The last of the human freedoms- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way. - Victor Frankl
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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

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

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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.

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