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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 147, Part I, 30 July 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 147, Part I, 30 July 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

* NEW DISMISSAL RUMORS FOLLOW YELTSIN'S RETURN

* GOVERNMENT ASKS FUEL PRODUCERS TO QUIT SMUGGLING

* KAZAKHSTAN DISCUSSES PURCHASE OF TURKMEN NATURAL GAS

End Note: RESPONDING TO ANTI-SEMITISM IN RUSSIA
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RUSSIA

NEW DISMISSAL RUMORS FOLLOW YELTSIN'S RETURN. Recently
returned from vacation, Russian President Boris Yeltsin is
reported to have signed a decree dismissing Sergei Zverev,
deputy to presidential administration chief Aleksandr
Voloshin, according to Interfax and Reuters on 29 July.
"Kommersant-Daily" wrote the next day that Zverev, a former
Most Bank executive, is being sacked primarily because he is
too closely associated with Media-Most Group head Vladimir
Gusinskii. Zverev joined the Kremlin only some three months
ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 1999). Yeltsin has
reportedly also signed a decree dismissing Tax Minister
Aleksandr Pochinok, according to Ekho Moskvy on 29 July.
"Segodnya" claimed the next day that Pochinok is under
pressure from the Kremlin for not being "active enough in
auditing companies close to [Moscow Mayor Yurii] Luzhkov and
other figures disliked by the presidential administration."
Both "Segodnya" and Ekho Moskvy are owned by Media-Most. On
30 July, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin denied that
any documents have been prepared dismissing either official.
JAC

GOVERNMENT ASKS FUEL PRODUCERS TO QUIT SMUGGLING. As fuel
shortages threaten to paralyze harvesting, fire-fighting, and
other activities across the country (see "RFE/RL Russian
Federation Report," 28 July 1999), federal government
officials have decided against increasing the export tax on
oil and have instead asked oil companies and refineries to
ensure sufficient supplies of gasoline to retailers. One
reason for this decision may be that the sharp increase in
the production and export of "unregistered" gasoline.
According to "Vremya MN" on 29 July, economist Mikhail
Delyagin concluded that since gasoline output sank by 17
percent in April and 12 percent in March, according to
official figures, for no apparent reason, it is likely being
secretly transported across Russian borders to avoid customs
and tax duties. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko
told reporters the same day that gasoline is being smuggled
to Ukraine and other places, where it fetches $2 a liter
compared with $0.20 in Russia. JAC

HIGHER INFLATION FEARED... State Duma Budget Committee
Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told Ekho Moskvy on 29 July that
inflation could reach 60 percent this year, rather than the
30 percent projected in the 1999 budget. Earlier this week,
the Economics Ministry released a report concluding that the
conditions for a steeper rise in consumer prices and an
"inflationary potential" have recently emerged, according to
Interfax. An unidentified source at the ministry told the
agency that inflation will likely reach 45 percent by year's
end but a sharp jump in prices could occur toward the close
of 1999. Zhukov also predicted that the ruble will gradually
devalue, allowing exporters to increase their revenues and
consequently their tax payments. JAC

...AND WEAKER RUBLE. Traders and analysts also believe that
the ruble will fall, as the Central Bank is expected to stop
defending the currency, "The Moscow Times" reported on 30
July. According to the daily, the Central Bank spent $100
million a week this month to bolster the ruble's exchange
rate against the dollar. According to Zhukov, such
expenditures were necessary because of the foreign debt
payments the country had to make in July, but now there are
no economic grounds to continue propping up the ruble.
However, an analyst at MFK Renaissance told the daily that it
is always possible that the Central Bank will act in defiance
of economic good sense: "Since there is no capital inflow,
the government must be looking to commodity exporters to
finance the elections and might try to keep the ruble stable
to buy dollars from them at lower rates," Parvoleta Shtereva
said. JAC

VODKA PRODUCTION SOARS, BUT TAX COLLECTION TARGET MISSED.
Russia increased production of vodka by 65 percent during the
first half of the year, compared with the same period the
previous year, ITAR-TASS reported 28 July. Total alcohol
production went up by 29.1 percent. However, revenues from
the excise tax on alcohol products amounted to only 10.6
billion rubles ($438 million), compared with the target of 13
billion rubles. Among the regions with the worst performance
collecting the tax are the Republics of Altai and Kalmykia,
Kaliningrad Oblast, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 July. In the Jewish
Autonomous Oblast, only 8.9 percent of expected revenues were
collected. JAC

STEPASHIN ADVOCATES INCREASED EU ROLE... Speaking to
journalists after meetings with Finnish Prime Minister Paavo
Lipponen and EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den
Broek in Moscow on 29 July, Russian Premier Sergei Stepashin
argued that given recent "changes" in the international
arena, "the role of the EU must be sharply increased in
deciding international problems," particularly in the
"military-political" sphere, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported.
He also urged that Russia be regarded as an "equal partner"
in Europe. Lipponen, whose country holds the rotating EU
presidency, said he believes the planned EU-Russia summit in
Helsinki in October will put cooperation between the union
and Moscow on a "new level." And Van den Broek commented that
of the various scientific and technological cooperation
projects Russia and the EU are preparing, the satellite
navigation project could become "one of the most important
cooperation programs that the EU will have with Russia,"
according to AP. JC

...AND EQUAL ROLE FOR RUSSIA IN YUGOSLAV RECONSTRUCTION. At
the same 29 July press conference, Stepashin argued that
Russia must be an "equal participant" in the reconstruction
of Yugoslavia, although he admitted that this raises
"problems." He later told a cabinet meeting that this topic
is to be discussed at the Sarajevo summit on Balkan
reconstruction, which he and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov are
due to attend on 30 July. Another topic to be dealt with
during the summit, according to the premier after his meeting
with President Yeltsin on 29 July, will be extending aid not
just to Kosova but all Yugoslavia. He added that this subject
will have to be discussed "particularly thoroughly" with
France and Germany. JC

RUSSIA PROPOSES BARTER ARRANGEMENT FOR INDIA TO REPAY DEBT.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko,
speaking to the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi
on 29 July, proposed that India pay off its Soviet-era $14
billion debt by setting up joint ventures with Russia to
manufacture and modernize civilian aircraft. He added that
discussions have already been held on how such ventures might
be created, AFP reported. Ukraine has proposed repaying part
of its gas debt to Russia with 10 strategic bombers, while
Moscow recently suggested barter trade with the Association
of South East Asian States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 28
July 1999). Also on 29 July, Khristenko met with Indian Prime
Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who approved the proposal that
trade between the two countries be increased fourfold by
2005. The current volume of bilateral trade stands at $1.5
billion, ITAR-TASS reported. JC

LEFTIST BLOC LOSES MOVEMENT TO OTECHESTVO? Moscow Mayor and
Otechestvo head Luzhkov has formally invited Spiritual
Heritage to join his movement, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on
29 July. Spiritual Heritage had been considered a potential
member of a leftist bloc, according to the daily. Spiritual
Heritage leader Aleksei Podberezkin said his group will make
a decision at its congress in September, but he added that
the programs of both organizations "practically coincide
exactly." JAC

LEBED LAUNCHES PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN? At a recent press
conference, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed
appealed to regions to pool their collective strengths and
talents to resist misguided policies emanating from Moscow,
Interfax reported on 28 July. Lebed declared that he is
worried by the Kremlin's efforts to harm Moscow Mayor
Luzhkov. He continued that by engineering a default for
Moscow, the center may bring about a default for the whole
country, since 84 percent of the country's financial
resources are concentrated in its capital. According to
"Vremya MN" on 28 July, Lebed will develop his ideas on this
subject at a 13 August meeting of the interregional
association, Siberian Accord. "Izvestiya" concluded on 28
July that with this appeal, Lebed has unofficially started
his presidential campaign. Lebed himself recently hinted that
he might not run in that ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20
July 1999). JAC

THE HOUSE THAT BEER BUILT. Krasnoyarsk Krai resident Arkadii
Lytkin constructed a two-story dacha out of 6,000 beer
bottles, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July, citing
"Krasnoyarsk komsomolets." When Lytkin first built the dacha
20 years ago, his family spent only the summers there, but
now they reside there all year round because it is warmer
than their apartment in the city. The structure, which took
three years, to build has a balcony on the second floor with
a impressive view of Krasnoyarsk, according to the daily.
Also dramatic are sunsets, as the rays of light filter
through the multi-colored glass. JAC

CHECHEN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY ABDUCTED. Chechen police have
launched a search for Adburakhman Suleimanov, who was
kidnapped on 30 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Security officials
do not believe the abduction was politically motivated and
anticipate that the kidnappers will demand a ransom to
release Suleimanov. LF

PROTESTS IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA GATHER MOMENTUM. In several
towns in the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, some 10,000
supporters of Vladimir Semenov continue to protest President
Yeltsin's appointment of Valentin Vlasov as temporary
republican head, arguing that the move violates the Russian
Constitution, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 July.
Semenov's apparent victory in the 16 May republican
presidential runoff was called into question by a 23 July
Russian Supreme Court ruling. The protesters are demanding
that a referendum be held in the republic on whether the
Russian president should have the right to appoint the
Karachaevo-Cherkessia president. In addition, some 8,000
women are picketing the Interior Ministry headquarters in the
republican capital, Cherkessk, to protest Aleksandr
Volkodav's appointment as interior minister. Volkodav
previously served in that capacity until his dismissal in
1995 for incompetence and compromising behavior. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

NAKHICHEVAN OFFICIAL SAYS AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SPREADING
DISINFORMATION. Nakhichevan senior Foreign Ministry official
Azer Alesqerov told journalists on 29 July that activists of
the Musavat, Azerbaijan National Independence, and Azerbaijan
Popular Front parties are to blame for the 13 July clashes at
the Sadarak customs post on the border between the
Azerbaijani exclave and Turkey, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 14 and 28 July 1999). He added that 99 percent of
the information on the clashes published in the Azerbaijani
opposition press is untrue and aimed at exacerbating
tensions. Alesqerov denied opposition allegations that the
head of the Sadarak customs post was responsible for the
clashes. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS ALLEGED ELECTION LAW CHANGES.
The 20 opposition parliamentary deputies who constitute the
Democratic Bloc issued a statement on 29 July calling for an
emergency session of the parliament to discuss the changes
they believe were made to the law on municipal elections
after its adoption by the parliament, Turan reported. They
also demanded that those responsible for making those changes
be punished. Parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov on 25
July denied that any such changes were made (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 28 July 1999). LF

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTER IN TBILISI. Vladimir Rushailo and
his Georgian counterpart, Kakha Targamadze, agreed during
talks in Tbilisi on 29 July to set up joint groups to seek
the release of Russian and Georgian citizens held hostage in
Chechnya, Caucasus Press reported. They also agreed to
cooperate more closely in stamping out trade in counterfeit
goods. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS POSTPONING RELIGIOUS ARTIFACT
EXHIBIT IN U.S. Eduard Shevardnadze has proposed postponing
for several years the planned exhibit in three U.S. and one
Italian city of Georgian religious artifacts and manuscripts,
Caucasus Press reported on 29 July. Senior Georgian clerics
oppose allowing the relics to be taken out of the country.
Dozens of students took part in a hunger strike in late April
to protest the planned exhibit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and
5 May 1999), prompting Shevardnadze to create a special
commission, composed of prominent academics and clerics, that
is to rule on the advisability of proceeding with the
exhibit. In response to an appeal by the opposition Ilia
Chavchavadze Society, a Georgian district court on 29 July
issued a ban on taking the artifacts out of Georgia. LF

BP AMOCO TO QUIT KAZAKH PROJECT. A senior official for BP
Amoco told Interfax on 29 July that the company will sell its
9.5 percent stake in the Offshore Kazakhstan International
Operating Company (OKIOC), even if the first test well yields
hydrocarbons. Kazakhstan's national oil company threatened in
June to end relations with the consortium because of delays
in drilling the first test well. Drilling is now expected to
begin next month. Hydrocarbon reserves in the Kazakh sector
of the Caspian Sea are estimated at 12 billion tons. LF

KAZAKHSTAN DISCUSSES PURCHASE OF TURKMEN NATURAL GAS. A
Kazakh government delegation held talks in Ashgabat on 29
July on purchasing Turkmen natural gas and cooperating in
exporting it to European markets, ITAR-TASS reported.
Kazakhstan's Minister for Power Engineering, Industry, and
Trade Mukhtar Ablyazov said that regions of southern
Kazakhstan need to purchase up to 2 billion cubic meters of
Turkmen natural gas annually in order to meet demand, adding
that Astana might also purchase a further 1 billion cubic
meters for resale to Kyrgyzstan. Also discussed was the
possibility of exporting oil from Kazakhstan via the
Pavlodar-Chimkent-Seidi pipeline and the Turkmen port of
Turkmenbashi. LF

KYRGYZ LEADERS DISCUSS CORRUPTION, ECONOMY. Addressing a
national conference of police officers in Bishkek on 29 July,
President Askar Akaev proposed drafting a 10-year program to
combat corruption and economic crime, Interfax reported.
Akaev said that the shadow economy accounts for approximately
10-12 percent of GDP, adding that some experts believe the
true figure is 25-26 percent. He said that losses to the
budget from economic crime over the past year amount to 600
million soms (some $15 million), and he termed corruption
"one of the most dangerous threats" to the country. Also on
29 July, Prime Minister Amangeldy Muraliev chaired a cabinet
meeting called to discuss the economic situation, at which it
was announced that the planned 10 percent increase in
agricultural output for 1999 will not be met. Unpaid wages
are estimated at 808 million soms, pensions at 265 million
soms, and other benefits at 167 million soms. LF

KYRGYZSTAN VALUES DEFENSE COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA, CIS.
Echoing Akaev's assertion in his 7 July interview with
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" that Russia and Kyrgyzstan are
"strategic partners" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1999),
Kyrgyzstan's Defense Minister Colonel-General Myrzakan
Subanov told the same newspaper on 29 July that Russia is his
country's main partner in defense cooperation. Subanov also
noted the importance to Kyrgyzstan of participation in the
CIS Collective Security Treaty and of cooperation with the
other member states of the Central Asian Union in upholding
regional security. LF

END NOTE

RESPONDING TO ANTI-SEMITISM IN RUSSIA

By Paul Goble

	In the wake of two attacks on Moscow synagogues, a
prominent Russian Jewish organization has decried the
increasing incidence of such activities as well as what it
said are the reasons behind that rise.
	In a statement released on 27 July, the Russian Jewish
Congress said that the mounting number of attacks on Jewish
institutions now represents "a threat to all Russian citizens
regardless of their nationality" and argued that such crimes
"should not remain unpunished."
	The organization blamed the increase on chauvinistic
appeals by some Russian politicians, the indifference of many
ordinary Russian citizens to such attacks, and the inability
or unwillingness of the government to identify and punish
those responsible.
	The Russian Jewish Congress issued the appeal after a 12
July attack on the Moscow Choral synagogue left Leopold
Kaimovskii, the executive director of Moscow's Jewish Arts
Center, badly wounded and after reports earlier this week
that a bomb had been planted near another Moscow synagogue.
	The Congress argued that "such incidents cease to be
something extraordinary and are committed with the connivance
of those who are in charge of the formation of our society's
moral climate." It provided three explanations for this
increase, which comes after a period in which many Russian
Jews felt anti-Semitism there had been declining.
	First, the Congress put the blame on the increasing
number of political figures who have with impunity issued
anti-Semitic statements as part of their effort to win
popular support. It noted that "there is nothing strange in
the escalation of such violence when members of the
Federation Council and State Duma deputies make chauvinistic
statements," particularly when they escape censure for such
statements.
	Second, the Congress criticized the indifference of many
Russians to what is taking place. All too many Russian
citizens, the group indicated, have failed to react at all to
such outrages against Jewish groups, an indifference that
sometimes extends to attacks on other national minorities.
	This Russian indifference, the Congress noted, has
prompted Jews and other minorities to "raise the question of
whether it is possible to live on Russian territory" and, in
the absence of domestic support, to issue "appeals to the
international community" as the only means of defense.
	And third, the Congress denounced what it said is the
"impotence of the Russian authorities" in the face of such
acts, an impotence that reflects either their inability or
their unwillingness to bring those responsible to justice.
The failure of the Russian government to do so, the Congress
noted, has only emboldened those responsible for such
behavior.
	To counter these factors, the Congress called on Russian
leaders to denounce racists and anti-Semites "no matter how
high their posts are." It demanded that the Russian people
recognize the danger to themselves of anti-Semitic actions
left unpunished. And it called on the authorities to work
harder to identify and convict those guilty of such crimes.
	But it is a measure of the difficulties Jews in Russia
now face that this organization has directed its appeal to
foreign governments and human rights activists as well,
virtually inviting both to put pressure on Moscow to change
its current approach.
	Several Jewish groups and human rights organizations in
the U.S. and other Western countries recently have begun
campaigns to attract attention to what many people had
assumed was no longer a major problem in post-Soviet Russia.
	The appeal of the Russian Jewish Congress from Moscow is
likely to give additional impetus to these Western efforts.
And its identification of the sources of the new tide of
anti-Semitic violence in Russia is likely to lead ever more
people to consider not only why anti-Semitism has re-emerged
but also the ways in which it can be combated.
	To the extent that happens, this appeal may mark a
turning point in Russian social development. To the extent
that it does not, the appeal may come to be viewed as a
barometer of how bad things now are and how much worse they
could become.

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