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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 106 Part I, 4 June 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 106 Part I, 4 June 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

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SPECIAL REPORT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES III
A new prime minister has taken office, Boris Berezovsky's
now a CIS official, and the state plans to form a new media
holding company. See our updated media report.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia3/index.html
(English)
http://www.rferl.org/bd/ru/russian/content/reports/rumedia3/
index.html
(Russian)

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Headlines, Part I

* RUSSIAN MARKETS RECOVER FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE DAY

* YASTRZHEMBSKII AGAIN HINTS THAT YELTSIN MAY RUN IN 2000

* BEREZOVSKII MEDIATES IN SUKHUMI

End Note: A RENEWED SOURCE OF NATIONALISM
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RUSSIA

RUSSIAN MARKETS RECOVER FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE DAY...
Russian stock markets recovered for the second day on 3
June, giving the government a breathing space in which to
deal with the country's financial crisis. In an auction of
short-term Treasury bills, the government raised 5.83
billion rubles ($950 million), Russian news agencies
reported. Most observers consider the auction to be a
crucial sign that investor's confidence will soon reappear
following last week's panic. Up for sale were three types of
T-bills, including a seven-day bill, the shortest-ever
issued in Russia. The auction was judged a "moderate
success" by market operators, and leading share prices rose
11 percent, after increasing 12 percent on 2 June, Interfax
reported. The ruble remained stable at 6.15 to the U.S.
dollar on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange. The
Finance Ministry also sold $1.25 billion in Eurobonds to
international investors. FF

...WHILE KIRIENKO PRESSES FOR ACCESS TO EUROPEAN MARKETS. On
a two-day visit to Paris originally scheduled by his
predecessor, Viktor Chernomyrdin, Prime Minister Sergei
Kirienko has met with President Jacques Chirac and Prime
Minister Lionel Jospin. Kirienko said he is visiting France
to press for "equal access to EU markets" rather than to
obtain any "concrete aid," Interfax reported on 3 June.
Kirienko asked that France recognize Russia as a market
economy nation, with all the access to European markets that
status would imply. The following day, he assured French
business representatives that Russia will meticulously meet
its commitments to repaying foreign debts, according to
ITAR-TASS. Interfax reported on 3 June that President Boris
Yeltsin has endorsed Chirac's proposal on developing a
Russian-French automobile construction project. PG/LF

POCHINOK NAMED TO NEW GOVERNMENT POST. Aleksandr Pochinok
has been named head of the government's Department of
Finance and Credit Regulation, Russian news agencies
reported on 3 June. Pochinok was fired last week as head of
the Federal Tax Service and replaced by former Finance
Minister Boris Fedorov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 1998).
On 2 June, Yeltsin sharply criticized tax collection efforts
during April and May and said he fired Pochinok because of
the latter's "inert" work. However, announcing the new
appointment, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko praised
Pochinok as a "high-level expert in his field," according to
ITAR-TASS. In his new post, Pochinok will be in charge of
analyzing and forecasting the government's economic policy.
"Kommersant-Daily" on 4 June reported that Pochinok will
also oversee the tax service. FF

YASTRZHEMBSKII AGAIN HINTS THAT YELTSIN MAY RUN IN 2000...
Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 3 June hinted
again that Yeltsin may seek a third term in the next
presidential election. Yastrzhembskii told Russia's TV-
Center that the issue of Yeltsin's participation in the
election, scheduled for June 2000, "remains open." Yeltsin
has repeatedly said he will "drop out of the election
contest." However, most observers in Moscow argue that the
president's renewed activities since the government's 23
March reshuffle indicate that running again remains an
option and that conflicting statements are aimed at testing
public response. Yastrzhembskii noted Yeltsin's statements
"clearly signal he has not made a final decision." Under the
constitution, an individual may hold the presidency for only
two terms, but Kremlin officials argue that Yeltsin's first
term does not count since it began before the collapse of
the Soviet Union. The Constitutional Court is expected to
rule on the issue later this year. FF

...WHILE BUSINESSMEN SEEM IMPRESSED BY PRESIDENT'S
PERFORMANCE. Some of Russia's financial leaders and
industrial tycoons who met with Yeltsin in the Kremlin on 2
June told "Kommersant-Daily" that they were impressed by the
president's performance during the one-and-a-half-hour
meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1998). Media-Most
Director-General Vladimir Gusinskii said that "for the first
time," he saw that Yeltsin "was completely involved with
economic problems." According to Gusinskii, Yeltsin "does
not listen to opinions but has his own position. This is a
big difference [from the past]." According to Vladimir
Potanin, head of the Interros-Oneximbank group, Yeltsin's
understanding of Russia's current economic crisis "is
absolutely adequate to the situation." And Aleksandr
Smolenskii, chairman of the SBS-Agro bank, suggested that
Yeltsin may have called the so-called oligarchs to the
Kremlin "in order to share responsibility" for Russia's
financial difficulties. FF

YELTSIN POSTPONES MEETING WITH UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT. Although
Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said recent economic problems
were not sufficient to keep him from going to Paris, Boris
Yeltsin cited precisely those difficulties in a letter to
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma seeking a delay in their
informal summit scheduled for later this month. The Russian
president also pointed to the need to travel to various
parts of Russia. PG

MOSCOW CALLS FOR WORLD EFFORT AGAINST PROLIFERATION. First
Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 3 June said that the
international community must move quickly to prevent a
"chain reaction of nuclear testings in South Asia and
beyond," ITAR-TASS reported. Many countries, he suggested,
could quickly become nuclear states if the world does not
take forceful steps to prevent that from happening. Foreign
Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told Interfax the
same day that Russia does not regard India or Pakistan as a
member of the nuclear club. And Russian Atomic Energy
Ministry spokesman Georgii Kaurov told ITAR-TASS that
Russian experts do not believe North Korea has a bomb.
"Izvestiya" on 4 June argued that Russia should propose a
global anti-ballistic missile system under the aegis of the
UN but at the same time ensure that its own theater ABM
system is reliable "in the face of potential regional crises
in the Near East, the Korean peninsula, and southern Asia."
PG

DUMA CLEARS WAY FOR START II HEARINGS. The Duma on 3 June
failed to pass a resolution proposed by Liberal Democratic
Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky calling for the
cancellation of hearings on the ratification of the arms
control accord, Interfax reported. Only 149 deputies voted
for the measure, far short of the 226 needed. Consequently,
the committee hearings remain scheduled for 9 June. In other
parliamentary news, the Duma rejected a bill calling for
cooperation with Taiwan, approved on first reading a law
laying out plans for sweeping military reforms, and passed a
law regulating the legal status of foreigners on Russian
soil. PG

RUSSIA IN COMPLIANCE WITH CFE LIMITS. A team of Greek
military experts have inspected military facilities in the
Moscow military district and found no violations of the
Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported on
3 June. PG

DUMA DENOUNCES YELTSIN MEDIA DECREE. The Duma passed on 3
June a non-binding address to Yeltsin protesting his decree
that would put radio and television broadcasting facilities
under the control of a single state agency, ITAR-TASS
reported. Such a measure, the appeal said, would violate
freedom of speech and make it impossible for opposition
deputies to receive air time either in Moscow or in the
provinces. PG

INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS JOIN PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION.
Three generals have been added to the Russian Security
Council, Interfax reported on 3 June. Lieutenant-General
Vladimir Potapov will oversee the military's general
development. Lieutenant-General Grigorii Rapota of the
Foreign Intelligence Service (FSB) will monitor
international security. And Colonel-General Aleksei
Molyakov, also of the FSB, will deal with internal security.
In other developments, FSB officers Nikolai Petrushev and
Viktor Zorin have been added to the presidential
administration, replacing the heads of the comptroller's
office and the special program board, respectively. PG

GAZPROM MAKES ECONOMIC, POLITICAL MOVES. Russia's gas giant
on 3 June acquired a 13.2 percent stake in the country's
second biggest bank, Inkombank, Russian news agencies
reported. It repeated that it is considering purchasing
Rosneft and announced plans to expand exploration for more
natural gas. Gazprom also cut gas supplies to Yugoslavia
because Belgrade has not paid for gas already supplied and
threatened to cut supplies to Tatarstan as of 8 June for the
same reason. Finally, Gazprom's Moscow offices served as the
venue for continuing conversations among Russian leading
businessmen on how to overcome the country's economic
difficulties. PG/LF

SUPREME COURT HEAD URGES REPEAL OF DEATH PENALTY. Vyacheslav
Lebedev, the chief judge of Russia's Supreme Court, told
Interfax on 3 June that the Duma should abolish the death
penalty. He said that Russia must do so in order to keep its
pledge to the Council of Europe in January 1996. No Russians
have been executed since August 1996, but Russian courts
continue to sentence people to death under existing law, and
nearly 1,000 convicts are still on death row. PG

TAX POLICE HELP PAY WAGE ARREARS TO MINERS. The Federal Tax
Police have transferred nearly 27 million rubles ($4.39
million) to accounts that will allow a Rostov coal concern
to pay back wages to miners there, ITAR-TASS reported on 3
June. The funds were seized in the course of tax
investigations, some of which may lead to indictments,
according to the news agency. The same day, the Russian
government sent funds to pay back wages to miners in the
Kuzbass region. And the Duma passed a non-binding resolution
calling on the executive to consider "raising pay for
workers of public sector organizations." The Duma noted that
past failures to index those wages to inflation means that
almost 98 percent of all such workers have incomes at the
subsistence level or below. PG

WAR GAMES IN DAGESTAN POSTPONED. Military maneuvers
scheduled to take place in Dagestan from 5-7 June (see
"RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 14, 2 June 1998) have
been postponed until July because of the "tense situation"
in the republic, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 June,
quoting an officer of the North Caucasus Military District.
On 21 May, supporters of Union of Muslims of Russia chairman
Nadirshakh Khachilaev temporarily occupied the government
building in Makhachkala to demand the government's
resignation. Elections to the Constitutional Assembly are
scheduled for 7 June. LF

RANSOM DEMANDED FOR UNHCR OFFICIAL. The abductors of Vincent
Cochetel, who was abducted in North Ossetia earlier this
year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 1998), have demanded
$1.5 million for his release, Interfax reported on 3 June.
North Ossetian Interior Ministry officials say Cochetel is
being held hostage in Chechnya. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

BEREZOVSKII MEDIATES IN SUKHUMI... CIS Executive Secretary
Boris Berezovskii held talks in Sukhumi on 3 June with
Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, Interfax reported.
Berezovskii told journalists before the meeting that "vast
potential" for resolving the conflict exists, given that
both Ardzinba and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze
have demonstrated the "political will" to do so. Ardzinba,
for his part, said he is ready to meet with Shevardnadze,
but without preconditions. Shevardnadze has said such a
meeting is contingent on Abkhazia's compliance with the 25
May protocol on a cease-fire and on the return of Georgian
fugitives to Gali Raion. Also on 3 June, the Abkhaz and
Georgian special envoys continued talks in Moscow aimed at
preparing the agenda for an Ardzinba-Shevardnadze meeting.
LF

... AND TBILISI. Following talks with Berezovskii in Tbilisi
later the same day, Shevardnadze said that the CIS executive
secretary's ability to influence the outcome of the conflict
is limited as "the CIS peacekeeping force in the region is
not subordinate to him," Caucasus Press reported.
Shevardnadze added that Berezovskii was appointed to his
present position solely in order to prepare for the CIS fall
summit and that "if even [just] one president has any
complaints to make," Berezovskii will be fired. In Moscow,
Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov hinted
that the CIS peacekeepers will be withdrawn after their
mandate expires on 31 July if there is no political progress
toward a settlement and if they continue to be subjected to
"slander and lies." Georgia has claimed that the
peacekeeping force supplied Abkhaz Interior Ministry troops
with heavy artillery, while Abkhazia says they failed to
curtail the activities of Georgian guerrilla units in Gali.
LF

U.S. TO GIVE AID FOR GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS. Following a
meeting in Tbilisi on 3 June with Shevardnadze, U.S. Special
Envoy to the Newly Independent States Stephen Sestanovich
said the U.S. will give Georgia $3.1 million in aid for the
ethnic Georgians forced to flee their homes in Gali during
the recent fighting. Sestanovich said the replacement of the
CIS peacekeeping force in Gali is impossible without the
written agreement of both Georgia and Abkhazia. (Abkhaz
special envoy Anri Djergenia said on 1 June that Sukhumi
will not request the CIS peacekeepers' withdrawal.)
Sestanovich also said he does not believe a Bosnia-style
peace enforcement operation is appropriate to resolve the
Abkhaz conflict, according to Interfax. LF

KARABAKH PRESIDENT TO ACCEPT PREMIER'S RESIGNATION. Arkadii
Ghukasian told journalists in Stepanakert on 3 June that he
will shortly accept Prime Minister Leonard Petrosian's
resignation, which the latter tendered several weeks ago,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ghukasian said that
Petrosian's decision to resign was prompted by differences
with other cabinet members over economic policies, rather
than by personal friction. Armenian media had claimed that
Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan had pressured
Petrosian to resign because of his own ambition to become
prime minister (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No.
14, 2 June 1998). Ghukasian said that most government
members want him to combine the posts of president and prime
minister, but he has not yet decided whether to do so. LF

KARABAKH DIPLOMACY UPDATE. EU Commissioner for Foreign
Relations Hans van den Broek and U.S. special envoy
Sestanovich met separately with Armenian President Robert
Kocharian in Yerevan on 2-3 June, respectively, to discuss
the OSCE Minsk Group's attempt to mediate a settlement of
the Karabakh conflict, Russian and Armenian agencies
reported. Both officials expressed support for direct talks
between Baku and Stepanakert. Meeting on 30 May in Beirut
with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, French
President Jacques Chirac expressed support for Armenia's
insistence on a "package" peace plan rather than the
"phased" variant proposed last year by the Minsk Group co-
chairman, Noyan Tapan and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported.
Turan on 2 June
quoted Azerbaijani Presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-zade as
hinting that Azerbaijan might accept a "package" peace plan
that preserved the country's territorial integrity. LF

AZERBAIJAN REBUKES FRANCE OVER GENOCIDE RESOLUTION. Meeting
on 3 June with a visiting French government delegation,
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev expressed his displeasure
at the resolution passed on 29 May by the French National
Assembly recognizing the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the
Ottoman Empire, Interfax and Reuters reported. Aliev termed
the French parliament vote "unfair" and reprehensible, given
France's position as one of the OSCE Minsk Group co-
chairmen. He said that the 1992 killing of Azerbaijanis by
Armenians in the village of Khojali similarly constituted
"genocide." LF

KAZAKH COURT UPHOLDS RULING AGAINST OPPOSITION LEADER. The
Almaty city court on 3 June upheld a district court ruling
sentencing a leader of Kazakhstan's Workers Movement, Madel
Ismailov, to one year in jail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8
April 1998), ITAR-TASS reported. Ismailov was found guilty
of insulting the honor and dignity of the country's
president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. BP

END NOTE

A RENEWED SOURCE OF NATIONALISM

by Paul Goble

	Environmental disasters--some left over from Soviet
times, others the product of the actions of weak new
governments, and still others the result of the activities
of foreign firms--may reignite nationalist passions in many
post-Soviet states.
	There are three reasons behind this somewhat
surprising conclusion. First, as a recently released poll
shows, citizens in the post-Soviet states appear even more
concerned about the environment than are residents of other
countries around the world.
	Second, the leaders of many of the national movements
in these countries started as environmental activists in
Soviet times and thus are now simply returning to their
roots as a result of new ecological disasters . And third,
the media have focused increasing attention on such
disasters, especially when corrupt local officials or
foreign firms appear to be to blame.
	The United States Information Agency last month
released the results of two surveys its researchers
conducted in late 1997 in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan on
popular attitudes toward environomental issues. Those polls
found that majorities in all three countries--including more
than 65 percent in Russia--said they favored protecting the
environment even if doing so meant that they would have to
put up with slower economic growth. Such support for
environmental activism would be impressive anywhere; it is
especially striking in countries whose economic situation is
anything but good.
	In addition, the survey showed that the citizens of
these three countries were extremely critical of what their
respective governments were doing to clean up environmental
pollution. Some 70 percent of Kazakhs, 85 percent of
Russians, and a similar percentage of Ukrainians felt their
national governments were doing a poor job in this respect.
	Not surprisingly, politicians both in power and in
opposition are sensitive to such attitudes, seeing them
either as a threat or an opportunity. And that is
particularly the case with those political figures who began
their careers as spokesmen for ecological causes in Soviet
times.
	In the 1960s and 1970s, environmental concerns were
among the few issues that opposition groups, especially in
the non-Russian regions, could raise without falling afoul
of the Soviet state. Many of these environmental activists
subsequently became active in the preservation of historical
monuments when that became possible. And later still, they
adopted an openly nationalist agenda as the Soviet state
crumbled around them.
	Now in the post-Soviet environment, these same people
are drawing strength from others appalled by the
environmental degradation visited upon them by past Soviet
practices, by the failure of their own governments to
prevent new disasters, and by the poor ecological record of
many Western firms now operating in these countries. And
just as in Soviet times, they are focusing attention not so
much on the environment in general but rather on conditions
in their own country or even in one part of it. According to
the USIA poll, only one person in 50 was concerned about
global climate change, but virtually everyone was worried
about more immediate environmental degradation.
	The media in these countries are playing up these
issues, frequently with an increasingly nationalist gloss
directed either at the Soviet past, an uncaring and corrupt
local regime, or foreign firms. Recently, for example, the
press in Kyrgyzstan has called attention to the
environmental disaster visited on that country's Lake Issyk-
Kul by a Kyrgyz-Canadian gold-mining concern. Ukrainian
media have continued to discuss the fallout from the
Chornobyl nuclear accident, a disaster made all the worse by
Soviet policies and the West's unwillingness to help. And
the Georgian media have raised questions about the
consequences for that country if Turkey builds a dam on the
border between the two countries.
	Many both in the West and in these countries may be
inclined to dismiss such concerns as relatively unimportant
to the political life of this region. But the experience of
these countries in the past and the intense feelings that
environmental issues can still arouse point to a different
conclusion.
	They suggest that future environmental disasters in
this region may quickly lead to a nationalist response,
particularly if those responsible are individuals and groups
from abroad. That conclusion, in turn, indicates that anyone
seeking to do business with those countries must be
especially environmentally responsible to avoid unleashing a
popular movement that no one will be able to control.

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