COMMUNIST PARTY, OUR HOME IS RUSSIA HOLD
Both the Communist Party (KPRF) and the
pro-government movement Our Home Is Russia (NDR) held
congresses this weekend in Moscow. KPRF leader Gennadii
Zyuganov pledged that his party will become a "responsible
and irreconcilable opposition" force, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau
reported. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told
NDR delegates that his government plans to improve its
economic policies, Russian news agencies reported on 19
April. He said closing tax loopholes and establishing "order" in
the alcohol trade would help raise future revenues.
Chernomyrdin also said the government plans to alter
"arbitrary policies on monopoly prices and imperfections in the
managing of state property," while not breaking up the natural
monopolies in the energy and transportation sectors (see also
today's "End Note").
YELTSIN ON VACATION, PRIMAKOV IN HOSPITAL.
Kremlin doctor Sergei Mironov says President Boris Yeltsin's holiday in Sochi is "not linked to medical necessity," Russian news
agencies reported on 18 April. Yeltsin flew to the Black Sea
resort shortly after his summit at the end of last week with
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. His vacation is expected to
last 10-12 days, although he is scheduled to return to Moscow
briefly on 22 April to meet with Chinese President Jiang
Zemin. Also on 18 April, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
checked into hospital for gallstone surgery. Doctors said the
operation was successful and that Primakov will be discharged
from the hospital within two weeks. He is scheduled to meet
with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana early next month
for a fifth round of negotiations on a Russia-NATO charter.
FORMER YELTSIN ADVISER ARRESTED IN POLAND.
Sergei Stankevich, former adviser to President Yeltsin, has been arrested in Warsaw after a joint search operation by Russian and Polish police, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Stankevich
will be detained for 30 days while a Polish court decides
whether to extradite him to Russia to face bribery charges.
Stankevich went into hiding last year after the Moscow
prosecutor ordered his arrest on charges of taking bribes
several years earlier. Stankevich is a former deputy mayor of
Moscow and a former deputy in the State Duma. Meanwhile,
Polish prosecutors have dropped charges against Interior
Minister Leszek Miller for failing to register a handgun (see
RFE/RL Newsline, 11 April 1997). A spokesman for the state
prosecutor's office said on 18 April that no offense had been
committed but gave no further details.
CHUBAIS ON FINANCE MINISTRY REORGANIZATION.
First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minster Anatolii Chubais
has announced that there will be three first deputy finance
ministers, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 18 April.
Aleksei Kudrin, who was appointed last month, will manage
the state debt and supervise questions on the reform of the
housing and housing utilities system as well as on the gold
and precious metals market. Sergei Ignatev, appointed this
month, will be in charge of tax reform and budget revenues.
Vladimir Petrov, the only top-ranking official in the ministry to
survive the reshuffle, will supervise the budget process.
Chubais said First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov will
leave the ministry by 1 May but did not announce a future
post for him. Until now, Vavilov has overseen the ministry's
dealings with the "authorized banks," which manage state
LEBED SAYS CHUBAIS CONTROLS MEDIA.
Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed says a narrow group of
bankers and businessmen "loyal personally to Chubais"
control the Russian media, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported
on 18 April. Lebed claimed that Chubais keeps a black-list of
journalists who have written on "forbidden" topics, such as
privatization profits or last summer's campaign scandal in
which two Chubais associates were caught carrying some
$500,000 out of government headquarters. He argued that
violations of those taboos are behind rumored attempts by
LUKoil and Oneksimbank to force out the chief editors of
Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda. Media coverage of
Lebed was sympathetic during last year's presidential
campaign but has been generally hostile since September,
shortly before he was ousted from the government.
DUMA RATIFIES BORDER ACCORD WITH CHINA...
By a vote of 346 to 0, the State Duma on 18 April ratified a
multilateral agreement on "confidence-building measures"
along the Russian border with China, ITAR-TASS reported.
The agreement, which provides for information exchanges on
troop movement and military exercises along the Chinese
border, was signed in Shanghai in April 1996 by the
presidents of Russia, China, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and
...AND AGREEMENTS WITH ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN.
Also on 18 April, the Duma ratified the March 1995 agreement
signed by Yeltsin and Armenian President Levon Ter-
Petrossyan permitting Russia to maintain a military base in
Armenia for 25 years, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian First
Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov termed the
agreement an "important step toward securing stability on the
southern borders of the Russian Federation," according to
Turan. The Duma also ratified a May 1996 intergovernmental
agreement between Russia and Azerbaijan on cooperation in
preventing arms and drug smuggling and the infiltration of
terrorists across the Azerbaijani-Russian border. Azerbaijan
opposes the deployment of Russian border troops on its
territory. All three agreements still have to be ratified by the
DUMA FAILS TO OVERRIDE VETO OF LAW ON
The Duma on 18 April
failed to override a presidential veto of a law outlining the
constitutional amendment procedure, ITAR-TASS reported.
According to the constitution, amendments must be approved
by two-thirds of Duma deputies, three-quarters of Federation
Council deputies, and legislatures in at least two-thirds of
Russia's 89 regions. However, a law specifying procedural
details is needed before amendments can be adopted. Yeltsin
vetoed an earlier version of the law last November and the
latest version in March. Communist leaders in the Duma say
they are drafting 12 constitutional amendments that would
limit presidential power and increase parliamentary oversight
of the executive branch.
Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii and Chechen First Deputy Prime
Minister Shamil Basaev met in the Ingush capital of Nazran on
19 April for what Berezovskii later termed "constructive" talks,
ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The two men discussed
bilateral relations and the continued detention of four
journalists from Radio Rossii and ITAR-TASS who were
abducted in Chechnya in early March. On 17 April, Dagestani
Security Council Secretary Magomed Tolboev handed over to
ITAR-TASS video footage of his meeting with the journalists.
Nikolai Zagnoiko, the captive ITAR-TASS correspondent, is
seen on the video asking Tolboev "to influence the Russian
leadership" and help free them. The Russian Interior Ministry
has expressed its support for Tolboev's efforts to secure the
journalists' release. It has also proposed that the journalists be
exchanged for Chechens detained by the Interior Ministry in
Dagestan, ITAR-TASS reports today.
CONTROVERSY OVER ROMANOV JEWELS.
Priceless jewels from the Romanov dynasty have been locked up in a vault at
an unspecified location in the U.S. following Russian officials'
demands that they be returned immediately for celebrations
marking Moscow's 850th anniversary, AFP reported yesterday.
Under an agreement signed last year by Russia's Culture
Ministry, about 250 exhibits--including jewels, clothing, icons
and portraits--have been shown in Washington and are
scheduled to be exhibited in three other American cities. But
now Russian officials are demanding the immediate return of
the exhibits, which are to be kept under lock and key pending
a court decision. Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov met
with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington yesterday to
discuss foreign investment in Russia, but he made no
comment on the controversy over the Romanov treasures.
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said 591,000 crimes were registered during the first quarter of 1997, down 12% compared with the same period last year,
Interfax reported on 18 April. Addressing the Duma, Kulikov
said the number of premeditated murders dropped by 5.4%,
assaults by 16%, robberies by 10.2% and thefts by 13.6%.
However, he admitted that 7,500 murders committed in 1996
FIGHTING INTENSIFIES ON ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI
Up to 50 troops are reported killed in recent
fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in two
locations, Russian agencies reported. During the night from 18
to 19 April, Karabakh Armenian forces opened artillery fire on
a village in Azerbaijan's Aghdjabed Raion, ITAR-TASS reported,
quoting the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry. Armenian and
Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesmen each accused the
other side of launching an artillery bombardment on the
northern section of the border between Armenia's Tavush
Raion and Azerbaijan's Kazakh Raion early on 19 April.
Interfax yesterday quoted a source in Baku as saying that
fighting was continuing, but the Armenian Defense Ministry
denied this was the case, according to Reuters. In a 18 April
telephone conversation, the Armenian and Azerbaijani
presidents had agreed to order their respective military
commands to abide strictly by the 1994 cease fire agreement,
Interfax and Turan reported.
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION IN YEREVAN.
Between 10,000 and 20,000 people took part in a rally
organised by the Union for National Accord in Yerevan on 18
April, Western agencies reported. This was the second in a
planned series of fortnightly demonstrations organised by the
recently formed opposition party. Addressing the rally,
defeated former presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan
again called for pre-term parliamentary elections. Also on 18
April, the Armenian Central Electoral Commission rejected
imprisoned Dashnak leader Vahan Oganesian's application to
contest an upcoming parliamentary by-election, according to
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT BLOCKS CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT
Leonid Kuchma on 18 April vetoed the Crimean
parliament's ouster earlier this month of Crimean Premier
Arkadiy Demydenko (see RFE/RL Newsline, 10 April 1997),
RFE/RL's Kyiv correspondent reported. Kuchma said the
dismissal contravened the Ukrainian Constitution because the
Ukrainian president had not been consulted. Meanwhile,
several pro-Russian parties and organizations in Crimea have
said they will support anti-NATO protests on the peninsula.
Raisa Teliatnikova, chairwoman of the Russian Community
organization in Sevastopol, was quoted by dpa on 18 April as
saying the Ukrainian-NATO military maneuvers planned for
August are an "unfriendly gesture" aimed at "scaring" pro-
U.S. ECONOMIST URGES UKRAINE TO PASS REFORMS.
Jeffrey Sachs says Ukraine must adopt a 1997 budget and an
economic reform plan within weeks or risk deepening its
economic troubles and alienating foreign investors. Sachs,
whose Harvard-based Institute for International Development
advises the Ukrainian government, was speaking to journalists
in Kyiv on 19 April. He said that more foreign firms appear to
be leaving Ukraine's market than entering it, and he blamed
that trend on current tax and regulation systems as well as
widespread corruption. Ukraine's government and parliament
have been deadlocked over budget and reform plans since last
November. The IMF has conditioned a loan worth at least $2.5
billion on the passage of the budget.
UKRAINE, UZBEKISTAN FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON
Meeting in Kyiv on 18 April, Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro
Lazarenko, failed to reach an agreement on the return of
Crimean Tatars deported to Central Asia by Soviet dictator
Josef Stalin during World War II. Refat Chubarov, leader of the
250,000-strong Crimean Tatar community, told Reuters after
the meeting that some "difficulties" remained on how to
finance the Tatars' return. Uzbekistan wants only those who
were actually deported to be given deportee status, while
Crimean Tatars and Ukraine insist that all their relatives and
descendants be included. Under Stalin, some 190,000
Crimean Tatars accused of collaborating with the Nazis were
deported to Central Asia. While many have since returned to
Ukraine, there is still a sizable Tatar population in Central
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IN ASIA.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka left for an eight-day tour of Asia yesterday. He will visit South Korea, Vietnam, and China in a bid to expand trade relations, attract foreign investment, and strengthen political bonds with those countries. ITAR-TASS quoted a member of Lukashenka's staff as saying the president will meet with both political and business leaders. Lukashenka is expected to make a brief stopover in Novosibirsk for trade talks with regional leaders.
THIRTY-EIGHT DEATH SENTENCES IN BELARUS LAST
Vladimir Samusev, head of the Justice Ministry
department dealing with applications for a stay of execution,
says 38 people were sentenced to death in Belarus last year,
Interfax reported yesterday. He said appeals were lodged in 32
cases and that President Lukashenka rejected all of them
because of the "seriousness of the offenses" and because of the
"increased danger" the perpetrators posed for society. He said
that seven of those sentenced last year were aged between 21
INVESTIGATOR'S LETTER RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT
ESTONIA FERRY PROBE.
The Swedish daily Svenska
Dagbladet has published excerpts from a letter by an
investigator of the Estonia ferry disaster that raises questions
about the work of the Swedish-Finnish-Estonian commission
looking into the incident, RFE/RL reported on 19 April. The
Estonia sunk in 1994 en route to Stockholm from Tallinn
when heavy seas tore off its bow door, killing 852 people. A key
question in the investigation is why the locks of the door
failed. Boerje Stenstroem, the commission's Swedish technical
expert who died last month, wrote to the ferry's German
builder in 1995 saying that in an interim report, he mentions
"by necessity" that the locks were of insufficient strength but
has "endeavored to dress this in general wording rather than
clear figures." Olof Forssberg, head of the Swedish commission
team, denies that the commission intended to tone down
information about the locks in the interim report. The
commission's final report is expected to be published soon.
LITHUANIAN LEADER URGES SECURITY FOR SMALL
Parliamentary Chairman Vytautas
Landsbergis says the key to peace in Europe is the security of
small states "because there are no threats to the security of
large countries." Speaking at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters
on 18 April, Landsbergis said that while he had received
assurances from Western leaders about safeguarding
Lithuanian security, there was a "lack of logic" in increasing
the security of European states that are less "endangered"
than others. He also pointed to what he called "childish
contradictions" made by Western leaders who insist that
Russia will not be given veto rights over new NATO members
but who say it is hoped Moscow will not oppose expansion.
RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER IN CZECH REPUBLIC.
Viktor Chernomyrdin says the Czech Republic must decide for itself
whether NATO membership is worthwhile. The Russian
premier, who concludes a two-day visit to the Czech Republic
today, told Czech TV on 19 April that Russia does not have the
right of veto in this matter but is explaining the possible
negative consequences of NATO expansion. Chernomyrdin met
with Czech officials, including Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, to
discuss economic cooperation, international issues, and
Russia's $3 billion debt to the Czech Republic.
SLOVAKIA WILL CONTINUE TO IMPORT GAS FROM EAST.
Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar says that Slovakia will
continue to receive gas supplies from the East. He was
speaking on Slovak Radio yesterday in the context of the
dispute over the planned joint venture between the Russian
company Gazprom and the SPP Slovak gasworks. Meciar said
that Slovakia has received offers from other companies but has
to carefully "weigh the technical questions and the costs." He
added that Slovakia is prepared to take part in the proposed
venture with Gazprom as long as Russia can guarantee gas
deliveries and as long as agreement can be reached on "a
certain price level."
SLOVAK NATIONAL PARTY URGES SLOVAKS TO HONOR
WARTIME FASCIST LEADER.
The Slovak National Party
(SNS), one of the three government coalition parties, has
appealed to all Slovaks to "honor the memory" of the country's
wartime pro-fascist leader Jozef Tiso, who was executed in
Bratislava on 18 April 1947 after being found guilty of war crimes.
The SNS statement describes Tiso as a "great son of the
church and the nation." It also said he was a "martyr to the
defense of the nation and Christianity in the face of
Bolshevism and liberalism." victory of the principle "for God,
for the nation." Cardinal Jan Korec, primate of Slovakia, held a
mass for Tiso on 18 April.
CENTRAL EUROPEAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM
ESTABLISHED IN HUNGARY.
Democratic and national-liberal parties from Central Europe
have set up a new international body called the Central
European Democratic Forum (CEDF), Hungarian media
reported yesterday. Meeting in the southern Hungarian city of
Lakitelek, the parties pledged to work together to overcome
left-wing forces in the region and elected former Polish
President Lech Walesa as honorary chairman. Walesa said the
forum has "to make society understand that the right is far
more capable of solving the problems of society than forces
which formerly were enemies of NATO, capitalism and
CENTER-RIGHT ALLIANCE WINS BULGARIAN ELECTIONS.
With almost all ballots counted in the 19 April parliamentary
elections, the center-right United Democratic Forces (ODS) has
won 52% of the vote and is likely to have 137 seats in the 240-
seat parliament. The outgoing ruling Socialist Party won 22%
or 57 seats, followed by the Union for National Salvation (7.8%
or 20 seats), the Euro-Left (5.5% or 14 seats), and the
Bulgarian Business Bloc (5.% or 12-13 seats). At 58%, turnout
was the lowest since the end of one-party rule in 1989. Final
results are due later today or tomorrow. ODS adviser Ivan
Krastev told RFE/RL's Sofia correspondent today that ODS
leader Ivan Kostov will be the new prime minister. Interior
Minister Bogomil Bonev and Economic Affairs Minister
Alexander Bozhkov will retain their posts, while other
appointments will be made later today.
REACTIONS TO BULGARIAN ELECTION RESULTS.
leader Ivan Kostov says his alliance hopes to form a broad
government whose main task will be to solve the country's
economic problems, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Socialist
leader Georgi Parvanov said his party will act as a
"constructive opposition," according to Reuters. Dominique
Colomberg, head of the team of Council of Europe observers
monitoring the elections, said in Sofia that the elections were
"free and fair" and had set the stage for badly needed economic
MORE FOREIGN TROOPS ARRIVE IN ALBANIA.
Some 150 Italian marines landed in the troubled southern port of Vlora
this morning. The number of soldiers taking part in the
Italian-led multinational force reached 4,000 yesterday as
French and Italian troops continued to arrive, mainly via the
port of Durres. On 19 April, the International Committee of the
Red Cross delivered aid to hospitals and orphanages in Vlora.
The UN World Food Program distributed aid for 20
orphanages, hospitals, and homes for the elderly across the
country. Also on 19 April, Franz Vranitzky, the OSCE's chief
envoy for Albania, called for "dialogue" between the various
political forces, including the rebel committees that control
much of the south.
BERISHA OPPOSES SACKING OF ALBANIAN POLICE
President Sali Berisha yesterday rejected a
government decision to fire Gen. Agim Shehu, the country's
police chief. A presidential spokesman said that only Berisha,
not the government, has the legal right to sack high-ranking
officers. The spokesman said the incident could seriously hurt
relations between the president and Prime Minister Bashkim
Fino. Fino's national conciliation government voted on 19 April
to fire Shehu, who is also deputy interior minister. Shehu is
accused of suppressing opposition to Berisha when anarchy
erupted earlier this year.
ALBANIA'S ROYAL CLAIMANT ON THE STUMP.
King Leka Zogu made an emotional trip yesterday to his father's home
village in the central mountains. Leka, who has spent less
than two weeks of his life in Albania, traveled for the first time
to Burgajet, where about 5,000 cheering people greeted him.
Leka said he will travel across Albania "to spread a message of
peace and unity." Berisha has promised Leka that a
referendum will be held on restoring the monarchy. All
political parties have agreed on such a vote. Monarchist
parties have not done well in previous elections, but in the
current volatile political environment, it is difficult to predict
the outcome of the referendum.
CROATIAN PARTIES HOLD LEAD IN SLAVONIAN VOTE.
Unofficial early returns from the 13-15 April elections continue
to show ethnic Croatian parties ahead of the Serbian
Democratic Independent Party (SDSS). The Croats lead in the
cities of Vukovar and Ilok as well as in 15 districts, an RFE/RL
correspondent in Zagreb reported yesterday. The SDSS will
likely control Beli Manastir and 10 districts and will be the
largest single party in the Vukovar town council. The Croatian
vote there is split between President Franjo Tudjman's
Croatian Democratic Community and the Independent List of
local kingpin Tomislav Mercep. Most Serbs regard Mercep as a
war criminal and may seek a ruling from the Hague-based
tribunal on whether he can hold public office, the Belgrade
daily Novosti reports today.
DRASKOVIC TO RUN FOR SERBIAN PRESIDENCY.
governing board of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) has
nominated party leader Vuk Draskovic as its presidential
candidate, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade
on 19 April. At the same meeting, Ilija Ra dulovic resigned as
party vice president following his recent public criticism of
Draskovic and Draskovic's wife. Draskovic expects to head a
united opposition slate in the elections due later this year. But
fellow opposition leader Zoran Djindjic has been publicly
calling Draskovic a "loose cannon" and questioning his
suitability for the presidency. Divisions within the opposition
have helped Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic keep his
hold on power.
MONTENEGRIN PRIME MINISTER SCORES ANOTHER
VICTORY OVER PRESIDENT.
Mile Djukanovic emerged the
winner over President Momir Bulatovic at an 18 April meeting
of the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS), an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Podgorica. The DPS voted that
decisions on the reorganization of the cabinet and the security
service be left to the next regular session of the parliament,
thereby rejecting Bulatovic's demand for urgent measures.
Bulatovic is close to Milosevic, while Djukanovic is a leading
critic of the Serbian president.
ROUNDUP FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman presided over ceremonies yesterday to mark
the 52nd anniversary of the liberation of the Jasenovac
concentration camp, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from
Zagreb. In Ljubljana, Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler says time
has come to normalize relations with Belgrade, provided the
authorities there stop claiming that their state is the sole legal
successor to the former Yugoslavia. In Sarajevo, residents are
now able to make direct-dial telephone calls abroad for the
first time since early in the recent conflict. In Washington on
18 April, Secretary of Defense William Cohen said that the
U.S. may be willing to keep 500 troops in Macedonia as part of
UN forces there. Finally, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic
arrived in Athens on 18 April for an unpublicized visit, Nasa
Borba reports today.
ROMANIAN CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES APPROVES BANK
The Chamber of Deputies on 18 April
voted in favor of the law on bank privatization, RFE/RL's
Bucharest bureau reported. Several days earlier, the Senate
had approved the bill (see RFE/RL Newsline, 15 April 1997).
Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said Romania has now fulfilled
all conditions for a new IMF loan. Also on 18 April, State
Department spokesman Nicholas Burns praised the Romanian
leadership's "intensified commitment to democracy, economic
reform and integration with the West," an RFE/RL
correspondent in Washington reported. Meanwhile, Foreign
Minister Adrian Severin arrived in the U.S. yesterday. He is
due to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
FORMER ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER UNDER
INVESTIGATION FOR FRAUD.
Gen. Victor Athanasie
Stanculescu is to be questioned today by the military section
of the Prosecutor-General's office, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau
reported on 18 April. Stanculescu, who was defense minister
in 1990-1991 and is considered one of the richest persons in
the country, is under investigation on suspicion of fraud.
Recent press reports that he had fled the country proved false
when he returned to Bucharest from a business trip to
Switzerland. During his term as defense minister, Stanculescu
is suspected of involvement in the illegal purchase abroad of
mobile phones, which resulted in Treasury losses of some $8
million in 1990. Stanculescu played a key role in the toppling
and the trial of Nicolae Ceausescu.
FORMER MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON RESOLVING
Mircea Snegur, former
president and current leader of the Moldovan Party of Revival
and Accord, says the problem of the breakaway region of the
Transdniester should not be solved "at any price," Info-tag
reported. Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov and Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov agreed in Tiraspol on 10
April on the text of the memorandum on the normalization of
bilateral ties between Chisinau and Tiraspol. Snegur told
journalists in Chisinau last week that if the memorandum is
signed in its current form, it would mean that the
Transdniester leadership has "achieved during five hours of
negotiations what it could not achieve in five years of struggle."
Meanwhile, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and Smirnov
met in Tiraspol on the weekend and agreed to sign the
memorandum in Moscow on 8 May.
Strategy Disagreements Trouble Russia's Communists And 'Party Of Power'
by Laura Belin
Both the Communist Party of the Russian Federation
(KPRF) and Our Home Is Russia (NDR) unanimously re-
elected their leaders at congresses in Moscow this weekend.
But the apparent unity within Russia's largest opposition
party and the pro-government movement masks internal
divisions in each organization over how to broaden popular
A major fault line running through the KPRF stems
from Communist strategy toward the government.
Together with like-minded groups, the Communists have a
near-majority in the State Duma. But since last summer's
presidential election, the party's Duma faction has drawn
criticism from some activists and pro-communist
journalists who demand a more assertive parliamentary
opposition. Communist deputies have passed non-binding
resolutions attacking the government, but many also voted
to confirm Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Most
Communists also voted for the 1997 budget after laying
down 11 conditions for their continued support of the
government. Although virtually none of those conditions
has been met, the KPRF Duma faction has refrained from
putting a no-confidence vote on the agenda.
The KPRF's reluctance to challenge the government is
understandable: the constitution gives the president the
right to dissolve the Duma if deputies pass two votes of no
confidence within three months. The Communists would
probably lose seats if new Duma elections were held.
Consequently, party leaders are advocating less risky,
"non-parliamentary methods of struggle," such as mass
At this weekend's congress, several delegates called for
KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov to take a harder line. In
response, Zyuganov sought to project an image of
implacable opposition to the regime, saying the KPRF must
become a "responsible and irreconcilable" opposition force.
He called for large-scale protests on 1 and 9 May to counter
the new government's "murderous" policies, as well as a
nationwide signature campaign for referenda demanding
constitutional amendments and Yeltsin's resignation. At the
end of the first day, Zyuganov led a procession of party
leaders to the Lenin mausoleum on Red Square.
Resolutions adopted the next day endorsed a strategy
of primarily non-parliamentary protest, although one
resolution proposed--but did not demand--that the KPRF
Duma faction consider holding a no-confidence vote.
Whether the Communist rank and file will respond to the
call for massive demonstrations will be seen next month.
Turnout for the 27 March nationwide protest action fell far
below Communist expectations.
Meanwhile, the NDR is divided over how to build an
image as a movement that is concerned about the welfare of
ordinary citizens. Founded two years ago as the
government's standard-bearer in parliamentary elections,
the NDR recruited many regional and business elites but
won fewer Duma seats than its founders expected. Even NDR
leaders admit that the movement has failed to attract a
broad social base, as it is still considered a mere proxy for
the highly unpopular government.
Chernomyrdin told delegates to this weekend's
congress that he was "dissatisfied" with Russia's current
economic situation. He vowed that his government would
solve the budget crisis, close tax loopholes, and establish
"order" in the alcohol trade. And in an apparent attempt to
demonstrate that the NDR is more than his personal vehicle,
Chernomyrdin suggested it was too early to decide who
would represent the bloc in the next presidential election.
However, Chernomyrdin's promises failed to impress
Sergei Belyaev, leader of the NDR's parliamentary faction,
which for several months has quietly complained that
government officials take its support for granted. Belyaev
argued that his Duma faction has been a "hostage" to
government policy and should be consulted more on policy
matters. He warned that if the NDR does not change its
current strategy before the next parliamentary elections,
scheduled for 1999, it will attract popular support on the
level of the humble Beer Lovers' Party.
Belyaev also said the NDR leadership should listen
more to the movement's regional branches and better
defend regional interests in the parliament. His comments
reflect a threat to what has been considered the NDR's main
strength: its support among the regional elite.
Other politicians with presidential ambitions are
actively courting regional leaders. Last week, Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov signed an agreement pledging that the capital
city will provide up to 20 billion rubles ($3.5 million) to
develop industry in Kaluga Oblast. Former Federation
Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko has recruited several
governors to join his Reforms--New Course movement.
And the growing prominence of First Deputy Prime Minister
Boris Nemtsov shows that regional leaders may compete
with Chernomyrdin in a future presidential race.
Although both Zyuganov and Chernomyrdin were
upbeat about their prospects, this weekend's congresses did
little more than paper over discord troubling both the KPRF
and the "party of power."