|If there is anyone listening to whom I owe money, I'm prepared to forget it if you are. - Errol Flynn|
No. 55, Part I, 17 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 YAKOVLEV RESIGNS AS HEAD OF OSTANKINO, CONTINUES AT RUSSIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION. Alexander Yakovlev resigned as the head of the Ostankino State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company on 16 March after fourteen months in office, ITAR-TASS reported. He said he "can no longer work with demagogues" and criticized the staff for a "lack of professionalism" and for blocking his attempts to reform the station. The company is known for widespread corruption in its lucrative advertising policies. Yako-vlev's resignation came immediately after a group of employees accused him of incompetence because he had never worked in a radio or television station, and appears symbolic since he will continue in his post as managing director of the newly formed Russian Public Television company, with 49% private investment, which will take over Ostankino on 1 April. After the reorganization, which is extremely unpopular among the employees, Ostankino will be a production company and Russian Public Television will take over broadcasting responsibilities, giving it the power to accept or reject Ostankino's programming, AFP reported. Yakovlev also leads the recently-formed Party of Social Democracy, which has close links to Yeltsin. His simultaneous leadership of both the station and the party will make him one of the most powerful players in the parliamentary and presidential electoral campaigns. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. GRYZUNOV TO SUE GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER. Sergei Gry-zunov, the State Press Committee chairman, plans to sue Rossiiskaya gazeta, a state-funded organ of the Russian executive branch, over a 14 March article that accused Gryzunov of misappropriating 678.8 billion rubles allocated for press subsidies and using the money for the press committee's internal budget instead, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported. Gryzunov denied the allegations and told Ekho Moskvy that Rossiiskaya gazeta's main goal is "not to allow a financial-management audit of this publication," which the press committee had begun under Gryzunov's leadership. On 27 February, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced that Gryzunov would be sacked after serving as press committee chairman for five months. President Yeltsin suspended the dismissal the next day after editors-in-chief of nearly every major newspaper signed an open letter defending Gryzunov. The 14 March Rossiiskaya gazeta article charged that all the signatories had benefited from Gryzunov's favoritism in allocating funds to newspapers. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. FEDOROV: FINANCIAL GROUPS HOLD REAL POWER IN RUSSIA. Boris Fedorov, former finance minister and leader of the "Forward, Russia!" movement, told a group of young politicians in Yekaterinburg that eight financial companies in Moscow wield real power in Russia, Radio Mayak reported on 16 March. Fedorov refused to name the eight companies, but he said their activities run counter to the public interest, and that "someone" profits from Russia's high crime rate. His remarks were likely aimed at the eight companies backing the new Duma faction Stability, which supports Yeltsin and opposes holding parliamentary elections scheduled for December 1995. On 16 March, Interfax quoted Fedorov as stating in Yekaterinburg that he will not run for president in 1996, because "I do not want to try on the tsar's crown." In a 17 March interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta, Fedorov said he still believes in rapid economic reform, and that his movement stands for moving toward "world civilization, a normal standard of living, and order." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN URGES CLINTON TO ATTEND VE-DAY CELEBRATIONS. President Boris Yeltsin has urged U.S. President Bill Clinton to attend VE-Day celebrations in Moscow on 9 May, The Financial Times reported on 17 March. In a significant concession, Yeltsin offered to do away with the planned display of military might, including 10,000 troops, 250 vehicles, and 70 airplanes, Interfax reported. He said the Chechen war would not hinder Clinton's visit because all military activities there have ceased. He expressed sympathy for Clinton's difficulties with the Congress in trying to secure ratification of START-2, saying he has the "identical problem" with his parliament. Yeltsin also repeated his opposition to "a sudden, accelerated, large-scale expansion of NATO." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CHUBAIS CRITICIZES RUSSIA'S DEMOCRATIC CHOICE OVER DECISION NOT TO SUPPORT YELTSIN. Anatoly Chubais, first deputy prime minister and a member of the Russia's Democratic Choice Party political council, called the council's 11 March decision not to support Yeltsin's reelection bid a "political error," Interfax reported on 16 March. Chubais said it is too early to predict the political situation in June 1996, and that Yeltsin may end up competing in a runoff against a candidate like nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, or former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi. In such a race, 95% of the members of Russia's Democratic Choice would support Yeltsin, he predicted. In response, party leader Yegor Gaidar said a future party congress would decide on the party's candidate. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA WILL NOT NOMINATE ITS OWN CANDIDATE FOR THE PRESIDENCY. Lev Pono-marev, co-chairman of Democratic Russia, told a meeting of voters in Nizhny Novgorod that the party will not name its own candidate for the presidential elections and will probably work with Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko bloc, Interfax reported on 16 March. Democratic Russia had been a strong supporter of Yeltsin until he began the Chechen campaign. Now it sees Yavlinsky, who has long opposed Yeltsin, as closest to its ideological position. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. GROMOV'S STATUS UNCERTAIN. While two aides of Col.-Gen. Boris Gromov said on 16 March that President Boris Yeltsin had issued a decree to relieve him of his duties as deputy defense minister, the presidential press office told Interfax it knew nothing of such a decree. Gromov--who has sharply criticized Defense Minister Pavel Grachev over the military operations in Chechnya--was named chief military expert in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in February. He has kept his title of deputy defense minister. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE'S EXCHANGE RATE ME-CHANISM TO REMAIN. Russia will not radically change its system for setting the ruble's exchange rate after receiving a $6.25 billion IMF stand-by credit, a senior official at the Central Bank told the Financial Information Agency on 16 March. The source said it is useless to reject the well-functioning system of the ruble's controlled floating exchange rate unless the economic situation warrants a fixed rate against the U.S. dollar. The bank official noted that the IMF credit was crucial to support economic reforms, but it would not be the main factor for planning and implementing the bank's interior credit-monetary policy. The ruble's floating exchange rate was introduced in July 1992. The official rate is used in accounting by commercial banks, for inter- state payments, and customs duty payments. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CRIME ROUNDUP. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin said at a roundtable on organized crime that state bodies are increasingly being penetrated by criminals, Radio Mayak reported on 16 March. He added that a quarter of those recently convicted for bribery worked in law enforcement. At a 14 March press conference, Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Kulikov announced that the overall crime rate rose by 5% in the first two months of 1995, compared with the same period in 1994, and that murders were up 10%, Reuters reported. Another prominent businessman, Oleg Zverev, the head of the Union of Entrepreneurs, was killed in Moscow on 13 March. The number of crimes committed by minors has risen by 74% over the last six years, Interfax reported on 15 March. The agency quoted Deputy Education Minister Mariya Lazutina as saying that most juvenile delinquents do not go to work or school and that many are homeless. However, technical and high school pupils are also committing an increasing number of offenses, she added. -- Penny Morvant VORKUTA MINING UNION LEADERS GO ON HUNGER STRIKE. About 20 representatives of the Russian Coal Miners' Union and the Independent Trade Union of Miners in Vorkuta went on hunger strike on 16 March in support of demands that wage arrears and other state debts to the coal industry be paid in full without delay, AFP reported. The previous day, Interfax quoted Vorkuta union leader Viktor Semenov as saying the situation in the region is explosive. Miners in other parts of the country decided on 15 March to delay a protest action scheduled for 16-18 March following a meeting between First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais and union officials, Interfax reported. Russian Coal Miners' Union Chairman Vitaly Budko said agreement had been reached on major grievances. Most notably, it was decided that a schedule for financing the industry in the second quarter of 1995 would be worked out within a week. The union continues to hold out the threat of industrial action if the government does not honor its commitments to the industry. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CHILINGAROV: RUSSIA SHOULD INFLUENCE NATO ON A PAR WITH U.S. State Duma Deputy Chairman Artur Chilingarov held talks on 16 March with Karsten Voigt acting in his capacity as chairman of the North Atlantic Assembly, NATO's parliamentary arm, Interfax reported on 16 March. Voigt is also foreign policy spokesperson for the German opposition Social Democratic Party. They discussed NATO expansion, Che-chnya, and the dismissal of Sergei Kovalev as human rights commissioner. Chilingarov said it will take a long time before the Russian people understand that NATO bears them no ill-will. He added that as a nuclear power, Russia "has the right to claim influence in NATO on a par with the Americans." Voigt said Germany could more readily cooperate with Russia if countries such as Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic joined NATO. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUSCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN GOVERNMENT TROOPS ATTACK REBELS' BASE. Eight people were killed on 16 March when Azerbaijani government troops tried unsuccessfully to storm the Baku headquarters of rebel Interior Ministry forces under Deputy Minister Rovshan Dzhavadov, Western agencies reported. President Heidar Aliev issued a decree granting an amnesty to those insurgents who surrender their arms by 10 p.m. Baku time on 17 March. Despite assurances by Aliev that no further attempt would be made to neutralize the rebels before then, government forces again attacked the base in the early morning of 17 March. Numerous people, including Dzha-vadov and some civilians living in the vicinity, were killed in the ensuing fighting, according to ITAR-TASS and AFP. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. ENTHUSIASM OF KAZAKH OPPOSITION WANES. "We will see this through to the end." Despite those words of poet and political activist Olzhas Suleimenov, members of the "shadow parliament" in Kazakhstan seem to be resigning themselves to the recent dismissal of the assembly by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. The former deputies have been locked out of their offices, had their phone lines cut, and are presently kept from entering the parliament building by security forces. The group of 72 deputies who began a three-day hunger strike on 15 March numbered only 22 by day's end on 16 March, according to Interfax. Only a handful of people turned up for a planned meeting of the "People's Parliament," on 16 March, Reuters reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. DRUG TRAFFICKING IN CENTRAL ASIA CAUSE FOR ALARM. The dramatic increase in drug use and narcotics related business has prompted the UN Program for Drug Control to place special emphasis on efforts to combat the problem immediately before the area becomes a new Columbia. Arrests connected to narcotics have risen from 909 in 1990 to 2544 in 1994, Slovo Kyrgyzstana reported on 1 March. Tajikistan is also experiencing a crisis with two major drug-trafficking routes running through the republic: one from Gorno-Badakhshan to the Kyrgyz city of Osh and the other from Fedzhikent in northern Tajikistan through the Uzbek cities of Samarkand and Urgut to Turkmenistan and Russia. Central Asian leaders will meet in September or October to sign an agreement on cooperation in fighting the threat, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier, 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. 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