We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 202, Part I, 19 October 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 202, Part I, 19 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

* RUSSIAN STOCKS REBOUND?

* JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW

* INSURGENTS IN WESTERN GEORGIA TAKE SECURITY MINISTER
HOSTAGE

End Note: YET ANOTHER CAMPAIGN FOR SLAVIC INTEGRATION
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RUSSIA

RUSSIAN STOCKS REBOUND? Russian stocks on 19 October
continued the rise begun last week, inching up 1.5
percent, according to the benchmark stock index. Last
week, the index rose more than 50 percent, although it
dropped 3.6 percent on 16 October. Bloomberg cited
traders as saying certain companies are a still good
buy, despite the country's current economic crisis.
Shares in Unified Energy Systems rose 13.2 percent. JAC

MEDIA FACING TIGHTER BUDGETS, CONTROL... The Federation
Council has rejected amendments to the laws on taxes and
custom tariffs that would have extended tax and customs
breaks enjoyed by media holdings until 2001. According
to "Segodnya" on 17 October, the custom exemptions are
essential for many publications since 56 percent of
Russian magazines and 15 percent of newspapers are
printed abroad. Also on 17 October, 22 media executives
published an appeal in "Kommersant-Daily" lambasting
proposed amendments to the law on mass media that have
already passed in the first reading in the State Duma.
According to the appeal, the amendments would introduce
a series of "absurd" restrictions on the activities of
journalists and publishers and give state organs new
grounds for suspending or terminating a publication or
broadcast. "Segodnya" on 15 October quoted Vsevolod
Bogdanov, head of the Russian Journalists' Union, as
saying that Russia ranks first in the world for murders
and persecutions of journalists. JAC

...AS REGIONAL NEWS OUTLETS HIT HARDEST. Some private
newspapers in Russia's regions have been forced to
close, while others are reducing staff and publishing
less frequently because of the nation's economic crisis,
the Moscow-based National Press Institute reported,
citing its informal survey of publishers in early
September. Even before the decline of the ruble, private
regional newspapers were having difficulty attracting
advertising revenue and faced stiff competition from
state-funded news outlets, the institute concluded. JAC

JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW... During his one-
day visit to the Russian capital on 17 October, Masahiko
Komura met with Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii
Primakov, who stressed that Russia's policy toward Japan
has not changed despite the shuffle in the Russian
government. Komura, for his part, commented that the
changes in the lineup of the Japanese government will
not affect warming relations between Moscow and Tokyo,
adding that Japan is still prepared to help Russia with
reforms aimed at alleviating the current financial
crisis. Komura and Primakov discussed the upcoming
November summit between Prime Minister Keidzo Obuchi and
President Boris Yeltsin, saying "it will mark an
important phase in the development of true partnership
between the two countries," Interfax reported. Primakov
accepted an invitation to visit Japan, but the date is
still being discussed. BP

...MEETS WITH RUSSIAN COUNTERPART... Komura also met
with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to discuss
work on a formal Russo-Japanese peace treaty. At a news
conference following their talks, Ivanov said the Kuril
Islands had been discussed but that the issue should be
resolved "without damaging Russia's sovereignty and
territorial integrity." Ivanov noted that Japan is not
pressuring Russia over that issue. Ivanov and Komura
also discussed the situation in Kosova, Afghanistan, and
on the Korean Peninsula. Later, he met with First Deputy
Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov, co-chairman of the
Russian-Japanese Commission on Trade and Economic
Cooperation. Maslyukov said those problems will be
worked out by November, when Obuchi is scheduled to
visit Moscow. Maslyukov, however, received no answer
about Japan's release of two tranches each worth $800
million that were promised to Russia under the IMF bail-
out package. BP

...AFTER RECEIVING SURPRISE. Only when Komura arrived in
Moscow on 16 October did he discover that the Duma had
approved adding a holiday to the Russian calendar to
commemorate Victory Over Militarist Japan, ITAR-TASS
reported. Komura declined to comment about the new
holiday, saying "the establishment of a holiday is an
internal affair for a country." He commented that the
purpose of his visit was "improving Russo-Japanese
relations and a normalization of those relations before
the year 2000." Earlier this month, the Duma voted to
adopt the new holiday, which falls on 3 September. BP

DUMA MEMBERS MEET MILOSEVIC. A delegation from the Duma
headed by deputy speaker Sergei Baburin (People's Power)
met with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on 16
October. Milosevic reportedly said that the delegation's
presence in Belgrade demonstrates the Russian people's
support for Yugoslavia. A member of the delegation,
Aleksei Arbatov, deputy chairman of the Duma Security
Committee (Yabloko), told reporters the following day
that it will be necessary to leave part of the Serbian
security forces in Kosova to ensure the security of OSCE
observers there. JAC

BRITAIN ACCUSED OF SPYING UNDER GUISE OF AID. A
resolution submitted by the Defense Ministry for the
president's approval would reduce the number of colonels
in the armed forces by 20 percent. Currently, colonels
make up 8 percent of total military personnel, compared
with the 3-4 percent in European armies, "Izvestiya"
reported on 16 October. Citing the spokesman for the
Federal Security Service, "Vremya MN" reported on 15
October that the UK Defense Office's program for
retraining Russian reserve officers is headed by an
"operative working for the British military intelligence
structure," Royal Air Force officer Maxwell Patrick
Jardeem. The newspaper noted that Jardeem collects data
about the location of Russian military units and their
future disbandment, adding that while he "never does
anything illegal..., he has a very clear picture of the
situation within the entire armed forces." "Vremya MN"
is close to several banks, including the Sberbank
savings bank, that are providing indirect financial
support. JAC

LIGHTS OUT FOR INDUSTRY? Several thousand industrial
enterprises across Russia are already losing their power
supply at regular intervals, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported on 16 October. The newspaper claimed that only
member of the cabinet to "sound the alarm" about the
coming energy crunch this winter is Minister of Fuel and
Energy Sergei Generalov, who has warned that supplies of
mazut and coal are only 85 percent of the necessary
level. When faced with a shortage of fuel, power plants
traditionally cut off industry rather than residential
consumers, but the newspaper warned that "if the fuel
deficit escalates residential areas may also be cut
off." Interfax reported on 19 October that Viktor Ott,
first deputy of minister of fuel and energy and former
vice president of Rosneft, resigned last week. JAC

SELEZNEV ALLIES TARGETED. A second assassination attempt
on persons close to Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev
occurred on 16 October, when Mikhail Osherov, his
adviser and Duma representative in St. Petersburg, was
seriously wounded. Both attempts have been dubbed
"politically motivated" by the chairman's office. The
previous week, Dmitrii Filippov, director of the St.
Petersburg Fuel Company, was killed. According to
"Kommersant-Daily" on 17 October, both men were expected
to lead Seleznev's reelection campaign for the Duma in
1999. Seleznev said the killing and attempted murder
will not affect his future political plans in any way.
According to Interfax, he declared "I have become even
more resolved to run for the Duma in 1999 and for
president in 2000." JAC

RUSSIAN ARMY IS LESS COMBAT EFFECTIVE. General Vladimir
Potemkin told Interfax on 18 October that the Russian
army's combat efficiency has fallen three-fold compared
with the former Soviet Union's armed forces. He noted
that 70 percent of the equipment used by land troops is
outdated. And he added that the armed forces and navy
combined must have a minimum of 1.2 million servicemen.
JAC

NEW OVERSIGHT FOR NOVOSTI PROPOSED. Duma Chairman
Seleznev has proposed that control over Novosti press
agency be shifted from the presidential administration
to a Trustee Council composed of members of the
government, legislature, and Supreme Court, "Moskovskii
komsomolets" reported on 16 October. Seleznev reportedly
made this suggestion so that the government can make
better use of Novosti's extensive network of
correspondents around Russia "to neutralize the
influence of private media," which, according to him,
subject the population to constant propaganda not in the
interest of the state. The newspaper predicted that
Prime Minister Primakov will likely agree to Seleznev's
suggestion. JAC

BROTHERS LEBED, ILYUMZHINOV TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT.
Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed has hinted again
that he will run for president in 2000 by reaffirming an
earlier statement that he may reconsider his decision
not to run. In an interview with "Novye izvestiya" on 17
October, Lebed also spoke out against Russian tariff
policy, accusing the government of "strangling the
nation's manufacturers" by "raising railway tariffs
twice as fast as the average growth in prices." Lebed's
brother, Alexei Lebed, who is governor of Khakassia,
told Interfax that he too is considering running for
president. When asked about his brother's plan, Lebed
commented to Rusian Television only that "my brother has
a good sense of humor." Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of
the Republic of Kalmykia, told Interfax that he will
also run for president. Ilyumzhinov added that he will
meet with members of the Republican Party while in the
U.S. Another likely presidential candidate, Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov, told an audience in Ufa, the capital of
Bashkortostan, on 16 October that the party that he is
creating will occupy the center of Russia's political
spectrum. JAC

U.S. MISSIONARIES ATTACKED. In Ufa, two U.S.
missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of the
Latter-Day Saints were attacked on 17 October. One of
them died while the other sustained serious injuries. A
local police official told ITAR-TASS that the act was
one of random hooliganism and was not targeted at the
Mormon Church. JAC

AKKIN CHECHENS CALL FOR BORDER REVISION. The 100,000-
strong Chechen community in Dagestan, who live on
territory that was part of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR until
late 1944, has appealed to Chechen President Aslan
Maskhadov to create a free and independent Chechen state
that would incorporate those districts, Interfax
reported on 17 October. The Chechens in Dagestan
returned after 1956 to the villages from which they were
deported on Stalin's orders in November 1944. They claim
they are treated like second-class citizens in Dagestan.
In April 1998, then acting Chechen Premier Shamil Basaev
created the Congress of Peoples of Chechnya and
Dagestan, whose declared aim is to unite the two
republics in an independent North Caucasus state. LF

CHECHEN OFFICIAL SAYS VLASOV IN DAGESTAN. Supyan
Akhmadov, first deputy head of the Chechen Interior
Ministry's anti-kidnapping unit, told Interfax on 18
October that Russian presidential representative
Valentin Vlasov has been taken by his kidnappers to
Dagestan, where he may soon be released for a multi-
million dollar ransom. Vlasov was abducted close to the
Chechen-Ingush border on 1 May. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

INSURGENTS IN WESTERN GEORGIA TAKE SECURITY MINISTER
HOSTAGE. Under the command of Akaki Eliava, some 100
supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia
attacked an army base in the west Georgian town of
Senaki during the early morning of 19 October, seizing
10 tanks and 23 armored personnel carriers, Caucasus
Press reported. Some 200 Georgian army troops defected
to the Zviadists. The combined rebel forces took hostage
National Security Minister Djemal Gakhokidze, who was
sent to negotiate with them, and advanced towards the
city of Kutaisi. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze
has called on the mutineers to lay down their arms. The
Georgian armed forces have been placed on alert, and
Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze has been sent to the
region. LF

GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ DELEGATIONS MEET. Georgian and Abkhaz
delegations led by the respective prime ministers
concluded three days of talks in the Greek resort of
Vouliagmeni on 18 October, Reuters reported. Georgian
presidential adviser Levan Aleksidze told Reuters that
some progress has been made on conditions for the
repatriation to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion of
ethnic Georgian displaced persons who fled the fighting
in 1992-1993 and again in May 1998. The Abkhaz
leadership has until now demanded substantial economic
aid from Tbilisi as a precondition for allowing
repatriation, while the Georgian side refuses to grant
such aid before the repatriation process is completed.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 October that Abkhaz
President Vladislav Ardzinba was also in Athens, but it
is unclear whether he held meetings there with Georgian
Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze. LF

ALIEV INAUGURATED AS AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT. Heidar Aliev
was sworn in for his second term as president on 18
October, Reuters and Interfax reported. In a two-hour
speech, he promised to defend and serve his country and
maintain its territorial integrity. He also affirmed his
readiness for "constructive dialogue" with the
opposition and to devote greater attention to social
issues. The presidents of Chechnya, Ingushetia, and
Dagestan and the leaders of Kabardino-Balkaria and
Karachaevo-Cherkessia attended the ceremony, as did
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who handed Aliev a
personal message of congratulation from President Boris
Yeltsin. LF

RIVAL CANDIDATE PROTESTS POLL RESULTS. The Azerbaijan
Supreme Court on 17 October began considering the appeal
lodged by Azerbaijan National Independence Party
chairman Etibar Mamedov against official election
returns giving Aliev 76.1 percent of the vote and
Mamedov 11.6 percent. Mamedov says that those figures
reflect massive falsification, claiming that he polled
26 percent of the vote and Aliev no more than 60
percent. A candidate must garner two-thirds of the vote
for a first-round victory. Central Electoral Commission
chairman Djafar Veliev charged that violations of the
voting procedure were committed by supporters of both
Aliev and Mamedov but that the number of such incidents
was too small to alter the outcome of the poll,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 October. LF

ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP ACCUSED OF BLACKMAIL. Opposition
parliamentary deputy Vahagn Khachatrian of the second
largest Hanrapetutyun [Republic] faction has accused the
authorities of blackmailing him to withdraw his libel
suit against the chief of President Robert Kocharian's
staff, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 16 October.
Earlier this month, Khachatrian also asked the Office of
the Prosecutor-General to open criminal proceedings
against Aleksan Harutiunian, chief of the presidential
staff, who has implicated Khachatrian in a 1995
corruption case. Harutiunian told the "Aravot" daily
that former President Levon Ter-Petrossian sacked
Khachatrian, then mayor of Yerevan, to "save him from
prosecution." Khachatrian has rejected those
allegations, saying that he resigned as mayor. He
claimed that the state prosecutors have been ordered to
turn a blind eye to the "slander" committed by
Harutiunian, who is close to President Kocharian. LF

KARABAKH AUTHORITIES WELCOME COUNCIL OF EUROPE
INVITATION. The leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-
Karabakh Republic has welcomed an official invitation
from the Council of Europe to participate in hearings in
Strasbourg next month on the long-running conflict with
Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported
on 16 October. The foreign ministers and parliamentary
speakers of Armenia and Azerbaijan will also attend. An
Karabakh presidential spokeswoman described the
invitation as a "gesture of good will" that reflects
growing international understanding of the need for
direct contacts between Karabakh Armenians and
Azerbaijan. LF

KYRGYZ CITIZENS VOTE IN REFERENDUM. The chairman of
Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission, Sulaiman
Imanbaev, said on 18 October that 2.27 million people or
96.26 percent of eligible voters in the country cast
ballots in the referendum the previous day on amendments
to the constitution. Of those, 2.07 million or 90.92
percent voted in favor of those amendments. Kyrgyzstan
thus becomes the first CIS Central Asian state to
introduce private ownership of land, although there is a
five-year moratorium on the sale and purchase of
agricultural land. Under the other amendments, the
parliament cannot discuss budget spending without
approval from the government and the number of deputies
in the Legislative Assembly is changed from 35 to 67 and
in the People's Assembly from 70 to 38. In addition,
deputies can be stripped of immunity in some cases and
greater freedom of speech has been granted. The
referendum questions were was offered as a package,
meaning it was not possible to vote on individual
amendments. BP

UZBEK, TURKMEN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS AFGHANISTAN. Uzbek
President Islam Karimov, during a one-day visit to
Turkmenistan on 16 October, met with his Turkmen
counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov, to discuss the
situation in Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS and Interfax
reported. The two leaders said they support UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan's initiative for resolving
the Afghan conflict peacefully. They also discussed use
of a major river that runs through both countries, the
Amu-Darya, but no other details were available. Also on
the agenda were terrorism and combating the
international drug trade. BP

PROBE LAUNCHED INTO KAZAKH OPPOSITION CANDIDATE.
According to deputy chairman of the Kazakh National
Security Committee Alnur Musayev, former Prime Minister
Akezhan Kazhegeldin has "broken the law," Interfax
reported on 16 October. Musayev said Interpol has been
investigating purchases made by Kazhegeldin's wife,
Natalia, in Belgium that amount to more than $4.5
million. He added that there is information about other
property owned by the Kazhegeldins in the U.S.,
Australia, and Great Britain. Musayev said that a person
under investigation "has no moral right to govern the
country." And he also argued that the assassination
attempt against Kazhegeldin last week was "no murder
attempt" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 1998). BP

END NOTE

YET ANOTHER CAMPAIGN FOR SLAVIC INTEGRATION

by Jan Maksymiuk

	When the Russian economy began to melt down after
the ruble's collapse in mid-August, Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka launched yet another campaign for
the closer integration of Belarus and Russia. The two
countries have been unsuccessfully trying to consummate
some kind of merger since Lukashenka came to power in
1994. But this time, the "third Slavic brother,"
Ukraine, has been drawn into the process.
	Kyiv has been wary of any initiatives aimed at
closer integration not only with Russia and Belarus but
also within the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Ukraine stresses that in relations with post-Soviet
states, economic issues should take precedence over
political ones, while asserting that bilateral accords
are more important than multilateral ones. Ironically,
the event that sparked a renewed outburst of integration
propaganda was Russia's financial crisis and subsequent
economic slump.
	Addressing the Ukrainian Supreme Council on 29
September, Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev
called upon Ukraine to form a Slavic union with Russia
and Belarus. Some 50 deputies of the right-wing Rukh
party jeered at Seleznev and branded his speech a
"provocation." But 120 or so Communist deputies received
Seleznev's appeal with loud applause. In what seemed to
be an attempt at damage control, Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma immediately responded that he
"categorically opposes" such a union. Ukrainian Foreign
Minister Borys Tarasyuk, pointing out that Russia is a
multiethnic country, said the first consideration should
be how "tens of millions of non-Slavs" in Russia would
react if their state became part of a Slavic union.
	Nonetheless, the merger proposal was made by a
high-ranking official and received much publicity in
both Ukraine and Russia. In fact, it may well become a
propaganda time bomb planted in Ukraine's fragile
economic system. An impoverished population, large parts
of which have not been paid for months, may eventually
turn a deaf ear to Kuchma's promises to improve the
situation in independent Ukraine and may begin to heed
Lukashenka's nostalgic appeal to restore the former
"unbreakable" union and state-regulated economy.
	Lukashenka had his moment of triumph when Russia's
financial market collapsed in August. The IMF
recommendations, he argued, aim at "disrupting the
national economic system of post-Soviet republics"
rather than "curing" it. Belarus, in his opinion, has a
successful state-regulated economy that fares well
without foreign advice and assistance. Lukashenka even
went so far as to offer to act as consultant to Russian
President Boris Yeltsin by showing him how Belarus's
economic experience can be applied in Russia.
	A large amount of pro-Slavic union propaganda has
come from other quarters within Belarus. The Chamber of
Representatives, the lower house of the legislature,
called on the Russian State Duma to urgently adopt bills
on introducing a single Belarusian-Russian citizenship,
joint state symbols, a Belarusian-Russian Union anthem,
and direct elections to the Belarusian-Russian Union
Parliamentary Assembly. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry
announced that Minsk has "programs" to help Russia
overcome its crisis, while Lukashenka vowed to supply
foodstuffs to stave off famine in Russia.
	Lukashenka used the September visit to Minsk of the
Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia to try to secure the
support of the Orthodox Church for his integration
cause. "Orthodoxy is the only barrier that protects us
from falling into abyss" he said, pledging to make
Christian values "the state ideology of Belarus."
	He also took advantage of the Kosova crisis to
portray himself as a defender of the Slavic world as a
whole, offering military help to Yugoslavia. And he
strongly condemned Bulgaria and Romania for granting
NATO the right to use their airspace in the event of
military action against Yugoslavia and thus for
"betraying Slavic [sic] unity."
	So far, there have been no signs that any of those
proposals have been treated seriously by other statesmen
or had the intended effect. At another level, however,
their effectiveness is more difficult to ascertain.
Lukashenka's actions and statements are primarily
addressed to ordinary people, to collective farm and
industrial workers who are suffering most on account of
the crisis in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Such people
elected him president in 1994, and a September poll
showed that amid Belarus's worst economic crisis since
the breakup of the Soviet Union, Lukashenka's popularity
jumped to 55 percent, up 11 percent compared with last
December.
	This measure of his popularity offers a clue to
what Russian and Ukrainian workers may privately think
about Lukashenka's idea of closer Slavic unity. At the
same time, the appeal of such a union is not confined to
the Slavic former Soviet republics. An Armenian
initiative last year collected 1 million signatures in
support for that country's accession to the Russia-
Belarus Union. Similar, albeit more modest campaigns,
have also been launched in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.
	Belarus is the only post-Soviet republic that has
made reintegration a sustained, long-term policy. Unable
to use any economic levers to promote his policy of
integration, Lukashenka makes use of his greatest asset:
an almost hypnotic populist appeal to the man on the
street. In fact, he appeals directly to the deeply
wounded pride of people confronted with their
humiliating economic misery and what they perceive as
their political decline following the demise of the
Soviet Empire. Wounded pride seldom responds in a
friendly or creative manner. That is why Lukashenka--
although marginalized and isolated on the international
scene--should be regarded with due concern as
potentially one of the biggest troublemakers in the
post-Soviet area.

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