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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 64, Part I, 2 April 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 64, Part I, 2 April 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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EUROPEAN UNION: EMBRACING ENLARGEMENT AND ECONOMIC UNION
The EU takes two important steps this month toward
implementing a unified currency and enlarging to include Central and
Eastern European countries. These articles describe recent developments
and describe the current economic status of four European countries.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/eumarch98/index.html

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Headlines, Part I

*  YELTSIN AGREES TO ROUNDTABLE TALKS

*  SPOKESMAN CASTS DOUBT ON YELTSIN'S VISIT TO JAPAN

*  OSCE ASSESSES SECOND ROUND OF ARMENIAN POLL

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN AGREES TO ROUNDTABLE TALKS. President Boris
Yeltsin has offered to convene roundtable talks on 7 April in
order to discuss the formation of the new government and its
policies, Russian news agencies reported on 2 April. Yeltsin
made the offer during a meeting with State Duma Speaker
Gennadii Seleznev, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev,
and acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. The previous day,
both houses of the parliament called for roundtable talks, and
Seleznev said the opposition does not view the meeting of the
"big three and a half" as an acceptable alternative to such talks,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. LB

DUMA VOTE ON KIRIENKO POSTPONED. Kirienko
announced on 2 April that he, Yeltsin, Seleznev and Stroev
agreed to postpone until 8 April the Duma vote on his
candidacy for prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported. Article 111
of the constitution requires the Duma to consider the
president's nominee within one week of the official nomination,
which in this case would mean by 3 April. But Duma Legislation
Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov argues that the Duma
is merely obliged to discuss the nomination of a prime minister
within seven days and may vote on the candidacy later,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 2 April. Alternatively,
Yeltsin may withdraw his 27 March letter nominating Kirienko
and submit a new letter; this would give the Duma another
week to consider the candidacy. LB

KIRIENKO FACES UPHILL BATTLE. Of the seven Duma
factions, only Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party
of Russia has endorsed Kirienko. Zhirinovsky told RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau on 1 April that his party considers Kirienko a
"lesser evil" and fears that if the Duma rejects him, Yeltsin will
nominate "far worse" candidates. The Russian Regions and Our
Home Is Russia factions are viewed as possible supporters of
Kirienko. Our Home Is Russia is reportedly seeking guarantees
that its representatives will be appointed to the new
government, but Kirienko has ruled out using cabinet
appointments as bargaining chips to secure his confirmation
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). Even if Russian Regions
and Our Home Is Russia deputies support Kirienko, the acting
prime minister would still need some 75 votes from the
Communist, Agrarian, and Popular Power factions. Grigorii
Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction has vowed to vote against Kirienko.
LB

KIRIENKO NOTES WORRYING ECONOMIC TRENDS.
Addressing the Federation Council on 1 April, acting Prime
Minister Kirienko admitted that recent economic indicators do
not show positive trends, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported.
Kirienko said year-on-year GDP was stagnant in March and the
average standard of living has declined since the beginning of
the year. He also noted that wage arrears are increasing.
Repeating promises made by government officials in past
years, Kirienko said the new cabinet must improve tax
collection and take an active role in managing "natural
monopolies" in the energy sector. He also promised to reduce
government spending but did not specify where cuts would be
made. LB

IMF REPRESENTATIVE CONCERNED BY DEVELOPMENTS.
Martin Gilman, the IMF's representative in Moscow, on 1 April
told Reuters he is concerned that "precious time is being lost"
because of the government dismissal. Before he was sacked,
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was due to sign an
Russian-IMF statement on Russia's economic policies for 1998.
Gilman said the government may make up for the lost time
after the new cabinet is appointed. But he also expressed
concern that First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin was
reprimanded after announcing some proposals for reducing the
number of state employees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March
1998). Kirienko and Yeltsin both said the government had not
approved those plans, which Kudrin said involved eliminating
more than 200,000 jobs. Gilman told Reuters that the cost-
cutting policies Kudrin had described "form a critical part of
IMF support for the 1998 program." LB

OPPOSITION, UNIONS STILL PLANNING NATIONWIDE
PROTEST. The presidium of the Communist-led Popular-
Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR) has confirmed that it is
continuing preparations for a nationwide protest on 9 April. In
a statement released on 1 April, the NPSR blasted Yeltsin for
causing a "political crisis" by firing the government "without
analyzing the disaster called 'the reform course,'" Interfax
reported. The statement also said the NPSR supports
roundtable talks aimed at forming "a government of
responsible, competent patriots." The Federation of
Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) leader Mikhail Shmakov has
announced that the FNPR is also going ahead with its plans to
organize rallies on 9 April, ITAR-TASS reported. LB

SPOKESMAN CASTS DOUBT ON YELTSIN'S VISIT TO
JAPAN. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii has
raised doubts about whether Yeltsin will travel to Japan next
week for an informal meeting with Japanese Prime Minister
Ryutaro Hashimoto. Yastrzhembskii said on 1 April that the
visit depends on Russian's internal political situation, ITAR-
TASS and Interfax reported. He made a point of saying that the
meeting is still on. Some observers note, however, that the
president may opt to postpone his trip if the Duma has not
confirmed acting Prime Minister Kirienko. Japanese Chief
Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka said in Tokyo that the
Japanese government "has not been informed by Russia about
schedule changes," Japan's Kyodo news agency reported. And
Premier Hashimoto said his country is going ahead with
preparations for the visit. BP

ENERGY MINISTERS WRAP UP MOSCOW MEETING. The
energy ministers of the world's leading industrial nations
released a communique on 1 April saying that while "we
recognize that governments continue to have a role in the
development of energy markets," buyers and sellers of gas and
electricity services should be free to negotiate price, terms,
and conditions without government approval. ITAR-TASS and
dpa reported. The communique also detailed "prospects for the
development of global power engineering up to the year 2020."
Special attention was paid to the consequences of the so-
called greenhouse effect. Participants in the Moscow
conference emphasized the goal set at their meeting last year
to decrease gas emissions by 5 percent over the next 15 years.
BP

DUMA REJECTS RESOLUTION ON 1997 BUDGET
SPENDING. The Duma on 1 April rejected a resolution charging
that the government broke the law by unilaterally cutting
budget expenditures in 1997, Interfax reported. The resolution
failed to gain a majority even after its leading supporter, Duma
Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, agreed to drop
its most controversial passage, which would have asked the
Procurator-General's Office to consider filing criminal charges
against then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and then
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 12 March 1998). According to Interfax, the
resolution has now been dropped from the Duma's agenda. LB

RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT DEFENDS BELARUS. The
Federation Council on 1 April passed an appeal to the heads of
Russian media outlets urging them not to adopt "double
standards" in their coverage of CIS leaders, ITAR-TASS
reported. The appeal charged that coverage of some countries,
above all Belarus, occasionally trespasses "international
standards of etiquette" and harms the process of integration.
Also on 1 April, the Duma passed a provisional version of a
resolution condemning efforts by members of the U.S. Congress
to withhold "most favored nation" trade status from Belarus
until the human rights situation in that country improves,
Interfax reported. The resolution, drafted by deputies in the
Popular Power faction, calls on the Russian president and
government to support the Russian-Belarusian Union and take
steps to counter the international isolation of Belarus. LB

STEPASHIN IDENTIFIES EXTREMIST THREATS. Acting
Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin says the Confederation of
Peoples of the Caucasus, Wahhabism, and radical political
parties in Tuva, Tatarstan, and Bashkortostan are among the
most serious extremist threats to the Russian Federation,
"Russkii telegraf" reported on 1 April. Stepashin was
addressing a conference in Moscow on "political extremism and
constitutional means of countering it."  Stepashin said that,
together with Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov and Federal
Security Service (FSB) head Nikolai Kovalev, he has decided to
propose that the Federation Council amend Russian legislation
in order to classify as "extremist" any organization that
resorts, or threatens to resort, to the use of force to achieve
its goals. Deputy Prosecutor Vladimir Davydov called for
amending the constitution to make the dissemination of
fascist propaganda a criminal offense. LF

'ROSSIISKIE VESTI' NO LONGER AN OFFICIAL
NEWSPAPER. Valerii Kucher, the editor-in-chief of "Rossiiskie
vesti," informed readers in a 1 April commentary that the
newspaper is no longer the official publication of the
presidential administration. Kucher promised that "Rosskiiskie
vesti" has been "de-ideologized" and will in future represent
the interests of ordinary citizens and the middle class. He also
said that owing to the loss of financing from the presidential
administration, the newspaper has been forced to switch from
daily to weekly publication for the time being. Kucher has
accused the Kremlin of failing to meet its financial obligations
toward "Rossiiskie vesti" and of trying to force the newspaper
to publish only official materials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18
February 1998). LB

WINNER OF ANNULLED ELECTION ARRESTED IN
NIZHNII. The controversial businessman Andrei Klimentev
was arrested on 2 April in Nizhnii Novgorod, RFE/RL's
correspondent in the city reported. Klimentev was the apparent
winner of a 29 March mayoral election that was later annulled
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March and 1 April 1998). On 1
April, he vowed to file a court appeal against the decision to
cancel the election result. He was arrested the following day
when he appeared at the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Court, which
is holding a retrial of Klimentev's 1997 embezzlement
conviction. The authorities say he was arrested for "disturbing
public order" and violating an order not to leave Nizhnii
Novgorod while his criminal case is pending. His lawyer
charged that Klimentev did not leave the city and that there
are no grounds for his arrest, which the lawyer attributed to
"orders from above." LB

ANNULMENT OF NIZHNII ELECTION DRAWS CRITICISM.
The Nizhnii Novgorod Electoral Commission has formally
declared the mayoral election invalid because of campaign
violations committed by all candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
1 April 1998). However, many observers consider the
annulment politically motivated, since several high-ranking
federal officials had criticized the election result on 30 and 31
March. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 1
April, Duma deputy Sergei Ivanenko of Yabloko noted that
Yabloko was also disappointed by Klimentev's victory but
warned that however "understandable" the motives might be
in this particular case, annulling an election sets a "very
dangerous legal precedent." Similarly, "Izvestiya" argued on 2
April that canceling the election may turn Klimentev into a
local hero. More important, the newspaper said, it sets a
precedent that could later be used to cancel the results of
elections at the federal level. LB

FORMER DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER TO COMPETE IN
ALTAI ELECTION. Andrei Vavilov, former first deputy
finance minister and current financial adviser to Gazprom, has
been registered as a candidate for a by-election in the Altai
Republic for a seat in the State Duma, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported on 2 April, citing Vavilov's press secretary Yuliya
Rusova. She denied earlier reports that the Altai Electoral
Commission refused to register Vavilov (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
31 March 1998). Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin is
viewed as Vavilov's main rival in the 31 May election. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

OSCE ASSESSES SECOND ROUND OF ARMENIAN POLL. The
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's observer
mission in Yerevan said on 1 April that in some areas, the 31
March presidential run-off "fell short of the commitment
Armenia made to [meet] OSCE standards," RFE/RL's Yerevan
bureau reported. The OSCE said that in several instances there
is sufficient indication of voter fraud to require further
investigation. But it said those shortcomings do not call into
question the outcome of the vote, which Robert Kocharyan won
with 59.7 percent.  The OSCE also praised the professionalism
of the Central Electoral Commission and noted a marked
improvement in the way military personnel organized the
ballot and in media coverage of the run-off. LF

DEMIRCHIAN PONDERS NEXT MOVE. Addressing his campaign
staff on 31 March, defeated presidential candidate Karen
Demirchian pledged to continue the "sacred task" that he has
embarked on, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported, citing "Aravot"
of 1 April. At the same time, he conceded that accomplishing
that task may take 30-40 years. Demirchian predicted in the
shorter term, his supporters will constitute "a force that
everybody will reckon with," whose main goal will be winning
the next parliamentary elections. A spokesman for Demirchian
argued that the 31 March runoff was neither free nor fair, but
Demirchian himself argued that "even if we accept the  result,
it's not so bad because it means that every third voter trusts
us." LF

BAKU COMMENTS ON KOCHARYAN'S ELECTION. Azerbaijani
President Heidar Aliev said on 1 April that "we are ready to
cooperate with any president elected" and that "since we have
a special relationship with Armenia, we do not want to become
involved in their internal affairs," AFP reported. Aliev's
foreign policy adviser, Vafa Gulu-zade, said that "we are
waiting for the elections to end so the peace talks can begin."
But Musavat Party vice president Hikmet Hadji-zade
interpreted Kocharyan's election as an indication that
"Armenians have voted for war." Former president Abulfaz
Elchibey commented that "we cannot work with this man" and
predicted the resumption of hostilities between Armenian and
Azerbaijani forces, Turan reported. LF

TURKEY CALLS ON KOCHARYAN TO TAKE "POSITIVE
STEPS." Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Necati Utkan told
journalists on 1 April that Turkey "wants an improvement in
relations with Armenia," Reuters reported. He added that he
hopes Armenian president-elect Kocharyan will "feel [his]
presidential responsibility and take positive steps" toward
resolving the Karabakh conflict." Ankara has consistently said
that a warming of relations with Yerevan is contingent on the
withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied districts of
Azerbaijan. But Tunjai Mutlu Er, the head of the eastern
Anatolian municipality of Kars, told Turan on 1 April that the
local population opposes any move by the Turkish government
to formalize trade ties with Armenia and wants Armenian
citizens to be prohibited from entering Turkey from Georgia. LF

COUNCIL DISCUSSES RETURN OF DISPLACED PERSONS TO
ABKHAZIA. Participants in the third session of the
Coordinating Council to expedite a solution to the Abkhaz
conflict focused on the obstacles to the repatriation to
Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons forced to flee during
the 1992-1993 war, Caucasus Press reported. Russian Foreign
Ministry special envoy Gennadii Ilichev again rejected the
"peace enforcement" variant suggested by Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze. Ilichev expressed doubt that either
Russia or the UN will be able to impose a solution to the
conflict, and he proposed that the Abkhaz and Georgian
leaderships agree on mutual compromises. Georgian
Ambassador to Russia Vazha Lortkipanidze said on Georgian
television on 1 April that the direct dialogue between the two
sides will soon "become more intensive," ITAR-TASS reported.
Lortkipanidze met with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba in
Sukhumi on 31 March. LF

CHECHNYA SNUBS ABKHAZIA. Abkhaz Foreign Minister
Sergei Shamba has written to his Chechen counterpart, Movladi
Udugov, complaining that Abkhazia has not been invited to the
meeting of representatives of Transcaucasus states and North
Caucasus republics in Grozny on 4 April, Caucasus Press
reported. Shamba warned that this "oversight" could prove "a
serious obstacle to the consolidation of Caucasian nations."
But Chechen Vice President Akhmed Zakaev argued that
Chechnya has no reason to feel insulted. Zakaev said that a
decision on whether Abkhazia should be represented at the
meeting lies with the official Georgian government, to whom
the original invitation was addressed. Over the past year, the
Chechen leadership has systematically sought to expand
relations with Tbilisi. LF

LAST CAPTIVE SOLDIERS RELEASED IN TAJIKISTAN?
Armed groups loyal to field commanders in the Kofarnikhon
region released what they claim are the last 16 government
troops to be held captive by them since 24 March, RFE/RL
correspondents reported. The government is investigating the
fate of another 15 soldiers who are still unaccounted for.
Forces from both sides are withdrawing from the area. BP

IMF APPROVES MORE CREDIT FOR TAJIKISTAN. The IMF
has approved a second $10 million credit to Tajikistan, ITAR-
TASS reported on 2 April. Last December, the fund granted the
country a $10 million credit to help improve macroeconomic
discipline, accelerate structural reforms, and increase efforts
to ensure rescheduling of the country's foreign debts. This
latest credit is intended to help GDP to grow by 4-5 percent,
lower inflation by 18 percent, and augment hard-currency
reserves. BP

RUSSIA CUTS OFF ELECTRICAL SUPPLIES TO NORTHERN
KAZAKHSTAN. Russia's Unified Energy Systems carried
through its threat to cut off electrical supplies to
Kazakhstan's northern Kustanai region on 1 April, RFE/RL
correspondents reported. The region owes the Russian company
nearly $16 million for supplies and has received several
warnings that deliveries would be cut off. Electricity in
Kustanai is now being supplied only to vital industries. BP

KAZAKH PRIME MINISTER FAILS TO APPEASE STRIKING
WORKERS. Nurlan Balgimbayev on 1 April failed to persuade
striking workers at the Kazafosfor plant in the southern city
of Janatas to return to work, RFE/RL corespondents reported.
Balgimbayev told the workers that if they called off their
strike, they would begin receiving wages for current work and
would later receive wage arrears, which in some cases go back
more than two years. Workers rejected that offer and continue
to demand full payment of the $19 million they are owed. BP



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