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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 55 Part I, 20 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 55 Part I, 20 March 1998 A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II covers Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx ALL BROADCASTS FOR SIX SERVICES LIVE ONLINE All programs of RFE/RL's Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Kyrgyz, Russian and Ukrainian Services are online live in RealAudio. The Russian Service broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To tune in, go to: http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN BACK IN KREMLIN * GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES TERMS OF ROSNEFT SALE * KOCHARYAN ASSESSES ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL POLL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN BACK IN KREMLIN. President Boris Yeltsin returned to his office in the Kremlin on 20 March, Russian news agencies reported. The president held telephone conversations with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who is touring the former republics of Yugoslavia (see Part Two). Yeltsin was also shown on television meeting with his chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev, to discuss his summit with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl scheduled for 25 and 26 March in Yekaterinburg. Yeltsin went to his Gorky-9 residence outside Moscow on 13 March in order to recover from a respiratory infection, and his illness forced the postponement of a CIS summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 March 1998). LB PRESIDENT CONCERNED ABOUT OFFICIALS' LOBBYING EFFORTS. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 19 March that Yeltsin has instructed Chernomyrdin to investigate "disgraceful lobbying" by government officials among parliamentary deputies and to punish those responsible, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Yastrzhembskii named Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Toporov, First Deputy Labor Minister Yurii Lyublin, Deputy Finance Minister Izosim Molchanov and Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergei Kiselev, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 March. "Russkii telegraf" said Pension Fund Deputy Chairman Yevgenii Vasilev may also be dismissed. The officials involved are accused of supporting either laws that exceed the government's spending capacity (such as pension increases) or legislation contradicting official policy. For instance, Kiselev is said to have backed a law that would restrict land ownership rights, according to "Kommersant-Daily." LB YELTSIN TAKES BODYGUARDS AWAY FROM REGIONAL LEADERS. Also on 19 March, Yeltsin issued a decree revoking the right of several dozen officials to have federally funded bodyguards, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The decree affects 41 regional leaders, including Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. (Leaders of the other Russian regions do not use federal funds to pay for their security.) The decree also applies to former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, who is now the leader of the Popular Power faction in the State Duma. "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 March quoted Yastrzhembskii as saying those officials are free to hire bodyguards from local branches of the Interior Ministry, as long as they pay for the service with regional funds. Yeltsin recently stripped 12 senior officials, including First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, of their state-funded bodyguards (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 1998). LB GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES TERMS OF ROSNEFT SALE. The government on 20 March announced that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin has signed instructions on selling a 75 percent plus one share in Rosneft, Russia's last major fully state-owned oil company. The starting price for the stake will be 12.8 billion rubles ($2.1 billion), RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The German firm Dresdner Kleinwort Benson recently valued Rosneft at some $2.3 billion and estimated that a 75 percent stake in the company would be worth $1.6-1.7 billion, Interfax reported on 17 March. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais on 19 March told journalists representing foreign media organizations that there will be no restrictions on foreign participation in the Rosneft auction. A plan to sell a stake of 50 percent plus one share in Rosneft had also been under consideration by Chernomyrdin, but potential investors criticized that proposal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 1998). LB AUCTION TERMS ARE BAD NEWS FOR YUKSI. The decision to allow foreign companies to bid for the controlling stake in Rosneft is bad news for the Yuksi oil company, recently formed from the Yukos and Sibneft oil companies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 January 1998). Yuksi president Mikhail Khodorkovskii tried without success to recruit a foreign partner to submit a joint bid for the Rosneft stake. It will be difficult for Yuksi to raise enough funds to win the auction, "Kommersant-Daily" argued on 20 March. A consortium involving LUKoil, Gazprom, and Royal Dutch Shell, and an alliance of Sidanko and British Petroleum have announced plans to bid for Rosneft. Boris Berezovskii, a major shareholder in Yuksi, argued repeatedly in January and February that it is not in Russia's interest to allow foreigners to make "strategic" investments in the energy sector. LB DUMA REJECTS PROPOSAL TO RESCHEDULE GOVERNMENT REPORT. The State Duma on 20 March rejected a proposal to reschedule the government's report on its implementation of the 1997 budget, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The report is planned for 10 April, and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has asked Prime Minister Chernomyrdin to deliver it to the Duma in person. The Communist faction sought to move up the report for 31 March, so that it will take place before a nationwide protest action the Communists and other opposition groups are planning for 9 April. But the proposal fell short of a majority when the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia declined to support it. Meanwhile, the Duma has yet to vote on a final version of a resolution calling for criminal cases to be opened against Chernomyrdin and First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais for illegally reducing 1997 budget expenditures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 1998). LB LUZHKOV SEEKS SHARES IN DEFENSE ENTERPRISES... Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov wants the federal government to pay its debt to the capital by transferring 50 percent stakes in some leading military enterprises to the Moscow city government, an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow reported. Luzhkov discussed his proposal at an 18 March meeting attended by government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister and Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, Security Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin, and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov. Luzhkov's request applies to the aircraft design firm Sukhoi, the Ilyushin and Antei aviation complexes, and the Aircraft Electronics and Communications Systems company. "Russkii telegraf" on 19 March quoted unnamed government sources as saying the share transfers are likely to be approved, since the 1998 budget does not foresee sufficient spending to revive defense enterprises. Output in the defense industry declined 16 percent in 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998). LB ...MAY REAP POLITICAL DIVIDENDS. Although many defense enterprises are currently unprofitable, the plan to transfer shares in leading defense enterprises to Moscow could yield significant political dividends for Luzhkov, who is widely considered a strong presidential contender. "Russkii telegraf" noted on 19 March that the enterprises that would be affected by Luzhkov's proposal have networks of affiliates across Russia. For instance, Sukhoi owns companies based in Bashkortostan, Khabarovsk Krai, and Irkutsk and Novosibirsk Oblasts. Antei has affiliates in the republics of Tyva, Marii-El, and Udmurtia, as well as Orenburg, Sverdlovsk, and Yaroslavl Oblasts. Luzhkov has proposed offering tax breaks and reduced energy charges for the defense industry. He has promised to use Moscow city funds to help pay for those measures, but only if Moscow acquires controlling stakes in some defense enterprises. If his plan is approved, Luzhkov could gain more influence over elites in regions with a substantial defense industry. LB U.S. AMBASSADOR SAYS SOUTHERN KURILS ARE JAPANESE... U.S. Ambassador to Russia James Collins said in Yuzhnosakhalinsk on 19 March that Washington considers the Kuril Islands to be the property of Japan, Interfax reported. Ownership of the four islands, which were occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War Two, has proven an obstacle to signing a Russian-Japanese peace treaty to officially end hostilities. The previous day, Grigorii Yavlinskii, the leader of the Yabloko movement, had said the peace agreement should be based on the 1855 treaty between Russia and Japan. That document gave Russia the northern Kuril Islands but left Japan with the four southern ones, now at the center of the dispute between Moscow and Tokyo. BP ...DRAWS CRITICISM FROM MOSCOW. Aleksandr Losyukov, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department for Asia, commented that Collins's statement is "untimely and incorrect," Interfax reported. Losyukov said statements by representatives of third countries on the subject are "inappropriate," especially "if they are done on our territory in the Far East." The Russian-Japanese subcommission on the new treaty ending wartime hostilities is to meet for the first time in Tokyo on 26 March. President Yeltsin is scheduled to have an informal meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in Kawana, Japan, on 11-13 April. BP MASKHADOV DENIES INCREASED TENSIONS IN CHECHNYA. Speaking at a press conference in Grozny on 19 March, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov said that the situation in Chechnya is more stable than at any time since September 1996, Interfax reported. Maskhadov rejected a statement made the previous day by Khunkar-Pasha Israpilov, head of the Chechen anti-terrorist squad. Israpilov claimed that supporters of the abductors of a British couple held hostage in Chechnya since July 1997 have seized a building in Urus Martan and that tensions in the town are escalating. Chechen intelligence agents recently failed to secure the release of the British hostages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 1998). LF LEBED SAYS RUSSIA NEEDS NEW MARSHALL PLAN. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed announced on 19 March that Russia needs massive assistance modeled on the Marshall Plan, which the U.S. offered to many European countries after World War Two, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Testifying before the National Security Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, Lebed criticized current U.S. aid to Russia, saying money is not going to the right people. The previous day, Lebed met with U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and highly praised the Nunn-Lugar program, under which U.S. funds have helped pay to dismantle some Russian missiles. But he warned that chronic underfunding of the Russian military continues, and Russia's nuclear specialists often receive only part of their wages with great delays. Lebed is running in the 26 April gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai. LB KRASNOYARSK GOVERNOR CONFIDENT OF RE-ELECTION. During a 19 March press conference in Moscow, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Valerii Zubov expressed confidence that he will be re-elected this spring, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Zubov said he does not consider Lebed his main rival in the race. However, in thinly-veiled criticism of Lebed, he warned that Krasnoyarsk residents should not "count on a miracle" by voting for a "magician" for governor. Zubov portrayed himself as a person committed to working in Krasnoyarsk in the long term (Lebed is widely believed to be planning a presidential bid in 2000). "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 March that many officials, both in the krai and in Moscow, believe Zubov's re-election chances are slim. The newspaper said other regional leaders are already negotiating as to who will replace Zubov as deputy speaker of the Federation Council if he loses his post in Krasnoyarsk. LB MORMON MISSIONARIES ABDUCTED IN SAMARA. Two Mormon missionaries have been abducted in Samara Oblast, Reuters reported on 19 March, citing a statement by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The statement, which was issued through the U.S. State Department, gave few details about the disappearance of the missionaries and did not speculate about who might be responsible for their abduction. The Church said it has taken measures to protect others in its Samara mission. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KOCHARYAN ASSESSES ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL POLL. Armenian Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharyan told journalists in Yerevan on 19 March that "minor" procedural violations during the presidential elections did not significantly affect the final results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 1998). Kocharyan said he has informed the head of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's observer mission that he disagrees with three of the six points of criticism contained in the OSCE evaluation. He pledged to ensure that the 30 March runoff will be free of infringements. Kocharyan also said he is discussing a possible second round alliance with defeated candidate Paruir Hairikyan, who polled 5.5 percent. He also appealed to Vazgen Manukyan, who came in third, "not to burn bridges" for future cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC UNION ON REPORTED VIOLATIONS. Seyran Avakyan, a spokesman for Manukyan's National Democratic Union (NDU) said on 19 March that the party has already lodged 30 formal protests with the Central Electoral Commission and another 16 with local commissions, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Avakyan said Manukyan's campaign staff are still receiving complaints of fraud and will seek legal action on 50 "criminal cases" of violence against NDU activists. Avakyan added that whereas most violations occurred during the vote count in 1996, the majority took place during the actual voting this year. Four members of the Central Electoral Commission, including Vova Hakhverdyan of the NDU, refused to sign the final protocol on preliminary returns issued by the commission on 19 March, Noyan Tapan reported. LF FORMER GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SPEAKER RELEASED. Nemo Burchuladze, who was Georgian deputy parliamentary speaker under ousted President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was released on bail by Russian police on 19 March after being detained in Moscow for one day, Russian media reported. Senior Georgian officials told Caucasus Press on 19 March that Tbilisi will not demand Burchuladze's extradition because of the positive role he played in securing the release of four UN observers abducted by Gamsakhurdia sympathizers in western Georgia last month. Also on 19 March, Guram Absandze, who was finance minister under Gamsakhurdia, was extradited to Tbilisi and taken into detention on arrival, Russian media reported. Absandze, who was arrested in Smolensk on 16 March, is suspected of financing the 9 February assassination attempt against Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. LF KAZAKHSTAN EXPELS SUSPECTED IRANIAN SPIES. Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymjomart Tokayev announced on 19 March that the three Iranian nationals arrested charged with espionage last month will be sent back to Iran, ITAR-TASS reported. Tokayev told the Iranian ambassador to Kazakhstan that Kazakh security agents had been able to establish that the Iranians had gathered information and "infringed on the interests of Kazakhstan's national security." Tokayev, who had been in Tehran on 13 March to discuss the issue, added that "to show goodwill...[and] preserve friendly relations between the two countries," the Kazakh authorities had decided to free the suspected spies. There was no mention of the fate of the Kazakh citizen who was charged alongside the three Iranians. BP KYRGYZSTAN EXEMPTED FROM JACKSON-VANICK ACT. Kyrgyz presidential press spokesman Kanybek Imanaliev said on 18 March that the U.S. has removed Kyrgyzstan from the list of countries covered by the 1973 Jackson-Vanick amendment, RFE/RL correspondents reported. That act placed severe restrictions on trade with countries that have a poor human rights records. Removal from the list means Kyrgyz exports are now officially freed from the maximum customs duties that could be levied on listed countries. However, since the 1992 agreement with the U.S. giving Kyrgyzstan most-favored nation status, those duties have rarely been enforced. Last November, President Askar Akayev sent a letter to the U.S. President Bill Clinton requesting Kyrgyzstan be removed from the list. BP OIL STORAGE FACILITY OPENS IN TURKMENBASHI. Mohammad Hasan Marikana, the president of Malaysia's Petronas Oil Company, opened the oil tank storage facility at the Turkmen Caspian port of Turkmenbashi on 19 March, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Petronas will invest between $60-70 million in offshore oil-drilling projects this year in the Livanovo, Barinovo, and Gubkino Caspian fields, which contain an estimated total of 500-660 million tons of oil. Earlier the same day, Marikana met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat. BP REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIA SENDS MIXED SIGNALS ON SANCTIONS AGAINST LATVIA. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 19 March that Russia is considering "certain targeted economic counter-measures" against Latvia, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Yastrzhembskii expressed concern about the "silence" of other European countries over the recent march in Riga by veterans of the Latvian SS Legion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 1998). Yastrzhembskii questioned whether the lack of condemnation of that march indicates that the verdicts at the Nuremburg trials are no longer deemed binding international law and whether Europe is willing to invite "a country whose government panders to SS remnants" into the "zone of democracy." In contrast, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced on 19 March that "Russia will not impose economic sanctions on Latvia," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that "we do not support a 'tooth for a tooth' position." LB LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CLAIMS "ANTI-LATVIAN CAMPAIGN." Addressing a session of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva on 19 March, Valdis Birkavs argued that Russia is conducting a "widespread anti-Latvian campaign," BNS reported. Referring to the recent incident at the Latvian Embassy in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 1998),. Birkavs said Latvian diplomatic personnel "have been threatened with physical violence." He added that "Latvia has received threats of economic sanctions because, it is said, Latvia is not loyal enough to Russian interests." Birkavs was responding to a proposal made by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Ushakhov in Geneva two days earlier that the committee adopt a resolution condemning human rights violations in Latvia. The Latvian minister rejected Ushakhov's accusation of applying "double standards" over the protection of human rights, adding that he is ready to discuss those rights with Moscow. JC LATVIA ARRESTS RUSSIAN NATIONAL ON GENOCIDE CHARGE. The Latvian Prosecutor-General's Office on 19 March arrested a Russian citizen and former Soviet security official on charges of genocide, BNS reported. Ilya Mashonkin is accused of involvement in the 1949 deportation of some 100 ethnic Latvian families. Many of the deportees reportedly died in exile. A spokeswoman said that Mashonkin's arrest cannot be linked to the recent activities of Latvia's Russian-speakers or SS Legion veterans because the Prosecutor-General's Office has been working on the case for the past year or so. Until now, Latvia had sentenced only one former Soviet security official. Alfons Noviks, a Latvian citizen, was jailed for life in 1995 for helping organize deportations. He died in prison the following year, aged 89. JC xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. 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