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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 215, Part I, 6 November 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 215, Part I, 6 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

* U.S. WARNS PRIMAKOV GOVERNMENT

* MEDIA FACING COMMUNISTS' SCRUTINY, HIGHER COSTS

* TAJIK PRESIDENT CLAIMS SUCCESS IN BATTLE WITH REBELS
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RUSSIA

U.S. WARNS PRIMAKOV GOVERNMENT... U.S. Deputy Secretary
of State Strobe Talbott warned Russian officials that a
massive monetary emission would endanger future U.S.
support at international financial institutions, such as
the IMF. Talbott spoke at a World Affairs Council
meeting in Los Angeles on 5 November. According to
Reuters, he is expected to make an even more
comprehensive statement on U.S. policy towards Russia
during a 6 November speech at Stanford University in
California. "Novye izvestiya" on 5 November suggested
that the U.S.-Russian relationship is "cooling." The
newspaper, which reportedly receives financing from
Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ, said the U.S. "forced the
IMF to refuse to give Russia a promised $2.5 billion
credit, while at the same time the IMF generously
allotted $30 billion to Brazil and $10 billion to South
Korea." JAC

...AS MEDIA-MOST MARKETS YAVLINSKII IN U.S. "Kommersant-
Daily" on 5 November argued that Igor Malashenko, first
deputy chairman of the board of directors of Vladimir
Gusinskii's Media-Most Group, who is touring the U.S. to
drum up support for the presidential candidacy of
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, is seeking financial
support as much for his company as for his candidate.
Malashenko has been sent, the newspaper argued, to
"convince Western partners that Media-Most is a
structure that can secure the victory of any candidate.
And if it does so, it will acquire its much needed
funds." In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4
November, Malashenko said that he has undertaken his
trip without Yavlinskii's authorization. He also noted
that "a certain section of the American elite has become
a domestic factor in Russia" and that the "main
component of [former First Deputy Premier] Anatolii
Chubais's political base" is "a section of the American
elite." JAC

MEDIA FACING COMMUNISTS' SCRUTINY, HIGHER COSTS...
Communist Party officials have launched a public
campaign against television media, pledging to establish
a "public committee" on 7 November, the anniversary of
the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, to draw up accusations.
On 4 November, State Duma Deputy and Communist Party
faction member Aleksandr Kuvaev accused several
prominent television journalists of "maiming and raping
public consciousness" and "collaborating with the regime
and its crimes against society," "Moscow Times"
reported. Meanwhile, the Duma overrode a Federation
Council veto of a law on privileges for the media,
thereby extending breaks on value-added tax and profit
tax for media holdings for another three years. But it
failed to override a bill on customs tariffs that would
have extended a similar exemption for the same period.
Radio Mayak reported the same day that as a result, the
price of newspapers and magazines printed outside Russia
will rise two to three times. JAC

...RESPONDS WITH COUNTERATTACK. The next day, three
television executives held their own press conference
and reacted angrily to Kuvaev's statements. All Russian
State Television and Radio Company Director Mikhail
Shvydkoi compared the Communists' policy with that of
former Soviet leader Josef Stalin's persecution of
Jewish doctors toward the end of his regime. Russian
Public Television Director Igor Shabdurasulov pledged to
reveal "the real roots of yesterday's statements by
leaders of the Communist Party." They promised not to
retaliate by blocking Communists from the airwaves.
However, NTV Director Oleg Dobrodeev said that Kuvaev is
unlikely to appear on his network. JAC

DEBT TALKS TO CONTINUE. Andrei Kostin, Vneshekonombank
chairman, said on 5 November that his bank is prepared
to begin talks on rescheduling the nation's debt if the
government considers that necessary. Meanwhile, current
talks with foreign creditors will likely be extended
into next week, Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov
told Interfax. "Izvestiya" quoted analysts as claiming
that Western banks are dragging the talks out as long as
possible so that they can start to seize Russian monies
held abroad after the 90-day moratorium on short-term
loan repayments expires. LUKoil and Oneksimbank are
major investors in "Izvestiya." JAC

U.S. FOOD DEAL HITS SNAG. A last-minute dispute over tax
exemptions for U.S. goods prevented final signature on
an agreement for the provision of U.S. food aid worth
$600 million. Negotiators had expected the deal to be
completed by 5 November, but the Russian government
refused to extend special tax privileges for
humanitarian aid provided under a 1996 protocol for the
goods that would have to be purchased. Under the
agreement, the Russian government will receive a $600
million loan payable over 20 years with a five-year
grace period and a 2 percent annual interest rate. In
addition, the US is expected to donate 1.5 million tons
of wheat. Meanwhile, French farm officials said that the
EU will follow the U.S.'s lead and provide food aid of
its own. "Vremya MN" on 4 November questioned why
Roskhlebprodukt alone will oversee the state's grain
purchases and why no competition or tender was held
among Russian companies to manage the deliveries. JAC

CENTRAL BANK TO PREPARE HIT LIST. Prime Minister
Yevgenii Primakov has ordered the Central Bank to
prepare by 10 November a list of commercial banks that
would help the government determine which banks to save.
According to Russian agencies, Primakov declared at a
cabinet meeting on 5 November that the Central Bank
should select banks worthy of rescue according to how
well they made payments to the budget and met the needs
of their clients. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 November
published an endorsement of Central Bank Chairman Viktor
Gerashchenko noting that unlike the "evil genius"
[former Presidential Envoy to International Financial
Institutions Anatolii] Chubais or the "primitive [former
Central Bank Chairman Sergei] Dubinin," Gerashchenko
"seems to be a person of high morals" whose main goal is
a "working monetary system and the safety of the
deposits of citizens and enterprises." "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris
Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC

HEALTH BILL DIES. A proposed law requiring a medical
report on the health of the president missed passage in
the State Duma by five votes on 5 November. The
Communist Party, People's Power, Agrarians and Liberal
Democratic factions all supported the bill, while Our
Home is Russia, Yabloko, and Russian Regions opposed it.
Presidential representative to the State Duma Aleksandr
Kotenkov said the bill would never have become law in
any case since it violated the Russian Constitution. He
suggested that a law requiring a medical summary of the
health of all elected officials, including deputies,
governors and judges, would be reasonable and just. JAC

STAVROPOL DISENCHANTED WITH MILITARY. Relations between
military and civilians in the Stavropol region are
beginning to fray, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 November.
Stavropol has one of the highest numbers of troops on
its territory because of the relocation of 50 military
formations within the last five years. According to the
newspaper, the failure of the federal government to
transfer promised funds has brought the "army to the
brink of bankruptcy along with everyone with whom it has
concluded agreements." The daily cited one Stavropol
official who said that civilians are particularly
disenchanted because the crime rate has not decreased,
despite the military's heavy presence. JAC

RUSSIA, CHINA, NORTH KOREA SIGN BORDER ACCORD.
Representatives of Russia, China, and North Korea,
meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, on 3 November, signed
an agreement defining the border along the Tumen River,
ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. The new agreement was
necessary because the river has shifted course since
earlier agreements were signed. Negotiations began in
1993 but the sixth round of talks took place only this
week because of the change in the North Korean
leadership. BP

CHINESE ECONOMISTS PREDICT DROP IN SINO-RUSSIAN TRADE.
ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November that Chinese economists
predict trade between their country and Russia will drop
from $6.12 billion in 1997 to $5.5 billion this year.
They cited the Russian financial crisis and the drop in
the value of the ruble. The economists stressed the
importance of Russia's economic recovery to China,
noting that "if Russia catches cold, it is the Chinese
border cities that sneeze." Last year, Russia and China
vowed to increase bilateral trade to $20 billion by
2000. BP

STEPASHIN RULES OUT ASYLUM FOR OCALAN. Russian Interior
Minister Sergei Stepashin told journalists on 5 November
that Moscow will not grant Kurdistan Workers' Party
(PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan's request for political
asylum in Russia, Interfax reported. The previous day,
the State Duma had appealed to President Yeltsin to
comply with Ocalan's request. Stepashin conceded that
the lower house "is entitled to its opinion" but added
that Russia cannot support any terrorist group inside
the country or abroad. He said Yeltsin shares this view.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin,
however, was less categorical, telling journalists on 5
November that Ocalan's request for asylum will be
reviewed "according to established procedures," Reuters
reported. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT APPEARS BEFORE SUPREME COURT. Aslan
Maskhadov on 5 November complied with a demand by
Chechnya's Supreme Shariah court to respond to charges
brought by three rival field commanders that he has
violated the Chechen Constitution and Islamic law,
Russian agencies reported. Maskhadov told journalists
later that all Chechen citizens, including the
president, should observe Islamic law, but he declined
to give details of the court proceedings. Maskhadov
again rejected suggestions that his continuing standoff
with Salman Raduev may lead to another civil war in
Chechnya. Maskhadov also explained that he dismissed
Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov because of the latter's
refusal to implement the president's policy. He
described Udugov as "a seasoned statesman who has done
much for Chechnya's nationhood," according to Interfax.
LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK PRESIDENT CLAIMS SUCCESS IN BATTLE WITH REBELS...
Imomali Rakhmonov told journalists on 6 November that
government forces have forced rebels out of many areas
in the country's northern Leninabad Oblast, Russian
media reported. Rakhmonov said Chkalovsk airport and
several administrative buildings in the city of Khujand
have been retaken from the rebels. Government forces are
to be joined shortly by 1,000 fighters from the United
Tajik Opposition under field commander Mirzo Ziyoyev.
Rakhmonov said the rebels are retreating and vowed that
all those who took part in the mutiny will be
"eliminated or captured." Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have
strengthened units along the border with Tajikistan to
prevent the rebels from escaping into their countries.
BP

...WHILE REBELS CLAIM VICTORY OVER GOVERNMENT FORCES.
Rebels in northern Tajikistan blew up a strategic
railway bridge on 5 November. Rebel commander Mahmud
Khudaberdiyev told Russian Television on 5 November that
his group is in control of "seven or eight districts" in
northern Tajikistan. He added that said "the people are
supporting us." Tajik Radio, however, denied Russian
Television reports that rebels wiped out 35 percent of
an airborne unit sent to the area. Khudaberdiyev added
that his forces have already mined the Kairakkum
Reservoir and threatened to blow it up if the government
does not accept their demands. But President Rakhmonov
said on 6 November that government troops are in control
of the reservoir. BP

KAZHEGELDIN BARRED FROM KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
Central Electoral Commission chairwoman Zagipa Baliyeva
said on 5 November that Akezhan Kazhegeldin is not
eligible to run in the presidential elections scheduled
for 10 January, Interfax reported. Baliyeva explained
that the former prime minister is barred owing to a fine
he received for participating in an unsanctioned meeting
of a newly formed opposition group last month. However,
she added that if a higher court overturns the ruling
before 30 November, Kazhegeldin would be allowed to run
in the elections. The U.S. State Department criticized
the decision the same day pointing out that Kazakhstan,
as an OSCE member state, is obliged to uphold the
individual's right to seek office without
discrimination, free and fair campaigning, and equal
access to the media during the election campaign. BP

NAZARBAYEV'S DAUGHTER TEMPORARILY STEPS DOWN. Dariga
Nazarbayeva, daughter of Kazakh President Nursultan
Nazarbayev, announced on 6 November she will temporarily
step down as head of the national news agency, Khabar,
RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. Nazarbayeva
said the decision was based on "ethical reasons" and
that she will resume her duties after the 10 January
presidential elections. BP

KAZAKH OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER RUNS INTO MORE TROUBLE.
Having lost a law suit brought by the government this
summer, "DAT" encountered further difficulties when all
copies of its 31 October issue were impounded by customs
officials, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The
newspaper is now being printed in Russia and Kyrgyzstan
because its equipment was confiscated in connection with
the law suit. Customs officials seized the shipment of
newspapers arriving from Russia, saying customs
procedures had not been observed. BP

ARMENIA ANTICIPATES REVISION OF KARABAKH SETTLEMENT
PLAN... Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told
journalists in Yerevan on 5 November that the co-
chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group may bring
"substantially revised" proposals on resolving the
Karabakh conflict when they visit Armenia and Azerbaijan
next week, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Oskanian
said he is not aware of the content of the new proposals
but believes that they provide for a "package"
settlement with "new approaches and no preconditions."
Yerevan and Stepanakert both insist on a package
solution rather than the "phased" peace plan proposed by
the OSCE last fall, which Baku accepted. On their last
visit to the region in mid-September, the Minsk Group
co-chairmen suggested new approaches to resolving the
conflict in talks. Karabakh officials said those
approaches reflected a greater understanding of the
Armenian position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and18
September 1998). LF

...RESCHEDULED PEACE HEARINGS ON KARABAKH. Oskanian also
said that the hearings on the Karabakh conflict under
the aegis of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe may now take place on 16 December. Those
hearings had originally been planned for 3 November but
were postponed after the Azerbaijani government
announced it will participate only if representatives of
the former Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh
are invited to attend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 27
October 1998). LF

RATIFICATION OF ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN TREATY FINALIZED.
Oskanian and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii
Sredin gave signed a protocol on exchanging the
instruments of ratification of the bilateral treaty on
friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance signed in
Moscow in August 1997 by President Yeltsin and then
Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian, RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported on 5 November. Sredin
characterized that treaty, to which Azerbaijan objected,
as "laying a serious foundation" for bilateral
relations. On 4 November, Armenian Defense Minister
Vazgen Sargsian met with outgoing Russian ambassador
Andrei Ournov in Yerevan to discuss military
cooperation, which is an important component of the 1997
treaty. And in Moscow, Armenian Energy Minister Gagik
Martirosian met with Russian First Deputy Premier Vadim
Gustov and Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov to
discuss the upcoming visit to Russia of Armenian Prime
Minister Armen Darpinian. They also discussed avoiding
double taxation and supplies of nuclear fuel for
Armenia's nuclear power station, Noyan Tapan reported.
LF

CASPIAN PIPELINE DECISION AGAIN DELAYED. Meeting in
London on 5 November, representatives of the Western oil
companies that are members of the Azerbaijan
International Operating Company (AIOC) decided to delay
again a decision on the optimum route for the export of
Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, Reuters reported. AMOCO
Eurasia chairman Charles Pitman said the delay was
agreed on with the Azerbaijan State Oil Company SOCAR in
order to give the AIOC more time to formulate the
decision, which was originally scheduled for 29 October
and then postponed until 12 November. It will now be
taken next month. Also on 5 November, representatives of
SOCAR, the AIOC, and the Georgian government met with
Turkish Energy Ministry officials in Istanbul, Reuters
reported. Those talks are believed to have focused on
the financial incentives Turkey unveiled last week for
companies joining the consortium that will finance and
build the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline. LF

GEORGIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING CAUSES
CONSTERNATION. In response to an appeal from a judge,
the Constitutional Court on 3 November rejected as
"unconstitutional" a law passed earlier this year
introducing a new professional examination for all
judges, Interfax reported on 5 November. The ruling
effectively nullifies the authority of some 90 judges
who have already passed that test. Parliamentary
majority leader Mikhail Saakashvili, the author of
Georgia's legal reform program, condemned the
Constitutional Court's decision as "tendentious."
Parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania said it will delay
the introduction of "a normal court system" by at least
three years. President Eduard Shevardnadze has canceled
a meeting with Constitutional Court judges scheduled for
7 November. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIAL CONCERNED AT PRESIDENT'S PLANNED
ABKHAZ VISIT. Speaking on Georgian state television on 5
November, parliamentary Defense and Security Committee
chairman Revaz Adamia said that Shevardnadze's planned
visit to Sukhumi is "not without risk," ITAR-TASS and
Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze is scheduled to
visit the Abkhaz capital during the first half of
November to meet with his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav
Ardzinba, and sign agreements on the repatriation of
ethnic Georgians to Abkhazia and on economic aid. Adamia
said that the Abkhaz authorities do not fully control
the territory of Abkhazia and that it would be expedient
for Ardzinba to come to Tbilisi instead, given the
existence of forces whom he did not name and who he
claimed are interested in killing the Georgian
president. LF

LEADER OF DISPLACED PERSONS FROM ABKHAZIA PROSECUTED.
Legal proceedings have been brought against Georgian
parliamentary deputy Boris Kakubava, who heads the
radical Coordinating Council of Political Organizations
from Abkhazia and Samachablo [South Ossetia], CAUCASUS
PRESS reported on 6 November. Kakubava is charged with
premeditated destruction of state property, exceeding
his authority, and organizing and participating in mass
actions violating public order. Those charges, which
presumably stem from the 1 November attempt by displaced
persons led by Kakubava to occupy a Tbilisi hospital,
carry up to eight years' imprisonment (see "RFE/RL
Newsline, 2 November 1998). Kakubava told journalists on
27 October that he will cooperate with any political
force capable of ridding Georgia of Shevardnadze, whom
he described as "a dictator." According to "Rezonansi"
on 5 November, he has fled Tbilisi for Baku. LF

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