|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 62, Part I, 27 March 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Slovak Parliament Approves Law on the Protection of the Republic and Ratifies Treaty with Hungary," by Sharon Fisher - "Serbian Opposition Leader Attacked by State Media," by Stan Markotich 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ IMF APPROVES RUSSIAN LOAN. As expected, the IMF's executive board formally approved a $10.1 billion, three year Extended Fund Facility loan to Russia on 26 March, Western agencies reported. Russia already has $10.8 billion in outstanding IMF credits. In the past week, Russia agreed to drop a proposal to raise import tariffs and to resume imports of U.S. chicken--two issues that could have delayed the loan. The first $340 million tranche could arrive before the end of this month. The money will come at a crucial time, since the government is finding it difficult to cover its yawning budget deficit by issuing securities. The price of treasury bills collapsed 25% this week, pushing annual interest rates to 120% and causing the cancellation of a $500 million international bond float scheduled for 27 March. Three-month bills issued now will have to be redeemed after the 16 June presidential election, which partly explains investor wariness. -- Peter Rutland ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA ZYUGANOV'S NEGATIVE RATINGS INCREASING. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov's negative rating among those who have made up their mind in the presidential campaign rose from 14% to 26% between January and March, according to the latest VCIOM poll, Kuranty reported on 26 March. The poll asked "Whom would you not like to see as president of Russia?" It was finished before the 15 March Duma vote on restoring the Soviet Union. Yeltsin's negative rating dropped from 43% to 39%. -- Robert Orttung COMMUNISTS PROPOSE LAW ON THE OPPOSITION. The Communist head of the Duma committee on public associations, Viktor Zorkaltsev, has proposed a law that would protect the rights of the opposition, Kommersant-Daily reported on 26 March. The draft recognizes the opposition as "benefiting society" and provides detailed protections for its activities, including state funding and access to the media. The draft law would allow, for the first time, the possibility of a "shadow cabinet" that could be formed with the support of one-third of the Duma members and whose leader could participate in government meetings. The paper speculates that the law is either an attempt to insure the party's position in case of defeat in the presidential election or an effort to present a more moderate position to the voters. -- Robert Orttung PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION APPOINTS NEW INFORMATION DIRECTOR. The editor-in-chief of Rossiiskie vesti, Valerii Kurcher, has replaced Sergei Nosovets as the head of the presidential administration's information directorate, Segodnya reported on 26 March. Kurcher is considered to have better contacts among democratic-minded journalists and will be able to establish better relations with the non-communist media during the campaign. -- Robert Orttung RYABOV CALLS FOR LESS FREE AIR TIME FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. Central Electoral Committee (TsIK) Chairman Nikolai Ryabov called for limiting the free air-time allotted to presidential candidates on state television (Russian Public TV, Russian TV, and St. Petersburg Channel 5) from 30 to 10 minutes, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March. Television stations are still owed 50-60 billion rubles ($10-12 million) for the air-time they were required to give electoral blocs competing in the Duma elections, and there is no provision in the 1996 budget to pay for TV time during the presidential campaign. The TsIK will issue media guidelines by the end of March. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIAN TV COMPROMISES WITH REGIONAL BROADCASTERS. Russian TV has signed a deal with regional broadcasters to limit the amount of time they pre- empt the national network in favor of local programming. Local broadcasters will be able to show their material between 5:20 p.m. and 7:55 p.m. Currently, local broadcasters pre-empt much more time, Russian TV quoted its chairman, Eduard Sagalaev, as saying on 26 March. The agreement should also prevent local stations from pre-empting the free air-time given to presidential candidates. -- Robert Orttung STAGED WITHDRAWAL FROM CHECHNYA PLANNED. Russian Defense Minster Pavel Grachev said on 26 March that "major combat operations in Chechnya will cease" once President Boris Yeltsin announces his plan to settle the conflict in Chechnya, Russian media reported. An unnamed source in the General Staff said that two brigades of federal troops would remain--one of Internal Troops and the army's 205th Motor-Rifle Brigade. Yeltsin is expected to unveil his Chechnya peace plan on 31 March. -- Doug Clarke OSCE REPORT CONDEMNS CONDUCT OF CHECHEN WAR. A new report by the head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Swiss diplomat Tim Guldimann, accuses the Russian forces in Chechnya of waging "warfare against the civilian population," NCA reported on 26 March. The report said Russian forces engage in "wanton destruction and systematic looting," and extort money from villages in return for not attacking them. The report also condemned Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev's fighters for repeatedly seizing civilian hostages. -- Peter Rutland KEMEROVO LEADER MAY BE DEPRIVED OF PARLIAMENT MEMBERSHIP. The Kemerovo Oblast administration has announced that the chairman of the oblast's legislative assembly, Aman Tuleev, should be stripped of his seat in the Federation Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March. While Tuleev's term in office, as well as that of the whole assembly, expires on 27 March, the oblast Procurator's Office considers him to be a legitimate representative in the Council after that date. He said he will stay on in both his posts until the new oblast assembly is elected. The current oblast legislature, however, failed to set a date for the next election. Tuleev was number three on the Communist Party list in the December 1995 elections, but declined his seat in the Duma. -- Anna Paretskaya BANNED MISSILES WOULD COUNTER NATO EXPANSION. In a 26 March meeting with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Joseph Rotblat, Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov said that NATO's eastward expansion would bring about "a revision of many agreements on cuts in nuclear arms." ITAR-TASS added that two specialists from the Arzamas-16 nuclear research center--Igor Andryushin and Aleksandr Chernyshev--issued a statement warning that if NATO expands Russia will have to deploy "nuclear air defense and sea-defense weapons on its western borders, as well as tactical and operational missile systems, including the Pioner [SS-20] and Oka [SS-23] systems." These two missiles were banned under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. They also said that Russia would refuse to sign a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. -- Doug Clarke UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk met with his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, in Moscow on 26 March to prepare for President Yeltsin's 4-5 April visit to Kyiv, Western media reported. The Yeltsin visit is expected to see the signing of the long awaited Ukrainian-Russian friendship treaty. The division of the Black Sea fleet, in particular Russian leasing of shore base facilities, remains the main outstanding issue, and will be discussed at a meeting of Ukrainian and Russian defense ministers scheduled for 29 March. Meanwhile, a voluntary organization called "300 years of the Russian fleet" has launched a national campaign to raise money from banks and businesses to pay for the completion of eight new military vessels, including the cruiser Peter the Great, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March. -- Peter Rutland CIS STATES' DEBT TO RUSSIA. Russian Minister for Cooperation with the CIS States Valerii Serov noted on 26 March that the CIS states now owe Russia $9 billion, Russian media reported. They repaid 1 trillion rubles ($200 million) in 1995, and are expected to pay 1.9 trillion rubles in 1996. The $1.4 billion owed by the Belarusian government and private companies to Russia and the Russian natural gas company Gazprom will probably be written off as part of the bilateral treaty to be signed on 2 April. Serov also advocated moving towards a single currency for CIS countries, Reuters reported. The 29 March summit involving Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan will likely address debt payment scheduling. -- Roger Kangas YELTSIN AND NORWEGIANS COMPROMISE ON ARRESTED ENVIRONMENTALIST. President Boris Yeltsin said in Norway on 26 March that he and Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland had reached an understanding in the treason case against the former Russian naval officer Alexander Nikitin, Reuters reported. Nikitin, who worked for the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, helped write a report on the Russian navy's nuclear pollution in the Kola Peninsula which the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said contained classified information. Yeltsin said that Russia would drop its complaint against the Bellona organization, and announced that Nikitin would be allowed to be defended by a lawyer of his choice. The FSB had previously said that he must have an authorized lawyer who was cleared for state secrets. The Russian Constitutional Court was anyway due to rule on this issue on 27 March. In Oslo, more than 1,000 Norwegians held a rally in support of Nikitin. -- Doug Clarke AGRARIANS PICKET GOVERNMENT. About 1,000 agricultural workers from more than 25 Russian regions picketed the federal government building in Moscow on 26 March to protest the "anti-peasant policies" of the current administration and demand more financial support for the farm sector. They also called on the government not to allow the unrestricted sale of land. According to ITAR-TASS, the protest was organized by the Union of Agroindustrial Complex Workers; the Agrarian Union of Vasilii Starodubtsev, one of the 1991 coup plotters; and the Coordinating Council for Collective Actions of Agroindustrial Complex Workers. Express-khronika reported that the organizers included the hardline Working Russia movement and the Russian Communist Workers' Party. -- Penny Morvant FORMER DEPUTY HEAD OF ST. PETERSBURG TV ARRESTED IN U.S. The FBI has arrested Mikhail Syroezhin, a former deputy head of St. Petersburg TV, on charges of swindling, theft, and money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March. His property, including a $300,000 yacht, has been seized. Criminal charges were brought against Syroezhin in Russia in January 1995 when St. Petersburg TV (Channel 5) lost $1.87 million intended to purchase equipment in the U.S. Syroezhin has denied embezzling the funds. -- Penny Morvant IVANOVO AIRPORT WORKERS ON HUNGER STRIKE. Ivanovo Airport has been paralyzed by the technical staff's eight-day hunger strike, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 March. The protesters are demanding the payment of wage arrears, a program to rescue the aviation companies from their current financial difficulties, and a change in management. Last year, air traffic controllers at Ivanovo went on an 11-day hunger strike on similar grounds. That protest ended when the oblast authorities paid wage arrears, canceled debts to power suppliers, and exempted companies from tax payments until the end of the year. Steps were also taken to secure the repayment of debts from aviation companies in Moscow, Krasnoyarsk, and Uzbekistan, but to date little of the debt has been recovered. Ivanovo Oblast, which is dominated by the textile industry, is one of Russia's most depressed regions. -- Penny Morvant EMPLOYMENT SERVICE HEAD LAMENTS LACK OF FUNDS. A day after figures were released showing a large jump in the number of registered unemployed in February, Federal Employment Service head Fedor Prokopov told ITAR-TASS that mandatory contributions to the Federal Employment Fund must be raised. Prokopov criticized the Duma's decision to reduce the payroll tax from 2% to 1.5%, saying that the move, the increase in the number of unemployed, and the failure of indebted enterprises to pay contributions had left the fund in dire financial straits. He also recommended that the amount of contributions transferred by regional branches of the fund to the federal body be raised from 20% to 50% to facilitate the redistribution of money from prosperous areas to those where unemployment is high. -- Penny Morvant NASA URGES RUSSIA TO MEET ITS SPACE STATION OBLIGATIONS. NASA warned Russia that it risks being excluded from the Alfa international space station program if it fails to meet its financial obligations, NCA reported on 27 March. NASA officials said that they will give Russia six weeks to do so. The launch of the first service module for the Alfa orbital station, manufactured by the Moscow-based Khrunichev space center, is scheduled for November 1997. NASA is considering withdrawing from the collaborative program because of the Russian Space Agency's financial problems. -- Natalia Gurushina LUKOIL AND ARCO SET UP JOINT VENTURE. Russia's largest oil concern LUKoil and the U.S. Atlantic Richfield Co. (Arco) will form a new joint venture in which LUKoil will have a 54% share, Western agencies reported on 26 March. Arco will provide the venture with a 10-year $3 billion credit. Last autumn, the U.S. company paid $250 million to acquire LUKoil convertible bonds which can be exchanged for 6.3% equity stake in the concern. Arco will also participate in the auction of a further $140 million of LUKoil bonds which will take place on 29 March. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK GOVERNMENT FORCES ATTACK TAVIL-DARA. Tajik government warplanes pounded rebel positions in Tavil-Dara on 26 March, Reuters and NCA reported. The rebels have occupied the Tavil-Dara region since last October, but weather conditions had prevented planes from assisting government ground forces in the area. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali voiced concern over the fighting and called on both sides to "comply strictly" with the ceasefire agreement. Ghali noted that more than 600,000 people in areas of military conflict in the Central Asian republic are in need of emergency food aid. He also confirmed that Ramon Piriz Ballon, the UN special envoy to Tajikistan, will soon be replaced. -- Bruce Pannier RESULTS OF KYRGYZ HELICOPTER CRASH INVESTIGATION. Human error was to blame for the October helicopter crash in Kyrgyzstan which claimed the lives of 15 people, including nine Canadians, according to the Kyrgyz state investigation commission, NCA reported. The helicopter was carrying employees of the Kumtor mining operation who had been visiting a gold mining site in the mountains of eastern Kyrgyzstan. The crew had strayed from the approved flight path, and should have turned back because of bad weather. -- Bruce Pannier INCREASE IN MINIMUM PENSION IN KAZAKHSTAN. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has decreed a 20% increase in the minimum pension to come into effect on 1 April, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March. The Ministry of Social Welfare and oblast leaders have been told to use the Republic Pension Fund to pay for the increase. The current minimum monthly pension is 320 tenge ($5), with inflation running at about 20% a year. -- 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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