|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 8, Part I, 11 January 1996
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/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ HOSTAGE DRAMA IN DAGESTAN CONTINUES. The Chechen militants who left Kizlyar early on 10 January in a convoy of buses with some 160 hostages were halted in the morning by Russian federal troops in the village of Pervomayskoe near the Chechen-Dagestani border, Russian media reported. Negotiations are reportedly underway between the Chechens, led by Salman Raduev, and Dagestani officials. Representatives of the Russian forces are insisting that the Chechens fulfill their promise to release their hostages at the border, according to ITAR-TASS. The Chechens demanded, first, a Russian Ministry of Interior escort through Chechnya, and then, talks with representatives of the Russian federal government, according to ITAR-TASS. Radio Rossii on 10 January quoted ITAR-TASS as reporting that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev said the hostage taking in Kizlyar had been undertaken on his instructions. In Grozny, Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev has dismissed the entire government, according to Russian TV. -- Liz Fuller ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA ZYUGANOV, ZHIRINOVSKY PRAISE PRIMAKOV APPOINTMENT. On 10 January, Gennadii Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), described recently appointed Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as "an experienced and skilled statesman," Russian and Western agencies reported. Zyuganov said Primakov's appointment "implies open political efforts to protect Russia's national interests which were sacrificed to enemies of our state," adding that his party's victory in the 17 December Duma elections demonstrated that voters did not trust the government's foreign policy. Liberal Democratic Party Leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky called Primakov's appointment "the best option possible." Zhirinovsky predicted that Primakov would "turn Russia's foreign policy toward the Arab world, India, and China." Western experts are divided in their assessment of Primakov, with some regarding him as a hard-liner, while others view him as "pragmatic." -- Scott Parrish TRANSPORT MINISTER SACKED. President Yeltsin dismissed Transport Minister Vitalii Yefimov on 10 January, Russian agencies reported. Yeltsin also formally released from duty Minister without portfolio Nikolai Travkin and State Property Committee Chairman Sergei Belyaev, who are taking up seats in the new Duma. Yefimov recently came under fire in the Russian press for the country's poor air safety record. According to Deputy Economics Minister Ivan Materov, there were three times as many civil aviation accidents in 1995 as in 1991. On 9 January, Interfax reported that Moscow Airlines, the company running the Antonov- 26 plane that crashed in Zaire on 8 January killing 300 people, had been suspended by the Moscow Air Transport Department five days earlier for safety violations. -- Penny Morvant ZHIRINOVSKY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. To no one's surprise, the seventh congress of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) unanimously nominated Vladimir Zhirinovsky as a candidate in the presidential election of June 1996, Russian media reported on 10 January. In his 45- minute address, Zhirinovsky asked President Yeltsin to napalm all Chechen rebel bases and promised to do so himself by 1 July if elected. He also said the LDPR were the true winners of the Duma elections, since the apparent victory of the Communist Party was only its "swan song." However, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported that the LDPR branch in Krasnoyarsk sent an appeal to the congress accusing Zhirinovsky and his family of pocketing party funds, encouraging a cult of personality, and talking nonsense: "Today the name Zhirinovsky is practically a diagnosis." The appeal asked the party to choose a different presidential candidate. -- Laura Belin AGRARIAN DUMA FACTION TO BE FORMED. Duma Deputy Nikolai Kharitonov of the Agrarian Party of Russia (APR) announced that he has recruited more than the 35 deputies needed to form an officially registered Duma faction, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 January. The APR failed to clear the 5% threshold, but 20 deputies were elected in single-member districts. Kharitonov said the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) remains the APR's closest political ally, adding that some KPRF deputies elected in individual districts will join the Agrarian Duma faction. APR Chairman Mikhail Lapshin has returned to his home in Moscow Oblast, since he did not contest a single-member district and will therefore not have a seat in the new Duma. -- Laura Belin CHANGING STRUCTURE OF FEDERATION COUNCIL. The new Federation Council will meet for the first time on 23 January, but many questions remain about the structure of the upper house of parliament, according to the current edition of Moskovskie novosti. Under a new law on its formation, the Council will consist of two deputies from each region, the leaders of the legislative and executive branches. The old Council appealed that law to the Constitutional Court, which has not yet heard the case. The Council's staff will most likely be expanded, since deputies running regional governments or legislatures will not be able to devote their full attention to their parliamentary duties. -- Laura Belin DATE OF MOSCOW MAYORAL ELECTIONS FIXED. On 10 January, President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree setting 16 June as the date for the Moscow mayoralty election, the same day as the presidential election, Russian and Western agencies reported. The decree also prohibits other Russian regions and republics from holding referendums or elections on that day. A 17 September presidential decree postponed all local elections until after the presidential election in June. Later, 12 regions were allowed to hold gubernatorial elections in December 1995. Gavril Popov won the first mayoral election in Moscow in June 1991, and upon his resignation in 1992 he was replaced by vice mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Luzhkov will almost certainly run for a second term. -- Anna Paretskaya YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF. . . President Yeltsin appointed Col. Gen. Vyacheslav Trubnikov as director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) on 10 January, ITAR-TASS reported. He replaces Yevgenii Primakov, who was recently appointed foreign minister. Trubnikov, 51, graduated from the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Affairs (MGIMO) with a specialization in Asian countries. He spent his entire career in the KGB, and became first deputy director of the new SVR in January 1992. Both Yeltsin and Primakov expressed confidence that Trubnikov will make an excellent intelligence chief. -- Constantine Dmitriev . . .AND SIGNS LAW ON FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE. Meanwhile, President Yeltsin signed on 1O January the law on foreign intelligence that was passed by the old Duma in December 1995, ITAR-TASS reported. The law determines the structure, main principles and government control over the SVR. The law stresses the importance of human rights, and stipulates that any cooperation between the SVR and private citizens should be voluntary. According to the new law, the SVR is subordinated directly to President Yeltsin. -- Constantine Dmitriev YELTSIN IN PARIS. President Yeltsin arrived in Paris on 10 January to attend a memorial service for former French President Francois Mitterand, who died on 8 January. Speaking at Orly airport, Yeltsin hinted that he will seek re-election in June. He told reporters, "it is necessary to prevent the country from turning away from its current path." -- Scott Parrish BOLSHAKOV ON RUSSIAN CIS POLICY. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, who chairs a governmental commission on cooperation with the CIS, said Russia needs to develop a more coherent policy toward the CIS, Russian agencies reported on 10 January. CIS integration is proceeding only "with difficulty," he added, since other CIS states fear Russian domination. Bolshakov also said that "The USA and its allies are achieving more and more new positions in CIS countries, which often harms Russian interests of Russia." In the coming year, Russia will focus on forming multinational firms involving other CIS states, and increasing the share of exports which go to the CIS, which now takes only 22% of total Russian exports. -- Scott Parrish CHANGES TO MOSCOW REGISTRATION SYSTEM MAINLY COSMETIC. As of 1 February, the Moscow and Moscow Oblast authorities will no longer require residents to have a propiska, or residence permit, but residents will still have to register with the authorities, Interfax reported on 10 January. The propiska system, first instituted in 1932, violates the constitutionally guaranteed right of citizens to freedom of movement. It was technically abolished by a USSR Constitutional Supervision Committee decision in 1991 but continued to be enforced in some parts of Russia, including Moscow. The new system is still restrictive in that registration can be denied to people who do not have sufficient living space; the current norm is 18 square meters per person. -- Penny Morvant JEWISH CONGRESS OPENS. A unifying convention of the Russian Jewish Congress opened in Moscow on 10 January, Russian media reported. The forum was organized by Most Bank President Vladimir Gusinskii, Rossiiskii Kredit Bank President Vladimir Malkin, and Alfa-Bank board chairman Mikhail Fridman. It aims to unite the Jewish community in Russia and encourage Jewish business leaders to donate money for causes such as supporting synagogues and medical centers, building day-care centers and homes for the elderly, and opening Jewish Sunday schools. -- Penny Morvant CENTRAL BANK REVIEWS WORK IN 1995. . . Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said at a meeting of the heads of the bank's regional branches that 315 commercial banks, 12% of the total number, had their licenses revoked in 1995, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported the same day. He said the bank found serious procedural violations in 80% of banks investigated. Dubinin welcomed the fact that inflation had been brought down to 3.2% in December and noted that the federal deficit was covered by the emission of treasury bills rather than the printing of money. The same day, Radio Rossii reported four senior officials of the bank went on trial in Moscow for awarding 5 billion rubles ($4 million) credits in return for bribes in 1992. -- Peter Rutland . . .BUT DEBTS REMAIN A -PROBLEM. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin also spoke at the bankers' meeting, noting that the non-payment of debts by firms and municipalities is a threat to economic recovery, Radio Rossii reported on 10 January. Sergei Yegorov, chairman of the Association of Russian Banks, estimates that late payments now total 300 trillion rubles ($65 billion), Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 4 January. As for old debts, the government has prepared a law on compensation for people who lost their savings in Sberbank in the great inflation of 1992, ITAR- TASS reported 10 January. However, only partial compensation can be expected, since the current value of the lost savings is equal to the entire annual GDP of Russia, according to Moskovskaya pravda of 6 January. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ADVOCATES EXTENDING ABKHAZ PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE. In a report to the UN Security Council made public on 10 January, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali proposed that the mandate of the 136-person UN observer team in Abkhazia be extended by six months, Western agencies reported. Reuters quoted Security Council Chairman Sir John Weston as calling on both Georgians and Abkhaz to show greater flexibility in the currently deadlocked peace talks on Abkhazia's future status within Georgia. -- Liz Fuller NEW AGENCY CREATED FOR MEDIA IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree establishing a reorganized National Agency for the Media, according to a 10 January Radio Rossii report. The agency is a state organ but is not responsible to the government--only the president has the power to appoint and dismiss the chairman. Many Kazakhstani journalists say the new agency gives Nazarbayev control over all newspapers and magazines that are financed through the republic's budget, according to the report. -- Bruce Pannier RUSSIA AND KYRGYZSTAN SIGN TRADE AGREEMENT. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Kyrgyz Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov met on 10 January to sign several trade accords and to discuss the 19 January CIS summit, Western and Russian sources reported. Jumagulov noted that Kyrgyzstan is ready to join the customs union currently involving Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan has also committed itself to formal involvement in the customs union. -- Roger Kangas CONSTRUCTION OF OIL REFINERY BEGINS IN UZBEKISTAN. A number of foreign companies are involved in the construction of a refinery at the Kokdumalak oil and gas field in the Bukhara region. According to Interfax of 9 January, the Uzneftegaz company is overseeing the $200 million project, which involves the Turkish GAMA and French Technip companies and financial support from the World Bank and the EBRD. The participants hope that by the end of 1996, the plant will process gas condensate and oil at annual rates of 2.5 and 5 million tons respectively. -- Roger Kangas [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. 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