A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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

* DUMA WANTS YELTSIN TO SUSPEND NOMINATION OF 
KIRIENKO

* SHOKHIN SAYS COMMUNISTS MULLING IMPEACHMENT 
PROCEEDINGS

* KOCHARYAN APPEARS SET TO BECOME ARMENIAN 
PRESIDENT

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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


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