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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 200, Part I, 15 October 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 200, Part I, 15 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

* MORE BAD NEWS ON RUSSIA'S FOOD FRONT

* YELTSIN HEALTH CRISIS ABATES

* DEFEATED AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES CHALLENGE
POLL OUTCOME
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RUSSIA

MORE BAD NEWS ON RUSSIA'S FOOD FRONT. The Ministry of
Food and Agriculture is forecasting lower output of
almost all major farm commodities in 1998, Interfax
reported on 15 October. The potato crop will be almost
12 percent smaller than last year and sugar beets 13.7
percent, while milk is expected to be down 3.2 percent;
and meat and poultry sales 10.3 percent. As predicted
earlier, this year's grain harvest is slated to be one
of the worst in three decades, down 56 percent on last
year. On 14 October, an official Russian delegation
returned from a meeting at the U.S. Department of
Agriculture in Washington, D.C. without making a formal
request for food aid, Bloomberg reported. JAC

DUMA DEPUTIES TO FORM HUMAN SHIELD. An eight-member
delegation of State Duma deputies left for Yugoslavia on
14 October. Sergei Baburin of People's Power faction,
who is leading the group, told ITAR-TASS that the
legislators would act as a human shield to prevent a
NATO air strike. The military newspaper "Krasnaya
zvezda" sounded a pessimistic note about the agreement
reached between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
and U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke: the "probability that
NATO will still inflict a limited missile
strike...within the next few days or weeks remains
great." The newspaper concluded that the fears Russia
expressed during the preparation of the Russia-NATO
Founding Act are now being confirmed. "The assumption
was made even then that NATO was secretly considering
the option of unfriendly behavior toward Russia."
"Segodnya" quoted a military official and an arms
exporter on 14 October as saying arms deliveries to
Belgrade can easily be carried out even with the tight
monitoring of Serbian territory and airspace by NATO.
JAC

DUMA FAILS TO INCREASE ITS POWERS. The Duma failed to
pass five amendments to the Russian Constitution on 14
October, four of which would have increased its powers
at the expense of the executive branch. One amendment,
which failed to pass by a narrow margin, would have
introduced a permanent mechanism for the parliament to
conduct investigations of the executive branch. Two
other amendments would have given the Duma the power to
dismiss key cabinet officials and the Federation Council
more time to ratify laws passed by the Duma. The
remaining two changes would have required the president
to seek the Duma's consent both for the appointment of
certain cabinet level officials and for initiating
military action. Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev told
reporters that the Duma will establish a working group
composed of various factions to draft new versions of
the constitutional amendments. JAC

YELTSIN HEALTH CRISIS ABATES. The fevered examination of
President Boris Yeltsin's health abated on 14 October
after Yeltsin himself met with reporters and Prime
Minister Yevgenii Primakov declared Yeltsin "absolutely
fit to work." The same day, the Federation Council
rejected a resolution calling for Yeltsin's resignation
"voluntarily and immediately." On 15 October, the
Constitution Court is considering the issue of whether
Yeltsin is now serving his first or second term in
office, since Yeltsin was elected president in 1991,
when Russia was still part of the Soviet Union. The
Russian Constitution was not adopted until 1993.
According to the constitution, a president cannot serve
for more than two consecutive terms. Yeltsin has said he
does not intend to seek office for a third time. JAC

CHERNOMYRDIN FACING OUSTER... Samara Governor Konstantin
Titov told the "Frankfurter Rundshau" on 14 October that
former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin would likely
be removed from his post as chairman of the Our Home is
Russia (NDR) party at an upcoming executive council
meeting. Titov accused Chernomyrdin of betraying both
the voters of Yamal-Nenetsk, where Chernomyrdin decided
not to run for a Duma seat, and his fellow NDR members
by allowing himself to be nominated a second time for
prime minister without first seeking NDR council
permission. Titov also said Chernomyrdin betrayed the
Russian people by failing to act effectively as the
economy collapsed. Chernomyrdin told reporters on 8
October that there is no split within the NDR, nor will
there be one in the future. JAC

...WHILE LIBERAL PARTIES DEEMED 'UNPREPARED' FOR
ELECTIONS. Commenting on all "liberal, social
democratic, and centrist parties", "Izvestiya" on 10
October wrote that "reformers are not ready for upcoming
Duma elections" either "morally or organizationally."
The newspaper argued that earlier, Russia had two
potential leaders of a reformist alliance, Chernomyrdin
and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. However, Luzhkov has
opted for a left alliance, while Chernomyrdin's
"position is all too shaky." Meanwhile, neither former
presidential envoy to the IMF/World Bank Anatolii
Chubais nor former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar "could
ever secure the support of the majority of the country"
even if "the new government fails and empty shops and
coupons result," "Izvestiya" remarked. JAC

BREZHNEV NAME TO RETURN TO POLITICAL SPOTLIGHT? Andrei
Brezhnev, the grandson of former Soviet leader Leonid
Brezhnev, has announced his intention to recreate the
stable times of his grandfather when there was "a middle
class that received 200 rubles a month and had their own
apartments and cars." Brezhnev, 37, told reporters on 14
October that his party, the All Russian Communist
Movement, advocates the resurrection of "pure
communism," drawing on the experience of former Soviet
leaders Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Brezhnev.
The party claims to have 5,000 members in 47 regions in
Russia and plans to participate in parliamentary and
presidential elections, "Komsomolskaya Pravda" reported
on 15 October. According to the "Moscow Times," the
grandson of Khrushchev received an offer to launch a new
political party but declined to do so. JAC

YELTSIN CANCELS PURNEFTEGAZ SALE. Yeltsin has ordered
the return of a 38 percent stake of Purneftegaz to its
parent company, Rosneft, Interfax reported on 14
October. Purneftegaz had been sold for too low a price,
according to the president's directive. Four companies,
alleged to be closely affiliated with LUKoil, bought the
Purneftegaz shares for $10 million in September, when
Rosneft failed to pay back a loan to Mapo bank earlier
in the year. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 October
that details of the sale had aroused the interest of the
office of the prosecutor-general and that it might have
been more accurate to value the shares higher, since the
entire company is worth some $500 million. JAC

PENTECOSTALS IN PERM COME UNDER PRESSURE. Local
authorities in the city of Osa, Perm Oblast, are
pressuring a Pentecostal congregation to formally
register as a religious organization, Keston News
Service reported on 14 October. Under a 1997 law on
religion, only "religious organizations" must be
registered. The congregation considers itself a
"religious group" and refuses to seek formal
registration as a matter of religious principle. City
and religious leaders view the matter differently.
Arkhimandrite Veniamin Trepalyuk, for example, told
Keston that legal ways to liquidate the "sect" have not
yet been found but the local prosecutor-general has
promised to resolve the matter. JAC

JEWISH OBLAST STRIKES OIL? The oil exploration company
Irkutskgeofizika believes it has discovered potential
large oil deposits in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast,
ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October. A local institute
estimates that the unproven reserves amount to at least
100 million tons. According to Aleksandr Kuzin, deputy
chief of the region's committee on natural resources,
two exploration wells will be drilled later. The
International Energy Agency reported that Russian crude
oil exports fell 20 percent in September from August
partly because Russian oil companies were unable to
cover export fees after the collapse of the country's
payment system. JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

DEFEATED AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES CHALLENGE
POLL OUTCOME... Speaking at a news conference in Baku on
14 October, Azerbaijan National Independence Party
chairman Etibar Mamedov again rejected incumbent
President Heidar Aliev's claims that he was reelected in
the 11 October presidential poll with 75 percent of the
vote, Reuters reported. Mamedov said that he polled
approximately 35 percent of the vote and Aliev received
no more than 60 percent, despite massive falsification,
thus failing to achieve the required two-thirds
majority. Two other defeated candidates, Nizami
Suleymanov and Ashraf Mehdiev, also rejected Aliev's
claim to have polled two-thirds of the vote, while a
fourth, Communist candidate Firidun Hasanov, claimed
second place. Suleymanov also disputed the official
estimate of turnout at 77 percent, claiming that it does
not exceed 50 percent, according to Turan. Only the
fifth challenger, Khanguseyn Kazymly, has accepted
Aliev's victory claim as valid and characterized the
poll as democratic. LF

...AS DOES OPPOSITIONIST BOYCOTTER. Former parliamentary
speaker Rasul Guliev, one of five prominent opposition
politicians who boycotted the elections, has condemned
the election as undemocratic and the putative outcome as
falsified, Turan reported on 14 October. He called on
the international community to withdraw its support for
Aliev. The five boycotters had issued a statement on 12
October condemning the way the elections were held,
according to ANS Press. LF

ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. During talks
in Moscow on 14 October, Vartan Oskanian and Igor Ivanov
stressed the "full convergence" of their respective
positions and approaches to the Caucasus region, RFE/RL
reported. The two ministers described their continuing
adherence to the comprehensive Russian-Armenian treaty
signed two years ago as a "firm basis" for "rapidly
developing" bilateral ties. They agreed to continue
efforts to foster the OSCE's transformation into the
major pillar of European security in the 21st century.
And they also called for renewed efforts by the OSCE to
end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, noting the
organization's "current role in ensuring regional
stability." Meeting with OSCE Secretary-General Gian-
Carlo Aragona in Vienna last week, Oskanian again
stressed that Armenia is not demanding independent
status for Nagorno-Karabakh but expects Baku to
demonstrate "flexibility" in the search for a "non-
conventional" solution to the conflict, according to
Noyan Tapan. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SPEAKER WITHDRAWS
RESIGNATION. Albert Bazeyan, one of the leaders of the
majority Yerkrapah group within the Armenian parliament,
withdrew his resignation on 14 October after the
parliament refused to accept it, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau
reported. Bazeyan had announced his decision to step
down on 7 October following an acrimonious debate over
opposition demands that the sale of the Yerevan Cognac
factory and Armenia's two largest hotels to foreign
investors be revoked. During that debate, opposition
deputies threatened to demand a vote of no confidence in
the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1998).
President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Vazgen
Sargsian met with Yerkrapah deputies on 12 October and
urged Bazeyan to withdraw his resignation. LF

KYRGYZSTAN TO JOIN WTO. The World Trade Organization on
14 October finally voted to invite Kyrgyzstan to join
the organization, having agreed on the membership terms,
ITAR-TASS and the "Financial Times" reported. Kyrgyzstan
will become the first CIS state to be admitted. It must
first ratify the accession protocols, under which it
must open the country's markets to foreign goods and
services. BP

KAZHEGELDIN ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY... Former Kazakh Prime
Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin on 14 October officially
announced his intention to run for president, ITAR-TASS
reported. In a formal statement, obtained by RFE/RL's
Kazakh Service, Kazhegeldin says Kazakhstan needs change
and that Nazarbayev and his "pocket parliament" are
"oriented only toward maintaining the personal power of
the current president." Kazhegeldin said the
parliament's 8 October decision to extend the term in
office of future presidents from five to seven years is
"shameful," promising to overturn the decision if he is
elected president. With regard to the assassination
attempt against him the previous day (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 14 October 1998), Kazhegeldin said that he is
not afraid and that under no circumstances will he
withdraw his candidacy. BP

...WHILE PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN DENIES ASSASSINATION
ATTEMPT. Kairat Sarybayev said information about an
assassination attempt against Kazhegeldin was released
to "raise his [Kazhegeldin's] popularity rating,"
Interfax reported on 14 October. Sarybayev said "the
National Security Committee suggests the shots were
fired in the air and Kazhegeldin remained unhurt." He
commented that "the methods used by certain politicians
for boosting their popularity ratings do not seem to
have changed." BP

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                     All rights reserved.
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