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No. 198, Part I, 11 October 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 KORZHAKOV GIVES PRESS CONFERENCE. Former Presidential Security Service (SBP) head Aleksandr Korzhakov held a press conference on 11 October at which he contended that "the unconstitutional institution of a regency has appeared alongside a live president," an apparent reference to chief of staff Anatolii Chubais. Korzhakov said that he had recommended putting off the presidential elections for two to three months because of concern over Boris Yeltsin's health, ITAR-TASS reported. He denied that he had sought to use force to cancel the elections, and suggested that some in the president's entourage had deliberately tried to exhaust Yeltsin through his active campaign schedule. Korzhakov said that he expects to be arrested, and fears for the safety of his family. On 10 October Yeltsin made a brief television appearance with Anatolii Chubais from his sanitarium, in an apparent display of confidence in his chief of staff. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN SUGGESTS NEW TAX COMMISSION. In an 11 October radio address, President Yeltsin said a special emergency commission will be set up under Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to boost tax revenue and ensure that state wages and pensions are paid, Reuters reported. Contrary to earlier government claims, tax collection continues to deteriorate. Federal tax receipts for September were 9.3 trillion rubles ($1.7 billion), 29% down over August, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 October. Only 45% of planned taxes were collected. The only positive development was that actual cash made up 96% of tax receipts, indicating that the State Tax Service has cut back on firms that try to "pay" their taxes with commodities or bills of exchange. -- Peter Rutland LEBED RETURNS TO HARSH RHETORIC ON NATO . . . After returning from a visit to NATO headquarters, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed warned that NATO's expansion would harm Russia's security interests, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 October. He said that "there is no guarantee that no one will decide to deal with Russia the way Iraq was recently dealt with." He claimed that Russia has "no conceptual framework for national security" and that the Security Council is now working on developing one with the Defense Council. -- Robert Orttung . . . ATTACKS ENEMIES ON CHECHNYA PLAN. In an article published in The Washington Post and the London Times, Lebed claimed to know the names of the people who started the Chechen war but that he will not reveal them now "because it is still quite possible that the war will resume with fresh force and on an even larger scale." He argued that the war has "economic roots camouflaged in politics." Pravda-5 , in its 11-18 October edition, described Lebed's assertions as a threat to the Kremlin and the latest round in the battle to succeed Yeltsin. -- Robert Orttung PRIMAKOV QUESTIONS LEBED'S NATO POSITION. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov rejected Lebed's suggestion in Brussels that Russia and NATO could sign an agreement in a month, ITAR-TASS reported 11 October. Primakov warned that trying to speed up the signing of a document between NATO and Russia would give it a "purely declarative character." Primakov stressed that Russia would focus on bilateral relations with NATO member countries, arguing that it made less sense to work with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana because "he does not have his own stance, but only voices positions of the 16 countries standing behind him." -- Robert Orttung MASKHADOV CALLS FOR "IRON DISCIPLINE." Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov on 9 October convened a meeting of field commanders in Argun at which he demanded "iron discipline" in order to preclude provocations against withdrawing Russian forces which could jeopardize the agreements signed earlier this month in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian forces are due to withdraw by 20 October. -- Liz Fuller APARTMENTS FOR DUMA DEPUTIES. The Moscow authorities will allocate about 200 apartments to deputies elected to the Duma in December 1995, a city official told ITAR-TASS on 10 October. Under a law passed by the last Duma, deputies from the provinces are entitled to an official apartment for the duration of their tenure. Many former deputies, however, have refused to leave their apartments. Others, according to Russian TV (RTR), received more than one. As a result, there is a constant shortage of housing for deputies, and the Federal Assembly owes large sums in hotel bills. According to a controversial amendment to the law on deputies' status, deputies are entitled to a one-time compensation payment worth $60,000 to help them obtain an apartment. According to RTR, 17 deputies have already been helped to purchase an apartment. -- Penny Morvant SOVETSKAYA ROSSIYA ON YELTSIN CAMPAIGN FINANCING. The opposition newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya on 10 October claimed to possess proof that "Kremlin elders" illegally spent hundreds of millions of dollars on President Yeltsin's re-election effort. Under the headline "Protocols of the Elders of the Kremlin" (an allusion to the anti-Semitic tract Protocols of the Elders of Zion), the paper cited a document allegedly prepared by the Yeltsin campaign which outlined payments to various politicians and media outlets. For instance, $169 million was allegedly allocated to Russian Public TV (ORT), $78 million to NTV, and $16 million to the anti-communist newspaper Ne dai bog! (God forbid). The paper noted that under Russian law, presidential candidates were limited to 14 billion rubles ($2.8 million) in total expenditures. The Yeltsin campaign is widely believed to have spent many times more than it officially declared (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 October 1996). -- Laura Belin KALININGRAD GOVERNOR PROPOSES COALITION GOVERNMENT. Yurii Matochkin has officially proposed a coalition government in the region, Russian media and Kommersant-Daily reported on 10 October. According to Segodnya, Matochkin, who finished first in the 6 October gubernatorial election and is now facing a second round, invited the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) to join the government. The newspaper speculated that the opposition will be offered high-ranking positions in the regional administration, including committee chairmanships and the post of deputy governor responsible for agriculture. The KPRF candidate for the gubernatorial race, Yurii Semenov, placed third with 22% of the vote. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow ACADEMICIANS, TEACHERS PROTEST. About 600 employees of the Academy of Sciences gathered in Moscow on 10 October to demand higher salaries and more state support for science, NTV and RTR reported. Earth Sciences Institute Director Vladimir Strakhov, on the 11th day of a hunger strike, said half the academy's institutes could close in three to four months if more funding is not made available. Protest meetings were also held in St. Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Novosibirsk. ITAR-TASS said that the Moscow meeting was smaller than planned because the government had already repaid much of its debt to the academy. The Education Workers' Union said about 62,000 people from 1,177 educational establishments took part in protests across Russia on 4, 7, and 8 October to demand back pay and increased funding for schools. -- Penny Morvant COURT FUNDING PROBLEMS. Work at a majority of district courts in St. Petersburg has ground to a halt due to a lack of funds, RIA Novosti reported on 10 October. Only two of 20 district courts are operating, and they may also cease functioning on 17 October. Judges, who do not have the right to strike, are still turning up for work, but court clerks and other personnel have left their offices in protest at their low wages and long delays in their payment. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta on 11 October, during the first nine months of the year courts received less than two-thirds of the money provided for in the budget. It noted, among other examples, that judicial workers in Tver have not been paid since August, that the Irkutsk Oblast Court has virtually stopped work, and that judges' telephones in Krasnoyarsk and Kemerovo oblasts have been cut due to non-payment of bills. -- Penny Morvant URALMASH WORKERS PICKET. Hundreds of workers at the engineering company Uralmash have set up a picket outside the residence of Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel to protest a recent federal government decree on tax payments, Izvestiya reported on 11 October. According to the decree approved by the Finance Ministry, the Central Bank of Russia, and the Tax Service, the bank accounts of enterprises that owe taxes are frozen and the overdue payments immediately withdrawn from them. This measure, however, has aggravated the problem of wage arrears, and Uralmash workers have not been paid for three months. The general director of Uralmash has sharply criticized Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits for driving his company to the verge of bankruptcy. Rossel said he has asked Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to resolve the Uralmash problem. -- Ritsuko Sasaki RESISTANCE TO IMF PLAN TO RESTRUCTURE GAZPROM. Leonid Bochin, the head of the State Antimonopoly Committee, argued against the IMF's recommendation to break up Gazprom in an interview for Radio Rossii on 10 October. He said "Gazprom is a unique structure which earns one-third of the nation's foreign exchange." He said gas restructuring plans must be carefully analyzed because they could disrupt the national economy. It is widely assumed that the IMF is pressuring the Russian government to break up Gazprom and the electricity monopoly Unified Energy System (EES Rossii). Meanwhile, on 10 October Izvestiya reported that Gazprom will soon sell 1% of its shares to foreign buyers (in the form of American Depository Receipts), and hopes to raise $400 million. -- Peter Rutland GAS PRICES TO BE FROZEN. Natural gas prices for industrial users will be frozen until the end of 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 October, citing the deputy chairman of the Federal Energy Commission, Gennadii Usyuzhanin. The producer price will stay at 180 rubles (3 cents) per cubic meter and the wholesale price 260 rubles. In the first eight months of this year, the domestic price of gas rose 30% (but still lags behind the European export price of 8.5 cents). Usyuzhanin also said that there is a plan to introduce differential regional prices for natural gas, allowing for transport costs, from 1 January. He also confirmed that electricity prices for industrial users will be cut by 10%. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told the Duma on 8 October that energy prices will be regulated: this policy seems to be going into effect. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UN ENVOY MEETS ARDZINBA. The UN special envoy for Abkhazia, Eduard Brunner, held talks in Sukhumi on 10 October with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking to journalists afterwards, Brunner stressed the importance of finding a political solution to the problem of Abkhazia's future political status vis-a-vis Tbilisi, and of expediting the return of ethnic Georgians who were displaced during the fighting in 1992-1993. Tensions between Tbilisi and Sukhumi have escalated in recent weeks following the decision of the Abkhaz parliament--denounced as illegitimate by the Georgian government- -to hold a parliamentary election on 23 November. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CONDEMNS "ANTI-RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN" BY GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 10 October condemning the Georgian parliament's 2 October resolution calling for a fundamental revision of Georgian-Russian relations, including the scrapping of an agreement on Russian military bases in Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement rejected what it termed an attempt to question both the expediency of having Russian peacekeepers on the Georgian-Abkhaz border, and Russia's ability to mediate a settlement of the conflict. -- Liz Fuller BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE TO BE OPERATIONAL BY LATE 1988? At a meeting in Baku on 9 October with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Terry Adams, the president of the Azerbaijani International Operating Company, announced that the Baku-Supsa pipeline to export Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea oil by the so-called "Western route" to the Georgian Black Sea coast will be operational "by late 1998," Turan reported. A pipeline construction tender will be announced early next year. On 9 October Adams said the Russian route for early oil will start to be used in August 1997. -- Liz Fuller TURKMENISTAN CONDEMNS CRITICISM OF TALIBAN. A spokesman at the Turkmen Embassy in Moscow said Ashgabat does not agree with the CIS member states that condemned the Taliban militia at last week's Almaty summit, according to the Journal of Commerce on 10 October. The spokesman said Taliban have offered security guarantees for a projected $2 billion natural gas pipeline that would run from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan, in which the U.S. firm UNOCAL and Saudi Arabia's Delta are involved. -- Lowell Bezanis TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER ON TALIBAN. One of the leaders of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, played down accusations about UTO connections with Afghanistan's Taliban movement in an 11 October Nezavisimaya gazeta article. Turajonzoda said the UTO was "distressed" at Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's statement that the Taliban would ally itself with the UTO and move into areas of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. He said that the UTO has a neutral policy to the Afghan conflict, and remarked that "the Afghans have so many internal problems...that planning foreign aggression is simply not serious." -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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