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Newsline - March 3, 1995

At a mourning ceremony for murdered Russian Public Television Director Vladislav Listev, President Boris Yeltsin promised a new crackdown on organized crime, declaring the authorities had the means "to make the mafia quaver," agencies reported. "Because we have been afraid of [being accused of] turning Russia into a police state, we have been afraid to step up the fight against bandits," he added. Yeltin singled out Moscow as the crime center of Russia, accusing city officials of turning a blind eye to mafia penetration of the Interior Ministry and the capital's administrative bodies. He announced the dismissal of Moscow Prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev and the capital's police chief, Vladimir Pankratov, and appointed a high-level government commission, headed by Interior Minister Viktor Yerin, to investigate the killing. Law enforcement bodies have been harshly criticized following Listev's assassination. Russian TV chairman Oleg Poptsov said the crime demonstrated their "complete helplessness," adding that "nothing changes, but they want to increase the strength of the militia and the Federal Counterintelligence Service, they want to have the right to bug, to spy, to compile dossiers on citizens." Duma security committee chairman Viktor Ilyukhin said the issue of Yerin's resignation might be raised again in the parliament, but he noted earlier calls for his dismissal (after, for example, the assassination of Duma deputy Andrei Aizdrdis) had been ignored by the president. * Penny Morvant

The chairmen of the legal committees of the State Duma and Federation Council, Vladimir Isakov and Issa Kostoev respectively, issued a joint statement defending the dismissed Moscow prosecutor. They described Ponomarev as one of the country's best prosecutors who was known for his unbiased position and argued that he was being made a scapegoat for disorder in the Russian Prosecutor's Office, which has had "no legitimate leader" for more than a year. (The parliament has consistently refused to confirm theappointment of acting Prosecutor-General Aleksei Ilyushenko.) Isakov and Kostoev warned that if Ponomarev were actually removed, they would raise the issue in parliament, saying "prosecutors themselves need protection . . .i..;. The arbitrariness of crime must not grow into a criminal arbitrariness of power." Duma security committee head Viktor Ilyukhin said he has evidence that the Moscow prosecutor was to be sacked in the spring and contended that the authorities had used Listev's death as a pretext to dismiss Ponomarev beforehand, Interfax reported. Federation Council deputy Yury Boldyrev said Ponomarev's dismissal was "a typical case of using the death of a well-known person in political games." He noted that Ponomarev had begun a criminal case against Ilyushenko on charges of "fabricating a case against former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi." * Penny Morvant

Coverage of Listev's assassination dominated the Russian press and television on 2 March. All six Russian television channels broadcast Listev's photo from noon to 7 p.m., the first time Russian programming was so drastically altered since the death of Communist leader Konstantin Chernenko in 1985, Reuters reported. Russian newspapers of nearly every political orientation prominently featured tributes to Listev. A headline in Nezavisimaya gazeta was typical: "Now anything is possible in Russia." On the same day, Russia's Union of Journalists released an angry statement, complaining that while political figures try to put more restrictions on the press, "Not a single journalist's murder has been fully investigated," Interfax reported. Eduard Salagaev, chairman of Russia's private TV Channel 6, demanded the immediate resignation of the heads of Russia's "power ministries" (interior, defense, and FSK). Russian TV chairman Poptsov told Interfax that Russia's journalists must unite to save the country from further catastrophe: "We hold the key to society's conscience and we will either wake it up or will die along with it." * Laura Belin

Russian observers are divided on whether financial or political motives lie behind Listev's murder. Yeltsin's spokesman, Vyacheslav Kostikov, told reporters on 2 March that Listev's "contract killing" was connected to "disorder in the advertising sector, which is probably controlled by the mafia." Russia's Choice leader Yegor Gaidar suggested on Ekho Moskvy that Listev "crossed the path of someone whose income was based on the illegal sale of advertising time." On 1 March, Ostankino TV chairman Alexander Yakovlev had estimated that Ostankino's new rules on advertising would have cost unnamed "moguls" at least 30 billion rubles ($6.6 million) a month. The State Duma press and information committee chairman Mikhail Poltoranin said the November 1994 reorganization of Ostankino Channel One into Russian Public Television Ostankino was "a hastily planned adventure," Interfax reported on 2 March. He added, "The old mafia around Ostankino will not give up such a juicy morsel as channel one without blood." * Laura Belin

Other observers suggested that Listev's assassination was politically motivated. After first blaming those who would have suffered financially from the advertising rules, Yakovlev changed his tune on 2 March, telling Yeltsin that "ultimately this was a political murder." Vsevolod Bogdanov, chairman of the Union of Journalists, also linked the killing to a battle for "influence" in Russian society. Sergei Gryzunov, chairman of the Russian State Press Committee, whose dismissal was suspended by President Yeltsin on 28 February, told Interfax that Listev's murder "has nothing to do with criminal activity" but is connected to recent attempts to restrict press freedoms, as well as Russia's upcoming election campaign. Meanwhile, others expressed fears that politicians will use the atmosphere of crisis following Listev's murder to consolidate power. Alexander Lisin, editor of Vechernaya Moskva, believes the assassination will be "profitable to those who want to impose a state of emergency in Russia and extend the powers of the State Duma and President Yeltsin indefinitely." Television director Nikolai Svanidze told viewers of the Commonwealth television network, "There will be elections and people will follow the first bastard to say, `I will restore order, I will defend you.' And we, like a flock of frightened sheep, will choose a wolf to protect us and he will use us for his own purposes." * Laura Belin

On 2 March, Krasnaya zvezda printed a long extract from Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's 28 February report to the armed forces leadership on the operations in Chechnya. In it, he described what he believed to be a well-planned operation that went awry because of unseen circumstances, but also because of a number of serious shortcomings in performance, training, organization, and equipment. As a result, the advance on Grozny, which was planned for a three-day period, took 16 days to complete. Additional reinforcements had to be called in before northern Grozny could be seized, and this stage took 20 days to complete rather than the allotted four. Specific shortcomings included poor cooperation between the military, interior troops, border troops, and Federal Intelligence service personnel, and even between different branches of the army, officers poorly trained in the command and control of lower units, the poor combat effectiveness of rocket artillery and reconnaissance equipment, and poor troop education and motivation. Grachev explained that the reinforcing units had to be formed with inputs from many military districts because no single unit was fully manned and equipped. In the future, he said, every district should have one or two fully deployable divisions and two or three combat brigades. * Doug Clarke

All legislation necessary for electing local legislatures will be ready by December, State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin told Interfax on 2 March. Rybkin urged legislators to speed up the process because the electoral laws must be published at least four months before voting can take place. He also said the electoral law for the State Duma must be adopted and signed by the president by 12 August, in preparation for the December elections. It will be submitted for its second reading in March. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta of 1 March, the current Duma version calls for 225 deputies to be elected by party list, which is more than Yeltsin is willing to accept. Additionally, the Federation Council confirmed four of the five members proposed by Russia's regions and republics to the Central Electoral Commission, which will oversee the parliamentary and presidential elections, Russian TV reported on 2 March. The Duma and the president also will propose five candidates each to the 15-member body. * Robert Orttung

The Democratic Russia Party is ready to work with any democratic groups in the elections, party co-chairman Lev Ponomarev told Interfax on 2 March. The Yabloko group has already rejected ties to the party because Democratic Russia refused to denounce Yeltsin's use of tanks against the Russian White House in October 1993. Ponomarev said he supports the president's efforts to reduce the number of deputies elected on party lists because he believes voters are not mature enough to sort out party programs and instead vote for personalities. * Robert Orttung

Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev is particularly enthusiastic about the state of Sino-Russian relations, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 March. "There is every reason to think that the last five years of this century and the start of the next millennium will be marked by unprecedented stability, benevolence, and neighborly relations between the great states which are Russia and China," he said. Deng Rong, the daughter of Deng Xiao Ping, said the Chinese leadership places considerable significance on Russia's reaffirmation of the 1991 border deal, Interfax reported. Kozyrev discussed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with the Chinese and cited the need for further cooperation. He also defended Russia's nuclear deal with Iran. * Michael Mihalka

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ended two days of talks in Britain on 2 March, Reuters and AFP reported. He told British officials that economic reform will not be derailed and that he thinks Russia will conclude an IMF deal within the next 10 days. He said Russia is currently receiving $4 billion of foreign capital a year, but it could easily absorb up to three times as much. "The scope of potential operations is limitless," he said, stressing that "attracting foreign capital is certainly of major importance in pursuing our economic reforms." He signed a memorandum on 2 March to set up a framework for attracting foreign investors, Interfax reported. Chernomyrdin said he thinks oil pipelines, power stations, and automobile factories are particularly good areas for foreign investment. * Michael Mihalka

Russia will sell 15-20% blocks of highly efficient privatized industrial enterprises at money auctions beginning in late spring, according to Alexander Braverman, the head of the Russian State Property Committee's consulting group, the Financial Information Agency reported on 2 March. The federal government expects to receive 9.13 trillion rubles (4,531 rubles/$1) from such sales. More than 70% of the sales are expected to come from oil and gas enterprises. Unsold shares of LUKoil and Yukos, Russia's largest oil companies, will be sold at the auctions. Braverman said the State Property Committee is drafting decisions concerning the early sale of government shares in transport, machine-building, chemical, and timber enterprises. * Thomas Sigel

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasyevsky said European security cannot be assured without taking Russia into account, Interfax reported on 2 March. He said, "All problems connected with relations between Russia and Western Europe are centered on NATO," and added NATO and Russia must develop a mechanism to consult on major security issues. He said NATO expansion would have been more acceptable had it occurred in the context of an overall revision of European security. He stressed the importance of the OSCE, given that Russia and other countries that are not represented in other European institutions, work on equitable conditions within it. * Michael Mihalka

No report today.

Polish President Lech Walesa and designated prime minister Jozef Oleksy, after a series of meetings on 3 March, appeared to have narrowed their disagreements over the composition of the new Polish government, Polish media report. The disagreements centered on the three "presidential" ministries, whose heads, Walesa claims, must be approved by the president. Walesa and Oleksy appeared to agree on two of the three ministers: Wlodyslaw Bartoszewski, currently the Polish ambassador to Austria, would become minister of foreign affairs and the current minister of internal affairs, Andrzej Wilczanowski, would remain in his post. Henryk Goloszewski, whom Walesa has proposed for the post of defense minister, said on 3 March that he will not accept a post in the new government, Radio Zet reported. Tension between the president and the ruling coalition was also apparent in the parliament. The legislature asked Oleksy to present his government program on 4 March, regardless of the results of his talks with Walesa. Aleksander Kwasniewski, the leader of the strongest Polish political group, the Democratic Left Party, told Radio Zet on 3 March that "President Walesa may be in for a surprise" if he continues his campaign "aimed at political destabilization." * Jiri Pehe

Petro Symonenko, leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine, has claimed that former Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitalii Masol was forced to resign by reformist ministers who want to dominate the government, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 2 March. Symonenko said his large communist faction will insist on the resignation of the entire cabinet during the parliament debate on the confirmation of First Deputy Premier Yevhen Marchuk as acting prime minister. Marchuk, who is considered an expert in security issues, was nominated by President Leonid Kuchma. Neither Symonenko nor other deputies ruled out the possibility of a vote of confidence in the government. Supporters of reform in the parliament hailed Masol's resignation as the removal of a major obstacle to implementing Kuchma's bold economic reform program. The former premier told Ukrainian radio on 1 March that he plans to take a long rest and then take up his duties as a deputy. * Chrystyna Lapychak

Vasyl Havrylyshyn, Ukraine's representative to the IMF in Washington, and Anders Aslund, President Leonid Kuchma's economic adviser, have said that Ukraine will sign a letter accepting the IMF's terms for a $1.5 billion loan, The New York Times reported on 2 March. The credit should help Ukraine win some $4 billion in foreign economic assistance in 1995 to finance economic development. Aslund said he hoped to raise the rest of the money by persuading Russia to reschedule the $2.5 billion Ukraine owes it in payments for energy supplies. But Russia may be reluctant to reschedule the debt if it does not secure a $6.5 billion credit it is negotiating with the IMF. Ukraine's agreement to IMF terms puts pressure on Russia to accept the conditions for its loan. The Russian Finance and Foreign Trade Ministries have been reluctant to meet the IMF's demand that they surrender control over oil exports. * Ustina Markus

Serhiy Tsekov, the speaker of the Crimean parliament, resigned on 1 March during a closed session of the legislature in Simferopol, Reuters reported the same day. Tsekov threatened to quit after deputies charged him with failing to improve relations with either Ukraine or Russia. Sixty-six of the 75 deputies approved his resignation, despite warnings of a power vacuum on the peninsula. His resignation came after the legislature voted to dismiss two of Tsekov's deputies and 12 members of the parliament leadership. A political struggle has gripped the region since the Crimean parliament stripped President Yurii Meshkov of most of his authority last September. As an intermediary between the parliament and president, Tsekov saw his influence grow until deputies turned against him, fearing that both he and the pro-Russian Meshkov would cheat them out of the benefits of privatization in the region. The move has cast the troubled region into uncertainty, as neither the president nor the legislature is in a position to govern. * Chrystyna Lapychak

Belarusian Radio on 2 March reported that the first phase of the parliament election process has begun. Initiative groups have begun to register their candidates, and deputies have been promoting their own candidacies in the parliament by making use of the floor's microphone to publicize their positions on various issues. The Belarusian mass media have recommended that deputies refrain from this practice. Meanwhile, the parliament has set 11 June as the date for elections to local councils. * Ustina Markus

Some 800,000 eligible voters will be able to cast ballots on 5 March to elect a new Estonian parliament. There are 1,256 candidates from 16 coalitions and parties competing for 101 seats, Western agencies reported on 3 March. More than half the parties are not expected to break the 5% threshold to gain seats. The front-runner in the final pre-election poll was the Coalition Party and Rural People's Party alliance, led by former Prime Minister Tiit Vahi and former Supreme Council Chairman Arnold Ruutel, with about 30%. The Reformist Party won 15%; the Center Party with 13%; the Moderates 7%; the current ruling party Pro Patria, in a coalition with the National Independence Party, 6%; and the Rightists 6%. Voters will be able to cast ballots at 688 electoral offices, 24 of which are outside Estonia. * Saulius Girnius

Kestutis Sumakeris, head of the state-run company Lithuanian Gas, told reporters on 2 March that the Russian gas company Gazprom stopped shipping natural gas to Lithuania the previous day, BNS and Interfax reported. Gazprom cut off supplies because Lithuania failed to pay a $56.6 million debt by 1 March. It also imposed an additional fine of $5.8 million for late payment. Sumakeris noted that his company is owed about $100 million; state companies and seven major plants whose closure would result in huge losses for Lithuania account for more than half of this sum. Cutting off Gazprom supplies has reduced the daily inflow of gas to Lithuania from 9 million to 6.8 million cubic meters. Gas supplies to individual consumers have not been affected, but those to industrial consumers have been reduced from 5.2 million to 2.6 million cubic meters per day. Lithuania is seeking foreign loans from Germany and Japan to repay the gas debt. * Saulius Girnius

Latvia's State
Statistical Committee announced that the number of Latvian residents at the beginning of 1995 was 2,529,000--representing a decrease of 36,200 in 1994, BNS reported on 1 March. The number of deaths (41,400) was greater than those of births (24,000), and emigration exceeded immigration by 18,800. Since the January 1989
census, Latvia's population has decreased by 137,000. The Lithuanian Statistical Department reported that at the beginning of 1995, the country's population was 3,717,000--down 6,300 on the 1994 level, BNS reported. Births totaled 42,832 and deaths 46,486, while emigrants exceeded immigrants by 2,700. Last year was the first since World War II in which the population declined, but despite losses due to emigration since 1991, the current population still exceeds the 1989 census figure by 27,000. * Saulius Girnius

Movement for a Democratic Slovakia deputy Dusan Macuska has proposed that a law be passed transferring powers to appoint and remove the director of the Slovak Information Service from the president to the government, Pravda reported on 2 March. SIS Director Vladimir Mitro recently offered his resignation, but President Michal Kovac refuses to accept it until the government formally nominates a replacement. A leading candidate is said to be Ivan Lexa, whom the president rejected for the post as well as that of privatization minister in 1993. According to Slovak media on 3 March, several deputies from the MDS and the Slovak National Party agree with Macuska's proposal, while deputies from opposition parties have criticized the move. Party of the Democratic Left Chairman Peter Weiss told Sme that "the secret service must serve the state as a whole, not just the government." * Sharon Fisher

In Bratislava on 2 March, editors-in-chief from Pravda, Narodna obroda, Praca, Novy cas, Smena, Sme, and Uj Szo reached "a considerable degree of mutual solidarity," Sme reports. Slovak Syndicate of Journalists Chairman Julius Gembicky said the regional dailies Smer dnes and Slovensky vychod also joined forces with their national counterparts. He said the editors agreed to cooperate if another proposal is made in the parliament to increase value-added tax on the commercial press. The move follows a proposal by MDS deputy Jan Fekete on 24 February recommending that VAT be levied on all commercial publications and radio and TV broadcasts whose foreign capital share exceeds 30%. The editors also provisionally decided that editorial staff will not accredit representatives from their dailies for the upcoming Worldwide Conference of Workers' Parties and Labor organizations. The decision follows statements by Association of Slovak Workers Chairman Jan Luptak that journalists from Sme, Novy cas, and Smer dnes will not be given accreditation for the conference. * Sharon Fisher

Jacques Santer, head of the European Commission, said on 2 March that the security issue is the major problem that has to be solved before East European countries can join the EU, Reuters reported. In response to questions from the European Parliament, Santers said "the current debate on enlarging NATO eastwards prefigures in many ways another debate, that of how we prepare a security dimension for an enlarged union." * Michael Mihalka

A senior US official said on 2 March that NATO will defend East European countries if they become members of the alliance, international agencies report. Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe's comments follow speculation in the West that those countries will not be granted full membership in NATO and thus will not be automatically entitled to assistance if attacked. Slocombe dismissed Russian fears about NATO expansion as "unfounded and irrelevant." He also said that East European countries will need to bring their militaries up to NATO standards to gain admission. * Michael Mihalka

The VOA, the BBC, and Reuters on 2 March all agreed that the chances are virtually zero that President Franjo Tudjman will reverse his decision to end UNPROFOR's mandate when it runs out on 31 March. It also appears unlikely that NATO or the WEU will accede to Tudjman's request to replace the international force on the front lines between Croatian troops and Serbian rebels with units of European or North American origin stationed on Croatia's internationally recognized borders with Serbia and Bosnia. Washington has now announced that Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke will go to Zagreb next week to explore alternatives. A Croatian Foreign Ministry official told Reuters that the Contact Group countries might supply border monitors and that this "would not require thousands...of troops. There are only about 20-25 important border crossing points that need to be monitored to prevent military interference from Bosnia or [rump] Yugoslavia." He made it clear, however, that such monitors could not be called UNPROFOR or be under UN control, since "Croatians now regard the UN banner as a symbol of international impotence and inertia in the face of the dismemberment of a UN member state by a rogue minority." Meanwhile in Belgrade, Nasa Borba on 3 March quotes Mihajlo Markovic, a top official in the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, as saying that "the Serbian people" could not sit idly by if Croatian troops massacred the Krajina Serb rebels. * Patrick Moore

The Bosnian Serb leadership says it is trying to start direct talks with the Bosnian government, but the 3 March Los Angeles Times reports that the Muslims deny the story. The two sides differ over the substance of some recent remarks by President Alija Izetbegovic on the subject of possible negotiations. Finally, AFP said on 2 March that the Krajina Serbs have put a total ban on food convoys for the embattled town of Bihac, in northwestern Bosnia. * Patrick Moore

"It didn't sound like much... I didn't see any breakthrough," is how one unnamed US official in Washington summed up Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's counterproposals to recent Contact Group peace initiatives for the former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. The remarks came in the wake of preliminary reports on the 2 March Contact Group talks in Paris. The same source added: "The problem is always the same. [Milosevic] wants more sanctions relief but he doesn't want to give anything in return for that. We can't accept that." * Stan Markotich

The National Council of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania convened on 2 March to discuss, among other things, the party's strategy for the 1996 parliament elections. Radio Bucharest reported that President Ion Iliescu sent a message to the council expressing hopes that the meeting would give new life to the party's activities. PSDR Executive Chairman Adrian Nastase, whose address carried the motto "Let's win the elections," described 1995 as a "pre-election year." He urged the party leadership to draft an election platform as soon as possible and start preparations for the election campaign. * Dan Ionescu

The Executive Committee of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), the country's main opposition alliance, reiterated on 2 March that the CDR's revised protocols were not subject to further negotiation. CDR Chairman Emil Constantinescu was quoted by Radio Bucharest as saying the CDR considered the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania to have withdrawn from the coalition, since it refused to sign the protocols. In what appeared as a last-ditch attempt to avoid further defection from the CDR, the leaders of two more parties that have refused to sign the documents--the Liberal Party '93 and the Party of Civic Alliance--were invited to attend the meeting. But both LP leader Horia Rusu and PCA chairman Nicolae Manolescu expressed dismay over the atmosphere at the meeting, with Manolescu complaining about "a certain lack of democracy" in the alliance. * Dan Ionescu

Otechestven Front on 2 March quoted Chief State Prosecutor Ivan Tatarchev as saying that parliament deputy and Business Bloc leader George Ganchev was a U.S. citizen until 31 January 1995. Ganchev, who was elected to the parliament in the December 1994 elections, claims he gave up his citizenship to run for the Presidency in the 1991-1992 elections. (Under the Bulgarian Constitution, only Bulgarians without another citizenship can be elected to the parliament or as president.) Tatarchev, who is drawing up a petition to the Constitutional Court in order to have Ganchev's election declared null and void, referred to a letter he received from the U.S. embassy. Ganchev, for his part, has submitted a letter to the parliament which, he says, is from the U.S. government and proves his Bulgarian citizenship. Meanwhile, deputies from the ruling Socialist Party are considering contesting the election of President Zhelyu Zhelev, Otechestven Front reported. Velko Valkanov, who was Zhelev's main rival in 1991-1992, claims he would have become president if Ganchev's U.S. citizenship had been known. He argues that he would have received two-thirds of the votes cast for Ganchev. * Stefan Krause

Greek police on 2 March announced that they deported 329 Albanians who tried to enter the country illegally during the previous 24 hours, Reuters reported the same day. The driver of a Greek truck carrying 94 Albanians from the border to Athens was arrested. Greek border patrols are being stepped up to stop a recent increase in the number of Albanians trying to cross the Greek-Albanian border. A police spokesman attributed the increase partly to the good weather, which makes crossing the border easier. Meanwhile, government sources said the Greek Labor Ministry is preparing a bill to legalize the status of Albanians living in Greece. The issue is to be discussed during Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias's visit to Tirana, scheduled to begin on 13 March. Some 300,000 Albanians are estimated to be living and working illegally in Greece. * Stefan Krause

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave