|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 20, Part I, 27 January 1995
We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. The Digest is distributed in two sections. This part focuses on Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and the CIS. Part II, distributed simultaneously as a second document, covers East-Central and Southeastern Europe. The Daily Digest picks up where the RFE/RL Daily Report, which recently ceased publication, left off. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting. RUSSIA CHECHEN MINISTER THREATENS TERROR As artillery shelling of Grozny continued on 26 January, Chechen Foreign Minister Shamseddin Yussef, speaking in Washington, threatened to launch a terrorist campaign in Moscow. Meanwhile, Chechen Military Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov issued a statement affirming that the Chechens will not retreat from Grozny and have made preparations for conducting a prolonged partisan war, Reuters reported. - Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. SHUMEIKO OUTLINES SECURITY COUNCIL PLAN FOR CHECHNYA. In a meeting with journalists on 26 January, Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko outlined the reconstruction plan for Chechnya adopted by the Security Council the day before, Interfax reported. Pending the election of a new government, presumably this year, an interim administration will be formed on the basis of the National Salvation Committee, a body comprising members of the former Chechen-Ingush parliament, the Chechen diaspora, and the clergy. The council plans to analyze the state of the economy and infrastructure in greater detail before drafting a plan of assistance. Electricity, water supply, telecommunications, and oil extraction should be restored first. According to Shumeiko, revenue from 4 million tons of crude oil a year could offset the costs of reconstruction. A special zone will be set up along the Russian border area that crosses the territory of North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan. A member of the Russian cabinet, with the rank of deputy prime minister or higher, will remain permanently in the Chechen Republic to implement the measures. - Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. VOROBEV ON CHECHNYA MILITARY DEBACLE. Former first deputy commander of Russian ground forces, Col.-Gen. Eduard Vorobev, said 26 January that the Chechen campaign was poorly planned and too hastily executed, Russian and Western agencies reported. Vorobev, who was fired by Defense Minister Pavel Grachev for his refusal to lead the attack, laid blame for the ensuing high "human, economic, and political losses" on the minister's reluctance to inform Yeltsin that more time was needed to plan the operation. - Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. KOVALEV MEETS CHERNOMYRDIN. Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 26 January to discuss the Chechen war, according to Ostankino's "Vremya." In the meeting, which lasted 90 minutes instead of the scheduled 40 minutes, Kovalev said he tried to convince Chernomyrdin to negotiate directly with President Dzhokhar Dudaev, as the only Chechen leader who commands respect and obedience in the republic. He also told the prime minister that it is "senseless" to talk with representatives of the Chechen diaspora in Moscow or with leaders supported by the Russian government. At the end of the meeting, Kovalev said he was not sure whether the prime minister agreed with him but added, "Chernomyrdin stopped short of repeating the official formula of Yeltsin's administration that they would not talk with 'bandits.'" Earlier that day, the New York-based human rights organization, Freedom House, announced their decision to give this year's Freedom Award to Sergei Kovalev, whom they credited "with galvanizing Russian public opinion against the war in Chechnya." - Julia Wishnevsky and Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. IMF DEAL WITH RUSSIA THREATENED A combination of factors threaten the prospects of the IMF deal with Russia, Reuters reported on 25 January. An IMF delegation is in Moscow to assess the country's economic prospects in light of a possible $6.25 billion standby loan. The IMF has already lent Russia $4 million. Political chaos and the Chechnya troubles are undermining prospects for a tight 1995 budget, which is necessary to secure the loan. The removal of Privatization Minister Vladimir Polevanov, who had sought to renationalize some natural resource firms, provides one hopeful sign that discipline may be restored. But Grigorii Yavlinsky, head of the Yabloko group in the Duma, said the situation remains fluid and there is no guarantee that Polevanov's replacement will have different ideas on nationalization. "How do we know that tomorrow, someone from the circus or the zoo won't be appointed to his position? The truth is Yeltsin is surrounded by advisers giving him wrong advice. Just like (ex-Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev, he has a special talent for plucking these people from obscurity." However, in the final analysis, the fate of the IMF loan depends on the attitude of the Group of Seven (G7), whose finance ministers meet in Toronto on 3-4 February. - Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE TUMBLES TO RECORD LOW. The Russian ruble fell 16 points in MICEX trading on 26 January, closing at 4,004 rubles to the dollar, reported Russian agencies. A total of $207.81 million was sold with an initial demand of $229.72 million and initial supply at $202.81 million, and 61 commercial banks participating. The central bank was the main bidder in the trading session and purchased about $150 million. MICEX representative, Oleg Osemnuk, told Interfax that overshooting the 4,000- ruble mark "has psychological rather than economic overtones." He said buyers will have to adjust to the new rate. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Potemkin, director of the central bank's foreign transactions department, told the Financial Information Agency that the fall of the ruble in January, at a weekly rate of 4.5%, reflected inflationary processes. Potemkin said the status of the currency market was predictable and could be attributed to the central bank's monetary moves to "put an end to panicky dollar-buying and selling of rubles." Since the beginning of the year, the central bank has increased the annual refinancing rate from 170% to 200%, to keep a step ahead of inflation. - Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIANS AGREE TO U.S. HELP IN PROTECTING NUCLEAR FACILITIES. The U.S. Department of Defense will provide Russia with $20 million to improve the physical security and accounting of nuclear-weapons-grade uranium and plutonium currently being held in laboratories, research institutes, and nuclear processing plants, according to a 24 January Pentagon press release. The release said the assistance package had been under negotiation for nearly a year, and the 20 January agreement marked the first time Russia had agreed to accept U.S. help in protecting these materials. - Doug Clarke , OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN MAKES BEST OF MISSILE FALSE ALARM. President Yeltsin praised the Russian military for detecting and tracking a Norwegian research missile on 25 January. The event caused a stir after Interfax erroneously reported that the missile had been aimed at Russia and then shot down by air defense forces. Yeltsin said he had used his "black box" for the first time during the event, Interfax reported on 26 January. "I immediately contacted the defense minister and the generals, and we kept track of that missile from beginning to end," he said. He added that the military leadership did not think it had the capability of detecting such a small missile immediately, "but we did, and found where it landed, fairly far from our coasts." The missile was launched from Andoya in northern Norway, and landed in the vicinity of the Svalbard Archipelago. The closest it came to Russia was about 250 kilometers from the country's airspace. - Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RECENT MEDIA APPOINTMENTS. Ostankino will become the most widely watched, most powerful, and most competitive Russian TV channel, according to its new general director, Vladislav Listev. The Russian TV star was named to the post at the first meeting of the Board of Directors of Public Russian Television (Ostankino), according to "Vremya" on 25 January. Former acting chairman Aleksandr Yakovlev was elected chairman of the board. In a separate development, "Vremya" said, Marina Nekrasova has been appointed head of Yeltsin's information center, where she will be in charge of the president's press service. Sergei Nosovets, acting chief of the Directorate on Information Guarantees for the Presidential Administration, will serve as Nekrasova's deputy. Since Nosovets' appointment to the directorate, Nekrasova produced Ostankino's propaganda programs "Moscow, the Kremlin" and "First Hand," which aired official points of view. - Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN VISITS LIPETSK. In his first trip outside Moscow since the beginning of the Chechen crisis, Yeltsin traveled on 26 January to Lipetsk, a Russian city located some 400 kilometers south of the capital. Presidential aide Viktor Ilyushin claimed the trip symbolized the normalization of events in Chechnya, Komsomolskaya pravda reported. Public access to the president was confined to workers in three factories which have benefited from his reforms, The Washington Post reported. At the airport, he told journalists he will "make monthly visits to the regions, if there aren't any disruptions," Rossiiskie vesti reported. At one of the factories, Yeltsin declared the Duma had no right to set up a commission to investigate the Chechen events and said he would set up his own committee for that purpose, Interfax reported. - Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA ENDORSES MEDIA BILL. The Duma passed a bill "On TV and Radio Broadcasting" in its second reading, Interfax reported 26 January. The bill will be returned to the legislature for final debate and possible passage by 10 February. In its present form, the bill bars federal, regional, and other local authorities, as well as individuals and public associations, from controlling the programming policy of a TV or radio company. There are exceptions, however, for broadcasts of elections, advertisements, erotic programs, and broadcasts from zones where a state of emergency is in force. The legislation provides for a 16-member commission on radio and TV broadcasting. The president will appoint its members to six-year terms on the basis of candidates submitted along party lines by the president himself and both houses of the Federal Assembly. The commission's operating procedures must be approved by two- thirds of its members. - Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA THREE DASHNAK PARTY MEMBERS ARRESTED. Armenian Intelligence Service officers arrested three members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsyutyun) in Erevan on 26 January, Interfax reported. A spokesman for the intelligence service denied any knowledge of the arrests. The federation was suspended for six months for alleged involvement in terrorism and drug trafficking. - Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV ON TAJIKISTAN. Addressing a conference of foreign ministers from Central Asia in Moscow on 26 January, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev argued that attempts by the CIS to "normalize the situation in Tajikistan" do not conflict with parallel efforts by the UN or the OSCE, Interfax reported. A member of Kozyrev's staff criticized the UN's reluctance to provide peacekeepers for Tajikistan and advocated increasing the number of UN observers stationed in the republic. There are 18 at present. He also predicted that a date will soon be announced for the fourth round of UN-sponsored talks in Moscow between the Tajik government and the opposition, which are tentatively scheduled for early February. - Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS RUSSIAN-KAZAKH COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Russia and Kazakhstan signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation between border regions, Interfax reported on 26 January. The accord paves the way for increased interregional trade and the simplification of customs controls for border-area residents. But the timetable for implementing the agreement remains uncertain. Bolshakov was quoted as saying Russia will not remove customs posts until Kazakhstan has brought its legislation into line with the customs agreement signed by Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in Moscow on 20 January. - Penny Morvant and Michael Mihalka., OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN ON UKRAINE. President Yeltsin said on 26 January that relations with Ukraine are not as good as desired, Interfax reported. He said that he had planned to visit Ukraine last November and sign a treaty on friendship and cooperation, but did not go because the agreement had not been drafted. Yeltsin blamed Ukraine for this, saying the country's opposition to dual citizenship had stalled the process. Yeltsin said Russian cannot make concessions over this issue and said he would not visit Ukraine until the treaty is drafted. - Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The Daily Digest is distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. To subscribe, send "SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L YourFirstName YourLastName" (without the quotation marks and inserting your name where shown) to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU No subject line or other text should be included. The publication can also be obtained for a fee in printed form by fax and postal mail. Please direct inquiries to: Editor, Daily Digest, OMRI, Na Strzi 63, 14062 Prague 4, Czech Republic or send e-mail to: email@example.com Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396
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