|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 36, Part I, 20 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 MEETS KOHL. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, on a three-day official visit to Russia, met with President Yeltsin in the Kremlin on 19 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kohl's visit, the first by a Western leader since Yeltsin announced that he will seek reelection, appeared orchestrated to lend support to the unpopular Russian president. Afterwards, the two leaders announced their full agreement on all international issues, except NATO expansion. They minimized their differences, however, describing them as "a matter of tone," not substance. Kohl assured Yeltsin that no decision about the expansion of the alliance will be made before the Russian presidential polls. Kohl also held talks with other top Russian officials, but declined to meet with any of the other leading Russian presidential candidates, sparking criticism in Germany that Kohl has tied German policy too closely to Yeltsin personally. -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA SOBCHAK UNDECIDED ABOUT SUPPORTING YELTSIN. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak believes that President Boris Yeltsin's ability to enter the second round of the presidential elections is "not guaranteed," Izvestiya reported 20 February. Sobchak has not decided who he will support, saying that he cannot support Yeltsin until he sees a serious attempt to resolve the Chechen conflict. He believes that the election results will depend on three issues: Chechnya, aid for the 25 million investors who lost their money in fraudulent schemes, and the decision to lengthen military service from 1.5 to 2 years. Sobchak has advised Yeltsin to run an energetic campaign based on the premise that he has "practically no chance" of winning. -- Robert Orttung POLITICAL CAMPS PREFER DIFFERENT INSTITUTIONS. Pro-reform segments of society prefer presidential institutions, while nationalist and patriotic camps prefer parliamentary institutions, concludes a study released by the Russian Institute of Social and National Problems and financed by the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, ITAR-TASS reported 19 February. The study, based on surveys conducted in 14 regions, shows that individuals often hold democratic views on some issues and authoritarian positions on others. The researchers found that the population is most upset about the character of privatization, price increases, and the absence of government control over entrepreneurial activity. It also found evidence contradicting the stereotypical views that Russians reject the idea of a market economy and do not wish to live in an economically-stratified society. The recent sharp increase in support for authoritarian measures is attributed to fears about rising crime, embarrassment over the country's current crisis, and feelings of impotence in changing the situation. -- Robert Orttung YEGOROV SUPPORTS INSTITUTION OF PRESIDENTIAL REPRESENTATIVES... The presidential Chief of Staff Nikolai Yegorov proclaimed that the institution of the presidential representatives in the federation subjects should be further developed to provide co-operation of power institutions at all levels, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 February. He also said that presidential representatives should be assigned to the key ministries. The institution of the presidential representatives in the regions and republics was introduced along with post of regional head of administration (governor) in August 1991. Presidential envoys in regions were supposed to serve as the "eyes and ears" of the presidential apparatus, but failed to secure much influence. Now, in addition to regional envoys, the president has his representatives in the Constitutional Court and both houses of the parliament. -- Anna Paretskaya ...AND PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENT OF COSSACKS' ATAMANS. At the same time Yegorov, who continues to head the advisory Presidential Council on Cossacks Affairs, said that President Boris Yeltsin will decide soon whether to replace elected Cossack Atamans with direct presidential appointment, Izvestiya reported on 20 February. The proposal, which will now undergo juridical review together with other draft bills on Cossacks affairs, proposes that all heads of Cossack units, except the lowest level leaders, would be appointed by the president after consultations with the Cossack units themselves. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIAN MUSLIM LEADER RESIGNS. The General Secretary of the Union of Muslims of Russia, Mikhail Bibarsov, has announced his resignation from the organization, Russian media reported on 19 February. Bibarsov said that he disagreed with other Union leaders' decision adopted by the Union's Council on 10 February to support President Boris Yeltsin re- election bid if he stops the war in Chechnya. He added that he and his supporters intend to set up a new Muslim organization and hold its constituent congress in March. According to Bibarsov, the idea of a new organization has been supported by the leaders of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. Consultations with the pro-government bloc Our Home Is Russia, Yabloko movement, and the Communist Party are also underway. -- Anna Paretskaya DUMA BEGINS HEARINGS ON START II. On 19 February, a special Duma commission heard expert testimony from military and foreign ministry officials on the START II arms control agreement, Russian and Western agencies reported. The commission, consisting of representatives from the Defense, International Affairs, Security, and Geopolitics committees, will submit a report on the treaty to the full Duma before it votes on ratification. NTV reported that military officers at the session expressed unease about ratifying the treaty in the face of the possible NATO expansion. Western agencies also quoted military officials as estimating that implementation would cost Russia 35 trillion rubles ($7.45 billion). International Affairs Committee Chair Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko) later said that American development of missile defenses could torpedo ratification, although he still expressed support for the agreement. -- Scott Parrish ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Italian Foreign Minister Susanna Agnelli met with her Russian counterpart Yevgenii Primakov in Moscow on 19 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. As Italy currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, the two diplomats discussed European security, NATO expansion, and the Yugoslav settlement in addition to bilateral issues. Afterwards Primakov told Russian TV that Russia and Italy shared a "common interest" in creating a new pan- European security system. Agnelli later met with First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Kadannikov to discuss Russo-Italian economic ties, including bilateral tax and investment protection agreements. The Italian diplomat subsequently announced that Italy will unfreeze the remaining 210 billion lira ($132 million) of a credit line provided for by a 1992 bilateral agreement, which has been blocked since 1993. -- Scott Parrish MIR STATION CELEBRATES TENTH ANNIVERSARY. Russia's seventh orbital space station, Mir, whose first unit was launched on 20 February 1986, celebrates its 10th anniversary, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 February. The Mir station was originally intended to last only 3 years, and has hosted 33 Russian and 13 foreign astronauts. In 1995 the Mir station earned 350 billion rubles ($74 million) from international flights. The 1996 space budget is 1.5 trillion rubles ($315 milion). Russia's space research is struggling in the face of budgetary cutbacks. The head of the Russian Space Agency, Yurii Koptev, said that the state owed the space program 437 billion rubles ($92 million). He welcomed a decision by the Gore- Chernomyrdin commission to extend Mir's operation until 1999, despite the projected launch of the cargo unit of the international Alfa station in 1997. -- Natalia Gurushina FORMER EU MOSCOW MISSION HEAD INVOLVED IN CORRUPTION SCANDAL. A former head of the European Union mission in Moscow, British diplomat Michael Emerson, has resigned from the European Commission in Brussels amid accusations that he used his position in Moscow to further his own business interests, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 February. The previous day the news agency said Emerson had denied the corruption allegations but admitted that he set up a private consulting firm that operated in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kyrgyzstan. Emerson ended his five-year stint in Moscow with the EU on 30 December 1995. -- Penny Morvant NICKEL MINERS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE. More than 150 nickel miners employed by the Norilsk Nickel Combine at its Komsomol pit announced a hunger strike on 19 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The miners, who are still waiting for their November paychecks, have been on strike since 13 February. Miners at the Taimyr pit are threatening to join their colleagues if wages are not paid within five days. Norilsk Nickel is one of the companies at the center of the controversy over the 1995 loans- for-shares auctions (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February 1995). -- Penny Morvant OUSTED BOSS SEIZES SIBERIAN METALLURGICAL COMBINE. Former Kuznetsk Metallurgical Combine General Director Nikolai Fomin hired a private security company to occupy the offices of his successor, Yevgenii Braunshtein, at the metalworks in Novokuznetsk, Russian media reported. Fomin's armed guards occupied the building for 30 hours on 16-17 February before being replaced without incident by local police after the company's board of directors reaffirmed its support for Braunshtein. Fomin said he was acting on a raion court ruling which stated that his dismissal by the company's board last year was unlawful, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Russian TV, Fomin was backed by the management of the Novokuznetsk Aluminum Works, which owns shares in the Kuznetsk metal plant. On 19 February, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Mikhail Kislyuk recommended that the Kuznetsk works, Russia's main producer of railroad, tram, and metro rails, be renationalized, an initiative supported by the board. -- Penny Morvant FINANCE MINISTRY REPORTS ON 1995. On 19 February Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov delivered a report to a ministry meeting on his agency's performance in 1995, NTV reported. Tight monetary policy brought about a reduction in inflation and stabilization of the ruble, which rose 70% in real terms against the dollar during 1995. However, Panskov admited that balancing the budget had been achieved by carrying over 4 trillion rubles ($840 million) of spending into 1996. He said targets were exceeded because of additional spending on Chechnya, pensions, and gold purchases, while income was reduced by import tariff waivers. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUSCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN'S EX-FOREIGN MINISTER HOSPITALIZED. Former Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Gasymov, who has been in pre-trial detention since September, 1995 pending charges of state treason, has been transferred from prison to hospital, Turan reported on 19 February. Gasymov, a leading member of the Musavat party, was in perfect health before his arrest, but is now reported to be unable to take food. -- Liz Fuller KYRGYZSTAN'S BIGGEST SAVINGS BANK COLLAPSES. The collapse of Kyrgyzstan's biggest savings bank, Kyrgyzelbank, on 19 February will hit about two million savers, or almost half the country's 4.2 million inhabitants, Western media reported on 20 February. The Central Bank of Kyrgyzstan said it was taking away the bank's license due to insolvency. Banking sources blamed the collapse on the bank's inability to honor the high rates of interest it offered. --Bhavna Dave TAJIK OPPOSITION RETURNS BODIES OF SLAIN SOLDIERS IN TAVIL DARA. After three days of negotiations under the direction of international observers, the anti-government opposition in the Tavil Dara region has handed over the bodies of 47 soldiers killed in the recent fighting, western sources reported on 19 February. Since the fighting began on 31 January, the government states that 92 soldiers have been killed, although the opposition puts the figure into the hundreds. Heavy snow and bad weather have hampered the transfer of additional bodies, and have temporarily halted fighting in the region. As the problems in Tavil Dara and Garm continue, the foreign ministers of Uzbekistan and Russia have called for a more active mediation process to the conflict. -- Roger Kangas TURKMENISTAN CENSUS UPDATE. Despite out-migration, Turkmenistan's continues to demonstrate a higher than average rate of natural increase. The population has increased from 3.6 million in 1990 to 4.5 million in 1995, Reuters reported on 19 February, citing the official Turkmen press agency. Ethnic Turkmen now constitute 77% of the population --up 5% from 1989. The percentage of ethnic Uzbeks remained stable at 9.2%, while that of ethnic Russians diminished from 9.5% to 6.7%. The rural population to 2.5 million, compared to 2 million urban dwellers. -- 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. 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