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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 68 Part I, 8 April 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 68 Part I, 8 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

* ZYUGANOV STILL OPPOSED TO KIRIENKO

* YELTSIN BACKS ECONOMIC PRESSURE ON LATVIA

* AZERBAIJAN WANTS KARABAKH MEDIATION STEPPED UP

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RUSSIA

ZYUGANOV STILL OPPOSED TO KIRIENKO. Communist Party leader 
Gennadii Zyuganov announced following roundtable talks on 7 
April that he believes the next prime minister should be a 
"well-known" person with substantial political and 
managerial experience, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. 
During the talks, President Boris Yeltsin repeatedly called 
on members of the parliament to support the candidacy of 
acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. But Zyuganov 
expressed doubt that the State Duma will confirm Kirienko on 
10 April. The Communist leader demanded that within the next 
two or three weeks, representatives of the government and 
both houses of the parliament draft and sign a program for 
digging Russia out of its economic crisis. LB 

ROUNDTABLE LIMITED TO EXCHANGE OF OPINIONS. Most of the 
participants in the roundtable talks praised the opportunity 
to exchange opinions and make proposals directly to the 
president. Nikolai Kharitonov and Nikolai Ryzhkov, leaders 
of the Communist-allied Agrarian and Popular Power Duma 
factions, proposed alternative candidates for the 
premiership. However, officials made clear that the talks 
were merely consultative and did not alter Yeltsin's support 
for Kirienko. In this regard, the roundtable is a far cry 
from what Communist leaders demanded last October in 
exchange for dropping a planned vote of no confidence in the 
government. At that time, Yeltsin promised to hold a series 
of talks on important issues. But before 7 April, the 
president had convened only one roundtable, which took place 
in late December. The meeting ended with participants 
signing a protocol on land reform and promising to agree on 
a revised land code by the end of March. That deadline, 
however, has been missed. LB

KIRIENKO STRIKES CONCILIATORY NOTE. Acting Prime Minister 
Kirienko on 7 April described the roundtable talks as "very 
constructive" and said he will take into account many of the 
participants' recommendations, Russian news agencies 
reported. Reuters reported on 7 April that in his address to 
the Duma on 10 April, Kirienko is to offer to create several 
committees on which government and parliamentary 
representatives will coordinate policy. At the same time, 
Kirienko says he will hand over to Yeltsin a list of key 
government appointments within one week, even if he has not 
been approved by that time. LB

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA, LDPR WANT GOVERNMENT POSTS. Acting First 
Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov on 7 April announced 
that during the roundtable talks, Our Home Is Russia (NDR) 
representatives said they will support Kirienko's 
appointment only if NDR members receive key cabinet posts, 
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Aleksandr Shokhin, the 
leader of the NDR Duma faction, said his faction will decide 
whether to back Kirienko after the acting prime minister 
addresses the Duma on 10 April, Russian news agencies 
reported. Meanwhile, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia 
(LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told journalists that the 
LDPR is seeking two or three government posts in exchange 
for supporting Kirienko's candidacy. Zhirinovsky added that 
the portfolios offered to the LDPR need not be "key posts." 
LB

YAVLINSKII SKEPTICAL ON USEFULNESS OF TALKS. Yabloko leader 
Grigorii Yavlinskii has described the roundtable talks as a 
purely "formal measure" that does not address the problems 
to be faced by the new government. In an interview with 
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 7 April, Yavlinskii repeated that 
although Yabloko supported the president's decision to sack 
Viktor Chernomyrdin's government, Yabloko deputies will not 
support Kirienko. He said Yabloko is willing to take 
responsibility for implementing its own economic program if 
Yabloko members are included in the government. Yavlinskii 
has rejected past invitations to join the cabinet after 
concluding that Yabloko members would not be given 
sufficient authority to implement their policies (see 
"RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1998). LB   

REGIONAL LEADERS SUPPORT KIRIENKO. The regional leaders who 
attended the 7 April roundtable talks all expressed varying 
degrees of support for Kirienko, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau 
reported. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, who has 
been proposed as a prime ministerial candidate by some 
opposition groups, praised Kirienko at a press conference. 
Stroev said  Kirienko's youth (he is 35) will not prevent 
him from solving Russia's economic problems if his skills 
are "combined with the experience and wisdom of other 
people," Russian news agencies reported. Although the 
Federation Council does not have the authority to confirm or 
reject the president's nominee for prime minister, the views 
of regional leaders may persuade some Duma deputies to 
support Kirienko, if not on 10 April, then in a later vote. 
LB   

LUZHKOV EXPRESSES 'CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM.' Following the 
roundtable talks, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said he feels 
"cautious optimism" and is willing to back Kirienko's 
candidacy for prime minister, Russian news agencies 
reported. Yeltsin announced during the talks that he had 
considered Luzhkov's candidacy, among others, before 
deciding to nominate Kirienko. The Moscow mayor said he is 
"flattered" by Yeltsin's comment but said he will not agree 
to serve as prime minister if offered the job. Addressing 
the roundtable, Luzhkov proposed changes in economic policy 
and advocated forming a commission, which would be chaired 
by Yeltsin, to draft a new tax code. Presidential spokesman 
Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax that Yeltsin liked 
Luzhkov's proposal concerning a commission on tax policy. 
The government has already submitted a revised tax code to 
the Duma, but various politicians have put forward their 
versions of the code (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January and 
3 February 1998). 

TRADE UNION LEADER BACKS KIRIENKO. Mikhail Shmakov, the head 
of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR), 
announced on 7 April that he supports Kirienko's nomination 
for prime minister, RFE/FL's Moscow bureau reported. 
Speaking at a meeting between trade union and business 
leaders on 7 April, Shmakov noted that Kirienko has 
discussed the problem of wage arrears with union leaders and 
has instructed the Finance Ministry to pay debts to state 
employees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1998). At the same 
time, Shmakov said the FNPR is going ahead with plans to 
stage rallies nationwide on 9 April to protest persistent 
wage delays. He noted that 80 percent of estimated wage 
arrears are owed by employers rather than by the government. 
LB

BEREZOVSKII CALLS ON BUSINESS TO BACK CHERNOMYRDIN. Former 
Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii has 
called on business leaders to support former Prime Minister 
Viktor Chernomyrdin "not only as a candidate for president 
in 2000 but also as a person who is able to consolidate 
democratic and reformist forces in Russia around him." 
Speaking to Interfax on 7 April, Berezovskii said 
Chernomyrdin demonstrated his ability to unite different 
forces during his tenure as prime minister. In an interview 
with NTV broadcast on 22 March, the night before Yeltsin 
sacked Chernomyrdin, Berezovskii criticized the government 
and expressed doubt that Chernomyrdin would be an 
"electable" presidential candidate. Those comments fueled 
speculation that Berezovskii instigated the government 
dismissal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1998). LB

DEFENSE INDUSTRY WORKERS PICKET GOVERNMENT HEADQUARTERS. 
Some 3,000 defense enterprise workers and representatives of 
defense industry trade unions picketed the government 
headquarters on 7 April, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. 
Some of the protesters made political demands as well as 
long-standing calls for the government to meet its financial 
obligations toward the defense industry. Following a similar 
picket last September, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris 
Nemtsov promised that the government would settle all debts 
to the defense industry by April 1998. In February, 
officials pledged that this year the government will pay 
some 10 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) it owes to defense 
enterprises (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1997 and 16 
February 1998). On 4 April, acting Prime Minister Kirienko 
said the government is still drafting plans for settling 
those debts. LB

NEW LAW ON MILITARY SERVICE GOES INTO FORCE. According to 
"Krasnaya Zvezda" on 4 April, the new law on military 
service in Russia exempts from the draft all people with 
criminal records, university students, and workers in 
industries providing services for the military or for the 
security  the country. The law, which went into effect on 2 
April, also limits the period of time that members of the 
armed forces can serve; in most cases, this means retirement 
at age 45, but for high ranking officers such as admirals 
and generals is extended to age 60. The death of an 
immediate family member is also cause for exemption from the 
draft. "Izvestiya" on 8 April cites the example of an 
officer who has gone unpaid for several months and is now 
seeking early discharge from the military on the grounds 
that his contract has been violated. This precedent may 
quickly deplete the ranks of officers, "hundreds of whom are 
in the same position," the daily argues. BP

NIZHNII VOTERS FACE LONG WAIT TO ELECT NEW MAYOR... A new 
mayoral election in Nizhnii Novgorod may be a long way off, 
RFE/RL's correspondent in the city reported on 7 April. 
After the local electoral commission annulled the 29 March 
election, officials suggested that a new vote would be held 
within three months. However, Andrei Klimentev, the apparent 
winner of the 29 March race, has filed a lawsuit against the 
annulment. New elections cannot be set until after the 
courts have ruled on his case, which could take months or 
years, taking into account the appeals process. LB

...AS CANDIDATE CLAIMS LEGAL FLAWS IN DECISION TO ANNUL 
ELECTION. Dmitrii Bednyakov, who placed third in the 29 
March race, believes there are strong legal grounds for 
contesting the decision to annul the election. In an 
interview with RFE/RL's correspondent, Bednyakov said the 
Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast law under which the election results 
were canceled contradicts federal legislation. According to 
Bednyakov, federal law permits elections to be annulled only 
if a court has ruled to that effect, if turnout was below 
the required level, or if procedural violations during the 
voting or vote counting cast doubt on the accuracy of the 
result. Bednyakov said federal law does not allow electoral 
commissions to cancel results because of alleged violations 
committed by candidates during campaigns (see "RFE/RL 
Newsline," 1 and 2 April 1998). LB

REGIONAL AFFAIRS

YELTSIN BACKS ECONOMIC PRESSURE ON LATVIA. Russian 
presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 8 April 
announced that Boris Yeltsin supports economic measures to 
encourage Latvia to end its "unceasing policy of 
discrimination" against Russian-speakers, Interfax reported. 
Yastrzhembskii denied that the measures would be tantamount 
to economic sanctions. Meanwhile, Kemerovo Oblast Governor 
Aman Tuleev told ITAR-TASS that he has asked managers of 
enterprises in his region to halt deliveries of goods, 
including coal, to Latvia. Tuleev is a member of a Russian 
Federation Council commission on protecting the rights of 
Russian-speakers in Latvia. In recent days, Saratov Governor 
Dmitrii Ayatskov, Yaroslavl Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn, and 
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov have all called on the Russian 
government to increase pressure on Latvia. LB 

LATVIAN POLICE CHIEF FIRED OVER SYNAGOGUE BOMBING... The 
government on 7 April fired national police chief Aldis 
Lieljuksis, whom Interior Minister Ziedonis Cevers has 
blamed for the 2 April bombing of the Riga synagogue. Cevers 
says that his orders to install video cameras at the 
building were not carried out.  Also on 7 April, Juris 
Dalbins, commander of the armed forces, handed in his 
resignation to President Guntis Ulmanis. The day after the 
synagogue bombing, the National Security Council had called 
for the dismissal of both officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 
3 April 1998). JC

...WHILE SEARCH FOR BOMB CULPRITS CONTINUES. "Diena" 
reported on 8 April that according to the Ministry of 
Internal Affairs, the search for those responsible for the 
Riga bombings has been narrowed down to two individuals. The 
police operation in the wake of the two explosions is 
described as the largest in Latvia in 20 years, involving 
some 2,200 policemen. A total of 265 people were taken into 
custody, of whom 40 were wanted in relation to other crimes. 
Meanwhile, many government buildings and religious sites in 
the capital are under constant police surveillance. JC

ITALY'S DINI SAYS LATVIA'S EU CHANCES IMPAIRED. Italian 
Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini has said that recent problems 
over Latvia's ethnic Russian community will not help 
Latvia's case for EU membership, Reuters reported. Speaking 
at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister 
Yevgenii Primakov in Moscow on 7 April,  Dini said that 
Latvia's membership in EU is "not near at hand." He added 
that "events like those of recent days distance Latvia 
further from the process of preliminary membership." Latvian 
President Guntis Ulmanis said on the weekend that recent 
events have greatly damaged Latvia's prospects of prompt EU 
entry. JC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJAN WANTS KARABAKH MEDIATION STEPPED UP. The 
Azerbaijani National Security Council, meeting on 6 April 
under the chairmanship of President Heidar Aliev, called  on 
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's 
Minsk Group to intensify its efforts aimed at mediating a 
political settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Turan 
reported. The Minsk Group co-chairmen are due to travel to 
Armenia and Azerbaijan later this month following the 
inauguration of Armenian President-elect Robert Kocharyan. 
Last fall, Azerbaijan unconditionally approved the "phased" 
draft peace plan proposed by the Minsk Group co-chairmen. 
Armenia has accepted that plan as a basis for further 
negotiations, but the leadership of the unrecognized 
Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh has rejected it. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT ON KARABAKH. In a lengthy interview 
in "Izvestiya" on 8 April, Kocharyan absolved the Minsk 
Group co-chairmen of responsibility for the failure to 
resolve the Karabakh conflict. Kocharyan said the Karabakh 
leadership must decide on its future status vis-a-vis the 
Azerbaijani government, but he warned that the Azerbaijani 
leadership's offer of autonomy for Karabakh is 
"unacceptable." Instead, he proposed either "horizontal 
relations" between Baku or Stepanakert or "federative or 
confederative relations." He also insisted on security 
guarantees for the Karabakh population. On another subject, 
Kocharyan said he believes the CIS is capable of evolving, 
provided that the Russian leadership makes clear that it is 
not planning to "restore its hegemony" over the former 
republics.  And he assessed Armenian-Russian relations as 
problem free and close to the level of an alliance. LF

AZERBAIJAN TO DEMAND EX-PARLIAMENT SPEAKER'S EXTRADITION. 
The Azerbaijani parliament on 7 April voted to strip its 
former speaker Rasul Guliev of his immunity, Reuters 
reported. The parliament deprived Guliev of his deputy's 
mandate last December on the grounds that he had not 
attended a single parliament session since his resignation 
as speaker in September 1996. Prosecutor-General Eldar 
Gasanov told deputies that Baku will demand Guliev's 
extradition from the U.S., where he has lived for the past 
18 months. Guliev is wanted on charges of embezzlement of 
state property valued at $12 million and of involvement in 
irregularities in exporting oil that caused losses to the 
state estimated at $23 million. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S OIL EXTRACTION INCREASES IN FIRST QUARTER. The 
state oil company SOCAR extracted 2,240,000 metric tons of 
oil from January to March, slightly more than during the 
same period last year, Turan reported on 7 April. But the 
country's two largest oil refineries have incurred losses of 
more than 34 billion manats ($8.8 million) as a result of 
fall in oil prices on world markets. Shipments of 
Azerbaijani crude to Novorossiisk for export have been 
temporarily discontinued, according to SOCAR Vice President 
Natik Aliev. LF

ARMENIAN-ADJAR TRANSPORT TALKS. Armenian Prime Minister and 
President-elect Robert Kocharyan held talks in Yerevan on 7 
April with a delegation from Georgia's autonomous Republic 
of Adjaria, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The talks 
focused on how Armenia can make more effective use of 
Georgian port facilities, including those in the Adjar 
capital, Batumi, which handles the bulk of Armenia's imports 
and exports. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA AT ODDS OVER DEFENSE FACILITIES.  In a 6 
April statement, the Georgian Foreign Ministry criticized 
the Russian State Duma's proposal to debate the legitimacy 
of Moscow's 24 March decision to hand over to Tbilisi some 
Russian facilities in Georgia, Russian agencies reported. 
The statement pointed out that the facilities in question 
are Georgian state property and that since 1991 Russia has 
paid no rent for the some 18,000 hectares of land it uses. 
It added that Russia still owes Tbilisi several billion 
dollars for military equipment withdrawn from Georgia after 
the collapse of the USSR. The Russian Foreign Ministry 
responded on 7 April by denouncing what it called  the 
"irresponsible" Georgian campaign aimed at portraying Russia 
as the "external enemy" responsible for all Georgia's 
internal problems, Interfax reported. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER JAILED. Madel Ismailov, the leader 
of Kazakhstan's Workers' Movement, has been found guilty of 
insulting the president and sentenced to one year in jail, 
RFE/RL correspondents reported on 7 April. Ismailov is 
alleged to have made insulting comments about the president 
at a rally last November marking the 80th anniversary of the 
October Revolution. Supporters of Ismailov have called for 
the verdict to be overturned, and the Workers' Movement has 
said it will hold a rally on 17 April to protest the ruling. 
Meanwhile, Yuri Venkov, the deputy leader of the movement, 
is scheduled to appear in court on 13 April on charges of 
organizing unsanctioned rallies. BP

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