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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 65 Part I, 3 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 65 Part I, 3 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 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 * YELTSIN RENOMINATES KIRIENKO AS PRIME MINISTER * YELTSIN ORDERS SERGEEV, PRIMAKOV TO PUSH FOR START-2 RATIFICATION * DEMIRCHYAN REJECTS PRESIDENTIAL POLL RESULTS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN RENOMINATES KIRIENKO AS PRIME MINISTER. President Boris Yeltsin on 2 April submitted a second letter to the State Duma nominating Sergei Kirienko as prime minister and withdrew his 27 March official nomination, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. The Duma received Yeltsin's new letter on 3 April and now has seven days to consider the candidacy of Kirienko, who needs the support of a majority of deputies in order to be confirmed. Kirienko was scheduled to deliver a report to the Duma on 3 April, but that event has been postponed until after roundtable talks scheduled for 7 April. Those talks will include representatives from the government, presidential administration, Duma, and Federation Council. First Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov of the Our Home Is Russia faction told RFE/RL that the Duma is likely to vote on Kirienko's candidacy on 10 April. LB COMMUNISTS STILL SET TO VOTE AGAINST KIRIENKO. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 2 April that the Communist Duma faction will not support Kirienko's nomination as prime minister, "not the first, not the second, not the third time," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The decision was adopted at an extraordinary plenum of the Communist Party's Central Committee the same day. The constitution stipulates that the president must dissolve the Duma if his nominee for premier is rejected three times. Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, a high-ranking Communist official, told ITAR-TASS that the Central Committee plenum adopted a resolution on completing preparations for parliamentary elections. But Zyuganov informed journalists that his party is "ready for dialogue" and will bring its proposals for the new government to the 7 April roundtable talks. He declined to name the Communists' preferred candidate to head the cabinet. LB SELEZNEV AFRAID TO LET YELTSIN RULE BY DECREE. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a prominent member of the Communist Party, has called for a compromise on the new prime minister in order to avoid the dissolution of the Duma. In an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 2 April, Seleznev expressed confidence that the Communist Party would not be hurt by new parliamentary elections and would gain at least a third of the seats in the Duma. However, he explained that "more than anything else, I fear leaving the president for even one day" without a lower house of the parliament, which, he said, would give Yeltsin more latitude to rule by decree. Seleznev recently predicted that the Duma will not give Yeltsin constitutional grounds to disband the lower house (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 1998). LB QUESTIONS REMAIN ABOUT YELTSIN'S JAPAN VISIT. It is still unclear whether Boris Yeltsin will travel to Japan for an informal meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto from 11-13 April. ITAR-TASS and Interfax quotes presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii as saying on 2 April that the meeting will go ahead as scheduled. However, AFP reported the next day that Japan's "Yomiuri Shimbun" and "Asahi Shimbun" say the meeting has been postponed for one week. Japan's Kyodo news agency reports that Russia has asked that the meeting be put off until 18 April and last only two days, instead of three. But Kyodo also reported that Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka repeated his 2 April statement that Moscow has not requested a change of date. BP YELTSIN ORDERS SERGEEV, PRIMAKOV TO PUSH FOR START-2 RATIFICATION. Meeting with acting Defense Minister Igor Sergeev outside Moscow on 2 April, Yeltsin called on Russia's military and diplomatic leaders to coordinate their efforts to persuade the Duma to ratify the 1993 START-2 treaty, Russian agencies reported. The same day, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told journalists in Moscow that Russia neither intends nor needs to resume the arms race. He pledged that his ministry and the Ministry of Defense will do their best to persuade the Duma to ratify START-2. Primakov added that while consultations on START-3 have already begun, full-scale talks will begin immediately after the ratification of START-2. Primakov and Sergeev lobbied Duma deputies last September in an attempt to expedite ratification, but without success (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1998). LF UPPER HOUSE WANTS PENSIONS RAISED. The Federation Council on 1 April approved an appeal to Yeltsin warning that a government decision on calculating pensions may violate citizens' rights and "destabilize social conditions," ITAR- TASS reported. Since 1 February, individual pensions have been calculated in accordance with a new law stipulating that the base figure for the calculation is the average salary for the fourth quarter of 1997. The government set that figure at 760 new rubles ($125), even though the State Statistics Committee estimated the average salary for the last three months of 1997 at 940 rubles, the Council's appeal noted. The Duma has expressed similar concerns over the figure used to calculate pensions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). LB PENSION ARREARS PILING UP AGAIN. Pension Fund Chairman Vasilii Barchuk says pension arrears totaled 800 million rubles ($130 million) as of 1 April, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported two days later. Payments have been delayed in 30 Russian regions. Last summer, the government made strong efforts to settle pension arrears equivalent to 14 billion new rubles. Barchuk said contributions to the Pension Fund fell sharply in early 1998. He attributed the decline in part to a Constitutional Court decision striking down an article of the Civil Code requiring employers to pay wages before taxes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 1998). Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev announced on 1 April that the Pension Fund is owed 88 billion new rubles. He said the delays in pension payments can be partly blamed on the law on calculating pensions, which since 1 February has required the Pension Fund to pay out an additional 1.3 billion rubles monthly. LB LUKOIL GETS COLD FEET ON ROSNEFT AUCTION. Vagit Alekperov, the president of LUKoil, on 2 April said his company will not bid for a controlling stake in the Rosneft oil company under the current terms of sale, Interfax reported. LUKoil formed a consortium with Gazprom and Royal Dutch Shell last year in preparation for the Rosneft auction. But Alekperov said it "would make no sense" to spend $2.5 billion for 75 percent plus one share in Rosneft. The government has set the minimum bid for the shares at $2.1 billion, and the terms of the auction require some $400 million in additional investment in the company. Alekperov warned that if the price is not lowered, the auction will fail, as did attempts in recent months to sell state-owned stakes in the Russian- Belarusian oil company Slavneft and the Eastern Oil Company. LB NEWSPAPER SAYS PLANNED SALE AGAINST LAW. "Novye izvestiya" argued on 2 April that officials have broken several laws while preparing for the privatization of Rosneft. The newspaper argued that the government was required to consult the Audit Chamber when valuing the Rosneft shares. (Instead, it consulted only the international firm Kleinwort Benson, which valued a 75 percent stake in Rosneft at $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion.) "Novye izvestiya" also quoted an Audit Chamber official as saying the planned sale is illegal because the parliament has not approved a privatization list for 1998. Boris Berezovskii, who is believed to help finance "Novye izvestiya," is a founder of the Yuksi oil company, which appears to have backed off from plans to bid for Rosneft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 30 March 1998). LB LUZHKOV ADVOCATES DIFFERENT PLAN FOR ROSNEFT. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 2 April warned that the state will be the loser if the Rosneft auction goes ahead as planned, Interfax reported. He said he has prepared a different plan, which would bring $10 billion to $14 billion to the budget within four to five years while allowing the state to retain control over the company. Luzhkov said he and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin have discussed that plan, which would involve exchanging Rosneft shares for a loan that the state would repay in energy resources. LB CHERNOMYRDIN REVEALS 1997 EARNINGS. According to a tax declaration released on 2 April, former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and his wife earned a combined income of 1,446,400 new rubles ($233,000) in 1997, Interfax reported. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 3 April that the figure is 31 times higher than the income Chernomyrdin claimed last year to have earned in 1996. According to the tax declaration, the 1997 income came from Chernomyrdin's salary as prime minister, his wife's pension, and the sale of part of a house and plot of land. Last spring, officials said Chernomyrdin's 1996 earnings consisted entirely of his salary of some $800 per month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 1997). LB SKURATOV REPROACHES POLISH JUSTICE MINISTER. Russian Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has sent a letter to Polish Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Hanna Suchocka criticizing her decision not to extradite former Russian presidential adviser Serge Stankevich, Russian news agencies reported on 2 April. Suchocka recently left in place two court rulings saying Stankevich should not be returned to Russia to face trial on bribery charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998). Skuratov warned that Suchocka's decision "sets a dangerous precedent" that could be used by corrupt officials to escape responsibility. Ekho Moskvy on 2 April quoted Stankevich as saying he plans to visit Russia soon, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Stankevich left the country in late 1995 after the criminal case against him was opened. LB CANCELED ELECTION HEIGHTENS TENSION IN NIZHNII. Tension is mounting in Nizhnii Novgorod following the decision to cancel the results of a 29 March mayoral election and hold a new election in three months, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city reported on 3 April. Andrei Klimentev, the apparent winner of the election, was arrested on 2 April while facing a retrial on embezzlement charges. The same day, a crowd of several hundred Klimentev supporters gathered outside the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Court, where Klimentev is being tried, to demand his release. Several demonstrators hit the court's chairman as he left the building. The next day, court hearings resumed but were closed to the public, the press and even to Klimentev's family. The same day, Nizhnii Novgorod trade unions canceled plans to hold rallies on 9 April, the day trade unions across Russia are scheduled to stage protests. LB DUMA COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE NIZHNII EVENTS. The Duma on 3 April voted to form a commission to investigate the mayoral election and subsequent events in Nizhnii Novgorod, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov, a member of Yegor Gaidar's party Russia's Democratic Choice, proposed forming the commission. Yushenkov told RFE/RL that the arrest of Klimentev reflects "telephone" justice and appears to be "the fulfillment of an order" from the presidential administration. Russian media also continue to express concern about recent events in the Nizhnii Novgorod. "Segodnya" on 2 April charged that the decision to annul the election violates the constitution, while "Komsomolskaya pravda" argued the following day that Klimentev's arrest shows that "the authorities have decided to make [him] into a national hero." LB OFFICIAL SAYS VOTERS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CRIMINAL RECORDS. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko on 2 April said his commission will ask Yeltsin to help give voters more access to information about candidates for public office, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He said that when collecting signatures from citizens, candidates should include on their petitions information on their criminal record, income, and assets, as well as whether they have dual citizenship. First Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov on 2 April advocated a special law to prevent people with a criminal record from contesting elections, ITAR-TASS reported. An RFE/RL correspondent noted on 3 April that if such a requirement were adopted, it would be difficult to distinguish those convicted of political crimes during the Soviet period from others with a criminal past. LB OPPONENT OF SVERDLOVSK GOVERNOR REINSTATED AT REGIONAL TV NETWORK. A Moscow court has reinstated Vladimir Kostousov as chairman of the state-run television network in Sverdlovsk Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 April. It is Kostousov's second successful court appeal against efforts to dismiss him by supporters of Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel. The court ruling means that in the final weeks before elections to the Sverdlovsk Oblast legislature, the state-run network will not be run by a Rossel ally. The court decision is the second major blow to Rossel in the past two weeks. The Sverdlovsk Oblast authorities spent an estimated $9 million preparing for a summit between Yeltsin, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl before that summit was moved from Yekaterinburg to Moscow. Because of the venue change, Yeltsin did not sign 16 decrees prepared by Sverdlovsk authorities that would have increased federal funding for the oblast. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA DEMIRCHYAN REJECTS PRESIDENTIAL POLL RESULTS. Defeated Armenian presidential candidate Karen Demirchyan has claimed that the 30 March runoff poll was marred by "numerous instances of fraud, falsification, intimidation, and vote- buying," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 2 April. In a statement released by the official news agency Armenpress, Demirchyan said the preliminary final results released by the Central Electoral Commission do not reflect the real outcome of the vote. According to those data, Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan received 59.48 percent of the vote and Demirchyan 40.52 percent. Demirchyan said the poll results had dealt a blow to people's faith in democracy, but he cautioned against mass protests, which, he said, could lead to a split in society. He also affirmed his intention to continue his political activities. LF INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO KOCHARYAN'S ELECTION. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin issued a statement on 1 April congratulating Kocharyan on his election as president and wishing him success in forming a new government, implementing democratic reforms, and working for a political solution of the Karabakh conflict. The following day, French President Jacques Chirac and his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, likewise extended congratulations, Yerevan News Agency reported. A spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry said Paris hopes the new Armenian leadership will do its utmost to resolve the Karabakh conflict under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, whose co-chairmen are from France, Russia and the U.S Acting Russian Minister for CIS Affairs Anatolii Adamishin remarked that Moscow "found a common language" with Kocharyan during the latter's tenure as premier and hopes to do the same while he is president, Noyan Tapan reported. LF CHANGES UNLIKELY IN ARMENIAN FOREIGN POLICY. Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Manasaryan has said there will be no substantive changes in Armenia's foreign policy following Kocharyan's election as president, Interfax reported on 1 April. Manasaryan said that "everything will remain in force" and that Armenia will continue to work for "neighborly relations" with the countries of the region. He predicted that Kocharyan will take a "principled and consistent" line on the Karabakh conflict, rather than a tough one. Acting Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told "Hayots ashkhar" on 2 April that the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group will visit the region later this month to "clarify the conflict parties' positions in the negotiations." LF SOUTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT ASSESSES PEACE PROCESS. In his annual address to the parliament of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, Lyudvig Chibirov said that future relations between the republic and the central Georgian government should be mutually beneficial and based on the principle of equality, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 2 April. Chibirov repeated his commitment to reaching an agreement with Tbilisi of which Russia and international organizations would act as guarantors. At the same time, he warned that he will defend his republic's sovereignty and not give in to pressure. Chibirov said he hopes to meet personally again this year with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss the reconciliation process. He also said that the new leadership of North Ossetia shares his commitment to intensifying economic integration between North and South Ossetia. LF REGIONAL AFFAIRS CIS SUMMIT MAY BE POSTPONED. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev hinted on 2 April that the CIS summit tentatively scheduled for 29 April may be postponed until the end of next month, Interfax reported. Speaking in Akmola, Nazarbaev said he has proposed that the presidents of the four member states of the CIS Customs Union (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Russia) meet in Moscow on 20 April to discuss a draft document on creating a common economic space. He also advocated adopting his program for greater integration within the CIS. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev has said he will be unable to attend the April CIS summit because of a scheduled trip to China. LF WAY PAVED FOR TAJIKISTAN'S ENTRY TO CIS CUSTOMS UNION. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with Nigmatjon Isingarin, the chairman of the CIS Customs Union, in Dushanbe on 2 April to discuss Tajikistan's entry to the union, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. An official decision on Tajik entry could be made at the next meeting of the presidents of the member states, Isingarin noted. But he added that it could take some 18 months before Tajikistan is finally admitted to the union. BP END NOTE YELTSIN AVOIDS NAMING CHERNOMYRDIN AS SUCCESSOR by Floriana Fossato Russian President Boris Yeltsin this week repeated that he will not seek a third term in office in the next presidential election. But he flatly refused to confirm ousted Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin as his chosen successor. "You speak about succession when it concerns royalty. Here the people make the choice," Yeltsin said in his first official reaction since Chernomyrdin announced in a television interview on 28 March that he plans to run in that election. Chernomyrdin had said he "understood" he would have Yeltsin's support if he ran for the presidency, but he admitted that the president had not clearly designated him as a successor. Yeltsin, for his part, said only that Chernomyrdin's plans "do not fall outside the general practice of our policy or the president's thoughts." Yeltsin, 67, has made contradictory statements about his own plans for the next presidential elections. In recent months, he has repeatedly said he does not plan to run. But most Russian politicians and observers have said they find it hard to believe that Yeltsin would consider leaving his grip on power. However, Yeltsin said there was "something not quite right" with Chernomyrdin's declaration that he himself would stand. Nikolai Petrov, an analyst at the Carnegie Center in Moscow, told RFE/RL that Yeltsin's statement was meant to make clear that, in the president's view, Chernomyrdin "has been removed as he was a threat to Yeltsin." The president, Petrov argues, may still "change the tone of his statements and run himself." Chernomyrdin's best chance now will be to act as the chief presidential campaigner on Yeltsin's behalf, as presidential aides Oleg Soskovets and Sergei Filatov have done in the past, according to Petrov. However, other observers interpret Yeltsin's moves since last week as a sign that the president has given Chernomyrdin the chance to prove he would be a worthy candidate of the so-called party of power, provided that he makes clear he can find support for his candidacy. Immediately after Chernomyrdin was fired, many Russian politicians and analysts were quick to write him off, saying he lacks charisma. They added that powerful Moscow and regional officials who had joined Chernomyrdin's political movement, Our Home is Russia, would be quick to withdraw their support after Chernomyrdin's ouster. But, Chernomyrdin immediately made it clear that he will soon launch his presidential candidacy--with or without Yeltsin's blessing. At a meeting of Our Home Is Russia two days after being fired, Chernomyrdin said that "for many years, you have known me as Russia's Number 2, after the president. Believe me, that was not an easy part to play. But now, nobody can hold me back. From now on my style will be uninhibited and it will be that way as long as I stay healthy." Chernomyrdin's statement appears to be a direct response to warnings made after his ousting by businessman Boris Berezovskii. "If Chernomyrdin demonstrates will and strength, he will have a lot of supporters," Berezovskii said. "He has an opportunity to fully use his potential popularity in this country and abroad.... But, then, he has to bear in mind that power is not given, it is taken." Following the television interview in which Chernomyrdin announced his intention to run, Berezovskii seemed to give his endorsement, saying that "Chernomyrdin has changed from being a premier to being a genuinely powerful political leader." Chernomyrdin will need as much qualified support as possible from business circles willing to bankroll his campaign and improve his image through the media assets they control. A nationwide poll taken by the Public Opinion Foundation last week showed Chernomyrdin with 6 percent support in a hypothetical presidential election. Chernomyrdin's "natural" base of support includes Gazprom, the gas giant that he helped create and led until his appointment to the cabinet in December 1992, as well as other Soviet-era industrial complexes. Some analysts say that base would guarantee him the financial funding and media coverage needed to campaign effectively. Others remark, however, that the Gazprom leadership is likely to consider several factors, including political developments surrounding the formation of the new cabinet and Chernomyrdin's standing in opinion polls, before making a final decision. And if Gazprom gives its support, the company's growing media arm--Gazprom Media Holding--may also come out in support of Chernomyrdin. Meanwhile, Andrei Vavilov, who was recently appointed as financial adviser to Gazprom, said he thinks Chernomyrdin will likely have the support of the company's leadership. "I don't decide for Gazprom, but it seems to me that the leadership supports Chernomyrdin," said Vavilov. He added that Chernomyrdin may return to hold an unspecified post in the leadership of the company. Stephen O' Sullivan, an analyst at MC Securities in London, told Reuters that he doubts Gazprom will say anything significant in public until the company has carefully analyzed the situation--to assess which way the political wind is blowing. The next presidential election is scheduled for June 2000. Looking like a contender for more than two years could prove to be one Chernomyrdin's main obstacles to winning the election, assuming, that is, that Yeltsin's health does not falter dramatically. As for the incumbent president, he enigmatically said on 1 April said that "some start sooner, some later." The author is a Moscow-based RFE/RL correspondent. 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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