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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 66 Part I, 6 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 66 Part I, 6 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 * COURT SAYS YELTSIN MUST SIGN TROPHY ART LAW * YELTSIN RESCHEDULES JAPAN VISIT * FIVE KILLED IN WEST GEORGIAN SHOOTING. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA COURT SAYS YELTSIN MUST SIGN TROPHY ART LAW. The Constitutional Court ruled on 6 April that the president must sign laws after both houses of parliament override his veto, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The court instructed President Boris Yeltsin to sign the trophy art law, which would prohibit the transfer abroad of cultural valuables seized by the Soviet Union during World War II. Yeltsin had refused to sign that law, saying the State Duma and Federation Council used illegal procedures to override his veto (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 March 1998). The court emphasized that its ruling does not validate the substance of the law or the procedure by which it was adopted. Sergei Shakhrai, the president's representative in the Constitutional Court, commented that Yeltsin has already appealed against the way the trophy art law was adopted and will soon file a court appeal challenging the constitutionality of the law itself. LB YELTSIN RESCHEDULES JAPAN VISIT. Yeltsin called Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on 3 April to postpone their informal meeting in Kawana, Japan, from 11-13 April to a week later because of "domestic political reasons," ITAR- TASS and Japan's Kyodo news agency reported. Yeltsin was referring to Russian Duma delays in approving his candidate for prime minister, Sergei Kirienko. Hashimoto, who was in London, accepted the change and said he "will welcome Yeltsin when he makes the weekend visit to Japan on April 18 and 19." The duration of the meeting also was changed from three days to two and questions were raised about the site. On 6 April, ITAR-TASS quotes Aleksandr Losyukov of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Asia Department as saying Russia opposes a change of venue. BP OPPOSITION HOPES YELTSIN WILL CHANGE MIND ON PREMIER... Opposition deputies in the State Duma hope to persuade Yeltsin to nominate someone other than Sergei Kirienko for prime minister, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 3 April. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a Communist, argued that Kirienko lacks enough experience to head the government, particularly in light of the fact that he would become acting president if Yeltsin became incapacitated before the end of his term. Seleznev said Duma deputies would support Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev if Yeltsin nominated him for prime minister, but predicted that the Duma would reject the candidacy of its former speaker, Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin. The Agrarian faction, which usually votes with the Communists in the Duma, has said it will propose Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev as prime ministerial candidates during roundtable talks scheduled for 7 April. LB ...AS OFFICIALS RULE OUT COMPROMISE ON FUNDAMENTALS. Acting Prime Minister Kirienko on 5 April suggested that crucial policies will not be on the bargaining table during the upcoming negotiations with parliamentary representatives and regional leaders. In an interview with Russian Television, Kirienko acknowledged the need to gain "public support" for the government's program but added that "some convictions are not subject for compromise." Aleksandr Livshits, deputy head of the presidential administration, announced on 3 April that Russia's economic policies will not be affected by the changed composition of the new government, Interfax reported. Livshits noted that the president laid out those policies during his message to parliament in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 February 1998). Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced that despite the president's willingness to hold roundtable talks with parliamentary leaders, Yeltsin still rejects opposition demands for a coalition government or a "government of popular trust." LB KIRIENKO PLEDGES TO PAY WAGES BEFORE NATIONWIDE PROTEST. Kirienko announced on 4 April that the government has found funds to settle wage arrears to state employees, Russian news agencies reported. During a meeting with some trade union officials, Kirienko promised that the Finance Ministry will allocate the money to regional governments in time to reach unpaid workers before 9 April, when trade unions and opposition leaders are planning to stage protest rallies nationwide. He added that the government's work "will not end on 9 April" and said plans on financial support for coal miners and settling government debts to the defense industry will soon be completed. LB 'NOVYE IZVESTIYA' SLAMS KIRIENKO AGAIN. "Novye izvestiya" on 2 April accused Kirienko of unethical and possibly illegal financial deals when the acting prime minister headed the Garantiya Bank and the Norsi-oil firm in Nizhnii Novgorod. The newspaper again alleged that Kirienko increased Garantiya's assets by devising a scheme to avoid cash payments to the Pension Fund (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998). It also charged that money from the Pension Fund mysteriously disappeared from a Moscow-based commercial bank that was a founder of Garantiya. In addition, "Novye izvestiya" said, Kirienko concluded insider deals through which Garantiya paid huge sums to local firms for "consulting." In one such alleged deal, Garantiya -- which owed money to the Pension Fund -- paid 1.3 billion old rubles ($210,000 at today's exchange rate) to a consultant for a report that was only a few dozen pages long. Boris Berezovskii reportedly finances "Novye izvestiya." LB DUMA WANTS INFORMATION ON KIRIENKO'S CITIZENSHIP. Duma Speaker Seleznev on 3 April announced that the Duma has requested information from the government on whether Kirienko has Israeli as well as Russian citizenship, Interfax reported. In an interview with NTV on 24 March, Kirienko was asked about his ethnic background and replied that his father is Jewish, his mother is Russian, his surname is Ukrainian, and he was born in Abkhazia. While criticizing Kirienko's lack of experience, Duma leaders have so far remained quiet about allegations that the acting premier attended a seminar offered by the Church of Scientology three years ago in Nizhnii Novgorod (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). LB CHERNOMYRDIN VIEWS PRESIDENTIAL RIVALS. Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin discussed his possible rivals in the next presidential election in an interview with NTV on 5 April. He praised acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov's decision not to run in 2000 and said he takes Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov at his word when Luzhkov says he is not planning to run for president. Chernomyrdin criticized former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed as lacking experience but said little about Communist Party leader Zyuganov, except to predict that Zyuganov will run for president again. The former premier did not rule out cooperation with Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii. (Yavlinskii has ruled out cooperation with Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia movement.) Meanwhile, Chernomyrdin on 3 April said he has no "need" to return to work at the gas monopoly Gazprom and does not intend to do so, ITAR-TASS reported. LB CHUBAIS NAMED TO BOARD OF ELECTRICITY GIANT... Former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais was elected to the board of directors of the electricity giant Unified Energy System (EES) during a 4 April shareholders' meeting, Russian news agencies reported. Chubais' candidacy was supported by foreign shareholders. He was not nominated by the government, which owns a controlling stake in the company. Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kudryavyi, a Kirienko ally, was elected to replace Anatolii Dyakov as chairman of the board. Of the 15 EES board members, 11 are officials at the federal or regional level. The other four include Gazprom deputy head Petr Rodionov and Boris Brevnov, a protege of acting First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov who stepped down as EES chief executive on 3 April. Like Chubais, Brevnov was elected to the board with the support of foreign investors. His successor as chief executive will be chosen later this month. LB NEMTSOV DENIES DOING FAVORS FOR ONEKSIMBANK. Acting First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov's spokesman Andrei Pershin on 3 April denied an NTV report that Nemtsov facilitated the transfer of bank accounts of the Central Customs Excise Service from the commercial bank Rossiiskii Kredit to Oneksimbank, Russian news agencies said. Pershin charged that influential businessmen are "slinging mud" at Nemtsov through the media they finance. (NTV is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most group.) Pershin noted that on 25 March, two days after the government was dismissed, Nemtsov chaired a session of a government commission that decided to return the Central Customs Excise Service accounts to Rossiiskii Kredit. A tender for the right to service those accounts will be held by 10 May. Chubais, who is considered close to Oneksimbank, has admitted that it was "unwise" to transfer the accounts to Oneksimbank without a tender (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 24 March 1998). LB YELTSIN REPRIMANDS OFFICIALS OVER NIZHNII ELECTION. Yeltsin has reprimanded Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Ivan Sklyarov for not ensuring that the law was observed during the recent mayoral campaign in Nizhnii Novgorod, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 April. The local electoral commission annulled the 29 March election, which was won by controversial businessman Andrei Klimentev. It ruled that all five candidates in the race violated legislation during the campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March and 1 April 1998). On 4 April, Yeltsin sacked his representative in the oblast, Yurii Lebedev. The president also reprimanded Viktoriya Mitina, deputy head of the presidential administration, who supervises the Kremlin's territorial department. Yeltsin issued a "severe reprimand" to Sergei Samoilov, who heads the territorial department. Meanwhile, during a 5 April interview with Russian Television, acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin advocated passing a law to prevent "bandits" and "swindlers" from running for public office. LB LOCAL MEDIA SLAM DECISION TO ANNUL ELECTION. Local media in Nizhnii Novgorod have charged that the decision to annul the mayoral election was unjustified and politically motivated, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city and "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Headlines in local newspapers on 2 and 3 April included the following: "Moscow decided the fate of the election." "Will we keep voting until we vote the right way?" "All [candidates] broke the rules, only one is punished," and "We were mocked on 1 April." Both Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Prosecutor Vladimir Shevelev and Yevgenii Sevostyanov, deputy head of the presidential administration, have accused the press of turning Klimentev into a hero and have blamed the press for public disturbances in Nizhnii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 1998). LB NORTH CAUCASUS LEADERS MEET. The heads of seven North Caucasus republics and regions, the governors of several south Russian regions, and representatives from Georgia and Azerbaijan met in the Chechen capital, Djokhar-gala (former Grozny) on 4 April, Russian media reported. The leaders expressed concern that failure to sign a formal treaty regulating relations between Chechnya and the Russian Federation could precipitate a new war in the North Caucasus. They also expressed support for Russian President Boris Yeltsin's stated intention to visit Chechnya, and for the Chechen proposal (first made last year) to create a Caucasian regional security organization analogous to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. LF RYBKIN AGAIN RULES OUT INDEPENDENCE FOR CHECHNYA. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin told ITAR-TASS on 5 April that Chechnya "was, is and will remain" an inalienable part of the Russian Federation. Rybkin was commenting on a statement by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov earlier the same day affirming that Chechnya "has left Russia for good" and that it is up to Moscow to resolve the legal aspects of bilateral relations. On 3 April, Russian acting Deputy Premier Ramazan Abdulatipov told ITAR-TASS that changes in Russia's policy towards Chechnya are inevitable, since the current negotiations are deadlocked. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FIVE KILLED IN WEST GEORGIAN SHOOTING. Unknown assailants opened fire and threw a hand grenade at a crowd of 1,000 mourners on 5 April at the funeral in Zugdidi of Gocha Esebua. The attack killed five people and wounded seven. Esebua was leader of the group of supporters of former president Zviad Gamsakhurdia that took four UN observers hostage in February. Georgian police shot him on 31 March when he refused to surrender. Zugdidi Governor Bondo Djikia on 6 April said that the town is calm, but that security measures have been intensified, ITAR-TASS reported. LF GEORGIA PROTESTS SHOOTINGS, ABDUCTIONS IN ABKHAZIA. On 4 April the Georgian National Security Council lodged a protest with the government of the breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia. The protest followed an incident in Abkhazia's Gali region on 2 April in which Abkhaz guerrillas shot dead three Georgians and abducted 19 others. The statement called on the Abkhaz authorities to secure the release of those kidnapped and apprehend and punish those responsible. It warned that if such instances of "ethnic cleansing" continue, Tbilisi will resort to retaliatory measures in order to protect Gali's Georgian population. LF OSCE TO EXTEND ARMENIAN ELECTION MISSION. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced on 3 April that it will extend its election observer mission in Armenia for an unspecified period, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. An official ODIHR statement said that "new evidence of serious irregularities" during the 30 March presidential runoff continues to come to light, but gave no details. The mission says it will release a final report this week. LF AZERBAIJAN DENIES PLANS TO PURCHASE F-16 BOMBERS. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry issued a statement on 4 April denying reports that Baku plans to buy an unspecified number of U.S. F-16 bombers from Turkey, Interfax reported. The previous day, Interfax had quoted unnamed military sources in Baku as saying that the Azerbaijani air force commander, Major General Ramil Rzaev, had announced the planned purchase during an official visit to Ankara. LF AKAYEV NAMES NEW KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT President Askar Akayev reformed the Kyrgyz government on 4 April, RFE/RL correspondents reported. A text of Akayev's structural and personnel changes showed the number of ministries cut from 17 to 14 and the number of deputy prime ministers from three to one. Kubanychbek Jumaliev remains prime minister, and his new deputy is Bishkek Mayor Boris Silayev. The ministers of foreign affairs, defense, interior, health care and ecology remain the same. Among the changes are Kemelbek Nanaev, replacing Jan Fisher as CIS affairs minister; Nelly Beishenalieva, replacing Larisa Gutnichenko as justice minister; Sovetbek Toktomyshev, replacing Askar Kakeev as education, science and culture minister; Orosmat Abdykalykov, replacing Andrei Iordan as minister of industry and foreign trade, and Imankadyr Rysaliev, replacing Asylgul Abdurekhmenova as minister of labor and social affairs. BP TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN TURKMENISTAN. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem was in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 3-4 April, ITAR-TASS reported. ITAR-TASS said Cem met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and that "the participants expressed appreciation for economic interaction... in the textile industry and the field of construction." Ankara TRT television reported on 4 April that Cem told reporters upon his return that he conveyed a message from the Turkish president to Niyazov on natural gas. The message was "Turkmen must act speedily... as the Turkmen need to export their gas is as great as Turkey's need to import it." BP SITUATION IN TAJIK REGION STABILIZES. Government and opposition forces began withdrawing from the Kofarnikhon region on 6 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Representatives from the government, National Reconciliation Commission and UN observers have been negotiating with leaders of armed groups following the outbreak of fighting in the area 30 kilometers east of Dushanbe on 24 March. While the latest talks were being held, fighting erupted in a village ten kilometers west of Kofarnikhon on 5 April. One officer from the Interior Ministry was killed and two wounded. This prompted the government to issue an ultimatum demanding the armed groups of the opposition leave Kofarnikhon by 2:00 p.m. local time or face retaliation by government forces. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO RETRIEVE BACK ISSUES VIA EMAIL (1) Send an email to email@example.com with the letters "ls" as the subject or body of the message. This will retrieve a list of available files. 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