Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise. - Sigmund Freud
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 173 Part I, 8 September 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 173 Part I, 8 September 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

* YELTSIN CONSIDERING NEW CANDIDATE FOR PREMIER?

* BURYATIA, KALININGRAD DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY

* TRACECA CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS CONVERGE ON BAKU

END NOTE: DUMA REJECTS CHERNOMYRDIN IN SECOND VOTE
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN CONSIDERING NEW CANDIDATE FOR PREMIER? President
Boris Yeltsin on 8 September delayed announcing his
candidate for the third vote on the premiership, feeding
speculation that he will nominate a new candidate.
Observers told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov, who has repeatedly denied having
presidential ambitions, will accept the nomination to
the post of prime minister only if he obtains the
guarantee that Yeltsin will step down. The mayor's press
service denied in a statement that Luzhkov and his
supporters are trying to promote his candidacy for the
post of prime minister and at the same time stipulating
that he be allowed to keep his job as mayor. Communist
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters on 8
September that Luzhkov is one of the few candidates for
the post of prime minister who can work successfully to
overcome the economic crisis. JAC

BURYATIA, KALININGRAD DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY. Leonid
Gorbenko, governor of Kaliningrad Oblast, and Leonid
Potapov, president of Buryatia, both declared a state of
emergency on 8 September, Russian agencies reported.
Gorbenko attributed the declaration to the worsening
"socio-economic crisis" and assumed "entire
responsibility for political and economic decisions." In
Buryatia, the government has said it finds it impossible
to meet its current financial obligations. The acting
head of the presidential administration, Igor
Shabdurasulov, told reporters that the imposition of a
state of emergency in Russia's regions is the
prerogative only of the president of the federation. JAC

ROUNDTABLE YIELDS NO COMPROMISE. At a roundtable meeting
of the government and legislature on 7 September,
President Yeltsin agreed to extend new powers to the
Duma. Yeltsin also proposed giving the government of
acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin a probation
period of six to eight months, according to Interfax.
The Duma, however, remained firm in its opposition to
Chernomyrdin, voting later the same day against his
confirmation by 273 to 138 with one abstention.
According to Interfax, Chernomyrdin received 44 more
votes than during the first round of voting on his
candidacy (see also "End Note" below). JAC

GOVERNMENT LEADERS INITIAL TREATY. Yeltsin,
Chernomyrdin, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev,
and Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev initialed a
"political truce" that will remain in effect until the
end of 1999, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. Under
that accord, the president will consult with the Duma
before either appointing or dismissing a member of the
cabinet. The president will also "refrain from adopting
decisions on the removal of the government of the
Russian Federation." For its part, the Duma will refrain
from putting forward motions of no confidence in the
government and review "in the first instance" the
executive's legislative proposals to overcome the
economic crisis. Legislation amending the constitution
to redistribute power between the legislative and
executive branches will be put forward within one month
of the accord's signing. JAC

YABLOKO PROPOSES PRIMAKOV. Yabloko on 7 September
proposed acting Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov for
the position of prime minister. According to Yabloko
leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, Primakov is a "compromise"
choice who "would not have to be sacked in three
months," according to ITAR-TASS. He is also an ideal
candidate because he does not belong to a political
party, has sufficient political authority, and lacks any
desire to run for president, Yavlinksii commented.
Earlier Yabloko had proposed a "political" candidate for
the position of prime minister. According to "Die Welt"
on 4 September, Primakov believes that Russia has slid
back to where it stood under the Kerensky government in
1917, because it has lost influence in world affairs and
has allowed the Commonwealth of Independent States to
start "melting away." On 8 September, Primakov said that
he is quite satisfied with his current position. JAC

KOBZON PROPOSES GREATER BURYATIA. "Nezavisimaya Gazeta-
Regiony" reported that State Duma deputy and popular
singer Iosif Kobzon will propose legislation on the
"political rehabilitation and establishment of the
territory of the entire Buryat people." The legislation
would unite Buryatia with two autonomous national
okrugs, Ust-Ordynskii (Irkutsk Oblast) and Aginskoye
(Chita Oblast). "Nezavisimaya Gazeta-Regiony" argued
that each time the idea of a greater Buryatia
resurfaces, a concrete political event has triggered it.
This time, the newspaper suggested, it is the proposed
gas pipeline to China that would run through Buryatia.
And another looming political development is the 2002
presidential elections for the republic, in which the
incumbent, Leonid Potapov, is ineligible to run. JAC

NEW LABOR ACTIONS UNLEASHED. Workers in the nuclear
industry staged a warning strike on 7 September to
protest unpaid wages, according to ITAR-TASS. AFP
reported that around 200 representatives of nuclear
facilities from Yekaterinburg, Arzamas, and Chelyabinsk
will demonstrate outside the Ministry of Atomic Energy
in Moscow on 8 September. Meanwhile, teachers' strikes
on Makarov and Tomari on Sakhalin Island continued into
their second week, while miners' strikes in the Vorkuta
region spread to another mine. On 8 September, 36
workers in a Vladivostok heat and energy plant joined 11
colleagues who have been on a hunger strike for four
days over wage arrears dating back six months. JAC

OLD, POOR, YOUNG SUFFER FOOD SHORTAGES. Murmansk
Governor Yurii Yevdokimov on 7 September requested food
assistance from Finland, citing reduced shipments of
food to the region from central Russia. In particular,
nurseries, kindergartens, hospitals, and nursing homes
are in need of basic commodities such as meat, sugar,
salt, and cooking oil. Meanwhile, in Moscow the legal
monthly minimum wage of 83.49 rubles ($4.17) barely buys
one liter of vegetable oil, two cans of meat, and one
loaf of bread, according to Interfax. Prices for
imported foodstuffs have risen 100-500 percent at
wholesale food markets in Moscow from their pre-crisis
level, while bread and milk prices remain steady in most
retail shops. JAC

COURT ANNULS INKOMBANK TAKEOVER. A Moscow district court
on 8 September declared void an order by the Central
Bank assuming temporary administration of Inkombank, one
of Russia's five largest banks in terms of assets,
Bloomberg reported. The same day, "Izvestiya" suggested
that Central Bank chose to take over SBS-Agro and later
Inkombank because it had provided both institutions with
special credits of $100 million and wanted to make sure
that sum was spent on sorting out "interbank" payments
rather than speculating against the ruble. According to
"Trud," Vladimir Vinogradov, president of Inkombank,
agrees with the Central Bank officials that a
restructuring of the banking system is needed but that
all the population's wages and deposits should not be
concentrated under the management of Sberbank. Such a
policy is "not in the interest of the banking system of
Russia and returns it to its state that existed 10 years
ago." JAC

RENOWNED JURIST AMETISTOV DEAD. Ernest Ametistov, a
member of the Russian Constitutional Court, died of
cancer at the age of 64 on 7 September. Ametistov
advocated streamlining and liberalizing Russia's legal
system. In 1993, Ametistov participated in the
Constitutional Assembly when it drew up the Russian
Constitution. The same year, Ametistov supported
Yeltsin, when most court judges sided with the
parliament in its rebellion against the president. In an
8 August 1996 commentary published in "Izvestiya," the
judge called for the Justice Ministry to take steps
against the Communist Party, since it was not a
"civilized opposition." He also called for a cadre
policy to replace corrupt local bureaucrats and "red
directors," whom he blamed for the problem of wage
arrears. He also wanted "totalitarian symbols" from city
streets and enterprises removed. JAC

YELTSIN POSTPONES VISIT TO KAZAKHSTAN. Yeltsin has
postponed his visit to Kazakhstan scheduled for 8
September, during which he was to have met with Kazakh
President Nursultan Nazarbayev and to sign several
bilateral agreements. Yeltsin had announced earlier that
he would shorten the length of his visit, but on 7
September he telephoned with Nazarbayev to say the
political situation in Russia demanded the presence of
the Russian president in the country. Yeltsin had
canceled a scheduled visit in July, saying that Russia's
financial crisis prevented him from making the trip.
Also canceled is the meeting of the presidents from the
CIS Customs Union, who were scheduled to meet in
Kazakhstan after Yeltsin's talks with Nazarbayev.
Yeltsin now plans to visit Kazakhstan on 12-13 October.
BP

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SUPPORTS CHERNOMYRDIN... In a 7
September statement, Aslan Maskhadov expressed the hope
that the Duma would confirm Chernomyrdin as Russian
premier, Russian agencies reported. Maskhadov
characterized Chernomyrdin as "the most acceptable"
candidate for that post in light of his "rich
experience," which Maskhadov considered would help
stabilize the situation on Russia's financial markets.
In an interview with Interfax on 7 September, former
acting Chechen Prime Minister Shamil Basaev said that
the impact on Chechnya of the Russian financial crisis
is comparable to the aftermath of the 1994-1996 war. He
said that in theory, Chechnya should leave the ruble
zone, as it is inappropriate that a foreign currency
should be in circulation in a state that aspires to be
recognized as independent. He added, however, that
Chechnya would not do so in order "not to irritate
Russia." Basaev also accused Maskhadov of making
unwarranted concessions to Moscow. LF

...APOLOGIZES TO TBILISI OVER ABKHAZIA. Maskhadov has
formally apologized to the Georgia for the participation
of Chechen troops in the 1992-1993 war in Abkhazia,
Caucasus Press reported on 7 September. Maskhadov told a
Georgian delegation that was in Grozny for the 6
September celebrations marking the seventh anniversary
of Chechnya's declaration of independence that
Chechnya's support of Abkhazia was "a tragic mistake."
LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TRACECA CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS CONVERGE ON BAKU. The
presidents of Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine,
Georgia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan arrived in
Baku on 7 September to attend an EU-sponsored conference
that will discuss the creation of a road, rail, and
ferry network linking Central Asia and Europe via the
Transcaucasus. Representatives from a total of 38
countries and 16 international organizations are
attending. The Russian delegation is headed by CIS
Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii. Iran is
represented by a deputy transport minister. Earlier,
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami had said he would
attend the meeting, according to Turan. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT HOPES FOR PEACE WITH ARMENIA.
Welcoming fellow presidents at Baku airport,
Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliev said the aim of the conference
is to ensure peace, stability, and mutual understanding
between the states of the region. He stressed that
Armenia "has the right" to participate in the TRACECA
project. Aliev added that it is time for Azerbaijan and
Armenia to "move from an atmosphere of hostility to one
of mutual trust," adding that without such an
atmosphere, it will be impossible to restore peace,
according to Interfax. An Armenian delegation headed by
Prime Minister Armen Darpinian is due in Baku on 8
September, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS ARMENIAN PARTICIPATION
IN TRACECA CONFERENCE. Nine leading opposition parties--
Musavat, the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Vahdat, the
Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, the People's
Democratic Party, Akhrar, Civic Solidarity, and the
United Azerbaijan Union--issued a joint statement on 7
September condemning the invitation to Armenia to
participate in the TRACECA conference as "a betrayal of
national interests" and an insult to the feelings of
millions of people, Turan reported. The statement
described Armenia as "the main factor hindering economic
and cultural cooperation" in the Transcaucasus. And it
added that cooperation with Armenia is inadmissible
before Armenia withdraws its forces from occupied
Azerbaijani territory. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NEW CONSTITUTION NOT NECESSARY.
At a 5 September session of the presidential commission
tasked with revising the constitution, Robert Kocharian
again rejected the demand by the opposition National
Democratic Union that Armenia should have a new
constitution rather than amend the existing one,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian reasoned
that under present conditions, "it is better to have a
bad constitution" than to act too hastily to replace it.
He added that the electorate has not voted in favor of a
new constitution, since that issue did not figure either
in his election program or that of his rival in the
runoff poll. Kocharian has advocated amending the
constitution to curtail the powers of the president and
increase those of the prime minister and the parliament.
But he said he will not "impose" such amendments on the
commission "no matter how important I consider them to
be." LF

ETHNIC ARMENIAN FARMERS FACED WITH GEORGIAN BOYCOTT?
Local bakeries are refusing to buy high-quality wheat
produced in the predominantly Armenian-populated
Samtskhe-Djavakheti region of southern Georgia, even for
dumping prices, Caucasus Press reported on 4 September.
Instead, they are purchasing imported wheat. In related
news, Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze,
whose relations with the central Georgian authorities
have long been tense, has denied establishing contact
with members of the Djavakhk organization, which is
demanding autonomous status for Samtskhe-Djavakheti. LF

GEORGIAN CURRENCY REGAINS GROUND. The lari was trading
at 1.35 to the U.S. dollar on 7 September, after falling
to 1.7 in street trading the previous day, AP and
Caucasus Press reported. The official exchange rate set
by Georgia's Central Bank remained stable at 1.35 to the
U.S. dollar after the bank sold $2.9 million on the
Tbilisi inter-bank currency exchange, which is three
times the normal daily sum. Addressing the Tbilisi city
council on 7 September, Mayor Ivane Zodelava said that
"unfortunately Georgia cannot keep pace with economic
processes and is unable to make the correct economic
predictions." Zodelava instructed the heads of Tbilisi's
10 local councils to monitor local markets for the
possible influx of cheap imported goods from Russia,
which, he said, would harm local producers. LF

GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS DENY EVICTING RUSSIAN COLLEAGUES.
In a 7 September statement, the Georgian Border Guard
Service denied Russian reports that Georgian border
guards stationed at the Black Sea port of Poti had
issued an ultimatum the previous day to their Russian
counterparts to vacate their barracks immediately,
Caucasus Press reported. The statement accused the
Russian Federal Border Service of systematically
violating a Russian-Georgian agreement on the schedule
for Russian border guards in Georgia to hand over their
duties to local border officials. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO EXPEL SIX WAHHABIS. Authorities in
Kazakhstan are preparing to expel six Pakistani citizens
allegedly engaged in spreading Wahhabi propaganda,
Interfax reported on 7 September. Acting on a tip-off
that the Pakistanis would be at a conference of Muslims
in the Jambyl Region, the Kazakh National Security
Committee has detained the six. The Kazakh authorities
had attempted to expel the Pakistani citizens from the
country several months ago when their visas expired, but
the six men apparently stayed on illegally.
Investigators found Wahhabi literature and audio
cassettes reportedly with information on dealing with
"infidels" and creating an Islamic state. In late
August, Tajikistan expelled four Pakistani citizens who
according to the Tajik authorities were distributing
extremist Islamic literature in Dushanbe's mosques. BP

KAZAKH CITIZENS ARRESTED TRYING TO SELL URANIUM IN
TURKEY. Turkish police have taken eight men into custody
for attempting to sell uranium, the Anatolia news agency
reported on 7 September. The eight men--three from
Kazakhstan, one from Azerbaijan, and four from Turkey--
tried to sell 4.5 kilograms of unprocessed uranium and
six grams of plutonium to undercover Turkish police
officers for $1 million. Turkish authorities are
attempting to determine out of which country the uranium
was smuggled. According to media reports, it came from
somewhere in the CIS. BP

END NOTE

DUMA REJECTS CHERNOMYRDIN IN SECOND VOTE

by Floriana Fossato

	As the ruble continued its dramatic collapse and
panicking Russians were emptying the shelves of most
food shops and markets in the capital, the State Duma on
7 September again overwhelmingly rejected the nomination
of Prime Minister-designate Viktor Chernomyrdin. Only
138 members of the house voted in favor, while 273 voted
against and one abstained. Chernomyrdin needed 226 votes
to be approved.
	The parliament had rejected Chernomyrdin one week earlier.
President Boris Yeltsin now can either renominate him or choose
another candidate for the third vote, which must take place within
a week. Under the constitution, if the Duma rejects the
president's candidate in the third vote, the president must
dissolve the lower house and call new elections within three
months.
	Chernomyrdin, speaking on NTV the day before the vote, warned
that further delay in forming a new government would exacerbate
Russia's economic woes to such a degree that extreme nationalist
forces might try to take advantage of the turmoil and seize power.
Looking worried and confused, Chernomyrdin said that "when the
boat is sinking, it is unacceptable to see the officers busy
discussing, instead of saving the ship." And he warned that
extremists "will not spare anyone. That would be a tragedy and
catastrophe for Russia."
	Just hours before the second vote on Chernomyrdin's
candidacy, Yeltsin met with representatives of the legislative and
executive branches in a last-hour attempt to convince them of the
necessity of confirming Chernomyrdin. He warned that he was ready
to name Chernomyrdin as his candidate for the third time, should
the second vote also prove negative. Russian news agencies
reported that Yeltsin also asked the Duma and regional leaders to
give Chernomyrdin a chance to form a government now and to re-
examine the issue within six months.
	Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii and Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who usually take very different stances,
both described the negotiations as "extremely tough." Zyuganov
added that "it is a dangerous time and we should search for
acceptable solutions."
	At the roundtable meeting, a group of influential regional
governors had suggested that Yeltsin nominate Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov for prime minister. Some regional leaders, including
Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, said he could see either Luzhkov
or Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev leading Russia out of
the political and financial crisis, but not Chernomyrdin. Saratov
governor Dmitrii Ayatskov said he favored only Luzhkov.
	Communist Party leader Zyuganov said his party suggested
several candidates for the job: Stroev, Luzhkov, acting Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov, former Industry Minister Yurii
Maslyukov, former Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashenko. But it
did not propose Chernomyrdin, he stressed.
The Communists and their allies control roughly half of the votes
in the 450-strong Duma.
	 Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii also declared his
faction's continued strong opposition to Chernomyrdin. Yavlinskii
said that Russia " now needs a political prime minister, not an
economic one...in order to avoid a permanent political crisis." He
said he supported Primakov's candidacy.
	Before the vote, it was clear that Chernomyrdin had the
support only of his Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction, the ultra-
nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and some of the
Russian Regions factions. But at the very best, that support meant
some 120-130 votes in Chernomyrdin's favor.
	NDR leader Aleksandr Shokhin and LDPR leader
Vladimir Zhirinovsky said Chernomyrdin had some chance
of being approved "only in case of a secret ballot." In
a heated discussion preceding the vote, Zhirinovsky had
proposed an open ballot, but 289 deputies voted against
the proposal in a first vote and 295 confirmed the
decision in a second vote.
	The Duma's negative disposition was not mitigated by the
concessions Yeltsin had made during the roundtable discussions,
despite the fact that, as radical Communist such as Aleksei
Podberezkin told journalists, Yeltsin had agreed to expand the
Duma's powers to select the cabinet and to approve changes in the
lineup proposed by the president.
	For the past two weeks, Russia has had an interim government
and Chernomyrdin has been struggling to win confirmation, leaving
little time to devote to the economic crisis. On the day of the
second vote, the Central Bank canceled hard-currency trading
because traders wanted only to buy dollars, not to sell them.
Currency exchange booths remained open, and the ruble was quoted
at 20 to the U.S. dollar. The ruble was trading at just over six
to the dollar when the crisis erupted less than a month ago.
	The same day, the Interfax news agency reported that people
living on the current minimum monthly wage of 83 rubles can afford
to buy only 1 liter of vegetable oil, two cans of meat, and one
loaf of white bread. Since the crisis began, prices of imported
foodstuffs have increased by 100-500 percent, while prices of
Russian products have gone up by 50-100 percent.
	With the ruble continuing its free fall, Central Bank
Chairman Sergei Dubinin offered to resign, saying one of the
reasons for his decision was the Duma's delay in passing a number
of "vitally important" draft laws on banking.
Yastrzhembskii said that Yeltsin had been informed of Dubinin's
offer and had commented that "such a decision should have been
taken earlier."

The author is a Moscow-based correspondent for RFE/RL.

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