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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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

* COURT SAYS YELTSIN MUST SIGN TROPHY ART LAW

* YELTSIN RESCHEDULES JAPAN VISIT

* FIVE KILLED IN WEST GEORGIAN SHOOTING.

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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


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