|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 205, Part I, 22 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 ************************************************************************ Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region. The latest issue includes stories on Russia's Gazprom looking to expand in Europe, a special economic zone in Kazakstan, and the failure of the grain harvest in Ukraine. For subscription and rate information, please send a message to email@example.com *********************************************************************** RUSSIA YELTSIN CREATES NEW RULING COUNCIL. President Boris Yeltsin created a new Consultative Council that will include him, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, the presidential administration's Rossiiskie vesti reported on 22 October. Seleznev, who discussed the idea with Yeltsin on 21 October, said the council will meet at least twice a month and will resolve key issues of relations between the legislative and executive branches. While Yeltsin is sick, Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais will take his place on the council. Seleznev is among those who have argued that Chubais is playing too large a role in running the country. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 22 October pointed out that Yeltsin had coopted former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin by bringing him into the Security Council in 1994, and that Seleznev may follow the same path. Kommersant- Daily described the new council as an attempt to build on the atmosphere of cooperation between the two branches fostered by the ouster of former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who was unpopular with the majority of parliamentarians. -- Robert Orttung RYBKIN STARTS WORK AT SECURITY COUNCIL. In his first move as Security Council secretary, Rybkin issued an order to his staff not to destroy any documents, he told Komsomolskaya pravda on 22 October. He noted that the council staff was too large and planned to start cutting it immediately, RIA Novosti reported. Rossiiskie vesti welcomed Rybkin as the "master of compromise" who has replaced the "decisive politician" Lebed. During his meeting with Yeltsin, Seleznev proposed that Rybkin's office should be in Grozny, since short trips to the region did not give him a chance to understand what is happening there. Rybkin said that he will go to Chechnya as soon as is necessary. Nezavisimaya gazeta warned that the military is concerned that the civilian Rybkin will not devote as much attention to the armed forces' problems as did former Lt. Gen. Lebed, and said it was unlikely that Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin will cede control over security issues to Rybkin. -- Robert Orttung YANDARBIEV ON RYBKIN. In an interview given to NTV on 21 October and summarized by Western agencies, acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev expressed regret that sacked Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed "was not given the chance to finish" the peace process he initiated in Chechnya, but affirmed his readiness to cooperate with Lebed's successor Rybkin. Yandarbiev stressed that Chechnya "is not a part of Russia" and called for the withdrawal "to the last soldier" of the Russian troops still there, which failed to pull out before the 20 October deadline. Presenting Rybkin to the Security Council in Moscow on 21 October, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin again warned that Chechnya would not be permitted to secede from the Russian Federation, Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller YEGOROV CALLS FOR YELTSIN TO STEP DOWN. Krasnodar Krai Governor Nikolai Yegorov, Chubais's predecessor as presidential chief of staff, called on Yeltsin to set new presidential elections in a Moskovskii komsomolets interview, AFP reported on 22 October. He said that "we need a president who is active" to get Russia out of its political crisis. He claimed that Yeltsin does not know what is going on and that the country is in a pre-revolutionary situation. Yegorov accused Chubais of amassing excessive powers by manipulating the president's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko. Yegorov was named to his current post on 15 July after being fired from the administration. He faces gubernatorial elections on 27 October but the administration has kept its distance from the race. -- Robert Orttung RTR REFUSES TO BROADCAST KORZHAKOV INTERVIEW. The state-run network Russian TV (RTR) refused to broadcast an episode of the news magazine "Sovershenno sekretno" (Top Secret) devoted to former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, leading Korzhakov to threaten to release the videotape himself, Radio Mayak reported on 19 October. In an interview published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 19 October, the show's host, Artem Borovik, claimed that RTR Chairman Eduard Sagalaev was under pressure not to air the episode. But Borovik said the program, in which Korzhakov presumably attacks his enemies within the presidential administration, is balanced and also includes commentary by Korzhakov's critics. He added, "If Chubais were in [Korzhakov's] place, I would have done the same thing." The controversy places Sagalaev in a difficult position; Korzhakov supported his appointment as RTR chairman in February, but he could be sacked if he alienates those who currently have the upper hand in the president's camp. -- Laura Belin PRIMAKOV ON RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY. In a front-page article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 22 October, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov laid out four conditions for the establishment of a stable post-cold war international order: preventing the emergence of new "dividing lines;" breaking the mentality of "leaders" and "led;" democratizing international economic relations; and coordinating cooperative action by the international community. Primakov argued that the OSCE should have the leading role in the emerging European security system, while conceding that NATO, the EU, and the UN should also play important parts. He reiterated Russia's opposition to NATO expansion, but said Russia was ready to negotiate a special pact with the alliance. -- Scott Parrish DUMA STILL DISSATISFIED WITH START II. Despite last week's cajoling by U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told visiting U.S. Senator Sam Nunn that the Duma has no plans to force the pace of START II ratification, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 October. At a later meeting, Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin suggested to Nunn that "negotiations to amend the treaty so that ratification can move forward" should begin. Some, including newly appointed Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, have suggested negotiating a new START III treaty to address Russian concerns before ratifying START II. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN APPROVES NEW REGULATIONS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION. President Yeltsin approved on 21 October a new statute for the presidential Commission on Human Rights, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported. It describes the commission as an advisory and consultative body, whose duties include examining human rights violations and drafting an annual report on the human rights situation. Its members have the right to visit state institutions and demand information related to human rights. An expert council is to be set up under the commission composed of representatives of scientific and nongovernmental organizations; its membership must be approved by the president. The commission, set up in November 1993, was initially headed by Sergei Kovalev. He and several other members resigned in January and February 1996 in the wake of the bloody events in Pervomaiskoe and a reshuffle in the presidential administration that reduced the independence of the commission. -- Penny Morvant DEPUTY CONCERNED ABOUT USE OF THE "ISLAMIC FACTOR" IN RUSSIA. Federation Council Deputy Chairman Vasilii Likhachev, from Tatarstan, spoke to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on the problem of the "Islamic factor" on 21 October. Likhachev told Radio Mayak that many State Duma deputies attempt to label such republics as Yakutiya, Bashkortostan, Kalmykia, and Tatarstan as "pro-Muslim" and "pro-Turkish." He asked Chernomyrdin to take steps to prevent unnamed Moscow politicians from playing "the Islamic card" in trying to divide Russians along Muslim/Christian lines. Likhachev proposed that the government convene a conference on the topic "The Fate of Islam in Russia." -- Nikolai Iakoubovski. NUCLEAR WORKERS STRIKE. Workers at two of Russia's nine atomic power stations went on strike on 21 October, ITAR-TASS reported. About 2,500 workers from the Smolensk nuclear power plant and 250 employees of the Kalinin plant near Tver stopped all but essential operations for an hour to demand the payment of wage arrears. Workers at the Smolensk plant have not been paid since June, while their colleagues at the Kalinin station have not received pay since July. The Russian law on nuclear energy bars nuclear power plant workers from striking. This summer workers at the Sosnovy Bor nuclear plant near St. Petersburg staged various protest actions, including a hunger strike, to demand the payment of wage arrears. NTV said on 15 October that customers owe Russia's atomic power stations about 3.5 trillion rubles ($640 billion) as of 3 October. -- Penny Morvant PROBLEMS FINANCING THE HEALTH SECTOR. In the first 10 months of the year the health care sector received only 38% of the funds earmarked in the 1996 budget, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 October, citing Health Minister Tatyana Dmitrieva. Hospitals and research laboratories received only 52% of expected funds, and medical educational institutions 71%. This money is barely enough to pay salaries, which are often delayed, and only covers some 30% of needed medicines or equipment. The head of the Duma's Committee for Health Care, Nikolai Gerasimenko, complained that many of Russia's medical institutions are unable to deliver even the minimum level of services to the population. -- Natalia Gurushina FOREIGN TRADE CONTINUES TO RISE. Russia's foreign trade surplus stood at $24 billion in the first eight months of 1996, with imports of $31 billion and exports $55 billion, Delovoi mir reported on 18 October. Total trade turnover was 8.1% up on the same period in 1995. While trade with the "far abroad" rose only 3.2%, trade with the CIS rose 27.2%, testifying to a modest revival of economic ties between the former Soviet states. In August, for the first time, there was no trade deficit with the CIS countries. Energy continued to accounted for 45% of Russia's overall exports. Foreign Trade Minister Oleg Davydov said on 21 October that the remaining 22 trading companies operating in his ministry will be privatized by the end of 1997, once the problem of their outstanding debts is solved, ITAR-TASS reported. In recent months the ministry has been restructured as part of an effort to concentrate responsibility for foreign trade, including trade in weapons. -- Peter Rutland CENTRAL BANK CUTS REFINANCING RATE. The Central Bank cut its annual refinancing rate from 80% to 60% effective on 21 October, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 October. This is the fourth reduction this year (the refinancing rate was cut from 160% in February). The bank wants to bring the refinancing rate closer to the interest rate on the market for interbank credits, which at present is 40-50% annually. The new refinancing rate is also closer to the current yields on state short- term bonds (treasury bills), which dropped from some 70% in August to 55-60% a year in mid-October. The government acknowledges that with annual inflation at around 20% the interest rate will have to come down to roughly 25% if investment is to revive. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF LOCAL ELECTIONS. The Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union (GAKM), an Armenian opposition party, has issued a statement calling for a boycott of the local elections due in November, Noyan Tapan reported on 21 October. According to GAKM, the elections cannot be considered democratic because of "the illegitimacy of the authorities and the constitution that have been adopted through falsifications." The statement concluded that all efforts to change the government through elections are now "fruitless" in Armenia. -- Emil Danielyan ACCIDENTS IN KAZAKSTAN. An oil pipeline exploded near the Caspian coastal city of Aktau on 18 October, spilling tons of crude oil into the sea, RFE/RL reported. No casualty figures have been released nor has an exact assessment of damage been given. However, officials there say the problem is now under control. In the central Kazakstan area of Karaganda seven miners were killed in accidents last week on two separate days. The incidents occurred at the Shakhtinskaya and Dutovskaya mines. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan TAMERLANE CELEBRATION BEGINS IN UZBEKISTAN. The much-anticipated celebration of the 660th anniversary of Amir Timur, or Tamerlane, began on 18 October, Narodnoe slovo reported, as monitored by the BBC on 21 October. Uzbek President Islam Karimov officially opened a museum in Tashkent devoted to the Central Asian figure, noting that "the civilized world has a proper appreciation of Tamerlane's undying service to mankind." The ceremony included readings from the Koran, blessings from honored elders, and a traditional plov (pilau) feast. For the next month, similar celebrations will take place throughout Uzbekistan. -- Roger Kangas LEADERS OF TURKIC-SPEAKING COUNTRIES MEET. The presidents of six Turkic- speaking countries assembled in Tashkent on 21 October, AFP reported. It was the fourth meeting between the presidents of Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. Discussion centered on trade relations: although the subject of Afghanistan was touched on, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said the heads of state "would not be dragged into settling political matters." However, some time was devoted to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev again said that he was prepared to give maximum autonomy to the region but that "Nagorno-Karabakh will never be independent." The presidents signed a declaration condemning terrorism and separatism, and reiterating "their firm and unchanging commitment to the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and a market economy," said Karimov. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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