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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 191, Part I, 2 October 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 191, Part I, 2 October 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

* PRIMAKOV SEEKS DISTANCE FROM DRAFT PLAN

* CHECHEN PRESIDENT DISMISSES ENTIRE CABINET

* NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN YEREVAN
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RUSSIA

PRIMAKOV SEEKS DISTANCE FROM DRAFT PLAN... The release of
details of First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov's
draft economic program triggered a flurry of clarifications
and denials by Russian government officials. Russian Prime
Minister Yevgenii Primakov stressed that no single program as
yet exists, adding that six are currently under discussion.
He explained that now "we are talking about a system of
measures that will establish the starting principles for the
government's future economic program." One of the most
controversial elements of Maslyukov's plan proved to be the
proposed ban on the buying and selling of hard currency by
individuals. However, Primakov said talk of monopolizing the
influx of foreign currency into Russia is "sheer nonsense."
The Central Bank's press office, according to "Moskovskii
komsomolets" on 2 October, also dismissed the idea of banning
the dollar as "nonsense." On the other hand, Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov seemed to embrace the idea, telling
Interfax that "not a single country in the world permits the
simultaneous circulation of two currencies." JAC

...WHILE ZADORNOV MOUNTS BATTLE. "Kommersant-Daily" on 2
October reported that Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov
strenuously objected to the program during a presidium
meeting the previous day. Without mentioning how it obtained
such a detailed account of the proceedings, the newspaper
said that Zadornov critiqued the program paragraph by
paragraph. "Moscow Times" quoted Western economists who said
that parts of the plan if implemented might not be
disastrous. It quoted economist Ralph Sueppel of JP Morgan
saying, "These measures do everything possible to push up
hard currency reserves, which is what the government needs to
do to avoid complete default. The danger may come if in a few
months the situation stabilizes and everyone thinks these
measures are good. There is nothing in the plan saying that
they are temporary." JAC

MORE DETAILS OF DRAFT PROGRAM EMERGE. Maslyukov's proposed
program would severely diminish the power of the Central Bank
by transferring some of its powers to a committee for
coordinating monetary and credit policies of state financial
bodies. According to Interfax on 1 October, the committee
would be made up of representatives from the Central Bank,
Federal Securities Commission, Sberbank, Vnesheconombank, and
the Ministries of Finance and Economy. The plan would also
slash the number of commercial banks in the country by
raising the minimum capital requirement to 20 million ECU
($17 million). Under the program, only a few entities would
be allowed to conduct transactions with hard currency.
Exporters would have to go through a laborious process of
obtaining and presenting letters of credit--not dissimilar to
the system that existed in the Soviet economy. Both importers
and exporters of raw materials would have to qualify under a
government tender simply to do business. JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT DISMISSES ENTIRE CABINET. Aslan Maskhadov,
who assumed the functions of prime minister in July following
the resignation of acting Premier Shamil Basaev (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 9 July 1998), dismissed the entire cabinet on 1
October, together with the heads of all republican agencies
and organizations. He also abolished the posts of first
deputy prime minister but introduced eight deputy prime
ministerial posts. Three of those deputy premiers will have
responsibility for the Ministries of Economics, Oil, and
Construction, all of which Maskhadov severely criticized,
according to Interfax. Maskhadov said the old cabinet will
continue in office until he reveals the composition of its
successor, adding that 15-20 percent of ministers will retain
their posts. LF

RUSSIAN-IRANIAN TALKS. Russian Deputy Foreign Ministry
Georgii Mamedov met in Moscow on 1 October with Iranian
Ambassador Mehdi Safari to discuss international and regional
cooperation and nuclear non-proliferation, Russian agencies
reported. The previous day, the Duma faction of Vladimir
Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Duma faction
had called on the Duma to adopt a statement calling increased
cooperation with Iran, Interfax reported. Zhirinovsky was a
member of the Duma delegation that, headed by speaker
Gennadii Seleznev, visited Tehran in late September. During
that visit, Zhirinovsky held private meetings with the
Iranian security minister and other senior officials. Also on
1 October, Caucasus Press reported that a senior Iranian
naval commander had told Iranian media that Iran intends to
increase its military presence in the Caspian. LF

PRESIDIUM LINEUP FINALIZED. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" published a
full list of the members of the presidium of the Russian
government on 2 October. Included are the prime minister, the
two first deputy prime ministers, and the ministers for
interior, defense, foreign affairs, economy, finance, and
state property. Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak,
Gennadii Kulik, and Valentina Matvienko are also members.
Eight governors have been tapped to participate. These are
leaders of inter-regional associations, such as Nikolai
Merkushin (Greater Volga), Eduard Rossel (Urals), Viktor
Ishaev (Far East and Trans-Baikal), Vladimir Chub (North
Caucasus), Vladimir Yakovlev (Northwest), Viktor Kress
(Siberian Accord), Anatolii Lisitsin (Central Russia), and
Yegor Stroev (Black Earth). JAC

MORE FALLOUT FROM ROSSEL MEETING. The White House press
service quickly disputed Sverdlovsk governor Rossel's claim
on 1 October that President Boris Yeltsin had agreed to his
suggestion that the dollar be banned and a ruble backed by
government reserves of precious metals be introduced.
Nonetheless, the report continues to garner attention. On 2
October, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" wrote that the White House
denials are not convincing, in part because "three days
before devaluation Boris Yeltsin stated that there will be no
devaluation." Another reason for skepticism, according to the
newspaper, is that the government's draft economic program
calls for the restricting of the free circulation of the
dollar. "Kommersant-Daily," on the other hand, argued that
Rossel's idea was unlikely to win support in part because it
would require that the ruble printing presses be locked away
in order to be successful. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives
financial support from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group,
while sources for funding of "Kommersant-Daily" are unknown.
JAC

RUSSIA CONTINUES VERBAL PRESSURE ON IMF. Prime Minister
Primakov appeared to suggest that the IMF would have to take
the blame for any actions his government might take if the
next $4.3 billion tranche from the IMF is not forthcoming.
Without the IMF's help, he said, the government "would have
to take unpopular measures." In an interview with "Vremya
MN," Mikhail Kasyanov, deputy minister of finance, said that
Russia has "no grounds at all to raise the question [of the
next tranche]." He added that "the government is only
starting to consider its program. By 12 October, the date of
the IMF delegation's arrival in Moscow, we will have to
complete the document to submit to them." IMF Managing
Director Michel Camdessus told reporters that "what is needed
is a government with a clear strategy for going ahead and we
don't see it yet." JAC

U.S. OFFERS ASYLUM TO KALMYKS. The U.S. has granted refugee
status to seven "victims of political repression" from the
Republic of Kalmykia, the "Moscow Times" reported on 2
October. Three adults were either friends or associates of
Larisa Yudina, the editor of "Sovietskaya Kalmykia," an
opposition newspaper, who was killed in what widely believed
to be retaliation for her investigations into corruption in
the republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June and 26 August
1998). Because of their association with Yudina, they had
received death threats, while one was beaten and another
confined to a psychiatric hospital. They fled with their
children to Moscow, where they were denied the status of
"forced migrants" by both the Federal Migration Service and
the Moscow migration service. JAC

ARMY WAGES IN THE PIPELINE. After a small delay, the Russian
Defense Ministry reported that it has finally received two-
months worth of soldiers' back wages. According to the
Ministry's press spokesman, the troops themselves will
receive the money in "a matter of one or two days."
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" concluded on 1 October that despite the
slowness with which both military and civilian personnel have
been paid, only "the Russian army's worker and employees"
will participate in the general strike on 7 October.
"Officers will not be able to have their say because career
servicemen are not allowed to take part in political
actions," the newspaper added. JAC

LUZHKOV TO START NEW CENTER-LEFT PARTY. Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov told reporters on 1 October that Russia is ready for
a center-left democratic party. At the same time, Luzhkov
denied claims made by former Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin that he has formed an election alliance with the
Communists. He added that his approach to "major political
and economic questions was similar to that of the Communist
Party." In particular, he explained that private property
that doesn't work should be nationalized and if state
property is ineffectively managed then it should be
privatized. "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Luzhkov
supported the election to the Duma of former Federal Frontier
Service head Andrei Nikolaev, and in return for the favor,
Nikolaev created the Union of People's Power and Labor, which
has formed key alliances with other movements. Last week
Nikolaev signed an agreement of cooperation with Zyuganov
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1998). JAC

DUMA FORCED TO ECONOMIZE? Reuters on 2 October reported that
State Duma members abandoned their plan to sue Finance
Minister Zadornov after he reassured them money owed them
would be forthcoming. According to Interfax on 1 October, the
Finance Ministry owes 203.4 million rubles ($12 million) to
the Duma, while the Duma itself has unpaid bills totaling 149
million rubles. The Moskva Hotel, where many deputies live
during parliamentary sessions, has threatened to evict the
legislators for their growing tab. The Duma's heating system
has reportedly been cut off, while deputies have been denied
transport and printing services. Duma head of staff Nikolai
Troshkin told reporters that the Duma does not have a single
sheet of paper and cannot duplicate deputies statements any
more. JAC


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN YEREVAN. Javier Solana arrived in
Yerevan from Baku on 1 October on the last leg of a
Transcaucasian tour that he said is aimed at deepening the
Alliance's "good relations" with the three countries of the
region, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Following talks
with Prime Minister Armen Darpinian on regional initiatives,
Solana said there is "space for further cooperation" between
NATO and Armenia, which Darpinian said has a "very serious
future." Solana said he does not consider Armenia's close
military cooperation with Russia an obstacle to relations
with NATO. General Mikael Harutyunian, Armenian army chief of
staff, said that his talks with Solana will focus on
Armenia's involvement in the Partnership for Peace program
and on future cooperation, including training of officers and
joint military exercises. A senior Armenian Foreign Ministry
official told RFE/RL on 30 September that Yerevan will not
seek NATO membership in the foreseeable future. LF

ARMENIA, GEORGIA AT ODDS OVER GAS TRANSIT. Georgia has
rejected an Armenian demand for compensation for the cost of
building a gas pipeline from Russia via Georgia to Armenia
during the early 1990s, Caucasus Press reported on 1 October.
David Eliashvili, head of the Georgian company Transgazprom,
termed the Armenian claims groundless, pointing out that
Yerevan is in arrears in paying transit fees. In December
1997, Armenia and Russia created a joint venture to manage
supplies of Russian natural gas to Armenia. Under a
subsequent agreement signed in July 1998, that joint venture
assumed ownership of Armenia's natural gas infrastructure. LF

RUSSIAN PRESS BLAMES U.S. BODY FOR AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION
TACTICS. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 September lays the blame
for the ongoing confrontation between the Azerbaijani
opposition and authorities over the upcoming presidential
poll on the National Democratic Institute. The daily claims
that the institute openly backs the opposition, which
embarked on "mass acts directed against the president" only
in August after the NDI proposed postponing the presidential
poll until a later date. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is
financed by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, termed the
NDI's activities a violation of all the laws of international
ethics and interference in the internal affairs of a foreign
state. It suggested that the U.S. wants the poll to be flawed
by procedural violations on the assumption that a compromised
and weak Aliev would be more susceptible to U.S. pressure. LF

GEORGIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS IN JEOPARDY? As of 1 October, the
Georgian Finance Ministry had transferred to the Central
Electoral Commission only 100,000 lari ($74,000) of the
estimated 1.53 million lari needed to finance the 15 November
municipal elections, Caucasus Press reported. The ministry's
budget has been sequestered, and the Central Bank has failed
to transfer funds to the ministry because of its debts to the
state. Also on 1 October, Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze
and Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili assured the
Georgian parliament that they will take all necessary
measures to prevent any interference by the "power" bodies in
the voting. LF

GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS TO HOLD CONGRESS IN ADJARIA.
Parliamentary deputy Boris Kakubava has reached agreement
with Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze on
convening a congress of Georgian displaced persons who fled
Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war in Batumi, Caucasus Press
reported. Representatives of the displaced persons were
prevented from holding that congress in Tbilisi in late
September as originally planned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24
and 28 September 1998). LF

TWO AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS BEATEN. Two sisters on the staff
of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Esmira and Ilhama
Namiqqizi, were attacked and beaten at a Baku metro station
on the evening of 30 September, ANS-press reported on 2
October. Rauf Arifoglu, editor of "Yeni Musavat," told
journalists that the newspaper had received "numerous"
threatening telephone calls in recent weeks. On 29 September,
Esmira Namiqqizi had published an article criticizing several
officers of the Interior Ministry's Anti-Gangster and Anti-
Terrorism Department. LF

TAJIKISTAN DENIES AIDING ANTI-TALIBAN OPPOSITION.
Presidential press spokesman Zafar Saidov has denied
allegations by an Afghan Taliban leader that Tajikistan
provided an airbus to transport Iranian- and Russian-supplied
arms to anti-Taliban rebels on Afghan territory, Reuters
reported on 2 October. In a radio broadcast the previous day,
a Taliban leader had claimed that a pilot who recently
defected to the Taliban forces said he had flown a planeload
of ammunition from southern Tajikistan to Bagram, north of
Kabul, for delivery to opposition commander Ahmed Shah
Massoud. LF

TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION ISSUE ULTIMATUM TO WARLORDS. In
a joint statement released on 1 October, Tajik President
Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said
Abdullo Nuri issued an ultimatum to rebel field commanders to
surrender their arms within one week, Reuters and Interfax
reported. According to the ultimatum, any maverick groups
that fail to comply will be forcibly neutralized. The
document is directed primarily against the military
formations commanded by Said Mukhtor Yurov and Rafshan
Gafurov, which operate east of Dushanbe. Also on 1 October,
ITAR-TASS reported that the contact group of ambassadors of
states that are guarantors of the 1997 General Peace
Agreement have issued a statement welcoming the agreement
reached between the Tajik leadership and opposition on the
resumption of cooperation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29
September 1998). LF

TURKMENISTAN, UKRAINE FAIL TO SETTLE GAS DEBTS. Talks between
President Saparmurat Niyazov and Ukrainian Deputy Prime
Minister Anatoliy Holubchenko in Ashgabat have failed to
yield an agreement on how Kyiv should pay its estimated $704
million debt for Turkmen gas supplied in 1996-1997, Interfax
reported on 1 October. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had
proposed that Kyiv would supply commodities to cover part of
that debt. Nor was agreement reached on several proposed
bilateral construction projects, including a bridge across
the Amu-Darya River in eastern Turkmenistan and the
reconstruction of compressor stations. LF

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