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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 58 Part I, 25 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 58 Part I, 25 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 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * KIRIENKO HOLDS CONSULTATIONS WITH DUMA LEADERS * YAVLINSKII DENIES RECEIVING INVITATION TO JOIN GOVERNMENT * SITUATION WORSENS OUTSIDE TAJIK CAPITAL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA KIRIENKO HOLDS CONSULTATIONS WITH DUMA LEADERS... Acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko on 25 March met with Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov for one hour to begin consultations with leaders of State Duma factions, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Kirienko had been expected to meet with Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii on the morning of 25 March, but their meeting was postponed at the last minute and no official reason was given. A spokeswoman for the Yabloko faction told ITAR-TASS that Yabloko had not requested the delay. At a 24 March press conference and in an interview with NTV the same day, Kirienko declined to name specific candidates for government posts, saying he will submit a list of nominees to President Boris Yeltsin within one week. LB ...SEEN AS LIKELY NOMINEE FOR PRIME MINISTER. Although Kirienko was initially seen as a transitional figure following his 23 March appointment as acting prime minister, influential politicians are predicting that Yeltsin will seek to make the appointment permanent. Aleksandr Livshits, the deputy head of the presidential administration, has described Kirienko as a "great find" for the government, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 March . Livshits said Yeltsin is likely to propose Kirienko's candidacy to the Duma, which must confirm the appointment of the prime minister. Interfax on 25 March quoted Boris Berezovskii as saying Kirienko is an "energetic young man" who has a "realistic" chance of being appointed prime minister. Meanwhile, Russian news agencies reported on 24 March that Kirienko has moved into the offices of former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais. Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's offices will remain vacant until the Duma has confirmed his successor. LB YAVLINSKII DENIES RECEIVING INVITATION TO JOIN GOVERNMENT. Yabloko leader Yavlinskii has denied rumors that he has been offered a post in the new government. In interviews with Ekho Moskvy and Russian Public Television on 24 March, Yavlinskii praised Yeltsin's decision to fire Chernomyrdin and his government but said Yabloko will decide whether to support the new cabinet only after it becomes clear how that government will be formed and what policies it will support. When he meets with acting Prime Minister Kirienko, Yavlinskii is expected to call on the government to implement policies Yabloko has long demanded. Those policies include tax reductions, plans for paying wages and pensions, protection of investors' rights, combatting corruption, and auditing natural monopolies. LB STROEV WANTS REGIONS REPRESENTED IN GOVERNMENT. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev on 24 March called for some regional leaders to be included in the new government, Interfax reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov became the first regional leader to join the federal government last March, when he gave up the post of governor of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast. Samara Mayor Oleg Sysuev also joined the government last March as a deputy prime minister. Speaking to journalists after meeting with Kirienko, Stroev said he and the acting prime minister have discussed "ways to restore the vertical power structure" and do away with "intermediaries" between the president, prime minister, governors, and mayors. Kirienko also agreed to attend a Federation Council session on 1 April in order to listen to suggestions from regional leaders. LB SELEZNEV DOUBTS DUMA WILL BE DISSOLVED. Speaking to journalists after a 24 March meeting with Kirienko, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev predicted that the appointment of the next prime minister will not lead to the dissolution of the Duma, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin would have the right to dissolve the lower house and call new parliamentary elections if Duma deputies voted three times to reject the president's nominee for prime minister. Seleznev remarked that Duma deputies "are responsible people" and will not allow Yeltsin to rule by decree, which, he said, would occur if the Duma were disbanded. However, Seleznev declined to predict whether the Duma would support the candidacy of Kirienko if Yeltsin nominates him for prime minister. The Duma speaker again called on Yeltsin to meet with Duma leaders to discuss the composition of the new government. He added that he has been unable to reach the president by telephone over the last two days. LB LUZHKOV EVALUATES GOVERNMENT SHAKEUP. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 24 March said he supports Yeltsin's decision to sack the government, which "ended one of the shameful stages in the history of the state--that of [former acting Prime Minister Yegor] Gaidar, [First Deputy Prime Minister] Chubais, and monetarism," ITAR-TASS reported. Luzhkov called for annulling the results of "unjust" privatization sales conducted on Chubais's watch and returning to the state all property sold for vastly undervalued prices. At the same time, Luzhkov described the decision to fire Interior Minister Kulikov as a "mistake." He credited Kulikov with helping reduce the crime rate in the capital. The mayor reserved judgment on the acting prime minister, saying the Moscow city government will support Kirienko if he helps Moscow solve its problems. Luzhkov and Kirienko are expected to hold talks on 25 March. LB YELTSIN WARNS KREMLIN STAFF. Yeltsin on 24 March warned officials in the presidential administration that they will face dismissal if they fail to implement his decrees, Reuters and AFP reported. In remarks that were broadcast on nationwide television, Yeltsin told aides that they "must create an environment in which everyone knows and feels that a failure to fulfill orders means death." A few days before Yeltsin sacked the entire government, his spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the president was concerned about the lobbying efforts of some government officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March 1998). At that time, Yeltsin instructed then Prime Minister Chernomyrdin to crack down on the offenders. LB PRIMAKOV IN BONN. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told journalists and government representatives in Bonn on 24 March that he will retain his position and that Russia's foreign policy will not change in the wake of the government shake-up. In answer to a reporter's question about his future, Primakov said "I'll disappoint you...I haven't been fired." Speaking later with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Primakov conveyed a message on behalf of Yeltsin that Russia's foreign policy will "remain unchanged and will not be affected by the change in government." Yeltsin has already expressed satisfaction with the work of Primakov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. Primakov is in Bonn to attend a meeting of the international Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia to discuss the situation in Kosovo. BP INTERIOR MINISTRY TROOPS TO BE DOWNSIZED. Colonel- General Leontii Shevtsov, commander of the Interior Ministry's troops, announced on 24 March that those troops will be downsized from 257,000 to 220,000 in 1998 and 1999, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that by July, Interior Ministry guards will be removed from some 50 enterprises that have been either privatized or converted from defense to civilian production. Shevtsov's announcement came just one day after Yeltsin fired Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov without giving a reason. (Kulikov was sacked in a separate decree from the one dismissing the rest of the government, making clear that he will not be in the new cabinet.) "Russkii telegraf" on 24 March quoted Duma deputy Vladimir Lopatin, a member of the Russian Regions faction and longtime opponent of Kulikov, as criticizing the "unjustified growth" of the Interior Ministry's troops on Kulikov's watch. LB WHY WAS KULIKOV FIRED? There is no consensus on the reasons for the surprise dismissal of Kulikov. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" suggested on 24 March that Kulikov may have "paid for a [presidential] campaign alliance" with Moscow Mayor Luzhkov (see above) or for his involvement in alleged preparations to transfer power to opponents of Chubais. "Kommersant- Daily" noted on 24 March that last fall, Kulikov sought to unite the law enforcement agencies and security services under his leadership--a plan Yeltsin rejected. Kulikov then gained supervisory authority over investigations conducted by other "power agencies," according to "Kommersant-Daily." The leaders of those agencies subsequently "used any convenient event" to point out "deficiencies in the Interior Ministry's work." Reuters noted that Defense Minister Igor Sergeev--whose government post is considered secure--recently criticized Kulikov for speaking out against various military reform plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 12 February 1998). LB RUSSIA FLOATS FOURTH EUROBOND. Russia placed a seven-year, DM 1.25 billion ($682 million) Eurobond on 24 March, Reuters and Interfax reported. It was the government's fourth Eurobond issue and the first since last June. Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said demand for the bonds was so high that the issue exceeded the planned total by DM 250 million. The Eurobond was scheduled to be floated on 23 March but was postponed by one day because of the market turmoil associated with the surprise dismissal of the government. Earlier this year, the government halted foreign borrowing because instability on Russian markets drove up borrowing costs. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov announced on 19 March that Russia will borrow some $3.5 billion abroad in 1998, Interfax reported. LB EDUCATION MINISTRY CUTS AID TO COLLEGE STUDENTS. The Education Ministry on 24 March announced that owing to federal budget constraints, the number of students able to enter higher education establishments for free this year will be cut by 10 percent, ITAR-TASS reported. Sergei Belyakov, director of the ministry's economic department, noted that projected budget spending for education this year is down 6-7 percent from the 1997 level. Since those figures are not adjusted for inflation, the real spending cuts are even greater. Government officials recently announced that various cost-cutting measures will be introduced in the education sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 1998). LB HEALTH MINISTRY BACKS MEASURES TO CURB SMOKING. The Health Ministry has endorsed legislation to prohibit tobacco sales to minors and tobacco advertising targeted at minors, Interfax reported on 22 March, citing the ministry's press service. Nearly 40 percent of boys in high school and some 25 percent of girls the same age smoke regularly. Smoking rates are considerably higher among teenagers at vocational training schools. An estimated 57 percent of adult men and 48 percent of adult women in Russia smoke. ITAR-TASS reported on 17 February that two laws aimed at reducing smoking have been drafted by the State Duma's Health Committee. Among other things, the proposed laws would ban sales of tobacco products near schools, health clinics, and sports facilities. They would also introduce a tax on tobacco producers. Smokers would receive lower sick pay compensation than non-smokers and would be forced to make contributions toward medical insurance. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA SITUATION WORSENS OUTSIDE TAJIK CAPITAL. At least 20 government soldiers were killed in fighting near Kofarnikhon on 24 March, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The government sent troops to the area, about 20 kilometers east of Dushanbe, following the killing of six policemen there on 23 March. Fighting broke out between those troops and an armed group whose loyalties are still unclear. Some 50 government soldiers have been captured by the group, and there are unconfirmed reports that the group has surrounded another 180. Members of the National Reconciliation Commission and UN observers attempted to talk to the group, but Interfax reported they were fired upon, despite the fact their vehicles displayed the UN flag. Meanwhile, some 10 people drowned attempting to cross a river to escape the fighting. The total number of civilian casualties is unknown. No fighting was reported during the night, and new efforts are reported under way to find a peaceful resolution. BP NEW KYRGYZ PREMIER NAMED. Less than 24 hours after Apas Jumagulov resigned as prime minister, the parliament approved Kubanychbek Jumaliev as his replacement, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Until recently, the 42-year-old Jumaliev, who is a physicist by training, was the head of the presidential administration. It is rumored that Jumagulov, who resigned of his own accord, will soon be appointed an ambassador. But a scandal has been growing around Jumagulov since the Kyrgyz daily newspaper "Vecherny Bishkek" reported on 13 and 20 March that Jumagulov is a founding member of an obscure Austrian company now handling the sale of Kyrgyz gold. That company reportedly stands to make profits totaling $80-100 million over the next three years. BP KAZAKH PHOSPHORUS ENTERPRISE SOLD. The Kazfosfor joint- stock company was sold on 24 March to the Hong Kong-based TEXUMA company, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. Kazfosfor owns and operates several phosphorus and super-phosphate plants in Kazakhstan, including the Janatas plant in Shymkent Oblast. Workers at that plant have staged protests and demonstrations since the fall 1997 to demand payment of wage arrears, which in some cases date back to 1996. TEXUMA has promised to pay all back wages to employees. BP CONFUSION OVER RECALL OF AZERBAIJANI AMBASSADOR TO IRAN. Azerbaijani parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov on 24 March said Azerbaijan's ambassador to Iran Aliyar Safarli has been declared persona non grata by Tehran, Turan reported. An Iranian newspaper claimed last week that Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev fired Safarli for incompetence and for making offensive remarks about Iran's sizable ethnic Azerbaijani community. Safarli had repeatedly criticized the Iranian government's failure to implement an agreement on opening an Azerbaijani consulate in the north Iranian city of Tabriz. Safarli's car was searched by border guards and customs officials at the Iranian-Azerbaijani frontier on 20 March. LF TWO MORE PARTIES BACK ARMENIAN PREMIER IN RUNOFF... The Union of Constitutional Rights, headed by Hrant Khachatryan, has called on its supporters to vote for Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharyan in the 30 March runoff vote, Noyan Tapan reported on 24 March. Khachatryan polled only 0.21 percent of the vote in the 16 March Armenian presidential election. The Armenian Popular Initiative, which is campaigning for Armenia's accession to the Russia- Belarus Union, has also endorsed Kocharyan, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Two other defeated presidential candidates, Union for Self- Determination chairman Paruir Hairikyan and Democratic Party of Armenia chairman Aram Sarkissyan, have already pledged their support for Kocharyan. New Path chairman Ashot Bleyan, who polled 0.11 per cent, will back former Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchyan in the runoff, Noyan Tapan reported. LF ...WHILE MANUKYAN WITHHOLDS SUPPORT ALTOGETHER. The National Democratic Union, whose chairman, Vazgen Manukyan, polled 12.24 percent of the vote in the 16 March vote, has decided not to endorse either of the candidates who will contend the 30 March runoff, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In a statement released on 24 March, the NDU said it has no "convincing grounds" for believing that either Kocharyan or Demirchyan is capable of expediting democratization in Armenia. The statement again charged that the results of the first round of voting were falsified and called on Manukyan's supporters to "vote in accordance with their conscience." He said no effort should be spared to ensure that the second round of voting is free and fair. On 23 March, Kocharyan had ruled out an alliance with Manukyan, according to Interfax. LF GEORGIA, U.S. SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and visiting Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze signed an agreement on military and security cooperation on 24 March, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. In addition, the U.S. will grant Georgia some $1.35 million to finance the purchase of U.S. military radios for a Georgian infantry company that will regularly participate in maneuvers under NATO's Partnership for Peace program, AFP reported. The U.S. will also provide Georgia with two patrol boats to guard its Black Sea borders, Cohen said. LF GEORGIAN REPUBLICANS CRITICIZE NEW ADJAR LAWS. Republican Party chairman David Berdzenishvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 24 March that recent legislation enacted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Adjaria testifies to the separatist intentions of the region's leader, Aslan Abashidze, Interfax reported. Berdzenishili was particularly critical of a law on the direct election of the Adjar Supreme Council chairman, which he claimed violates the Georgian Constitution. But Abashidze's legal adviser Valerii Gelbakhiani argued that the new legislation is necessary because the Georgian Constitution, adopted in August 1995, in effect invalidates the Adjar Constitution. Also on 24 March, Georgian Finance Minister Mikhail Chkuaseli denied Abashidze's claim that Adjaria has not received 2 million Georgian lari ($1.5 million) allocated in the Georgian budget and that his republic contributes more to the national budget than the other 10 regions combined, according to Caucasus Press. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. 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