|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 93, Part I, 14 May 1996
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 RUSSIA YAVLINSKII ANNOUNCES PROGRAM. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii made public his campaign program "I choose freedom" on 12 May, laying out plans for the first 730 days of his presidency if he is elected, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported. He plans to stop the Chechen war within the first 100 days, and will take measures to halt the implementation of President Yeltsin's plans to rebuild the Chechen economy and organize the relocation of all who want to leave the republic. Chechnya's status will be decided by a referendum. Between November 1996 and April 1997, he plans to increase the minimum wage three times, average government salaries two times, average pensions and stipends two times, and aid for children five times. In later months, he would carry out tax, bank, and land reforms, full economic union with the other CIS countries, put a halt to inflation and increase production. He claimed that prosperity will only come in 10-15 years, Izvestiya reported on 14 May. -- Robert Orttung ZYUGANOV LEADS FIELD IN OFFICIALLY REPORTED FINANCING. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov has 1.6 billion rubles ($300,000) in his campaign war chest, ahead of President Yeltsin's 1.4 billion as of 5 May, Segodnya reported 13 May. Zyuganov has spent 773 million, 606 million of which was on printed materials. He has not spent any money on the mass media since 25 April. Yeltsin provided no spending figures. Candidates are limited to collecting 19 billion during the course of the campaign. The officially published figures do not reflect the candidates' actual spending. Although many of the official reports from the Duma election campaign were understated, no charges have been brought for irregularities. -- Robert Orttung CAMPAIGN STARTS IN ELECTRONIC MEDIA. The 11 registered presidential candidates may air free and paid political advertisements on radio and television beginning on 14 May. During the next month, each candidate will receive a total of 30 minutes of free air time on Russian Public TV (ORT), Russian TV (RTR), and St. Petersburg Channel 5. In addition, all contenders will receive free time on Radio Mayak, Radio Rossii, Radio 1, Radio Yunost, and more than 80 state-run regional radio and television companies, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. The candidates may not buy more than 30 minutes of paid advertising on ORT, RTR, or St. Petersburg Channel 5, but these limits do not apply to the independent electronic media. -- Laura Belin RTR MARKS FIVE YEARS ON THE AIR. Visiting the studios of state-run Russian TV (RTR) to mark the fifth anniversary since the network went on the air, President Yeltsin heralded the network's contribution to free speech and warned of the danger of a Communist comeback, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. He also praised former RTR Chairman Oleg Poptsov, who headed the network from its creation until Yeltsin fired him in February of this year. Yeltsin said he viewed RTR "as my own child," and the network has supported him at crucial moments, such as the August 1991 coup and the October 1993 violent confrontation with hard-line parliamentary opponents. Its current news coverage is usually but not always favorable to Yeltsin. Eduard Sagalaev, whom Yeltsin appointed to replace Poptsov, described his network's character as "unsubmissive" and "self-willed," not unlike the president's own personality, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin OSCE TO MEDIATE IN CHECHNYA? Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has asked the OSCE to make contacts with the Chechen separatist leadership on behalf of the Russian government commission charged with implementing President Yeltsin's peace plan, Reuters reported on 13 May, quoting Interfax. Also on 13 May, ITAR-TASS reported that the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus had also offered to mediate a settlement. Following the arrest in Moscow on 4 May of Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Beslan Gantemirov on charges of embezzling up to 7 million rubles intended for reconstruction in Chechnya, 20 of Gantemirov's associates have been arrested in Grozny on related charges, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 13 May. -- Liz Fuller ST. PETERSBURG MAYORAL CANDIDATES CONSOLIDATE. Three candidates in the 19 May St. Petersburg mayoral election have set up a coalition, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 13 May. Former Deputy Mayor Vyacheslav Shcherbakov and local Yabloko leader Igor Artemev withdrew from the race in favor of Vladimir Yakovlev, who for the last three years has been the chairman of the city's Economy Committee and Mayor Anatolii Sobchak's first deputy. Another two mayoral candidates, Aleksandr Belyaev and Yurii Boldyrev, may also join the coalition. Last week, the regional branches of several democratic parties refused to back Sobchak and called on his main rivals to rally behind a single candidate (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 May 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya EU ENDORSES "ACTION PLAN" FOR RUSSIA. EU foreign ministers agreed to an "action plan" of assistance for Russia on 14 May, Russian and Western agencies reported. The plan, which EU officials admitted is largely a repackaging of existing programs, is more important as a symbol of Western support for President Yeltsin than as a significant shift in EU policy. It does, however, call for an intensified EU-Moscow dialogue on European security, an important step given Moscow's continuing opposition to NATO expansion. Meanwhile, in another sign of Western support for Yeltsin, IMF Director-General Michel Camdessus said the election of Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov would disrupt Russian economic reform. He implied that the IMF would reconsider its recent $10.2 billion loan to Russia if Zyuganov pursued renationalization policies. -- Scott Parrish SPY SCANDAL ROUNDUP. U.S. Embassy officials told RFE/RL on 13 May that they are still trying to determine why U.S. businessman Richard Oppfelt was expelled from Russia for spying. According to some Russian reports, Oppfelt's expulsion followed his arrest and detention for trying to purchase classified information on Russian naval installations in the Far East. But anonymous Russian diplomatic sources told ITAR-TASS that Oppfelt was never arrested, and had departed Russia voluntarily following warnings from Russian security officials. Meanwhile, NTV reported on 12 May that the unidentified British agent whose arrest triggered the ongoing espionage row between Moscow and London is a "young, talented, and promising" Russian diplomat, whose motivations were financial, not ideological. Negotiations seeking a compromise resolution of the dispute, over which Russia has threatened to expel up to nine British diplomats, continue. -- Scott Parrish TURKEY SQUEEZES RUSSIA ON STRAITS ISSUE. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said his country will not grant Russia passage through the Bosporus Strait if Moscow attempts to increase the tonnage carried by its oil tankers Trud reported on 13 May. The same day, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that Turkey recognizes 1936 Montreux Treaty governing passage through the straits but implied that "necessary measures" could be adopted if needed. Two days earlier, Cumhuriyet quoted the "voluntary coordinator" of the "Straits Monitoring Group," retired Ambassador Ismail Soysal, as saying "the treaty can be amended." Turkish Foreign Minister Emre Gonensay also hinted of "new measures" for oil and cargo vessels in a 14 May interview with the Turkish Daily News. -- Lowell Bezanis EMPLOYMENT SERVICE HEAD SACKED. President Yeltsin issued a decree on 13 May dismissing Federal Employment Service head Fedor Prokopev for the inefficient use and misuse of funds intended to create jobs, ITAR-TASS reported. An inspection by the president's Main Control Administration showed that on 1 December 1995 the fund had 15.4 billion rubles ($3.3 million) on deposit in commercial banks at low interest rates and had not recovered 6.4 billion rubles whose term of deposit had run out (fund money should be kept in the state bank). In 1995, only 1.96 trillion rubles (34%) of total spending on the service went on "active employment policies," whereas 1.39 trillion (24%) was spent on upkeep, information services, and capital investment. Lack of control by central staff, the report continued, resulted in numerous abuses: money was diverted to bonuses, food allowances, interest-free loans, and real estate investment. Cracking down on official abuses is a key plank of Yeltsin's campaign platform. -- Penny Morvant CRIME REPORTER KILLED. Viktor Mikhailov, a crime reporter for the Siberian daily Zabaikalskii rabochii, was murdered on 11 May in Chita, Russian and Western agencies reported. Mikhailov wrote on crime and the work of law enforcement agencies in Siberia. According to the Glasnost Defense Foundation, 10 journalists have been killed in Russia in 1996, four of them in Chechnya. -- Penny Morvant APRIL PENSIONS PAID. A Pension Fund representative told ITAR-TASS on 13 May that the fund had met its obligations regarding April pensions by 8 May. She added that expenditure on pensions will increase by 1.9 trillion rubles this month because of the rise in pensions and compensation payments, while contributions from employers will be lower than in April because of the May holidays. On 8 May, President Yeltsin sharply criticized the government and Pension Fund for failing to pay pensions on time (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 May 1996). The minimum monthly pension went up by 10% to 69,575 rubles ($14) on 1 May and compensation payments for the poorest pensioners were doubled. -- Penny Morvant 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP MARKED. Human rights activists held a coordinating conference in Moscow from 11 to 13 May to mark the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Ekspress- khronikha reported. The meeting was opened by the group's first head, Yurii Orlov, and addressed by several other prominent activists, including the group's current head Lyudmila Alekseeva, Larisa Bogoraz, Sergei Kovalev, and Sergei Sirotkin. President Yeltsin sent greetings to the forum, expressing the hope that the differences between the administration and human rights activists would not prevent them from uniting in the run-up to the presidential election, NTV reported. Human rights groups are bitterly opposed to the Russian military operation in Chechnya but equally reluctant to see the Communists return to power. -- Penny Morvant DEFENSE PLANTS ARE PAID OFF. Zinovii Pak, the newly-promoted defense industry minister, said on 13 May that 2.8 trillion rubles ($560 million) has been released to start paying off the government's 6 trillion ruble debt to the defense industry, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. President Yeltsin ordered on 8 May that all governmental debts to Russia's 1,700 defense plants accumulated over the past two years be paid by the end of May (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 May 1996). Pak said that the Defense Ministry has been authorized to take credits of 5 trillion rubles from commercial banks to finance this year's weapons orders. Russia exports most of its current arms production; Pak said that certain categories of equipment (such as armored personnel carriers and SMERCH rockets) will not be purchased for the Russian forces at all this year. Defense plants will also take part in the program for transferring housing to local councils, some of which is funded by the World Bank. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA CALLS FOR UNIFIED CIS ENERGY POLICY . . . Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told a CIS conference on "energy security" in Moscow on 13 May that Western companies are trying to win control of the region's energy reserves and pose a threat to the security of the CIS, NTV reported. He urged the creation of an OPEC-style body for the CIS to coordinate energy production, export, taxation, and pipelines. These statements do not reflect a change in Russian policy but make explicit what has been the de facto policy in recent years--suspicion of Western investment and pressure on CIS partners. Moscow has leverage due to the fact that CIS countries owe it $2.4 billion for natural gas and $600 million for other energy deliveries, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. Chernomyrdin said that Russia intends to increase the share of gas in its total energy production from the current 44% up to 56% by the year 2010, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 13 May. -- Peter Rutland . . . WHILE WESTERN OILMEN LOOK ON. Also on 13 May, Chernomyrdin addressed the Russian-American oil club, where representatives from 27 Russian and U.S. energy companies signed a "memorandum of understanding." Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik said that the companies involved have signed deals worth $25 billion, but in reality progress in the Timano-Pechora and Sakhalin off-shore projects is proceeding very slowly. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MUTALIBOV NOT TO BE EXTRADITED. Former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov was released from custody in Moscow on 13 May after one month of detention, Russian media reported. The Azerbaijani authorities' request that he be extradited to face charges of organizing mass disorder and attempting to seize power in Azerbaijan has been rejected by the Russian Procurator-General's Office due to a lack of sufficient evidence. -- Liz Fuller TAJIK GOVERNMENT CLAIMS TO HAVE HALTED REBEL ADVANCE. The Tajik government says that its troops have stopped the advance of opposition forces in the Tavil-Dara area, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. In this latest round of attacks, the rebel forces were able to capture the town of Tavil-Dara itself, which was confirmed by sources within the Tajik government, according to the ITAR-TASS report. The same report claims that the Tajik government is "fully resolved to regain their positions and dislodge opposition militants" from the area. Russian soldiers of the 201st Motorized Battalion have been put on high alert, but this action may be due to statements from the commander of the Russian border guards, Pavel Tarasenko, who told NTV on 13 May that between 2,500-3,000 opposition fighters have recently massed along border areas with Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier DEMONSTRATIONS IN NORTH TAJIKISTAN. At least 6,000 people in Northern Tajikistan rallied on 13 May demanding better living conditions, RFE/RL reported. The demonstration was begun the previous day by about 250 people. The crowd is demanding more reliable supplies of food, equal distribution of humanitarian aid and recognition of the Khojent region as a free economic zone. The most recent reports make no mention of any violence. ITAR-TASS reports that similar rallies were held in Tursun Zade and Kurgan-Tyube in April but the number of people involved was only in the dozens. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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