|Желания необходимы, чтобы жизнь постоянно находилась в движении. - Самюэл Джонсон|
No. 39, Part I, 23 February 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Yeltsin Sacks Officials over Delayed Wage and Pension Payments", by Penny Morvant - "The IMF: Savior or Sinner?", by Peter Rutland - "Remembering the 1944 Chechen Deportation", by Roger Kangas Available only via the World Wide Web: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/Index.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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ YELTSIN CALLS FOR REFORM AT LOWER SOCIAL COST IN STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS. President Boris Yeltsin stressed the importance of "developing the market and bringing down the social cost of this process" in his annual state of the nation address to the parliament on 23 February, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said that economic reforms have passed through the stages of liberalization and financial stabilization, and are now entering the third step of stimulating production and investment, increasing productivity, and a complete structural overhaul of the Russian economy. He described the economic situation as "complicated" and said bringing inflation down to less than 25% a year is necessary to end the crisis. He warned that "we are near a dangerous limit beyond which exhaustion and discontent may outweigh patience and hope." In the political sphere, Yeltsin said that his reforms were "the first in Russia to be realized without repression and the destruction of political enemies." -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT. . . Yeltsin declared that the government had failed to carry out the social tasks spelled out in his last two addresses. Yeltsin threatened that if the government did not carry out these tasks, he would replace it. He ordered Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin immediately to prepare a presidential decree to compensate people who lost their savings due to inflation caused by the introduction of his reforms. He also called for the establishment of a public-private foundation to help deceived investors. Yeltsin stressed increased housing construction, support for small businesses, and the establishment of an insurance system for deposits in commercial banks. To combat economic crime, Yeltsin proposed tightening up the procedure for registering commerical entities and reforming the "unwieldy and contradictory tax system." He said that the government had failed to implement reform in the agricultural sector in 1995, leading to the dismissal of Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Nazarchuk. He blamed interest groups and a lack of executive discipline for these failures and called on the parliament to pass a land code to allow the buying and selling of land. -- Robert Orttung . . . REJECTS PULLOUT IN CHECHNYA. On Chechnya, Yeltsin said that the two commissions on resolving the conflict had sent him recommendations and that a "peaceful resolution would be based on them." In spite of the ongoing fighting, he described his policy as a set of measures based on negotiations and strengthening the legitimacy of Chechnya's government. He rejected negotiations with "bandits" and a withdrawal of troops, saying that this would lead to war throughout the Caucasus, AFP reported. He said that Chechnya should have a special status inside the Russian Federation but did not make clear what this would mean. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN COMMISSION APPROVES CHECHEN SETTLEMENT BLUEPRINT. The Russian government commission chaired by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin that is charged with finding a solution to the ongoing Chechen conflict approved a draft proposal at a 22 February session that comprises unspecified political, economic, social, diplomatic, and military measures to deal with the conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Details of the draft are to be ironed out within the next few days. Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev, who attended the meeting, said the plan marks the beginning of "a new stage" in the process of resolving the crisis; he added that it would be "madness" to attempt to negotiate a peace settlement with President Dzhokhar Dudaev. Also on 22 February, Chechen militants blew up the gas pipeline from Chechnya to Dagestan, according to Ekho Moskvy. Meanwhile, sporadic fighting between Russian federal troops and Chechen militants continued near the village of Tsintaroi, Russian TV reported. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN TO SUSPEND REGIONAL DISMISSALS. The upper house of the Russian parliament has asked President Boris Yeltsin to suspend his 21 February decree that ordered the dismissal of the governors of Arkhangelsk and Saratov oblasts, Pavel Balakshin and Yurii Belykh, Russian media reported on 22 February. The governors were sacked for allegedly misusing federal budget allocations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 February 1996), but their deputies say the presidential decree misrepresents the situation in their regions. The Federation Council also ordered its legislative committee to consider the constitutionality of the dismissals. According to the Law on the Status of Deputies, a Council deputy can only be dismissed with the Council's permission. The two governors, like most regional executive heads, were appointed directly by the president. Such regional heads make up one-third of the Council. The same day, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said the president's tough personnel policy will be continued and that "heads will roll," Russian and Western agencies reported. -- Anna Paretskaya GRACHEV SAYS ARMY WILL NOT ALLOW RUSSIA TO DISINTEGRATE. Speaking at a 22 February ceremony on the eve of Defenders of the Fatherland Day, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said the military will not allow Russia to be weakened or divided into a "patchwork of small provinces," ITAR- TASS reported. Grachev told the assembled officers that despite its difficulties, the military remains the embodiment of Russian national dignity and power. Lauding the efforts of the Russian military to prevent conflict from spreading from various "hot spots" in Russia and the CIS, the minister expressed hope that the current approach to financing the military would be altered. Speaking after Grachev, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets called the military a "special concern" of the government, since it is "the only guarantee of Russian national security." -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA CONCERNED ABOUT JAPANESE MARITIME ZONE. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Grigorii Karasin expressed concern on 22 February over the publication of maps by Japanese newspapers that include the disputed southern Kuril islands in a proposed Japanese maritime economic zone. The Japanese government recently submitted bills to parliament calling for Japan to ratify the UN Convention on Maritime Law, under which countries can declare a 200-nautical mile economic exclusion zone around their coasts. Although Japanese diplomats have said the published maps are unofficial, Karasin expressed the hope that Japan would "not take any actions which complicate Russo-Japanese relations" in the process of ratifying the UN convention. The two countries have a long-running dispute over the four southernmost Kuril islands, and a fifth round of talks on fishing rights in the surrounding waters ended on 21 February without agreement. -- Scott Parrish ZHIRINOVSKY ENDORSES BUCHANAN. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky hailed Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan's victory in the New Hampshire primary, Russian and Western agencies reported on 22 February. In a letter released by his office, the Russian ultranationalist called Buchanan a "comrade-in-arms" and wished him a "convincing victory" in the U.S. presidential elections. -- Scott Parrish FEDERATION COUNCIL ENDORSES COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEMBERSHIP. As anticipated, the Federation Council unanimously approved two bills certifying Russia's adherence to the Council of Europe on 22 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. The bills must now be signed by President Yeltsin. The vote clears the way for Russia's formal induction as the council's 39th member. Council of Europe officials told journalists the same day that the induction ceremony is currently scheduled for 28 February in Strasbourg. -- Scott Parrish MORE ON ALCOHOL PRICE CHANGES. As of 12 March, vodka and other beverages with a higher than 28% alcohol content cannot be sold to the public for less than 18,400 rubles ($3.85) a liter, Kommersant-Daily reported on 21 February. The minimum retail and wholesale price for spirits imported from outside the CIS is 40,000 rubles ($8.37) a liter. The price increases were mandated by the Economics Ministry on 20 February in an attempt to protect the Russian market from low-quality alcohol products (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 February 1996). Deputy Economics Minister Sergei Ignatev said the measure should not affect major domestic vodka makers such as Kristall, which produce good-quality spirits. A representative of Kristall's Moscow distillery told Komsomolskaya pravda, however, that the prices of their products would increase by about 20%. -- Penny Morvant FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS RISE IN MINIMUM WAGE, PENSION. As expected, the parliament's upper house voted on 22 February to reject draft laws raising the minimum pension and minimum wage by 20% as of 1 February, Russian agencies reported. The Federation Council said the country did not have the resources to implement the bills, which were passed by the Duma on 7 February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 January and 8 February 1996). In the opinion of the council's committees for budget and social policy, increasing wages "on paper" would serve only to irritate the public. A conciliation commission is now being set up to revise the bills. -- Penny Morvant MIGRATION SERVICE RELEASES 1995 DATA. According to Federal Migration Service data, 963,000 people migrated to Russia from other CIS republics in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. The service said overall migration was slightly lower than in preceding years, but it noted a rise in in-migration from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. The number of forced migrants also increased by 300,000 during the year, up almost 20% on the number registered in 1994. In addition, the service estimated that about 610,000 people have abandoned their homes in Chechnya, 487,000 of whom were officially registered with the service last year. More than 200,000 refugees from Chechnya are already said to have returned to their homes. The Federal Migration Service has 24 permanent centers for resettling forced migrants and has set up an additional 68 centers in the North Caucasus. -- Penny Morvant IMF GRANTS RUSSIA $10.2 BILLION LOAN. The managing director of the IMF, Michel Camdessus, signed a $10.2 billion loan with the Russian government on 22 February in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The step, a major boost for President Yeltsin, will pump $4 billion into the Russian economy this year. The three-year extended fund facility is conditional upon the government increasing tax receipts and removing export duties on oil and gas. Lifting export duties will cause a loss of up to $2.5 billion in government revenue, which will boost the profits of energy companies and cause domestic oil prices to rise. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS there will be "compensation measures" to lessen the impact of the change, "which will not be easy" to devise. Back in November the government announced it would lift energy export duties from 1 January 1996, but this was not done. -- Peter Rutland CONSTRUCTION MINISTER UPBEAT. Construction Minister Yefim Basin told an international conference in Moscow that 45 million square meters of housing should be built in 1996, 10% up on 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. Only 12% of the expected 10 trillion rubles ($2 billion) investment will come from the state. He said unfinished projects are still a problem, amounting to 97 million square meters. The industry has received $160 million from the U.S. government to build flats for army officers and is negotiating with the World Bank for loans worth $530 million. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER GIVES SPEECH. Forces loyal to the Tajik opposition are in control of 70% of Tajikistan, United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri stated in a speech broadcast by the Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan on 22 February and monitored by the BBC. Nuri went on to list the areas and the commanders who are in control. Nuri's claims, if true, would mean that the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, is ringed by the opposition except for routes leading westward, toward Uzbekistan. The UTO leader said there are cadres in the southern Kurgan-Tyube area but declined to provide any details as he claimed "they occupy smaller territory" and would be easier to locate. -- Bruce Pannier PRIMAKOV CONCLUDES CENTRAL ASIAN VISIT. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Komilov, and Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent on 22 February to discuss regional security and sign agreements on migration and the clarification of Foreign Ministry exchanges, Russian and Western sources reported. Karimov said good relations with Russia are a "priority for the Uzbek people," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the Tajik conflict underscores the need for further integration and development of the CIS, a view he shares with Primakov. It is the second time in as many months that Primakov has visited Central Asia. -- Roger Kangas [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. 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