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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 67 Part I, 7 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 67 Part I, 7 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 STANDS BY KIRIENKO DURING ROUNDTABLE TALKS * YELTSIN TO COMPLY WITH RULING ON TROPHY ART LAW * WERE GAMSAKHURDIA SUPPORTERS BEHIND ZUGDIDI SHOOTINGS? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN STANDS BY KIRIENKO DURING ROUNDTABLE TALKS. President Boris Yeltsin on 7 April called on the State Duma to confirm Sergei Kirienko as prime minister, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In his opening remarks at roundtable talks attended by deputies from both houses of the parliament and trade union leaders, Yeltsin said he considered several possible nominees for prime minister before settling on Kirienko. Referring to some of the politicians whose names have been floated by the media and by opposition groups, Yeltsin said he had considered Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, acting Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin, acting Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak, and Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov. While Yeltsin called on members of the parliament to help make 1998 a "non-confrontational year," he emphasized that he will not agree to form a coalition government. Rather, the president said he supports a "government of businesslike people." LB DUMA SCHEDULES VOTE ON KIRIENKO. The Duma Council on 7 April scheduled a vote on Kirienko's candidacy for 10 April, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Duma deputies are expected to vote by secret ballot, which is likely to increase the level of support for Kirienko. However, his prospects of being confirmed on the first try still appear slim. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 6 April said Yeltsin has no "reserve" candidate for prime minister and will nominate Kirienko again if the Duma rejects him on the first vote. Russian Regions faction leader Oleg Morozov and Duma First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov of Our Home Is Russia want Yeltsin to go to the Duma to present Kirienko on 10 April. Yeltsin paid a surprise visit to the Duma last December to lobby for the 1998 budget, and his gesture was considered important in securing support for that document in the first reading. LB NDR STILL UNDECIDED ON ACTING PREMIER. The Our Home Is Russia (NDR) Duma faction has not decided whether it will vote to confirm Kirienko as prime minister, NDR Duma leader Aleksandr Shokhin announced on 6 April. Shokhin said the NDR wants to know who will be appointed to key economic posts in the new government, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He added that Kirienko should not count on the NDR's support if he plans to blame all problems in the near future on his predecessor, according to ITAR-TASS. Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who heads the NDR movement, expressed support for Kirienko during a 5 April interview with NTV but added that Russia's future depends not only on the identity of the next prime minister but also on "who stands next to [him]." LB BEREZOVSKII BACKS KIRIENKO. Speaking in Bonn on 6 April, former Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii said Yeltsin made the "right choice" in nominating Kirienko, "despite the president's health problems and somewhat diminished sense of reality," Reuters reported. Berezovskii described Kirienko as a "choice in favor of reform." One of Russia's most influential businessmen, Berezovskii is considered close to Yeltsin's daughter and chief of staff. Kirienko is a protege of acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, with whom Berezovskii has traded harsh allegations since last August. LB ROKHLIN, ILYUKHIN COLLECTING SIGNATURES TO IMPEACH YELTSIN. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin announced on 7 April that he and Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin are beginning to collect signatures among Duma deputies in favor of impeaching Yeltsin, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Ilyukhin is considered part of the radical wing of the Communist faction, and Rokhlin has been one of Yeltsin's most outspoken critics since last summer, when he broke ranks with the pro-government Duma faction Our Home Is Russia. The effort to remove Yeltsin from office will almost certainly not succeed, but the Duma may temporarily protect itself from dissolution if it launches impeachment proceedings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 31 March 1998). LB YELTSIN TO COMPLY WITH RULING ON TROPHY ART LAW... Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii and Sergei Shakhrai, presidential representative in the Constitutional Court, confirmed on 6 April that Yeltsin will sign the controversial trophy art law, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Although Yeltsin still intends to contest the substance of that law in court, Yastrzhembskii and Shakhrai noted that the president is obliged to comply with Constitutional Court rulings. The court found that in line with Article 107 of the constitution, Yeltsin must sign laws after both houses of the parliament override his veto (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1998). In an interview with RFE/RL, Shakhrai argued the trophy art law was not adopted since illegitimate balloting procedures were used in the Duma and Federation Council. However, Yeltsin has signed other laws passed using those same procedures (proxy voting in the Duma and mailed-in ballots in the Council). LB ...WHILE DEBATE OVER SUBSTANCE OF LAW CONTINUES. Yastrzhembskii and Shakhrai both argued on 6 April that the trophy art law violates international obligations assumed by Russia, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The law would ban the transfer abroad of any cultural valuables that were seized by the Soviet Union during World War II. Germany, which is Russia's largest trading partner and which is seeking the return of many works of art, reacted calmly to the Constitutional Court's ruling. A German government statement expressed the hope that "further treatment of the [trophy art] law" will validate the view that it violates international law and Russia's legal commitments, Reuters reported. But Duma Culture Committee Deputy Chairman Nikolai Gubenko of the Communist faction told NTV that there is no basis for such claims. He argued that the trophy art has been legally recognized as compensation for the damage inflicted on Russia during the war. LB RUSSIA, IRAN DISCUSS FALLING OIL PRICES. Meeting with acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on 4 April, Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh proposed that Russia and other international oil producers follow Tehran's example in reducing output in response to the recent fall of oil prices, Russian agencies reported. Nemtsov replied that Moscow is implementing a consistent policy of support for Russian oil companies aimed at countering the effects of falling prices. Most of those companies are privately owned, The previous day, Russian Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Yelena Telegina told Interfax that Russia will not reduce its oil output and opposes attempts to coordinate policy, Reuters reported. LF RUSSIA MAY BUILD RESEARCH NUCLEAR REACTOR IN IRAN. Yevgenii Adamov, who replaced Viktor Mikhailov as Russian atomic energy minister in March, told journalists on 6 April that Moscow wants to sign a new contract with Iran on constructing a nuclear reactor for research purposes, Interfax reported. The reactor would use uranium with enrichment of 20 percent or less in compliance with International Atomic Energy Agency requirements. Adamov said he will try to persuade the Russian leadership to endorse the project, which was first discussed in 1996, rather than "wait for the Americans to come ... and build a reactor." He added that his ministry "does nothing without a political decision." LF SELEZNEV UPBEAT ON START-2 RATIFICATION. Duma Speaker Seleznev has predicted that the lower house of the parliament will ratify the START-2 arms control treaty before its spring session ends in late June. He told Interfax on 6 April that the Duma is likely to approve ratification because the treaty "meets Russia's interests." Last December, Seleznev decried U.S. "pressure" to ratify the treaty and warned that the Duma would not debate START-2 if such pressure continued. Soon after, officials announced that the lower house was not scheduled to consider the treaty during the first half of 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 1997 and 13 January 1998). But Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko has recently expressed optimism that the Duma will debate START- 2 this spring and will ratify the treaty. LB CAMPAIGN TO DELAY ROSNEFT AUCTION CONTINUES. Mikhail Khodorkovskii, the head of the Yuksi oil company, on 6 April advocated postponing the sale of Russian oil companies until "a more economically feasible time," Interfax reported. Khodorkovskii cited low oil prices on world markets. Regarding the government's plans to sell 75 percent plus one share in Rosneft in May, Khodorkovskii again said the government set too high a price for the shares (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 March 1998). Also on 6 April, Khodorkovskii, on behalf of Yuksi, signed a cooperation agreement with French company Elf Aquitaine which is to purchase 5 percent of Yuksi shares for $528 million. Meanwhile, in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 April, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev charged that not only is the government asking too much for the Rosneft shares, but it has not released full financial information about the company. LB KRASNOYARSK CAMPAIGN HEATS UP. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed is running an active campaign for governor in Krasnoyarsk Krai, an RFE/RL correspondent in Krasnoyarsk reported on 6 April. Lebed supporters can already be spotted on the streets, handing out campaign leaflets in advance of the 26 April election. However, an anti-Lebed campaign is also in full swing, with supporters of his rivals charging that Lebed wants to use Krasnoyarsk only as a stepping stone to the next presidential election. Recent opinion polls show Lebed trailing Governor Valerii Zubov. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky are to visit Krasnoyarsk in the coming weeks to campaign for Duma deputy Petr Romanov, who may have a chance of advancing to the second round of the gubernatorial election. LB FORMER SPEAKER OF ST. PETERSBURG LEGISLATURE SLAMS GOVERNOR. Yurii Kravtsov, who was voted out as speaker of the St. Petersburg legislature on 2 April, has accused St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev of seeking to undermine the independence of the legislature. In an interview with RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent on 6 April, Kravtsov predicted that Yakovlev will attempt to water down the St. Petersburg charter and other laws that limit the power of his administration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1998). The legislature removed Kravtsov after adopting a new law to simplify the procedure for prematurely ending the speaker's term, "Izvestiya" reported on 4 April. Kravtsov says that law violates the St. Petersburg charter and the Russian Constitution. Last month, Kravtsov claimed that his political opponents have tapped his phone and bugged his office. More recently, he charged that Yakovlev is trying to impose "authoritarian" rule. LB SOBCHAK AGAIN DELAYS RETURN TO RUSSIA. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak says he will not return to Russia until the Prosecutor-General's Office admits that its treatment of him violated the law, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 April. Speaking in Paris, he said he plans to run for the Duma in 1999. Sobchak fell ill last October while being questioned about corruption charges against his former associates. He spent a month in hospital in St. Petersburg before leaving for France. He and his wife, Duma deputy Lyudmila Narusova, initially said Sobchak would return by the end of 1997; later, he said would return after completing his medical treatment (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 26 January 1998). Speaking to "Izvestiya" on 2 April, Vladimir Lysenko, an investigator with the Prosecutor-General's Office, denied that Sobchak has been mistreated. He confirmed that Sobchak is only a witness in the corruption case. LB REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIAN NATIONALIST SUSPECTED IN LATVIAN BOMBINGS. Latvian state television said on 6 April that at least some members of the country's police believe that a member of an extremist Russian nationalist group may have been behind the recent bombings of the synagogue and the Russian embassy in Riga. Latvian officials have suggested that the explosions were the work of those who want to discredit Latvia internationally. Police have already concluded that the same individual was behind both bombings, and they have identified the explosives as being of Soviet origin, BNS reported. More than 2,000 Latvian police and agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation are currently working on the case. The manhunt has already led to the confiscation of several weapons and the arrest of a former Soviet OMON officer, who was wanted on other charges. PG LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR FIGHT AGAINST EXTREMISM. In an interview with Riga's "Diena" newspaper on 7 April, Prime Minister Guntars Krasts said the recent wave of bombings will not succeed in threatening the stability of the country. In the interview, he repeated calls he made the previous day for Latvians to fight all forms of extremism that may threaten the country. But again he sought to calm the situation by saying "my view is that we will control the situation." PG BOMBINGS AFFECT LATVIAN ECONOMY, POLITICS. Latvian Transport Minister Vilis Kristopans told a Riga press conference on 6 April that the recent increase in tensions with Russia has contributed to a significant decline in trade volume passing along Latvian railroads and through Latvian ports, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, leaders of the various political parties in the Latvian parliament focused on amending the country's citizenship law to make it easier for at least some ethnic Russians who do not yet have Latvian citizenship to acquire it, BNS reported. The factions are expected to submit their ideas and plans on this point by 9 April, but a consensus is emerging that there will be significant support for at least one amendment allowing for automatic naturalization of children born after 21 August 1991 to non- citizens. PG INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO LATVIAN BOMBINGS. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 7 April repeated his call for Moscow to impose economic and other sanctions on Latvia, Interfax reported. The previous day, Saratov governor Dmitrii Ayatskov had urged the Russian government to develop a special program in support of ethnic Russians abroad, ITAR- TASS reported. Ayatskov said "the explosion in Riga puts Latvia on par with countries where terrorism is the main method of deciding political disputes." The U.S. and other Western countries, meanwhile have condemned the bombing of the Russian embassy in Riga. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin on 6 April called on Latvia and Russia to begin a dialogue in order to overcome problems in their bilateral relationship. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry expressed both concern over the situation in Latvia and support for Riga's efforts to expose the organizers of the attacks, BNS reported on 7 April. PG RATIFICATION OF TROOPS AGREEMENT WITH MOLDOVA DELAYED. The Russian State Duma on 3 April postponed ratification of an October 1994 Russian-Moldovan agreement on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Dniester region, ITAR-TASS reported. On behalf of the Russian Defense Ministry, General Valentin Bogdanchikov called on Duma deputies to ratify the agreement, saying it provides a "legal foundation for the temporary stay of the Russian military units on the territory of the Republic of Moldova." But Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Georgii Tikhonov of the Popular Power faction argued against pulling out Russian troops before the conflict in Dniester has been settled. After a 40-minute debate, Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, withdrew the agreement from proposed ratification. There is also considerable opposition within the Duma to the 1990 basic treaty between Russia and Moldova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 1997). LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA WERE GAMSAKHURDIA SUPPORTERS BEHIND ZUGDIDI SHOOTINGS? Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Security Minister Djemal Gakhokidze have both said that supporters of former president Zviad Gamsakhurdia were responsible for the 5 April attack on mourners at the funeral of Gocha Esebua. Two of the five persons killed in that attack had participated in the February abduction of four UN observers but later surrendered to Georgian security forces. In his weekly radio address, Shevardnadze said the shootings testify to deep splits within the ranks of Gamsakhurdia's supporters and were aimed at further destabilizing the internal political situation and preventing reconciliation. LF FINAL RESULTS OF ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL POLL RELEASED. The Central Electoral Commission on 6 April released the final results of the 30 March presidential runoff, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharyan received 59.49 percent of the vote and former Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchyan 40.51 percent. Voter turnout was 68.14 percent. Of the 18 members of the Central Electoral Commission, two representing the National Democratic Union refused to sign the final protocol. The union is headed by Vazgen Manukyan, who came in third in the first round of voting on 16 March. Meanwhile, the commission is to rule later this week on whether Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is entitled to continue its election observer mission in Armenia after the final election results have been announced (see also "End Note" below). LF TURKISH, AZERBAIJANI LEADERS DISCUSS BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE. In a three-way telephone conversation on 5 April, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, and Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz agreed on the need to expedite the planned construction of a $2.5 billion oil export pipeline from Baku to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, Interfax and Turan reported. A meeting of the steering committee of the Azerbaijani International Operating Committee--the international consortium currently exploiting three offshore Caspian oil fields--has been postponed indefinitely due to disagreements between the AIOC and the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, Akhmed Zeynalov, the vice president of SOCAR, told Turan. The meeting was to have discussed enlarging from 22 inches to 42 inches the diameter of the existing pipeline from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea terminal at Supsa. That move would increase the pipeline's annual throughput capacity from 5 to 10 million metric tons. LF TAJIK OFFICIAL SAYS WITHDRAWAL FROM KOFARNIHON "COMPLETE." Tajik Deputy Prime Minister Abdurakhmon Azimov told Reuters on 6 April that the agreement reached the previous day on the withdrawal from the Kofarnihon region of both government and Islamic opposition forces "has been implemented in full." Azimov said several hundred opposition troops have been sent to a new base in the nearby Ramit Gorge, where they will be officially registered. Habib Sanginov, the chairman of the military sub-committee of the National Reconciliation Committee, told ITAR-TASS that the withdrawal of both sides' forces "encourages hope" for the consolidation of the peace process. Also on 6 April, a Russian military officer was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Dushanbe. LF END NOTE DEJA VU IN ARMENIA by Emil Danielyan History is repeating itself in Armenia following last month's presidential election. Once again, the opposition candidate refuses to admit defeat by the country's incumbent leader and is claiming election fraud. And once again, the authorities deny those charges. But whereas in September 1996, supporters of the unsuccessful challenger Vazgen Manukyan took to the streets to protest alleged fraud, last month's defeated candidate, former Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchyan, has urged supporters to stay at home and prepare for a "civilized and constitutional struggle." However, the fact that many Armenians do not believe in the legitimacy of the new president is hardly conducive to the development of democracy. The presidential ballot has only reinforced their belief that the government cannot be changed through elections. The long-term consequences of that belief may prove serious. President-elect Robert Kocharyan, however, enjoys certain advantages over his predecessor, Levon Ter- Petrossyan. First, the international community appears unlikely to question the validity of the official results, even though Yerevan will not gain a reputation of holding free and fair elections. Second and perhaps more important, a broad coalition of mostly leftist and nationalist parties has rallied behind Kocharyan, whom they consider to embody "national unity." Two of those parties, the Dashnak party and Self-Determination Union led by prominent Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hayrikyan, are quite influential, although the leaders of the smaller parties may be better known to the public than the party names. Those political parties are united by their many years of opposition to and, especially in case of the Dashnaks, persecution by the Ter-Petrossyan regime. By joining the Kocharyan camp, those parties will enhance their status and may also obtain some government posts. A parallel may be drawn with the now defunct Hanrapetutyun bloc, cobbled together by Ter-Petrossyan in 1995 to ensure the triumph of "right-wing ideology." But Kocharyan has replaced that ideology with one that attracts many parties and appeals to a majority of Armenian intellectuals: namely, nationalism, or as Armenians put it, "national ideology." Ter-Petrossyan had despised the intelligentsia and, pursuing his "wild liberalism," had pushed it to the fringes of society to make room for a new, often corrupt, economic elite. Now, the country's intellectuals are embracing nationalism in the desperate hope of regaining the privileged status they enjoyed during the last decades of Soviet Armenia. Kocharyan's concept of national ideology is best defined as a set of ethical norms based on "Armenian traditions and values." He has also affirmed that he wants to give the intelligentsia a say in the new political order. But nationalist euphoria is not shared by the sizable portion of the population that voted for Demirchyan, primarily in the hope that their living conditions would improve, and is unlikely to be embraced by them in the future, as they grapple with more mundane matters. At the same time, the pro-government coalition will not be immune to splits. Despite his stated intention to share power with his allies, Kocharyan will almost certainly not cede control of various key ministries. One of the liberal economists from his entourage seems likely to become Armenia's next prime minister, but the economic policy of the new premier may not be approved by the satellite parties that want a rapid improvement in the country's economy. Moreover, discord may emerge among the various pro- government groups in the runup to the early parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to be held by the end of the year. It is unclear whether the pro-government forces will stand in a single bloc. But tough competition is likely between local mafia-like clans and pro-Kocharyan parties. And together or separately, those parties that support the president-elect will have to face Demirchyan, who plans to set up his own political movement, and Vazgen Manukyan's National Democratic Movement. Both those parties will be determined to ensure that the next elections are free and fair. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Yerevan. 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. 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