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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 62 Part I, 31 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 62 Part I, 31 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 * DUMA WANTS YELTSIN TO SUSPEND NOMINATION OF KIRIENKO * SHOKHIN SAYS COMMUNISTS MULLING IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS * KOCHARYAN APPEARS SET TO BECOME ARMENIAN PRESIDENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA WANTS YELTSIN TO SUSPEND NOMINATION OF KIRIENKO. The State Duma Council has scheduled a 1 April vote on a resolution calling on President Boris Yeltsin to suspend his nomination of Sergei Kirienko as prime minister, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 31 March. All Duma factions, except for Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, support the resolution, which also asks Yeltsin to convene roundtable talks to discuss cabinet appointments with representatives of the Duma and Federation Council. Reuters quoted Duma First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov as saying Yeltsin could "ease tensions and improve Kirienko's chances to be approved" if the president heeds the Duma's appeal. Ryzhkov belongs to the Our Home Is Russia faction. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced that if Yeltsin does not respond to the resolution, the Duma may postpone its consideration of Kirienko's candidacy, which has tentatively been scheduled for 3 April. LB YELTSIN TO RETAIN FOREIGN, FINANCE MINISTERS. Yeltsin has confirmed that he intends to keep Yevgenii Primakov and Mikhail Zadornov as foreign minister and finance minister in the new government, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 31 March. Like most cabinet members, Primakov and Zadornov became "acting ministers" following Yeltsin's 23 March dismissal of the entire government. Primakov has headed the Foreign Ministry since January 1996, and Zadornov became finance minister last November. Yeltsin has also suggested that Defense Minister Igor Sergeev will not be replaced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1998). According to presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, Yeltsin cannot formally appoint the new cabinet ministers until the Duma has confirmed a new premier. LB SHOKHIN SAYS COMMUNISTS MULLING IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS. Aleksandr Shokhin, the head of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, said on 30 March that the Communist faction may launch impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin in the Duma, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. There would be no hope of removing Yeltsin from office, since the constitution outlines an arduous impeachment procedure. But by beginning proceedings, deputies could temporarily shield the Duma from dissolution. Article 111 of the constitution grants the president the right to disband the Duma if the lower house rejects his nominee for prime minister three times, but Article 109 states that the Duma may not be dissolved once it has begun the process of seeking to remove the president from office. According to Article 93, the Federation Council would have to consider the Duma's impeachment motion within three months. LB LEGAL UNCLARITY OVER SUCCESSION PROCEDURE. Kirienko's current status raises questions about whether he could assume presidential powers if Yeltsin's term ended early. Article 92 of the constitution stipulates that the prime minister becomes acting president if the incumbent president resigns, is incapacitated for health reasons, or is removed from office. No further line of succession is specified. Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov, a prominent member of the Communist Party, told Interfax on 30 March that an acting prime minister who had not been confirmed by the Duma would not be eligible to become acting president. Constitutional Court Judge Ernest Ametistov told Interfax that other interpretations are possible and argued that the court should consider that issue soon. He called on the government or parliament to submit a relevant inquiry. LB OUR HOME IS RUSSIA NOT INVITED TO HELP DRAFT PROGRAM FOR KIRIENKO. Shokhin on 30 March expressed disappointment that no experts from Our Home Is Russia have been asked to help draft a new economic program for acting Premier Kirienko, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Russian news agencies reported the same day that the working group to draft Kirienko's upcoming report to the Duma includes Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, economist Aleksei Ulyukaev, deputy head of Gaidar's Institute of Economic Problems of the Transition Period, Minister without portfolio Yevgenii Yasin, and Andrei Illarionov, director of the Institute of Economic Analysis. Shokhin said time will tell whether those experts will draft a "radical-liberal" economic program or a "balanced" program that would be embraced by all Duma factions. LB ANNAN WRAPS UP VISIT TO RUSSIA. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, concluding a two-day visit to Russia on 30 March, received praise from Russian officials for his part in mediating the Iraqi crisis in late February. After addressing the State Duma, Annan met with Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to discuss the situation in Iraq and peacekeeping operations in Georgia and Tajikistan. Annan also met with Yeltsin, who told the secretary-general he is pleased with "the way we played the Iraqi game," according to Interfax. Yeltsin also said he favors an even larger role for the UN in "the modern world." AFP quotes the Russian presidential office as saying "the UN secretary-general said he would continue to be vigilant on the situation of Russian minorities in Latvia and Estonia." Annan is now in China on the next leg of his tour of the five countries that are permanent members of the UN Security Council. BP GAZPROM ADVISER SAYS COMPANY CAN TAKE PART IN ROSNEFT AUCTION... Former First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov, an adviser at Gazprom, says the gas monopoly has the right to participate in the upcoming auction for a controlling stake in the Rosneft oil company. A Menatep Bank executive recently charged that 40 percent state- owned Gazprom has no right to bid for Rosneft, since Russian law prohibits companies with more than 25 percent state ownership from taking part in privatization sales (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998). But Vavilov said there are "legal methods that allow [those] restrictions to be circumvented," ITAR-TASS reported on 30 March. Last November, Gazprom formed a consortium with LUKoil and Royal Dutch Shell to prepare a joint bid for Rosneft. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS on 31 March quoted Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev as saying that the government has set too high a minimum price for the Rosneft stake. LB ...HINTS CHERNOMYRDIN MAY RETURN TO GAZPROM. Vavilov announced on 30 March that Chernomyrdin may take up a senior post at Gazprom, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Chernomyrdin was chief executive of the company before being appointed prime minister in December 1992. Vavilov said Chernomyrdin is concentrating on preparing for his presidential bid in 2000 and may take a job at the gas monopoly if he decides that such a move would fit into his campaign plans. Gazprom is expected to be a major source of financial and organizational support for Chernomyrdin's presidential bid, although the company has not yet given its official backing to Chernomyrdin's candidacy. LB LUZHKOV OUTLINES TASKS FOR NEW DAILY. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov described the goals of the new daily newspaper "Rossiya" at a 27 March ceremony to launch that publication. Luzhkov called on the newspaper to promote better economic cooperation among federal, regional, and local authorities, ITAR-TASS reported. He also expressed the hope that "Rossiya" will "write about the end of the era of monetarism, which is leading our country to an economic crash," and will discuss problems faced by Russian-speakers outside the Russian Federation. The Moscow city government is helping finance "Rossiya." Like TV-Center, the television network founded by the city government last year, "Rossiya" is likely to become a vehicle for a future presidential bid by Luzhkov. LB SURPRISE OUTCOME OF DUMA BY-ELECTION IN DAGESTAN. According to preliminary results, Dagestani Deputy Finance Minister Magomed Fazil Azizov won a 29 March by-election for a State Duma seat in Dagestan with some 53 percent of the vote, RFE/RL's North Caucasus correspondent reported. Many local observers had expected Magomed Aliev to win the race. Aliev, who finished second with some 35 percent, was considered the favorite candidate of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, who vacated the Duma seat when he joined the government last year. But Azizov had the backing of the Dagestani authorities. Observers note that Aliev is an ethnic Avar, while Azizov is a Lezgin. Lezgins have long sought to play a greater role in Dagestani politics, and Azizov's victory in the Duma race may shrink the field of challengers to Magomedali Magomedov, the top executive official in Dagestan, who faces an election this summer. LB CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE ELECTED MAYOR IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD... Entrepreneur Andrei Klimentev, who was convicted of swindling in 1982 and embezzlement in 1997, won a 29 March mayoral election in Nizhnii Novgorod with some 34 percent of the vote, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city reported. The outcome is a blow to First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who had supported former Mayor Dmitrii Bednyakov, the third-place finisher with 24 percent. Last year, Nemtsov filed a slander lawsuit against Klimentev, who along with Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has accused Nemtsov of taking bribes when he was governor of Nizhnii Novgorod (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August and 14 October 1997). Klimentev's victory is also embarrassing for the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast authorities, who had backed acting Mayor Vladimir Gorin. Most opinion polls had predicted Gorin would win the race, but he came in second with 31 percent. LB ...BUT RESULT MAY BE ANNULLED. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko told Russian Public Television on 30 March that the Nizhnii Novgorod mayoral election may be declared invalid because of "crude violations" of the law during the campaign. Ivanchenko charged that Klimentev's supporters sought to bribe voters to support the entrepreneur, Interfax reported. At the same time, Ivanchenko noted that a person who has been convicted of crimes is allowed to run for office. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii announced on 31 March that Yeltsin is "deeply concerned" about the victory of a candidate with a criminal past in Nizhnii Novgorod. Yeltsin has asked his staff to analyze the election result and draft proposals on how to react to Klimentev's victory. Meanwhile, acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin told NTV on 30 March that "it is a shame for the country and law enforcement agencies" that a "criminal" was elected mayor in Nizhnii Novgorod. LB FORMER DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER EXCLUDED FROM ALTAI CAMPAIGN. The electoral commission of the Altai Republic on 30 March denied registration to Andrei Vavilov, the former first deputy finance minister who sought to compete in a by-election for a State Duma seat, ITAR-TASS reported. The commission said Vavilov had violated the electoral law by beginning campaign activities before his official registration as a candidate. He is reported to have already met with voters at local enterprises, and his campaign team had begun to publish two weekly newspapers: one in Russian and one in the Altai language. Vavilov was considered a strong contender for the Duma seat and had the backing of the head of the Altai Republic, Semen Zubakin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 1998). At a Moscow press conference on 30 March, before the commission's decision was announced, Vavilov expressed confidence about his electoral prospects, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. LB SUPREME COURT DEMANDS LOCAL ELECTIONS IN BASHKORTOSTAN. The Supreme Court on 27 March ruled that legislation in the Republic of Bashkortostan places unconstitutional limits on the rights of citizens to elect their local leaders, "Kommersant-Daily reported on 28 March. The federal constitution guarantees the right of citizens to participate in local elections, and federal law requires elections to select the heads of local government. But the constitution of Bashkortostan allows the president to hire and fire the heads of city and raion administrations, who in turn have the power to appoint the heads of villages. Local law also empowers the Bashkortostani president to appoint federal judges (a power reserved for the Russian president under the federal constitution). A resident of Neftekamsk, Farit Valeev, appealed to the Russian Supreme Court after the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan had rejected his suit demanding that mayoral elections to be held in Neftekamsk. LB KOMI COURT REJECTS ATTEMPT TO RESCHEDULE LOCAL ELECTIONS. The Constitutional Court of the Komi Republic has rejected an appeal to move up local elections to June 1998, according to the 26 March edition of the "IEWS Russian Regional Report." Earlier this year, the Russian Constitutional Court struck down portions of Komi laws and the republic's constitution and demanded that local elections be held. Komi President Yurii Spiridonov criticized the ruling, and the Komi legislature subsequently set the local elections for February 1999, when elections for the republican legislature are scheduled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1998). The Komi branch of the Communist-led Popular Patriotic Union of Russia then appealed to the Komi Constitutional Court, saying the legislature's decision violated the rights of voters. But the court ruled against moving the local elections up to June of this year, citing both legal and budgetary reasons. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KOCHARYAN APPEARS SET TO BECOME ARMENIAN PRESIDENT. With almost 50 percent of the ballots counted, acting President and Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan is leading Soviet-era communist party chief Karen Demirchyan with 62 percent to 38 percent, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 31 March. Most election observers, including those from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have not reported any cases of large-scale voting fraud. Demirchyan's supporters claimed on 31 March that Kocharyan's organization has engaged in electoral fraud, Interfax reported. Kocharyan's spokesman has responded that the charges are false and an attempt to provide an excuse if Demirchyan loses, as now seems likely. PG SHEVARDNADZE SAYS CIS MUST RECOGNIZE GEORGIAN TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY. In his weekly radio address on 30 March, President Eduard Shevardnadze said he plans to demand that CIS leaders acknowledge their "respect for and recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity." He said he will make this demand because of the statements of some CIS leaders about Abkhazia. The Georgian leader added that his government will never annul the autonomy of Adjaria. And he said he has called on law enforcement organizations to protect him not only from terrorist attacks but also from officials in the Georgian government itself, ITAR-TASS reported. RUSSIA READY TO COMPROMISE ON STATUS OF CASPIAN. Speaking in Baku on 30 March, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov said Moscow is prepared for a compromise on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, Reuters reported. The Russian government would recognize the rights of littoral states to coastal zones but would continue to insist that the Caspian be treated as a single system "from the point of view of shipping and ecology." Meanwhile, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have resumed their discussions on the status of the Caspian, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 March. The two countries began the current round of discussions in Ashgabat a month ago and are continuing those talks in Baku. PG MORE CAPTIVES RELEASED IN TAJIKISTAN. Armed groups that captured more than 100 government soldiers last week have freed all but 20, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 30 March. Those groups continue to demand that the government abide by an agreement whereby all armed forces are to be removed from the area. Officials from the government, the National Reconciliation Commission, and the UN observer mission to Tajikistan oversaw the release of the government soldiers. BP RUSSIAN OFFICIALS IN TAJIKISTAN. Andrei Kokoshin, secretary of Russia's Security Council, and Nikolai Bordyuzha, head of the Federal Border Service, were in Dushanbe on 30 March to meet with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, ITAR-TASS reported. Rakhmonov said he favors a continued Russian presence along the Tajik border with Afghanistan. But the number of Russian border guards in Tajikistan has been cut to just over 14,000 since the Tajik peace accord was signed in June 1997. Guards along the border are primarily occupied with apprehending drug smugglers. Bordyuzha noted that since the beginning of 1998, border guards have seized 500 kilograms of narcotics, 60 kilograms of which was pure heroin. BP AKAYEV APPOINTS HEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev on 30 March appointed Omar Sultanov, until now ambassador to Germany, as head of the presidential administration, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Sultanov replaces Kubanychbek Jumaliev, who was recently appointed prime minister. BP 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. HOW TO RETRIEVE BACK ISSUES VIA EMAIL (1) Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the letters "ls" as the subject or body of the message. This will retrieve a list of available files. 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