|To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson|
No. 229, Part I, 27 November 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. Part II, distributed simultaneously as a second document, covers Central, Eastern, 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 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA AND UKRAINE SIGN MILITARY AGREEMENTS. Following a meeting in Sochi, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and his Ukrainian counterpart, Valerii Shmarov, signed 26 bilateral documents, Ukrainian and Russian agencies reported on 25 November. Grachev hailed the meeting as a "change in the military and political climate between the two countries." However, as has already become traditional in Ukrainian- Russian meetings, many difficult problems were deferred rather than resolved. NTV, for example, reported that while agreement had been reached on forming a jointly-financed ballistic missile defense system using former Soviet radars located in Ukraine, the two sides remain divided on the issue of a CIS air defense system. Grachev and Shmarov did, however, sign a number of agreements and protocols covering such issues as the transit through Ukraine of Russian troops now based in Moldova, Russian purchase of Ukrainian strategic missile systems and heavy bombers, and the flank limitations of the 1990 CFE treaty. -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA RUSSIA TO BUY UKRAINIAN MISSILES, BOMBERS. At the Sochi meeting, Russia agreed to buy from Ukraine 32 SS-19 ICBMs--probably all that remains of the 130 ex-Soviet SS-19s once deployed in Ukraine. The head of Russia's Strategic Missile Troops, Col. Gen. Igor Sergeev, told Interfax that the acquisition would allow "Russia's nuclear potential to be maintained at the necessary level until 2009." The purchase marks a shift in Russian strategic planning, as 10 of the 170 SS-19s deployed in Russia itself have already been destroyed. Under the terms of the still unratified START II treaty, Russia would retain 105 SS 19s as single-warhead missiles in silos, but it is now proposing that it be allowed to keep all 170 SS 19s as single-warhead missiles in their silos. In addition, Russian Air Force chief Petr Deinekin told Interfax that his country had decided to eventually buy all 19 Tu-160 "Blackjack" and 25 Tu-95 "Bear" bombers and more than 300 strategic cruise missiles from Ukraine. -- Doug Clarke COURT WILL NOT EXAMINE ELECTORAL LAW IN THE FUTURE. Constitutional Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov said that it is up to the parliament to decide how to set up the country's electoral system, not the court. The court decided not to review the electoral law on 20 November after the question came up in the heat of the campaign, saying that any action on its part could "complicate the electoral process without justification," ITAR-TASS reported on 24 November. On the same day, the Duma also rejected any attempts to change the electoral law before the vote. -- Robert Orttung SHUMEIKO FOUNDS NEW MOVEMENT. A group of 22 initiators, including Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, and former Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Polevanov, are planning to create a new political movement in December with the tentative name Russian Reforms-New Course, Russian Public TV reported on 21 November. Shumeiko has been unfailingly loyal to President Yeltsin and has until now not joined any political parties. Speculation in Moscow suggests that the party's goal is to support Yeltsin in the June 1996 presidential campaign, or possibly even Shumeiko if he enters the race, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 23 November. The leaders of the regions in the new movement are calling for Moscow to sign treaties guaranteeing the regions' powers, similar to those signed with the ethnic republics. Yeltsin himself met with Rossel on 24 November, and is reportedly close to signing such an agreement for Sverdlovsk. -- Robert Orttung DUMA RULES ORT ILLEGAL. The Duma passed a bill on reorganizing and privatizing state television and radio stations on 24 November that makes the recent transformation of Ostankino into Russian Public TV (ORT) illegal. The bill would require privatization to be conducted according to rules established in federal law and all privatizations that took place before the rules are established would be overruled, Radio Rossii reported. Yeltsin organized the creation of ORT in November 1994. It is 51% state owned. On 25 November, ORT reported that Yeltsin had already vetoed a similar bill and claimed that, if approved, the law would force the closure of NTV and a number of independent regional stations. -- Robert Orttung STABILITY DEPUTY MURDERED. Duma Deputy Sergei Markidonov was shot dead on 26 November while campaigning in the town of Petrovsk-Zabaikalskii in Chita Oblast in eastern Siberia. Police said Markidonov was assassinated by his bodyguard, who then tried to commit suicide, according to Russian and Western media. The 34-year-old Markidonov was elected to the Duma as a member of Russia's Choice but later moved to the centrist group Stability. He is the fourth deputy to have been murdered since the December 1993 elections, and his death is likely to provoke a renewed outcry over the government's failure to deal with the current crime wave. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN FIRES MILITARY'S TOP FINANCIAL OFFICER. President Boris Yeltsin fired the Defense Ministry's budget director on 23 November for "gross financial violations and insufficient compliance with a government resolution," ITAR-TASS reported. Interfax quoted presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev as saying that Col. Gen. Vasilii Vorobev had been warned of the need to make sure troops were paid on time and also to meet the military's obligations to local power companies. On the same day, Yeltsin issued another decree banning power cuts to military installations and instructing the government to pay the military's debts for utilities and other supplies. -- Doug Clarke LOCAL PAPER UNDER PRESSURE IN VOLOGDA. Roman Romanenko, deputy editor of the Vologda newspaper Russkii Sever, was attacked and beaten by unknown assailants, shortly after publishing an article asking where Vologda Governor Nikolai Podgornov acquired the money to build a lavish new dacha on a civil servant's salary, Izvestiya reported on 25 November. The Vologda paper has faced persistent pressure from the authorities since August, when it reprinted an Izvestiya article containing allegations against Podgornov. -- Laura Belin in Moscow KOZYREV "OUT OF THE LOOP" ON UKRAINE AND BOSNIA TALKS. Speaking with journalists after a 24 November meeting with his Turkmen counterpart, Boris Skikhmyradov, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said his ministry was not involved in preparing the military discussions between Ukraine and Russia. Kozyrev added that Defense Minister Pavel Grachev was handling the negotiations and reporting directly to President Yeltsin. Kozyrev also admitted he knew little about the Russian position in ongoing talks with NATO about the planned Bosnian peace implementation force, in which Grachev is also representing Russia. Kozyrev's exclusion from the negotiations is a further signal that Yeltsin is not confident in him and demonstrates the uncoordinated character of Russian foreign policy decision-making. -- Scott Parrish FUROR OVER ARTICLE BY U.S. DIPLOMAT. An article by a U.S. diplomat that describes the Russian government as an oligarchy in which political and economic power is held by narrow cliques prompted a formal protest from the Russian Foreign Ministry on 24 November, Russian and Western agencies reported. The article, "The New Russian Regime" written by Thomas Graham, a political officer at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, appeared in the 23 November edition of Nezavisimaya gazeta. The ministry demanded "an official public explanation" of the article's content. Graham told journalists the article had been cleared for publication by the State Department, while Richard Hoagland, an embassy spokesman, said the article expressed only Graham's personal views, not those of the U.S. government. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA, TURKEY AGAIN AT ODDS OVER STRAITS. Rules recently imposed by Turkey on merchant shipping through the Black Sea straits have inflicted significant economic damage on Russia and are a violation of the 1936 Montreux Convention, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin told a Moscow briefing on 23 November. Interfax quoted Karasin as saying that Russian ships had been detained 249 times since the new rules went into effect on 1 July 1994, causing a loss of $670,000. On 25 November, ITAR-TASS reported that Russia had sent a letter to the UN arguing that the new rules violate the convention. Worried about the dangers of an accident in the Bosporus and Dardenelles straits, Turkey now allows large vessels to pass through the straits only during daylight and requires them to give 24-hour advance notification before making the transit. There are separate special notification requirements for vessels with nuclear or chemical cargoes. -- Doug Clarke RADIOACTIVE CONTAINER UNEARTHED IN MOSCOW PARK. A container holding low- level radioactive cesium-137 was unearthed in Moscow's Izmailovskii park on 23 November by NTV after Chechen commander Shamil Basaev told them where his men had put it, Russian and Western media reported. Federal Security Service (FSB) officials said the cesium posed no threat to the population. NTV broadcast an interview with Basaev taped two weeks earlier in which the Chechen commander said his men had smuggled four such parcels into Russia and that at least two are packed with explosives and could be detonated at any time. Basaev has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear or chemical weapons in Moscow if the Chechen conflict is not resolved. The FSB thanked the station for turning over the container but chastised it for uncovering the material on its own. -- Penny Morvant THREAT OF ISLAMIC TERRORISM IN RUSSIA. International Islamic organizations are responsible for much of the intelligence and terrorist activity that takes place in Russia and more than 60 such organizations are accredited in the Russian Federation, NTV reported on 25 November, quoting an unnamed source in the Federal Security Service (FSB). The FSB source said that many "tourists" who visit Russia from Muslim countries become Islamic preachers once they arrive, and proceed to establish terrorist organizations in the country and recruit people for training abroad. The Interior Ministry and FSB say they are hamstrung by current legislation in their fight against such organizations. -- Anna Paretskaya CENTRAL BANK INDEPENDENCE WILL BE PUT TO THE TEST. The head of the Duma Budget Committee, Mikhail Zadornov, emphasized the Central Bank's autonomy in an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 22 November. He claimed that the bank "practically fully determines exchange rate policy" and is independent of both the president and the Duma with regard to control over credit emissions. He suggested that it is this independence which made it possible for the Duma to almost unanimously approve the appointment of Sergei Dubinin as its new head. However, certain industrialists and their Duma supporters are putting increasing pressure on the government to allow the ruble to devalue. A decision on the future parameters of the ruble corridor (currently 4,300-4,900 to $1) is expected later this week. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHSTAN COAL MINE EXPLOSION KILLS 10. A methane gas explosion at a coal mine in Shakhtinsk in the Karaganda region of Kazakhstan killed 10 miners on 23 November, Reuters reported on 26 November. Although the investigation is continuing, the methane build-up in the pit has been attributed to defects in the ventilation system. -- Bhavna Dave REFERENDUM ON RUSSIAN LANGUAGE TO BE HELD IN KYRGYZSTAN. A referendum will be held in Kyrgyzstan on 24 December, the same day as the presidential election, to decide the status of the Russian language in the republic, Reuters reported. The move is aimed at curtailing the exodus of Russian-speaking people but appears to be only a token arrangement. Radio Rossii reported on 24 November that while Russian can become an "official" language within the republic, the Assembly of People's Deputies is against requiring the government to use it, claiming that the constitution allows for only one government language-- Kyrgyz. -- Bruce Pannier IRANIAN MILITARY TEAM IN TURKMENISTAN. In the first visit of its kind, an Iranian Defense Ministry delegation arrived in Ashgabat two days of talks on 21 November, the Turkmen Press news agency reported. At the talks, delegates proposed that the two countries share their experience in the development of a military. They also agreed on regular exchanges of military delegations and considered joint undertakings, including military exercises, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 November. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The OMRI 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. To receive the OMRI Daily Digest by mail or fax, please direct inquiries to OMRI Publications, Na Strzi 63, 140 62 Prague 4, Czech Republic; or electronically to OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Tel.: (42-2) 6114 2114; fax: (42-2) 426 396 Please note that there is a new procedure for obtaining permission to reprint or redistribute the OMRI Daily Digest. 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