I'm going to turn on the light, and we'll be two people in a room looking at each other and wondering why on earth we were afraid of the dark. - Gale Wilhelm
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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

* KIRIENKO HOLDS CONSULTATIONS WITH DUMA LEADERS

* YAVLINSKII DENIES RECEIVING INVITATION TO JOIN
GOVERNMENT

* SITUATION WORSENS OUTSIDE TAJIK CAPITAL

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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

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