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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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

* 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

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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.


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