|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 70, Part I, 9 April 1996
TAX POLICE COLONEL IN CORRUPTION SCANDAL. A senior officer of the Federal Tax Police Service has been arrested for allegedly demanding a $200,000 bribe from a commercial company, NTV reported on 5 April. Federal Security Service officers arrested Colonel Pavel Glebov and Andrei Shavaev, a former KGB officer who currently heads the private security agency Academy of Economic Security, as they were accepting $38,000 in bribes, ITAR-TASS reported. Corruption in state bodies is rampant, but few bribe-takers are punished despite the current high- profile anti-corruption campaign. -- Penny Morvant ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN DELAYS ANNOUNCING PROGRAM. President Boris Yeltsin addressed a congress of his supporters on 6 April but will wait until next month to release his program, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin explained the delay as a way to prevent his opponents from "distorting or using" his program. Instead, Yeltsin stuck to broad themes of the family, fighting crime, ending the war in Chechnya, and strengthening CIS integration. Yeltsin said that he would win so that "these elections will not be the last," Russian TV reported. He added that he is dissatisfied with his campaign staff and would personally take charge while placing financial questions in the hands of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Ekho Moskvy reported. Yeltsin also announced that Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev are beginning to set up negotiations as intermediaries with Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Robert Orttung ZHIRINOVSKY REGISTERS AS CANDIDATE. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky became the third officially registered presidential candidate on 5 April, Reuters reported. Zhirinovsky came in third in the 1991 presidential voting with 6 million votes, 8% of the total, and his party won almost 8 million votes (11%) in the 1995 Duma elections. He is running at less than 10% in recent opinion polls. -- Robert Orttung DUMA BACKS RUSSO-BELARUSIAN COMMUNITY. The Duma endorsed the 2 April union agreement between Moscow and Minsk by a vote of 320-8 with five abstentions on 5 April, RFE/RL reported. Although Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko initially criticized the agreement, it joined in supporting the treaty. The Duma and Federation Council have yet to formally ratify the treaty. -- Robert Orttung MILITARY LIMITS VISITS BY POLITICIANS. General Mikhail Kolesnikov, the Russian armed forces chief of staff, issued a directive on 8 April restricting visits of politicians to military units, ITAR-TASS reported. The directive is based on Article 18 of the defense law which prohibits "any form of political agitation, including pre-election agitation, on the territory of units and formations for the armed forces." A source in the Defense Ministry was said to have told the agency that the directive was brought about because of recent instances in which deputies with military rank have used their status to ask commanders to let them address their troops. -- Doug Clarke CHERNOMYRDIN REJECTS DUDAEV'S OFFER OF DIRECT TALKS. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 8 April rejected Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev's offer of direct peace talks with the Russian leadership, Russian and Western agencies reported. Fighting continued on 5-7 April in southern Chechnya; on 7 April, the head of the North Caucasus Military District, Col. Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin, said that over the previous seven days more than 100 Russian troops had been killed. On 7-8 April, Russian forces launched a full-scale offensive against the settlements of Vedeno and Dargo in southeast Chechnya. On 8 April, Chechens demonstrated in Grozny and Shali to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. On 6 April, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev rejected as slanderous and totally unfounded allegations that Chechen aircraft belonging to Dudaev had carried out the bombing of Shaladzhi on 2-3 April from airfields on Azerbaijani territory, Radio Rossii reported. -- Liz Fuller MAYORAL CANDIDATE OPPOSES ELECTION DATE CHANGE. St. Petersburg mayoral election candidates Aleksei Levashov and Igor Artemev have decided to contest the city legislature's decision to change the election date from 16 June to 19 May in the municipal court, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 6 April. They claim that a shorter election campaign will only benefit Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. The City Legislative Assembly voted to change the election date after President Yeltsin set 19 May as the election date in March (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 March 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow POLISH PRESIDENT VISITS RUSSIA. Aleksander Kwasniewski began a three-day visit to Russia by laying a wreath at a memorial in Smolensk Oblast marking the site at Katyn where 15,000 Polish officers were executed in 1940 by the Soviet political police, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 April. Kwasniewski said the site should be not just a "wound" but also a "memorial" so that "such things may never happen again" between Russia and Poland. Krasnaya zvezda reported that Moscow hopes the visit will thaw bilateral relations, which have been strained by the issue of NATO expansion. Despite political differences, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 April that Russo-Polish trade totaled $3.5 billion in 1995. Russia ran an $800 million trade surplus with Poland, with oil and gas accounting for 74% percent of its exports. -- Scott Parrish CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Lloyd Axworthy met with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to discuss NATO expansion, Arctic regional cooperation, and nuclear safety, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 April. Primakov said that although he and Axworthy agreed on the need to find a mutually acceptable compromise, Canada and Russia remain divided on the issue of NATO expansion. Axworthy invited Primakov to Canada later this year for the signing of an agreement founding a new multilateral Arctic Council, on which he said "almost full agreement" had been reached. AFP reported that the two leaders had agreed on the terms of several unspecified bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements. Under a 1994 agreement, Canadian specialists are already helping upgrade safety at Russian nuclear plants. -- Scott Parrish REPORT: RUSSIAN ARMS TRADED FOR FRENCH PILOTS. The independent French television channel TF1 on 6 April charged that Russian weapons bought by the French government were delivered by Russia to the Bosnian Serbs to secure the release of two French pilots shot down over Bosnia last August, theLondon Times reported on 8 April. Colonel Vladimir Kulich, a member of the Russian foreign intelligence agency, claimed to have been involved in the negotiations. The French Defense Ministry has denied that the Bosnian Serbs were compensated for the release of the pilots. -- Doug Clarke U.S. REMOVES RUSSIA FROM ARMS PROSCRIBED LIST. The U.S. State Department on 4 April removed Russia from the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) proscribed list. In a statement issued by Glyn Davies, acting press spokesman, the department said the step is in line with the Clinton administration's policy to update U.S. laws and regulations to reflect the end of the Cold War. Accordingly, it will no longer be U.S. policy to "deny licenses or other approvals for exports and imports of defense articles and defense services destined for or originating in Russia." In the future, each request for such license or approval will be analyzed carefully on a case-by-case basis and will no longer be automatically disapproved. -- Doug Clarke RUSSIA LAUNCHES U.S.-BUILT SATELLITE. Russia has launched a U.S.-built satellite for the first time, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. The telecommunications satellite Astra-1F, built by General Motors' Hughes unit at the request of the Societe Europeenne des Satellites, was launched by the Proton-K booster rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch cost $60 million and is part of the $1 billion deal signed by Khrunichev space center and the International Launch Services, a joint-venture set up in 1993 by Khrunichev with the Energiya corporation and the U.S. Lockheed-Martin group. The program envisages 20 more unmanned flights by the year 2000. -- Natalia Gurushina YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE ON PENSIONS. . . Following the March onslaught on wage arrears, President Yeltsin has now pledged to eliminate pension arrears by the end of April. According to ITAR-TASS, Yeltsin issued a decree on 8 April ordering the government to grant a six-month loan of 4 trillion rubles ($818 million) to the Pension Fund. Presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits said the money for the loan would come from operations on the short-term bond market and tax revenue. The state owes pensioners more than 6 trillion rubles in overdue payments (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 April 1996). -- Penny Morvant . . . AND SAVINGS. Continuing his emphasis on social issues ahead of the presidential elections, Yeltsin also decreed the partial restoration of savings wiped out by inflation as a result of the economic reforms begun at the end of 1991. The decree orders the government, the Central Bank, and Sberbank to draw up a federal program within three months on a mechanism to repay savings devalued between 1991 and 1995. The total Sberbank debt is estimated at 800 trillion rubles ($160 billion) in current prices. Livshits said that compensation payments will begin to be paid in 1997 in a process that will take decades to complete. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE ON SMALL BUSINESSES. President Yeltsin has decreed that supporting small businesses should become a government priority, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 9 April. The decree promises 500 billion rubles ($102 million) for investment credits to small businesses, and $200 million worth in guarantees to foreign companies that open credit lines to small businesses in Russia. The Federal Fund for Small Business Support should receive 5% of the privatization revenue annually, which means that in 1996 small companies should get 707 billion rubles (in 1995 small businesses received 50 billion rubles from this source). Small businesses in Russia repeatedly complain that high taxes and interest rates make it very difficult for them to survive. -- Natalia Gurushina GAZPROM LOSES TAX PRIVILEGE. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 4 April merging Gazprom's special tax-exempt "stabilization fund" with the general federal budget, Segodnya reported the next day. This was one of the conditions for the $10.1 billion loan the IMF granted in March. However, at the same time Yeltsin took other steps to compensate the gas monopoly, such as cutting the duty on pipe imports and lowering the gas excise duty by changing the basis upon which it is calculated. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA CENTRAL ASIAN ECONOMIC COOPERATION. Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov met with his Kyrgyz and Kazakhstani counterparts, Apas Jumagulov and Akezhan Kazhegeldin, in Tashkent on 5 April to sign 12 cooperative accords, Radio Rossii reported on 6 April. They discussed energy and water resource management, transportation and communication links, and drug smuggling. In a 6 April interview with Pravda vostoka cited by the BBC, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said the recent Moscow treaty signed by Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan would "not damage" cooperation among the three. Meanwhile, a 5 April Turkmen Foreign Ministry statement stated that Ashgabat "has no plans" to alter its present relationship with the CIS, according to a RIA news agency report cited by the BBC. The statement read that Turkmenistan prefers "bilateral relations" and rejects "entry into rigid supranational structures" as "politically inexpedient and legally inapplicable."-- Roger Kangas and Lowell Bezanis RUSSIA CUTS ELECTRICITY SUPPLY TO KAZAKHSTAN. Russia has cut the amout of electricity it supplies to the Aktyobe Oblast in north Kazakhstan for its failure to pay a $24.5 million debt, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 April. Aktyobe will now receive only 35 MW, instead of its regular 300 MW. The recently-opened Aktyobe power station is working irregularly and even at its full capacity can only fulfill a third of the country's electricity needs. Electricity has been cut in all southern oblasts of Kazakhstan, and only industrial enterprises, transport, and the communications networks of major cities have a normal electricity supply. Kazakhstan's electricity debts to Russia and other CIS countries have been variously reported at between $150 million and $400 million in the Russian media. Uzbekistan has totally cut off its electricity supply to Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan has also restricted its supply. Kazakhstan is holding talks with Russia and Kyrgyzstan on forming an energy union. -- Bhavna Dave DUMA RATIFIES LEASE OF BAIKONUR. The Russian State Duma has ratified an agreement on a 20-year Russian lease of the Baikonur space launch site from Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported on 5 April. The Duma ratification settles a dispute between the two countries on conditions for using Baikonur as a major Russian launch site for all manned space flights. Russia will pay Kazakhstan $115 million in rent annually for 20 years, with an option to lease the cosmodrome for an additional 10 years, RFE/RL added. -- Bhavna Dave ALARMING NUMBER OF URANIUM THEFTS IN KAZAKHSTAN. The newspaper Karavan- Blitz has reported numerous thefts of highly radioactive materials from the Ulba metalworks plant near the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk in East Kazakhstan, according to a BBC report on 4 April. About 100 kg of U-235 uranium was stolen in November and another 150 kg of uranium and 400 kg of radioactive thorium were stolen in December, according to reports in the 4 April and 26 March issues of Karavan-Blitz. An official of the State Investigation Committee on combating crime told the paper that such thefts at the Ulba plant have become common, and are committed by workers with the complicity of the guards. Most of the stolen uranium has been sold to firms in Russia. Kazakhstan has about a quarter of the world's uranium reserves. -- Bhavna Dave TEMPORARY BAN ON UIGHUR SOCIETY IN KYRGYZSTAN. The Kyrgyz Justice Ministry has suspended the Uighur organization Ittipak (Unity) from campaigning in the media and from holding any public meetings for three months after it failed to curb its "separatist activities" despite earlier official warnings, according to a 4 April Kyrgyz Radio report monitored by the BBC. The activities of Ittipak violated the Kyrgyz constitution's provisions on public associations, as well as the Kyrgyz- China communique of 16 May 1992 on non-interference in internal affairs. There are about 5.5 million Uighur across the border in China's Xinjiang province. Some 40,000 Uighurs live in Kyrgyzstan. -- Bhavna Dave [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez
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