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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 242, Part I, 17 December 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 242, Part I, 17 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

* BOMBING OF IRAQ CONDEMNED BY KREMLIN

* START-II RATIFICATION VICTIM OF BOMBING?

* FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER'S POLITICAL PARTY LAUNCHED
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RUSSIA

BOMBING OF IRAQ CONDEMNED BY KREMLIN... Russian
officials responded to news of U.S. and UK bombing raids
on Iraq with the demand that those attacks cease at
once. Russian President Boris Yeltsin accused the U.S.
and Britain of "flagrantly [violating] the UN Charter
and generally accepted principles of international law
as well as norms and rules for states' responsible
behavior." He added that the attacks "undermine the
system of international security." Russian Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov blamed UN weapons inspector Richard
Butler for the recent worsening of tensions between Iraq
and the U.S. Ivanov told Russian Television on 17
December that this "is not the first time that Butler
grossly exceeded his power and ordered that the Special
Commission be evacuated from Iraq." Earlier, Ivanov was
quoted by NTV as saying that the U.S. did not warn him
of the impending attacks. Russian newspapers, such as
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Noviye izvestiya" echoed
Ivanov's sentiment that Butler's report had made the air
strike inevitable. JAC

...AND BY LEGISLATURE. Federation Council Chairman Yegor
Stroev called the attack "not only a strike against
Iraq, but against world public opinion and the prestige
of the UN." He added that, "Today the United States has
assumed the role of an international gendarme, and the
consequences of this step will be extremely grave." Duma
deputy and leader of the Our Home is Russia faction
Aleksandr Shokhin told Interfax on 17 December that the
action illustrated Russia's failure to influence Iraq.
Shokhin added that he did not believe the bombing was an
attempt by President Bill Clinton to distract the U.S.
from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Duma International
Committee Chairman and Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin
called the bombing "absolutely intolerable for the
international community" while emphasizing that his
party has always opposed military action against Iraq.
JAC

START-II RATIFICATION VICTIM OF BOMBING? Duma Deputy
Shokhin told Interfax on 17 December that the left would
use the Iraq bombing to further delay a decision on
ratification of the START-II treaty. The same day, Duma
deputy and member of the Liberal Democratic Party
faction Mikhail Gutseriev told ITAR-TASS that the U.S.-
British air strike "might worsen prospects for
ratification of START-II." Meanwhile, "Noviye izvestiya"
also predicted that ratification of START-II now seems
unlikely. It argued that the Duma deputies "who are to
vote on the ratification of the agreement usually react
extremely harshly to excessive actions by the U.S. on
the international front." JAC

GAZPROM SALE ATTRACTS TWO BIDDERS. As a tender for the
sale of a 2.5 percent stake in Gazprom closed on 16
December, at least two companies were reported to have
submitted bids, the minimum required for the sale to be
valid. Analysts believe that Germany's Ruhrgas was one
of the bidders and is the likely winner of the tender,
the results of which will be announced on 19 December.
Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said recently that if
the Gazprom sale is successful, the government might be
able to reduce the size of the monetary emission it will
need in 1999. On 15 December, a Gazprom official wrote
glowingly of Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov for
"Tribuna" and "Trud," pledging that the company is
"ready to support the president and the prime minister
with all its resources." The article also harshly
criticized former Prime Minister and Gazprom chairman
Viktor Chernomyrdin. Both "Tribuna" and "Trud" are owned
by Gazprom. JAC

ILYUKHIN REMARKS GARNER CONDEMNATION... Government and
administration officials strongly condemned the anti-
Semitic remarks of Communist and State Duma deputy
Viktor Ilyukhin on 16 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
16 December 1998). Nikolai Bordyuzha, chief of the
presidential administration, told reporters that
Ilyukhin's remarks "undermine not only the reputation of
the Duma but Russia's international reputation." Justice
Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov called Ilyukhin's
statements "absolutely extremist," while presidential
spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said that Ilyukhin's
statements prove "that all preceding statements by
Communist Party leaders on the theme were neither slips
of the tongue nor accidents, as some wished to represent
them." The same day, "Kommersant-Daily" suggested that
the radical wing of the Communist party is deliberately
provoking the Kremlin. It added that if some kind of
criminal proceedings are launched, then Communists will
be able to secure their position as the major opposition
force. JAC

...AS COMMUNISTS BLAME MEDIA. Communist legislators have
demanded that three major television channels be
stripped of their accreditation for their biased
coverage of Ilyukhin's remarks. Duma Chairman Gennadii
Seleznev urged "the media not to stir flames where they
don't exist," asserting that "any phrase can be quoted
out of context." However, he noted that no accreditation
has been pulled yet and that the Duma's Committee on
Information Policy, Communications, and the Press will
settle the dispute. JAC

VLADIVOSTOK STAND-OFF CONTINUES. A police battalion made
an unsuccessful attempt to occupy the mayoral office
building in Vladivostok on 16 December but was repulsed
by supporters of former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, ITAR-
TASS reported, According to Reuters, a local police duty
officer denied that police had stormed the building and
stressed that Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii
Nazdratenko had vowed not to use force. JAC

SWISS PRESIDENT MEETS WITH PRIMAKOV. Swiss President
Flavio Cotti and Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov signed
a joint statement on technological and financial
cooperation on 16 December. Prime Minister Primakov said
that Russia is interested in securing a new influx of
Swiss capital and will create favorable conditions for
such an influx. Flavio told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that
Switzerland "believes in Russia's economic potential"
and its industries "are definitely interested in the
Russian market." According to Russian statistics,
Switzerland was Russia's second largest foreign investor
in 1997, after the U.S., AFP reported. Flavio arrived on
15 December in St. Petersburg for the first leg of a
three-day trip to Russia. JAC

IMF HAD ADVANCE WARNING OF 17 AUGUST MORATORIUM. In an
interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 December, former
Federal Tax Service chief Boris Federov stated that IMF
officials knew in advance of the Russian government's 17
August decision to announce a moratorium on foreign debt
payments. Federov urged fund officials to try to
dissuade then Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko from making
what Federov considered to be a "politically suicidal"
decision. But they "heard him out without giving any
response." JAC

NEW AMBASSADOR TO U.S. NAMED. President Yeltsin on 16
December named career diplomat Yurii Ushakov ambassador
to the U.S. to replace Yulii Vorontsov, who is retiring.
Until recently, Ushakov was deputy foreign minister
responsible for relations with UN and other
international organizations at the Foreign Ministry in
Moscow. The removal of a security guardpost from
Vorontsov's residence in Washington has been at the
center of a recent diplomatic controversy (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 December 1998). JAC

NEW TEACHERS' ACTIONS LAUNCHED. Thirteen teachers in the
town of Uemskii, near the city of Arkhangelsk, began a
hunger strike to protest unpaid wages, ITAR-TASS
reported on 16 December. The teachers have not been paid
in full since April. Total unpaid wages in the region,
according to a teacher's union official, total 200
million rubles ($10 million). In the town of Volzhsk,
near Volgograd, two teachers began a hunger strike, as
more than 2,000 of their colleagues continue a strike
action. JAC

REGIONS' INDUSTRIAL PERFORMANCE IS SPOTTY. The economic
performance of individuals regions in the Russian
Federation continued to follow a highly varied pattern
in 1998, according to Economic Ministry projections,
"Segodnya" reported on 15 December. In the Volga region,
Astrakhan Oblast managed to boost manufacturing by 14.5
percent, while Ulyanovsk Oblast and the Republic of
Kalmykia witnessed 13.3 percent and 15.2 percent
declines, respectively. In the Far East, Magadan Oblast
saw a 30 percent increase, while manufacturing in
Kamchatka Oblast and Primorskii Krai dipped 18.5 percent
and 12.6 percent, respectively. JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT THREATENS RETALIATION FOR IRAQ
BOMBINGS... Aslan Maskhadov issued a statement on 17
December warning that his forces are preparing to attack
unspecified U.S. and British facilities in the Caucasus,
Russia, and the Near East in retaliation for the air
raids on Iraq, Reuters reported. Also on 17 December,
thousands of people gathered in central Grozny to
demonstrate their support for Maskhadov's proclaimed
crackdown on crime, according to AP. LF

...AS HIS OPPONENTS ISSUE THREATS... Maskhadov's
statement may have been intended primarily as a response
to the accusations voiced on 16 December by Uvai
Akhmadov, second-in-command to Arbi Baraev, the radical
field commander suspected of executing four foreign
hostages last week. Akhmadov said that "the West,
together with Russia and their servant Maskhadov, want
to destroy Chechnya to prevent the Islamic revival," AP
reported. Baraev's men, who are entrenched in the town
of Urus-Martan, southwest of Grozny, warned that they
will launch counterattacks in Russia, rather than fight
with fellow Chechens, if Maskhadov orders any attempt to
disarm them, Caucasus Press reported on 17 December. LF

...AND HIS DEPUTY CALLS FOR ISLAMIC STATE. Addressing a
council of Chechen imams on 16 December, Vice President
Vakha Arsanov demanded the abolition of Chechnya's
present constitution and of the parliament and
presidency, pending the introduction of an Islamic
state, Interfax reported. Arsanov proposed the creation
of a state council that would proclaim a senior
political figure, possibly Maskhadov, as imam vested
with supreme power. But Chief Mufti Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov
warned against that proposal, saying the Chechen people
"are not ready" to live under Islamic law. LF

FORMER AFGHAN ADVERSARIES MEET. Ingush President Ruslan
Aushev met recently near the Tajik-Afghan border with
the "Lion of the Panjsher," Ahmed Shah Massoud, to
discuss securing the release of some 188 surviving
Soviet servicemen who were taken prisoner by Afghan
mujahedin during the 1979-1989 war, Interfax reported on
16 December. Massoud, currently one of the leaders of
the anti-Taliban coalition, made his reputation as a
mujahedin commander during that war. Aushev, a former
Soviet army general who fought for several years in
Afghanistan, heads the CIS Committee on servicemen who
fought in wars on foreign territory. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER'S POLITICAL PARTY LAUNCHED.
Delegates to a 16 December meeting in Almaty have
elected the coordination council of the newly formed
Republican People's Party, RFE/RL correspondents in
Almaty reported. The party will be led by former Kazakh
Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, while the chairman
of the party's council is Gaziz Aldamzharov, the former
governor of Atyrau Oblast. A spokesman said the party's
goals are to take power and create "real" democratic
institutions. Police and plain-clothes policemen
surrounded the building where the delegates were
meeting, filming and photographing both the inside and
outside of the building. Kazhegeldin was not present at
the meeting. BP

SMALL GROUP MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF ALMATY TRAGEDY. Some
100 people gathered in Almaty on 17 December to mark the
12th anniversary of violent unrest in that city, RFE/RL
correspondents reported. Twelve years ago, the first
secretary of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic's
Communist Party, Dinmukhammed Kunayev, was sacked by
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during an anti-
corruption campaign. The subsequent announcement of
ethnic Russian Gennadii Kolbin as Kunayev's replacement
drew Kazakh students into the streets in protest, and
three days of unrest followed. The unrest was put down
when additional KGB agents, Interior Ministry troops,
and policemen were sent to Almaty (then called Alma-
Ata). The fate of some who were arrested remains
unknown, and many still have not been exonerated of
crimes they allegedly committed at that time. BP

KYRGYZSTAN RECEIVES CREDITS FOR WELFARE. The World Bank
and international donors are lending Kyrgyzstan $36.5
million to develop the country's welfare program,
Reuters and Interfax reported on 16 December. The head
of the country's welfare program, Dinara Joldosheva,
said the first tranche, worth $17 million, was released
four days earlier. The money is targeted for developing
the pension insurance system and support for the poor
and the unemployed. BP

TAJIK COMMUNISTS WANT TO HOLD ON TO ASSETS. The leader
of the Tajik Communist Party, Shodi Shabdolov, said the
May presidential decree "On the Property of Tajikistan's
Communist Party" amounts to nationalization of the
party's property and contravenes the country's
constitution, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 December.
Shabdolov noted that in 1992, the party voluntarily
handed over to the government a number of buildings,
including the Central Committee headquarters. The
government is attempting to reclaim Communist Party
property in order to privatize it, but Shabdolov said
the party has purchased that property with its own
funds. He also rejected claims that his party has broken
any rules or laws in accepting funds from communist
parties outside Tajikistan. BP

AZERBAIJANI MINISTER SAID TO HAVE SOLICITED ELECTION
FUNDS FROM UK COMPANIES. Azerbaijani Culture Minister
Polad Bul Bul ogly wrote in September 1998 to British
companies operating in Azerbaijan to ask them to make
financial contributions to the presidential election
campaign of incumbent Heidar Aliev, Turan reported on 16
December. British Ambassador Roger Thomas advised the
companies in question not to comply with that request,
pointing to election legislation that bans the donation
of election funds by foreign states, companies, or
individual citizens, the agency added. LF

MORNINGSTAR UPBEAT ON BAKU-CEYHAN. speaking at a press
conference in Baku on 16 December after talks with
President Heidar Aliev, U.S. presidential envoy Richard
Morningstar said that progress has been made on
implementing plans for construction of an oil export
pipeline from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean terminal
at Ceyhan, Turan and Interfax reported. He predicted
that that project will be implemented within five years,
noting that some U.S. government agencies will provide
funding toward the estimated $3.5 billion cost.
Morningstar added that the U.S. considers the
construction of Transcaspian oil and gas pipelines of
similar importance. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan state oil
company Vice President Ilham Aliev has told journalists
that at talks last week in Ankara between Turkish and
Azerbaijani specialists, Turkey agreed to reduce tariffs
for oil transported via the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline
to less than $3 per barrel, according to Turan on 16
December. LF

IRAN REJECTS AZERBAIJANI PROTEST OVER CASPIAN CONTRACT.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said
on 16 December that Azerbaijan's protest over the 14
December contract signed between an Iranian and two
Western oil companies "lacks a legal basis," Reuters
reported, citing IRNA. In letters sent on 15 December to
the governments of the four other Caspian littoral
states and to the foreign oil companies involved, the
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry had protested the contract
to conduct exploration in what Baku claims is its sector
of the Caspian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 16
December 1998). LF

RUSSIAN AIR FORCE COMMANDER VISITS ARMENIA. Colonel-
General Anatolii Kornukov held meetings in Yerevan on
15-16 December with Armenian Prime Minister Armen
Darpinian and Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian, RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported. The talks focused on military-
technical cooperation and the development of the
coordinated CIS air defense system, according to
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 December. In January 1999,
Armenia will join Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and
Kyrgyzstan as a member of that system. Five Russian MiG
aircraft were flown to Armenia on 16 December to
reinforce the air grouping at Russia's military base in
that country. LF

SVERDLOVSK GOVERNOR SIGNS ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS IN
TBILISI. Visiting Georgia on 16 December, Eduard Rossel
signed agreements on the delivery to Georgia of medical
equipment worth $600,000 and the purchase of Georgian
wine and cognac worth twice that amount, ITAR-TASS
reported. He further expressed an interest in Georgia's
manganese deposits and production of copper
concentrates. Rossel also met with Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze, Tbilisi Mayor Vano Zodelava, and
Industry Minister Badri Shoshitaishvili. LF

GEORGIA RULES OUT HIKE IN BREAD PRICES. Two senior
Georgian officials have pledged to keep bread prices
stable, despite dwindling reserves of wheat and the
sharp fall in value of the Georgian lari, Caucasus Press
reported on 15 and 17 December. But bread supplies to
thousands of Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia
now living in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi have
been halted as a result of a strike by local bakers
demanding unpaid back wages. LF

SUPPORTERS OF DECEASED GEORGIAN PRESIDENT LAUNCH HUNGER
STRIKE. Manana Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia, widow of the
deceased former president, and two supporters launched a
hunger strike in Tbilisi on 15 December to demand the
release of former parliamentary deputy Givi
Taktakishvili, Interfax reported on 16 December.
Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia said Taktakishvili was detained
in Moscow on the orders of Georgian Interior Minister
Kakha Targamadze. On 11 December, Gamsakhurdia's younger
son, Giorgi, told journalists in Tbilisi that he had
applied to join the Tbilisi city police force. LF

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