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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 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 * ZYUGANOV STILL OPPOSED TO KIRIENKO * YELTSIN BACKS ECONOMIC PRESSURE ON LATVIA * AZERBAIJAN WANTS KARABAKH MEDIATION STEPPED UP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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. 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