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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 15, Part I, 22 January 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 15, Part I, 22 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

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Headlines, Part I

* RUSSIA, LONDON CLUB TO RESUME DEBT TALKS

* START-II LINKED WITH ABM TREATY

* KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT TASKS PREMIER WITH FORMING NEW
GOVERNMENT

End Note: WHY DON'T RUSSIANS REBEL?
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RUSSIA

RUSSIA, LONDON CLUB TO RESUME DEBT TALKS. London Club
creditors agreed to resume negotiations on Russia's debt
inherited from the Soviet Union, which is estimated at
about $32 billion, "Vremya MN" reported on 21 January. A
majority of Club members voted to renew talks rather
than demand immediate payment, according to the
newspaper. Last month, Russia defaulted on a $362
million payment, causing Fitch ICBA to downgrade its
rating on Russia's Soviet Union debt (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 14 January 1999). On 26 January, a Russian
delegation will attend a meeting of the Paris Club, with
whom the Russian government would also like to
restructure its debt. But in order to do so, an IMF
approved program would need to be in place, according to
Reuters. First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov
told reporters on 20 January that the government is
planning to stop taking out foreign loans altogether.
JAC

START-II LINKED WITH ABM TREATY... Colonel-General
Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry's
Department for International Military Cooperation, told
Interfax on 21 January that the U.S.'s plans to review
the ABM treaty could harm chances for ratification of
the START-II treaty. The Duma is scheduled to debate the
treaty in March. Ivashov said that "attempts to bypass
the ABM treaty will upset strategic stability." In a
letter sent to President Boris Yeltsin last week, U.S.
President Bill Clinton proposed lifting the deployment
of anti-missile defense systems, ITAR-TASS reported on
22 January. However, according to the agency, Robert
Bell, special aide to Clinton on defense policy and arms
control, said that deployment of such a system may not
require amending the ABM treaty but that if modification
is necessary the U.S. will work with Russia to reach an
agreement. JAC

... BLASTED BY LEBED. In an article in "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" on 21 January, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor and
possible presidential contender Aleksandr Lebed slammed
the START-II treaty, urging the Duma not to ratify it.
He said that ratification of the treaty "may cause
irreparable damage to Russia's national security." Lebed
called for a more drastic cut in the number of strategic
offensive weapons owned by Russia and the U.S than that
provided for by START-II, from 3,000-3,500 nuclear
warheads to 1,500-1,700 each. The same day, Defense
Minister Igor Sergeev praised the treaty, calling it
"necessary and beneficial for Russia." JAC

MORE INDICATORS OF ECONOMIC DECLINE. Russian industrial
output slumped 5.2 percent in 1998 compared with the
previous year, ITAR-TASS reported. Light industry
witnessed the biggest decline, 11.5 percent, followed by
metals (8.1 percent) and chemicals (7.5 percent). Real
per capita income plunged 16 percent as nearly a quarter
of the population slipped below the subsistence wage of
493 rubles ($22) a month. Foreign trade turnover slid 16
percent during the first 11 months of 1998, compared
with the same period the previous year. JAC

FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES OCALAN IS IN RUSSIA. Russian
Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told
journalists in Moscow on 21 January that the Russian
authorities have no information to corroborate reports
that Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) chairman Abdullah
Ocalan is in Russia. He added that the investigation
into those reports continues. But Turkish Prime Minister
Bulent Ecevit said in Ankara later that day that Turkish
intelligence reports suggest that Ocalan is "almost
certainly" in Russia, AFP reported. Also on 21 January,
Naira Melkumian, the foreign minister of the
unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, rejected as "an
exotic hoax" a report in "Kommersant-Daily" on 21
January that Ocalan had arrived in the enclave from
Italy at the invitation of the Karabakh authorities, AP
reported. LF

RUSSIA TO ASSUME LARGER ROLE IN MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS?
During a meeting with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister
Ariel Sharon on 21 January, Prime Minister Yevgenii
Primakov pledged that Russia is ready to step up efforts
to assist the Arab-Israeli peace process. The previous
day, Sharon met separately with Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, Defense
Minister Sergeev, and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev.
During their meeting, Ivanov told Sharon that the
Russian government will fight "any form of political
extremism, including anti-Semitism." JAC

MOSCOW REPEATS WARNINGS ABOUT USE OF FORCE IN KOSOVA.
Foreign Minister Ivanov told reporters on 22 January
that the use of force in Kosova would "not only
aggravate the regional situation but may also trigger a
new Balkan war." The previous day, Foreign Ministry
spokesman Rakhmanin declined to comment on a Russian
newspaper report that First Deputy Foreign Minister
Aleksandr Avdeev had warned Belgrade that failure to
revise its decision on expelling the head of the OSCE
mission in Kosova would mean decreased Russian support
for Belgrade's position. Rakhmanin said only that Russia
"believes that the necessary and favorable conditions
for the OSCE to function in [Kosova] should be created."
JAC

'ROMANIAN VARIANT' CONSIDERED POSSIBLE IN RUSSIA... As
the Congress of Russian Coal-Mining Cities convened in
Moscow on 21 January, some participants said that a
"Romanian variant" is a possibility for Russian coal
miners, "Tribuna" reported on 22 January. Bakhtiyar
Mamaev, acting mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetskii in Kemerovo
Oblast, said that a Romanian-style protest is possible
"in the very near future if the government does not
repay its debts to coal miners." He added that "we will
face a disaster much worse than in Romania because this
time it will [involve] not only the coal miners but
their wives, employees of businesses that cater to the
mines and the miners, and other organizations dependent
on the state budget." Aleksandr Naumov, president of the
Association of Coal Mining Cities, predicted a major
Romanian-style coal miners' strike in May "if no
measures are taken" to improve the life of coal miners
or the situation in the coal industry. JAC

...AS NEW QUESTIONS ABOUT COAL SECTOR LOAN RAISED.
Vladimir Bandukov, head of the Partizansk city
administration in the Primorskii Krai, ruled out such a
possibility, however, noting that "our government knows
how to maneuver and let off steam in a timely fashion."
He added that the coal miners' trade union is split and
lacks a strong leader. Russian Miners movement head
Vladimir Katalnikov met with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov
on 20 January to ask for Luzhkov's help in finding
"information about unauthorized use of the World Bank's
coal sector loan, which had been extended to restructure
the coal-mining industry and assist workers' adaption to
the closure of mines," "Vremya MN" reported on 21
January. JAC

LEBED FACING MORE PROBLEMS IN KRASNOYARSK. Krasnoyarsk
Governor Lebed is poised to lose control over the
Borodinskii coal mine to Krasnoyarsk Fuel Company (KTK),
which is affiliated with the TaNAKo group, controlled by
Lebed's former supporter and influential local industry
head Anatolii Bykov, "Izvestiya" reported on 21 January.
Krasugol, which owns the mine, transferred the right to
collect a 42 million ruble ($1.9 million) debt to KTK,
according to the newspaper. Using obscene language,
Lebed chastised the directors of the coal mine and the
KTK during a televised local meeting on 17 January,
prompting the coal mine director to threaten to sue
Lebed, while KTK's director challenged Lebed to a boxing
match, "Segodnya" reported. According to "Izvestiya,"
Lebed intends to report on the situation to Prime
Minister Primakov and Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov
on 26 January. JAC

MILITARY FINDS DRAFTEES IN POOR SHAPE. Some preliminary
findings from the General Staff's analysis of the latest
conscription campaign, which ended on 15 January, are
now available "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20
January. Many potential draftees could not be enlisted
for a variety of reasons: almost one in three had poor
health; one-tenth had either alcohol or drug abuse
problems; and another 40 percent were brought up in
"problematic families," according to the newspaper.
Another 40,000 young men were estimated to have dodged
the draft altogether. JAC

BASHKORTOSTAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL LANGUAGE
LAW. The Legislative Assembly--the lower house of the
parliament of Bashkortostan--passed the new language law
in the second and third readings on 21 January, RFE/RL's
Kazan bureau reported. The bill must now be approved by
the upper house and signed into law by President Murtaza
Rakhimov. Deputies ignored an appeal by the parliament
of neighboring Tatarstan to amend the bill in order to
designate Tatar a state language in Bashkortostan
together with Bashkir and Russian (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 21 January 1999). LF

COSSACKS DEMAND SVERDLOVSK BE RENAMED. The Union of
Russian Cossacks issued a statement on 21 January
demanding that Sverdlovsk Oblast be renamed
"Yekaterinburg" in order stop honoring the Cossacks'
chief persecutor, Bolshevik Central Executive Committee
Chairman Yakov Sverdlov, ITAR-TASS reported. The
Cossacks noted that Sverdlov signed an order on 24
January 1919 that unleashed the purges against the
Cossacks. JAC

MORE INTER-FACTIONAL FIGHTING IN CHECHNYA. Chechen
police clashed with armed opposition detachments on 21
January in the town of Urus Martan, southwest of Grozny,
ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking on Chechen Television,
Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev warned that
preparations are under way for a coup d'etat but did not
name the forces involved. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT TASKS PREMIER WITH FORMING NEW
GOVERNMENT. The parliament of Kazakhstan voted by 100 to
two with one abstention on 21 January in favor of
President Nursultan Nazarbayev's proposal that Nurlan
Balghymbayev form a new government, Reuters and ITAR-
TASS reported. In accordance with the constitution,
Balghymbayev and his cabinet resigned after the 10
January presidential election, as did all regional
governors. Outlining his new program to the parliament,
Balghymbayev vowed to concentrate on increasing domestic
production in order to reduce imports, preserving a
stable exchange rate, and seeking more foreign
investment in the chemical and petrochemical sectors and
light industry. LF

EU REGISTERS CONCERN OVER PRESIDENTIAL POLL IN
KAZAKHSTAN. In a statement issued on 21 January,
Germany, which holds the EU rotating presidency, termed
the 10 January presidential elections "a setback for
democratization" and for the rule of law in Kazakhstan,
dpa reported. The statement expressed concern that the
election date was brought forward at short notice and
that contrary to the country's constitution, potential
candidates were barred from running on the grounds that
they had been convicted of minor offenses. LF

FOOD SHORTAGES IN BAIKONUR. An 11 January government
directive imposing quotas on Russian imports has
resulted in serious food shortages in the town of
Baikonur, home to the thousands of ethnic Russian
employees of the space launch complex, which Russia
leases from Kazakhstan. Traditionally, Baikonur imported
all its goods from the Russian Federation and local
markets accepted only Russian rubles, not Kazakhstan
tenges. After visiting Baikonur town on 22 January,
Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister Baltash Tursynbayev
told journalists that food prices there are now three
times higher than in Qyzyl-Orda City and twice as high
as in Moscow, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, BELARUS SEEK TO INCREASE TRADE. Kyrgyzstan's
Prime Minister Jumabek Ibraimov and Belarusian charge
d'affaires Alyaksandr Tumor held talks in Bishkek on 21
January on Kyrgystan's possible purchase of Belarusian
farm machinery and deliveries of Kyrgyz wool and other
agricultural products to Belarus, Interfax reported. Up
to one dozen draft bilateral agreements, including on
creating an inter-governmental trade commission and on
protecting mutual investments, were prepared for
signature. Trade in 1998 between the two countries,
which are both members of the CIS Customs Union,
exceeded $18 million. LF

ECONOMIC CRIME ON INCREASE IN KYRGYZSTAN. Addressing a
21 January session of the government commission for
combating economic crime, Ibraimov said such offenses
doubled in 1998 compared with the previous year,
according to Interfax. Ibraimov told the meeting that
law enforcement bodies returned to the 1998 state budget
about 33 million som ($1 million) that had been either
embezzled or misappropriated. He called for stronger
measures to combat tax evasion, smuggling, and
corruption, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CONCERNED ABOUT ARMENIAN DEATHS. In a
15 January letter to Armenian President Robert
Kocharian, Human Rights Watch enumerates instances of
reprisals, beatings, and resulting deaths among
conscripts serving in the Armenian armed forces. It
estimates the average annual number of such deaths over
the past three years at 200. The letter also draws
attention to similar reprisals against detainees at the
hands of police officers and expresses concern over
restrictions on religious freedom and attempts to
falsify the outcome of the 1998 presidential elections.
Human Rights Watch concludes that such abuses disqualify
Armenia from full membership in the Council of Europe.
LF

GENERAL MOTORS TO MANUFACTURE VEHICLES IN ARMENIA. The
Armenian government announced on 21 January that General
Motors has decided to launch production operations in
Armenia in conjunction with the Armenian Ministry of
Industry and Trade, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.
Visiting Yerevan last October, General Motors' vice
president for the former Soviet republics said the
company was considering assembling minibuses, small
tractors, and trucks in Armenia and selling them
throughout the region (see "RFE/RL Armenia Report," 26
October 1998). He said research conducted by General
Motors had revealed a "favorable investment climate" in
Armenia. LF

ARMENIAN WAR VETERANS DISAGREE OVER IDEOLOGY. Deputy
parliamentary speaker Albert Bazeyan, who is also deputy
chairman of the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the
Karabakh war, has taken issue with statements by Razmik
Vasilian, a Yerkrapah member and former commander of the
volunteer Armenian National Army, which was set up to
fight in Karabakh and dissolved by the Armenian
parliament in August 1990. In an interview with Noyan
Tapan on 20 January, Vasilian called for the creation of
a "national ideology" and of "a union of national and
nationalist forces" that would "promote the
establishment of a powerful state through ideology and
courage." Bazeyan said that as an employee of the
Armenian Defense Ministry, Vasilian has no right to make
political statements. He also denied that Yerkrapah had
discussed aligning with Vasilian's planned new
organization. LF

OFFICIAL SAYS PROGRESS ON AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT
PIPELINEŠ Speaking in Washington on 21 January, U.S.
adviser on Caspian issues Richard Morningstar predicted
that the ongoing talks between Turkish, Azerbaijani,
U.S., and international oil company representatives
could result in "a clear agreement" within the next 12
months to proceed with construction of the planned Baku-
Ceyhan pipeline, AP reported. Last month, the president
of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company said
that a decision on whether to opt for the Baku-Ceyhan
route would be taken in mid-1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
22 December 1998). Morningstar downplayed the failure of
trial wells drilled by two international consortia in
1998 to yield oil in commercially viable quantities. One
of those consortia formally announced on 21 January that
it will cease Caspian operations in February (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1998). LF

...SUSTAINING KAZAKHSTAN'S INTEREST. Kazakhstan's Prime
Minister Nurlan Balghymbayev met with visiting Turkish
Energy Minister Ziya Aktas in Astana on 21 January,
RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. Balghymbayev said the
overall assessment of proposed export routes for
Kazakhstan's oil will be completed within seven or eight
months. He noted that the possible use of the planned
Baku-Ceyhan pipeline to transport Kazakh crude to
international markets is among his government's "top
priorities." LF

GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION SEEK TO IMPROVE MEDICAL
CARE. Health Minister Avtandil Djorbenadze has
instructed local administrators to pay greater attention
to the health of the population and to increase to 15-20
percent the percentage of local budget expenditures on
health care, Caucasus Press reported on 21 January.
Meanwhile Shalva Natelashvili, head of the Labor Party,
which garnered some 20 percent of the vote in the
November 1998 municipal elections, told journalists on
21 January that the city councils of Tbilisi, Kutaisi,
Rustavi, and other towns where the party has a majority
on local councils are making good on the party's pre-
election promise to reintroduce free medical care and to
reinstate sacked nursery staff and teachers. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF.
National Democratic Party chairwoman Irina Sarisgvili-
Chanturia told journalists on 22 January that her party
intends to nominate her as its candidate for the
presidential elections in 2000, ITAR-TASS reported. She
will be the first woman to run for the post of
president, which was reinstated in 1995. LF

GEORGIAN POLICE TRY TO PERSUADE REBEL LEADER TO
SURRENDER. Georgian police have located Colonel Akaki
Eliava, who has been in hiding since mounting an
unsuccessful insurgency in October 1998 (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 20 October 1998 and 20 January 1999),
Interfax reported on 21 January. Deputy Interior
Minister Temur Murghulia is currently negotiating with
Eliava, who may surrender if the charges of treason
against him are dropped, Caucasus Press reported on 21
January. LF

END NOTE

WHY DON'T RUSSIANS REBEL?

By Paul Goble

	 Russia's enormous economic and political
difficulties over the past several years have prompted
many there and elsewhere to ask why more Russians do not
go on strike or engage in political demonstrations.
	A new U.S. Information Agency report, "Who Protests
in Russia," reveals how few Russians have taken part in
such protests and provides at least part of the answer
as to why.
	Based on extensive polling in Russia over the last
few years, the report says that only 7 percent of
Russians claim they have taken part in any political
rally or demonstration and only 4 percent have gone on
strike. It asserts that the number of Russians prepared
to engage in such protests has been declining. And it
explains these figures by suggesting that overwhelming
majorities of Russians do not take part in such protests
because they do not believe that either economic actions
or political demonstrations will benefit them in any
way.
	But the report's focus on those who do protest
calls attention to three factors that could signal this
trend will be reversed, leading more Russians to take
part in strikes and demonstrations over the next few
year and thus to challenge existing power relations in
Russian economic and political life.
	First, as the report shows, those Russians who feel
their personal situations are desperate, who have not
been paid for extensive periods, and who lack
alternative sources of support are far more likely to
protest than those whose situations are not as
desperate. Until now, many Russians have refrained from
doing so either because they did not think protests
would work, because they still felt they had something
to lose, or because they could turn to family and
friends for support. But if conditions deteriorate, as
now seems likely, and if people learn about strike
actions or public protests, then ever more Russians will
fall into this "personal desperation" and may take to
the streets.
	Second, according to the USIA report, Russians who
are members of a trade union or are active supporters of
one or another political party are far more likely to
participate in demonstrations than those who do not fall
into this category. Based on surveys over the last three
years, the presence of a trade union at the workplace
"more than doubles" the likelihood that those employed
there will participate in strikes or other forms of
protest. And those who report "a great deal" of interest
in politics are almost eight times as likely to
participate in strikes or protests than those who say
they have "no interest at all."
	On the one hand, this pattern suggests that strikes
may become more likely as political parties try to use
trade unions in order to reach more voters. So far that
has not happened very often: the report notes that only
6 percent of employed Russians now say that a member of
the Russian Communist Party member has asked them to
join a protest. And on the other, it implies that as
more Russians focus on politics during the upcoming
parliamentary and presidential elections, an increasing
number of them are likely to participate in public
demonstrations.
	That will be particularly likely, the USIA study
suggests, if Russian political parties run campaigns
that seek to identify who is to blame for Russia's
current predicament. Russians who think they know "who
is to blame" are far more likely to protest than those
who do not. Moreover, because of the overlap, the USIA
polls found that between those who protest for economic
reasons and those who do so for political ones, any
increase in economic protests could spark an increase in
political protests, and vice versa.
	And third, as the USIA report notes, the roughly
7.5 million Russians who have participated in protests
over the last several years may see their numbers grow
if more Russians working in jobs they consider
strategically important are able to successfully
challenge the authorities and win concessions or at
least back pay.
	Consequently, as the Russian government and Russian
firms attempt to live up to their promises to pay back
wages, workers who have not yet received them may seek
to use strikes to catch up with those who have. And
that, in turn, could lead to a cycle that the
authorities might find difficult to contain.
	None of this is to say that Russia is about to face
a tidal wave of strikes and political demonstrations.
Rather, it is to note that the passivity many Russians
have displayed up to now is the product of specific
experiences and calculations, just as it reflects some
underlying national culture. And it is also to suggest
that as in the past, the quiescence the Russians now
display could end more abruptly and explosively than
many observers now predict.
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                     All rights reserved.
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