|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
No. 71, Part I, 10 April 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Belgrade, Skopje Establish Diplomatic Ties," by Stan Markotich and Stefan Krause - "Quotes from Slovak Ruling Party's Congress," by Sharon Fisher - "Both Past and Present are Important to Polish President's Visit to Russia," by Jakub Karpinski Available on the World Wide Web: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/Index.html This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ AKAYEV DISMISSES NEWSPAPER EDITORS. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has dismissed the editors of two leading newspapers and the head of the State Television and Radio Committee, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April, citing a source from the Glasnost Foundation. Akayev's press secretary was quoted by the Glasnost Foundation as saying that the decision to remove the editors of Slovo Kyrgyzstana andSvobodnye gory is consistent with the state's policy of rotating "cadres of the state-owned mass media." The new head of the State Television and Radio Committee is Amanbek Karypkulov, formerly the ideology secretary of the Kyrgyz Communist Party prior to 1991. The editorial staff of both papers have sent a letter of protest to Akayev, and are threatening to go on strike. They claim that the current ownership structure of the paper--jointly owned by its own employees and the government--is not permitted under Kyrgyz law. The Kyrgyz-American Bureau on human rights has termed the move a violation of journalists' rights -- Bhavna Dave ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA ZYUGANOV DENOUNCES MEDIA "BLOCKADE." Communist leader Zyuganov charged that the national media, particularly television, is conducting an "information blockade" of his campaign, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. He said that he felt greater support from the local media, which are "more independent in their conduct." Ekho Moskvy commentator Andrei Cherkizov rejected the accusations, saying "space costs money, there is more interesting material to publish, and there is a Communist press to build up Zyuganov's image." -- Robert Orttung RUTSKOI ABANDONS PRESIDENTIAL BID. Bowing to the inevitable, former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi announced that he would not run for president and threw his support behind Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Radio Rossii reported on 9 April. Rutskoi's Derzhava won 1.8 million votes (2.6%) in the December parliamentary elections. During that campaign, Rutskoi was critical of Zyuganov and the Communists for not carrying out any of their promises. -- Robert Orttung MILITARY DENOUNCES REPORTS OF DIVISION IN THE RANKS. The Collegium of the Defense Ministry denounced recent reports in the media claiming there are political divisions among Russia's highest military commanders, in a statement published in Rossiiskaya gazeta 10 April (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 April 1996). The collegium announced that the data used in such studies are "falsified" and their purpose is to "disorient society and servicemen on the eve of the presidential elections and create the appearance that there is a hidden opposition among the military leadership." The statement claimed that the Defense Ministry unanimously supports the "current course of reform and the preservation of stability," themes that are emphasized in President Boris Yeltsin's campaign. -- Robert Orttung MILITARY PARADE TO BE HELD ON RED SQUARE ON VICTORY DAY. On 9 May, a parade by troops from the Moscow garrison will be held on Red Square to mark the 51st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 9 April. Officially there have been no military parades on Red Square since 1990, although last year a parade of war veterans was held that included battalions of parachutists, commandos, and marines. Yeltsin's decision to order a military parade this year is intended to boost his standing among veterans and the military ahead of the June presidential election. -- Penny Morvant ST. PETERSBURG GUBERNATORIAL RACE TURNS UGLY. St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev has accused Mayor Anatolii Sobchak of trying to tell journalists how to cover the mayoral election campaign, NTV reported on 9 April. In turn, Sobchak has denounced the decision of his subordinate to run and called on him to resign. The two now communicate mainly between their assistants. Sobchak is running at 22% in the polls, 12% support other candidates, and 66% remain undecided ahead of the 19 May poll. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIA TO ACCUSE U.S. OF NUCLEAR SAFETY VIOLATIONS. The Russian government is preparing a position paper on alleged violations of nuclear safety standards in the U.S., which will be presented at the 19- 21 April G-7 summit meeting in Moscow, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 9 April. The government report, citing U.S. Department of Energy statistics, claims that 2,108 safety violations took place at U.S. nuclear facilities during 1989-90 alone. The report was prepared as a "retaliatory blow" against anticipated Western criticism of Russian handling of fissionable materials at the summit. While admitting that "some grounds" exist for criticizing Russia's handling of its nuclear materials, the paper cited Russian experts who argue that the West has deliberately exaggerated the threat of nuclear smuggling from Russia in order to exclude it from the world nuclear fuel market. -- Scott Parrish POLAND AND RUSSIA DISAGREE ABOUT NATO. Emerging from a 9 April meeting with his visiting Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski, President Yeltsin announced that the two had "agreed on all issues, except one," referring to the possible expansion of NATO, ITAR-TASS reported. While Yeltsin said there is still time "to find some alternative means" of resolving the NATO expansion controversy, he added that he had "little hope" such an alternative would be found. Kwasniewski, trying to downplay the divide, said that while Poland wants to join the alliance, it "does not want to become a front-line state in the new Europe." Comparing Kwasniewski's visit to the frosty tenor of bilateral relations over the past few years under President Lech Walesa, however, NTV termed it a "breakthrough." -- Scott Parrish SWISS EXPEL RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT. Officials at the Swiss Justice and Police Department announced that an unnamed first secretary at the Russian embassy in Bern will be expelled from Switzerland for espionage, AFP reported on 9 April. The officials said the Russian diplomat was caught red-handed while trying to obtain unspecified information. In December, Switzerland expelled another Russian diplomat on similar charges (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 January 1996). -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA "CONCERNED" OVER NORTH KOREAN ACTIONS. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin expressed "concern" about recent tensions in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which separates North and South Korea, ITAR- TASS reported on 9 April. Tension has increased in the zone since Pyongyang announced last week that it will no longer observe the terms of the 1953 armistice agreement ending the Korean War, which it termed "obsolete." North Korean troops have subsequently violated the DMZ on numerous occasions. Demurin criticized North Korea for undermining the security regime on the peninsula, called on Pyongyang to continue observing the armistice, and repeated a Russian proposal for an international conference on the issue. Meanwhile, two Russian delegations departed on previously scheduled visits to Pyongyang. -- Scott Parrish RUSSO-ITALIAN ECONOMIC COOPERATION AGREEMENTS. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov and Italian Foreign Minister Suzanna Angelli signed a bilateral investment protection agreement and a tax accord at the initial meeting of the Russo-Italian economic cooperation committee in Rome, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. The commission was formed under the terms of the October 1994 Russo-Italian Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. RFE/RL reported that the investment accord would simplify regulations for Italian companies investing in Russia, while the tax agreement will lower taxes on Italian firms operating there. -- Scott Parrish RUSSO-POLISH COOPERATION IN ENERGY PROJECTS. Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy Yurii Korsun told ITAR TASS on 9 April that Russia is keen to move forward with the plan to build a pipeline across Poland to carry natural gas from the Yamal peninsula in northern Siberia to Germany. Russia also wants to build a gas pipeline to Kaliningrad to fuel a new power plant there, easing the province's acute energy problems. There is already agreement to build a high current electricity transmission line from Russia to Germany across Poland. -- Peter Rutland NAVY TELLS SHIPYARD TO SELL SUBMARINES ABROAD. The Russian Navy has told the Krasnoe Sormovo shipyard in Nizhnii Novgorod to sell abroad three diesel-powered, Kilo-class submarines originally ordered for the navy, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. Two of the boats have already been sold to China. The director of the shipyard, Nikolai Zharkov, said the company is negotiating with another unnamed country (identified only as in Africa or Southeast Asia) for the sale of the third boat. Zharkov said that the Chinese had been pleased with the two submarines they bought but lacked the money to buy the third. The company is in serious financial difficulty and recently cut its workforce from 29,000 to 11,000. -- Doug Clarke BELLONA ACTIVIST REFUSED BAIL. A St. Petersburg court has rejected a bail application by Aleksandr Nikitin, a retired navy captain and employee of the Norwegian-based environmental group Bellona, AFP reported on 9 April. Nikitin, who worked on a report on radioactive contamination of Murmansk Oblast, was accused of espionage and arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in February. Nikitin's supporters, who include Russian Environmental Policy Center head Aleksei Yablokov, argue that the report does not contain secret information and that the 1993 Law on State Secrets stipulates that information "on the condition of the environment" is not subject to classification, Trud reported on 23 March. -- Penny Morvant ARMY LOW ON FOOD. Lack of funding has forced the Russian army to use emergency food reserves to feed its troops, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. According to Defense Ministry official Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Savinov, spending on food for the military was cut from 3.5 trillion to 1.7 trillion rubles last year ($350 million at current prices) and funds were disbursed only sporadically, leaving the army in debt to suppliers. This year, Savinov continued, the budget allocation will cover only about 75% of the military's food requirements. He stressed, however, that the army does have sufficient reserves to prevent its troops from starving. Recent media reports have listed several cases of malnutrition among soldiers, including one death. -- Penny Morvant POOR FIRE SAFETY RECORD. Fires caused 15,000 deaths and injured another 13,500 people in Russia last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. The Interior Ministry's fire service recorded 290,000 fires, which caused about 30 trillion rubles ($6.2 billion) of damage. The number of fatalities caused by fires rose from 6,888 in 1990 to 15,700 in 1994. A large number of the blazes are the result of accidents by drunks. -- Penny Morvant DOCKERS HOLD WARNING STRIKE. Dock workers at a number of Russian ports held a one-hour warning strike on 9 April to draw attention to the plight of Russia's northern ports, Radio Rossii and Ekho Moskvy reported. Union representative Anatolii Shalamanov said loads have declined sharply recently, with cargo increasingly being handled by ports in Ukraine and the Baltic states. High taxes and rail tariffs and outdated equipment have made Russian ports uncompetitive, and a number are on the verge of bankruptcy. The Russian Union of Dockers estimates that Russia's ports are being used to only 60% of capacity. -- Penny Morvant STATE WILL BUY BACK OIL FIRM SHARES . . . At a meeting of the government's Commission for Operational Problems on 9 April, Deputy Prime Minister and head of the State Privatization Committee Aleksandr Kazakov said that the government will buy back the oil firm shares that were sold in loan auctions in November and December, ITAR TASS reported. He said "the state must retain its influence over oil firms," and complained that the auctions had not led to any significant improvement in the financial situation of the firms. The problem, Kazakov noted, will be where to find the money to buy back the shares. -- Peter Rutland . . . AND BOOST INVESTMENT. Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik told the same government meeting that there will be a major overhaul of the taxes and tariffs levied on oil firms in the next two months. This is presumably to compensate for the lifting of oil export duties scheduled for 1 July. Shafranik wants to cut the taxes they pay as a share of sales from the current 70% to 45%. He said that to maintain the current level of production of about 300 million metric tons a year 212 trillion rubles ($44 billion) of investment will be needed by 2000, and only half that sum appears to be available. -- Peter Rutland LATENT RENATIONALIZATION ON ITS WAY. A process of latent renationalization has started in Russia, according to Boris Kagarlitsky, writing in the 5-11 April issue of Vek. Since the roots of the process are in the financial relations between companies and local governments, it is unlikely to be affected by the results of the presidential election in June. Kagarlitsky argues that enterprises are now borrowing money from local authorities, using company assets as collateral. If these debts cannot be repaid, as is likely, then gradually many of these firms may return to state ownership. -- Natalia Gurushina PROMSTROIBANK OPENS U.S. OFFICE. Promstroibank became the first Russian bank to open a U.S. office since the breakup of the Soviet Union, AFP reported on 9 April. Permission to open the unit came from the Federal Reserve System, which supervises foreign banks. The office will provide the bank's clients in Russia with information about international financial markets but will not be allowed to give credits or receive deposits. The unit will be opened in July 1996 in New York, becoming the bank's fourth office abroad (the bank also has offices in London, Frankfurt, and Geneva). -- Natalia Gurushina TAX RECEIPTS STILL SLUGGISH. Tax receipts in the first quarter were just 81% of the planned level, with arrears cumulating to 41 trillion rubles by 1 March, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 9 April. The new head of the State Tax Service, Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Artyukhov, noted with concern that there appears to be no relationship between the economic performance of a given region and its level of tax payments. He complained that firms are evading taxes by resorting to barter. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MAJOR DRUG STORAGE BASE DISCOVERED IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstani customs officials and members of the State Investigation Committee raided a major narcotics shipment base in Almaty, arresting several members of a Kazakh-Tajik drug smuggling ring and seizing large quantities of raw opium and marijuana, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 April. The base was part of a route that runs from Pakistan and Afghanistan, through Central Asia, and on to Russia and other CIS states. A State Investigation Committee official told ITAR-TASS that last month's arrest at Almaty Airport of a number of Tajik citizens, who had more than 12 kg of raw opium and 5 kg of hashish valued at more than $1 million, led to the arrests at the Almaty base. Drug smuggling rings are increasingly using Kazakhstan as a transit country due to its good air links with other CIS countries and Eastern Europe. -- Bhavna Dave CAUCASIAN LOBBY IN ANKARA. A "7 million-strong" Caucasian diaspora in Turkey is "heavily influencing" Turkey's foreign policy, Cumhuriyet reported on 9 April. The paper identified the highjacking of the Avrasya Ferryboat in January as the event which brought attention to the alleged strength of this lobby. The article reported that Turkey is making use of the Caucasian lobby to achieve objectives--such as spreading Turkish culture--that it cannot officially realize. The article exaggerates the strength of the lobby and the size of the Caucasian diaspora but rightly points to a little noted revival of "emigre" Caucasian (especially North Caucasian) activism and its exploitation for foreign policy purposes. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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