|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 65, Part I, 1 April 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Belgrade Committed to Sheltering War Criminals," by Stan Markotich - "Tajikistan: The Unseen Cost," by Bruce Pannier - "CIS Integration: A Gradual Approach," by Roger Kangas - "The Vagaries of Russia's Abkhaz Policy," by Liz Fuller - "Yeltsin's Chechen Peace Plan: Can it Work?," by Liz Fuller 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 UNVEILS CHECHEN PEACE PLAN. President Boris Yeltsin outlined his plan for resolving the Chechen conflict during a speech broadcast on Russian Public TV (ORT) on 31 March. Under the plan, Russian federal forces would immediately cease hostilities and then gradually withdraw from Chechnya at the same time as the Chechen leadership extends "zones of security and peace." The second stage comprises the convocation of a political forum of representatives from throughout Chechnya to prepare for new parliamentary elections. In the third stage, Russian and Chechen representatives will hold negotiations on Chechnya's future political status. Yeltsin indicated that Chechnya could receive a greater degree of autonomy than any other subject of the federation, and said he would be prepared to conduct negotiations with representatives of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev through an intermediary. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will head a State Committee to coordinate the peace program's implementation. The Suddeutsche Zeitung quoted Nezavisimaya gazeta on 1 April as reporting that talks between Dudaev's emissaries and a Russian delegation, mediated by the OSCE and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, would begin in the next few days. -- Liz Fuller ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA RUSSIAN REACTION TO YELTSIN CHECHEN PLAN. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced that his party supported Yeltsin's peace efforts in Chechnya but added that they should have been adopted much earlier, ITAR-TASS reported 31 March. Duma member Galina Starovoitova warned that "the party of war"--certain government members and Yeltsin's advisers--would continue the fighting until it felt that the task was complete, regardless of the president's statements. Former Supreme Soviet Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov argued that "this is not a peace plan; it's an attempt to calm people and not solve the problem." Duma member Aleksandr Lebed described the proposal to have the Duma adopt an amnesty for Chechen fighters as an attempt "to turn the deputies into fools, while the president keeps his hands clean," NTV reported. Lebed warned that it is impossible to stop the war after a year and a half of massive aerial bombardment. -- Robert Orttung FOUR CIS PRESIDENTS SIGN INTEGRATION ACCORDS IN MOSCOW. The presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan signed a series of agreements in Moscow on 29 March that will further integrate their states, Russian media reported. Officially titled the "Treaty on Deepening Integration in Economic and Humanitarian Spheres," the 28- article document covers issues ranging from common goods markets to coordinating information systems. More importantly, the four countries will also establish an Inter-Governmental Council of presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers; an Integration Committee; and an Inter-Parliamentary Committee. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will be the first to chair the council, while the Integration Committee, made up of first deputy prime ministers, will be chaired by a member of the Kazakhstani delegation. In a 27 March address to the Belarusian parliament on state radio monitored by the BBC, Lukashenka stressed that the agreement will not imperil the CIS or the specific Russian-Belarusian accords to be signed on 2 April. The signatory states noted other CIS states are welcome to join the agreements. -- Roger Kangas NTV: ZYUGANOV REJECTS SOCIAL DEMOCRACY. Communist Party leader Zyuganov claimed that "social-democracy of the west European type has no chance in Russia," NTV reported on 31 March. The network argued that this statement shows that Zyuganov is seeking the vote of hardliners. Zyuganov asserted, however, that he had never made such a statement and that NTV broadcasted this "false information" because its director, Igor Malashenko, is now part of Yeltsin's re-election team, ITAR-TASS reported. Zyuganov's explanation is not convincing though, because he said that there are many types of social democracy in Europe and that when speaking of its general principles, one must take into account the country's "specific features." -- Robert Orttung LEBED REJECTS ELECTED DUMA. Denouncing attempts to "ape the West," presidential candidate Aleksandr Lebed argued that Russia does not need an elected parliament, NTV reported on 30 March. Instead he called for a "small, highly professional Duma that would be named by the president." Lebed also suggested that the president should submit to a yearly popular referendum and resign if he fails to gain the voters' support. Lebed spoke at the congress of the Democratic Party of Russia which nominated him for president. -- Robert Orttung STRENGTHENING OF RUSSIAN-INDIAN RELATIONS. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with top Indian officials, including Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, during his 30-31 March trip to the subcontinent, Russian and Western media reported. The two sides signed agreements on re-establishing a "hot line" link between Moscow and New Delhi, scientific and technological cooperation, and other cultural exchanges, and discussed the Afghan conflict. Primakov noted that while Russia has spent considerable energy on its relations with the West, it should begin to "diversify" its foreign policy, ITAR-TASS reported. This year, trade between the two countries is expected to reach $3 billion. According to RFE/RL, India continues to purchase Russian military equipment, with an estimated $3.5 billion worth of weapons contracts currently pending. -- Roger Kangas RUSSIA PROTESTS WHITE HOUSE LEAKS. The U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Thomas Pickering, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on 29 March to receive a formal complaint about the "repeated" leakage of confidential materials pertaining to U.S.-Russian relations, ITAR-TASS reported. The complaint is presumed to be in response to a 27 March Washington Times report on a Clinton-Yeltsin conversation in Cairo on 13 March. The White House had already on 28 March instructed the Justice Department to investigate the leak. -- Peter Rutland CHARGES AGAINST AVRASYA FERRY HIGHJACKERS. The Istanbul state security prosecutor filed new charges against the nine men involved in the seizure of the Avrasya Ferry in January, Reuters reported on 29 March. The suspects were previously facing up to 21 years in prison on charges of seizing a vessel, holding hostages, and carrying explosives; the new charges include establishing a terrorist network. The six Turks, two Chechens, and one ethnic Abkhaz from Georgia now face between 22 and 42 years of imprisonment. The Russian media has speculated that the Turkish authorities would be lenient with the suspects; the new charges come just as Turkey is attempting to improve Russian-Turkish relations. -- Lowell Bezanis RUSSIA'S LARGEST CROSS LIFTED ONTO NEW CATHEDRAL. Builders lifted Russia's largest gilt cross onto the main cupola of the newly rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow on 29 March, Western agencies reported. The cross weighs more than 3 metric tons and measures nine meters high and six meters across. The reconstruction of the cathedral, which was destroyed in 1931, began in January 1995. Now its cupolas are decorated with five crosses covered with 1.5 kg of gold. The construction works are due to be finished by the time Moscow celebrates its 850th anniversary in 1997. The project will cost an estimated $250 million, of which $95 million has already been spent. -- Natalia Gurushina and Robert Orttung FINANCE MINISTRY DEFENDS DIAMOND AGREEMENT. The Finance Ministry has issued a statement that defends a diamond agreement with South Africa's giant De Beers, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 March. Under the framework agreement signed on 23 February, De Beers will sell 95% of Russia's first $550 million worth of rough diamond exports and 80% of stones above that figure. A break up with De Beers would have led to a price war that Russia would lose due to its lack of marketing and sales networks. The ministry noted that the deal will not harm Russia's cutting industry, because it does not cover supplies of rough diamonds to domestic cutters, nor exports and imports of cut diamonds. The inclusion of stones shipped abroad for cutting in Russia's exports should put an end to uncontrolled shipments of uncut diamonds and the resulting loss of budgetary revenue. -- Natalia Gurushina ACTING CHAIRMAN OF ROSKOMDRAGMET APPOINTED. First Deputy Chairman of Russia's Committee on Precious Metals and Precious Stones (Roskomdragmet), Yurii Kotlyar, has been appointed the acting chairman of the committee, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 March. The position has been vacant since 21 February, when President Yeltsin relieved Yevgenii Bychkov from his duties. Bychkov now faces criminal charges on grounds of abusing his position and violating currency regulations. In 1993 and 1994, Bychkov authorized the transfer of rough diamonds worth $150 million to the U.S. company Golden ADA for cutting. The company went bankrupt, however, and neither money nor stones were not returned. -- Natalia Gurushina SOSKOVETS CALLS FOR SECTOR-SPECIFIC INDUSTRIAL POLICY. Speaking to international news agencies on 31 March, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said the government should pursue a sector-specific industrial policy due to a lack of financial resources, ITAR-TASS reported. The state should support industries oriented to the domestic market, such as car manufacturing, textiles, food, and light industries. Companies in sectors that produce potentially internationally competitive goods--the aerospace industry and nuclear technologies-- should get state support to enter foreign markets. Producers of raw materials and fuel should be self-financed. Soskovets also drew attention to the inefficient use of World Bank loans. By the beginning of 1996, Russia had signed 18 credit agreements with the bank worth $4.2 billion. However, only 8.2% of this sum ($244 million) was spent on investment projects. -- Natalia Gurushina SKEPTICISM ABOUT IMF LOAN. Economist Andrei Illarionov, a former adviser to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, criticized the IMF's decision to grant a $10.1 billion loan to Russia. Speaking to a conference in Cambridge, U.K., on 30 March, Illarionov said, "This money will be quickly and efficiently wasted. In the best case, it will go on agricultural subsidies, in the worst case on military operations in Chechnya." He did not share the IMF's view that the Russian economy will start growing this year, saying that "1996 may not be the last year of economic decline." -- Peter Rutland in Cambridge TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA CENTRAL ASIAN REACTION TO MOSCOW TREATY. The Central Asian states that did not participate in the 29 March signing of the Moscow integration treaty stressed the need to preserve their independence, Russian and Western media reported. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov called any Turkmen involvement in an enhanced union "premature" and "unacceptable," and stressed that his country's independent foreign policy is based on bilateral accords. Uzbek President Islam Karimov also remains skeptical of moving too quickly. Prior to the signing, he cited his recent book, "Our People's Path is the Path of Independence, Freedom, and Thorough- Going Reform," which warns against efforts to revive the USSR, Narodnoye slovo reported on 28 March. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov expressed his country's readiness to join the customs union and willingness to participate in a "single economic space," ITAR-TASS reported on 29 March. -- Roger Kangas TURKEY OFFERS TO HELP ARMENIA. In a bid to encourage a resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, Ankara has signaled its readiness to relieve Armenia's economic and energy problems, AFP reported on 30 March. Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said the Alican border gate with Armenia would be opened as soon as Azerbaijan and Armenia "announce an agreement in principle," the Turkish Daily News reported. Yilmaz also pledged to supply electricity to Armenia if Yerevan agrees to shut down the Medzamor nuclear power plant. Yilmaz is scheduled to visit Baku on 16 April at the invitation of President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported on 30 March. -- Lowell Bezanis 20% PENSION HIKE IN KAZAKHSTAN. A 20% increase for pensioners of all categories in Kazakhstan comes into effect on 1 April, First Deputy Minister of Social Security Vladimir Romanov told ITAR-TASS. More than 2.8 million pensioners, who form 17% of the total population of the country, will receive the hike. Monthly pensions in Kazakhstan ranging 1,200 to 3,000 tenge ($18 to $28) are paid irregularly due to severe deficits in the pension fund. The pension fund is currently running a 5 billion tenge ($7.6 million) deficit, and the most "incorrigible defaulters" are industrial enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported. Some 517 have been totally shut down, 1,222 have partially seized production and about 396 plants are working on a part-time basis. Last week, the government increased the minimum wage by 20% (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 March 1996). -- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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