CHINESE PRESIDENT MEETS WITH YELTSIN...
Jiang Zemin and President Boris Yeltsin met today in Moscow and signed declarations on a "multipolar world" and the "formation of a new world order," ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV reported. The two leaders reached agreement on setting up a Russian-Chinese Committee on Friendship, Peace, and Development and discussed border cooperation, reduction of border forces, economic cooperation, atomic energy projects, and economic reforms in China. Talks also focused on construction of a gas pipeline from Tomsk to Shanghai and sales of equipment for Chinese hydro-electric power stations. Earlier, Jiang attended an official welcoming ceremony at the Kremlin. He met with high-level Russian government officials, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is to visit China at the end of June.
...AND ADDRESSES STATE DUMA.
Following his meeting with Yeltsin, Jiang addressed the State Duma and stressed the need for a strategic partnership between China and Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. He urged the development of economic, technical, and other ties and expressed the hope that the two countries' parliaments would achieve "maximum expansion of ties." Jiang also said it was especially important for the parliaments to focus on developing friendship between the peoples of China and Russia.
NEMTSOV ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO GAZPROM.
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says that if the gas monopoly Gazprom does not meet five government conditions, a new director will be appointed to run the company, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. Speaking to reporters in Krasnoyarsk, Nemtsov said Gazprom must provide for the growth of its stock, make its financial activities more transparent, adjust its tariffs, meet its obligations to the federal budget and the Pension Fund, and provide all companies wanting to work in the gas market with equal access to gas deposits and pipelines. Nemtsov said the government representative in Gazprom will monitor compliance with those conditions. Gazprom management are likely to balk at the last condition in particular. Nemtsov's comments indicate that the agreement he reached with Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev last week (see RFE/RL Newsline, 16 April 1997) did not shelve plans to increase the government's role in managing Gazprom.
DUMA COUNCIL DEMANDS DRAFT BILL ON BUDGET CUTS.
The State Duma Council has demanded that the government submit its proposed budget cuts to the lower house of parliament by the end of this month, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. According to Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov, the government was legally obliged to submit its proposed cuts by 20 April. Zadornov, a member of the Yabloko faction, complained earlier this week that the Finance Ministry was withholding details on the planned cuts in non-essential spending even from other ministries. Meanwhile, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said the lower house would be willing to adjust spending but would never agree to "bury" the 1997 budget by cutting 100 trillion rubles ($17.4 billion). First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais estimated last week that this year's budget will exceed the state's means by 100 trillion rubles.
LUKOIL APPOINTS NEW IZVESTIYA BOARD OF DIRECTORS.
LUKoil has appointed a new Izvestiya board of directors composed of four representatives from the oil company and three from the newspaper, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. Izvestiya staff had sought to delay the shareholders' meeting. In yesterday's Nezavisimaya gazeta, journalist Yevgeniya Albats criticized the authors of an open letter asking Yeltsin to protect Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda. She said the appeal sought to assign Yeltsin "the role [formerly played] by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union." Nezavisimaya gazeta editor Vitalii Tretyakov, who signed the editors' appeal to Yeltsin, argues in today's issue of that newspaper that Izvestiya is not a leader of the independent press but a "party newspaper" favoring the political line of Yegor Gaidar and Anatolii Chubais.
Despite the Defense Ministry's repeated appeals for additional funds, Russia's armed forces received only 53% of their budget allocation in the first quarter of 1997, ITAR-TASS reports today, citing the ministry's press service. The ministry says that the 11 trillion rubles it received during the last three months was spent on wages, foodstuffs, and fuel and that no funds remained for training exercises or equipment maintenance. Meanwhile, Admiral Igor Khmelnov, the former commander of the Pacific Fleet, was formally charged yesterday with fraud, perjury, and abuse of power, Interfax reported. Khmelnov was sacked on 11 April after being accused of illegally obtaining apartments for himself and his family in Vladivostok, the fleet's main base.
CHUBAIS TELLS BANKERS TO INVEST AT HOME.
First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais has advised Russian bankers to invest in domestic industry rather than relying on currency speculation as their main source of revenue, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Chubais told the seventh congress of the Association of Russian Banks that their future profits can no longer be exclusively tied to the internal lending market. He said "those who understand this soonest will win, those who understand this later will lose, and those who fail to understand it will perish." Chubais added that the government plans to lower yields for short-term bonds, making it harder for banks to profit from the internal borrowing market.
LENIN'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATED QUIETLY.
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov led a procession of some 1,000 supporters to Red Square yesterday to mark the 127th birthday of Vladimir Lenin, Russian news agencies reported. Participants laid wreaths at Lenin's mausoleum and filed past his embalmed body inside the building. Zyuganov yesterday denounced proposals to move Lenin's body out of the mausoleum as "blasphemous." Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Ekho Moskvy that there is no need to bury Lenin as his body is already lying two meters below ground, as required by Christian tradition. Meanwhile in St. Petersburg, Communists rallied near Smolnyi, the building that housed the Bolshevik headquarters during the 1917 revolution.
TATARSTAN'S ACADEMY OF SCIENCES RECOMMENDS SWITCH TO LATIN ALPHABET.
The Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan has recommended that the Tatar language adopt the Latin alphabet on the grounds that Cyrillic letters do not correspond well to sounds in Tatar, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. The Tatar language was written in Arabic script until 1927, when a switch was made to the Latin alphabet. As in the case of other Turkic languages spoken in the USSR, the Cyrillic alphabet was imposed in 1939. RFE/RL's Tatar- Bashkir service reports this is the first official endorsement of changing back to the Latin alphabet. Previously, only Tatar civic groups had called for the change.
YELTSIN REMEMBERS HIS HOMETOWN.
Yeltsin has granted 1 billion rubles ($174,000) from the presidential reserve fund to his native village of Butka in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russian news agencies reported yesterday, citing the presidential press service. The money is intended to repair social facilities in the village. Yeltsin has instructed the oblast government to monitor how the funds are spent.
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SUPPORTS TRASECA PROJECT, LUKASHENKA PROPOSES ALTERNATIVE.
Askar Akayev and his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, held talks in Tbilisi yesterday that focused on strengthening bilateral relations and cooperating in transportation, RFE/RL's bureau in the Georgian capital reported. Akayev stressed the importance to Kyrgyzstan of the TRASECA road and rail project that will link China, Central Asia, and the Transcaucasus with Europe. Kyrgyzstan has received a $140 million loan from Japan to finance its participation in the project. Meanwhile, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka proposed in Seoul yesterday the creation of a Beijing-Moscow-Minsk transport corridor "not only as a victory for the economy but as a response to NATO enlargement," Interfax reported. Belarusian economists say the corridor would constitute a cheaper and safer way of transporting Chinese goods to the CIS and Europe than existing routes. Lukashenka said he will discuss the project with the Chinese leadership in Beijing on 28 April.
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR CLOSER REGIONAL COOPERATON.
Ali Akbar Velayati told journalists in Baku yesterday that the Transcaucasian countries should join forces to prevent the increase of U.S. influence in the region, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. He also said that the liberation of Azerbaijani territories currently occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces should take place without the intervention of external powers. Velayati refused to answer questions about Iranian economic cooperation with Armenia or about his government's failure to honor an agreement to open an Azerbaijani consulate in Tabriz. In response to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's request to "exert influence" on Armenia to expedite a settlement to the Karabakh conflict, Velayati said Iran will do what it can to promote "normal relations" between Azerbaijan and Armenia, according to ITAR- TASS.
NORTH CAUCASIAN PRESIDENTS WANT GREATER ROLE IN MEDIATING ABKHAZ CONFLICT.
The presidents of Russia's North Caucasian republics believe that, given the opportunity, they could mediate a political settlement between the Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships, RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported yesterday, citing BS-Press. Unnamed North Caucasian leaders are reportedly unhappy that the mediation process is monopolized by international organizations. They say they want to play a greater role in that process. Georgia enjoys harmonious relations with North Ossetia and is expanding ties with Chechnya. Georgian First Deputy Security Minister Avtandil Ioseliani will travel to the North Caucasus next month.
BELARUS, SOUTH KOREA SIGN INVESTMENT TREATY.
In Seoul yesterday, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Young-Sam, signed an investment treaty as well as an agreement to accelerate economic and diplomatic ties. Kim said the treaty was intended to boost bilateral business ties and that he hoped bilateral cooperation would be further enhanced by the conclusion of various agreements currently under discussion. Lukashenka said he supported South Korean efforts to establish lasting peace with North Korea through four-way peace talks that would include the U.S. and China. Lukashenka travels today to Hanoi for a four-day visit.
MORE TALKS ON RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN BLACK SEA FLEET.
Another round of Ukrainian-Russian negotiations over the division of the Black Sea Fleet opened in Moscow yesterday, RFE/RL's Kyiv bureau reported. The Ukrainian delegation is headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantyn Hryshenko and the Russian delegation by Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov. Hryshchenko told journalists yesterday there were no major breakthroughs at the outset of the talks. But Pastuhov confirmed Russian President Boris Yeltsin's statement last month that Russia will no longer make the signing of a friendship and cooperation treaty with Ukraine conditional on agreements on the Black Sea Fleet division and the status of Sevastopol.
UKRAINIAN, WESTERN EXPERTS AGREE ON CHORNOBYL MEASURES.
Carol Kessler, head of the Western delegation to talks in Kyiv on the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, says Ukraine and Western countries have agreed on a plan to reduce the threat from the radioactive ruins of the facility. Kessler told journalists that yesterday's meeting was "very successful" and that agreement was reached on a plan to ensure the safety of the deteriorating concrete sarcophagus entombing the reactor and the removal of the remaining nuclear fuel inside. Kessler also said both Ukraine and the G-7 are "very positive" about fulfilling a 1995 agreement to close Chornobyl by 2000. Kyiv has threatened to keep Chornobyl open after then unless it receives international aid worth $1.2 billion to complete two new power stations.
Estonia and Russia have reached agreement on multiple-entry visas that will allow residents close to the border to cross more easily, BNS reported yesterday. Estonia will issue special visas to Russian residents living near the frontier, and Russia will grant special permits to Estonians. Authorities decided to issue the documents rather than simplify border-crossing procedures. Meanwhile, the Chechnya support group in the Estonian parliament has sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton asking them to recognize the independence of Chechnya, BNS and ETA reported yesterday. The text of the letter was approved at a 21 April meeting commemorating the first anniversary of the death of Chechen leader Dzokhar Dudaev.
POLAND APPROVES FREE TRADE AGREEMENT WITH LATVIA.
Latvia moved closer to membership in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) yesterday when the Polish government approved a free trade pact with the Baltic state, Reuters reported. Under the pact, customs duties will be abolished on most industrial products. Some tariffs will continue to apply for so-called sensitive products--such as farm goods, textiles, steel, oil products, and cars--but will be phased out. Latvia still needs to sign a free trade agreement with Hungary and join the World Trade Organization to become eligible for CEFTA. Current CEFTA members are the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. On 1 July, Romania is to become its sixth member.
POLAND MAY BUY RUSSIAN ARMS EVEN AFTER NATO ENTRY.
Marek Siwiec, head of Poland's National Security Bureau, says his country may buy Russian arms even if it is allowed to join NATO. Siwiec was speaking at a news conference in Warsaw following his talks with Ivan Rybkin, head of the Russian National Security Council. Rybkin yesterday also met with President Aleksander Kwasniewski and top security officials. Meanwhile, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari arrived in Warsaw for a three-day visit yesterday. His Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski thanked him for Finland's role in mediating disputes between Russia and NATO over the alliance's planned expansion.
CZECH MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY'S ASSETS FROZEN.
The financial assets of the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) have been frozen because the party has not paid taxes since 1991, Czech media report. The CSSD is now unable to pay salaries or loan payments. CSSD Senator Egon Lansky, who also is as an adviser to parliamentary chairman Milos Zeman, called the move "political persecution." Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told Czech Radio yesterday that Lansky's assertion was scandalous. He said the minister of finance was in no way involved in the decision to freeze the party's assets.
SLOVAKIA TO ADOPT COUNTERMEASURES AGAINST CZECH IMPORT DEPOSITS.
Slovak officials say the Slovak government is preparing measures to counter the Czech Republic's introduction of import deposits, Czech TV reported on 22 April. Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Sergej Kozlik has submitted the proposed countermeasures to the government for discussion, but officials have refused to give any details. The Czech Republic last week announced steps designed to boost the economy and, in particular, to stunt the growth of foreign trade deficit. Importers of consumer goods and food stuffs will have to deposit 20% of the value of the imported goods with a bank and will get the money back only after six months. Slovakia says the import barriers violate the Czech- Slovak customs union agreement.
SLOVAK GOVERNMENT SUSPENDS REFERENDUM PREPARATIONS.
The Slovak government says preparations for a referendum on direct presidential elections have been suspended pending a ruling by the Constitutional Court. Deputy Prime Minister Katarina Tothova told reporters yesterday that the cabinet has asked the court to rule whether the constitution can, in fact, be changed by a referendum. President Michal Kovac last month set referenda for next month on the presidential ballot and on whether Slovakia should join NATO. The opposition proposed the referendum on direct presidential elections in a bid to prevent Meciar from assuming presidential powers when Kovac's term in office expires in March 1998.
SLOVAK OPPOSITION SPEAKS OUT AGAINST PRAISING WARTIME LEADER.
The opposition Democratic Union has issued a statement denouncing attempts by the Slovak National Party to use the anniversary of the execution of Jozef Tiso to exonerate the "totalitarian regime of the wartime Slovakia," RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported yesterday. Tiso, who was executed in 1947 on charges of war crimes, was president of the fascist Slovak State during World War II. In a related development, the opposition post-communist Democratic Left Party (SDL) has appealed to the government, political parties, and democratically-minded people to radically oppose the questioning of "anti-fascist traditions" in present- day Slovakia. The SDL says it is appalled by the dissemination of fascist and nationalist views in society as well as by the recent praise of Tiso.
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS "NO NUKES" WITH NATO MEMBERSHIP.
At the end of his five-day visit to Japan, Laszlo Kovacs told the newspaper Nihon Keizai yesterday that if Hungary joins NATO, no nuclear arms will be deployed on its territory. Kovacs said Budapest is also opposed to having NATO troops stationed in the country "on a permanent basis," according to an ITAR-TASS report. He said entry to NATO should not be viewed as posing any threat to Russia, with which Hungary has no common border. In other news, Premier Gyula Horn yesterday concluded a four-day visit to Malaysia. The two countries agreed to set up their first joint venture, which will be in telecommunications.
BUDAPEST SOCIALIST PARTY OFFICE TARGETED IN PIPE BOMB ATTACK.
Hungarian TV reported yesterday that a pipe bomb exploded at a district office of the governing Socialist Party in Budapest. The blast caused some damage, but there were no injuries. It was the second bomb attack on a Socialist party office in the last three months.
BULGARIAN PARTIES MEET TO DISCUSS POST-ELECTION STRATEGY.
Ivan Kostov, leader of the United Democratic Forces (ODS), which won the 19 April parliamentary elections, yesterday met with representatives of the four other parties that won seats in the legislature, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov said after the talks that his formation agrees in general with the ODS's anti-crisis program but remains opposed to the application to join NATO. Euroleft, which is composed largely of Socialist Party defectors, will support the program. Leaders of the Union for National Salvation (ONS) told Kostov they wanted a more detailed discussion of the IMF deal agreed on last month. But Ahmed Dogan, leader of the largely ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which is also a member of the ONS, did not attend the meeting. Kostov said his absence was a "bad beginning" for future cooperation.
ALBANIAN REBELS CALL MEETING TO DISCUSS INTERNATIONAL FORCE.
Rebel leader Albert Shyti announced in Vlora yesterday that representatives from all rebel town councils in southern Albania will meet in Vlora on 25 Arpil. Shyti says it is "time to evaluate the relations between us and the multinational force." Vlora council member Ylli Mecaj said that the foreign troops are officially in the city to distribute aid, adding that "they must involve themselves only with that and not form a direct or indirect alliance with [President Sali] Berisha." Rebel leaders fear that the force may help to shore up the embattled president as the June elections draw near. Vlora residents have so far given the foreign troops a friendly welcome.
ALBANIAN PRESIDENT STANDS BY POLICE CHIEF.
Speaking in Tirana yesterday, Berisha reiterated his opposition to the 19 April dismissal of national police chief Agim Shehu. The government has defended its decision to sack Shehu by saying he is not acceptable to the Albanian public. It is unclear whether Socialist Prime Minister Bashkim Fino has signed a formal dismissal. Shehu is a close Berisha ally, and many Albanians blame him for police brutality against Berisha's opponents. Nine out of the ten parties in the broad coalition government voted to oust Shehu.
Italian military spokesmen said in Rome today that tugs have freed the cruiser Vittorio Veneto, which ran aground off Vlora on 21 April. In the central industrial town of Elbasan, the World Food Program reported yesterday that it has delivered more than 200 tons of flour in the presence of Italian troops. In Brussels, the WEU said it is sending a delegation to Tirana today to assess what is needed to rebuild Albania's police force. In Tirana, police officials said yesterday that a bomb destroyed the car of Arben Ujka, deputy chief of the city's criminal police force. And in Rome, the Health Ministry announced that it has signed an agreement with its Albanian counterpart to help revive Albania's health care services.
UN'S KLEIN CERTIFIES SLAVONIAN ELECTIONS.
Jacques Klein, the UN administrator for the last Serb-held part of Croatia, said in Vukovar yesterday that the 13-15 April elections in the region were "free and fair," despite irregularities that prompted an extension of polling time. He remarked that the vote in eastern Slavonia presented "a victory for reconciliation, [refugees'] return, and a better future." Klein said he had "duly considered but dismissed" all complaints and based his decision on monitors' reports. Final election returns confirmed earlier, unofficial ones (see RFE/RL Newsline, 21 April 1997). Klein is now preparing a plan to enable refugees to return to their homes on either side of the former front lines.
SERBIAN-CROATIAN COALITION IN VUKOVAR?
Vojislav Stanimirovic, the leader of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS), said in Zagreb yesterday that he can envisage a coalition in the Vukovar town council between his party and President Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. The SDSS and HDZ are the two largest parties in the council, but the balance of power lies with the Independents, led by local kingpin Tomislav Mercep. Mercep is regarded by many Serbs as a war criminal and has many enemies in the HDZ. The Serbs took Vukovar in a long and destructive siege in 1991, and its return to Croatia is a highly emotional issue in that country.
CROATIA ADMITS RIGHTS ABUSES AGAINST SERBS.
Ante Klaric, the Croatian government's ombudsman, said in Zagreb yesterday that there have been violations of Croatian Serbs' human rights and that Serbian refugees have been prevented from going home. Klaric noted that returning refugees face legal obstacles to getting their homes back and then often find that Croats are living in them. This is the first time that a government official has admitted such abuses against Serbs in the areas recaptured by the Croatian army in 1995, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb.
TRIAL OF "ZVORNIK SEVEN" ENDS.
Bosnian Serbs wrapped up a controversial murder trial of seven Muslims in Zvornik yesterday. The proceedings closed after the court-appointed defense lawyers were given just five minutes to speak. The international community's Deputy High Representative Michael Steiner had demanded that the Serbs allow the "Zvornik Seven" to choose their own lawyers. The Serbs refused on the grounds that the Muslim lawyers chosen by the men are not citizens of the Republika Srpska. The accused say the Serbs tortured them in the jail where they have been since U.S. peacekeepers handed them over to Serb police last May. A verdict is due to be announced tomorrow.
ROMANIA OFFERS TO REPLACE U.S. TROOPS IN BOSNIA.
Foreign Minister Adrian Severin says Romania is ready to replace the U.S. troops in Bosnia when they withdraw next year. Severin was speaking at his meeting yesterday with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum, Radio Bucharest reported. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Severin on 21 April that the U.S. wants Romania to be part of the process of unifying Europe. But she said "no decisions have been made by NATO on which new countries would be taken in." Meanwhile, leaders of the U.S. Jewish communities have urged the Romanian government to take down a statue of wartime leader Ion Antonescu erected by his sympathizers on the site of the marshal's 1946 execution, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported.
IMF APPROVES LOAN TO ROMANIA.
The IMF yesterday approved a $400 million stand-by loan to Romania, which will be released in five installments of $80 million each, Radio Bucharest reports. The IMF will monitor the progress of Romania's implementation of the reforms program before releasing each installment. In other news, George Danielescu, a former deputy chairman of the National Liberal Party and a former minister of finance, is under investigation on suspicion of forgery and fraud in connection with a mutual investment fund, Romanian TV reported yesterday. Gen. Victor Athanasie Stanculescu, who is also under investigation (see RFE/RL Newsline, 21 April 1997), said the case against him was "political" and aimed at discrediting the former government of Petre Roman. Finally, the government on 21 April revoked the licenses of two private banks--Credit Bank and Dacia Felix-- which ran into solvency difficulties nine months ago.
UKRAINE DISTANCES ITSELF FROM CHISINAU-TIRASPOL MEMORANDUM.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Chisinau Evhen Levitsky says his country welcomes the readiness of Chisinau and Tiraspol to sign the memorandum on ways to settle the conflict in Moldova but cannot agree with all its provisions. Levitsky told Infotag that Ukraine objects in particular to the memorandum's inclusion of a provision saying the CIS "has experience" in settling such conflicts. Ukraine believes that the OSCE, rather than CIS, can provide the best mechanisms for such tasks. Ukraine is a guarantor of the memorandum, which is to be signed in Moscow on 8 May. Levitsky said Kyiv considers the text of the memorandum "still open" because it has not been consulted on all the provisions.
"YEREVANGATE" DISCLOSURES LEAVE KEY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED
by Liz Fuller
More than two months have passed since the allegations of large-scale clandestine arms shipments from Russia to Armenia triggered a major political scandal. On 14 February, Moskovskii komsomolets reported that Russian weaponry was being illegally supplied to conflict zones, including Chechnya, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. The one concrete example cited was the transfer to Armenia in 1995 and 1996 of 84 T-72 tanks and 50 armored combat vehicles. At a news conference the same day, Russian Minister for CIS Affairs Aman Tuleev said the transfer of tanks and armored vehicles to Armenia had taken place and that Russia had received no payment for them. He said he had alerted senior Russian officials and asked them to investigate the matter.
In a letter to Tuleev released to the press in mid- March, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov confirmed the transfer of arms to Armenia, sparking denials from the Armenian Foreign Ministry, protests from Azerbaijan, and speculation in the Russian press about who sanctioned the shipments. While corroborating details have since emerged, a number of key questions remain unanswered.
At a 2 April closed session of the Russian State Duma, Gen. Lev Rokhlin presented the findings of a Duma investigation, listing all the military hardware involved and specifying how, when, and with whose connivance it was transported to Armenia from various locations in the Russian Federation. Rokhlin estimated the worth of the equipment at more than $1 billion but exonerated Armenia of trying to avoid payment and suggested that huge sums of money had been misappropriated by middlemen. He also argued that the transfers could not have taken place without the knowledge of then Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and that former chief of staff Mikhail Kolesnikov could not have authorized them without consulting Grachev. He did not speculate about who could have given Grachev the green light to proceed but, revealing an implicit flaw in his argument, said the arms shipments continued after Igor Rodionov replaced Grachev as defense minister last July but without Rodionov's knowledge.
Possibly on the basis of Rokhlin's testimony, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia Ramiz Rizaev told journalists on 4 April that "the main culprits" were Grachev, Kolesnikov, and Col.-Gen. Fedor Reut, who was dismissed from his post as commander of the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus on 4 March. In mid-April, a spokesman for the presidential Main Control Directorate announced that neither Russian President Boris Yeltsin nor the Russian government had authorized the arms shipments. Vladimir Putin, the head of the directorate, told reporters that Yeltsin knew the names of those responsible and that Grachev, who had been questioned by the directorate during its investigation, was not one of them.
Various hypotheses have been advanced as to why the arms transfers to Armenia were made public and for what reason, with much attention focusing on Rokhlin's perceived role. It has been suggested that the whole objective of the leak was to thwart the Duma's ratification of the 1995 agreement, signed by Yeltsin and Armenian President Levon Ter- Petrossyan, permitting Russia to maintain a military presence in Armenia. (The Duma ratified that agreement last week by an overwhelming majority.) In early February, Nezavisimaya gazeta's Yerevan correspondent identified Rokhlin as one of the authors of a draft Duma resolution calling for a revision of Russia's military-strategic policy in the Transcaucasus-- but not, as some observers have argued, the closure of Russian bases in Georgia and Armenia, which Rokhlin opposes. True, there are interest groups in Moscow that advocate revising Russia's Transcaucasus policy to favor oil-rich Azerbaijan at the expense of Moscow's traditional ally, Armenia. But Yeltsin stated unequivocally at the CIS summit in March that it is he who determines Russia's policy toward the CIS member states.
It is conceivable that the data cited by Moskovskii komsomolets was deliberately leaked by Defense Ministry officials angry at the continued underfunding that has weakened Russia's military potential, with the aim of embarrassing and thereby exerting pressure on Yeltsin. Rokhlin, for his part, has repeatedly stressed that his disclosures were not directed against Armenia and that his primary concern was to prevent further astronomical financial losses. The sum of $1 billion, he points out, would pay for 30,000 apartments for military personnel or three months wages for all officers and warrant officers of Russia's armed forces.
Other players with other motives may also have been involved in the "Yerevangate" affair. The findings of the ongoing Russian Military Procuracy investigation may clarify the still unanswered questions--assuming they are made public.