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No. 75, Part I, 16 April 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Azerbaijan's Former President Arrested in Moscow," by Liz Fuller - "The Battle over Polish Public TV is Won by the Ruling Coalition: The New TVP President Has Been Nominated," 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ROSSEL PARTY WINS SVERDLOVSK ELECTIONS. Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel's party, Transformation of the Urals, led the field in the competition for the lower house of the Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma, with 36% of the vote, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. The Communist bloc came in second with 15% of the vote. Our Home-Our City, the regional affiliate of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia, won 13%. About 3% supported Yabloko and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Both Rossel and Our Home-Our City have pledged to back Yeltsin in the June presidential election. The Sverdlovsk Duma elections were held exclusively on party lists. The results of the upper house and local government votes are still being tabulated. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA MORE CANDIDATES TURN IN SIGNATURES. Kemerovo Oblast legislature Chairman Aman Tuleev, Democratic Russia leader Galina Starovoitova, and former Federation Council member Vladimir Podoprigora turned in their nomination signatures to register for the presidential election ahead of the 6 p.m. 16 April deadline, NTV reported on 15 April. The Central Electoral Commission is still considering the signatures of Grigorii Yavlinskii, Svyatoslav Fedorov, Aleksandr Lebed, and Sergei Mavrodi. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN RAISES PENSION COMPENSATION PAYMENTS . . . In an attempt to boost his standing with Russia's 3.7 million poorest pensioners, President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree on 15 April raising pension compensation payments, ITAR-TASS reported. The maximum compensation payment, received by those on the minimum pension (63,500 rubles a month), will be doubled on 1 May to 150,000 rubles ($31), bringing the monthly total received by such pensioners to 213,250 rubles. Compensation payments for those on higher pensions will be lower, falling to a minimum of 85,000 rubles. Yeltsin also instructed the government to submit a bill to the Duma raising pensions by 10% a month from 1 May. The Duma has repeatedly sought to raise the minimum pension by 20%--a move opposed by the government as too expensive. The cost of the president's initiatives is estimated at 1.7 trillion rubles a month. -- Penny Morvant . . . PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE. . . Turning his attention to Russia's impoverished scientific community, Yeltsin also pledged on 15 April to lend greater support to fundamental scientific research and the Russian Academy of Sciences, NTV reported. Speaking at a meeting marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nobel prize winning scientist Nikolai Semenov, Yeltsin appealed for support for a second term as president in order to prevent "a political and social Chornobyl." -- Penny Morvant . . . AND WAVES RED FLAG. Yeltsin is preparing to sign a decree allowing the display of the "red banner of victory" alongside the Russian tricolor flag when marking state holidays, military events, and other ceremonies, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting unnamed sources. Yeltsin hopes the decision will honor the Russian heroes who planted the red flag of the Soviet Union over the Reichstag in May 1945. -- Robert Orttung LEBED PROPOSES SHARP REDUCTIONS IN ARMY. Duma deputy and presidential candidate Aleksandr Lebed told RFE/RL on 10 April that he would drastically cut the size of Russian military forces if elected president. Recent Western estimates say the Russian army now has 91 divisions, although many are severely undermanned and lacking in combat- readiness. Lebed suggested that Russia now needs only 15 fully-manned regular armored and infantry divisions supplemented by 5-6 airborne brigades, plus 15 reserve divisions. Lebed suggested the Air Force could be reduced from its current level of 6,000 planes to 1,000. Smaller forces would be more effective and less expensive to maintain, the former general contended. -- Scott Parrish GRACHEV ON RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM CHECHNYA. Speaking in Yekaterinburg on 15 April, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said that Russia would station 10,000 troops in Chechnya permanently but that the remainder would be withdrawn in three phases--one to begin immediately, the second in early May, and the third in November--from those areas controlled by the Zavgaev leadership, AFP reported, citing Interfax. Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, however, told Reuters in a telephone interview that he would only agree to negotiations with the Russian leadership on the condition that all Russian troops withdraw. In a move that suggests a split in the Dudaev camp, several of his field commanders, including Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, met with representatives of various Chechen political parties on 15 April and agreed to convene a forum on 18 April to facilitate direct talks between Dudaev and President Boris Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller TURKISH JOURNALISTS SENTENCED IN DAGESTAN. Two Turkish journalists have been sentenced to three years imprisonment for attempting to enter Chechnya from Azerbaijan via Dagestan in violation of Article 83 of Russia's Criminal Code, according to a 12 April Turkish Radio and Television report monitored by the BBC. The two men, Mehmet Ali Tekin and Talip Ozcevik, are connected with the pro-religious conservative daily Selam. The sentence they received was the maximum possible under Russian law. Russia has repeatedly accused elements in Turkey of supporting the Chechen rebels. -- Lowell Bezanis PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: IRAN REACTOR DEAL THREATENS RUSSIA. Aleksei Yablokov, head of the Ecological Safety Commission of the Russian Security Council, told a Moscow press conference on 15 April that the controversial Russo-Iranian deal to finish the uncompleted nuclear power station at Bushehr could give Iran access to technology that would allow it to build nuclear weapons, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yablokov said that training Iranian specialists to run the plant would permit Iran to make significant progress "toward the creation of its own nuclear armaments." The remarks, which come shortly before the 19-20 April G-7 nuclear security summit in Moscow, directly contradict the official Russian government position. -- Scott Parrish SERGIEV POSAD PROTESTS CHEMICAL DISPOSAL PLANT. Residents of Sergiev Posad (formerly Zagorsk), about 70 km north of Moscow, oppose plans to reprocess toxic liquid missile fuel in the town, NTV reported on 13 April. A plant there will reprocess up to 10,000 tons of heptyl, much of it removed from deactivated Russian ballistic missiles, at a new facility there, constructed with U.S. assistance under the Nunn-Lugar program. Vasilli Goncharov, the mayor of the town, told NTV that hundreds of local residents had signed petitions opposing the plant, citing fears of environmental damage. Residents also object to what they claim are plans to import foreign heptyl for processing. Genrykh Matysyak, director of the plant, said only Russian heptyl will be processed there and argued that the facility will boost the local economy by creating new jobs. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA URGES RESTRAINT ON NORTH KOREA. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko said he managed to "somewhat shake North Korea" into softening its stance on relations with South Korea during his 10-12 April visit to Pyongyang, Russian and Western agencies reported. Tensions have been high along the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas since Pyongyang renounced the 1953 armistice agreement earlier this month. Ignatenko admitted, however, that North Korean officials had repeatedly said they viewed war between North and South Korea as "inevitable." Backtracking from earlier statements, Ignatenko also acknowledged that no progress had been made on settling North Korea's debts to the former USSR, valued at over 3 billion transferable rubles, which Russia inherited in 1991. -- Scott Parrish MYSTERIOUS URALS COMPLEX THREATENS NUNN-LUGAR AID. The Russian Defense Ministry is building an underground complex near Beloretsk (Bashkortostan), that may threaten U.S. disarmament aid to Russia, The New York Times reported on 16 April. Russian officials refuse to reveal the purpose of the huge complex, which Clinton administration officials speculate may be anything from a command-and-control bunker for Russian nuclear forces to a secret weapons depot. Russia claims financial hardships will hamper the full implementation of arms control agreements such as START II, but it appears that the complex in the Urals is swallowing significant funds. Under current U.S. law, Nunn-Lugar disarmament aid can only be disbursed to Russia if the U.S. president can certify that Russian military programs do not exceed "legitimate defense requirements." -- Scott Parrish RUSSO-ESTONIAN WATER DISPUTE. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov delivered a formal protest to Estonian Ambassador Mart Helme on 12 April, complaining that authorities in the Estonian border city of Narva had cut off water supplies to the neighboring Russian town of Ivangorod, ITAR-TASS reported. Narva authorities cited unpaid bills as the reason for shutting off the water. Krylov added that 880 million rubles ($180,000) in back payments had been made by 12 April, and that all outstanding debts for water would be paid during the next week. Russian gas supplies to the Baltic states have frequently been shut off since 1991 because of unpaid bills. -- Scott Parrish LIVING STANDARDS IMPROVE IN FIRST QUARTER. Average real income increased by 2% in the first three months of 1996 in comparison with the same period last year, Radio Rossii reported on 15 April, citing Goskomstat. The number of people living below the poverty line fell from 45.1 million (30%) in the first quarter of 1995 to 35.9 million (24%). Income differentials between the richest and poorest social groups have shrunk somewhat, with the ratio between the income of those in the top 10% and the bottom 10% falling from 13.6:1 to 13.5:1. -- Penny Morvant AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURERS IN CRISIS. In the first three months of this year, Russian airlines did not place a single order for a new aircraft from domestic producers, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 April. Viktor Samokhin, the head of the aviation department of the Transport Ministry, said that the number of civilian aircraft commissioned fell from 292 in 1992 to 180 in 1993, 47 in 1994, and 28 in 1995. Russian airlines cannot raise loans to buy replacements to modernize their aging stock of 8,500 aircraft, while Boeing has leased 15 of its craft to Russian companies. The Finance Ministry has set aside just $100 million to finance the construction of seven aircraft this year. -- Peter Rutland LACK OF CAPITAL THREATENS RUSSIA'S SECURITY. A report for the Security Council prepared by the government's Financial Academy concludes that the shortage of capital in Russia is a threat to national security, Izvestiya reported on 16 April. Russia needs $150 billion to restart economic growth, but this investment capital cannot be generated either domestically or through foreign investment. The report also warned against the current practice of funding the budget deficit by issuing GKOs. A financial crash could provide a pretext for an attempted return to a planned economy, which would leave Russia "among the lagging economies of the Third World." Bella Zlatkis, the head of the Securities Department at the Finance Ministry, denied that GKO emissions amount to a "pyramid scheme," although she admitted that the government is in danger of "putting all its eggs in one basket." -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA YILMAZ IN BAKU. Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz held talks in Baku on 14-15 April with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, Turan and Western agencies reported. Yilmaz also stated Turkey's readiness to offer "all kinds of assistance" to Azerbaijan in modernizing its armed forces, according to Turan on 14 April. Aliev said the views of the two countries' leaders on all regional and international issues are close if not identical. Yilmaz promised Aliev Turkey's Alican border gate with Armenia would not be opened unless Armenia began to retreat from Azerbaijani territory, Yeni Yuzyil reported on 15 April. Cumhuriyet on 16 April quoted Aliev's foreign policy adviser, Vafa Guli-Zade, as saying that although Yilmaz is a "great politician," he is "an amateur" on the subject of Karabakh. -- Liz Fuller EU OFFICE OPENS IN ALMATY. The EU established an official representative office in Almaty on 12 April, Russian TV reported. EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek said that EU measures to consolidate relations with Kazakhstan will not affect the union's partnership with Russia. The EU has offered another long term package in addition to the $100 million in technical aid, which makes it the single largest donor to Kazakhstan. The EU is especially interested in the construction of pipelines to export Kazakhstan's oil and gas. -- Bhavna Dave RUSSIA GAINS KYRGYZ ASSETS IN RETURN FOR DEBTS. The Kyrgyz government has agreed to repay part of the country's $132 million debt to Russia in the form of state-owned shares in 39 industrial and mining enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 April. The debts stem from the credits granted to Kyrgyzstan in 1992-1993. Russia has agreed to take 66% and 70% stakes in two tobacco companies, a 34% stake in the Kyrgyz Electromechanical Plant, and a 70% stake in the Kyrgyz Chemical-Metallurgical Plant. Russia is also interested in acquiring shares in electrical energy companies. New owners of the transferred stakes in Russia will be registered as Russo-Kyrgyz joint ventures. -- Natalia Gurushina [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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