|If there is anyone listening to whom I owe money, I'm prepared to forget it if you are. - Errol Flynn|
No. 47, Part I, 7 March 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. RUSSIA SECURITY COUNCIL CRITICIZES LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES. At a meeting on 6 March chaired by President Boris Yeltsin, the Security Council condemned the Interior Ministry, the Federal Counterintelligence Service, and the Prosecutor's Office for failing to take adequate steps to combat crime, agencies reported. "This situation discredits the power of the state, diminishes faith in it, and threatens the national security of Russia," said a statement issued by the President's Office after the meeting, which was prompted by the murder last week of TV journalist Vladislav Listev. The statement went on to say that implementation of the anti- crime program adopted in June 1994 was at risk because of insufficient funding. The council reportedly drew up a series of proposals aimed at making the fight against crime more effective, but no details were given. The Interior Ministry has set up a task force headed by Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Kulikov to help Moscow law enforcement agencies solve serious crimes, especially contract killings, Interfax reported on 6 March. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. PONOMAREV AND PANKRATOV DISMISSED. Before the Security Council meeting, acting Prosecutor-General Alexei Ilyushenko formally dismissed Moscow Prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev, despite earlier reports that Yeltsin had rethought his decision to sack him. Ponomarev subsequently told Interfax he feared that a crackdown on crime could lead to police lawlessness, warning that emergency measures should not be taken without guarantees that the constitution would be respected. His replacement, Sergei Gerasimov, described Ponomarev's removal as unjust, telling Russian TV that it "destabilizes the situation and plays into the hands of criminals." A deputy Moscow prosecutor, meanwhile, expressed doubt that Listev's murder would be solved, and a Moscow police official said he thought that although the men who killed Listev might be caught, those who ordered his assassination would go free, Interfax reported. Also on 6 March, Interior Minister Viktor Yerin went ahead with a recommendation by Yeltsin to dismiss Moscow police chief Vladimir Pankratov, appointing Nikolai Kulikov to act in his stead. Kulikov, hitherto the head of the criminal investigation division of the capital's police force, said he planned no major policy changes. Yeltsin's decision to fire Ponomarev and Pankratov has been harshly criticized, in particular by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov. Reuters cited an official in the presidential administration as saying the situation "could lead to a full-blown political crisis. Luzhkov is too powerful to be treated like this." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER GOES ON THE OFFENSIVE. Rossiiskaya gazeta, a heavily-subsidized organ of the Russian executive branch, accused the State Duma's Yabloko faction of exploiting Listev's murder on 4 March. Yabloko has advocated Yeltsin's resignation and acts of civil disobedience if the killers of Listev and Dmitry Kholodov (the investigative reporter who was murdered in October 1994) are not found within a month. Rossiiskaya gazeta charged that Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, who "seems to give the impression of an educated and intelligent man," knows that such investigations take time and is using Listev's death to further his own presidential aspirations. The article also attacked unnamed journalists who called for a week-long media strike to protest violence against their colleagues, saying subscribers who have paid for daily news coverage "may easily take the strikers to court." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. JOURNALIST CRITICIZES SECURITY COUNCIL . . . The Security Council has failed in its original purpose of balancing political and economic interests against the demands of the military, security agencies, and police within the government, Tamara Zamyatina, an ITAR-TASS commentator, wrote in Rossiiskie vesti on 7 March. It failed to play that role when the power ministries began to dominate the political situation. The council's real power lies in its 10 interdepartmental commissions, rather than in its occasional meetings. Deputy Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rubanov said the main cause for the disastrous Chechnya policy was that the regional policy committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, had no sense of guiding principles on how to conduct relations between Moscow and members of the federation. The article also criticized the council for its secretive decision-making procedures, conjecturing that council members do not want any publicity so that they can avoid taking responsibility for their actions. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. . . . AND VICE VERSA. In the same issue of Rossiiskie vesti, Security Council press secretary Valery Kadzhaya denounced the media's numerous "false reports" in recent months. He noted errors in newspaper accounts of the council's investigation following last October's ruble crash. He called media coverage of the Chechen crisis "disgraceful," saying it damaged the soldiers' morale, but denied the council had ever accused reporters of being "Dudaev's accomplices." He blamed reporters in the mass media for citing nonexistent documents "instead of the established facts," especially in speculative "behind-the-scenes" stories on the council. In particular, Kadzhaya faulted journalists for relying on anonymous sources, whom he compared to the "informers" of the past. Only those "without a clear conscience" insist on anonymity, he wrote, while "decent" and "honest" people are not afraid to speak on the record. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA SETS CONDITIONS FOR NATO EXPANSION. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov set three conditions for NATO expansion eastward during talks with US officials at the end of February, AFP reported on 6 March. According to diplomatic and military sources, Russia wants a formal permanent body set up to hold consultations with NATO. Russia also wants no additional troops and no nuclear weapons deployed on new members' territory. On the first point, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry has suggested a less formal consultative body. NATO has reacted coolly to any troop and nuclear weapons restrictions. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. EU DELAYS RUSSIAN TRADE ACCORD. EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels on 6 March, decided to postpone the implementation of an interim trade accord with Russia, international agencies reported. The ministers had decided to go ahead with the accord in January but reversed that decision largely because of the Chechen war. They told French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe to inform the Russian leadership during an 8-10 March visit that the pact will only go ahead after the EU is satisfied that human rights are being respected. Juppe said, "We do not want to isolate Russia, we do want to make it clear Russia has to respect commitments entered into with the EU." Although British Defense Minister Douglas Hurd said the EU is not issuing an ultimatum, he did mention three areas in which it is looking for improvement: progress on a political settlement, a stronger OSCE presence, and better humanitarian aid access. The Financial Times reported that the meeting was tense, with one official saying, "Germany is fearful of doing anything that could drive Russia away. But others, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, want to hold up the trade pact to send a strong message to Moscow." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. HORN DENOUNCES HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN CHECHNYA. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn denounced human rights abuses in Chechnya prior to meeting with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow on 6 March, international agencies reported. Horn was accompanied by his foreign minister, Laszlo Kovacs, who currently holds the rotating OSCE chairmanship, and Istvan Gyarmati, who headed an OSCE mission to Chechnya in late January. Horn's talks with Chernomyrdin are expected to include discussions on Chechnya and bilateral economic matters. Chernomyrdin said Russia and Hungary have no political disagreements and "we are great partners and we have a potential for very important economic development." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. SVERDLOVSK GOVERNOR, DUMA BATTLE OVER ELECTIONS. Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Alexei Strakhov criticized the local Duma for trying to schedule elections for governor, Interfax reported on 6 March. He said his administration is not afraid of standing for election but that he does not consider it necessary to do so before the adoption of appropriate legislation on the federal and local levels. At present, Yeltsin appoints all governors. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN PLANS VACATION. President Yeltsin may leave on a two-week vacation in the second half of March, a Kremlin source told Interfax on 6 March. The source said Yeltsin will probably spend time on the Black Sea coast, as he did in 1993 and 1994. He will use the time away from Moscow to develop strategic plans in the areas of the economy, formation of political institutions, and local governments. The source said he is likely to pay special attention to military reform. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. INFLATION AT 11% FOR FEBRUARY. Russia's inflation rate has slowed to 11%, down from January's 17.8% level, the government's Business Conditions Center reported to Russian sources on 6 March. The lowest monthly inflation rate in five months, the number shows that "the measures adopted by the government are starting to be felt," a center representative said. First Deputy Premier Anatoly Chubais said the "inflation dynamics have been broken" and expected further decreases in future months, AFP reported. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE CONTINUES STEADY FALL. The ruble lost 27 points in MICEX trading on 6 March, closing at 4,585 rubles/$1, the Financial Information Service reported. The initial demand dropped by $53.94 million compared with the previous trading session to $63.95 million. The initial supply was $50.25 million. According to currency dealers, when the mid-trading rate was at 4,582 rubles/$1, the Central Bank withdrew bids for $3.68 million and then at 4,583 rubles for $5 million more. Toward the end of the session, the Central Bank intervened in the market and offered $5 million for sale. Same-day contract settlement rates were 4,584-4587 rubles/$1, with one-day spot rates at 4,593-4596 rubles/$1. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FIRST START INSPECTIONS WENT WELL. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said American inspectors had been satisfied at the three strategic nuclear missile bases they inspected during the last several days, Interfax reported on 6 March. The inspectors looked at a rail-mobile SS- 24 base near Kostroma in European Russia and two bases in Siberia: a road-mobile SS-25 base near Irkutsk and a base near Yasnya which once held SS-11 ICBMs. The spokesman said two additional American teams arrived in Moscow on 5 March. A team of Russian inspectors flew to the United States on 4 March to conduct similar inspections. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. MILITARY SERVICE UNPOPULAR. Seventy per cent of the conscripts from military districts in Western Russia do not want to serve in the armed forces, according to the Russian Youth Committee. The committee also said 50% of the youths thought that notions such as military honor were part of the past and "now lack sense," Interfax reported on 6 March. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA TO PRIVATIZE LARGE STATE ENTERPRISES. The first auction to sell off blocks of shares in large and medium-sized state-owned enterprises in Armenia will take place on 12 March, according to a spokesman for the Armenian State Commission for Privatization, Interfax reported on 2 March. Residents and foreign investors will have the same right to acquire shares. Non-residents will be able to exchange foreign currency for Armenian drams at a special rate on the day of auction. Before the end of 1995, 46.89% of all government-owned enterprises are to be privatized. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS PROBLEMS WITH RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said serious differences remain between Russia and Ukraine over the treaty on friendship and cooperation initialed on 8 February in Kiev, Reuters reported on 6 March. Russia continues to demand that Sevastopol serve as a base for its share of the Black Sea Fleet, while Ukraine insists the base be shared with the Ukrainian Navy. There has also been little progress on resolving Ukraine's $2.5 billion energy debt to Russia. The problem of dual citizenship was left out of the treaty altogether and is to be addressed in a separate document. When the treaty was initialed by the first deputy prime ministers of the two countries, it was reported that Yeltsin would visit Kiev to sign the agreement in late March. However, reports that Yeltsin plans a two-week vacation at the end of this month have cast doubts on the planned visit. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 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. 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