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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 72 Part I, 15 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 72 Part I, 15 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 * COMMUNISTS VOW TO STAND GROUND ON KIRIENKO * DUMA DIVIDED OVER START-2 RATIFICATION * GEORGIAN LEADERSHIP WILL NOT OPPOSE GAMSAKHURDIA'S REBURIAL * End Note: THE POLITICAL ENDS OF RUSSIAN ECONOMIC ADVICE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA COMMUNISTS VOW TO STAND GROUND ON KIRIENKO. State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a prominent member of the Communist Party, has announced that Communist deputies are still opposed to confirming acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 April. The previous day, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, also a Communist, called on deputies to back Kirienko and predicted that the acting premier will be confirmed in the second vote, on 17 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). But Ilyukhin said Seleznev had merely "expressed his point of view." On 14 April, Duma deputy and high-ranking Communist official Valentin Kuptsov said Seleznev "failed to persuade deputies" in the Communist faction to support Kirienko, Russian news agencies reported. Kuptsov said the Communists will abide by the decision of the party's Central Committee to oppose Kirienko's nomination. LB DUMA TO VOTE ON PREMIER BY SHOW OF HANDS. The Duma on 15 April voted to change the chamber's procedural rules to allow a vote on Kirienko's candidacy by show of hands rather than by secret ballot, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The procedure is expected to increase discipline within the Communist faction and the allied Agrarian and Popular Power factions. Opposition deputies hope that if Kirienko gains fewer votes on 17 April than he did a week earlier, Yeltsin will propose a compromise candidate. However, ITAR-TASS on 14 April quoted unnamed Kremlin sources as saying that if Kirienko is not confirmed in the second vote, President Boris Yeltsin may nominate someone even less acceptable to most Duma deputies, such as former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar or acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. The constitution calls for the dissolution of the Duma if deputies reject the president's prime ministerial nominee three times. LB SELEZNEV SAYS YELTSIN WILL COOPERATE WITH PARLIAMENT. Duma Speaker Seleznev announced on 14 April that Yeltsin has promised to pursue various forms of cooperation with the parliament, Russian news agencies reported. Following a meeting with the president, Seleznev said Yeltsin has asked Kirienko to hold more consultations with Duma factions before his candidacy goes to a second vote. Yeltsin has also agreed to form a commission to discuss government policies and cabinet appointments; deputies from each house of the parliament would be represented on that body. In addition, the president told Seleznev that in order to avoid conflicts with the parliament, he has spurned recommendations by some advisers that he veto certain laws. LB YELTSIN OFFERS TO TAKE CARE OF DEPUTIES' NEEDS... Yeltsin has suggested that Duma deputies will be rewarded if they vote to confirm Kirienko in the second vote. On 13 April, the president announced that he has instructed Pavel Borodin, who heads a department in the presidential administration, to take care of the needs of Duma deputies if they "show a constructive approach," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Yeltsin declined to specify what kind of help would be provided, saying Duma deputies would understand his remarks. The president added that he told Borodin to wait until 17 April--when the Duma will vote again on Kirienko--before attending to the deputies' requests. Borodin's duties include distributing cars and apartments to state officials. LB ...BUT WILL USE OF CARROT BACKFIRE? "Izvestiya" argued on 15 April that by publicizing his instructions to Borodin, Yeltsin may have deterred Duma deputies from supporting Kirienko on 17 April. The newspaper said opposition deputies could have justified voting for Kirienko by saying they did not want to let Yeltsin dissolve the parliament and rule by decree. Seleznev has advanced that argument (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 1998). Now those who opposed Kirienko in the first vote may fear giving the impression that they have been paid off. Duma deputy Aleksei Arbatov of Yabloko made a similar argument in comments quoted by "Izvestiya." Meanwhile, Duma Security Committee Chairman Ilyukhin told "Izvestiya" that Yeltsin's comments on Borodin are tantamount to attempted bribery. Ilyukhin has charged that foreign money is being used to induce deputies to support Kirienko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 1998). LB COURT NOT TO RUSH CONSIDERATION OF DUMA INQUIRY. The Duma on 15 April voted to ask the Constitutional Court to consider whether Yeltsin has the right to nominate the same candidate for prime minister more than once, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. However, Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai told Interfax the previous day that the court will not revise its docket in order to speed up consideration of the Duma's inquiry. The Duma is constitutionally obliged to consider Kirienko's candidacy by 17 April, seven days after the date Yeltsin renominated him. Baglai said that if the Duma has already confirmed Kirienko by the time the Constitutional Court considers the Duma's inquiry, even a ruling in favor of the Duma's position would not retroactively invalidate Kirienko's nomination as prime minister. LB SHAKHRAI FAVORS NEW LAW ON SUCCESSION PROCEDURE. Sergei Shakhrai, Yeltsin's representative in the Constitutional Court, has advocated passing a federal constitutional law whereby the Federation Council speaker, rather than the acting premier, would assume presidential powers if the president were incapacitated and the Duma had not confirmed a prime minister. Shakhrai told Interfax that such a law would "clarify the situation and improve political stability." The constitution makes no provision for the possible incapacitation of the president when no prime minister has been confirmed. Our Home Is Russia Duma leader Aleksandr Shokhin recently proposed amending the constitution to make the Federation Council speaker, rather than the prime minister, the next in line to assume presidential powers, but Yeltsin rejected that proposal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). LB CONFUSION OVER SIGNING OF TROPHY ART LAW. Shakhrai told journalists on 15 April that Yeltsin will soon sign the trophy art law but will simultaneously appeal that law to the Constitutional Court, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The previous day, Shakhrai told Ekho Moskvy that Yeltsin had already complied with a Constitutional Court order that he sign the law, which both houses of the parliament passed last year over a presidential veto (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 April 1998). Yeltsin and his advisers say many provisions of the trophy art law violate the constitution and international agreements signed by Russia. Among other things, the law would prohibit the transfer abroad of cultural values seized by the Soviet Union during World War II. LB DUMA DIVIDED OVER START-2 RATIFICATION. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax on 14 April that the uncertainty over the new Russian prime minister and government will not delay the Duma's plans to debate ratification of the START-2 treaty before the end of its spring session in June. Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma Committee for International Affairs, said that the lower house will '"work at normal speed" to ratify the treaty. But deputy speaker Sergei Baburin of the Popular Power faction argued that it is premature to begin discussing ratification, and Duma Defense Committee chairman Lev Rokhlin argued that START-2 "is not beneficial" to Russia. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told journalists on 14 April that the protocol to the treaty that Yeltsin submitted to the Duma takes into account deputies' reservations and extends by five years the 2002 deadline for destroying all missiles, ITAR-TASS reported. LF CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Vakha Arsanov escaped unscathed on 14 April when a bomb exploded as his motorcade was driving through Djohar-gala (formerly Grozny), Russian agencies reported. Arsanov told Interfax that unspecified "enemies of an independent Chechen state" were responsible for the attack. Also on 14 April, grenades were fired at a mosque in the Chechen capital used by Wahhabis, but no one was injured, according to ITAR-TASS. LF CHECHEN OIL BOSS RESURFACES. Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, who was dismissed last October as head of the Chechen state oil company, has been appointed energy adviser to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Russian agencies reported on 13 April. Yarikhanov told Interfax he will concentrate on "streamlining" Chechnya's fuel and energy sector. He predicted that oil output this year will reach 1.5 million metric tons. And he said he will resume talks with the Russian government on terms for the export via Chechnya of Azerbaijani oil. An interim agreement on transit tariffs signed last September expired on 31 December. LF OFFICIALS VOW TO STAND GROUND ON ROSNEFT ACTION... Acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov on 14 April said potential buyers of the oil company Rosneft will not be able to persuade the government to change the terms of the auction. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Nemtsov said some people are "walking around the White House," or government headquarters, trying to bargain down the starting price for a 75 percent stake in Rosneft. He said that although attempts by potential buyers to save money are understandable, the government will not budge from the minimum bid of some $2.1 billion, plus an additional $400 million in investment commitments. On 10 April, acting Prime Minister Kirienko also ruled out any change in the terms for the Rosneft auction. A winner is to be announced in late May. LB ...BUT COMPANY OFFICIAL THINKS PRICE IS TOO HIGH. Aleksandr Putilov, chairman of the Rosneft board of directors, warned on 10 April that the government's asking price for the Rosneft stake is unrealistic, given the current political instability in Russia and low oil prices on world markets, ITAR-TASS reported. Putilov said the Rosneft stake could have been sold for $2.5 billion to $3 billion last December but that the terms of the auction no longer correspond to "the current situation on the market." Putilov also predicted that if the auction does not take place in May, further attempts to sell a stake in the company later this year will attract bids of no more than $1 billion. In recent weeks, several potential investors have expressed qualms about bidding for Rosneft under the current terms of the auction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 7 April 1998). LB YELTSIN WARNS BEREZOVSKII. Yeltsin has warned the businessman Boris Berezovskii that he may "drive him out of the country" if Berezovskii does not stop trying to influence the formation of the government behind the scenes, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 14 April. Unnamed government sources say that during a meeting with a group of cosmonauts the previous day, Yeltsin said he had issued the warning in a telephone conversation with Berezovskii. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii and presidential Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev asked those present to keep quiet about Yeltsin's remarks, but the story was leaked. ("Kommersant-Daily" and "Moskovskii komsomolets" published similar accounts on 15 April.) Berezovskii, a billionaire, was a key financial backer of Yeltsin's re- election campaign in 1996 and has recently described himself as an "adviser" to Yumashev. His business empire includes a share in the airline Aeroflot, whose top executive is Yeltsin's son-in-law. LB KIRIENKO, STEPASHIN CALL FOR TRUTH IN CRIME STATISTICS. Acting Prime Minister Kirienko and acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin have called on police to stop "whitewashing" crime statistics by not registering crimes that are difficult to solve, Russian news agencies reported on 14 April. Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has said that practice is widespread (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998) At a Moscow conference with high-ranking law enforcement officials, Stepashin demanded an "objective picture of crime" and said police will not be judged according to statistics showing fewer registered offenses. Kirienko charged that law enforcement bodies have waged an ineffective battle against crime, even though, he claimed, there are more police officers now than during the Soviet era. Kirienko also accused the Interior Ministry of having been "carried away with enhancing the functions of interior troops at the expense of criminal police and investigation." Last month, officials announced plans to downsize the Interior Ministry troops. LB OFFICIALS TO INVESTIGATE BREAKUP OF STUDENT DEMONSTRATION. Interior Ministry officials and members of three Duma committees will investigate the circumstances surrounding the breakup of a student demonstration in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast, on 14 April, ITAR-TASS reported. According to NTV and Russian news agencies, some 3,000 students were protesting government plans to cut funding for education and impose greater financial burdens on students. After an authorized rally ended, the students marched to the oblast administration building, where they were encircled by riot police. In the ensuing confrontation, some students threw bottles and ice at police and at the administration building, while police clubbed some students and threw others down the stairs of the building. Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel said he was "shocked and aggrieved" by the police action. Student rallies that took place the same day in other Russian cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Tula, passed without incident. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN LEADERSHIP WILL NOT OPPOSE GAMSAKHURDIA'S REBURIAL. Georgian presidential spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze said on 14 April that there are no obstacles to reburying Zviad Gamsakhurdia in Georgia if the former president's family requests such a reburial, Interfax reported. Gamsakhurdia, who committed suicide in late December, 1993, is buried in Djohar-gala. Adjar parliamentary speaker Aslan Abashidze told journalists in Batumi on 13 April that Gamsakhurdia's reburial in Tbilisi would be an appropriate step toward the process of national reconciliation espoused by current President Shevardnadze after Gamsakhurdia supporters abducted four UN observers in western Georgia in February. LF REVIVAL FACTION THREATENS TO BOYCOTT GEORGIAN ELECTIONS. Also on 13 April, Aslan Abashidze warned that the Revival faction that represents Adjaria's interests within the Georgian parliament will not participate in the 1999 Georgian parliamentary elections if his proposals aimed at ensuring democratic elections are not adopted, Caucasus Press reported. Earlier this month, the Revival faction had demanded that a representative of Adjaria be elected Georgian deputy parliamentary speaker. That demand further strained relations between Adjaria and the central Georgian leadership. All 24 deputies from the Revival faction traveled to Batumi on 14 April for talks with Abashidze. LF GEORGIAN ENERGY MINISTER RESIGNS. In his weekly radio address on13 April, Shevardnadze announced he has accepted the resignation of Energy Minister David Zubitashvili following a parliamentary investigation into allegations of corruption, Caucasus Press reported. Electricity continues to be rationed in Georgia, despite substantial investments in that sector in recent years. LF BELGIAN PREMIER VISITS AZERBAIJAN. Meeting in Baku on 14 April, Jean-Luc Dehaene and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev signed three cooperation agreements, Turan reported. They also discussed the possible expansion of the Belgian oil company Petrofina's participation in Azerbaijan's oil sector. Petrofina already has a 10 percent stake in the consortium to develop the Lenkoran-Deniz and Talysh-Deniz fields and reportedly hopes to acquire a 5 percent stake in the Kyurdashi field. But an unnamed Azerbaijani government source told Interfax that Belgian oil interests in Azerbaijan could be negatively affected by the resolution passed last month by the Belgian parliament recognizing the 1915 Armenian genocide. Dehaene, for his part, told journalists in Baku on 13 April that the Belgian government "does not espouse" the parliamentary resolution. LF SIX RUSSIAN SERVICEMEN DIE IN TRAINING ACCIDENT IN TAJIKISTAN. On the eve of a training exercise in southwestern Tajikistan an armored personnel carrier was destroyed, killing six soldiers and injuring 15 others, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 14 April. It is unclear if the vehicle struck a land mine or simply overturned. Russia's 201st division is to hold exercises with Tajik troops on 15-16 April at a site 150 kilometers from Dushanbe. Meanwhile, the investigation continues into the cause of the crash of a Su-25 combat aircraft on 11 April, in which both pilots were killed. It was initially thought the plane crashed into a hill, but RFE/RL correspondents report investigators are looking into the possibility that the plane strayed over an artillery range during firing practice and was hit by a shell. BP TURKISH PRIME MINISTER VISITS KYRGYZSTAN. Mesut Yilmaz met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev and Prime Minister Kubanychbek Jumaliev in Bishkek on 14 April, RFE/RL correspondents and Kyrgyz Radio reported. The two sides signed agreements on cooperation between customs services, forestry agencies, and securities markets. Yilmaz said the last agreement allows the securities of one country to enter the market of the other. But he noted that the lack of an agreement on avoiding double-taxation is likely to prevent Turkish investors in from entering the Kyrgyz market. BP OSCE CHAIRMAN MEETS WITH TURKMEN PRESIDENT. Bronislaw Geremek, the Polish foreign minister and chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 14 April, ITAR-TASS reported. The two discussed methods of accelerating democratic and peacemaking processes in Central Asia. Geremek stressed that Turkmenistan, as a neutral country, could play a role "in the formation of a future architecture of European security." Geremek also met with members of the Turkmen parliament and visited the Institute of Democracy and Rights. BP END NOTE THE POLITICAL ENDS OF RUSSIAN ECONOMIC ADVICE by Paul Goble Even as Moscow applies economic pressure to Latvia, Russian officials are once again seeking to use economic arguments to promote Moscow's political influence over the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Last week, a spokesman for the Russian Ministry for Relations with the CIS Countries suggested that reversing the decline in trade turnover among those countries is the key to restarting their economic growth. Deputy Minister Marat Khasmutdinov noted that overall trade turnover among the CIS countries was down 10 percent in 1997, following similar decreases after the collapse of the USSR. He said that such trade now amounted to only 6 percent of the CIS's total GDP, down from 21 percent in 1992. Only by increasing trade, he concluded, can those countries deal with their current economic slump. On the face of it, such arguments are plausible; after all, an expansion in foreign trade has often helped power economic growth. But there are three reasons why the countries involved are unlikely to take such arguments seriously, even if Western commentators find them attractive. First, the decline in trade turnover among the former Soviet republics belonging to the CIS is not the primary cause of their economic distress. And reversing that decline would not necessarily be the primary cause of their recovery. Indeed, such a change might impede further economic reform. It is certainly the case that dislocations in trade following the collapse of the USSR had an impact on the economic situation of the 12 member states of the CIS. When the Soviet Union fell apart, enterprises and ministries on the territory of each of the 12 countries suddenly had to seek new partners to obtain raw materials and spare parts as well as new markets to sell their own products. But whatever impact that process had on their economic growth, an even greater role was played by the shift toward a free market in many of those countries, the collapse of political authority, and the impact that uncertainty about those two processes had on both foreign and domestic investment. Second, the CIS itself has little prospect of becoming the most relevant trade organization for most of the countries that are currently its members. On the one hand, most have more natural trade partners beyond its borders. Moscow managed the Soviet economy in such a way as to promote the integration of its empire into a single state, cutting off the republics from most foreign trade and creating chains of economic activity that could be described only as irrational. In many cases, individual republics could have made far more by selling their products abroad than they did by providing them to Moscow. And few of them could have foreseen the effect their past dependence on Moscow for determining prices and patterns of trade would have on their ability to make their own way after the collapse of the USSR. On the other hand, the CIS is increasingly becoming more a Russian claim than a genuine reality. Since its creation in December 1991, the CIS has adopted some 800 agreements, very few of which have been approved by all the members or implemented even when they are approved. As a result, and whatever the advocates of the CIS say in its defense, the commonwealth is simply not the most important actor in either the economic or political lives of its member states. Indeed, an increasing number of the leaders of those countries have indicated that they remain members only because of the likelihood of a sharp Russian reaction should they leave. Third, such arguments obscure the fundamental difference between economic integration and economic reintegration. As the Soviet Union approached its end, President Mikhail Gorbachev and his supporters routinely pointed to developments in the EU, arguing that integration rather than disintegration was the order of the day. Russian officials are again making such claims, but those arguments are unlikely to impress many because they represent a confusion between integration and reintegration. Integration is a natural process, reflecting both individual national interests and a level of self-confidence that would allow countries to yield some of their sovereignty for other gains. Reintegration, particularly in this context, is about the forced remarriage of countries that have only recently completed their divorce. Even before all the CIS member countries of the CIS can feel confident about their status, some Moscow officials are advocating that in the name of economic interests, those countries yield some of the sovereignty that still alludes them. But the reactions of the non-Russian countries to such proposals in the past suggest that most of those states will view such arguments for what they almost certainly are: a political program to expand Moscow's influence rather than a genuinely economic one intended to benefit them all. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO RETRIEVE BACK ISSUES VIA EMAIL (1) Send an email to email@example.com with the letters "ls" as the subject or body of the message. This will retrieve a list of available files. 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