|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 107, Part I, 2 June 1995
We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. 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. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through our WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html RUSSIA GRACHEV ACCEPTS LEBED'S RESIGNATION. Defense Minster Pavel Grachev signed 14th Army Commander Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed's resignation request, Russian agencies reported on 1 June. Grachev called Lebed an "ordinary general" with political ambitions, whose resignation was not a "tragedy." President Yeltsin has not yet accepted Lebed's resignation. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. ADVERTISING TO BE RESUMED ON CHANNEL 1 . . . The Russian Public Television company (ORT), which stopped running advertisements when it took over Channel 1 broadcasting from Ostankino TV on 1 April, will soon resume advertising on the network, Segodnya reported on 1 June. ORT Director General Sergei Blagovolin said a new advertising code for the network was near completion. Shortly before he was murdered on 1 March, Vladislav Listev, then ORT director general, announced a temporary ban on Channel 1 advertising and permanent changes in advertising rules. The new rules will diminish the role of middlemen, who earned tens of millions of dollars annually re-selling advertising time purchased at cost from Ostankino. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. . . . AMID ACCUSATIONS OF CORRUPTION AT OSTANKINO. Meanwhile, Radio Mayak on 1 June reported allegations of corrupt advertising practices at Ostankino TV. The report charged that Alexander Dmitriev, vice-president and chief economist at Ostankino, helped found a joint venture between Ostankino and an Israeli television company in 1993 and was subsequently paid a monthly salary of $40,000, even though Ostankino received very little of the joint venture's revenues. Radio Mayak also asserted that beginning in 1993, Ostankino had illegally broadcast advertisements for Israeli companies. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. IGNATENKO APPOINTED DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER FOR MEDIA. President Yeltsin has appointed Vitaly Ignatenko to the post of deputy prime minister in charge of media affairs, Interfax reported. Ignatenko will retain his current position as director general of the official ITAR-TASS news agency, according to Russian TV. However, Interfax reported that he will leave this position immediately. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, Ignatenko will have to define his responsibilities in coordination with Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai who is in charge of the media. Shakhrai may now take some responsibility for foreign policy issues. Commentators from Chubais to Mikhail Poltoranin, chairman of the State Duma Committee for Information Policy, praised Ignatenko as a "top-notch professional." Oleg Golembiovsky, editor of Izvestiya , told NTV he believes the appointment is a government attempt to increase its influence over the media. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ROW OVER QUAKE AID FROM JAPAN. Japan will send a fourth batch of aid to the victims of the earthquake on Sakhalin despite the bitterness sparked by President Boris Yeltsin's remarks about its possible political price tag, Kyodo News Agency reported on 2 June. Yeltsin said on 31 May that Japan might use the aid issue to pressure Moscow to return the disputed Kuril Islands. Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin then added insult to injury by saying Yeltsin's remarks relected Russian astonishment that certain Japanese officials linked the territorial question with all other issues, Reuters reported. Karasin also stressed, however, that Russia greatly appreciated Japan's offer and said First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets had telephoned the Japanese foreign minister to coordinate relief efforts. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky also sent a letter thanking Japan for its assistance and regretting "individual irresponsible statements by Russia's top leadership," according to Interfax. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CRIMINAL CASE INSTITUTED OVER SHODDY BUILDING WORK. The Sakhalin Prosecutor's Office has opened a criminal case to look into claims that poor construction work contributed to the deaths in Neftegorsk during Sunday's earthquake, Interfax reported on 1 June. At least 17 apartment blocks collapsed in the disaster, burying an estimated 2,000 people. The case is based on Article 251 of the Criminal Code on infringements of building regulations. According to Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, the apartment blocks were put up in the 1960s before Sakhalin was considered an earthquake zone. Meanwhile, Fuel and Energy Minister Yury Shafranik has rebuffed suggestions that the quake could place the future of the oil industry on Sakahlin in doubt, noting that oil pipelines had suffered only 16 minor leaks as a result of the quake. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. FSB PROHIBITS PUBLISHING OF WINTER HARVEST PROJECTIONS. For the first time in several years, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has forbidden the publication of official winter-crop harvest projections, Ekho Moskvy and Interfax reported on 1 June. An FSB spokesman told Ekho Moskvy that harvest information should be considered a "commercial secret." However, another FSB spokesman denied the reports the same day, according to Reuters. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin and Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Gennady Kulik supported the idea of keeping harvest projections secret. Ilyukhin argued that releasing such information would give Western nations leverage to use against Russian security interests. Agriculture Minister Alexander Nazarchuk has previously forecast a winter harvest of 82 million tons, but the real figures are expected to be much lower. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW TO DISCUSS FINANCING OF RECONSTRUCTION IN CHECHNYA. The State Commission for Postwar Reconstruction of Chechnya, headed by Soskovets, met on 1 June to consider ministry proposals on financing reconstruction work in Chechnya, Interfax reported. The government plans to spend 5.7 trillion rubles ($1.14 billion) by the end of 1995. In May alone, it allocated 35.1 billion rubles ($7.02 million) to be paid as wages and social benefits to Chechen residents, senior commission spokesman Yury Mikhailov told the news agency. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin said spending on defense has dropped far behind that on other sectors of the Russian economy this year, as less than half of the funds planned for defense projects have been allocated from January to May, AFP reported. A shortage of cash has led to delayed wage payments and slower production of military hardware. No figures were released. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RYBKIN CONTINUES BUILDING LEFT-CENTER BLOC. State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin is conducting talks with more than 20 parties and movements to build a left-center bloc to counter Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's right-center bloc, the speaker told an interviewer from Rossiiskaya gazeta. He claims that at least 120 to 140 Duma deputies, mainly representing single-member districts, are interested in the bloc. Rybkin said the bloc will be concerned in particular with the fast pace of reform, pointing out that a car driver should not speed up when he sees a sign saying, "Road Construction Ahead." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. TURKISH SPY SPILLS BEANS? Turkey has officially denied that it is conducting espionage in Chechnya following the arrest of Turkish national Isak Kasap in Dagestan, AFP reported on 31 May. The Russian Foreign Ministry lodged an official protest accusing Turkey of sending secret agents to assist Chechen rebels, AFP reported on 1 June. Ministry spokesman Karasin told journalists Kasap had talked about his mission, revealed the names of individuals working at the headquarters of the Turkish national intelligence service (MIT), and divulged the name of another spy who had met with Dzhokhar Dudaev in March. Members of the Turkey-based "Committee of Caucasus-Chechen Solidarity" also say members of their group in Chechnya have been arrested. Following low-key talks in February, Turkey promised Russia it would not support the Chechen rebels. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. RATIFICATION NECESSARY FOR PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE? Any agreement on Russian participation in the Partnership for Peace program must be ratified by the Russian parliament, State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin told Interfax on June 1. Ilyukhin added that such an agreement would stand little chance of ratification. A high- ranking Foreign Ministry official disputed Ilyukhin's claim, stating that there is no constitutional or legal need for parliamentary ratification, as the agreements are only "working plans," outlining areas of cooperation between Russia and NATO. The official added that the agreements should not have come as a surprise to the parliament, because deputies had participated in the drafting process. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. AGREEMENT COULD INCREASE RUSSIAN INFLUENCE ON NATO EXPANSION. By joining the Partnership for Peace (PfP), Russia has increased its chances of "defending its interests" on the issue of NATO expansion, according to Krasnaya zvezda on 1 June. The newspaper did, however, criticize the timing of the agreements. Recent NATO decisions in Bosnia, he argued, show the alliance remains unwilling to treat Russia as a full and equal partner on matters of European security. Nevertheless, the paper argued, the institutionalization of NATO-Russian consultation and cooperative measures through PfP may offer a better chance for Russian views to be heard and considered by NATO leaders. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT TO EASE STOCK MARKET RULES FOR FOREIGNERS. The Russian government plans to ease the rules on the purchase of Russian securities by foreigners, the Financial Information Agency reported on 1 June. The Federal Commission for Securities and the Stock Market (FCSSM) said the commission, together with the Central Bank of Russia will finalize new rules for non-resident purchases. Currently, foreign investors must receive permission from the bank each time they wish to purchase Russian enterprise shares. New legislation will only require that non-residents notify the bank of the purchase. More than 60% of the off-exchange market is controlled by domestic investors. Western share purchases have amounted to no more than $200 million in recent months. In August 1994, foreign investments reached a record high of $500 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIA OPENS RADAR STATIONS. As part of a deal with Russia on joint air defenses, Georgia opened two Soviet-era radar stations and a command post controlling the airspace around Tbilisi on 1 June, Reuters reported, citing Georgian television. Georgian air defense commander Georgi Kvinikadze said Russia would supply equipment and train personnel so that all Soviet-era air defense systems in the republic could be reactivated. Without elaborating, he also said Georgian air space has been repeatedly violated. Russia and Georgia agreed last year on the original military cooperation package. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS ACCORD ON FIGHTING ORGANIZED CRIME. CIS security chiefs signed an agreement on fighting organized crime at a meeting in Gudauri, Georgia on 31 May, Interfax and NTV reported. Protocols were signed on various issues including terrorism, nuclear smuggling, illegal armed formations, and drug trafficking. The heads of the security services also agreed to exchange personnel and set up a single database in Moscow. Azerbaijan's representative said he had reached agreement with his Armenian counterpart "on possible cooperation within certain limits and on certain questions." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA FINANCING BLACK SEA FLEET ALONE. For the second year in a row, Russia has been providing all the money to run the so-called "joint" Black Sea Fleet, a senior fleet official told Interfax on 1 June. Alexander Zhukov, the fleet's chief of finance, said sailors from Ukraine are serving in the fleet and Ukraine has been asked to pay the fleet's debts to Ukrainian shipyards to compensate for their wages. He also said about 40% of the Russian money spent on the fleet went to Ukraine in the form of taxes or payments. Zhukov reported that only help from Russian regions and towns--above all Moscow--ensured the social welfare of the fleet's crews. The laid-up aircraft-carrying cruiser Moskva belongs to the fleet, and the Moscow authorities have financed the construction of several blocks of apartments for its sailors. -- Doug Clarke, 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. 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. 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