Fear of life in one form or another is the great thing to exorcise. - William James
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 214, Part I, 5 November 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 214, Part I, 5 November 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

* RUSSIA HEADED FOR DEFAULT

* YELTSIN INELIGIBLE FOR THIRD TERM

* FIGHTING CONTINUES IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN
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RUSSIA

RUSSIA HEADED FOR DEFAULT... First Deputy Prime Minister
Yurii Maslyukov told reporters on 4 November that debt
payments of $3.5 billion due this year and of $17.5
billion due in 1999 are "too much" for Russia's weakened
economy. The government can either draft an emergency
budget that would "bleed all spheres of the economy
white" or agree with lenders on restructuring the debt.
Maslyukov promised that the government's 1999 budget
will be an austere one with only a 3 percent deficit.
Last month, State Duma Budget Committee Chairman
Aleksandr Zhukov warned that "debt restructuring talks
must be held" because there is little chance that next
year's budget could cover the $17.5 billion debt. JAC

...AS IT SUBMITS BUDGET TO DUMA. Also on 4 November, the
government sent its draft "Law on Initial Measures in
the Budget and Tax Policy Sphere" to the Duma. According
to Zhukov, the bill requires the printing of 35 billion-
40 billion rubles ($2.3 billion), Interfax reported.
Maslyukov said that monetary emission should not exceed
15 billion rubles in 1998 and 30-35 billion rubles in
1999. Zhukov said that although the budget deficit in
1999 will stay within the targeted 3 percent, "it will
total 100 billion rubles at the very least." He
concluded that the bill is likely to pass even though it
calls for "inflationary financing" because "there are no
other sources of financing." Meanwhile, a "senior U.S.
official" told Reuters that Deputy Secretary of State
Strobe Talbott will deliver a negative assessment of the
Primakov government's economic program in a public
speech on 5 November. The economic program "doesn't make
sense, the numbers don't add up," the official said. JAC

GOVERNMENT NAMES PRICE FOR GAZPROM. The government has
established a starting price of $651 million for a 2.5
percent stake in Gazprom. Interfax reported on 4
November that bidding is expected to begin at the end of
the week and close before 25 December. The buyer will
have to hold on to the shares for five years. In August,
the government had set the price of a 5 percent stake at
10.3 billion rubles, which at the time was the
equivalent of $1.65 billion. JAC

YELTSIN INELIGIBLE FOR THIRD TERM. The Constitutional
Court announced on 5 November that President Boris
Yeltsin is ineligible to run again for president. The
Court ruled that since Yeltsin has been elected twice, a
third try would violate the constitution. In recent
months Yeltsin has repeatedly stated that he will not
seek reelection. The court ruling means he will now be
unable to change his mind. JAC

KREMLIN TARGETED BY 'EXTREMIST.' A car carrying a
homemade bomb exploded in Red Square on 4 November,
injuring three people. Interfax reported that the driver
of the car was Ivan Orlov, a journalist for an anti-
Semitic magazine published by the Russian National
Liberation Movement. The car, a Moskvich, stopped meters
away from a heavy wooden gate barring the entrance to
the Kremlin. ITAR-TASS reported that after examining
Orlov, a psychiatrist had issued a preliminary diagnosis
of schizophrenia. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that Orlov had been
expelled from his party for "extremism." JAC

DUMA NIXES PSA PROJECTS. The Duma rejected two bills
that would have extended product sharing agreements to
10 oil projects and might have injected some much needed
foreign direct investment into the oil sector. The vote
effectively puts projects in areas such as Komi,
Udmurtia, Tomsk, and Yamal Nenetsk on hold. Some of
those projects have already been at a standstill for
several years. JAC

CORRUPTION CHARGES CONTINUE. Interior Minister Sergei
Stepashin revealed that some of the cases of alleged
corruption mentioned in a letter sent by Yabloko
deputies to Prime Minister Primakov are already under
investigation, Duma Deputy and Yabloko faction member
Sergei Ivanenko told Interfax on 4 November. Ivanenko
added that First Deputy Prime Minister Maslyukov is not
being investigated "directly or indirectly." The
previous day, Stepashin told reporters that Yabloko's
charges were a publicity effort by its leader, Grigorii
Yavlinskii. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that the "charges"
against Maslyukov, First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim
Gustov, and Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik focus
on activities from 1990 to 1998. The daily also quoted
Yavlinskii as saying he did not bring his charges to the
attention of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
because "it would have been futile." JAC

MORE PARTIES SHUN COALITIONS. Two more political parties
have declared their intention to abstain from forming an
election bloc or joining a larger alliance. Earlier,
Yabloko and the Communist Party said that they will not
form any alliances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November
1998). Mikhail Lapshin, Agrarian Party leader, said on 3
November that his party will run alone in the 1999 State
Duma elections. The next day, Liberal Democratic Party
of Russia leader Zhirinovsky told reporters that his
group will not join any coalitions. Meanwhile, former
Minister of the Interior Anatolii Kulikov has expressed
the desire to run for a seat in the Duma, "Kommersant-
Daily" reported. JAC

HELP ON THE WAY TO KAMCHATKA? Moscow has dispatched a
tanker of fuel to relieve the energy shortage in
Kamchatka, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. The tanker
is expected to arrive in two or three days, while fuel
supplies in the oblast's capital, Petropavlosk-
Kamchatskii, are forecast to last only another 10 days.
According to the "Moscow Times," other districts in the
Far East are suffering from their own regional fuel
shortages. Sakhalin Island is experiencing four-hour
blackouts every day, while heating has not yet been
turned on in Vladivostok, despite the cold weather. JAC

RUSSIA, BELARUS COOPERATE TO COUNTER NATO. The Russian
armed forces command has rethought its strategy for
troops based in western Russia and is creating a joint
defense system with Belarus and forming 10 permanent
alert divisions, Colonel-General Yurii Baluevskii, head
of the General Staff's Tactical Department, told
reporters on 4 November. According to Russian agencies,
Baluevskii attributed the changes to NATO's expansion
plans and said Russian and Belarusian "joint actions are
expected to cool down hot heads in the West". However,
Reuters quoted a Defense Ministry spokesman who said
that Baluevskii's remarks had been misinterpreted. The
colonel-general had been addressing only the issue of
closer defense cooperation with Belarus, the spokesman
explained. Baluevskii also said that lack of funding
might slow the armed forces' plan to reduce ranks to 1.2
million by 1 January 1999. JAC

ZHIRINOVSKY BACKS IRAQ. Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia leader Zhirinovsky told journalists on 4 November
that he believes Baghdad is justified in refusing any
further cooperation with UN weapons inspectors, whom he
accused of espionage. Zhirinovsky affirmed that "Iraq
has no weapons of mass destruction" and that it has
complied with UN conditions. The previous day, Russian
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had termed Baghdad's
decision "counterproductive" and likely to compound the
suffering of the Iraqi people. He called on the Iraqi
leadership to "fully resume cooperation with the UN and
its disarmament commission," according to Interfax.
Ivanov added that Moscow is "coordinating positions"
with the UN and a number of unnamed countries to prevent
an escalation of tensions in the Gulf region. LF

NIKITIN PROSECUTOR APPEALS TO SUPREME COURT. A local
prosecutor appealed to the Russian Supreme Court on 3
November to overturn a lower court ruling that sent the
case of Aleksandr Nikitin back for further
investigation. Nikitin was charged with espionage for
disclosing information about nuclear waste disposal by
the Russian navy. ITAR-TASS reported that the appeal
charged the lower court had reached "premature
conclusions" about the evidence gathered against
Nikitin. Nikitin's lawyers have filed their own appeal,
requesting that the charges against Nikitin be dismissed
entirely and that he be allowed to travel outside the
country. JAC

CHECHEN ISLAMIC COURT SENTENCES RADUEV. Chechnya's
Supreme Sharia court on 4 November sentenced maverick
field commander Salman Raduev in absentia to four years
in prison for attempting to overthrow President Aslan
Maskhadov, Russian agencies reported. Raduev's
supporters had clashed on 21 June with government
security forces seeking to prevent them from occupying
the main television station in Grozny (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 24 June 1998). National Security Service
chief Lecha Khultygov and the commander of Raduev's
General Dudaev army were shot dead in that standoff.
Raduev told Interfax on 4 November that he will resist
any attempt to apprehend him and will lodge an appeal
with an alternative Shariah court set up the previous
day by field commanders opposed to Maskhadov. Raduev
added that the field commanders' council, to which both
he and former acting Premier Shamil Basaev belong, will
ignore all future orders by Maskhadov. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

FIGHTING CONTINUES IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN... Fighting
between government troops and forces loyal to former
army Colonel Mahmud Khudaberdiyev continues in and
around the northern city of Khujand on 5 November,
RFE/RL correspondents and Russian media reported. The
government has dispatched another 300 soldiers to the
area to bolster forces already battling Khudaberdiyev's
troops. Government troops in Khujand have reportedly
reclaimed buildings belonging to the National Security
Ministry and the local police. Heavy fighting is
reported around the Khujand headquarters of the Interior
Ministry's special forces' unit. A government official
told RFE/RL more than 100 have died in the fighting and
that casualties are almost evenly divided between
government and rebel forces. Fighting is also reported
at the Anzob Pass, 100 kilometers north of Dushanbe, the
highest point on the road between the Tajik capital and
Khujand. BP

...AFTER NEGOTIATIONS BREAK DOWN. An attempt at
negotiating with Khudaberdiyev's group, which calls
itself the Movement for General Peace in Tajikistan
broke down shortly after commencing on 4 November.
Khudaberdiyev had demanded that government forces
withdraw to an area 10 kilometers from Khujand and lift
the blockade of the airport at Chkalovsk. He also
demanded that 40 percent of the cabinet posts be granted
to his group and that former Prime Minister Abdumalik
Abdullajonov, who is wanted by Tajik law enforcement
agencies, be allowed to speak on national television and
radio. Presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said on 5
November there will be no more negotiating with
Khudaberdiyev's group and demanded that the rebels
surrender immediately. BP

GEORGIA, RUSSIA SIGN FRONTIER AGREEMENTS. Georgian and
Russian representatives signed in Moscow on 3 November
two agreements redefining Russia's diminishing role in
helping to guard Georgia's borders, ITAR-TASS reported.
The agreements follow the passage of a law by the
Georgian parliament in July affirming that over the next
two years, Georgia will assume sole responsibility for
doing so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1998). One of
the two agreements defines the ongoing areas of
cooperation, which no longer include protecting
Georgia's maritime borders. The second deals with the
gradual transfer to Georgian jurisdiction of the areas
still being jointly guarded and of property currently
owned by the Russian federal Border Guard Service. LF

ARMENIA DENIES OFFERING TO MEDIATE BETWEEN ISRAEL, IRAN.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian on 4 November
denied that during his visit to Israel last week,
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian had offered to mediate
between Israel and Iran, Noyan Tapan reported (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1998). But Gasparian added
that Armenia does not exclude the possibility of such
mediation if the government of either country requests
it. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ADJOURNS ELECTION LAW DEBATE. The
ongoing debate on two draft election laws has been
adjourned until 16 November after more than a dozen
political parties again affirmed their support for the
draft prepared by representatives of 11 parliamentary
factions and groups, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on
4 November. That draft, which provides for 30 seats in
the future 131-member parliament to be allocated in
single-member constituencies and the remaining 101 on
the basis of proportional representation, is regarded as
minimizing the possibility of gerrymandering. The
majority Yerkrapah group wants 80 seats allocated in
single-member constituencies. Prominent oppositionist
David Shahnazarian warned that opposition parties will
consider boycotting next summer's parliamentary
elections if the Yerkrapah draft law is passed.
Yerkrapah deputy Andranik Manukian dismissed the boycott
threat as irrelevant for the outcome of the poll. LF

NEW ARMENIAN RADICAL PARTY CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT.
Leaders of the National Security Party, which recently
split from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
(Dashnaktsutyun), have outlined the party's program,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 November. They
pledged to strive for a tough Armenian stand in the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to promote the
establishment of "strong Armenian statehood." The
party's chairman, Garnik Isagulian, criticized the
Armenian leadership's Karabakh policy as "unclear." Igor
Muradian, one of the founders in 1988 of the movement
for unification with Karabakh, told journalists that
President Robert Kocharian is leading Armenia to
"international isolation" and strained relations with
"allies." Muradian predicted that Azerbaijani President
Heidar Aliev may soon be tempted to resume the war in
Nagorno-Karabakh owing to what Muradian sees as
Azerbaijan's weakening geopolitical position. LF

UKRAINE CONTINUES LOBBYING FOR ROLE IN CASPIAN OIL
EXPORT. Two prominent Ukrainian officials have again
argued the merits of transporting some Caspian oil to
international markets via Ukrainian territory rather
than through the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Following
a meeting of the Ukrainian-Polish Consultative Council,
Security and Defense Council Secretary Vladimir Gorbulin
pointed out on 3 November that transportation costs per
metric ton of crude via Ukraine would be $10 cheaper
than via Turkey. In Baku, Ukrainian ambassador Boris
Alekseenko said that the Odessa-Brody pipeline, which
links up with the Druzhba pipeline, would be able to
transport 40 million tons per year on completion late in
1999. He said that Ukraine could refine half of this
quantity domestically. Alekseenko also endorsed
proposals for routing the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline
via the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa and the Turkish
Black Sea port of Samsun, according to ANS-Press. LF

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               Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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