|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 35, Part I, 19 February 1996
** New OMRI Analytical Brief: "North Korea Blasts ITAR-TASS for Coverage of Embassy Incident", by Scott Parrish. Available only on OMRI's WWW site at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/AB.960219-005.html 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIAN TV STAFF PROTEST POPTSOV'S SACKING. At a 16 February meeting attended by 200 of the station's 3,000 employees, the staff of Russian TV rejected Yeltsin's criticisms of its work and asked him for a meeting to explain the decision to fire Russian TV Chairman Oleg Poptsov, requesting that the newly-appointed chairman, Eduard Sagalaev, not accept his position until the reasons for Poptsov's firing had been made clear, ITAR-TASS reported. Sagalaev, however, said that he would take the job because he could not "let the president down at this difficult time." Although Sagalaev had given initial approval to his nomination, he found out about it from an evening news broadcast and was not able to meet with Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko (who handles the media) beforehand. Poptsov himself is not inclined to fight his dismissal and is planning to rest. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN CALLS FOR POSITIVE PORTRAYAL OF FACTORY. After hearing Magnitogorsk factory director Vladimir Krivoshchapov complain about the media's coverage of the economy and his factory in a meeting on 16 February in Chelyabinsk, Yeltsin ordered Sagalaev to send a crew to Krivoshchapov's factory to do an upbeat report. Yeltsin characterized Sagalaev as "reliable, orderly, and famous." Ekho Moskvy reported rumors that the head of all news programs at Russian Public TV (ORT), Arkadii Evstafev, was about to be replaced in Yeltsin's continuing media shakeup. -- Robert Orttung FILATOV CRITICIZES YELTSIN. Former presidential chief of staff Sergei Filatov has prepared a letter to President Boris Yeltsin expressing concern over his recent practice of letting top government figures find out that they have been fired from the media rather than calling them directly, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV reported 18 February. He specifically referred to Yeltsin's handling of the recent dismissals of Russian TV Chairman Oleg Poptsov and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais. Filatov, who now heads a committee supporting Yeltsin's candidacy for a second term, warned that "thoughtless" relations with his personnel could cost the president the support of those who have worked with him for many years. -- Robert Orttung REGIONS TAKE MEASURES TO PREVENT WAGE ARREARS. Stavropol Krai Governor Petr Marchenko has ruled that starting 17 February, directors of enterprises which are financed from the regional budget, will be immediately fired in cases of groundless delays of wage payments to employees, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the governor's order, officials from the region's executive bodies who are responsible for the actual distribution of budget resources will be also fired in case of payments arrears. Meanwhile, Primorsk Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko issued a decree saying that the payment of wages to officials of the Krai's administration will be suspended unless local public employees receive their long-overdue wages, Russian TV reported on 18 February. This decree was a reaction to the lengthy strikes by miners and energy industry workers throughout the region. -- Anna Paretskaya JUPPE IN KAZAN. French Prime Minister Alain Juppe completed his three- day visit to Russia on 16 February with a stop in Tartarstan, where he signed two economics deals worth 250 million francs ($50 million), Russian and Western agencies reported. One deal provides for the French firm SucDen to improve the sugar beet industry in Tatarstan, while the second calls for Thompson, a French electronics company, to upgrade the air control system at the Kazan airport. Following a meeting with Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, Juppe hailed cooperation between Tatarstan and the French oil company Total, which has already invested $10 million in the republic. He also announced plans for French firms to upgrade the Tartar phone system and said a joint venture to produce heavy civilian helicopters in the republic would be launched soon. -- Scott Parrish DUMA DENOUNCES EXTRADITION OF BOSNIAN SERB OFFICERS. The State Duma passed a resolution on 16 February condemning the recent extradition of Bosnian Serb General Djorje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic to the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague, Russian agencies reported. The resolution argued that NATO's "encouragement" of the Bosnian government's "illegal" detention of the officers showed "a dangerous recurrence of double standards" in the Western approach to settling the conflict, and called for the officers' immediate release, demanding "objective" investigation and punishment of war criminals from all the warring parties in former Yugoslavia. Afterwards, Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko) threatened that if UN sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs are not suspended soon, the Duma will pass a law calling for Russia to unilaterally withdraw. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 13 and 16 February) -- Scott Parrish NORTH KOREA BLASTS ITAR-TASS. ITAR-TASS reported that Ivan Zakharchenko, its Pyongyang correspondent, was summoned to the North Korean Foreign Ministry on 16 February and criticized for his reporting of the recent incident involving a Korean gunman at the Russian Embassy there. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 14 & 15 February 1996). North Korean officials accused Zakharchenko of "slander" for reporting that Cho Men-kil, the gunman who forced his way into the Russian embassy, had requested political asylum. They asserted, contrary to earlier reports, that Men- kil had survived the incident, confessed to being "mentally ill," and had never asked for asylum. On the same day, a North Korean diplomat lodged similar complaints at ITAR-TASS headquarters in Moscow. The agency stuck to its guns, reporting that Russian diplomats who talked with Men-kil during the incident described him as "lucid" and confirmed that he had requested asylum. -- Scott Parrish IRAN PROTESTS YELTSIN REMARKS. Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Mehdi Safari on 16 February officially protested to the Russian Foreign Ministry against recent public accusations by President Yeltsin that training camps for Chechen fighters operate in Iran, Western agencies reported, citing Iranian sources. Yeltsin first made the accusations when he announced his presidential candidacy in Yekaterinburg on 15 February, (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 February 1995), and then repeated them during a 16 February speech in Chelyabinsk. While Iran has expressed sympathy for the Chechen separatists, it has strongly denied any involvement in the conflict, calling it an internal Russian affair. -- Scott Parrish MIKHAILOV COMMENTS STIR CONTROVERSY. Remarks by Russian Minister of Nuclear Energy Viktor Mikhailov in a 16 February interview with the Washington Post have prompted criticism from the United States, Russian and Western media reported. According to the newspaper, an apparently intoxicated Mikhailov declared that Russia would preemptively attack any tactical nuclear weapons deployed in former Warsaw Pact countries that hope to join NATO. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns condemned Mikhailov's comments as "highly irresponsible," and expressed the hope that Russian leaders "will never support this kind of statement." Polish and Czech leaders provoked harsh criticism from Moscow last fall when they announced their countries' willingness to accept nuclear deployments if accepted into NATO. (See OMRI Daily Digest 10 & 19 October 1995). -- Scott Parrish UNEMPLOYMENT CONTINUES TO GROW. The number of unemployed calculated using International Labor Organization methodology reached 6.14 million, or 8.4% of the work force, in January, up from 8.2% in December 1995, Radio Mayak reported on 17 February. According to the State Statistics Committee, another 4.5 million (about 6%) were working a short week or on compulsory unpaid, or only partially paid, leave in early January. The number of people officially registered as unemployed with the Federal Employment Service at the end of month equalled 2.4 million (3.3%). -- Penny Morvant PENSIONS LAG BEHIND PRICES. While prices rose by more than 700% in 1994- 95, average pensions grew by 450% and the minimum pension by just 320%, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 17 February citing a Social Security Ministry report. The percentage of pensioners living below the poverty line increased from 11.8% in 1959 to 18.5% in 1989 to 20.2% in 1995; according to AFP, the poverty line in January was 345,000 rubles ($72) a month. The average salary in January was 655,000 rubles ($137), up about 6% in real terms in comparison with a year earlier. President Yeltsin issued a decree in late January raising compensation payments for pensioners, but the government has opposed a Duma initiative to hike the minimum pension by 20%. -- Penny Morvant ROOTS OF THE COALMINE CONFLICT. On 3 February the coalminers suspended their strike having won a pledge of 10.4 trillion rubles ($2.2 billion) from the Russian government. However, an article in Ogonek no. 7 suggests that pouring cash into the industry will not ensure that the miners' wages will be paid. The newspaper argues that mine directors have created commercial companies to trade in coal, siphoning off the industry's profits. Such companies are responsible for up to 1 trillion of the 4 trillion ruble arrears customers owe the industry. Managers who challenge the "coal barons" risk the fate of the deputy director of Leninskugol, who was assassinated in December 1995, as was the director of the Belovskii plant in January. -- Peter Rutland ENERGY PRODUCERS ALLOWED TO RAISE PRICES. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has signed a decree lifting the price freeze which was imposed on energy producers (including electricity, natural gas and crude oil) in the last quarter of 1995, Radio Rossii reported on 15 February. Under the decree, producers will be allowed to increase prices according to indices set for each sector and derived from the general level of inflation. The decree also lowers the natural gas export duty from 5 ecu to 1 ecu per 1,000 cubic meters starting 1 April. -- Natalia Gurushina MORE COMPANIES SUSPENDED PRODUCTION IN 1995. The number of companies that had to suspend production at least once a month increased from 4,800 in 1994 to 5,700 in 1995, Russian agencies reported on 17 February. As a result, companies lost about 15% of their normal working hours, or 225 million man-days. The main reasons for the production stoppages were a lack of funds to purchase supplies (47% of cases) and the customers' inability to pay for delivered goods (41% of cases). -- Natalia Gurushina CIS INTERPARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY ADVOCATES CLOSER INTEGRATION. The seventh session of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly met in St. Petersburg on 17 February outlined plans for greater cooperative efforts between the member states, ITAR-TASS reported. According to recently- elected Assembly chairman, Yegor Stroev, the organization should focus on enhancing political, economic, and humanitarian aid ties between the states. Issues raised at the meeting ranged from financial and economic agreements and joint stock companies to the defense industry. Both Russian President Boris Yeltsin and State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev stressed the need for the Assembly to become a viable forum for inter-CIS relations, with the latter noting that the newly-elected Duma will likely consider the coordination of legal codes among member states to be of utmost importance. -- Roger Kangas TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA LITTLE PROGRESS AS TAJIK TALKS CONCLUDE. The fifth round of negotiations between the Tajik government and the opposition adjourned 16 February without extending the cease fire agreement, due to expire on 26 February, Russian and Western sources reported. Although the two sides have have agreed on extensions in the past, he government's proposal for a six month prolongation was rejected by the opposition, which desired only three months. However, a proposal to invite members from the opposition to a special session of the Tajik parliament in about three weeks. -- Bruce Pannier 'DEAL OF THE CENTURY" UPDATE On 16 February, several agreements concerning the exploitation and transportation of Caspian Sea oil were signed. In them, the government of Azerbaijan transferred the power to deliver Azeri oil to its borders with Russia to the Azerbaijan International Oil Corportation (AIOC), Turan reported. The same day, Azerbaijan's state oil company, SOCAR, the AIOC and Russia's Transneft formally agreed on the terms of transporting 5 million tons of "early oil " annually, the agency noted. Russia agreed to provide security for the pipeline running across its territory to the port of Novorossiisk at a cost of $15.67 per ton. On 27 February, a final decision on the feasibility and financing of the Baku-Supsa "early oil" pipeline is expected. -- Lowell Bezanis .....AND SHAH-DENIZ FIELD The presidents of SOCAR and LUkoil signed a memorandum of understanding concerning LUkoil's participation in the Shah-Deniz Caspian Sea natural gas and oil deal, Turan reported. Although details of the deal have not been released, LUkoil is expected to receive between 20 and 30 percent of SOCAR's 40% stake in the project, according to Western media sources. The other 60% stake in the deal is held by British Petroleum, Statoil and Turkey's TPAO. The field in question is believed to contain 400 billion cubic meters of gas and some 200 million tons of gas condensate and oil. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Roger Kangas 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 email@example.com 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
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