should cut income taxes by 50 percent to boost
private spending and production. The same day, he discussed
the crisis with Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed and
Duma chairman Seleznev PG

NOVGOROD GOVERNOR CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY. Arguing
that Russia faces "a crisis of power but not a financial
crisis," Novgorod governor Mikhail Prusak suggested that
Yeltsin should convene a Constitutional Assembly in order to
write a new constitution. The basic law adopted in December
1993 was a transitional document, and the country must
replace it, he said. In other remarks, Prusak suggested that
for Russia, "the most dreadful thing is a vacuum of power."
PG

GORBACHEV DENOUNCES YELTSIN. Former Soviet leader Mikhail
Gorbachev told Reuters on 19 August that Yeltsin would
perform "his last good deed for his people" if he called
early elections. But he suggested that Yeltsin is unlikely
to do that because "I don't think he realizes what the
situation is." Gorbachev said he is especially worried about
the social and political impact of price increases certain
to be triggered by the devaluation of the ruble. In a
related development, Gorbachev told Interfax that he has
turned down an invitation to meet with the Duma's
Impeachment Commission personally because some of its
members were supporters of the Emergency Committee that
launched the August 1991 coup against him. PG

COUP ANNIVERSARY PASSES ALMOST UNNOTICED. Approximately 50
people gathered near the Russian White House on 19 August to
commemorate the seventh anniversary of the1991 coup and
Russian resistance to it, AP reported. The demonstrators,
who carried Russian flags and portraits of Yeltsin, were
heckled by communists and coal miners protesting the Yeltsin
regime for failing to pay workers on time. Neither Russian
President Yeltsin nor former Soviet President Gorbachev made
any public statements about the 1991 events. PG

FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS U.S. SEX SCANDAL WON'T AFFECT SUMMIT.
Unidentified sources at the Russian Foreign Ministry told
Interfax on 19 August that the sex scandal "surrounding U.S.
President Bill Clinton" will have no impact on the timing or
content of the Russian-U.S. summit in early September. The
Foreign Ministry refused to comment on Clinton's testimony
or his appearance on U.S. television. But one source at the
ministry commented that "the world is changing and so are
moral standards. What was believed to be male valor in the
1960s and was not publicly discussed is not quite acceptable
for the present generation of Americans." PG

CORRECTION: As of late August 1997, Yakov Urinson held the
post of Deputy Premier and Economics Minister, not Finance
Minister, as incorrectly reported in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 19
August.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIA, TAJIKISTAN RELEASE STATEMENT ON AFGHANISTAN.
Following talks between officials of the Tajik government
and a Russian military-political delegation in Dushanbe, a
joint statement on the situation in Afghanistan has been
released, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August. That statement
calls for the "close interaction" of CIS countries that are
signatories to the collective security treaty in protecting
the southern borders of the CIS, notably the Tajik-Afghan
border. The statement also emphasizes that Russia and
Tajikistan are "deeply worried by the escalation in
bloodshed in Afghanistan and by the fact that fighting is
taking place in immediate proximity to the Tajik-Afghan
border." That fighting "poses a real direct threat to the
southern borders of the CIS," according to the statement.
The signatories also call on the UN to convene an
international conference on Afghanistan attended by
representatives of all the states bordering Afghanistan,
Russia, and the U.S. BP

UN CALLS FOR RESULTS IN TAJIK MURDER INVESTIGATION. The UN
Security Council on 19 August called on Tajikistan to
complete its investigation into the murders of four UN
employees in late July and to bring the guilty parties to
justice, Reuters reported. The four UN employees were killed
in central Tajikistan. Tajik authorities said recently they
know who and where the killers are (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
13 August 1998). The perpetrators are in an area controlled
by the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), which has been
cooperating in the investigation. Despite UTO promises to
extradite them to Dushanbe, the killers appear neither to
have been detained or transferred to Dushanbe. BP

THREE ARRESTED IN TAJIKISTAN FOR DISTRIBUTING TALIBAN
PROPAGANDA. Tajik law enforcement officials on 19 August
took three foreigners into custody on charges of
distributing "extremist" literature at mosques in
Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported. The three were apprehended
in a Dushanbe mosque and were reported to be in possession
of "numerous" pieces of literature based on ideas espoused
by Afghanistan's Taliban movement. The three had Pakistani
passports. BP

OUSTED AFGHAN PRESIDENT IN TAJIKISTAN. Russian Public
Television, citing the RIA-Novosti news agency, reported on
19 August that ousted Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani
and Prime Minister Ahmad Shah Ahmadzay, have left northern
Afghanistan and are now in Tajikistan. BP

CONVICTED IRANIANS EXTRADITED FROM TURKMENISTAN. Thirty-
eight Iranians convicted by Turkmen courts mainly on charges
of drug-smuggling have been sent back to Iran, Interfax
reported on 19 August. Some of the convicted had been
sentenced to death. Most of those convicted were women. The
extradition agreement was reached during Turkmen President
Saparmurat Niyazov's visit to Iran in July. BP

TENGE FALLS BUT KAZAKHSTAN NOT WORRIED. Kazakhstan's
national currency has fallen by from 77 to 79 to $1 since 18
August, but officials in the country say they are not
concerned. The following day, the National Bank released a
statement that there "was no real threat of a sharp
devaluation of the tenge," Interfax reported. The statement
noted that "Kazakhstan spends roughly 9 percent of its
budget to service internal and external debts," unlike
Russia and Ukraine, where "the figure reaches 35 percent."
The statement also pointed out that "the currency and
financial systems of Russia and Kazakhstan were divided long
ago" and that the Russian ruble now accounts for "no more
than 7 percent of trade settlements" in Kazakhstan. BP

U.S., OSCE CONCERNED ABOUT AZERBAIJANI DEVELOPMENTS. The
U.S. State Department issued a statement on 18 August
registering concern at the detention or arrest of a number
of people who intended to participate in the 15 August
opposition-sponsored demonstration in Baku, Turan reported.
It noted that the right of peaceful assembly and
demonstration is an accepted international principle. The
statement also registered "disappointment" at the failure of
the Azerbaijani authorities and opposition to reach
agreement on the composition of the Central Electoral
Commission, stressing the responsibility of the Azerbaijani
government to ensure that the 11 October presidential
elections are free and fair. Turan also quoted an
unidentified official of the OSCE's Office of Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights as saying that organization is
"deeply concerned" at the Azerbaijani authorities' reaction
to the 15 August demonstration. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN TBILISI. Vartan Oskanian and
his Georgian counterpart, Irakli Menagharishvili, signed a
further partnership and cooperation agreement in Tbilisi on
19 August, Caucasus Press reported. The agreement mentioned
cooperation within the Black Sea Economic Cooperation
Organization and within the TRACECA and INOGATE projects.
Oskanian characterized Georgia as Armenia's "strategic
partner" and noted Georgia's role in mediating improved
relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Asked to comment
on the 13 August standoff between ethnic Armenians and
Georgian troops in Akhalkalaki (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17
August 1998), Oskanian said the creation of an autonomous
region in southern Georgia is a domestic political issue in
which Armenia will not interfere. Oskanian also met with
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who characterized
bilateral relations as exemplary but called for the
harmonization of the two countries' tax and customs
policies. Shevardnadze extended an official invitation to
Armenian President Robert Kocharian to visit Tbilisi. LF

KIRIENKO MEETS WITH GEORGIAN MINISTER OF STATE. Meeting in
Moscow on 19 August, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko
and Vazha Lortkipanidze discussed TRACECA and other
Caucasian projects and the possibility of Russian
participation in those projects, according to Caucasus
Press. Lortkipanidze also briefed his Russian counterpart on
the Abkhaz situation, blaming the expulsion of the ethnic
Georgian population of Gali in May on the failure of the
Russian peacekeeping force to intervene. Kirienko affirmed
his support for Georgia's territorial integrity and
condemned as unjustifiable attempts to prevent the
repatriation of the Georgian fugitives. LF

PRIMAKOV MEETS WITH ABKHAZ PRESIDENT. Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who is currently vacationing in
Sochi, met with Vladislav Ardzinba on 18 August to discuss
the situation in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion and the
prospects for a meeting between Ardzinba and Georgian
President Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported. Ardzinba
affirmed that he sets no preconditions for such a meeting,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 August. Russian First
Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov last week urged the
two leaders to meet in order to expedite the signing of
agreements on strengthening the present cease-fire accord
and the return to Gali of ethnic Georgian displaced persons
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 1998). LF

ABKHAZ, GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS RECONSTRUCTION. Abkhaz
Prime Minister Sergei Bagapsh visited Gali Raion on 19
August where he discussed with local officials funding for
the district and repairs to strategic highways, Caucasus
Press reported. How the Russian financial crisis will impact
on such plans is unclear: Georgian presidential economic
adviser Temur Basilia told journalists in Tbilisi on 19
August that most of Georgia is unlikely to be affected,
except for Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Akhalkalaki, where
the Russian ruble, not the Georgian lari, is used. Meanwhile
the Abkhaz government in exile in Tbilisi is considering a
draft program of urgent measures to improve the situation in
Abkhazia's predominantly Svan-populated Kodori gorge, which
is the only district of Abkhazia controlled by Georgia. LF

END NOTE

THIRTY YEARS LATER, CZECHS STILL DEBATE LEGACY OF 1968

by Jeremy Bransten

	It has been 30 years since Soviet troops rolled down
Wenceslas Square and the Prague Spring was crushed under the
metallic tread of tanks on cobblestones.
	But this year, there will be no big anniversaries, no
national outpouring of emotion such as in February, when the
hockey team won the gold medal at Nagano and half of Prague
spilled out onto the streets.
	A decade ago, with public opinion muzzled, and Soviet
troops still occupying Czechoslovakia, the 20th anniversary
of the 1968 invasion had deep resonance. But today, even the
1989 Velvet Revolution seems an increasingly distant memory.
And those who remember are asking: Does the Prague Spring
have any meaning for Czechs today, 30 years after its
premature death?
	Political scientist Bohumil Pecinka doesn't think so.
He says that most people prefer to look to the period before
the Communist takeover in 1948, rather than to the 1968
interlude. "After 1989, and the Velvet Revolution," he says,
"there wasn't a return to 1968, but a return to 1948, or
more accurately, to before 1948, when democracy was
destroyed in our country. And the majority of people now
look at 1968 as an attempt by the Communist elite to
humanize the then Communist regime--not to change it."
	Yet 1968 was much more than that. Although it was
originally devised as a modest reform program within the
Czechoslovak Communist Party, the Prague Spring quickly
mushroomed into a grassroots movement.
	And when it was crushed, for a brief few day
newspapers splashed photos across their front pages of a
sad, defiant people meeting tanks with clenched fists.
Prague became synonymous with the dashed hopes of a
generation. But the world's attention soon shifted, until
another revolution came, whose velvet embrace swept those
humiliating memories away.
	The cobblestones are the same, but these days,
wandering down Wenceslas Square, where the American Express
and McDonald's outlets disgorge flocks of admiring
backpackers, it's hard to conjure up the tanks, or the heady
atmosphere of 1968. The only Russians you'll see today are
nouveau rich "biznemeni" who cruise by in their BMWs.
	A small wooden cross and a plaque dedicated "in memory
of the victims of Communism" mark the spot where in 1969,
Jan Palach, a 20-year-old student, immolated himself to
protest the Soviet invasion. Tourists take photos, and move
on to the T-shirt stands.
	Remembering hurts in this country, says Pecinka. "The
Communist system was so well perfected that anyone who
wanted to live here and not just exist had to somehow
conform...to make lots of small compromises. And people
don't want to recall that," he explains.
	Ludvik Vaculik, a leading Czech writer, is one local
who didn't compromise and who likes to remember. Vaculik
published the "2,000 Words" declaration in the summer of
1968. The manifesto called for true democratic change in
Czechoslovakia, from the ground up, directly challenging the
regime's role in leading reform. Moscow branded the document
counter-revolutionary and used its publication, in part, to
justify the invasion.
	Vaculik says the Prague Spring still has great
significance, but many people prefer to ignore it. "The
legacy of 1968 is that people, at that time, stepped away
from their personal interests and careers and understood
that there was a common task. It was an ability to rise
above things and act as a human whole--and this, with our
new freedom, is now being whittled away."
	Vaculik notes that the lessons of the Prague Spring
are more appreciated in the West than in the East, and he
adds that without wanting to, Czechoslovakia became the
sacrificial lamb that helped dispel any myths about Eastern
European Communism.
	"This whole process and all of 1968 had greater
significance for Europe than for us. The leftist
intelligentsia in Europe learned what the USSR was all
about--what kind of power it was--and that socialism in the
Soviet mold was unreformable.
	Although he spent the next 20 years shuttling from one
interrogation cell to another, for Vaculik the Prague Spring
was worth the personal cost." It really can't be measured by
the standard of was it worth it or not," he says. "No,
that's not important. It was necessary. Some people stood
the test, and some simply did not."
	Historian Pavel Zacek explains the Sisyphean struggle
he faces. Zacek, a one-time student activist, is now deputy
director of the Office for the Documentation and
Investigation of Communist Crimes. The office is a part of
the Interior Ministry. Its task is to investigate the
activities of the former State Security apparatus and
compile evidence against individuals who committed specific
crimes on behalf of repressive institutions.
	On paper, the office enjoys broad powers - more power
in fact, than any other such body in Eastern Europe. Its
staff-members, as Interior Ministry employees, have broad
access to classified files and have prepared indictments
against scores of individuals, including some of the main
actors in the post-1968 "normalization" period. But the
indictments must then proceed to the courts, where they are
often thrown out.
	But Zacek says he is not after punishment. He just
wants Czech society to honestly assess its past so that it
can move on to a secure democratic future.
	"We have to bear in mind that some of these
perpetrators are 70- to 80-year-old pensioners. The point is
not to lock them up, but to decide that what they did was a
crime and for society to acknowledge that among it are
criminals. Without this assignation of blame, society cannot
come to terms with its past, accept a democratic order, and
move forward."

The author is an RFE/RL editor based in Prague.

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