To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 56 Part I, 23 March 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 56 Part I, 23 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

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RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES II
Businessmen, government leaders, politicians, and financial companies
continue to reshape Russia's media landscape. This update of a September
report identifies the players and their media holdings via charts, tables
and articles.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia2/index.html

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN FIRES ENTIRE CABINET

* PRESIDENT APPOINTS KIRIENKO ACTING PRIME MINISTER

* OSCE, CANDIDATES REPORT ON ARMENIAN ELECTION VIOLATIONS

* End Note: A NEW OLIGARCHY EMERGES IN ARMENIA

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN FIRES ENTIRE CABINET...  Following a meeting with Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin in the Kremlin on 23 March, President Boris Yeltsin
issued separate decrees firing the premier,  First Deputy Prime Ministers
Anatolii Chubais, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, and the rest of the
Russian government. Yeltsin said later in a live address on NTV that the
sackings were necessary in order to pave the way for a new cabinet that
would concentrate on resolving social and economic problems rather than
engaging in political infighting.  Speaking on 21-22 March, Yeltsin had
criticized the government's chronic inability to pay wages and pensions
punctually. Yeltsin said the outgoing Chernomyrdin cabinet had lacked
dynamism, initiative, and "fresh approaches."  Many Russians "do not feel
changes for the better" in their lives, the president had commented. LF

...PRAISES CHERNOMYRDIN. Yeltsin on 23 March praised Chernomyrdin as
"thorough, reliable, and trustworthy," AFP reported. He added that he has
asked Chernomyrdin to concentrate his efforts on the presidential elections
in 2000, which Yeltsin described as the most "crucial question" for
Russia's destiny.  But Chernomyrdin denied that Yeltsin's remarks mean that
he will contend the presidency, telling  journalists that "I cannot be
considered a candidate."  LF

PRESIDENT SAYS NO POLICY CHANGE... Yeltsin stressed  in his television
address that the dismissal of the government does not mean a change of
course in our policy. It is an effort to make economic reforms more
energetic and effective, to give them a political push, a new impulse."
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov was quoted as saying that Russia
will continue its present foreign policy course. Chernomyrdin, for his
part, downplayed the situation, saying the dismissal of his government is
neither "a catastrophe" nor "grounds for panic,"  Reuters reported.
He affirmed that the course of reform is "irreversible" and that  "the
rules of the game for business...will remain stable, although of course
they will be improved." LF

...APPOINTS KIRIENKO ACTING PRIME MINISTER.  Presidential press spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin has appointed
35-year-old Sergei Kirienko as acting premier.  Kirienko is an ally of
former First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and a former governor of
Nizhnii Novgorod. He was appointed first deputy fuel and energy minister in
the spring of 1997 and succeeded Nemtsov as head of that ministry in
November.  Yastrzhembskii said Kirienko met with President Boris Yeltsin on
23 March and that the process of forming a new government has already
begun. Under the consitution, the president has two weeks in which to name
a new prime minister. LF

CHUBAIS, NEMTSOV TO REMAIN IN YELTSIN'S TEAM?  Former First Deputy Prime
Minister Chubais said on 23 March that he has talked with Yeltsin and will
remain a member of his "team," Russian agencies reported.  He declined,
however, to say in what capacity. Chubais added that he knew in advance of
Yeltsin's decision to dismiss the government, which, he said, had been
prepared for a long time. Yeltsin is also expected to meet with Nemtsov
later today to discuss the latter's participation in the new government. LF

MASLOV TAKES OVER AS ACTING INTERIOR MINISTER. First Deputy Interior
Minister Pavel Tikhonivich Maslov will serve as acting interior minister
following Kulikov's dismissal from that post, ITAR-TASS reported. A native
of Rostov, Maslov graduated from the General Staff  Military Academy and
was a deputy commander of Interior Ministry troops in the North Caucasus
and deputy commander of the combined federal forces in Chechnya. He was
appointed first deputy interior minister in January 1997. LF

DUMA SPEAKER COMMENTS ON GOVERNMENT'S DISMISSAL. Gennadii Seleznev told
journalists on 23 March that Yeltsin has strengthened his position by
taking a "preemptive step to dismiss the government."  Seleznev said
Yeltsin had thereby avoided a "negative assessment of the government's
work," which, Seleznev said, most Duma deputies were certain to have given
next month. Seleznev added that "most working people would have demanded
the resignation of the government" at a nationwide day of protest scheduled
for 9 April. LF

RUSSIAN RUBLE, STOCK MARKET TAKE A POUNDING. The Moscow stock market fell10
percentage points following Yeltsin's dismissal of the government, AFP
reported. However, Russian agencies reported that after Yeltsin's televized
address the market rallied to regain several percentage points. ITAR-TASS
reported that stocks plunged as foreigners attempted to dump securities on
the market  "amid a complete lack of demand." Chernomyrdin told
"entrepreneurial circles, above all bankers," not to become nervous
because, he stressed, as the course of reform in Russia will not change.
Also, the ruble fell by 10 percentage points against the dollar and is now
trading at 6.0970 to $1. BP

INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO GOVERNMENT DISMISSAL. The international
community's reaction to Yeltsin's decision to dismiss Chernomyrdin's
government has been both slow and cautious. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
declined comment but said he will telephone with Yeltsin later on 23 March.
U.S. presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said Washington is "attempting to
get more information from the Russian government" before it comments. U.S.
President Bill Clinton is on the first day of his visit to Africa. A
British Foreign Office spokesman said that no changes are expected in the
U.K.'s or the EU's underlying relationship with Russia. (The U.K. currently
holds the rotating EU presidency.) And the Finnish government said it will
proceed with plans for Chernomyrdin's visit to Helsinki scheduled for 27
March. BP

FRENCH, GERMAN LEADERS SAY SITE OF SUMMIT UNIMPORTANT... On the advice of
Yeltsin's doctors, the venue of the upcoming French-German-Russian summit
has been changed from Yekaterinburg to Moscow. Doctors advised the Russian
president, who has reportedly been suffering from respiratory problems,
against flying the 1,500 kilometers from the capital to Yekaterinburg.
ITAR-TASS on 20 March quoted unnamed "high-ranking sources" in the French
president's office and the German diplomatic corps as saying the change in
venue is unimportant and will not affect the agenda. French President
Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Kohl are to take part in the meeting
with Yeltsin. BP

...BUT YEKATERINBURG OFFICIALS MAY BE UNHAPPY. Officials in Yekaterinburg
have declined to comment on the change of venue for the
French-German-Russian summit. But Interfax on 20 March quoted unidentified
sources in the Yekaterinburg Mayor's Office as saying nearly $9 million has
been spent preparing for the summit. Three mansions where the leaders were
expected to stay were renovated at a cost of $8.5 million and another
$300,000 was spent on refurbishing the regional governor's office for the
summit. Last week, $133,000 were spent on cleaning up the city. BP

BREAKTHROUGH IN DISPUTE OVER KURIL ISLANDS? Several Japanese newspapers on
23 March reported that the Russian Foreign  Ministry is prepared to
recognize the 1956 treaty with Japan, which states that the four southern
Kuril Islands will  be returned to Japan following the conclusion of a
formal peace treaty. The islands were occupied by Soviet troops in the last
days of World War Two. Japan's Foreign Ministry has not yet issued a
statement on the issue, nor has the Russian government made any comment on
the Japanese  press reports. Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro
Hashimoto has said the dismissal of Chernomyrdin's government will have no
effect on Japan's commitment to signing a peace treaty with Russia by the
year 2000. BP

U.S. DAILY ACCUSES RUSSIA OF AIDING IRANIAN MISSILE PROGRAM. Citing unnamed
Russian and diplomatic sources,  the "Washington Post" on 23 March reported
that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has been recruiting
scientists to train their Iranian counterparts to build long-range
missiles. According to the U.S. daily, the Russian specialists have
traveled to Iran to negotiate direct contracts with Iranian agencies in
order to avoid any direct Russian government involvement. Unnamed Russian
officials are quoted as saying that Russia intends to halt such activities
following Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's January decree on tightening
control over exports of goods and services that could be used to
manufacture nuclear weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 1998). LF

RUSSIAN MAFIA BOSS SENTENCED IN ISRAEL.   A Jerusalem regional court has
sentenced Grigorii Lerner to six years in jail, AFP reported on 22 March.
In addition to spending six years in jail, Lerner will pay a fine of $1.4
million. Lerner's lawyer had offered a plea bargain whereby Lerner pleaded
guilty to 13 of the 14 charges against him. Among those charges were
attempted corruption of government officials and the fraudulent acquisition
of $14 million from Russian and Israeli banks to establish his own bank in
Israel. Owing to insufficient evidence, the Israeli prosecutor-general
dropped murder charges against Lerner in connection with the death of a
Russian banker. BP

RUSSIAN OFFICER SENTENCED FOR SPYING FOR ISRAEL. Meanwhile, a Moscow
military court has  found Vladimir Tkachenko guilty of supplying Israel
with high-resolution satellite photographs and has sentenced him to three
years in prison, Reuters reported on 21 March. Tkachenko is a former
lieutenant in the military's intelligence service. Russia's intelligence
service allows the sale of some low-resolution photographs, but the court
found those sold by Tkachenko to the Israeli secret service were
classified. BP

RUSSIA "CANNOT FULLY COMPLY" WITH CFE TREATY.  Colonel-General Yurii
Baluevskii, a senior member of the Russian General Staff, argues that
ongoing tensions in the North Caucasus prevent Russia from fully complying
with the restrictions on the number of forces it can deploy in that region
under the revised Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, Interfax
reported on 20 March. LF

DAGESTAN AMENDS CONSTITUTION. On 19 March the State Council amended the
article of the Dagestani constitution stipulating that representatives of
the same ethnic minority could not hold the post of State Council chairman
for two consecutive terms, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 March. The
constitution thus now allows one individual to hold that post for two
consecutive terms, and imposes no restrictions on the nationality of
candidates.  It also removes barriers to the re-election of incumbent State
Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov, whose term expires in July 1998.
Opposition forces staged a mass demonstration in Makhachkala to protest the
amendment. LF


TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

OSCE, CANDIDATES REPORT ON ARMENIAN ELECTION VIOLATIONS. The Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe's observer mission in Armenia has
submitted to the Central Electoral Commission data showing that there were
unauthorized persons at 5 percent of the 800 polling stations monitored,
Interfax reported on 19 March. The following day, a representative of
presidential candidate Karen Demirchyan told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that
random checking of ballots from several Yerevan precincts revealed serious
violations. He noted that in one district in the city of Erebuni, the
number of votes cast exceeded the number of voters by 30 percent. Aghvan
Vartanyan, campaign press spokesman for Prime Minister and acting president
Robert Kocharyan, told journalists on 21 March that "we are doing
everything possible" to ensure that the 30 March runoff between Kocharyan
and Demirchyan is free and fair, ITAR-TASS reported (see also "End Note"
below). LF

HAIRIKYAN BACKS KOCHARYAN'S PRESIDENTIAL BID. Union for Self-Determination
leader Paruir Hairikyan, who polled only 5.41  percent of the vote in the
first round of the presidential election, has endorsed Kocharyan's
candidacy in the runoff, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 March. Kocharyan's chief
of staff, Aleksan Harutiunyan, told journalists that, in return, Hairikyan
has been promised a senior position, possibly coordinating and overseeing
state and legal reform. Harutiunyan praised Hairikyan's dissident
activities during the 1970s and 1980s, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

SHEVARDNADZE'S ATTACKERS TRAINED IN CHECHNYA. Georgian First Deputy
Prosecutor-General  Revaz Kipani told journalists on 21 March that the men
who carried out the failed 9 February attempt to kill Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze were trained near Grozny, Interfax reported. He added
that the assassination bid was financed by former Georgian Finance Minister
Guram Absandze, whom Moscow extradited to Tbilisi last week. The previous
day, Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze had said on national
television that 11 people are wanted for questioning in connection with
that assassination attempt and another six for their role in the bid to
kill Shevardnadze in August 1995, ITAR-TASS reported. But Targamadze
declined to comment on reports that Bessarion Gugushvili, who was  prime
minister under former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in 1991 and now lives in
Finland, is implicated in the 1998 assassination bid. LF

TURKISH CYPRIOT DELEGATION WRAPS UP CENTRAL ASIAN, CAUCASUS TOUR. A
delegation from the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus held talks in Baku on
19 March with presidential foreign policy adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade, the
"Turkish Daily News" reported on 20 March. They handed over to Gulu-Zade a
message from President Rauf Denktash to his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar
Aliev. The Turkish Cypriot delegation, which was headed by former Foreign
Minister Atay Ahmet Rasit, had previously visited Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan,
and Turkmenistan. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION RESPONDS TO GOVERNMENT CLAIMS. The United Tajik Opposition
has released a statement rejecting claims by the government that the UTO is
not complying with the peace accord, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 March. The
government had released a statement last week claiming that members of the
UTO had carried out a series of attacks on police in central Tajikistan.
The UTO statement called on the government to study the facts  and
threatened to release a list government violations of the peace accord.. BP

NUMBER OF KYRGYZ LIVESTOCK DECREASING. Deputy Agriculture Minister Janybek
Tumanov told journalists on 20 March that the number of cattle, horses, and
sheep has sharply decreased, RFE/RL correspondents reported. He added that
the reduction in the number of the sheep--from 11 million to just under 4
million over the past seven years--is the most damaging to the country.
Mutton is the staple food of most of the country's rural residents and of
many urban-dwellers as well. BP

NIYAZOV TELLS AGRICULTURE HEADS TO MEET QUOTAS. Turkmen President
Saparmurat Niyazov told a meeting of the government on 20 March that if
quotas for grain and cotton are not met, those responsible "at all levels"
will held accountable, Interfax reported. Niyazov added that criminal
charges might also be brought against some individuals. The president also
met with the heads of banks and agricultural associations, telling them to
do their best to help meet this year's quotas. BP

END NOTE

A NEW OLIGARCHY EMERGES IN ARMENIA

by Emil Danielyan

	Yet another election in Armenia has been marred by procedural
violations. It was hoped that the 16 March presidential ballot would put
the country back onto a democratic track, but instead the political scene
is once again polarized, threatening the country's long-term stability and
development.
	Of the 12 presidential hopefuls who contended the first round of
voting, none secured the 50 percent of the vote needed for an outright
victory. The two leading candidates, Prime Minister and acting President
Robert Kocharian and former Communist leader Karen Demirchian, will
therefore compete in a runoff on 30 March. Most observers in Armenia
believe Kocharian will emerge as the new president, not least because of
serious irregularities that cast a shadow over the first round.
	This year's electoral fraud was  markedly different from that of
the  September 1996 ballot, which was apparently rigged in favor of then
President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. Whereas 18 months ago higher-level
electoral commissions systematically falsified election returns, the 1998
vote saw attacks on polling stations and the buying of votes. OSCE
observers and defeated candidates say the most frequently reported
violation on polling day was the stuffing of hundreds of ballot papers
marked for Kocharian into ballot boxes by groups of 20-30 men (often armed)
who intimidated and beat opposition proxies (official representatives of
opposition candidates). Buying votes (at prices varying from $5 to $20 per
ballot) reached an unprecedented scale. Intimidation was particularly
widespread in rural areas, which may have contributed to Kocharian's 8
percentage point lead over Demirchian in the first round.
	The Armenian authorities have claimed that the violations were not
premeditated and that the election is an improvement over 1996 presidential
poll. This view is not shared by the rival camp, which is convinced
Demirchian could have won in the first round had the vote been truly free
and fair. On 30 March, Demirchian, who does not have the support of strong
grass-roots structures, will face Kocharian, who is backed by the state
apparatus and a tight network of quasi-mafia groups.
	The result of the second round of voting is unlikely to reflect
Demirchian's undoubted popularity. An election victory widely perceived to
have been secured by dishonest means will increase the mistrust many
Armenians already have toward Kocharian following the first round and will
jeopardize the emergence of the "national consolidation" to which he
aspires. (Similar mistrust of Ter-Petrossyan was one of the key factors
that precipitated his resignation in early February.)
	In addition, two strongmen who are not known as ardent advocates of
democracy--Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian and
Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian--are likely to emerge more powerful from
the election. Local "clans" associated with those two ministers are
believed to have made a significant contribution to Kocharian's victory by
providing financial and other resources. The attacks on polling stations,
for example,  have been blamed on senior members of the Yerkrapah Union of
Karabakh War Veterans, whose chairman is Vazgen Sarkisian.
	Those clans also have control over a substantial portion of
economic activities in the country and played a major role in the
government oligarchy that emerged under Ter-Petrossyan. After
Ter-Petrossyan's resignation, the oligarchy lost its main ideological wing,
the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), whose quasi-liberal ideology
facilitated the material enrichment of the ruling elite.  Kocharian is
likely to assign the  role of "ideological front" to the nationalist
Dashnak party,  which was persecuted by Ter-Petrossyan. and is now expected
to take over the education and culture portfolios.
	The Dashnaks will have no disagreement with the "power ministries,"
as far as a tough Armenian stand on Nagorno-Karabakh and nationalism are
concerned. But it remains to be seen whether the Dashnaks will put up with
the "plunder of the people," against which the Dashnaks have pledged to
fight. The two groups are, however,  united in their hostility toward the
free market. The Dashnaks are advocates of "true socialism," while the
clans loyal to the two Sarkisians have made fortunes owing to their
privileged position and want neither free competition nor the rule of law
to disrupt their monopolist activities.
	Economic liberalization and legal safeguards are essential
conditions for the economic recovery that Kocharian has pledged. But the
way the presidential election is being handled suggests he may not be able
to establish those conditions.  Kocharian, who argues that Karabakh is not
the main impediment to Armenia's development,  will not be able to blame
the unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan for continued economic hardship.
	Moreover, the emergence of the new oligarchy does not bode well for
the prospects of democratization in Armenia. And this year's presidential
election  will certainly not help overcome the lack of "democratic
traditions," which, according to Kocharian, was responsible for the voting
irregularities.

The author is a Yerevan-based correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service.

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