|CHtoby sohranit' druzej, nuzhno proschat'. - Drevnij Egipet|
No. 66, Part I, 2 April 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Central Asian States Sort Out Unions, Treaties, and Independence," 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, LUKASHENKA SIGN INTEGRATION AGREEMENT. In a 2 April ceremony broadcast live on Russian TV, the Belarusian and Russian presidents signed a treaty of union that closely binds the two states together by creating new supranational political institutions. Yeltsin termed the agreement "highly symbolic" and said it "opens a qualitatively new phase in relations between Russia and Belarus." With an eye towards his re- election campaign, he promised that the new union aimed "to do everything to achieve progress in the social sphere." Lukashenka also hailed the agreement, which he termed the "highest form of community within the CIS." Under the agreement, a joint Supreme Council will be established to direct the activities of the union, and ITAR-TASS reported that Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had been appointed to head its executive committee. (see related story in Central and Eastern Europe section) -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN POSTPONES VISIT TO KYIV. Presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev announced on 1 April that President Yeltsin had postponed his scheduled 4-5 April visit to the Ukrainian capital, Russian and Western agencies reported. Medvedev blamed the decision on continued disagreement with Ukraine about the terms under which the Black Sea Fleet will lease port facilities in Sevastopol. Yeltsin could not "sign agreements which, in his view, do not fully correspond with Russian interests," added Medvedev. Russia wants Sevastopol to be an exclusively Russian base, while Ukraine insists on joint use of it. NTV linked Yeltsin's decision not to go to Kyiv with his election campaign, saying that the president could not afford to appear to have "lost" Sevastopol by signing a lease agreement on Ukrainian terms. The visit has been postponed six times in the past 18 months. (see related story in Central and Eastern Europe section) -- Scott Parrish CHECHEN REACTION TO YELTSIN'S PEACE PLAN. At a 1 April session of the Chechen government, Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev termed Russian President Boris Yeltsin's peace plan "a great victory for all peace- loving forces" and said that it fully corresponds to his government's proposals, Radio Rossii reported. Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev has not yet formally commented on the peace plan, although several of his military commanders have expressed skepticism at its viability. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, named by Yeltsin to head a state commission to monitor compliance with the peace plan, told Russian Public TV (ORT) on 1 April that considerable responsibility for its implementation would devolve to the Chechen authorities. Russian Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said the commission would endeavor to preclude further instances of embezzlement of funds allocated for reconstruction in Chechnya; some 90 billion rubles ($18.8 million) went missing in November 1995 alone. -- Liz Fuller DUMA CONSIDERS CHECHEN AMNESTY. An amnesty for the Chechen fighters is a key element of President Yeltsin's peace plan, his adviser Emil Pain argued in Rossiiskie vesti on 2 April. Presidential legal adviser Mikhail Krasnov said that the amnesties could even include rebel Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. According to the Russian constitution, only the Duma can issue amnesties. Although some deputies have expressed qualms about taking responsibility for such a step, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev did not rule out the possibility of granting Dudaev amnesty in order "to stop the war" and "for the sake of the lives that we can save," ITAR-TASS reported on 1 April. -- Robert Orttung WESTERN POWERS HAIL YELTSIN'S CHECHNYA INITIATIVE. Western government, including the U.S. and Germany, endorsed President Yeltsin's latest initiative to end the Chechen conflict, Russian and Western agencies reported on 1 April. Anthony Lake, U.S. President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, "welcomed" Yeltsin's proposal, and called on the Chechens to "respond in a similar spirit." State Department spokesman Glyn Davies termed the proposal "a significant opportunity for peace," and urged both sides to accept OSCE mediation. The endorsements by the leading Western powers mirror their strong support for Yeltsin's re-election campaign. Meanwhile, on 2 April OSCE Chairman Flavio Cotti declared that the OSCE mission in Grozny stands ready to mediate a settlement. The mission played a significant role in the talks that produced the ultimately abortive military accord signed by federal and Chechen negotiators in July 1995. -- Scott Parrish LIBERALS SUPPORT YAVLINSKII. Prominent pro-reform activists Elena Bonner, Sergei Kovalev, Yurii Afanasev, Ella Panfilova, and Arkadii Murashev announced on 1 April that they had formed a committee to support Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii in the presidential campaign, saying he has the best chance of defeating the Communists. The members of the committee were skeptical about Yeltsin's plan to resolve the Chechen conflict peacefully because Dudaev had not agreed to it and because it did not have a mechanism for restraining the activities of those who supported the war, Radio Rossii reported. The timing of the committee's formation, coming after Yeltsin's peace plan announcement, suggests that the president's measures may be too little, too late to bring together a broad pro-reform coalition before election day. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN GAINING ON ZYUGANOV. Yeltsin's popularity rose from 15% to 18% during the last two weeks, but Zyuganov remains ahead with a stable 25%, according to the latest VTsIOM figures, NTV reported 31 March. In third place, Lebed improved his showing from 8 to 10 percent. Yavlinskii and Vladimir Zhirinovsky each have 9%, while eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fedorov has 7%. -- Robert Orttung LESS THAN A THIRD OF RUSSIANS SUPPORT DECISION TO RESTORE SOVIET UNION. Russians remain divided over the fate of the former Soviet Union. Less than one third of Russians support the Duma's 15 March denunciation of the treaty that formally disbanded the USSR. About 40% reject it, believing that the Duma's action will only cause a deterioration in relations with Russia's neighbors, according to VTsIOM figures reported by Radio Rossii. Also, 46% believe that the restoration of the Soviet Union is not realistic and only detracts attention from other problems, 14% believe it is a high priority task, and almost a quarter feel it deserves some attention. -- Robert Orttung CHINESE PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN IN MOSCOW. In Russia for a six-day official visit, Qiao Shi, the chairman of the Chinese National People's Congress Standing Committee, met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 1 April, international media reported. At their Kremlin meeting, Yeltsin told Shi that China is a "priority" for Russian foreign policy, and confirmed that he will visit Beijing on 24-26 April. The Chinese Xinhua news agency reported that Yeltsin reiterated Moscow's position that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, while Shi said China views the Chechen conflict as Russia's "internal affair." Shi later met with Chernomyrdin, who said that Shi's visit would give a "new impulse" to the development of bilateral ties. Shi will also visit St. Petersburg before departing Russia. -- Scott Parrish ITAR-TASS JOKE STORY CAUSES STIR IN EAST EUROPE. The official ITAR-TASS news agency caused a stir on April Fool's Day by running a joke item reporting that the State Duma was considering a resolution that would restore the Warsaw Pact. The item, a spoof of the recent Duma resolution denouncing the formation of the CIS, claimed the Duma resolution was a "secret weapon" intended to block the eastward expansion of NATO. Several news agencies mistakenly regarded the item as authentic, and Czech media even reported the story as "a sensation of international proportions." ITAR-TASS later issued a retraction, chiding these agencies for lacking a sense of humor. It did, however, cite Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Karel Boruvka, who said that jokes about restoring the Warsaw Pact could "give the shivers" to anyone who forgot that it was April Fool's Day. -- Scott Parrish CIS JOINT AIR PATROLS BEGIN. The integration of the CIS United Air Defense System took another step forward on 1 April when Russian and Belarusian air defense forces went on joint duty, ITAR-TASS reported. Last week, the deputy chairman of the CIS Air Defense Coordinating Committee said that joint patrols with Kazakhstani air defense troops would start on 1 May, and those with Georgia would begin the following month. All CIS countries except Moldova and Azerbaijan have indicated they will become part of the united system, although the nature of Ukraine's participation remains unclear. -- Doug Clarke COLD WELCOME FOR REFUGEES. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has issued an order forbidding the registration of refugees in Moscow unless they can move in with relatives who have a resident permit for the city. Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 27 March. Presumably this rule applies to forced migrants from within the Russian Federation as well as refugees from other countries. Similarly, the authorities in Kabardino- Balkariya announced on 29 March that they will no longer accept refugees from Chechnya due to a lack of funds, ITAR-TASS reported. Of the 10,600 refugees currently registered in the republic, only 3,600 have been officially re-registered and provided with temporary housing in holiday homes and the like. The remainder must fend for themselves. -- Peter Rutland CALL FOR DECENTRALIZATION OF SOCIAL POLICY. A conference on the concept of "State social orders" convened in Moscow on 29 March under the sponsorship of the Moscow City Duma, ITAR-TASS reported. Participants discussed the idea of "contracting out" the provision of services for alcoholics, refugees, and the homeless to voluntary organizations on a competitive basis. The deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Social and Religious Organizations, Valerii Bortsov, said that "social policy should not be a centralized monster." -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA INTERRUPTS OIL EXPORTS VIA DRUZHBA PIPELINE. Russia halted its oil exports on 29 March to Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic via the Druzhba pipeline across Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. The stoppage was initiated by the three countries, who argued that they satisfied their requirements in Russian oil and are also receiving oil from other suppliers. Hungary is now getting oil via Croatia's Adria pipeline, while the Czech Republic is using Germany's Ingolstadt-Litvinov pipeline. On 29 March, Russia reportedly agreed to levy the higher transit fee of $5.2 per ton of oil which Ukraine unilaterally introduced for its section of the pipeline on 1 January, RFE/RL reported on 2 April. -- Natalia Gurushina RUSSIA WILL NOT INTRODUCE IMPORT QUOTAS FOR ALCOHOL. The State Customs Committee announced that it will not impose restrictions on issuing excise stamps on imported alcohol, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 April. The introduction of licensing stamps and import quotas, which were to have been auctioned through commodity exchanges, were part of a package of proposals approved by the government in late January. The IMF, EU, and WTO had objected to the measures. -- Natalia Gurushina CENTRAL BANK TO CUT GKO YIELDS. Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said that the bank intends to cut yields on short-term state treasury bills (GKO), Segodnya reported on 30 March. At present, GKO is the most profitable financial instrument on Russia's stock market, and Dubinin noted that the minimum-risk securities should not have the highest yields. GKO yields surged by 27% to 121% on 26 March. The Finance Ministry has also decided to cut the six-month GKO issue scheduled for 3 April by 2.5 trillion rubles ($500 million) to 6 trillion rubles, and to reduce the share available to foreign buyers from 50% to 30%. -- Natalia Gurushina NUMBER OF JOINT VENTURES ON INCREASE. The number of joint ventures with foreign companies and foreign firms operating in Russia reached 14,600 in 1995, a 31% increase over the previous year, Western agencies reported on 30 March, citing the State Statistical Committee. Of that number, 2,611 joint ventures were set up by U.S. companies and 1,971 by German firms. Companies from China and Ukraine founded 1,376 and 1,341 joint ventures, respectively. In 1995, joint ventures' industrial output totaled 44 trillion rubles ($9.7 billion), of which goods worth $5.8 billion--mostly fuel--were exported. Joint ventures accounted for 7% of Russia's total exports and 6% of total imports. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NO PROGRESS (YET AGAIN) IN OSCE KARABAKH TALKS. The OSCE-mediated talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict held in Moscow from 25-30 March again failed to make any progress, primarily because new proposals to resolve the conflict tabled in March by the OSCE, Russia, and the U.S. were rejected, Turan and RFE/RL reported. No date has been set for the next round of talks. Russia and Finland intend to convene a special meeting with the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh to convey to them the OSCE's dissatisfaction with their unwillingness to compromise. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN-GEORGIAN MILITARY AGREEMENTS. Defense officials from Russia and Georgia signed 12 agreements on military cooperation in Tbilisi on 1 April and expected to sign another eight the following day, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said the agreements on bilateral cooperation in training, cooperation between the air forces and navies of the two countries, and on the transfer of Russian arms to Georgia are of special importance. He said two countries are cooperating in "the spirit of friendship and mutual understanding." -- Doug Clarke GRACHEV: GEORGIA ENTITLED TO SOME BLACK SEA FLEET WARSHIPS. Following his 1 April meeting with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said that Georgia is entitled to "at least a few ships of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet as its own." ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying the matter would be discussed in detail at a later date. He noted that Georgia would need to create the "required infrastructure, including piers, control systems, and other vitally important installations." -- Doug Clarke MANDATORY HEALTH INSURANCE IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstan has introduced mandatory health insurance for all its citizens in a bid to solve the country's health care problems, RFE/RL and ITAR-TASS reported on 1 April. The government created a fund for that purpose that will pay for 90% of all insurance costs. RFE/RL reported that the government plans to spend more than $300 million on insurance this year. Health care in Kazakhstan has deteriorated due to a lack of medicine, outdated equipment, and poorly-paid medical staff. It is not clear how the government plans to acquire the funds to introduce the new program. -- Bhavna Dave 500 KG OF MARIJUANA SEIZED IN CENTRAL KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstani police seized 500 kg of marijuana from the apartment of a resident of Karaganda in Central Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 March. Police are looking for other members of the drug ring, which is involved in shipping marijuana from the Chu valley in southern Kazakhstan to other countries. About 140,000 hectares of land in the Chu valley is used for marijuana cultivation, capable of producing an estimated 5,000 metric tons of hashish. The authorities seized only 5 metric tons last year. -- Bhavna Dave PRICE INCREASES IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek President Islam Karimov ordered that prices for various goods and services be increased to better reflect their current worth, RFE/RL reported on 1 April. For example, public transport rates increased 50%, housing and rent payments by 80- 100%, and the prices for bread and milk increased by 40% and 30%, respectively. To compensate for the price hikes, wages and pensions have also increased in Uzbekistan, with the minimum wage increasing from 250 sum ($6.79) to 400 sum a month, and retirement pensions to 900 sum a month (see OMRI Economic Digest, 28 March 1996). The government insists that such centralized control over wages and prices is necessary during this "transition period" in order to prevent hyperinflation and economic collapse. -- Roger Kangas KYRGYZSTAN REORGANIZES LOCAL ADMINISTRATIONS. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has ordered a reorganization of the country's local administration in order to fulfill his promise that 1996 will be the turning point in the Kyrgyz economy, Radio Mayak reported on 31 March. Under the decree, oblast akims will be renamed oblast governors and given new rights and responsibilities. Tulebek Muraliev, the head of the president's department for local organs of government, said the governors will be responsible for implementing reform programs and for taking an inventory of the social infrastructure of villages and cities in order to facilitate a management take over by local organizations. Muraliev said the plumbing system would be an example of duties that would fall under the responsibility of local leaders. The reorganization is essential for further privatization, but it also arguably provides ready scapegoats should reforms prove ineffective. -- Bruce Pannier [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. 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