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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 80 Part I, 27 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 80 Part I, 27 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 Headlines, Part I * KIRIENKO WORKS ON FORMING NEW GOVERNMENT * LEBED TO ENTER KRASNOYARSK RUNOFF WITH 10 PERCENT LEAD * SHEVARDNADZE DISMISSES DEFENSE MINISTER End Note: DUMA RELENTS, APPROVES KIRIENKO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA KIRIENKO WORKS ON FORMING NEW GOVERNMENT. Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko is to hold final consultations with State Duma deputies on 27 April to discuss the formation of the new cabinet. In an interview with Russian Television (RTR) on 26 April, Kirienko said he will submit his recommendations to President Boris Yeltsin on 28 April and the first cabinet appointments will be announced soon after. Yeltsin has the final say over ministerial appointments. Kirienko told RTR that he hopes to establish "constructive cooperation" with the Duma and to avoid "witch hunts" or "retaliation" in relations between the legislative and executive branches. He also confirmed that he will recommend some Duma deputies for cabinet posts, adding that those with the right professional qualifications will be nominated "regardless of which political parties or [Duma] factions they belong to, and regardless of how those factions voted" on his candidacy for prime minister (see also "End Note"). LB MOST POLITICIANS HAIL KIRIENKO CONFIRMATION. Most leading Russian politicians breathed a sigh of relief after the Duma confirmed Kirienko on 24 April. In a televised address, Yeltsin described the vote as a "victory of reason over emotion," and "an understanding that we should keep the political balance and let the government work normally." Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev also praised the Duma deputies for allowing all state institutions to continue to function. (If the Duma had rejected Kirienko a third time, Yeltsin would have been obliged to dissolve the Duma and call new parliamentary elections within four months.) In contrast, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said his faction's deputies voted three times "against bribes, pressure, and the decision" to nominate Kirienko, ITAR-TASS reported. Yavlinskii added that Kirienko's program is a "dead end" and argued that "the government is just an appendage of the presidential administration." LB WILL COMMUNISTS WHO VOTED FOR KIRIENKO BE EXPELLED? Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has told Interfax and NTV that his party will consider expelling members who voted for Kirienko on 24 April. The party's Central Committee instructed Communist Duma deputies to oppose Kirienko and to boycott the vote if it were held by secret ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 1998). Zyuganov, who advocated an open vote on Kirienko's candidacy, also described the final ballot on the acting prime minister as "dishonest." It is impossible to know exactly how many Communist Duma deputies broke ranks. Interfax quoted sources close to Zyuganov as saying that there were 12 defectors. But on 26 April, NTV estimated that approximately 40 Communist deputies voted for Kirienko. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Duma deputy Aleksei Podberezkin have admitted that they were among the members of the Communist faction who voted to confirm Kirienko. LB ZYUGANOV BLASTS POLITICAL RIVALS. Speaking to Interfax on 25 April, Zyuganov sharply criticized the leaders of other major Duma factions. He said the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia's support for Kirienko demonstrated that party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky is a "direct puppet of the Russian president." He also predicted that the Our Home Is Russia movement will "disintegrate" and do poorly in the next parliamentary and presidential elections. Both the LDPR and Our Home Is Russia Duma factions voted unanimously for Kirienko. Zyuganov also had harsh words for Yabloko leader Yavlinskii, whom he called a "false opposition member and opportunist." Yavlinskii has frequently said the same about Zyuganov, noting that only Yabloko has voted unanimously against many important government policies, such as the 1998 budget. LB LUZHKOV WARNS KIRIENKO AGAINST 'RADICAL-LIBERAL' POLICIES. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov says the Moscow city government will support Kirienko as long as the new prime minister supports domestic industry and does not follow the "radical- liberal" economic policies advocated by Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, Interfax reported on 25 April. Luzhkov strongly supported Kirienko's nomination after he and Kirienko signed an agreement on the transfer of a controlling stake in a major car manufacturer to the Moscow city government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1998). The Moscow mayor has long been a vocal critic of Gaidar and former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, saying their "monetarist" policies were destroying Russian industry. LB LEBED TO ENTER KRASNOYARSK RUNOFF WITH 10 PERCENT LEAD. Preliminary results show that former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed gained 45 percent of the vote in the first round of the Krasnoyarsk Krai gubernatorial election on 26 April, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Incumbent Governor Valerii Zubov gained 35 percent and will face Lebed in a runoff election tentatively scheduled for 17 May. Duma deputy Petr Romanov, the Communist Party's candidate, came in third with 13 percent. Turnout was high at more than 61 percent. Lebed posted his strongest showing in rural areas and small cities, while Zubov outpolled Lebed in the capital city of Krasnoyarsk. An intense campaign against Lebed in the media controlled by krai authorities appears to have backfired. In addition, Lebed has received substantial financial support, especially from the businessman Boris Berezovskii. Zubov is now expected to court Romanov, but the support of the Communist candidate may not be enough to swing the race in his favor. LB CLOSE RACE FOR TOP POST IN KARELIA. Sergei Katanandov, the former mayor of Petrozavodsk, and incumbent Viktor Stepanov will compete in a runoff election for the post of prime minister of the Republic of Karelia, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 27 April. Karelia does not have a presidency, and the prime minister is the republic's top elected official. In the first round on 26 April, Katanandov gained 36 percent of the vote, compared with 34 percent for Stepanov. Katanandov was expected to post a stronger showing, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Karelia. He had the support of the republican branch of Our Home Is Russia and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. The Karelian branch of the Communist Party and directors of large enterprises are backing Stepanov, ITAR-TASS reported. Yabloko candidate Aleksandr Chazhengin finished third with 8.5 percent and may be a kingmaker in the second round. LB IS RUSSIA HELPING INDIA WITH MISSILE DEVELOPMENT? Following an article in the 27 April "New York Times," concerns have again been raised that Russia is exporting military technology. According to that article, which cited unnamed senior U.S. officials, India is developing a sea-launched missile based on technology acquired from Russia. The new "Sagarika" missile, which would likely be launched from a submarine, would have a range of 320 kilometers, sufficient to hit targets well inside Pakistan and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. India already has one Russian-built Kilo- class submarine and is expected to receive another within a few months. ITAR-TASS reported on 30 March that India is considering buying more such submarines. India, meanwhile, insists that it is developing its missile system without outside help. BP OUR HOME IS RUSSIA CARVES OUT NEW NICHE. The Our Home Is Russia (NDR) movement--informally known as the "party of power" when its leader, Viktor Chernomyrdin, was prime minister--held its fifth congress in Moscow on 25 April, Russian news agencies reported. In his address to the congress, Chernomyrdin congratulated his successor as prime minister and said the NDR will not be in opposition to the president or government. However, Chernomyrdin added that his movement will not "be silent when the authorities make mistakes." He advised Kirienko to form a "professional" team. (Within hours of Kirienko's confirmation on 24 April, NDR Duma faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin predicted that at least two NDR members will become government ministers.) Chernomyrdin also called on NDR members to pay special attention to issues such as wage and pension delays, job creation, and social protection for children and pensioners, Interfax reported. LB LDPR HOLDS PARTY CONGRESS. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) re-elected Zhirinovsky as party leader at its eighth congress on 25 April (which was also Zhirinovsky's birthday), Russian news agencies reported. In a message to the congress, Yeltsin said the LDPR has "played a significant part in establishing political pluralism" in Russia. The president also said Zhirinovsky's party has "provided political support for implementation of decisions that were crucial for the country" and "devotes much attention to foreign policy issues and protection of the civil rights of our compatriots abroad." Zhirinovsky's behavior has often sparked scandals both on the Duma floor and outside the chamber (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February and 13 March 1998). However, the LDPR usually votes with the government on important issues such as the budget. Most recently, the LDPR unanimously supported Kirienko's nomination for prime minister on 24 April. LB RUSSIAN ARMS MONOPOLY DENIES HUGE FINANCIAL LOSSES. Rosvooruzhenie's press service issued a statement on 24 April denying allegations that the company has lost $10 billion since the sacking of former director Aleksandr Kotelkin in late August 1997, Interfax reported. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky made those allegations while addressing the Duma earlier that day. Kotelkin's successor, Yevgenii Ananev, announced last week that Rosvooruzhenie exported arms worth $2.5 billion in 1997 and plans to sell arms worth $3.5 billion to 58 countries in 1998. LF ANOTHER SUSPECT ARRESTED IN KHOLODOV CASE. Law enforcement authorities on 24 April arrested a third suspect in the October 1994 murder of "Moskovskii komsomolets" journalist Dmitrii Kholodov, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 April. The Prosecutor-General's Office has not released the new suspect's name, but Vladimir Kazakov, who heads the department in the Prosecutor-General's Office on investigating high-profile cases, told ITAR-TASS on 27 April that the latest person to be arrested is a civilian. Two former officers who served in the Airborne Troops were arrested in the Kholodov case in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 23 February 1998). Kholodov was investigating alleged military corruption when he was killed by a booby-trapped briefcase. LB RUSSIAN PUBLISHING HOUSE SHELVES RUSHDIE TRANSLATION. Konstantin Tublin, one of the owners of the St. Petersburg Limbus Publishing House, announced on 24 April that he has abandoned plans to publish a Russian translation of Salman Rushdie's controversial novel "Satanic Verses," Interfax reported. Several Russian Muslim leaders had warned the previous day that the proposed publication was "an insult" to Russia's Muslims and could provoke a violent retaliation against the publisher (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April, 1998). Tublin argued that it is "abnormal" for writer, translator, or publisher to be sentenced to death over a book. He called on Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to help achieve "a civilized settlement" to the controversy. LF CHECHEN-DAGESTANI CONGRESS ELECTS BASAEV. A 26 April congress of the Chechen and Dagestani peoples in Djohar-gala (formerly Grozny) selected Chechen Prime Minister Shamil Basaev as its chairman, ITAR-TASS reported. Sponsored by Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov's Islamic Nation movement, which advocates the annexation by Chechnya of several raions of Dagestan, the congress called for strengthening "the unity of the peoples" of the North Caucasus. Addressing delegates, Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov said that the congress's main aim is "to consolidate Islam in Chechnya and to spread it throughout the Caucasus." LF/PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA SHEVARDNADZE DISMISSES DEFENSE MINISTER. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze announced on 27 April that he will call a special session of the Georgian Security Council and will accept the resignation of Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi reported. Observers believe Shevardnadze initiated the defense minister's removal. In a radio interview broadcast on 27 April, Shevardnadze cited many "mistakes" made recently by Nadibaidze, noting by way of example that two military planes were not able to accompany him to a 26 April meeting in Trabzon with his Azerbaijani and Turkish counterparts (see below). He also charged that a Defense Ministry tank unit failed to close off the main roads to Tbilisi on 9 February, allowing terrorists who nearly assassinated Shevardnadze to escape. According to RFE/RL's correspondent, Nadibaidze was considered among the most pro-Russian officials in Shevardnadze's circle. His removal comes before the summit of CIS presidents scheduled for 29 April in Moscow. LB RUSSIA WARNS AGAINST PLANNED GEORGIAN PROTEST. The Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement saying the 28 April mass protest planned by the youth wing of the Union of Citizens of Georgia on the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia is "a new big provocation," ITAR- TASS reported on 25 April. The protesters are to demand the redeployment throughout Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion of the CIS peacekeeping force currently stationed along the border. They argue that this measure is needed to expedite the repatriation of Georgians forced to flee the district during the 1992-1993 war. The Russian statement claimed that the Georgian government ignored earlier requests to put an end to "inadmissible" acts of violence against the peacekeepers. Also on 25 April, one person was killed and three injured in an exchange of fire between Abkhaz and Georgians in Gali, according to ITAR-TASS. And in a related development, the Georgian Foreign Ministry on 27 April said Tbilisi will not raise the issue of the withdrawal of peacekeepers at the upcoming CIS summit. LF/PG GEORGIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS DATA ON OUTMIGRATION. Shevardnadze on 25 April denied that up to 1.5 million people have left Georgia in recent years in search of employment, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the number does not exceed 300,000-350,000. Caucasus Press on 24 April cited the figure of 1.5 million, which, it said, was based on data released at a government session earlier that day. LF AZERBAIJANI, GEORGIAN, TURKISH PRESIDENTS MEET. Heidar Aliev, Shevardnadze, and Suleyman Demirel met in the Black Sea town of Trabzon on 26 April to discuss trilateral cooperation and construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil. They planned to focus on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process as well, AFP reported, citing "Azadlyg." The three presidents also attended a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of the Deriner hydro-electric project on the Chorokhi River south of the Turkish-Georgian frontier. Georgian ecologists have protested the proposed construction of the 200-meter high dam, claiming it will result in the mass erosion of Georgia's Black Sea beaches and the flooding of coastal areas (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 7, 14 April 1998). LF IRANIAN AMBASSADOR REITERATES STANCE ON CASPIAN. Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Mehdi Safari has affirmed that his country still opposes the Russian-Kazakh proposal to divide the bed of the Caspian Sea into national sectors, Interfax reported on 24 April. Safari said Tehran believes that each littoral state should have jurisdiction over a 10-mile zone and that the rest of the sea, including the sea bed, water, and surface, should remain common property. He argued that all questions related to the legal status of the sea should be resolved by consensus between all five littoral states. LF ARMENIA MARKS GENOCIDE ANNIVERSARY. President Robert Kocharian and members of the Armenian government on 24 April laid wreaths at a Yerevan memorial to the victims of the 1915 genocide. Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Kocharian confirmed his government's stated intention that in relations with Ankara, it will raise the issue of recognizing the genocide. He denied that the move will harm Armenian-Turkish relations. Kocharian also advocated that an article pledging to achieve recognition of the genocide be included in the Armenian Constitution, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In a 23 April address to mark the anniversary, Kocharian argued that the absence of either recognition of or expressed regret for the genocide contributed to the mass killings of Armenians in Sumgait in 1988 and Baku in 1990. He said that recognition of the 1915 genocide will "advance world peace," Noyan Tapan reported. LF NATURAL DISASTERS ASSAIL TAJIKISTAN. Over a 48-hour period last week, heavy rains resulted in four times the average monthly precipitation in large areas of Tajikistan, cutting off communications to many parts of the country, ITAR-TASS reported. Both heavy rains and a small earthquake on 24 April are being blamed for landslides that have killed at least 15 people. In central Tajikistan's Garm region, a landslide hit the village of Navdi, leaving 12 dead and injuring 15. Damage to crops is likely to be severe. Health officials, meanwhile, are concerned that floods will wash bacteria into the country's water system, resulting in the spread of typhus and cholera. BP KYRGYZ POLICE APPREHEND UZBEK SECURITY OFFICER. Kyrgyz police have taken a Security Service officer into custody after finding more than 3.5 kilograms of narcotics in his car, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 April. The officer was attempting to return to Uzbekistan from Kyrgyzstan's Osh region when a routine inspection at a customs post revealed a briefcase on the back seat filled with heroin and opium. BP END NOTE DUMA RELENTS, APPROVES KIRIENKO by Floriana Fossato Sergei Kirienko, President Boris Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister, was confirmed at the end of last week after being rejected twice earlier this month. As expected, deputies of the State Duma (lower house) decided to cast their ballots in private, using special ballots in an election-style polling booth. This slower method allowed Communist deputies to depart from the Party line against Kirienko, agreed by Party leaders, and to vote without being seeing. Only members of Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction kept their word and refused--as a bloc--to vote. Most other factions were split. Kirienko needed 226 votes to be approved by the 450- member Duma. With a total of 251 deputies backing Kirienko and 25 voting against, the outcome is seen as a clear victory for Yeltsin, who had refused to compromise with the Communist opposition and to offer another candidate. Having waited until the very last moment before acknowledging that Yeltsin would resolutely stick with Kirienko, Communist leaders seem to have lost their opportunity to take part in consultations with the Kremlin on the formation of the new government. Even if the Duma had again rejected Kirienko, Yeltsin would have had the constitutional right to appoint the young technocrat as premier. He would also have had the right to dissolve the Duma and call early elections. That would effectively have paralyzed the adoption of much-needed economic legislation for most of 1998. By contrast, the more pragmatic Federation Council (the upper house), had urged the Duma to confirm Kirienko and avoid plunging Russia into new political and economic uncertainty. The leader of the Our Home is Russia faction, Aleksandr Shokhin, said after casting his ballot that he would meet with Kirienko the same day to discuss cabinet posts. Our Home is Russia is led by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who the day before the vote had said the movement's 67-member parliamentary faction would support Kirienko. Shokhin said that, in his opinion, "at least two representatives" of Our Home is Russia will join the government and that one would possibly even be a deputy prime minister. Russian media noted before the vote that Shokhin, a former economics minister, was hoping to replace acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov in a new government. Most analysts agree that Nemtsov, who originally brought Kirienko to Moscow, is likely to retain a prominent post in the new government. In recent weeks, "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" has led a strong campaign against Kirienko--apparently reflecting the view of Boris Berezovskii, the business magnates who controls the newspaper. Yeltsin is reported to have recently warned the magnate that he should limit his intrigues or leave the country. Berezovskii has denied those reports. However, Kremlin officials said in private conversations with RFE/RL correspondents that they believe unnamed "business interests" had influenced some deputies during the second round of vote, resulting in Kirienko's rejection. Shortly before the third vote on Kirienko's nomination, "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" argued that the appointment of Kirienko might prove a "Pyrrhic victory" for Yeltsin if it prompted unnamed "oligarchs" to become the president's opponents. The newspaper also claimed that since Yeltsin sacked Chernomyrdin's government, Yeltsin has been unable to realize his goal of obtaining an "apolitical government of technocrats" that would better manage the economy. On the same day as the third vote, Russian media controlled by business interests seen as close to Berezovskii ran reports about former Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais's possible appointment at Unified Energy Systems. First Radio Ekho Moskvy and then the commercial NTV television station quoted an unnamed source close to the presidential administration as saying that Yeltsin had assented to the appointment. Both the radio and the television are part of NTV Media Holding, a powerful media conglomerate controlled by Vladimir Gussinskii. The presidential press service immediately "categorically denied" the rumor, and Chubais's spokesman Andrei Trapeznikov told RFE/RL that the reports were "political disinformation" designed to spoil the Duma vote and deter deputies from voting for Kirienko. In contrast, media financed by Oneksimbank, seen as close to Chubais and the so-called "reformist camp," have advocated appointing Chubais to head the electricity- generating monopoly and putting Nemtsov in charge of supervising natural monopolies in the energy and transportation sectors. Chubais's appointment, if confirmed by a meeting of the EES board of directors this month, would be welcomed by investors but would likely be bad news for some influential businessmen and politicians. Most observers agree it would keep Russia's second-largest company and most-traded stock in the hands of the reformist camp, thus giving the company the possibility to control one of the possible strategic sources of financing for the 2000 presidential election. Communist leaders' attempt to try to negotiate Chubais's possible appointment as a main condition for backing Kirienko was most likely a tactical mistake-- because, in the president's eyes, it may have linked the opposition with the "oligarchs." As one unidentified Kremlin official said recently, "Yeltsin is more and more convinced that he himself is a young reformer. After sacking Chernomyrdin and saying he wanted young people in the government to increase the pace of reform, the president is trying to stick exactly to what he said." Skeptics, however, are asking how long Yeltsin will continue supporting the young reformers. He has provided ample proof in the past that his decisions can be most unpredictable. Also, Yeltsin's support will certainly not make it easier for Kirienko to work with a Duma that voted for him above all to maintain its own existence. The author is a Moscow-based RFE/RL correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. 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