|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 29, Part I, 09 February 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ YELTSIN INSTRUCTS CHERNOMYRDIN TO FIND CHECHNYA SOLUTION. President Boris Yeltsin has asked Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to choose one of seven options for ending the war in Chechnya discussed at a recent Security Council meeting, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 February. Chernomyrdin has long been associated with those who seek a negotiated end to the conflict. Yeltsin admitted in an interview with ITAR-TASS that he needs a compromise: withdrawing the troops would lead to "carnage," but he will not win reelection in June unless the Chechen war is brought to an end. Yelstin is expected to officially announce his candidacy for the presidency in his hometown of Yekaterinburg on 15 February. -- Laura Belin ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA OUR HOME IS RUSSIA GIVES "UNCONDITIONAL" SUPPORT TO YELTSIN. Meanwhile, the council of Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia (NDR) movement expressed its "total and unconditional support" for the presidential candidacy of Boris Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 February. The prime minister told the 9 February Izvestiya that he is confident Yeltsin will win reelection in June. Although some NDR members were apparently dissatisfied that Chernomyrdin himself will not seek the presidency, Izvestiya reported that there were few objections raised at the council meeting. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN UPDATES SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP. President Boris Yeltsin formally removed former Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin and former Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko from the Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported 7 February. However, the agency stated that Yeltsin does not intend to replace them with the new speakers, Gennadii Seleznev and Yegor Stroev, on the grounds that this would violate the separation of powers. The Council includes Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the power ministers, and a variety of other executive branch officials. It meets infrequently, but usually deals with important issues such as the consequences of the Black Tuesday ruble crisis or the decision to use force in Chechnya. Vyacheslav Trubnikov, the new director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, became a non-voting member of the Council. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN MEETS UNION LEADERS. At a meeting in the Kremlin on 7 February, President Boris Yeltsin and trade union leaders discussed the problem of wage arrears, ITAR-TASS reported. He said the government is currently working out a schedule to pay off its debts to the state sector and promised that its implementation would be strictly monitored, Russian Television reported. Wage arrears in the Russian economy now amount to more than 13 trillion rubles ($2.7 billion), and the issue has prompted numerous labor disputes. At a meeting of Our Home Is Russia leaders on 8 February, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said arrears in wages and other social payments in budget-funded enterprises and organizations now total 7.5 trillion rubles ($1.7 billion), ITAR-TASS reported. -- Penny Morvant POLICE CORDON OFF DEMONSTRATORS IN GROZNY. The situation in Grozny remained tense as the mass demonstration in the town's central square entered its fifth day. During the afternoon of 8 February, Russian and Chechen Interior Ministry forces cordoned off the square occupied by some 2,000 pro-Dudaev demonstrators, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Attempts by Chechen parliament deputies to persuade the demonstrators to disperse proved unsuccessful. Despite assurances by Chechen officials that violence would not be used against the demonstrators, early on 9 February police opened fire on a man who allegedly attacked a security official, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller PRIMAKOV MEETS WITH DUMA MEMBERS. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with the Duma International Affairs Committee on 8 February and called for close cooperation between the Duma and the foreign ministry, ITAR- TASS reported. Primakov pledged to "defend Russia's national interests more actively than perhaps was the case in the past," although he added that he would seek to prevent any drift towards confrontation with the West, with which he said Russia had many common interests. Primakov said he planned to give priority to "accelerating integrative processes within the CIS," but dismissed as "primitive and untrue" Western worries that Russia aims to resurrect the USSR. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA OFFICIALLY INVITED TO JOIN COUNCIL OF EUROPE. The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers gave final approval on 8 February to Russian membership in the organization, Russian and Western agencies reported. The ministers endorsed a 25 January recommendation by the council's Parliamentary Assembly. Russia will become the 39th member of the council, following approval by the Russian parliament. Russia applied for membership in May 1992, but doubts about democratic standards, human rights, and the war in Chechnya led to repeated postponements of its application. -- Scott Parrish IRAQ AND RUSSIA SIGN OIL DEAL. Russia and Iraq have concluded a $10 billion deal to revitalize the Iraqi oil industry and boost its production capacity by 1 million barrels/day after the UN economic embargo is lifted, Western agencies reported on 8 February, citing Iraqi sources. The deal covers all aspects of oil exploration and production, and include provisions for Iraq to pay off its estimated $7 billion debt to Russia with oil deliveries. It will not be fully implemented, however, until Iraq complies with the disarmament provisions set by the UN Security Council and the sanctions imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait are lifted. Russia has long pressed for the speedy lifting of the sanctions, as has France. Both countries had extensive trade ties with Iraq prior to 1990. -- Scott Parrish PAPER: RUSSIA OFFERS MIGs TO GERMANY. Russia has offered Germany 200 MiG-29 jet fighters to offset $2.5 billion worth of debt, NTV reported on 6 February, quoting Argumenty i fakty. The German Air Force inherited a squadron of MiG-29s from East Germany following German unification, and has elected to keep them in service. -- Doug Clarke AUTHOR LYDIA CHUKOVSKAYA DIES. Lydia Chukovskaya, who chronicled life during the Stalinist terror in her works The Deserted House and Going Under, died on 8 February at the age of 88 in Moscow, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. A famous defender of dissident literature, Chukovskaya saved some of her friend Anna Akhmatova's poems by memorizing them and published an open letter denouncing the 1966 show trial and imprisonment of the authors Andrei Sinyavskii and Yulii Daniel. She also befriended Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and was herself expelled from the USSR Union of Writers in 1974. -- Laura Belin ZIL WORKERS STAGE WARNING STRIKE. More than 1,500 workers at the indebted ZIL truck plant in Moscow held a one-hour warning strike on 8 February to demand the payment of 31 billion rubles ($6.4 million) in wage arrears and the preservation of their jobs, ITAR-TASS reported. Some Moscow government officials have suggested that the plant should be renationalized. According to Izvestiya on 8 February, ZIL's workforce has fallen from 75,000 to 23,000, while output was only a quarter of planned levels. By the end of the year, the company's total debt had risen to 1 trillion rubles ($210 million). Earlier this month general director Alexander Yefanov was fired and replaced by vice president Viktor Novikov. -- Penny Morvant ARMY SHORT OF MONEY TO FEED TROOPS. Following criticism that Russian soldiers in Chechnya are poorly fed and clothed, Deputy Defense Minister Col.-Gen. Vladimir Churanov acknowledged that the army is facing problems but blamed them on a lack of government funding. Churanov, who is head of the base forces, said that supplies to troops elsewhere have been cut to try to ensure that troops in Chechnya receive all they need, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 February. He noted that the 1995 military food budget was cut from 3.5 trillion rubles to 1.7 trillion, and that in December the ministry received no money whatsover. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov said last week that an inspection of troops in Chechnya showed glaring problems, including malnutrition and inadequate winter clothing. -- Penny Morvant IMF APPROVES RELEASE OF LOAN . . . The International Monetary Fund said on 8 February that it had approved the release of a $1.05 billion loan to Russia, the final tranche of a $6.3 billion dollar stand-by facility signed with Moscow in April 1995, AFP reported the next day. An IMF spokesman said the IMF board "expressed its satisfaction with Russia's track record in 1995 of full implementation of (an) economic stabilization and reform program." IMF head Michel Camdessus is expected to visit Moscow on 21 February to sign a three-year, $9 billion loan agreement. -- Peter Rutland . . . QUESTIONS REMAIN OVER OIL LIBERALIZATION. Reuters reported on 9 February that the IMF is insisting that Russia lift all oil export duties as a precondition for the new $9 billion loan. Most such duties were lifted from 1 January this year, but some categories (such as fuel oil) were exempted. Also unclear is the rate at which oil and gas companies will be allowed to raise their domestic prices, which were frozen in the last quarter of 1995. The government is discussing plans to index energy prices to the general level of inflation. Meanwhile, on 8 February the five largest Russian oil companies called a press conference to denounce a recent government instruction ordering them to revalue oil company assets (currently valued in 1992 prices). They claim this will lead to price increases of up to 80%. Revaluation would make it more difficult for these companies to buy up their own assets. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIAN-U.S. TECHNOLOGY DEALS. On 8 February representatives of the Russian rocket manufacturer, Energiya, Gazprom, and U.S. space companies including Loral signed an agreement to produce a new generation of telecommunications satellites. The deal was finalized in the meeting of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission on 29-30 January. Gazprom will provide some of the financing for the project, which may be worth up to $1 billion over 20 years. The group plans to start with the launch of two Yamal satellites in 1997, using Molniya booster rockets. However, another Gore-Chernomyrdin deal drew criticism yesterday. ITAR-TASS reported that the managers of the Perm Motors plant protested the plan to purchase engines for the IL96 aircraft from the U.S. firm Pratt and Whitney, rather than ordering the latest engines from Perm. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA BODY OF RUSSIAN REPORTER FOUND IN TASHKENT. Sergei Grebenyuk, a reporter for Interfax, was found dead on 8 February in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, western agencies report. Police said he was last seen leaving his brother's house on the night of 27 January. The body was recovered from the nearby Karasu canal. The cause of death for Grebenyuk, who had been working in Uzbekistan since 1992, is under investigation. -- Roger Kangas NEW PRIME MINISTER IN TAJIKISTAN. Tajik Prime Minister Jamshed Karimov was dismissed and replaced by Yakhiye Azimov, Reuters and AFP reported on 7 February. Karimov is the latest official to be dismissed after the Tajik government announced on 4 February that three other members of the government had left their posts (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 February 1996). The changes are being made in response to demands by armed opposition groups in the cities of Tursun Zade and Kurgan-Tyube. The groups captured those cities and came within 20 kms of the capital, Dushanbe, at the end of January. Azimov, 48, runs the largest carpet company in Tajikistan. In other news, the first brigade, which was at the center of the uprising in Kurgan-Tyube, has made good on its promise to go to Tavil-Dara and fight the Tajik opposition group there. -- Bruce Pannier KYRGYZSTAN SET FOR REFERENDUM ON AKAYEV'S POWERS. A popular referendum on changes to the Kyrgyz Constitution will take place on 10 February, Reuters reported. The referendum would change more than half of the present constitution and provide President Askar Akayev with enhanced powers. Akayev complained shortly after his 24 December election that he was little more than a figurehead and compared himself to Queen Elizabeth. The changes to the constitution would give Akayev the right to appoint all top officials except prime minister, which would require parliament's approval. If the parliament rejects three of Akayev's candidates then he could dissolve the body. -- Bruce Pannier ASIAN SECURITY FORUM CONCLUDES IN ALMATY. A pan-Asian security forum proposed by Kazakhstan to serve as an Asian variant of the OSCE concluded a two-day meeting in Almaty without signing a charter of common principles, Russian and Western media reported on 9 February. Representatives from 14 nations, including Russia, China, India, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and the five Central Asian states except Turkmenistan attended. They formally pledged support to a new forum, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), agreeing to hold higher-level meetings by mid-1997. -- Bhavna Dave [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner 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. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the new policy or look at this URL: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 Greg Cole, Director Center for International Networking Initiatives The University of Tennessee System Phone: (423) 974-7277 2000 Lake Avenue FAX: (423) 974-8022 Knoxville, TN 37996 Email: email@example.com
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