The business of art lies just in this--to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible. - Leo Tolstoy
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 6, Part I, 11 January 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 6, Part I, 11 January 1999

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

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Headlines, Part I

* FINANCE MINISTRY DENIES RUSSIA IN DEFAULT

* OIL CAN'T BE ECONOMY'S 'LOCOMOTIVE,' SIBNEFT OFFICIAL
SAYS

* NAZARBAYEV WINS MORE THAN 80 PERCENT OF VOTE
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

RUSSIA

FINANCE MINISTRY DENIES RUSSIA IN DEFAULT. In a
statement released on 9 January, the Russian Finance
Ministry denied reports that Moscow has defaulted on its
foreign debt or faces seizure of its assets abroad as a
result, ITAR-TASS reported. The ministry said that
Moscow has taken a series of "civilized steps" to deal
with the Russian debt. But in an indication that Moscow
may not soon pay all its debts, the ministry
acknowledged that Russia has budgeted only $9.5 billion
of the $17.5 billion required for debt servicing this
year. And the statement said that Moscow would seek more
foreign help to cover its debts. In the absence of such
help, officials said, Russia's economic and political
situation would deteriorate even further. PG

MASLYUKOV TO CUT SHORT U.S. TRIP TO MEET WITH IMF
MISSION. First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov
will cut short his visit to Washington in order to
return to Moscow on 15 January, Interfax-FIA reported on
10 January. Finance Ministry officials said they expect
a mission from the IMF to arrive before the end of
January, but they acknowledged that no date has been
set. PG

DUMA TO CONSIDER BUDGET THIS WEEK. State Duma Chairman
Gennadii Seleznev said on 9 January that the Duma may
debate the 1999 state budget at an extraordinary session
on 19 January, Russian agencies reported. He added that
the budget might receive final approval in early
February. Meanwhile, Russian Communist Party chief
Gennadii Zyuganov told RIA that the lower house of the
parliament will pass the budget by the end of January.
But the Duma's budget committee on 10 January called for
cutting 1999 expenditures on the country's state
administration by some 1.8 billion rubles ($85 million),
Interfax reported. PG

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO EXAMINE IMPEACHMENT QUERIES.
Mikhail Mityukov, Yeltsin's representative to the
Constitutional Court, told Interfax on 8 January that
the court will consider a Duma inquiry about when a
prime minister should assume the powers of the president
and when elections should be held if the president is no
longer physically capable of performing his functions.
Mityukov said that this inquiry is part of what the
Duma's "long-lasting 'medical' impeachment campaign." PG

YELTSIN URGED NOT TO TAX JUDGES... The leaders of
Russia's highest courts have called on Yeltsin to block
the levying of taxes on judges' incomes, ITAR-TASS
reported on 10 January. An amendment to tax legislation
submitted to the Duma would tax their incomes for the
first time, cutting their incomes by almost a third, the
appeal said. They also suggested that such a tax would
"provoke a mass exodus of judges" while contributing
little revenue to the state. Yeltsin reportedly has
directed Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov to modify the
legislation in response to the judges' concerns. PG

...VOIDS SAKHA GOLD DECREE. The Russian president on 10
January revoked an August 1998 decree by Republic of
Sakha (Yakutia) President Mikahil Nikolaev on the
disposition of gold supplies, Interfax reported.
Yeltsin's decree said that Nikolaev's decree violates
the law on precious metals and must be revised.
Officials at the Russian state gold holding agency
Goskhran said that Yeltsin's action would "have a
positive influence on gold mining companies" in Yakutia.
PG

A BAD YEAR ON RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET... Total trading on
Moscow's RTS exchange fell from $15.65 billion in 1997
to $9.26 billion in 1998, Interfax-FIA reported on 8
January. Price declines meant that the capitalization of
the shares on RTS fell from $72 billion on 5 January
1998 to approximately $11 billion a year later, an 85
percent decrease. PG

...WHILE PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAYS DUBININ RESPONSIBLE FOR
AUGUST CRISIS. Yurii Skuratov said on 10 January that he
will ask President Yeltsin to review the activities of
the Central Bank in August 1998 at a meeting of the
Russian Security Council, Interfax reported. Skuratov
said that in his view then-CBR chairman Sergei Dubinin
was "directly responsible for what has happened" since
that time. PG

GOVERNMENT PROMISES TO PAY OVERDUE PENSIONS BY JULY.
Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko told Ekho
Moskvy on 10 January that the government will pay 28.6
billion rubles ($1.3 billion) in overdue pensions by
July, ITAR-TASS reported. She also said that pensions
will be adjusted twice but she acknowledged that the
hikes will not keep up with inflation. PG

OIL CAN'T BE ECONOMY'S 'LOCOMOTIVE,' SIBNEFT OFFICIAL
SAYS. Speaking in Omsk on 9 January, Konstantin Popov,
the vice president of the Sibneft oil company, suggested
that "Russia's oil industry is in no position to be a
locomotive for the Russian economy," ITAR-TASS reported.
He noted that his company cut output by 4 percent in
1998 and that it will be a long time before oil prices
recover to where they were several years ago. Meanwhile,
the Russian government announced plans to sell another
2.5 percent of Gazprom shares once the market becomes
more favorable. It added that it will consider expanding
the size of oil companies in order to raise more
revenue, Interfax said on 8 January. PG

YELTSIN SIGNS AMENDMENTS TO PRODUCTION-SHARING LAW. The
Russian president on 8 January approved amendments to
the Production Sharing Law that are intended to make it
easier for foreign firms to invest in the petroleum and
natural resource sectors, ITAR-TASS reported. The new
law provides legal guarantees for foreign investors. PG

FIVE OF RUSSIA'S 10 LARGEST BANKS INSOLVENT. The
Interfax Center for Economic Analysis announced on 9
January that five of Russia's 10 largest banks--
Inkombank, SBS Agro, Unexim Bank, Rossiiskii Kredit, and
Menatep--are no longer able to meet their financial
commitments. Only one of the five still solvent banks--
the International Industrial Bank--is controlled by
Russian private capital. On the basis of this, the
Interfax Center for Economic Analysis predicts that what
it calls "pro-state banks and the subsidiaries of
foreign financial markets" will improve their positions
in the Russian banking scene in 1999. PG

RUSSIA INTRODUCES EXPORT DUTIES. Moscow on 4 January
introduced customs duties on scrap non-ferrous metals
and certain kinds of lumber exported to countries
outside the CIS, Interfax reported. The new levies, up
to 10 percent of the value of the products, are intended
to help stabilize the country's economic situation,
officials said. PG

MAKASHOV CASE RETURNED TO FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE.
Prosecutor-General Skuratov said on 10 January that his
office had returned the investigation of the October
1998 statements by Duma deputy Albert Makashov to the
Federal Security Service's Moscow department, ITAR-TASS
reported. Skuratov described as "illegal" the
termination of the investigation for Makashov's anti-
Semitic statements under the article of the criminal
code that punishes appeals for changing the
constitutional system. PG

RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT CALLS FOR OUSTER OF UNSCOM CHIEF.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia's permanent representative to the
UN, said on ORT on 10 January that UNSCOM's methods
"have completely discredited themselves" and that
Richard Butler should be dismissed as UNSCOM chief. PG

VORONTSOV TAKES POSTS WITH UN, RUSSIAN BANK. At a
Washington reception, Yulii Vorontsov, who has been
Moscow's ambassador to the U.S., said that as of 1
February he will become deputy secretary-general at the
UN and chairman of the Board of the Russian-U.S.
Investment Bank, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January.
Vorontsov's successor in Washington, Yurii Ushakov, is
to arrive in the U.S. capital shortly, the Russian
agency said. PG

MERGER OF AIR FORCE UNITS COMPLETED. Colonel-General
Anatolii Kornukov, the commander in chief of the Russian
Air Force, told Interfax on 8 January that the merger of
the Military Air Force and the Air Defense Forces has
been completed. He suggested that the "new structure"
will improve combat effectiveness in the event of need.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Duma defense committee,
Roman Popkovich, called on Yeltsin to explain why the
military will not get more funds for 1999. PG

JAPANESE AMBASSADOR CALLED IN OVER KURIL REPORTS. The
Russian Foreign Ministry last week called in the
Japanese ambassador to discuss reports in the Tokyo
press that Moscow was ready to return two of the
disputed Kuril Islands to Japan, ITAR-TASS reported on
10 January. Both the Russian and Japanese governments
have denied those reports. Representatives of the two
countries are scheduled to meet to discuss the islands
on 21 January prior to a February visit to Tokyo by
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. PG

INTENSIFIED SEARCHES CUT DESERTION RATE. Lieutenant-
General Pavel Labutin, the chief of the Leningrad
military district headquarters, told ITAR-TASS on 8
January that as a result of intensified searches and
greater willingness by commanders to report the number
of soldiers absent without leave, his officers reduced
the number of deserters from 110 to only 48 during last
year. Labutin indicated that other military districts
are also stepping up their efforts to reduce the
desertion rate, but he noted that it is most difficult
to find deserters from those military units now
stationed in the Caucasus. He also said that "in many
cases," because of cash shortages in the army, deserters
who are caught are forced to continue their service in
the military districts where they are found. PG

OMON POLICE TAKE CREDIT FOR QUIET IN RUSSIAN CAPITAL.
Colonel Vyacheslav Kozlov told ITAR-TASS on 10 January
that his OMON units were responsible for the "tranquil"
holding of 675 public events in Moscow during 1998. He
noted that OMON forces had confiscated more than 130
guns, 800 pieces of ammunition, and some 31 kilograms of
drugs last year. And he added that some 908 criminal
proceedings had begun on the basis of OMON submissions.
PG

LOCAL COURT CANCELS UPCOMING VLADIVOSTOK VOTE. The
Leninskii district court in Vladivostok on 10 January
declared that plans to hold mayoral elections in that
city on 17 January are illegal, ITAR-TASS reported. The
court acted on the basis of an appeal by local citizens
who argued that the city must first elect a council and
then draft a charter under which mayoral elections would
be held. Local officials have said that they will
appeal, but they added that the vote will not take place
on the scheduled date. PG

GORBACHEV CALLS FOR RENEWAL OF CP, USSR. Expressing his
frustration with the continued presence in the Russian
Communist Party of those who led the August 1991 coup
against him, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said
on 9 January that the party needs to undergo a renewal,
Interfax reported. "Those people," Gorbachev said,
"dealt the heaviest blow, something Boris Yeltsin took
advantage of," and thus allowed the demise of the Soviet
Union. Now, he insisted, even those who supported the
dissolution of the USSR are saying that "Gorbachev was
apparently right all along and that a soft union was the
best option." PG

ONE RUSSIAN IN THREE OBJECTS TO FOREIGN WORKERS.
According to the All-Russia Public Opinion Center, some
34 percent of Russians object to Russian firms' hiring
workers from Ukraine, Belarus, and other countries,
Interfax reported on 10 January. Of the 1,600
respondents, only 28 percent supported such hires, while
33 percent said they are indifferent. PG

BASHKORTOSTAN BANS TATAR NATIONALIST ORGANIZATION. A
district court in Ufa, the capital of the Republic of
Bashkortostan, has banned the Tatar Public Center
following an appeal by the Ministry of Justice, RFE/RL's
Kazan bureau reported on 11 January. The court ruled
that the center had called for the secession from
Bashkortostan of a region populated mainly by Tatars and
for the ouster of Bashkortostan's President Murtaza
Rakhimov. Tatar Public Center chairman Zagir Khakimov
told a Tatarstan Radio correspondent that the center did
not advocate Rakhimov's ouster but merely called on the
population not to vote for him in the 1998 presidential
elections. The center has also protested the draft
language law passed in the first reading by the
parliament of Bashkortostan in December. That bill
designates Bashkir and Russian as state languages but
not Tatar, despite the fact that Tatars constitute a
larger share of the population of Bashkortostan than do
the Bashkirs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999). LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES NEW ISLAMIC CONSTITUTION.
Speaking on Chechen Television on 9 January, Aslan
Maskhadov said a commission has been created to draft
within three years "a concept of an Islamic state [and]
a new constitution...based on the Koran," ITAR-TASS
reported. Parliamentary and presidential elections will
be held once the constitution is completed. Also on 9
January, the deputy commander of the Chechen national
guard, Sulim Yamadaev, said that Islamic radicals from
unnamed Middle Eastern countries, rather than ethnic
Chechens, perpetrated the bomb explosion in which he was
injured last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January
1999). On 10 January, ITAR-TASS retracted reports it had
issued earlier that day claiming that Maskhadov had held
talks in Ingushetia with Russian Interior Minister
Sergei Stepashin. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

NAZARBAYEV WINS MORE THAN EIGHTY PERCENT OF VOTE...
Nursultan Nazarbayev was re-elected president of
Kazakhstan in the 10 January elections, gaining 81.75
percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.
With most votes counted, Serikbolsyn Abdildin of the
Communist Party received 12.08 percent, Customs
Committee chairman Gani Kasymov 4.72 percent, and
parliamentary deputy Engels Gabbasov 0.78 percent. The
Central Elections Commission reports that 86.28 percent
of the electorate turned out to vote in the country's
first "alternative presidential elections." Observers
have so far reported no serious violation at the polls,
although Central Elections Commission chairwoman Zagipa
Baliyeva admitted there were instances in which one
person attempted to vote for other family members. BP

...DECLARES HIMSELF 'SATISFIED' WITH OUTCOME. At a press
conference in Astana on 11 January, Nazarbayev said he
is satisfied with the preliminary results of the
election, RFE/RL correspondents in the capital reported.
Nazarbayev commented that of the approximately 20
percent that voted against him, "10 percent is the
result of my opponents' activities, [while] the other 10
percent are people who are in poverty now." He noted
that he will retain Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev in
that post and that the government will remain
essentially the same, although he added that there will
be some changes. When leaving the voting booth in Astana
the previous day, Nazarbayev had said he will continue
his reform program, but he rejected the suggestion that
Kazakhstan will join the Russian-Belarusian union (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1999). BP

FIVE MORE 'WAHHABIS' SENTENCED IN UZBEKISTAN. A Tashkent
court on 8 January found five men guilty of trying to
overthrow the government and sentenced them to jail
terms ranging from two to 12 years, AFP reported. The
five are reported to be members of an Islamic sect, the
Wahhabis, and to have links to Obidkhan Nazarov, the
former Imam of Tashkent's Tokhtoboy Mosque, who has been
in hiding for nearly one year. All five pleaded
innocence, and the head of the Independent Human Rights
Organization of Uzbekistan, Mikhail Ardzinov, said the
charges were "a fabrication." BP

KULIK IN TASHKENT. Russian Deputy Prime Minister
Gennadii Kulik was in Tashkent on 8-9 January for a
meeting of the Russian-Uzbek intergovernmental
commission on economic cooperation and for talks with
various Uzbek officials, including President Islam
Karimov. ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov noted that "both
sides are interested in deepening mutually advantageous
economic relations," while Kulik said "Russia attaches
special attention to the development of long term ties
with Uzbekistan. BP

KARIMOV MEETS WITH TAJIK PREMIER. The Uzbek president
and Tajik Prime Minister Yahye Azimov met in Tashkent on
8 January to discuss trade and economic cooperation. The
two sides agreed on a formula to resume natural gas
supplies from Uzbekistan to Tajikistan. It was the first
official meeting between Tajik and Uzbek officials since
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov accused Uzbekistan of
harboring mutineers who had tried to seize territory in
northern Tajikistan in early November. BP

UZBEKISTAN, TURKMENISTAN HOLD TALKS. An Uzbek delegation
was in Turkmenistan on 8 January to discuss rail
tariffs, the use of land in border areas, and payment
for the transit of Turkmen electricity via Uzbek
territory, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides also
discussed a schedule for the payment of goods and
services already delivered but were unable to reach
agreement on that issue. BP

TURKMEN PRESIDENT DISMISSES DEPUTY PREMIER. Saparmurat
Niyazov dismissed Boris Shikhmuradov as deputy prime
minister on 8 January because of Shikhmuradov's
involvement in leasing a book store to companies that do
not sell books, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. RFE/RL
corespondents in Ashgabat reported that Shikhmuradov had
been criticized in the country's state-owned press in
December. Shikhmuradov retains his post as foreign
minister, however. BP

ARMENIAN CURRENCY AGAIN DROPS IN VALUE. The dram lost 3
percent of its value against the dollar on 8 January,
falling from 525 to 550 against the U.S. currency, but
stabilized at 545 after intervention by the Central
Bank, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Senior Central
Bank official Aram Vartanian attributed the dram's
weakening to commercial banks' short-term needs and
"shadow [currency] circulation." A spokesman for the
Armenian Prime Minister told Noyan Tapan the same day
that the rise in the dollar rate falls within the
framework of the government's credit and monetary policy
and does not constitute grounds for concern. But two
leading Armenian businessmen predicted that the dram's
depreciation will hurt both the business community and
the population at large. LF

AZERBAIJAN LINKS PRISON REVOLT WITH COUP ATTEMPT.
Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov told a news
conference in Baku on 10 January that the uprising two
days earlier at a maximum security prison south of Baku
was the continuation of attempts three years ago to oust
President Heidar Aliev, Reuters reported. Usubov claimed
that the revolt was masterminded by former army General
Vakhid Musaev and Faig Bakhshaliev, a close associate of
special police commander Rovshan Djavadov. He suggested
that unnamed foreign intelligence services may have been
involved. But Usubov also said that the insurgents
possessed weapons and means of transportation and had
demanded safe passage out of the country, either by air
or through a land corridor to Nagorno-Karabakh,
according to Interfax. Musaev and Bakhshaliev were
serving prison sentences for having allegedly planned to
assassinate Aliev in 1995. They were among 11 prisoners
killed during the insurrection. Two prison guards also
died in that incident. LF

CASPIAN OIL STARTS FLOWING THROUGH GEORGIA. Senior
officials and diplomats from Azerbaijan and Georgia
attended a 8 January ceremony near the frontier between
the two countries to mark the pumping of the first
Azerbaijani Caspian oil into the Georgian section of the
Baku-Supsa export pipeline. Giorgi Chanturia, chairman
of the Georgian International Oil Corporation, told
journalists that more than 2.5 million metric tons of
oil will be exported through the pipeline in 1999, as a
result of which the Georgian budget will receive between
$2-3 million in transit fees. LF

GEORGIA ISSUES ANOTHER ULTIMATUM OVER CIS PEACEKEEPERS.
Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told
journalists in Tbilisi on 8 January that Georgia will
consent to the extension of the expired mandate of the
CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia only if that mandate
is altered to reflect Georgia's demands, Russian
agencies reported. Tbilisi wants those peacekeepers to
be given broader powers to protect ethnic Georgians in
Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. On 10 January,
Russian President Yeltsin approved unspecified proposals
by Security Council secretary Colonel Nikolai Bordyuzha
to increase the effectiveness of the peacekeepers' role.
On the night of 10-11 January, Abkhaz-Georgian police
detachments began patrolling the security zone on the
border between Gali Raion and the rest of Georgia,
Caucasus Press reported. No incidents were reported. LF

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
               Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE
Send an email to newsline-request@list.rferl.org with
the word subscribe as the subject of the message.

HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE
Send an email to newsline-request@list.rferl.org with
the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message.

For subscription problems or inquiries, please email
listmanager@list.rferl.org
________________________________________________
CURRENT AND BACK ISSUES ON THE WEB
Back issues of RFE/RL Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest
are online at: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/
_________________________________________________
LISTEN TO NEWS FOR 23 COUNTRIES
RFE/RL programs are online daily at RFE/RL's 24-Hour
LIVE Broadcast Studio.
http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/index.html
_________________________________________________
REPRINT POLICY
To receive reprint permission, please contact Paul Goble
via
email at GobleP@rferl.org or fax at 1-202-457-6992
_________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE STAFF
* Paul Goble, Publisher, GobleP@rferl.org
* Liz Fuller, Editor-in-Chief, CarlsonE@rferl.org
* Patrick Moore, Team Leader, MooreP@rferl.org
* Jan Cleave, CleaveJ@rferl.org
* Julie A. Corwin, CorwinJ@rferl.org
* Jan Maksymiuk, MaksymiukJ@rferl.org
* Bruce Pannier, PannierB@rferl.org
* Michael Shafir, ShafirM@rferl.org

FREE-LANCE AND OCCASIONAL CONTRIBUTORS
* Pete Baumgartner, Jolyon Naegele, Fabian Schmidt,
Matyas Szabo, Anthony Wesolowsky

RFE/RL Newsline Fax: (420-2) 2112-3630
_________________________________________________
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

[English] [Russian TRANS | KOI8 | ALT | WIN | MAC | ISO5]

F&P Home ° Comments ° Guestbook


1996 Friends and Partners
Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole
Please visit the Russian and American mirror sites of Friends and Partners.
Updated: 1998-11-

Please write to us with your comments and suggestions.

F&P Quick Search
Main Sections
Home
Bulletin Board
Chat Room
F&P Listserver

RFE/RL
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
Search

News
News From Russia/NIS
News About Russia/NIS
Newspapers & Magazines
Global News
Weather

©1996 Friends and Partners
Please write to us with any comments, questions or suggestions -- Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole