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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 193, Part I, 6 October 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 193, Part I, 6 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

* YELTSIN CONTACTS WORLD LEADERS OVER KOSOVA

* GOVERNMENT PROMISES PEACEFUL 7 OCTOBER PROTEST

* KAZAKH DEPUTIES WANT EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

End Note: THE LATVIAN CHALLENGE
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN CONTACTS WORLD LEADERS OVER KOSOVA... Russian
President Boris Yeltsin completed a round of telephone calls
to world leaders on 5 October, trying to reinforce Russia's
diplomatic position in the Balkans and forestall NATO air
strikes. He contacted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic,
German Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder, U.S. President
Bill Clinton, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Yeltsin
stressed the importance of Belgrade's decision to invite an
OSCE delegation to Kosova. Ekho Moskvy on 5 October quoted a
Yugoslav embassy official in Moscow as saying Russian
citizens from all over Russia are volunteering to help Serbia
fight NATO. On 4 October, Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and
All Russia, who met with the archbishop of Tirana in Moscow
the same day, strongly rejected NATO bombing plans, saying
that "any military interference in the region may have
irreversible consequences. JAC

...AS LEBED, DUMA CONDEMN NATO. Krasnoyarsk Governor
Aleksandr Lebed and State Duma leaders have characterized
possible NATO strikes in Yugoslavia as irresponsibly
aggressive and incendiary. On 6 October, Lebed warned that
the U.S. would get its "own Chechnya" if NATO launched an air
strike against Yugoslavia. According to Interfax on 5
October, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that
NATO's readiness to launch air strikes demonstrates more a
"relapse of trigger-happiness" than a "recurrence of cold-war
thinking." Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich of
Our Home is Russia accused NATO officials of wanting to test
their weaponry in Yugoslavia, saying that the "military
industrial complex of NATO member nations "is the worst
horror in the world" because the mounting tension around
Kosova was engineered in its interests. Yabloko's Vladimir
Lukin, chairman of the Duma's Committee for International
Affairs, declared that "Russia will resolutely resist NATO's
plans to strike Serbia." JAC

GOVERNMENT PROMISES PEACEFUL 7 OCTOBER PROTEST... As the
national day of protest nears, the Russian government says it
is prepared for all eventualities. Interior Minister Sergei
Stepashin said that he will not allow the nation's railways
and highways to be blocked and will respond "with the
necessary measures" should attempts be made to destabilize
the country, according to "Rossiyskaya gazeta" on 6 October.
NTV reported on 4 October that 11,000 policemen and 4,000
interior troops will ensure order on Moscow streets. Interfax
reported the next day that Justice Minister Pavel
Krasheninnikov plans to meet with leaders of prominent
political organization on 5 and 6 October to confer with them
about their plans. According to the Independent Union of Post
Office Employees, the work of post offices and telegraph and
telephone services will not be affected. Duma Chairman
Gennadii Seleznev reported that the Duma will convene as
usual on 7 October. JAC

...AS ARMY EXPERIENCES JITTERS? "Segodnya" reported on 3
October that not only interior troops but Defense Ministry
units, such as the Kantemirov and Taman divisions, have been
ordered to be in a state of readiness. However, the newspaper
added that Russian servicemen are not enthusiastic about the
prospect of "street fighting." The previous day, "Segodnya"
speculated that rumors circulating about the possible
replacement of Defense Minister Igor Sergeev suggested that
the presidential administration wants an "experienced warrior
in the defense minister's seat at such a critical time"--one
who, according to the newspaper, would be willing to shed
blood, such as General Anatolii Kvashnin, who is chief of the
General Staff and fought in Chechnya. "Segodnya" is owned by
Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group. JAC

SOME REGIONS POISED FOR UNREST. "Moskovskii komsomolets"
reported on 6 October that local Communist Party
organizations--contrary to the express wishes of their
national leadership--plan to incite violence on 7 October.
The newspaper reported that local Communists in Kursk are
already angry that Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi has not allowed
them to celebrate "red holidays" such as 7 November, while
their counterparts in Rostov believe that the head of the
regional administration, Viktor Chub, was illegally elected.
According to "EWI's Russian Regional Report," some 5,000
employees of Atommash in Rostov unanimously decided that they
will demonstrate on the plant's main square. It also reported
that the Russian Communist Workers Party, which operates
independently of the more mainstream Communist Party, plans
to stage pickets near the entrances of several Perm
enterprises. JAC

FSB STRESSES REGIONAL CONTROL. President Yeltsin reorganized
the structure of the Federal Security Service (FSB) on 6
October, according to Interfax. The new structure will now
consist of a chairman, Vladimir Putin, two first deputies,
six deputies who will head departments and two additional
deputies who will oversee the Moscow and St. Petersburg
divisions. The post of state secretary of the service has
been eliminated, and a 17-member board composed of Putin, his
deputies, and several top officers will be established. Putin
said that the reorganization significantly enhances the
status of the security chiefs of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Nikolai Patrushev, who Yeltsin dismissed from the post of
deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration,
will become deputy chairman and head of the department for
economic security. JAC

ECONOMIC DECISION-MAKING SHIFTING? After Prime Minister
Yevgenii Primakov's effort to distance himself from the
economic program of First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii
Maslyukov, Maslyukov is himself trying to disassociate
himself from the economic plan that "Kommersant-Daily" and
other newspapers attributed to him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2
October 1998). Maslyukov told NTV on 5 October that "only an
idiot would suggest" banning the dollar and that the
government is not going to nationalize commercial banks.
"Moskovskii komsomolets" suggested on 6 October that
Maslyukov's public failure has caused the center of where
"economic decisions are made" to shift from the White House
to the Central Bank. Meanwhile, tax collections dropped 18
percent in September from the previous month's level. New
Federal Tax Service chief Georgii Boos pledged that in
October, his service would bring tax collections up to at
least the August level. JAC

PRIMAKOV WOOS MAYORS. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 3
October that mayors of Russian cities were delighted with
their audience with Prime Minster Primakov on 2 October at
which he publicly instructed the Finance Ministry to
"optimize the tax base for all three levels of power." The
newspaper quoted Krasnodar Mayor Valerii Samoylenko as saying
"the prime minister realizes that we are the foundation of
the state and the population is behind us." It concluded that
by promising the mayors the independence of their local
budgets, Primakov is giving them "a real chance to become a
major political force ahead of parliamentary and presidential
elections." JAC

OIL, GAS LOBBY AGAINST HIGHER TAXES. In an attempt to
compensate for their reduced influence under the new Primakov
government, Russian oil barons publicized their effort to
fight off higher taxes. According to ITAR-TASS on 5 October,
the leaders of 13 major Russian oil companies appealed to the
government not to increase their taxes, as Finance Minister
Mikhail Zadornov has suggested. Earlier, Yukos-Moskva head
Mikhail Khodorkovskii held his own news conference to protest
the government's economic and industrial policy, noting that
the result would be a sharp decline in oil production (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 1998). Echoing an earlier remark
by Minister of Fuel and Energy Sergei Generalov, Leonid
Fedun, LUKoil vice president, told reporters that the oil
industry needs breathing space for some four or five months
so that it can stabilize and then "pull out the rest of the
nation's industry." Meanwhile, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev has
met with First Deputy Prime Minister Maslyukov to discuss his
company's proposals for pulling the country out of its
crisis. JAC

CHECHEN OPPOSITION SEEKS TO REMOVE MASKHADOV PEACEFULLY.
Shamil Basaev, a Chechen field commander and leading
opposition figure, told an opposition meeting in Grozny on 5
October that his group will seek to remove Chechen President
Aslan Maskhadov by peaceful means, ITAR-TASS reported. "We
have been fighting enough, and our actions are aimed at
ensuring that there is no civil war in Chechnya." He said he
hopes that a special state commission will examine the
opposition's charges and then present its conclusions to the
parliament and Supreme Shariat Court. PG

RUSSIANS, CHECHENS PRESS KIDNAPPING INVESTIGATION. Russian
Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said on 5 October that his
ministry is participating in the investigation into the
kidnapping of three Englishmen and one New Zealander two days
earlier, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that such steps are
necessary to prevent what he described as "an attempt to
drive a wedge" between Moscow and Chechen President
Maskhadov. Stepashin's deputy, Vladimir Rushailo. is
scheduled to travel to Chechnya to supervise operations.
Meanwhile, the Chechen authorities have pledged to do
everything possible to save the lives of those kidnapped, the
Russian news service said. Some Chechen officials blamed the
kidnapping on foreign groups aimed at disgracing Chechnya and
destabilizing the republic. PG

MURDERED RUSSIAN OFFICIAL WASN'T RECEIVING BENEFITS. Ivan
Rybkin, the co-chairman of the Russian-Chechen negotiating
commission, told ITAR-TASS on 5 October that the Russian
Finance Ministry had stopped all fringe benefits, including
hazardous duty pay, for workers of the Russian mission in
Chechnya. In the light of the murder of one of its members
last week, Rybkin said that he could "not understand the
heartless decision of the Finance Ministry and its leader."
PG

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

KAZAKH DEPUTIES WANT EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Meeting
with President Nursultan Nazarbayev behind closed doors on 5
October, parliamentary deputies said they want additional
amendments to the country's constitution, Interfax and RFE/RL
correspondents in Astana reported. The majority of deputies
favor bringing forward the presidential elections, scheduled
for the year 2000, to next year. They also want to increase
the number of years of a president's term in office from five
to seven and strike from the constitution the provision
limiting a president to two terms in office. The deputies
warned that failure to include their proposals will make the
passage of the amendments proposed by Nazarbayev
"problematic." Some even threatened that impeachment
proceedings may be launched. BP

KAZAKH DEFENSE MINISTER IN CHINA. Mukhtar Altynbayev met with
his Chinese counterpart, Chi Haotian, on 5 October, ITAR-TASS
and China's Xinhua news agency reported. Altynbayev assured
Chi that Kazakhstan will not allow any separatist group from
China to use its territory as a base for operations aimed
against the Chinese government. Though he did not specify any
particular group, the Kazakh defense minister likely meant
the Uyghur population of western China. Uyghur separatists
were blamed for terrorist attacks in China in early 1997.
Kazakhstan, which borders the region, is home to
approximately 250,000 Uyghurs. The ministers met in the
capital of the Uyghur Autonomous Region, Urumqi. BP

UN NOT READY TO BEGIN FULL OPERATIONS IN TAJIKISTAN. UN
special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis said on 5 October that
the UN mission to Tajikistan will not resume full operations
there until the motives for the killings of four UN employees
in late July have been clarified, ITAR-TASS and Interfax
reported. Tajik authorities are detaining three people who
confessed to the killings but have not made public the
detainees' reasons for committing the crime.

DUSHANBE CALLS ON UTO TO DISBAND ARMED GROUPS. The Tajik
government has called on the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to
disband all its armed units by 25 November. Those units would
then be incorporated into the regular Tajik army, which is
one of the terms of the Tajik peace accord signed in June
1997. Presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said the
disbandment of the units would be accompanied by the
government's lifting of bans on political parties and
restrictions on mass media loyal to the UTO. BP

TURKMEN PRESIDENT DECLARES AMNESTY. Turkmen President
Saparmurat Niyazov signed an amnesty on 5 October freeing
from prison women, disabled persons, those suffering from
tuberculosis, juveniles, war veterans, and those over 6O,
Interfax reported. Prisoners convicted of murder, terrorism,
rape, or drug-related crimes are not eligible. Niyazov's
decree was timed to coincide with the 6 October anniversary
of the earthquake that struck Ashgabat 50 years ago, killing
160,000 people. Niyazov himself was left an orphan after that
earthquake. BP

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION ATTACKS GOVERNMENT ON PRIVATIZATION. At a
special session of the parliament called by 68 of its
members, opposition deputies sharply criticized the
government for its privatization program, RFE/RL's Armenian
Service reported. Deputy Vahagn Khachaturian said the
authorities have "discredited the concept of privatization"
and do "not serve to be trusted." Meanwhile, Prime Minister
Armen Darbinyan said in Washington that the government will
press ahead with its privatization program. He ruled out any
reversal of deals that have already been signed. PG

ARMENIAN PREMIER STRIKES TOUGH LINE ON KARABAKH. Prime
Minister Armen Darbinyan told a press briefing at RFE/RL's
Washington office on 5 October that Yerevan wants a
settlement of the Karabakh conflict but not on anyone else's
terms. He said that Armenia believes the people of Nagorno-
Karabakh have the right to decide their own future as an
independent state or as a part of Armenia, but he rejected
any possibility that the region could be part of Azerbaijan.
Meanwhile, the results of local elections in the disputed
enclave have been finalized, and privatization of land there
has begun in earnest, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported 5
October. PG

CANDIDATES OPPOSING ALIEV PREDICT A SECOND ROUND. Five of the
six candidates who oppose incumbent President Heidar Aliev in
the 11 October presidential race said at a press conference
on the night of 4 October they believe the election will go
into a second round because no one will gain the two-thirds
majority necessary to win outright in the first round.
National Independence Party leader Etibar Mamedov said that
he believes no candidate can win that much without fraud, and
he expressed confidence that there will be relatively little
cheating because of the strict controls that have been
established. PG

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION AGAIN CALLS FOR DELAY IN VOTE. Arguing
that the upcoming presidential poll will be "undemocratic,
unfree and unfair," the leaders of parties and political
groups not participating in the election called on 4 October
for a three-month postponement of the vote, ITAR-TASS
reported on 5 October. The call came at a conference attended
by delegates from 26 parties and 40 public groups. Several
leaders said they will stage protests if a delay in the poll
is not announced by 7 October. PG

BAKU'S ENGLISH-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER PULLS FIRST ISSUE. The
publisher of a new English-language paper in Azerbaijan
decided to pull the first issue on 5 October lest its
contents annoy the government, Reuters reports. The U.S.
publisher of the "Baku Sun," James Phillipoff, said that he
made the decision unilaterally after officials at the
Azerbaijani Communications Ministry complained about two
articles entitled "Aliev Vows to Keep Order" and "Humans
Retreat as Azerbaijan's Rat Population Flourishes." PG

SHEVARDNADZE SEES NATO HELPING GEORGIA TO JOIN EUROPE.
President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 5 October that he
believes "Georgia should use relations with NATO not only and
not so much for boosting its military potential as for
stepped-up integration with European structures," ITAR-TASS
reported. His comments follow a visit to Georgia on 29-30
September by NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. PG

END NOTE

THE LATVIAN CHALLENGE

by Paul Goble

	By reaffirming their commitment to the inclusion of
those who moved into their country while it was under Soviet
occupation, the Latvian people have presented a series of new
challenges to the Russian Federation, the West, and perhaps
especially to themselves.
	On 3 October, Latvian voters rejected by a vote of 53
percent to 45 percent a referendum that would have repealed
an act of the Latvian parliament in June eliminating a number
of restrictions on naturalization procedures for non-citizens
living in Latvia.
	Because most of those falling into this category are
ethnic Russians who moved into Latvia during Soviet
occupation, Moscow, the West, and many ethnic Russians in
Latvia itself viewed the removal of these restrictions as a
necessary step toward Latvia's establishment of a civil
society and its full integration into the international
community.
	And each of these groups took steps to press the Latvian
government and people to move in this direction. The Russian
government regularly denounced Riga for its past approach to
non-citizens, and some in Moscow have taken more direct steps
to try to force Latvia to change its direction.
	Western governments have lobbied the Latvian authorities
both directly and through the offices of the OSCE High
Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel. They
have pointed out the risks to Latvia if it failed to meet
what they called European standards in this area.
	And non-citizens in Latvia itself often protested
against what they claimed was discrimination against them,
although as many Latvians have pointed out only a very small
percentage of those eligible in the past actually sought to
become citizens of the country.
	But now that Latvians have rejected the referendum and
thus reaffirmed their commitment to the integration of the
non-citizens on their territory, this step presents some new
challenges to everyone involved.
	To the Russian government, the Latvian vote removes one
of the most neuralgic issues in the relationship between
Moscow and Riga. It undercuts the recent diplomatic and press
campaign that Russians have launched against the Latvian
authorities. And it means that Russian efforts to advance
Moscow's influence in Latvia will need to find a new
direction.
	Almost certainly, the volume of Russian attacks against
Latvia will decline at least in the short term. After all,
the Latvian voters have adopted what many in Moscow said they
wanted.
	While this may mean that Moscow will seek to raise
additional issues about the status of non-citizens in Latvia,
it could also lead Moscow to refocus its attacks on Estonia,
the other Baltic country that Russia has said is mistreating
its non-citizens.
	To the West, the Latvian vote presents an even greater
challenge. Western officials made it clear to Latvian leaders
that the West would find it difficult to support Latvia if
its voters scrapped the modifications in the citizenship
legislation.
	According to Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, these
Western representatives had indicated that their governments
would have been less willing to back Latvian membership in
key Western institutions like the EU and NATO and less
willing to defend Latvia against Russian charges of ethnic
discrimination.
	Now that the Latvian voters have done what the Western
officials said needed to be done, many in Latvia will be
looking to see whether the West will reward Riga for the step
it has taken.
	One indication that at least some in the West are
prepared to do so was an announcement by the U.S. State
Department on 5 October that Washington was releasing
$500,000 to help make the Latvian naturalization process more
accessible.
	Another was the statement by German Foreign Minister
Klaus Kinkel that the vote means that "an important barrier
has been lifted on Latvia's road to the European Union." And
yet a third was the announcement by Sweden that it will also
provide additional help to the Latvian government.
	But many Latvians are likely to be looking for even more
support from the West. Articles in the Latvian press indicate
that many in that country believe they have now met standards
on citizenship higher than those that exist in many other
European countries.
	And that represents the third and probably greatest
challenge arising from this vote--the one to the Latvian
people themselves. They now have the obligation to make this
system work, to implement in day-to-day life the provisions
of the laws they have now approved.
	That will not be easy, especially given the feelings
that this referendum both aroused and reflected. But it is
likely to be less difficult in the long term than putting
into practice something about which few are saying very much
at the moment.
	That is the acceptance of the principle that building a
civil society and returning to the West cannot be achieved by
any single action, however noble. Rather, these goals require
a process that will make demands on Latvia even as it
continues to make the kind of progress that the outcome of
this referendum reflects.

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