|If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson|
No. 43, Part I, 29 February 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Tirana Bomb Blast Leads to Crackdown on Independent Media", by Fabian Schmidt - "Serbian President's Crackdown Includes Humanitarian Group", by Stan Markotich - "Czechs Free Up Crown's Exchange Rate", by Steve Kettle 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 UNION WITH BELARUS. After a 28 February Kremlin meeting with his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, President Yeltsin said that deeper Russo-Belarusian integration is aimed at eventually reach the "goal" of "unity" between the two states, Russian and Western agencies reported. Without defining unity, Yeltsin described this goal as "achievable" during his presidency. Lukashenka agreed, and subsequently told journalists that in March a major agreement would be signed accelerating the integration of the two states and creating a supra-national organization with a jointly funded budget to oversee military cooperation and work on overcoming the consequences of the Chornobyl disaster. Later on 28 February, Lukashenka departed for a two-day tour of oil and gas producing enterprises in Tyumen Oblast. -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA REACTION TO LUKASHENKA VISIT. Under the deal signed on 28 February, Russia will cancel $470 million in outstanding state credits and in return Belarus will waive their $300 million claim on Russia. Russian commentators observed that Yeltsin used Lukashenka's visit to bolster his re-election campaign, casting himself as the champion of reintegration among the former Soviet republics. Russian TV reported that Yeltsin and Luka-shenka's agreement on the goal of "unity" would deprive the Russian president's communist and nationalist opponents of "one of their main trump cards...the promise to restore the USSR." Izvestiya warned on 28 February that "only the blind" could fail to see that the "cause of integration" is being used as "a bargaining chip in the presidential campaign," a charge Segodnya bolstered by questioning the economic wisdom of integration with Belarus. -- Scott Parrish LEFT-CENTER POLITICIANS CREATE "THIRD FORCE." A group of Duma members including Aleksandr Lebed, Svyatoslav Fedorov, Stanislav Govorukhin, and other politicians, including Sergei Glazev, Konstantin Zatulin, and Oleg Rumyantsev, have agreed to create a coalition called "Third Force" that will support neither Yeltsin nor Zyuganov in the presidential campaign, Segodnya reported on 28 February. The new group is expected to back Lebed or Fedorov as its candidate. The absence of the Congress of Russian Communities' Yurii Skokov suggests that the fissures in that party are growing more serious. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN TELLS DEMOCRATS THAT HE IS THEIR ONLY CHOICE. President Boris Yeltsin said on 28 February that pro-reform activists and voters "have no other choice but to support me" since "there is nobody else," Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that his support will grow as the elections approach, an assertion borne out by the latest VCIOM polls which show him closing in on Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, with 27% to Zyuganov's 39% in a one-on-one race. However, Konstantin Borovoi's Party of Economic Freedom announced that it would support Yabloko's Grigorii Yavlinskii in the presidential campaign, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung MUSCOVITES BACK LUZHKOV. One hundred well-known Muscovites have signed a letter published in Obshchaya gazeta on 29 February endorsing the re- election of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Among the signatories were Duma deputies Irina Khakamada and Svyatoslav Fedorov, former Russian TV head Oleg Poptsov, and actors Aleksei Batalov and Oleg Yefremov. According to the latest opinion polls, an overwhelming majority of Muscovites want Luzhkov to run for re-election and 70% of respondents said they would not want Luzhkov to leave his post, even to run for the presidency. Moscow's mayoral elections will take place on 16 June along with the presidential poll. -- Anna Paretskaya ST. PETERSBURG LEGISLATURE EXPANDS ITS POWERS. The St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly passed a bill on 28 February that considerably extends the powers of the city's legislative institutions, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the bill, two-thirds of the legislature's deputies can pass a vote of no confidence in any executive official of the city, including head of local administration and the Constitutional Court will have the power to resolve any conflicts between the city's executive and legislative bodies. The law also introduces the post of a city governor to replace that of mayor and sets gubernatorial elections for 16 June. The new law must now be approved by the current Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIA JOINS COUNCIL OF EUROPE. At a Strasbourg ceremony on 28 February, Russia officially became the 39th member of the Council of Europe, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov handed council Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys documents affirming Russian adherence to the council charter. Primakov then signed the European Human Rights Convention, a convention outlawing torture, a charter on local self-government, and a convention to protect minorities. Primakov said Russia's acceptance into the council showed that Europe believes it will continue with democratic reform. Russian human rights advocate Sergei Kovalev urged the council to carefully monitor Russian compliance with the obligations of council membership, especially in Chechnya. Otherwise, he said, "nothing good will come" of Russian membership. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN CHIDES U.S. OVER CUBAN PLANE INCIDENT. President Yeltsin told journalists on 28 February that he was "concerned" by the recent incident in which a Cuban fighter shot down two U.S. civilian aircraft, Russian agencies reported. Yeltsin praised the UN Security Council-- which adopted a resolution with softer wording than that requested by the U.S.--for "diplomatically telling the U.S. that it cannot declare war over every such incident." The council's resolution "deplored" the incident, and called for an investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization but did not impose any sanctions against Cuba. Yeltsin added that Russia is "re-establishing" its ties with Cuba, which broke down after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Last week, Russian Nuclear Power Minister Viktor Mikhailov visited Cuba to discuss the possible completion of the unfinished Juragua nuclear plant, which the U.S. opposes, citing safety concerns. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN ARMS COMPANIES GET GREEN LIGHT. Five major Russian military companies have been granted the right to sign export deals independently, AFP reported on 28 February. According to a spokesman for the state-owned export firm Ros-vooruzhenie, the firms Rosvertol (helicopters), Antei (anti-aircraft systems), Gipromash (hydraulic systems), Ufim plant (jet engines), and the Tula instrument design bureau (anti-tank weapons) can now sign deals without intermediation by Rosvooruz-henie. Since 1994, only Rosvooruzhenie and MIG-MAPO aircraft company have been allowed to sign independent deals with foreign clients. Podgrebenkov said Ros-vooruzhenie regards these companies "as colleagues, not competitors." He added that other Russian companies may soon be granted similar privileges. -- Constantine Dmitriev WAGE DEBT CONTINUES TO GROW. By 20 February, the total Russian wage debt had grown to 23.7 trillion rubles ($4.9 billion) from 20.4 trillion a month earlier, Trud reported on 28 February. The largest debt is in the engineering sector (3.75 trillion rubles), followed by education (1.87 trillion), the coal industry (1.28 trillion), and health (1.22 trillion). President Yeltsin has repeatedly promised to resolve the wage arrears crisis, but presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits was forced to acknowledge on 28 February that the situation remains difficult, Ekho Moskvy reported. Officials in public and private firms who delay wage payments are being threatened with criminal prosecution. -- Penny Morvant ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN CONTINUES. Citing a source in the Presidential Security Service, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February that $3 million worth of jewels bought with embezzled funds had been confiscated at Sheremetevo Airport in Moscow in a case of high-level corruption. The report did not name the accused but said that the investigation, which began a year ago, is under the jurisdiction of the Presidential Security Service and the main military procurator, suggesting that the suspects are from the military or the KGB. Meanwhile, Deputy Finance Minister Anatolii Golovaty, who was responsible for overseeing Ros-komdragmet, has tendered his resignation over charges that senior committee officials robbed the state of more than $170 million. -- Penny Morvant STRIKES INCREASING. Strikes occurred at 2,108 enterprises and organizations in Russia in January, the BBC reported, citing Interfax. Labor Ministry official Valentin Tinyakov said all but 31 of the strikes were in the education sector. In 1995, a total of 8,856 strikes were recorded, up from 514 in 1994, according to Goskomstat. Unpaid wages were the main grievance. The number of hunger strikes has also increased dramatically in recent months, indicating the degree of despair felt by employees in a number of sectors, including education, health, mining, and law enforcement. At present, guards are on hunger strike at a penal colony in Kareliya, the second such protest by Interior Ministry officials in the republic this year. -- Penny Morvant BUDGET DEFICIT WIDENS. In a 29 February speech to the government on economic policy, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin reaffirmed his commitment "to use basic market instruments for managing the economy," even while trying to reduce the social costs of reform, ITAR-TASS reported. However, he identified low tax revenues as a major problem. Budget income in the first two months was 15 trillion rubles ($3.1 billion), only 33% of the planned level, while spending was 33 trillion rubles, 70% of the planned level, according to Segodnya of 28 February. The gap was plugged in part by the sale of 7.5 trillion rubles worth of treasury bonds. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov presented a similar gloomy prognosis in an interview with ITAR-TASS on 28 February, in which he said they expect tax receipts of 22 trillion rubles in March but plan to spend 32 trillion rubles. -- Peter Rutland COAL INDUSTRY SUBSIDIES. The Russian coal industry should receive 10.4 trillion rubles ($2.2 billion) in subsidies this year, about 1% of GDP. This includes 7.4 trillion rubles from the budget, a $500 million loan from the World Bank, and $100 million credit from British and German equipment suppliers, Russian TV reported on 27 February. It is expected that pit closures will mean the firing of 100,000 of Russia's 800,000 miners this year. Yurii Malyshev, the head of the monopoly state company Rosugol, complained that the World Bank loan is aimed at closing pits rather than investing in new capacity, in an interview with the New York Times of 29 February. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA RUNS TRADE SURPLUS WITH U.S. In 1995, Russia ran a $1,209 million trade surplus with the U.S., exporting $4,035 million and importing $2,826 million, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February. This was up from a surplus of $667 million in 1994. The U.S. ran a surplus of $109 million with the remaining CIS countries in 1995 (down from $381 million in 1994), with imports of $875 million and exports of $984 million. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION CRITICIZES LATEST BILLS. The parliamentary faction of the opposition Georgian National Democratic Party lambasted the hasty passage of new bills on land privatization, the budget, and commercial banks, Russian media reported on 27 February. According to the party's political secretary, Mamuka Giorgadze, the bills were not properly prepared. Parliament rejected a proposal by the National Democrats that the bills be re-drafted. The IMF had set the passage of these bills as a condition for the release of its $240 million Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) loan to Georgia. -- Irakli Tsereteli OPPOSITION TURNS DOWN TAJIK GOVERNMENT INVITATION. A spokesman for the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), Ali Akbar Tura-jonzoda, said the UTO will not send any representatives to an 11 March session of the Tajik parliament, according to a Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan broadcast monitored by the BBC. The parliament had offered the opposition an opportunity to address the session, which would also have been attended by Ramiro Piriz Ballon, the UN special envoy to Tajikistan, and representatives of observer states to the Tajik peace talks. Turajonzoda claimed that "the Dushanbe regime will not be able to ensure either their own security or that of the guests that parliament has invited to take part in the session." -- Bruce Pannier WOLVES THREATEN HUMANS IN NORTHWESTERN KAZAKHSTAN. The Kazakhstani government has set aside 3 million tenge ($46,000) to organize special brigades of hunters and offer bounties to deal with an increasing number of attacks on humans by a growing wolf population, Kaztag reported on 28 February. An Almaty zoologist reported that the number of wolves in the country has grown to 60,000 since the government stopped paying bounties a few years ago. A region in Eastern Kazakhstan pays a bounty of about $74 per wolf. -- Bhavna Dave [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez 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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