The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 15, Part I, 21 April 1997


Vol 1, No. 15, Part I, 21 April 1997

This is Part I of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline.
Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and
Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern
Europe, is distributed simultaneously as a second document.  Back
issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are available through RFE/RL's WWW
pages: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/

Back  issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through OMRI's
WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/

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Headlines, Part I

* COMMUNIST PARTY, OUR HOME IS RUSSIA HOLD
CONGRESSES

* DUMA FAILS TO OVERRIDE VETO OF LAW ON

* CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

* FIGHTING INTENSIFIES ON ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI
FRONTIER

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RUSSIA

COMMUNIST PARTY, OUR HOME IS RUSSIA HOLD
CONGRESSES. Both the Communist Party (KPRF) and the
pro-government movement Our Home Is Russia (NDR) held
congresses this weekend in Moscow. KPRF leader Gennadii
Zyuganov pledged that his party will become a "responsible
and irreconcilable opposition" force, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told
NDR delegates that his government plans to improve its
economic policies, Russian news agencies reported on 19
April. He said closing tax loopholes and establishing "order" in
the alcohol trade would help raise future revenues.
Chernomyrdin also said the government plans to alter
"arbitrary policies on monopoly prices and imperfections in the
managing of state property," while not breaking up the natural
monopolies in the energy and transportation sectors (see also
today's "End Note").

YELTSIN ON VACATION, PRIMAKOV IN HOSPITAL. Kremlin
doctor Sergei Mironov says President Boris Yeltsin's holiday in
Sochi is "not linked to medical necessity," Russian news
agencies reported on 18 April. Yeltsin flew to the Black Sea
resort shortly after his summit at the end of last week with
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. His vacation is expected to
last 10-12 days, although he is scheduled to return to Moscow
briefly on 22 April to meet with Chinese President Jiang
Zemin. Also on 18 April, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
checked into hospital for gallstone surgery. Doctors said the
operation was successful and that Primakov will be discharged
from the hospital within two weeks. He is scheduled to meet
with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana early next month
for a fifth round of negotiations on a Russia-NATO charter.

FORMER YELTSIN ADVISER ARRESTED IN POLAND. Sergei
Stankevich, former adviser to President Yeltsin, has been
arrested in Warsaw after a joint search operation by Russian
and Polish police, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Stankevich
will be detained for 30 days while a Polish court decides
whether to extradite him to Russia to face bribery charges.
Stankevich went into hiding last year after the Moscow
prosecutor ordered his arrest on charges of taking bribes
several years earlier. Stankevich is a former deputy mayor of
Moscow and a former deputy in the State Duma. Meanwhile,
Polish prosecutors have dropped charges against Interior
Minister Leszek Miller for failing to register a handgun (see
RFE/RL Newsline, 11 April 1997). A spokesman for the state
prosecutor's office said on 18 April that no offense had been
committed but gave no further details.

CHUBAIS ON FINANCE MINISTRY REORGANIZATION. First
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minster Anatolii Chubais
has announced that there will be three first deputy finance
ministers, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 18 April.
Aleksei Kudrin, who was appointed last month, will manage
the state debt and supervise questions on the reform of the
housing and housing utilities system as well as on the gold
and precious metals market. Sergei Ignatev, appointed this
month, will be in charge of tax reform and budget revenues.
Vladimir Petrov, the only top-ranking official in the ministry to
survive the reshuffle, will supervise the budget process.
Chubais said First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov will
leave the ministry by 1 May but did not announce a future
post for him. Until now, Vavilov has overseen the ministry's
dealings with the "authorized banks," which manage state
funds.

LEBED SAYS CHUBAIS CONTROLS MEDIA. Former Security
Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed says a narrow group of
bankers and businessmen "loyal personally to Chubais"
control the Russian media, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported
on 18 April. Lebed claimed that Chubais keeps a black-list of
journalists who have written on "forbidden" topics, such as
privatization profits or last summer's campaign scandal in
which two Chubais associates were caught carrying some
$500,000 out of government headquarters. He argued that
violations of those taboos are behind rumored attempts by
LUKoil and Oneksimbank to force out the chief editors of
Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda. Media coverage of
Lebed was sympathetic during last year's presidential
campaign but has been generally hostile since September,
shortly before he was ousted from the government.

DUMA RATIFIES BORDER ACCORD WITH CHINA... By a
vote of 346 to 0, the State Duma on 18 April ratified a
multilateral agreement on "confidence-building measures"
along the Russian border with China, ITAR-TASS reported.
The agreement, which provides for information exchanges on
troop movement and military exercises along the Chinese
border, was signed in Shanghai in April 1996 by the
presidents of Russia, China, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and
Tajikistan.

...AND AGREEMENTS WITH ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN. Also
on 18 April, the Duma ratified the March 1995 agreement
signed by Yeltsin and Armenian President Levon Ter-
Petrossyan permitting Russia to maintain a military base in
Armenia for 25 years, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian First
Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov termed the
agreement an "important step toward securing stability on the
southern borders of the Russian Federation," according to
Turan. The Duma also ratified a May 1996 intergovernmental
agreement between Russia and Azerbaijan on cooperation in
preventing arms and drug smuggling and the infiltration of
terrorists across the Azerbaijani-Russian border. Azerbaijan
opposes the deployment of Russian border troops on its
territory. All three agreements still have to be ratified by the
Federation Council.

DUMA FAILS TO OVERRIDE VETO OF LAW ON
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. The Duma on 18 April
failed to override a presidential veto of a law outlining the
constitutional amendment procedure, ITAR-TASS reported.
According to the constitution, amendments must be approved
by two-thirds of Duma deputies, three-quarters of Federation
Council deputies, and legislatures in at least two-thirds of
Russia's 89 regions. However, a law specifying procedural
details is needed before amendments can be adopted. Yeltsin
vetoed an earlier version of the law last November and the
latest version in March. Communist leaders in the Duma say
they are drafting 12 constitutional amendments that would
limit presidential power and increase parliamentary oversight
of the executive branch.

CHECHEN UPDATE. Russian Security Council Deputy
Secretary Boris Berezovskii and Chechen First Deputy Prime
Minister Shamil Basaev met in the Ingush capital of Nazran on
19 April for what Berezovskii later termed "constructive" talks,
ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The two men discussed
bilateral relations and the continued detention of four
journalists from Radio Rossii and ITAR-TASS who were
abducted in Chechnya in early March. On 17 April, Dagestani
Security Council Secretary Magomed Tolboev handed over to
ITAR-TASS video footage of his meeting with the journalists.
Nikolai Zagnoiko, the captive ITAR-TASS correspondent, is
seen on the video asking Tolboev "to influence the Russian
leadership" and help free them. The Russian Interior Ministry
has expressed its support for Tolboev's efforts to secure the
journalists' release. It has also proposed that the journalists be
exchanged for Chechens detained by the Interior Ministry in
Dagestan, ITAR-TASS reports today.

CONTROVERSY OVER ROMANOV JEWELS. Priceless jewels
from the Romanov dynasty have been locked up in a vault at
an unspecified location in the U.S. following Russian officials'
demands that they be returned immediately for celebrations
marking Moscow's 850th anniversary, AFP reported yesterday.
Under an agreement signed last year by Russia's Culture
Ministry, about 250 exhibits--including jewels, clothing, icons
and portraits--have been shown in Washington and are
scheduled to be exhibited in three other American cities. But
now Russian officials are demanding the immediate return of
the exhibits, which are to be kept under lock and key pending
a court decision. Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov met
with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington yesterday to
discuss foreign investment in Russia, but he made no
comment on the controversy over the Romanov treasures.

CRIME STATISTICS. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said
591,000 crimes were registered during the first quarter of
1997, down 12% compared with the same period last year,
Interfax reported on 18 April. Addressing the Duma, Kulikov
said the number of premeditated murders dropped by 5.4%,
assaults by 16%, robberies by 10.2% and thefts by 13.6%.
However, he admitted that 7,500 murders committed in 1996
remain unsolved.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

FIGHTING INTENSIFIES ON ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI
FRONTIER. Up to 50 troops are reported killed in recent
fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in two
locations, Russian agencies reported. During the night from 18
to 19 April, Karabakh Armenian forces opened artillery fire on
a village in Azerbaijan's Aghdjabed Raion, ITAR-TASS reported,
quoting the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry. Armenian and
Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesmen each accused the
other side of launching an artillery bombardment on the
northern section of the border between Armenia's Tavush
Raion and Azerbaijan's Kazakh Raion early on 19 April.
Interfax yesterday quoted a source in Baku as saying that
fighting was continuing, but the Armenian Defense Ministry
denied this was the case, according to Reuters. In a 18 April
telephone conversation, the Armenian and Azerbaijani
presidents had agreed to order their respective military
commands to abide strictly by the 1994 cease fire agreement,
Interfax and Turan reported.

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION IN YEREVAN.
Between 10,000 and 20,000 people took part in a rally
organised by the Union for National Accord in Yerevan on 18
April, Western agencies reported. This was the second in a
planned series of fortnightly demonstrations organised by the
recently formed opposition party. Addressing the rally,
defeated former presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan
again called for pre-term parliamentary elections. Also on 18
April, the Armenian Central Electoral Commission rejected
imprisoned Dashnak leader Vahan Oganesian's application to
contest an upcoming parliamentary by-election, according to
AP.



STRATEGY DISAGREEMENTS TROUBLE RUSSIA'S
COMMUNISTS AND "PARTY OF POWER"

by Laura Belin

        Both the Communist Party of the Russian Federation
(KPRF) and Our Home Is Russia (NDR) unanimously re-
elected their leaders at congresses in Moscow this weekend.
But the apparent unity within Russia's largest opposition
party and the pro-government movement masks internal
divisions in each organization over how to broaden popular
support.
        A major fault line running through the KPRF stems
from Communist strategy toward the government.
Together with like-minded groups, the Communists have a
near-majority in the State Duma. But since last summer's
presidential election, the party's Duma faction has drawn
criticism from some activists and pro-communist
journalists who demand a more assertive parliamentary
opposition. Communist deputies have passed non-binding
resolutions attacking the government, but many also voted
to confirm Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Most
Communists also voted for the 1997 budget after laying
down 11 conditions for their continued support of the
government. Although virtually none of those conditions
has been met, the KPRF Duma faction has refrained from
putting a no-confidence vote on the agenda.
        The KPRF's reluctance to challenge the government is
understandable: the constitution gives the president the
right to dissolve the Duma if deputies pass two votes of no
confidence within three months. The Communists would
probably lose seats if new Duma elections were held.
Consequently, party leaders are advocating less risky,
"non-parliamentary methods of struggle," such as mass
protests.
        At this weekend's congress, several delegates called for
KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov to take a harder line. In
response, Zyuganov sought to project an image of
implacable opposition to the regime, saying the KPRF must
become a "responsible and irreconcilable" opposition force.
He called for large-scale protests on 1 and 9 May to counter
the new government's "murderous" policies, as well as a
nationwide signature campaign for referenda demanding
constitutional amendments and Yeltsin's resignation. At the
end of the first day, Zyuganov led a procession of party
leaders to the Lenin mausoleum on Red Square.
        Resolutions adopted the next day endorsed a strategy
of primarily non-parliamentary protest, although one
resolution proposed--but did not demand--that the KPRF
Duma faction consider holding a no-confidence vote.
Whether the Communist rank and file will respond to the
call for massive demonstrations will be seen next month.
Turnout for the 27 March nationwide protest action fell far
below Communist expectations.
        Meanwhile, the NDR is divided over how to build an
image as a movement that is concerned about the welfare of
ordinary citizens. Founded two years ago as the
government's standard-bearer in parliamentary elections,
the NDR recruited many regional and business elites but
won fewer Duma seats than its founders expected. Even NDR
leaders admit that the movement has failed to attract a
broad social base, as it is still considered a mere proxy for
the highly unpopular government.
        Chernomyrdin told delegates to this weekend's
congress that he was "dissatisfied" with Russia's current
economic situation. He vowed that his government would
solve the budget crisis, close tax loopholes, and establish
"order" in the alcohol trade. And in an apparent attempt to
demonstrate that the NDR is more than his personal vehicle,
Chernomyrdin suggested it was too early to decide who
would represent the bloc in the next presidential election.
        However, Chernomyrdin's promises failed to impress
Sergei Belyaev, leader of the NDR's parliamentary faction,
which for several months has quietly complained that
government officials take its support for granted. Belyaev
argued that his Duma faction has been a "hostage" to
government policy and should be consulted more on policy
matters. He warned that if the NDR does not change its
current strategy before the next parliamentary elections,
scheduled for 1999, it will attract popular support on the
level of the humble Beer Lovers' Party.
        Belyaev also said the NDR leadership should listen
more to the movement's regional branches and better
defend regional interests in the parliament. His comments
reflect a threat to what has been considered the NDR's main
strength: its support among the regional elite.
        Other politicians with presidential ambitions are
actively courting regional leaders. Last week, Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov signed an agreement pledging that the capital
city will provide up to 20 billion rubles ($3.5 million) to
develop industry in Kaluga Oblast. Former Federation
Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko has recruited several
governors to join his Reforms--New Course movement.
And the growing prominence of First Deputy Prime Minister
Boris Nemtsov shows that regional leaders may compete
with Chernomyrdin in a future presidential race.
        Although both Zyuganov and Chernomyrdin were
upbeat about their prospects, this weekend's congresses did
little more than paper over discord troubling both the KPRF
and the "party of power."

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