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No. 31, Part I, 13 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ NATIONALIST LEADER ATTACKED IN MOSCOW. The deputy leader of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party's parliamentary faction, Aleksandr Vengerovskii, was shot by two unidentified assailants while walking near his home on 12 February. He received a superficial knee wound and was hospitalized, ITAR-TASS reported. The police are currently investigating Vengerovskii's business dealings, which have provoked threats in the past. Vengerovskii heads the Duma's subcommittee on foreign intelligence, which is planing to hold hearings on the secret service's ability to prevent foreign mercenaries from entering Chechnya. Four deputies have been murdered since the 1993 Duma elections. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA TULEEV READY TO DROP PRESIDENTIAL BID. Kemerovo Oblast legislature chairman Aman Tuleev is prepared to end his presidential campaign, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 13 February. The pro-government paper described his decision as the "best gift [Communist Party leader] Gennadii Zyuganov could imagine," since Tuleev was Zyuganov's "only real competitor from within the Communist Party." Rossiiskie vesti also contended that Zyuganov is planning to introduce constitutional changes that would shift power from the presidency to the Duma to reward colleagues who have nominated him as the single presidential candidate from the left bloc. There have also been rumors that Zyuganov was prepared to offer Tuleev the post of prime minister. -- Robert Orttung KREMLIN LOCKS OUT NTV. President Boris Yeltsin's press service has banned NTV from the Kremlin, the station reported on 12 February. NTV said no reason was given for the ban but speculated that it was because the station had interviewed Vyacheslav Kostikov, a former presidential press secretary and current ambassador to the Vatican, who has been very critical of Yeltsin. NTV accused the Kremlin of violating the law on the media by preventing the station from reporting the news. NTV came under state pressure in December 1994 when its reporting from Chechnya contradicted the official version of events and in July 1995 when the procurator-general opened a case against the satirical puppet show "Kukly." -- Robert Orttung ST. PETERSBURG LOBBY GROUP CREATED IN DUMA. Duma deputies elected from St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast have set up a non-partisan group Neva Initiative (Nevskaya initsiativa) to lobby for the interests of their region, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. So far, only eight of the 23 deputies from the region have agreed to join the group, which thus falls short of the 35 required to register as an official parliamentary faction. -- Anna Paretskaya NATIONALITIES MINISTRY IDENTIFIES DEPRESSED REGIONS. The Nationalities Ministry has classified Dagestan, Kalmykiya, Chuvashiya, and Kostroma and Ivanovo Oblasts as "depressed" regions, Rabochaya tribuna reported on 13 February. The ministry now plans to submit a draft program of financial support for those areas to the Federation Council. According to Rabochaya tribuna, even regions that are doing relatively well are ready to declare themselves depressed in the hopes of obtaining extra money from the federal budget. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIA AND U.S. SPAR OVER SANCTIONS AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS. Disagreement between the United States and Russia in the UN Security Council has delayed the suspension of economic sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs as provided for by the Dayton agreement, Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 February. The two countries disagree over whether a letter from NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, stating that Bosnian Serb forces have withdrawn from areas slated to be handed over to the Bosnian government, is sufficient to trigger suspension of the sanctions. Russian UN delegate Sergei Lavrov told ITAR-TASS that the letter is sufficient and sanctions should now be suspended, but an American official told AFP that sanctions will be suspended only after the "zones of separation" provided for by the Dayton agreement have been created. -- Scott Parrish FSB: SMUGGLED PLUTONIUM WAS FROM RUSSIA. German government spokesman Petr Haussman said on 12 February that Bonn has received a letter from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) that clears Germany's BND intelligence service of staging a 1994 operation to smuggle plutonium into Germany. Haussman said the letter, a request for legal aid, shows that the plutonium seized at Munich airport in August 1994 was stolen from a research reactor at Obninsk, southwest of Moscow, Reuters reported. At the time, the FSB denied that the radioactive contraband was Russian in origin and suggested that the BND had staged the operation to justify its existence. According to Haussman, the letter says Justinian Torres, one of three men seized by police in the Munich incident, acquired a sample of plutonium in June, whereas the BND undercover agent reported the offer only at the beginning of July--a sequence of events that indicated that the BND had not initiated the deal. According to the German daily Bild, the Russian authorities are investigating three Russians believed to have helped the Colombian Torres obtain the plutonium. -- Doug Clarke and Penny Morvant JUPPE ENDORSES YELTSIN. On the eve of a visit to Russia, French Prime Minister Alain Juppe expressed support for Russian President Yeltsin's reelection in a 13 February interview with Izvestiya. Juppe said he hoped that the upcoming presidential campaign would "give credit to the reforms accomplished by President Yeltsin." Juppe termed the eastward expansion of NATO a "natural process," but added that Russia and NATO could conclude a special accord to regulate their relationship. On 12 February, Juppe met with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Bonn, where the two leaders announced their continued support for Russian political and economic reforms. While the United States has cooled toward Yeltsin in recent months, both Germany and France have continued to offer open support, a stance criticized by media in both countries. -- Scott Parrish AIR FORCE CHIEF SAYS MILITARY AVIATION IN CRITICAL STATE. General Petr Deinekin, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, told the service's military council that military aviation is in a critical state, NTV reported on 11 February. Deinekin pointed out that modern, fourth-generation aircraft made up just 15% of the air force fleet. He said that the service needed to acquire 250-300 new planes each year to maintain its combat effectiveness but added that not a single new aircraft was purchased last year. Financial problems have prevented the service from buying the aviation fuel it needs with the result that "only one-third of the pilots are capable of doing their job properly," he said, adding: "The rest simply don't fly." -- Doug Clarke UNITY OF PROCURACY AT RISK. Addressing the collegium of the Buryat procuracy in Ulan-Ude on 12 February, Russian Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov called for the retention of the centralized system of public prosecutors, saying it guaranteed the effectiveness and cohesion of the country's legal system, ITAR-TASS reported. He said he was alarmed by current difficulties in appointing procurators in Russia's regions, noting that 40 such appointments are due to be made this year. Current practice is to give oblsat authorities the right to confirm the appointment of regional procurators. Skuratov said this results in long- drawn-out conflicts in regions where heads of the executive and legislative branches are at odds with one another. He criticized proposals to extend the confirmation right down to raion level. -- Penny Morvant CORRUPTION CRACKDOWN IN STAVROPOL. On 11 February, ITAR-TASS quoted Kremlin chief of staff Nikolai Yegorov as saying, "We are going to take steps against enterprise leaders, including those in joint-stock companies with state ownership, who have used money released to them to buy Mercedes and build houses." Later in the day the agency reported that Valentin Poltorak, former director of the Signal firm in Stavropol, had been arrested for corruption--including buying cars and having a house built for himself. He was also accused of leasing and selling off Signal's assets to firms run by his associates (including his son) at low cost. The previous day, ITAR-TASS reported that Col. Valerii Zimarev, head of the Stavropol MVD's financial department, had been arrested for misplacing 2 billion rubles ($420,000) intended for wages owed to police. Meanwhile, NTV reported on 9 February that Yevgenii Bychkov, the head of the Russian Federation Committee on Precious Metals (Roskomdragmet), is also under investigation for corruption. -- Peter Rutland COAL INDUSTRY PRIVATIZATION ON HOLD. On 10 February, President Yeltsin signed a decree turning the state enterprise Rosugol into an open joint- stock company, but with 100% state ownership for three years. Both the management and unions of the monopoly coal producer are keen to stay in state ownership in order to ensure a steady flow of subsidies, Izvestiya reported on 13 February. The paper suggested that the Economics Ministry is the only agency arguing against the continuation of state control over the coalmining industry. Real privatization would trigger a wave of closures of unprofitable pits. There are growing complaints that profits are being siphoned off from parts of the industry even as miners go unpaid and subsidies continue to flow in. -- Peter Rutland MONETARY POLICY MAY BE WEAKENING. On 9 February, the Central Bank cut the refinancing rate (the rate at which it lends to banks) from 160% to 120%, Ekho Moskvy reported the same day. Finansovye izvestiya noted on 13 January that a similar cut in August 1994 had preceded the "Black Tuesday" ruble crash in October of that year. The bank's move is a response to the cash crisis facing Russian industry. Firms have been squeezed by the tight monetary policy of the past few months. Yet investors expect inflation to accelerate between now and the June elections. This leaves Russian firms in the worst of both worlds. Credits are expensive (60-80% annual interest at minimum) with a maximum duration of three months. -- Peter Rutland HEAD OF VNESHEKONOMBANK DISMISSED. President Yeltsin dismissed Anatolii Nosko on 8 February from his position as head of Vneshekonombank, the state-owned bank responsible for foreign currency transactions, Kommersant-Daily reported on 10 February. Similar to January's cadre reshuffling at Sberbank (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 January), the move signals the government's intention to exert stronger control over the bank's activities. Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov criticized the bank for speculating in Russian treasury bills with funds earmarked for repaying foreign debts. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA THREE MILITARY OFFICERS SENTENCED TO DEATH IN AZERBAIJAN. On 12 February, a military court in Baku sentenced three former ranking military officers to death for "high treason," Turan and Western agencies reported. The three are Alikram Gummatov, who proclaimed the secession of the so-called Talysh-Murgan Republic from Azerbaijan in the summer of 1993; former Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev, charged with responsibility for military defeats in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1993; and former Minister of National Security Nariman Imranov, who engineered their escape from pre-trial detention in September 1994 shortly before an alleged coup attempt. Gummatov was recaptured, but Gaziev is reportedly in Moscow and was sentenced in absentia. Arif Pashayev, a former army commander who escaped with Gummatov and Gaziev in September 1994, was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. -- Liz Fuller ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR RECOGNITION OF NKR. Several Armenian opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Armenia (the successor to the Armenian CP) and the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union, have issued an appeal to the Armenian government to grant international recognition to the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno- Karabakh, Noyan Tapan reported on 12 February. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan has stated that Armenia will recognize the NKR only after another country has formally done so. -- Liz Fuller NIYAZOV IN ANKARA. Following a five-day stay in Istanbul, Turkmenistan's President Sapamurad Niyazov traveled to Ankara, where he signed a memorandum of understanding for the sale of 10-15 billion cubic meters of natural gas between 1998 and 2020 with his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, the Turkish press reported on 13 February. The agreement appears to dodge the all-important question of the route by which Turkmen gas will reach Turkey. One quarter of the estimated 200 foreign companies operating in Turkmenistan are Turkish; they have invested approximately $1.5 billion over the past four years. Demirel lavished praise on Niyazov, noting "the giant steps Turkmenistan is taking toward democracy, secularism, and market economics." -- Lowell Bezanis SCABIES AND LICE EPIDEMIC IN KAZAKHSTAN. More than 60,000 people in Kazakhstan, mostly children, are afflicted with lice and scabies: 42,234 cases of scabies and 18,000 of lice were noted in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. These figures came to light after a seven-year- old girl in a Zhambul collective farm died of scabies after being treated with medicine used on cattle. The Kazakhstani Health Ministry said no medicines were available to rid humans of these parasites. Owing to a lack of running water and indoor plumbing in many remote regions, people have traditionally used the public baths. Few can now afford the high prices of the baths, which are being privatized. -- Bhavna Dave [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Penny Morvant 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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