Logic, n. The act of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human understanding. - Ambrose Bierce
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 76 Part I, 21 April 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 76 Part I, 21 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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Headlines, Part I

* ZYUGANOV SAYS NEW ELECTIONS 'COULD BE USEFUL'

* YELTSIN SPOKESMAN SAYS KURILS ARE NOT HONG KONG

* NIYAZOV IN NEW YORK

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RUSSIA

ZYUGANOV SAYS NEW ELECTIONS 'COULD BE USEFUL.' Communist 
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 21 April that 
his party's faction in the State Duma is "not afraid" of new 
parliamentary elections and will vote against confirming 
acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, NTV reported. The 
Duma Council has scheduled the final vote on Kirienko for 24 
April. If deputies reject his candidacy a third time, the 
constitution stipulates that the president is to dissolve 
the Duma and call new elections. Speaking in Krasnoyarsk, 
where he is supporting the gubernatorial bid of Duma deputy 
Petr Romanov, Zyuganov said new elections "could be useful 
for the country," since, in his view, 90 percent of the new 
Duma deputies would be opponents of the government. LB

BABURIN SAYS COMMUNIST OPPOSITION ONLY FOR SHOW... Duma 
Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin on 20 April accused Zyuganov 
of "imitating a fight" over the confirmation of Kirienko, 
ITAR-TASS reported. Baburin, a member of the Popular Power 
faction, has long criticized the Communists' tactics--in 
particular, their refusal to vote no confidence in the 
government last year and their tacit support of the 1998 
budget. His stance nearly led to a formal split in Popular 
Power earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 
1998). Nikolai Ryzhkov, the leader of the Popular Power 
faction, closely coordinates his strategy with the Communist 
leadership. LB

...BUT OUR HOME IS RUSSIA DEPUTY SAYS THEY'RE SERIOUS. Duma 
First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov of the Our Home Is 
Russia faction says the Duma "is ready for dissolution," 
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 21 April. He told 
journalists that about half of the deputies are already 
"packing their bags" and preparing for new parliamentary 
elections. But Ryzhkov expressed the hope that the Duma will 
approve Kirienko on 24 April and said the acting premier's 
chances for confirmation will be good if the Duma decides to 
vote by secret ballot. In an interview published in 
"Kommersant-Daily" on 21 April, former Prime Minister Viktor 
Chernomyrdin said Russia already has "a hole in the budget" 
and suggested that the country cannot afford to hold new 
parliamentary elections. LB

NEWSPAPER SAYS KIRIENKO'S APPOINTMENT COULD BE 'PYRRHIC 
VICTORY.' "Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued on 21 April that the 
appointment of Kirienko may be a "Pyrrhic victory" for 
President Boris Yeltsin if it provokes unnamed "oligarchs" 
to become the president's opponents. The newspaper claimed 
that events since Yeltsin sacked Chernomyrdin's government 
on 23 March have not realized the president's hope of 
obtaining an "apolitical government of technocrats" that 
would better manage the economy. Instead, the dismissal of 
Chernomyrdin has led to economic "stagnation." "Nezavisimaya 
gazeta" said the president "will not forget the hidden 
opposition [to Kirienko] by the oligarchs" and suggested 
that such conflict could have been avoided if Yeltsin had 
agreed to the demands of big business that Boris Nemtsov not 
remain first deputy prime minister and that Anatolii Chubais 
not be appointed chief executive of the electricity monopoly 
Unified Energy System. Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group 
finances "Nezavisimaya gazeta." LB

YELTSIN SPOKESMAN SAYS KURILS ARE NOT HONG KONG. President 
Yeltsin's spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, said at a 20 
April press conference on Sakhalin Island, that "the Hong 
Kong approach" is not an option for resolving the 
territorial dispute between Russia and Japan over the Kuril 
Islands, Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii was responding to 
questions as to whether Russia is prepared to redraw the 
border to cede the four islands to Japan while continuing to 
administrate them until their handover. Such is reported to 
be the last-minute proposal Hashimoto made to Yeltsin before 
the Russian president returned to Moscow on 19 April. 
Yastrzhembskii traveled to one of the islands, Kunashir, on 
21 April to evaluate the needs of the inhabitants there. He 
said some of the $600 million soon to be released by Japan 
as part of a $1.5 billion credit to build housing for 
Russian military personnel will benefit the people of the 
Kurils. BP

TALBOTT IN MOSCOW. Acting Prime Minister Kirienko assured 
visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in 
Moscow on 20 April that the change of Russian government 
will not affect either Russian-U.S. relations or Russia's 
commitment to reform, Interfax reported. The two men 
discussed preparations for the meeting between the U.S. and 
Russian presidents scheduled to take place in May within the 
framework of the G-8 summit. Talbott also met with Foreign 
Minister Yevgenii Primakov to discuss the situation in 
Kosova. LF

POTANIN CHANGES HATS... Vladimir Potanin announced on 20 
April that he is stepping down as president of Oneksimbank, 
which he founded five years ago, in order to become the head 
of the Interros holding company, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau 
reported. Interros will manage the assets acquired by 
Oneksimbank and its affiliate, including the investment bank 
MFK-Renaissance, several regional banks and insurance 
companies, the Sidanko oil company, the metals giant Norilsk 
Nickel, the Novolipetsk metallurgical factory, and Perm 
Motors. Interros will also include a holding company to 
manage media financed by Oneksimbank: the daily newspapers 
"Russkii telegraf," "Izvestiya" and "Komsomolskaya pravda," 
the business weekly "Ekspert," and several regional 
publications. Potanin is following an example set by several 
other leading Russian bankers. For example, Vladimir 
Gusinskii left the Most Bank to head the Media-Most company 
and Mikhail Khodorkovskii left the Menatep Bank to head the 
Rosprom group. LB

...SAYS COOPERATION WITH BUSINESS RIVALS POSSIBLE. At his 20 
April press conference, Potanin confirmed that Interros and 
its subsidiaries are preparing for major privatization 
auctions, including sales of stakes in the oil company 
Rosneft and the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest, 
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Potanin said Oneksimbank 
and Interros would consider cooperating on future investment 
projects with Boris Berezovskii (head of the LogoVAZ 
empire), the Most group (associated with Vladimir 
Gusinskii), and the SBS-Agro group (headed by Aleksandr 
Smolenskii). Berezovskii and Gusinskii have been bitter 
business rivals of Potanin since last summer, while 
Smolenskii is considered close to Berezovskii. No new spirit 
of cooperation is in evidence, judging by the 21 April 
editions of newspapers financed by Oneksimbank (see below). 
LB

PRO-CHUBAIS MEDIA CAMPAIGN IN WORKS. The radio station Ekho 
Moskvy reported on 20 April that supporters of former First 
Deputy Prime Minister Chubais, including acting First Deputy 
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, are orchestrating a media 
campaign to help secure Chubais's appointment as chief 
executive of Unified Energy System, Russian news agencies 
reported. According to the radio station, Russia's 
Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar on 18 April took part 
in a meeting with representatives of media financed by 
Oneksimbank, at which it was decided to launch a campaign in 
support of Chubais and "to contrast the president with so-
called oligarchs." Ekho Moskvy said journalists from 
"Moskovskii komsomolets" and "Kommersant-Daily" also 
attended that meeting. "Moskovskii komsomolets is considered 
close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, and "Kommersant-Daily" 
has received financing from the bank SBS-Agro. Ekho Moskvy 
is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most company. LB

NEWSPAPERS SLAM BEREZOVSKII. The media campaign reported by 
Ekho Moskvy swung into action on 21 April, when several 
newspapers published allegations that "oligarchs," and 
Berezovskii in particular, are putting pressure on Kirienko 
and Yeltsin in order to influence the new government and its 
policies. "Izvestiya," which is financed by Oneksimbank, 
said Berezovskii and others are displeased that Chubais and 
Nemtsov do not plan to allow oligarchs to control the 
financial flows of major Russian corporations. 
"Komsomolskaya pravda" (also financed by Oneksimbank) went 
further, claiming that Berezovskii tried to "force" his 
choice for prime minister on Yeltsin but that the president 
rebuffed the attempted "blackmail." "Moskovskii komsomolets" 
made similar claims and argued that now "everything depends" 
on whether Yeltsin will stand up to the pressure and wage a 
public war against the oligarchs. LB

OFFICIAL SAYS MOSCOW MEDIA WILL KEEP FINANCIAL PRIVILEGES. 
Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's press secretary Sergei Tsoi says 
media outlets in the capital will be allowed to keep paying 
discounted rates for rent and municipal services, 
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 April. The discounts 
provided by the city government are thought to contribute to 
the generally favorable or neutral coverage of Luzhkov in 
Moscow-based media. Tsoi said "privileges [for the media] 
will be preserved, although it must be determined which 
media are genuinely 'Muscovite' and which are not." Media 
that have criticized the mayor in recent months include 
Russian Public Television and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" (partly 
financed by Boris Berezovskii) and "Russkii telegraf" (owned 
by Oneksimbank). LB

KIRIENKO WARNS OIL COMPANY PRIVATIZATION MAY BE REVERSED. 
During his address to the Duma on 17 April, acting Prime 
Minister Kirienko announced that if the Tyumen Oil Company 
does not meet its obligations toward the Pension Fund, the 
government will demand the return of a major stake in the 
company, Russian news agencies reported. Last July, a firm 
linked to the Alfa group won an auction for a 40 percent 
stake in the Tyumen Oil Company. One condition of that 
auction was meeting a schedule for settling 600 billion old 
rubles ($98 million) in debts to the Pension Fund. Those 
debts were supposed to be paid in March and April 1998, but 
the company is now trying to reschedule payments over the 
next two to three years. Kirienko warned that the government 
will annul last year's auction if the company does not pay 
the Pension Fund by the end of this month. LB

YELTSIN WISHES SERGEEV HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Yeltsin congratulated 
Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 20 April, his 60th 
birthday, and praised his efforts "to improve the situation 
in the armed forces and develop military reform," Russian 
news agencies reported. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 21 April 
that when Sergeev was appointed last May, he was regarded by 
some as a transitional figure. However, he has forged good 
relations with Yeltsin by "not bothering the president with 
his problems," not acting like an independent politician, 
and not quarreling with the heads of the other "power 
ministries." He has been rewarded with the signing of the 
new law on military service, which raises the mandatory 
retirement age from 60 to 65 for officers with the rank of 
colonel-general, army general, or marshal. Yeltsin promoted 
Sergeev to marshal last November. LB

TATAR PRESIDENT DEFENDS CITIZENSHIP LAW. Mintimer Shaimiev 
told Interfax on 20 April that the law on citizenship, 
approved by the republic's parliament in the first reading 
on 15 April, "is in full accordance with international law" 
and has been submitted to the Council of Europe "to check 
that it is irreproachable." The law makes dual (Russian and 
Tatar) citizenship mandatory for all residents of Tatarstan. 
An earlier version of the draft law requiring citizens of 
Tatarstan to renounce Russian citizenship had sparked sharp 
criticism elsewhere in Russia. LF

MOSCOW DISPUTES CHECHNYA'S RIGHT TO APPOINT AMBASSADORS. 
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 
20 April said Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's 
appointment of ambassadors to several foreign countries is 
"a new provocation", ITAR-TASS reported. Nesterushkin said 
the appointments contribute to Chechnya's "self-isolation" 
within the Russian Federation. Spokesmen for Kuwait, Turkey, 
and the United Arab Emirates all disclaimed any knowledge of 
a Chechen envoy's appointment to their countries. 
Maskhadov's press secretary, Mairbek Vachagaev, told 
Interfax that the appointments were made "in strict 
accordance with internationally recognized norms." LF

CHECHEN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER IN BAKU. Shirvani Basaev had 
talks in Baku on 18 April with the state oil company, SOCAR, 
Turan reported on 20 April. The talks focused on possible 
Azerbaijani assistance to Chechnya in restoring its oil 
industry infrastructure and ensuring the safety of the Baku-
Grozny-Tikhoretsk oil export pipeline. The Chechen 
leadership has also requested help from the Council of 
Europe in coping with widespread ecological damage caused by 
private oil refineries operated by former Chechen field 
commanders, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 April. LF

EXPLOSION DESTROYS GAS PUMPING STATION IN DAGESTAN. Members 
of the self-styled Sword of Islam organization blew up a gas 
pumping station in Dagestan's Novolakskii Raion during the 
night of 20-21 April, RFE/RL's North Caucasus correspondent 
reported. The group is demanding the return to Chechen 
jurisdiction of the Novolakskii and Aukh raions. LF

INGUSH PRESIDENT FEARS NEW WAR IN NORTH CAUCASUS. Speaking 
at a press conference in Moscow on 21 April, Ruslan Aushev 
expressed concern that the 16 April assault on a Russian 
military convoy in North Ossetia is part of a deliberate 
attempt either to start a new wave of fighting in the North 
Caucasus or to coerce Russian President Boris Yeltsin to 
impose a state of emergency on Ingushetia, North Ossetia, 
and Chechnya. Aushev believes the attack may have been aimed 
against chief of General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin, who had 
originally planned to travel with the convoy, RFE/RL's 
Moscow bureau reported. LF

POLICE OFFICERS GO ON SHOOTING SPREE IN BURYATIA. Three 
servicemen from a tank unit in Buryatia were fired on and 
one taken hostage by two drunken police officers on 19 
April, ITAR-TASS and the 21 April edition of "Izvestiya" 
reported. The unarmed servicemen were assessing the build-up 
of ice under a bridge when the police officers opened fire 
on them. The officers then took one of the servicemen and a 
local resident hostage, driving off in a stolen car and 
firing indiscriminately. When they pulled over another car, 
the Russian serviceman escaped and alerted his colleagues. 
Members of the tank division shot one of the police 
officers, who is now in a critical condition, while the 
other surrendered. BP

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

NIYAZOV IN NEW YORK. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, 
currently in the U.S. on his first official visit to that 
country, gave a speech at an event sponsored by the Eurasia 
Group and the Council on Foreign Relations on 20 April, 
RFE/RL correspondents reported. Niyazov criticized the U.S. 
for attempting to pressure Turkmenistan into premature 
democratic reforms, saying his country has "its own way of 
political, social, and economic development." He added that 
"democratic and market reforms are a tremendous endeavor 
often accompanied by bloodshed." Responding to charges of 
human rights violations, Niyazov said there are no political 
prisoners in Turkmenistan. Asked about former Foreign 
Minister Avdy Kuliev who was released from detention by 
Turkmen authorities on the evening of 20 April, Niyazov said 
no one has done anything to him. He added that Americans 
have "poor information" about "so-called prisoners of 
conscience" in Turkmenistan. BP

KAZAKH ECONOMY HAS MIXED PROSPECTS. According to an article 
in the 17 April "Russkii Telegraf" Kazakhstan's oil and gas 
industry is off to a good start this year but forecasts are 
poor for year's end. In the first quarter of 1998, oil 
output was 6.67 million tons, up 10 percent on the same 
period in 1997, and gas condensate production was 1.86 
billion cubic meters, a 62.9 percent increase. The newspaper 
says that the decision to halt privatization, first 
announced by President Nursultan Nazarbayev earlier this 
year and again by Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev last 
week, is partly due to falling world prices for both fuels. 
"Russkii Telegraf" estimates that as a result, Kazakhstan 
will lose a total of $10-12 billion by year's end. BP

UZBEK PRESIDENT AGAIN VOICES CONCERN OVER ISLAM. Islam 
Karimov has again warned against the spread of "political 
Islam" in his country and Central Asia, Interfax reported on 
18 April. Commenting on the Islamic Renaissance Party at a 
press conference, Karimov said such a development could put 
Uzbekistan back "dozens of years." He added that the 
training of religious radicals to destabilize the 
governments of the CIS Central Asian states is taking place 
in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. On two previous occasions 
this year, Karimov has said such training is under way in 
Pakistan. BP

UZBEKISTAN TO RECEIVE CREDITS FOR AGRICULTURE. Uzbekistan 
will soon receive more than $60 million in credits from the 
International Finance Corporation, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 
April. The organization, which has close ties with the World 
Bank, will make the credit available for purchasing cotton 
and grain harvesters from the U.S.'s Case Corp. According to 
the Russian news agency, agricultural production accounts 
for 30 percent of Uzbekistan's GDP and 60 percent of the 
country's export profits. The sector also provides work for 
some 40 percent of the force. BP

CHANGES LIKELY IN ARMENIAN FOREIGN POLICY. Introducing newly 
appointed Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian to his staff on 
20 April, Armenian President Robert Kocharian said "a 
powerful department" for relations with the Armenian 
Diaspora will be created within the ministry, Noyan Tapan 
reported. Its head will have the status of deputy minister. 
Oskanian also met on 20 April with visiting Deputy Iranian 
Foreign Minister Morteza Sarmadi, saying the expansion of 
bilateral relations is an Armenian foreign policy priority, 
according to IRAN. Oskanian also called for a further 
exchange of views on a just and peaceful solution to the 
Karabakh conflict. Oskanian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau 
that policy on Karabakh will undergo "definite changes" and 
that "the principles we will maintain are that the 
settlement be comprehensive and without preconditions." LF 

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