|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 71 Part I, 14 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 71 Part I, 14 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 * SELEZNEV CHANGES TUNE ON KIRIENKO * RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS 'NO SOFTENING' ON LATVIA * ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW PRIME MINISTER * END NOTE: ARMENIA'S NEW PRESIDENT: NOT A HAWK BUT A PRAGMATIST xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA SELEZNEV CHANGES TUNE ON KIRIENKO. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a prominent member of the Communist Party, has called on the Duma to confirm acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Reuters reported on 14 April. Following a meeting with President Boris Yeltsin, Seleznev told journalists that "the Duma's fate is 1,000 times more important to me than the fate of Kirienko." The constitution calls for the president to dissolve the Duma if his candidate for prime minister is rejected three times. Yeltsin renominated Kirienko on 10 April, within hours of the Duma's rejection of his candidacy. The president repeated on 13 April that he has "no other candidate" for prime minister. Seleznev had said before his 14 April meeting that he would urge Yeltsin to put forward a different nominee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 1998). The Duma Council has scheduled the second vote on Kirienko for 17 April. LB ZYUGANOV SAYS OPPOSITION WON'T CHANGE STANCE. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 13 April announced that the presidium of the Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR), a Communist-led alliance, has instructed the Communist, Agrarian, and Popular Power factions to vote against confirming Kirienko, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Following a meeting of the NPSR leadership, Zyuganov expressed the hope that the Duma will on 15 April vote to send an inquiry to the Constitutional Court questioning Yeltsin's right to nominate Kirienko a second time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 1998). He also said the Communist faction and their allies will seek to amend the Duma's rules of procedure to allow an open vote on Kirienko's candidacy. Current rules demand that the Duma vote by secret ballot on prime ministerial nominees, but an open vote would be more likely to discourage Communist- allied deputies from breaking ranks and supporting Kirienko. LB FACTION WANTS TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGED SCIENTOLOGY LINK. Duma deputy Yelena Panina of the Popular Power faction on 13 April said her faction will seek to form a parliamentary commission to investigate Kirienko's alleged links to the Church of Scientology, Interfax reported. She said the commission will investigate reports in the German press that Kirienko attended seminars at and donated money to Hubbard College, a Scientologist organization in Nizhnii Novgorod. Kirienko has dismissed such reports as "rubbish" but has not denied that he had contacts with Hubbard College in 1995 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). Kirienko's opponents in the Duma have so far refrained from commenting on the alleged link to Scientology, criticizing the acting prime minister for his relative youth and inexperience instead. LB YELTSIN AGAINST AMENDING SUCCESSION PROCEDURE. Yeltsin on 13 April said calls to change the succession procedure outlined in the constitution are "illogical," adding that "the constitution will not be amended as long as I remain president," Russian news agencies reported. Our Home Is Russia Duma faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin on 10 April proposed amending Article 92 to allow the Federation Council speaker, rather than the prime minister, to assume presidential powers if the president is incapacitated. (Most Our Home Is Russia deputies voted to confirm Kirienko in the first Duma vote.) Duma Speaker Seleznev and Communist Party leader Zyuganov both criticized Shokhin's proposal in comments to Interfax. Although Communist politicians have long advocated constitutional amendments to reduce the president's authority and have expressed reservations about Kirienko's fitness to assume those powers, Seleznev and Zyuganov spoke out against amending the constitution in response to immediate political concerns. LB GOVERNMENT, CENTRAL BANK SIGN ECONOMIC POLICY STATEMENT. Acting Prime Minister Kirienko and Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin on 11 April signed a joint statement on Russian economic policy for 1998, the Central Bank's press service announced two days later. The statement expresses commitments to maintain macroeconomic stability, enact tax reform, improve tax collection, and reduce the budget deficit. It also promises changes in the regulation of the financial markets and banking sector as well as more transparency in the management of "natural monopolies" in the energy and transportation sectors. The economic policy statement was drafted earlier this year following tough negotiations between Russian officials and IMF experts, but its signing was delayed by the surprise dismissal of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin last month. The IMF Board of Directors will meet in late May to consider the statement and whether to disburse the next tranche of a four-year, $10 billion loan to Russia. LB OFFICIALS SAY IRAN FAILED TO ACQUIRE RUSSIAN NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY. Vladimir Orlov, the director of the Russian Political Research Center, told a press conference in Moscow on 13 April that Russian intelligence thwarted three attempts by Iran last year to acquire Russian ballistic missile technology, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. The same day, Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry spokesman Georgii Kaurov again denied an article in the "Jerusalem Post" claiming that Russia delivered two nuclear warheads to Iran in the early 1990s, Interfax reported. Kaurov insisted that "every warhead is accounted for and not a single one has disappeared." Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov had made a similar denial on 10 April. Meanwhile on 12 April, the Russian ambassador to Tehran inspected construction work at the Iranian nuclear power station at Bushehr, which is being completed by Russian specialists, AFP reported. LF CHECHEN PRIME MINISTER DECLARES $2 MILLION INCOME. Shamil Basaev accumulated more than $2 million in income last year, primarily from donations, but gave most of that sum to charity after buying a $250,000 house in Djohar-gala (formerly Grozny), Interfax reported on 12 April. Chechen field commander Ruslan Khaikharoev, for his part, earned $1.75 million in ransom for 17 of the 24 people he kidnapped last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 April, quoting Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov. Also on 13 April, Chechen security officials secured the release of a Turkish businessman abducted in Chechnya in January. The fate of another 64 hostages remains unclear, however. LF NIKOLAEV WINS DUMA SEAT AMID CONTROVERSY... Former Federal Border Service Director Andrei Nikolaev easily won a 12 April by-election for a State Duma seat representing a Moscow district. Nikolaev gained 62.5 percent of the vote, nearly five times as many votes as his closest competitor. A last-minute attempt by rival politicians to derail Nikolaev's campaign failed. The Supreme Court on 10 April refused to consider an appeal to revoke Nikolaev's registration, and the Moscow City Court ruled the following day that the plaintiffs, most of whom dropped out of the campaign last week, failed to prove that the Moscow authorities gave Nikolaev an unfair advantage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 1998). However, Nikolaev's opponents, including former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, have vowed to file further court appeals seeking to annul the election result. LB ...EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR LUZHKOV. Nikolaev on 13 April praised Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov as a "depoliticized leader" and announced plans to form a "centrist" group in the Duma consisting of deputies who are Muscovites, ITAR- TASS reported. Luzhkov publicly endorsed Nikolaev's bid for the State Duma seat. But in an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 14 April, Nikolaev denied allegations that the Moscow authorities promoted his campaign. Asked about Luzhkov's public expression of support for him, Nikolaev responded that the mayor is "simply a citizen of Moscow." LB YELTSIN CRITICIZES NIKOLAEV BUT PRAISES LUZHKOV. During a 13 April meeting with Federal Border Service Director Nikolai Bordyuzha, Yeltsin remarked that he had been dissatisfied with the work of Nikolaev, whom he fired last December. Yeltsin charged that as head of the border service, Nikolaev had quarreled with other Russian "power ministers," Russian news agencies reported. Meeting the same day with Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, Yeltsin said he follows events in Moscow closely and supports the mayor's policies. In particular, Yeltsin praised plans to build an additional ring road to ease traffic in the capital. LB TOP LEGISLATOR ELECTED GOVERNOR IN LIPETSK. Oleg Korolev, the chairman of the Lipetsk Oblast legislature and deputy speaker of the Federation Council, won a crushing victory in the 12 April gubernatorial election in Lipetsk Oblast, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 13 April. Korolev gained some 79 percent of the vote, while incumbent Governor Mikhail Narolin finished second with slightly under 14 percent. The Communist Party was Korolev's main supporter (party leader Zyuganov recently visited Lipetsk to campaign on behalf of Korolev), but the Lipetsk branch of Yabloko and at least 40 other local parties and movements also supported Korolev, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. Supporters of Narolin included the local branches of the Our Home Is Russia movement and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. LB LOCAL ADMINISTRATIVE LEADER WINS PENZA ELECTION. Vasilii Bochkarev, the head of a raion in the city of Penza, was elected governor of Penza Oblast on 12 April with some 59.5 percent of the vote, an RFE/RL correspondent in Penza reported on 13 April. Bochkarev belongs to no political party and campaigned as a pragmatist and effective manager. His supporters widely publicized the fact that wages, pensions, and child allowances are paid on time in the raion he heads. State Duma deputy Yurii Lyzhin, the head of the oblast branch of the Communist Party, gained 16 percent, and incumbent Governor Anatolii Kovlyagin finished third with 13 percent. The level of support for Lyzhin is low in comparison with Communist candidate Zyuganov's strong showing in the 1996 presidential election in Penza. Zyuganov outpolled Yeltsin in the oblast by some 59 percent to 36 percent. LB SVERDLOVSK VOTERS FAVOR OPPOSITION GROUPS. The biggest loser in the legislative elections held in Sverdlovsk Oblast on 12 April was Governor Eduard Rossel, RFE/RL's correspondent in Yekaterinburg reported on 13 April. The Our Home-Our City movement, headed by Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, an outspoken critic of the oblast authorities, gained 16 percent of the vote in the elections for seats in the lower house of the Sverdlovsk legislature. An alliance of Communists and Agrarians finished second with 12 percent, followed by Our Home Is Russia with 10 percent. Rossel's movement, Transformation of the Urals, gained 9 percent, roughly the same as a movement headed by a former prime minister of Sverdlovsk who now opposes Rossel. Opposition candidates also won most of the seats in the upper house of the Sverdlovsk legislature. The results suggest that Rossel will face a tough battle for re-election next year. LB REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS 'NO SOFTENING' ON LATVIA. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev told Interfax on 10 April that Moscow's decision not to introduce a resolution condemning Latvia at the UN Human Rights Review Conference this year does not represent a "softening" of Moscow's position. Rather, Avdeev suggested, it is intended to give Riga time to live up to its promises to modify Latvian citizenship legislation. If Latvia fails to do that, Avdeev added, Moscow would be prepared to consider introducing such a resolution next spring. PG WORKING GROUP ON LATVIAN CITIZENSHIP LAW REACHES AGREEMENT. A working group composed of representatives of the ruling factions has reached agreement on proposals for amending the citizenship law, BNS reported on 13 April. The group's members supported a proposal by Latvia's way to grant citizenship to children under 16 if those youths submit such a request and demonstrate adequate knowledge of the Latvian language. They also agreed that all people born in Latvia could be naturalized by 2001. The Cooperation Council of the ruling factions is scheduled to debate the draft on 14 April. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Guntars Krasts, speaking to BNS and state radio, has again stressed he wants his government to stay on until the fall elections even if it lacks a parliamentary majority. JC CLINTON SENDS LETTER TO LATVIAN PRESIDENT. U.S. President Bill Clinton has sent a letter to Guntis Ulmanis urging that Riga and Moscow engage in a dialogue to resolve a dispute over the rights of ethnic Russians living in Latvia, Reuters and BNS reported on 13 April, citing a statement issued by Ulmanis's office. Clinton stressed that a dialogue with Russia is necessary and noted that U.S. officials have spoken with the Russian government "to see what is needed to renew a constructive dialogue between Russia and Latvia. JC MOSCOW RABBI SLAMS 'FASCISM' IN LATVIA. Russian Chief Rabbi Adolf Shaevich released a statement on 13 April blaming Latvia for all the current problems in relations with Russia and saying that "fascism will always raise its head where and when the persecution of national minorities begins." Two days earlier, some 300 Moscow residents gathered outside the Latvian embassy there to protest Latvia's failure to give full citizenship to ethnic Russians on its territory. PG RUSSIAN REGIONS DIVERGE ON LATVIA. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has offered his region's ports as a substitute for Latvian ones, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 April. (As other Russian officials have conceded, the flow of oil through Latvian ports cannot be reduced much further without harming the Russian economy.) Other regional leaders--in Kemerovo, Saratov, Yaroslavl, and Altai Krai-- have called for an end to the import and sale of Latvian goods on their territory. Altai Governor Aleksandr Surikov urged all contracts with Latvian enterprises to be revised, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 April. At the request of Moscow's city administration, stores in the Russian capital have stopped selling Latvian goods. But Leningrad Oblast Governor Vadim Gustov said he is against sanctions because they would be ineffective. He called for talks, Interfax and BNS reported on 11 April. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA RYBKIN IN YEREVAN, BAKU... Russian acting Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin held "very warm and comprehensive" talks with Robert Kocharyan on 9 April in Yerevan after attending the latter's inauguration, Russian agencies reported. The leaders agreed on implementing the August 1997 pact on exporting Russian gas via Armenia. The following day, Rybkin was in Baku to meet with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, who criticized Russia's reluctance to pressure the Armenian leadership to return arms worth $1 billion supplied clandestinely to Armenia from 1994-1996. Rybkin said the trilateral commission created to investigate the arms shipments will convene again after the new Russian government is formed. Aliev also complained about Moscow's refusal to extradite to Baku former chief of staff Shahin Musaev, who is wanted for his alleged role in a 1994 coup attempt. Also 10 April, the Azerbaijani parliament voted to ratify the treaty on friendship and cooperation with Russia, signed in July 1997, Turan reported. LF ...AND TBILISI. Following his talks with Rybkin in Tbilisi on 10 April, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze played down the recent tensions over the Russian military presence in Georgia and vowed that the two countries will co-exist as good neighbors with an interest in each other's stability, Russian agencies reported. Shevardnadze said that Rybkin shares his views on how best to resolve the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia; in particular, both are in favor of meetings between Shevardnadze and the leaders of both regions. Rybkin suggested that the upcoming CIS summit may agree to Tbilisi's demand to expand the role of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in the Georgian capital. LF ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW PRIME MINISTER. Robert Kocharyan on 10 April named 33-year-old Finance and Economy Minister Armen Darpinyan to head the new government. A graduate of Moscow State University, Darpinyan was appointed first deputy chairman of the Armenian Central Bank in 1994 and finance minister in May, 1997, Noyan Tapan reported. Meeting on 13 April, Darpinyan and Kocharyan affirmed their commitment to economic reform and industrial revival, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. They also discussed the "structure and principles" of forming the new cabinet. Also on 13 April, the parties belonging to the pro-Kocharyan Unity and Justice bloc continued discussing the president's proposal to create a consultative council on which all major political groups would be represented. But there is disagreement within that bloc over the expediency of holding early parliamentary elections. The Dashnak Party favors such a vote, but the Yerkrapah parliamentary group has voiced its opposition, Noyan Tapan reported. LF OSCE SLAMS ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. In its final assessment released on 10 April, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's observer mission in Yerevan concluded that last month's presidential poll did not meet the OSCE standards "to which Armenia committed itself in the Copenhagen Document of 1990," Turan and Reuters reported. While conceding that the poll was an improvement over the seriously flawed elections of 1995 and 1996, the statement said the 1996 vote is not an appropriate yardstick against which to assess this year's ballot. The statement noted ballot-stuffing, discrepancies in the vote count, and the presence of unauthorized persons at polling stations. It also claimed that one mobile polling station crossed the frontier into neighboring Azerbaijan in order to enable Armenian troops there to vote. But the statement did not say whether the registered violations fundamentally affected the outcome of the poll. LF MORE SHOOTINGS IN ABKHAZIA. Seven members of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed in Abkhazia and an Abkhaz police officer were injured on 11 April when unidentified assailants opened fire on their armored personnel carrier in Gali Raion, Russian agencies reported. Meeting the same day in Tbilisi with visiting Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Khandoga, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili welcomed Kyiv's repeated offer to join the UN Secretary-General's Friends of Georgia group, which is seeking to mediate a political settlement of the Abkhaz conflict. Ukraine also offered again to send observers and a peacekeeping force to the region. LF UZBEK PRESIDENT WAITS FOR RUSSIAN INVITATION. Islam Karimov, speaking at a joint press conference with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz on 13 April, said if he receives an invitation, he will go to Moscow in May to meet with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Interfax and dpa reported. Referring to recent political events in Russia, Karimov said the government shake-up was a "sign of instability of society and state." But he noted that "a Russia run by Yeltsin appeals to me but a Russia run by [Communist leader Gennadii] Zyuganov does not." Turning to his own country's political future, Karimov said Uzbekistan will do everything in its power to ensure the "spiritual revival of the nation in accordance with [Kemal] Ataturk's call." During Yilmaz's visit, agreements on economic cooperation, copyright protection, and preventing the smuggling of cultural artifacts were signed. BP END NOTE ARMENIA'S NEW PRESIDENT: NOT A HAWK BUT A PRAGMATIST by Liz Fuller In a lengthy interview with "Izvestiya" on 8 April and in his inauguration address the following day, Armenian President Robert Kocharyan outlined his domestic and economic policy priorities. He also stressed his preferences for resolving the Karabakh conflict and for developing relations with Russia and the CIS. Speaking at his inauguration ceremony, Kocharyan described the next five years as a period of "consolidating the foundations of our state," resolving social problems, and creating conditions for the population to exercise fully its constitutional rights and freedoms. Those tasks, he stressed, will require "internal unity and consent and constructive political dialogue." Kocharyan said sweeping constitutional amendments are "imperative" in order to provide for a more balanced interaction between the president on the one hand, and the government and National Assembly on the other. And the basic law must also be changed to redefine the responsibilities of the Constitutional Court, he said. Taking a swipe at the previous leadership, Kocharyan argued that "everyone, from the president to ordinary citizens, should be equal before the law." He went on to say that all reforms, whether political or economic, should be geared to existing conditions and their possible social impact taken into consideration. In this context, he observed that it is now clear that the state should not have given up its regulatory role in the sphere of economic relations, especially since market institutions to replace the state have not been established. The resulting vacuum, Kocharyan continued, has above all damaged the agricultural sector, which badly needs state support. Kocharyan advocated economic policies aimed at establishing favorable conditions for attracting investment and for the development both of industry and of small and medium-sized businesses, with the goal of creating new jobs. He had told "Izvestiya" that Armenia has "the most open economic policy" of any CIS state, and he predicted that the optimal development of the country's technological capacity and its potential as a net exporter of energy could mean 45,000-50,000 new jobs over the next two or three years. Asked whom he would select to implement his economic program, Kocharyan said only that "we know what needs to be done and how to do it." He said the idea of a coalition government is "unacceptable," but he did not exclude the inclusion in the new cabinet of "professionals" prepared to set aside their party affiliation. Finance and Economy Minister Armen Darpinyan, whom Kocharyan named prime minister on 10 April, has also painted a rosy picture of Armenia's financial prospects. In an interview with "Respublika Armeniya" last month, he predicted foreign investment totaling $200 million this year. He also said he believes that by August, Armenia will receive an international credit rating that is "no lower than the best in the CIS." Turning to foreign policy, Kocharyan pledged that Armenia will strive for "dynamic and mutually beneficial relations with our neighbors and with those states that have traditional strategic interests in the region" (meaning, above all, Russia). He also stressed that Yerevan will abide by the international agreements it has signed. He noted the importance of "a strong and disciplined army" as a guarantor of national security. And he underlined that it is "a responsibility of our generation" to ensure the active participation of the Armenian Diaspora in the social, political and economic life of the country, specifically through the introduction of dual citizenship. As for Karabakh, which had precipitated the resignation of his predecessor, Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Kocharyan termed it a "pan-national issue" that should be resolved peacefully and "with dignity." A solution to the conflict, he added, must entail international recognition of the right of the people of Karabakh to self-determination and must guarantee the region's development within secure borders and "in constant geographical connection" with Armenia. That formulation implies demilitarization and international control of the strategic Lachin corridor linking Karabakh with Armenia. Kocharyan discussed the Karabakh conflict in greater depth in his interview with "Izvestiya." Declaring that "I'm not a hawk--I'm a pragmatist," the president again rejected Ter-Petrossyan's equation of his resignation with the advent to power of the "party of war." Kocharyan suggested that the differences between Armenia and Azerbaijan are so great that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group is unlikely to succeed in mediating a solution to the Karabakh conflict, especially as Baku's offer of broad autonomy for Nagorno- Karabakh is "unacceptable." At the same time, he affirmed his readiness for direct talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev. Arguing that the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is already de facto independent, Kocharyan proposed that its future status be defined in terms of either a federation or a confederation with Azerbaijan or of establishing "equal, horizontal relations." But Kocharyan stressed that making such a decision is the prerogative of the Karabakh leadership. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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