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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 73 Part I, 16 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 73 Part I, 16 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 * KIRIENKO PLAYS GOOD COP IN TALKS WITH DUMA * THREE RUSSIAN OFFICERS SHOT DEAD IN INGUSHETIA * ARMENIAN DEPUTY PROPOSES MORATORIUM ON KARABAKH MEDIATION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA KIRIENKO PLAYS GOOD COP IN TALKS WITH DUMA... Acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko announced on 15 April that he has received more than 30 recommendations for cabinet appointments and will consider them all, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. At the same time, he said ministers will be chosen according to their professional capabilities, not their political convictions. On 16 April, Kirienko is to hold consultations with the Communist, Agrarian, and Popular Power State Duma factions. He will need several dozen votes from those factions in order to be confirmed on 17 April. Kirienko is also to meet with the Our Home Is Russia and Russian Regions factions. The acting premier told the U.S. network CNN on 15 April that "we have an understanding with the Duma about the plan we are trying to implement and we now have a constructive relationship with the Duma," Reuters reported. LB ...WHILE SHAKHRAI PLAYS BAD COP. Sergei Shakhrai, Yeltsin's representative in the Constitutional Court, on 15 April predicted that the Duma will confirm Kirienko, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. However, Shakhrai outlined a grim scenario for the Duma if deputies reject Kirienko's candidacy three times. He said Yeltsin would then appoint Kirienko prime minister and dissolve the Duma. If Duma deputies have managed to begin impeachment proceedings, the dissolution of the lower house would be delayed, but only for a few months, Shakhrai argued, explaining that the Supreme Court would soon rule that there were no grounds for impeachment. Yeltsin would then call new parliamentary elections for late September or October. In addition, Shakhrai claimed that Yeltsin could issue a decree changing the electoral procedures to eliminate the proportional representation system currently used to elect half the Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February and 13 March 1998). LB JUDGE SAYS YELTSIN CANNOT CHANGE ELECTORAL RULES. At a 16 April press conference, Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai decisively rejected Shakhrai's argument that new parliamentary elections could be held under different electoral rules, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Baglai noted that an electoral law exists, and although the president objects to some provisions of that law, the constitution does not allow him to change it unilaterally. Article 90 of the constitution prohibits the president from issuing a decree that contradicts a federal law. In an interview with RFE/RL on 15 April, Duma deputy Viktor Sheinis of Yabloko also denied that Yeltsin has the right to introduce new rules for electing the Duma. Sheinis was one of the key authors of the electoral law, which was adopted in 1995. LB COMMUNISTS IN A BIND. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov repeated during a 15 April press conference that the Communist Duma faction will oppose Kirienko's confirmation on 17 April, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He also said the Duma has called for an emergency session of the Federation Council to be convened in order to persuade Yeltsin to alter his choice of prime minister. However, "Izvestiya" on 16 April published a letter to Zyuganov from Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev and Volgograd Oblast Governor Nikolai Maksyuta, who argued that Kirienko should be confirmed for the sake of political stability. (Tuleev supported Zyuganov's 1996 presidential bid, and Maksyuta was elected governor later that year with Communist backing.) According to Zyuganov, it was appeals from regional leaders that persuaded some Communist deputies to support the 1998 budget in the fourth and final reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1998). LB OFFICIALS DENY LATEST RUMOR ABOUT YELTSIN'S HEALTH. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 15 April vigorously denied a rumor that Yeltsin had again been taken to hospital, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin was spending the day at his residence outside Moscow, adding that the president's doctors say his upcoming trip to Japan will not adversely affect his health. Acting Prime Minister Kirienko also denied the rumor, saying he spoke to Yeltsin many times by telephone on 14 and 15 April and can confirm that his health is robust. Citing unnamed Kremlin sources, "Russkii telegraf" reported on 16 April that the rumor about Yeltsin was first reported by the Otkrytoe Radio station and a little-known radio station attached to the news agency NSN. Otkrytoe Radio is rumored to be financed by Gazprom, and NSN is reportedly financed by the bank SBS-Agro. LB DECREE SEEKS ADDITIONAL REVENUE FROM SHARE DIVIDENDS. Yeltsin on 16 April signed a decree ordering partly state- owned companies to pay dividends to the state as well as to other shareholders, ITAR-TASS reported. Previously those companies were allowed to keep the share of the dividends that would otherwise have gone to state coffers. Acting Prime Minister Kirienko said the decree will "substantially increase" budget revenues. He did not specify the amount of the projected additional revenues, saying "first we will receive [the money], then we will count it." The 40 percent state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom and the electricity utility Unified Energy System, in which the state owns a majority of shares, are among the firms affected by the new decree. Last year, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov repeatedly complained that the state did not receive its share of Gazprom profits and dividends. LB DUMA OVERRIDES VETO OF LAW ON ELECTRICITY GIANT. The Duma on 15 April overrode a presidential veto of a law that would regulate the distribution of shares in Unified Energy System (EES), ITAR-TASS reported. The law would require the state to hold at least a 51 percent stake in the utility and would limit foreign ownership to 25 percent. Currently the state owns some 52-53 percent, and foreign shareholders hold an estimated 28 percent. Yeltsin vetoed the law last July, in part because the government plans to reduce its stake in the utility to 50 percent plus one share. If the Federation Council also overrides his veto, he will be forced to sign the law. "Kommersant-Daily" argued on 16 April that the law would put EES into a "legal vacuum," since foreigners already own more shares than the law would allow. LB YELTSIN SIGNS TROPHY ART LAW. Yeltsin on 15 April signed the trophy art law and simultaneously filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court challenging the content of that law, Russian news agencies reported. Shakhrai, the president's representative in the court, told journalists that while the court case is pending, the contested provisions of the law cannot go into effect, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 April. The court is not expected to hear the case until late 1998. According to the 15 April edition of "Segodnya," the president's lawyers will argue that 11 provisions of the trophy art law violate the Russian Constitution and 14 violate the UN Charter. In addition, they will claim that the procedures used to adopt the law involved six violations of the constitution. LB MOSCOW ACQUIRES CONTROLLING STAKE IN CAR FACTORY. The Moscow city government has acquired from the federal government a 59.07 percent stake in the automobile factory Moskvich, Interfax reported on 15 April. The planned transfer was announced last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 1997), but the handover was delayed by disagreements over who would pay nearly $600 million in company debts accrued from foreign loans, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 April. The newspaper said the agreement signed by acting Prime Minister Kirienko and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov is a victory for the city, which will assume only $157 million of the debt from foreign loans. In addition, Moscow has guaranteed that over the next four years Moskvich will pay debts of of 497 million rubles ($81 million) to the federal budget and 130 million rubles to the Pension Fund, Interfax reported. Some 751 million rubles in penalties for tax arrears will be rescheduled. LB SPECIALIST CRITICIZES NEW NARCOTICS LAW... Vladimir Ivanov, a specialist on drug abuse, has criticized the law on narcotics that went into effect on 15 April, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL correspondents reported. The law was adopted after consultations with "more than 1,000 specialists" and after the examination of comparable laws in 118 countries, according to the news agency. However, specialists such as Ivanov disagree with some of the law's provisions. In particular, Ivanov said the section requiring drug users to be treated only in state clinics or hospitals is pointless as the "effectiveness of drug treatment in clinics is zero." Ivanov claims 95 percent of those treated in such clinics are back on drugs within two days. He added that most drug users no longer even consider clinics and hospitals an option. BP ...WHILE DUMA DEPUTY ALSO COMPLAINS. Valerii Borshchev of the Yabloko faction told RFE/RL on 15 April that Article 46 of the new law, which prohibits publishing information about narcotics, "makes no sense" in its current wording. That article is aimed at concealing from the general public information about manufacturing drugs. Noting that a key to combating drug use is the availability of information on the physical and social consequences, Borshchev said such information would also fall under the ban. Borshchev said in his opinion the new law is not so much against drug trafficking but rather is designed to punish "those who suffer from drug addiction." BP DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA SUFFERS ANOTHER SPLIT. The three co- leaders of the party and movement Democratic Russia--Lev Ponomarev, Gleb Yakunin, and Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova--have decided to pursue separate political paths. At a congress in Moscow on 11-12 April, Ponomarev and Yakunin announced that they are quitting the Democratic Russia party, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 April. They have asked Starovoitova to resign from the Democratic Russia movement. Ponomarev told the newspaper that the movement will join "the democratic opposition camp, whereas Starovoitova wants to be loyal to the authorities" and cooperate with Our Home Is Russia and Yegor Gaidar's party, Russia's Democratic Choice. Starovoitova told the newspaper last month that Democratic Russia was divided between a "liberal wing" (her supporters) and a "more left-leaning" or social-democratic wing. After the April congress, she told "Kommersant-Daily" that Ponomarev and Yakunin had trouble accepting a woman as party leader. LB DIVIDE HAS DEEP ROOTS. Democratic Russia played an important role in bringing Yeltsin to power and was one of Russia's most influential political movements of the early 1990s, but it suffered many defections after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as members could not agree on a political agenda. In particular, members have disagreed on economic policies and on whether to continue to support Yeltsin as the number of veteran Democratic Russia activists in the president's circle has declined. During the campaign before the December 1995 Duma elections, the movement threw its support behind Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko movement--the democratic opposition. However, a sizable group within Democratic Russia favored an alliance with Gaidar's party, which opposed the war in Chechnya but otherwise backed Yeltsin. LB TATARSTAN ADOPTS LAND CODE, CITIZENSHIP LAW. The Tatar parliament on 15 April adopted in the third and final reading a land code permitting the free sale and purchase of land, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The code provides for state control over the sale of land to foreigners. Addressing the parliament, President Mintimer Shaimiev argued that "we will never reach a democratic civil society until the population acquires the right to the ownership of land." Saratov Oblast adopted legislation in November 1997 allowing the sale and purchase of agricultural land, but not by foreigners. Also on 15 April, the parliament adopted in the first reading a controversial law on citizenship that provides for dual (Russian and Tatar) citizenship. Some Russian officials have objected that the provision violates the Russian Federation Constitution. The Tatar law also allows persons whose parents or grandparents were born in Tatarstan to claim citizenship. LF THREE RUSSIAN OFFICERS SHOT DEAD IN INGUSHETIA. Russian army general Viktor Prokopenko and two colonels were killed on 16 April when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their jeeps with rocket-propelled grenades. Two drivers were also killed and several other senior officers injured in the attack, which took place in Ingushetia's Malgobek Raion close to the border with North Ossetia, RFE/RL's North Caucasus correspondent reported. The previous day, 10 Russian border guards were abducted in the Ingushetian capital, Nazran. In response to a personal request by the commander of the Caucasus Frontier Troops, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev promised all possible assistance in apprehending those responsible for the abductions. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN DEPUTY PROPOSES MORATORIUM ON KARABAKH MEDIATION. Hovannes Igitian, chairman of the Armenian parliamentary Commission on International Affairs, suggested on 15 April that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group should suspend its efforts to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict until after the Azerbaijani presidential elections in October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan, Igitian accused the OSCE of trying to impose a "quick settlement" whereby Nagorno-Karabakh will be returned to Azerbaijani control. Igitian is a member of the leading minority Hanrapetutiun parliamentary faction, which supported former President Levon Ter-Petrossian. LF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES NEW DRAFT ELECTION LAWS. Lawmakers on 15 April began debating three draft election codes, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The drafts are composed of separate laws on the procedure for electing the parliament, president, and local councils. The first draft, prepared by the Commission on State and Legal Affairs, provides for 50 of the total 131 deputies to be elected in single-seat constituencies and the remainder from party lists. The other two drafts, authored by former State and Legal Affairs Commission chairman Vigen Khachatrian and the Communist faction, put the ratio at 30:101. The drafts also differ in their provisions on the composition of electoral commissions. The final assessment by the OSCE of last month's pre-term Armenian presidential elections called for a "fundamental review" of the existing election legislation, which, it said, "does not guarantee transparency in the election process." LF TURKISH CHIEF OF STAFF IN BAKU ... Meeting in Baku on 14 April with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, General Hakki Karadayi said that the Karabakh conflict must be resolved in such a way that Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is preserved. Aliev termed the conflict a threat to Turkey. The two men also discussed the possibility of deploying NATO forces to protect oil pipelines in the Transcaucasus, Interfax reported. Karadayi praised Azerbaijan as "the star of the future in economic, commercial, and military terms," the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 16 April. He refused, however, to comment on reports that Azerbaijan is seeking to buy F-16 aircraft from Turkey, according to Turan. LF ...AND TBILISI. Karadayi held talks in Tbilisi the next day with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze, Caucasus Press reported. The talks focused on Turkish financial and technical support for the Georgian military and on the ongoing training program Turkey is offering Georgian army officers. Shevardnadze and Karadayi noted their "common interests" in exporting Caspian oil and gas via Georgia and creating a regional security system. LF OSCE CHAIRMAN VISITS ALMATY... Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, the chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 15 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Geremek said he appreciated Kazakhstan's efforts to promote stability in Central Asia, particularly in Tajikistan. Nazarbayev replied he was disappointed the OSCE did not play a more active role during the five-year Tajik civil war. He added that the OSCE pays too little attention to Central Asia in general. Meeting with Foreign Minister Kasymjomart Tokayev, Geremek said the understanding reached between Boris Yeltsin and Nazarbayev on the division of the Caspian Sea and its resources "largely eliminates apprehensions" that the sea will cause problems in the region, Interfax reported. BP ...AS DOES BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER. Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene was also in Almaty on 15 April to meet with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, ITAR-TASS reported. At a press conference, they said an agreement has been signed on avoiding double taxation. Dehaene said the agreement paves the way for Belgian investment of up to $1 billion within the next few years. There are currently seven Kazakh-Belgian joint ventures including Almaty Power Consolidated, the company responsible for supplying energy to the former Kazakh capital. ITAR-TASS noted that trade between the two countries amounted to $53.5 million in 1997. BP KYRGYZ OFFICIAL WANTS INDEPENDENT AUDIT OF GOLD INDUSTRY. Mamat Aibalaev, the head of Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary commission on corruption in the gold industry, told RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek on 15 April that the government should ask a foreign company to conduct an audit of the industry. A four-member parliamentary commission requested information on the gold industry from the Kumtor joint venture in February but has only just received it. The Kumtor facility had far exceeded its budget in January, while Apas Jumagulov's sudden resignation as premier in March followed media reports alleging that Jumagulov was involved in illegal sales of Kyrgyz gold through a company in Austria. BP 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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