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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 237, Part I, 10 December 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 237, Part I, 10 December 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

* NEW PSA LEGISLATION PASSES

* CHECHEN PRESIDENT SHEDS LIGHT ON HOSTAGES' MURDER

* ARMENIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER SHOT DEAD
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RUSSIA

NEW PSA LEGISLATION PASSES. After rejecting a number of
bills on production sharing agreements (PSA), the State
Duma on 9 December finally passed in the third reading a
series of amendments to the PSA law. The vote was 347 to
six. Under the law, small oil fields with less than 25
million tons of reserves will need approval only from
federal and local governments--not from the Duma. In
addition, the law requires PSA participants to purchase
70 percent of their equipment and hire 80 percent of
their work force in Russia. The "Moscow Times" on 10
December quoted one oil industry lobbyist as saying that
passage of the bill opens the door for the Duma to pass
other legislation necessary to convince foreign
investors to proceed with large investments in the oil
sector. The law is expected to easily win the approval
of the Federation Council and President Boris Yeltsin.
JAC

U.S. OFFICIALS ARRIVE IN MOSCOW. A delegation of U.S.
officials led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe
Talbott and Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers
arrived in Moscow on 9 December. Russian Foreign
Ministry Spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that "such a
broad interdepartmental composition of the American
delegation reflects the important, comprehensive
character of Russian-U.S. relations." "Noviye
izvestiya," on the other hand, called the delegation "a
motley crew" sent to Russia because the [Bill] Clinton
administration realizes that "it is impossible to
understand Russia" from Washington. The newspaper
reported that the delegation will try to persuade Moscow
to send "a leading negotiator" to the IMF before the end
of the year. It also noted that First Deputy Minister
Yurii Maslyukov is scheduled to visit around 15 December
and quoted "an IMF spokesman" as saying that if
Maslyukov "really wants to secure any results on his
arrival, he will have to revise some of his economic
views." JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SHEDS LIGHT ON HOSTAGES' MURDER. Aslan
Maskhadov confirmed on 9 December that the three British
engineers and their New Zealand colleague were killed by
their abductors during a botched rescue operation.
Maskhadov vowed to "take all necessary steps to resolve
this horrible crime," AP reported. Deputy Prime Minister
Turpal Atgeriev on 9 December denied media reports that
one of the murderers has been arrested, according to
Interfax. Neighboring Stavropol Krai, Ingushetia, and
Dagestan have all closed their borders with Chechnya.
Ingush President Ruslan Aushev expressed concern that
the murders may deter potential foreign investors in the
North Caucasus. CIS Executive Secretary Boris
Berezovskii said on 9 December that the killings are "a
tragedy" for Maskhadov, given that they will exacerbate
Chechnya's pariah status. Berezovskii hinted that
Moscow's failure to give unequivocal support to
Maskhadov has eroded the latter's control over internal
Chechen developments and thereby contributed to the
killings. LF

RUSSIA REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH
IRAN. Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov told
journalists in Moscow on 9 December that Russia will
continue construction of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power
plant but will not violate the nuclear non-proliferation
treaty by providing Tehran with nuclear technology, AP
and Interfax reported. Visiting Tehran in late November,
Adamov discussed with Iranian experts the possibility of
Russia building three additional reactors for that
plant. Also on 9 December, U.S. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright asked her Russian counterpart, Igor
Ivanov, for a firm commitment to limit Russia's
involvement in the Iranian missile program, according to
"The New York Times." The Russian Foreign Ministry and
the Iranian Embassy in Moscow have both declined to
comment on a 8 December report in that newspaper saying
Iran has recruited several Russian germ warfare experts.
LF

NATO INVITES RUSSIA TO PARTY. NATO on 9 December
formally invited Russia to attend its 50th anniversary
summit in Washington next April. The same day, Foreign
Minister Ivanov, who was in Brussels, condemned a
proposal to include the use of NATO forces without UN
Security Council consent in the alliance's new strategic
concept. He said that "any decision on the use of force
must be adopted in accordance with Article 7 of the UN
Charter," Interfax reported. Ivanov also repeated
Moscow's opposition to NATO's decision to retain the
option of using force against Belgrade for its actions
in Kosova. At a cost of $11 million, Russia will send
more than 120 men to Kosova to participate in the OSCE
monitoring mission, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 December.
JAC

JUSTICE MINISTRY PROPOSES DEATH PENALTY BAN. Justice
Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov on 9 December presented a
draft bill to abolish the death penalty. Russia promised
to ban capital punishment by the end of February 1999
when it joined the Council of Europe. The Duma, however,
is unlikely to pass the bill, having already rejected
similar draft legislation. Mikhail Mityukov,
presidential representative to the Constitutional Court,
told Interfax on 10 December that Yeltsin supports a
gradual implementation of a ban on capital punishment.
The president also favors the gradual introduction of
trial by jury. Last year, the Duma failed to debate a
bill to introduce juries, which was submitted by the
administration, because Duma deputies believed that
there was not enough money to fund the proposal. JAC

PRIMAKOV AGAIN DENIES PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS. In an
interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 December,
Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov again denied that he
has any plans to seek the presidency or that he will
consider remaining prime minister under a new president.
He said "Don't forget that in 1999, I will be 70." JAC

LEBED, KEY INDUSTRIALIST TANGLE. Anatolii Bykov, CEO of
the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant, told NTV on 6 December
that supporting Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksander
Lebed's election campaign was a mistake. The next day,
Bykov elaborated, saying that 70 percent of the district
administration heads in the krai are poised to resign
from sheer frustration. He added that Lebed's young and
inexperienced team mistreat the local elite and neglect
official work to return home to Moscow. "Izvestiya" on
10 December described Bykov as having "colossal"
influence in Krasnoyarsk and said that opposition to
Lebed is now of a new, different order. "Trud" reported
the same day that Lebed accused Bykov of meeting with
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on several occasions and of
intending to back Luzhkov's Otechestvo [Fatherland]
movement. Bykov denies that he has ever met with
Luzhkov. JAC

REGIONAL SUPPORT FOR NEW LUZHKOV MOVEMENT GROWS.
Otechestvo has attracted the support of 20 regional
governors, including Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor
Ivan Sklyarov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9
December. The newspaper also reported that several
members of the left-wing Movement for the Revival of the
Urals will likely join as well. In November, Nikolai
Lubenets, mayor of Trekhgornii in Chelyabinsk Oblast,
formed his own branch of Otechestvo. The daily reported
that Luzhkov visited Lubenets in September during a
short trip to the Urals. Elsewhere in the Urals,
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel was not invited
to join Luzhkov's party, "EWI's Russian Regional Report"
concluded on 3 December, because Luzhkov believes that
Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii has a better
chance to win upcoming gubernatorial election. On 10
December, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Luzhkov
signed an economic cooperation agreement with Rossel,
but the newspaper quoted the former as making a joke at
the latter's expense while visiting the oblast. JAC

ELECTION FRAUD IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD? Loose lips sank
Anatolii Nekrasov, head of the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast
election committee, who lost his job after he told a
local newspaper that the results of mayoral elections
held in September might have been rigged, "Kommersant-
Daily" reported on 8 December. Nekrasov admitted that
local officials might have tampered with automatic vote-
counting devices. JAC

YAROSLAVL CONSUMERS FACING EMPTY SHELVES. Moscow
consumers are buying up unprocessed food products and
raw materials from Yaroslavl Oblast at prices higher
than locals can afford, "EWI's Russian Regional Report"
reported on 6 December. For example, collective farms
can charge their Moscow-based customers 5-6 rubles (15-
25 U.S. cents) per liter of milk, while local customers
will pay only 3 rubles. As a result, shelves in local
stores are increasingly bare. On 1 December, Yaroslavl
Oblast Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn signed a decree
reducing subsidies for collective farms that sell their
products to consumers outside the region. JAC

WASHINGTON EMBASSY SNAFU CONTINUES. A spokesman for the
Russian embassy in Washington hinted that Moscow might
retaliate for Washington's withdrawal of a security
guard post from the Russian ambassador's residence (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998), "Rossiiskaya
gazeta" reported on 9 December. In a statement issued to
the newspaper, the spokesman said, "As the 'Washington
Times' writes, the Americans have taken these measures
in order to economize. Economizing is economizing, but
the Americans of all people should be perfectly well
aware of the consequences of inadequately protecting a
foreign mission." He added that "there is, of course, no
question of withdrawing protection from the U.S.
ambassador's Moscow residence in Spasopeskovskii
Pereulok, but Russia's next steps will largely depend on
the U.S. reaction to the protest note." JAC

PRIMAKOV LOOKING SHAGGY? "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 8
December asked Yelena Vasina, a leading stylist from the
L'Oreal Professional salon, for advise on how to spiff
up some of Russia's leading politicians. For Prime
Minister Primakov, she suggested a hair cut would not be
a bad idea. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov
would be better off wearing shirts with wider collars
and ties with a large knot to offset his large head and
wide face, she said And former Prime Minister Sergei
Kirienko, according to Vasina, needs to update his
eyeglass frames with something more dignified. JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER SHOT DEAD. Colonel
Vahram Khorkhoruni was shot dead outside his home in
Yerevan early on 10 December, Western agencies reported,
citing Interfax. Khorkhoruni, who was 47, began his
career in the Russian Interior Ministry and then in its
Armenian counterpart, before transferring to the
Ministry of Defense. His most recent responsibility was
for armaments. Armenian Presidential aide Aram Sargsian
told Reuters that the motives for the killing are
unclear. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT STARTS DEBATING BUDGET... The
Armenian parliament began debating the 1999 draft budget
on 8 December, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The
draft budget provides for revenues of 187.9 billion
drams (some $360 million), expenditures of 239.1 billion
drams, and a deficit of some 57 billion drams. Economics
and Finance Minister Eduard Sandoyan told deputies that
the government intends to strengthen its social policy
and will introduce a system of modest family allowances
for some 230,000 needy families. Employees paid from the
state budget will receive a 20 percent wage increase and
the basic pension will rise by 30 percent. The
opposition Hayrenik parliamentary group is boycotting
the debate. Its members argue that the budget protects
the shadow economy without alleviating the plight of the
population. LF

...WHILE DASHNAK PARTY CRITICIZES DRAFT. Leading members
of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
(Dashnaktsutiun), which has only one parliamentary
deputy, told a news conference on 9 December that some
provisions of the 1999 budget run counter to election
promises made by President Robert Kocharian, Noyan Tapan
reported. Noting that "people are running out of
patience," they predicted that the financial situation
of many Armenian families relying heavily on money from
relatives in Russia may deteriorate as a result of the
financial crisis in that country. The ARFD strongly
backed Kocharian's presidential bid. LF

GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER PROPOSES GUAM PEACEKEEPING
FORCE. Davit Tevzadze has proposed that Georgia,
Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova form a peacekeeping
force to promote regional security and guard the
proposed export oil pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian
oil, Turan reported on 9 December. Tevzadze said experts
from all four countries have discussed the possibility
of cooperation with NATO to create such a force within
the framework of the Partnership for Peace program.
Tevzadze said that the proposed force could also
interact with the Balkan peacekeeping force set up
earlier this year. Tevzadze was speaking in Bucharest,
where he signed a bilateral agreement on defense
cooperation with his Romanian counterpart, Victor
Babiuc, on 8 December. LF

GEORGIAN RULING PARTY LOSES CONTROL OF TBILISI CITY
COUNCIL. Lado Kakhadze of the opposition Labor Party was
elected chairman of the Tbilisi City Council on 9
December, Caucasus Press reported, citing "Rezonansi."
The Union of Citizens of Georgia, the majority party
within the parliament, did not participate in the vote.
The union failed to win an absolute majority in most
areas in the 15 November local elections. LF

GEORGIA'S CHECHEN MINORITY LAUNCHES PROTEST. The Chechen
population of two villages in the northeastern Sighnaghi
Raion have blocked a local highway to protest delays in
paying wages and pensions, Caucasus Press reported on 10
December, citing "Akhali kartuli gazeti." There are an
estimated 10,000-15,000 Chechens in Georgia. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY BANNED. The Supreme Court has
banned the National Unity Party, Interfax reported on 9
December. The party was headed by former Tajik Prime
Minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov, who is wanted by Tajik
law enforcement agencies for his part in the November
rebellion in northern Tajikistan. All the party's
property and assets have been nationalized. The Supreme
Court noted that the party has not held a congress since
its founding in 1994, has not issued any membership
cards, and has not decided on a seal or letterhead. The
party's leadership attempted to distance itself from
Abdullojonov in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2O
November 1998) condemning Abdullojonov for his role in
the November violence. BP

AKAYEV SACKS HEAD OF ADMINISTRATION. Kyrgyz President
Askar Akayev signed a decree on 10 December dismissing
the head of his administration, Omar Sultanov, ITAR-TASS
reported. Akayev's press secretary told journalists that
in the future, Akayev will deal firmly with those who
are engaged in intrigue." He declined to comment further
on the reasons for Sultanov's dismissal. ITAR-TASS,
meanwhile, noted that Foreign Minister Muratbek
Imanaliev has accused Sultanov of interfering in his
ministry's work. Sultanov was appointed head of the
presidential administration in March 1998. BP

QUESTIONS ARISE ABOUT TURKMEN GRAIN HARVEST. Despite the
Turkmen government's claims that this year's grain
harvest exceeds target figures, RFE/RL correspondents
reported on 8 December that the price of government-
subsidized flour has quadrupled since 1 November. The
government announced at the end of the summer that
farmers had harvested slightly more than the planned 1.2
million tons of grain. While the Agricultural Ministry
has claimed many times that 800,000 tons would be enough
to supply all domestic needs, there are reports that in
some areas that flour is scarce and the price of
government-subsidized flour, which only the poor and
families with many children are eligible to receive, has
risen from 25 manat ($1=5,200 manat) per kilogram to 100
manat. The government admitted at the end of November
that less than half the targeted amount of cotton has
been gathered. BP

KAZAKHSTAN, WESTERN OIL COMPANIES SIGN AGREEMENT. Kazakh
officials were in Washington on 9 December to sign an
agreement with representatives of Royal Dutch Shell and
the U.S. companies Mobil and Chevron on conducting
feasibility studies for a pipeline connecting the
eastern and western coasts of the Caspian Sea, ITAR-TASS
and dpa reported. The pipeline will connect oil and gas
fields in western Kazakhstan with Baku. Russian Minister
of Oil and Fuel Vladimir Stanev was also present at the
signing and said his country "need not be concerned
about the deal." He noted that under the terms of the
Caspian Pipeline Consortium agreement, participants can
ship oil via any route they choose but must nonetheless
pay Russian tariffs for oil they originally agreed to
pump to Novorossiisk. BP

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