|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
No. 207, Part I, 24 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 CHERNOMYRDIN ADDRESSES FSB. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 23 October urged the Federal Security Service (FSB) to steer clear of political conflicts, international agencies reported. At an unusual meeting with senior FSB officers, he warned that "unspecified people are taking advantage of the democratic transformation" to create extremist and paramilitary organizations, noting a tendency toward "essentially forcible methods of resolving social problems in unconstitutional ways." Chernomyrdin's comments came a week after Aleksandr Lebed was fired following charges that he was plotting to form his own army. Chernomyrdin also said no major personnel changes were planned. There have been rumors that 30 FSB generals are to be fired, including Director Nikolai Kovalev. The meeting was attended by Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. -- Penny Morvant LEBED UPDATE. The Interior Ministry has sent the Procurator-General's Office documents concerning allegations that Lebed was plotting a military coup before he was sacked on 17 October, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 October. In an interview with Argumenty i fakty (no. 43), Lebed again dismissed the coup allegations and claimed President Yeltsin is "easily persuaded" through his daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko. In a recent interview with the American television network ABC, Lebed accused Chubais of feeding the president "distorted information," Izvestiya reported on 24 October. Lebed also told Argumenty i fakty that he will not contest a December gubernatorial election in Tula Oblast, where he was elected to the State Duma last year. -- Laura Belin DUMA APPEALS ON FUNDING FOR JUDICIARY. The State Duma asked the Constitutional Court to examine the government's decision not to include allocations for the judicial system in the so-called "protected articles" of the 1996 budget, funds that absolutely must be paid out, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 October. The Duma argued that Article 124 of the constitution requires the federal government to fund courts adequately. Chronic underfunding has left some courts unable to pay their workers' salaries or to provide adequate security for judges. In St. Petersburg, a majority of district courts were recently forced to shut down (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 October 1996). Also on 23 October, the Duma passed on the third reading a draft law outlining the procedure for passing constitutional amendments (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 October 1996). The law will now be sent to the Federation Council. -- Laura Belin COURTS CONVICT RUTSKOI OF LIBEL, ZHIRINOVSKY OF SLANDER. A Moscow court ordered newly elected Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi to apologize to Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, Radio Rossii and Ekho Moskvy reported on 23 October. In a November 1995 article published in Argumenty i fakty, Rutskoi accused Gaidar of exporting $96 million worth of diamonds while he served in the government in 1992 and 1993. On the same day, a different Moscow court ordered Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky to pay 10 million rubles ($1,800) in damages to former Federal Security Service Director Sergei Stepashin for calling him an agent of the CIA and Mossad in late 1994. The court also instructed Zhirinovsky to renounce that accusation in the next session of the State Duma. -- Laura Belin YBKIN MEETS WITH GULDIMANN. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin met on 23 October with the head of the OSCE mission to Chechnya, Tim Guldimann, Russian media reported. Rybkin also asked Guldimann to convey to acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and interim Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov a verbal message reiterating his commitment to the peace process and proposing a meeting with them. Also on 23 October, Rybkin met with pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev and concurred with the latter's argument that "the peace agreements should be fully implemented by both sides and not just by the federal side as is currently the case," Russian Public Television (ORT) reported. -- Liz Fuller DUMA PASSES LAW BARRING DIVISION OF BLACK SEA FLEET. On the eve of a Moscow visit by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, the Duma overwhelmingly gave final approval to a bill halting the division of the Black Sea Fleet, Russian and Western agencies reported on 23 October (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 October 1996). The bill, which has prompted threats of retaliation from Kyiv, would ban the transfer of Black Sea Fleet ships and related infrastructure to Ukraine until a bilateral treaty regulating "all aspects" of Russo-Ukrainian relations is signed. Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin said it reflects deputies' frustration that Kyiv has "torpedoed" some 15 previous agreements on the fleet. Aleksandr Kotenkov, Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, criticized the bill, which now goes to the Federation Council. -- Scott Parrish REACTION TO CLINTON SPEECH ON NATO. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov responded indifferently to President Clinton's pledge to admit the first East European members of NATO by 1999, refusing to make any "specific comment" and merely reasserting Moscow's opposition to enlargement of the alliance, Russian and Western agencies reported on 23 October. Asked if he thought the alliance would actually manage to accept new members by 1999, he replied: "We'll wait and see." Komsomolskaya pravda on 24 October described Clinton's announcement in Michigan as largely aimed at courting the state's ethnic East European voters, while Izvestiya termed Clinton's support for a special relationship between NATO and Russia "the most important thing" in his speech. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA, INDIA SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT. Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and his Indian counterpart Mulayam Singh Yadav signed a defense cooperation agreement in New Delhi on 23 October, Russian and Western media reported. The agreement provides for information exchange, joint exercises, and officer exchanges, according to ITAR-TASS. Rodionov did not, however, conclude an anticipated $1.8 billion sale of 40 SU-30 fighter-bombers to India. Rodionov complained that uncooperative bureaucrats in Moscow were hindering arms sales to India. On 22 October, Rodionov met with Indian Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda and the two issued a joint denunciation of "fundamentalist" and "extremist" forces in the region, a reference to recent developments in Afghanistan, which have disturbed both Moscow and New Delhi. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA SAYS NUCLEAR ARMS UNDER CONTROL. Russian officials and experts rebutted on 23 October the findings of a leaked CIA report suggesting that Moscow's control over its nuclear arsenal is deteriorating, Reuters reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 October 1996). A Defense Ministry spokesman declared that "there can be no doubt about the control over strategic missile forces," adding that a U.S. arms control inspection team would be reviewing Russian weapons control procedures in the next few days. Georgii Nasonov, a spokesman for the Ministry of Atomic Power, said that his American counterparts had expressed "no reservations" like those detailed in the report. ITAR-TASS highlighted statements by Nicholas Burns, the U.S. State Department spokesman, who expressed confidence in Russian control over its nuclear arsenal. -- Scott Parrish REGIONAL ELECTORAL LAWS VIOLATE FEDERAL STANDARDS. The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) charged on 23 October that electoral laws in about 25 regions violate federal law by illegally including residency and language requirements for candidates, ITAR-TASS and Izvestiya reported. The violators include the republics of Adygeya, Buryatiya, Kareliya, Marii-El, Sakha (Yakutiya), Khakasiya, and several oblasts and autonomous okrugs. The TsIK also charged local authorities with interfering with the work of local electoral commissions. The TsIK noted violations in Amur, where the communists' challenger apparently won by 189 votes, but found no evidence of foul play in Rostov, where the incumbent won by a comfortable margin. The TsIK has no enforcement power over the conduct of regional elections and can only make recommendations to the president. -- Robert Orttung YAMAL-NENETS REJECTS RESCHEDULED TYUMEN ELECTIONS. The Yamal Nenets Autonomous Okrug State Duma voted on 23 October not to participate in the Tyumen Oblast gubernatorial elections now set (after being changed twice) for 22 December. Yamal is simultaneously a part of Tyumen oblast and one of the 89 members of the Russian Federation. Yamal and Khanty- Mansii Autonomous Okrug, also a part of Tyumen Oblast, control 90% of Russia's gas and two-thirds of its oil reserves. The Tyumen authorities want the separatist okrugs to participate in the elections so that Tyumen can share in their wealth, while the okrug leaders want to deal with Moscow directly. Kommersant-Daily on 24 October labeled the elections "the most important of the fall." -- Robert Orttung RICH REGIONS BLAST 1997 BUDGET. The Federation Council on 23 October heard loud protests from the 10 regions which will be donors to the federal budget in 1997, Kommersant-Daily reported. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov complained that the budget has only one idea - "fleece the donors." He said donors such as Moscow should keep 60-65% of their taxes and the other 79 regions should be told "look after yourself." Konstantin Titov, head of the Federation Council Budget Committee, urged the donors to "start dictating their conditions" to the government. Luzhkov said "everyone in Russia should live under the same economic laws" and "I jokingly suggest that [Moscow] becomes a city of Tatarstan or Yakutiya, since they have a completely different set of budget rules." The 1997 budget leaves all the regions responsible for financing 80% of education, 88% of health care, 70% of social spending, and 70% of economic projects. -- Peter Rutland DUMA CRITICIZES TAX COLLECTION . . . Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits told the Duma on 23 October that in the first nine months of the year the government raised only 71% of expected revenue and 65% of planned taxes, a shorfall of 71 trillion rubles ($13 billion). Spending was 77% of the expected level, Segodnya reported on 23 October. The Duma passed a resolution deeming the implementation of the 1996 budget unsatisfactory, ITAR-TASS reported. For his part, Livshits said he would recommend that the government lift tax exemptions for companies and regions worth some 3 trillion rubles ($550 million), AFP reported. -- Natalia Gurushina . . . AS TAX COMMISSION ANNOUNCES FIRST TARGETS. The special tax commission (VChK) created on 11 October held its first meeting on 22 October, Kommersant-Daily reported on 24 October. The commission dismissed First Deputy Chairman of the State Customs Committee Valerii Kruglikov for granting unjustified customs privileges, and issued a "strict warning" to Livshits and to the head of the State Tax Agency Vitalii Artyukhov. The commission said it will start bankruptcy procedures against four companies -- KamAZ, Moskvich, Achinsk Alumina Plant, and Krasnodarnefteorgsintez. However, KamAZ officials argue that their budget debts were rescheduled under an April presidential decree. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ABKHAZ ELECTION UPDATE. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said on 23 October that the Georgian leadership is appealing to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba to abide by the 22 October statement of the UN Security Council and cancel the parliamentary elections scheduled for 23 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The chairman of the Abkhaz Central Election Board, Vyacheslav Tsugba, told ITAR-TASS that 90 candidates of various nationalities, including three ethnic Georgians, had registered to contend the 35 seats in the new parliament. -- Liz Fuller ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS SACKED. Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan has sacked three top government officials, including Deputy Minister of Science and Education Ashot Bleyan. Bleyan used to be a leading figure in the ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement party. He became notorious for controversial plans to reform Armenia's secondary education system and after a 1992 visit to Azerbaijan, where he called for unilateral concessions by Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. -- Emil Danielyan TURKEY TO OPEN BORDER WITH ARMENIA. Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller said on 23 October that Turkey will open its border with Armenia "after overcoming a few difficulties," AFP reported. The border has been closed since 1992. Turkey was set to open the border in March, but backed down at Azerbaijan's request. Ciller's statement may sour Turkey's relations with Azerbaijan. -- Emil Danielyan UZBEKISTAN TIGHTENS CURRENCY CONTROLS. In response to the recent drop in the value of the som, only two banks -- the Bank for Foreign Economic Activities and the Uzbek Industry and Construction Bank -- will be allowed to trade in hard currencies, Savdogar reported on 22 October, as monitored by the BBC. Previously, 12 had been able to do so. In addition, the number of licensed exchange offices has been reduced from 95 to 39, 23 of which are located in Tashkent. ITAR-TASS reported on 22 October that the Uzbek government has also signed a currency and export control agreement with Russia in an effort to prevent the circulation of "dirty" money. -- Roger Kangas HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER OPENS IN TURKMENISTAN. President Saparmurat Niyazov officially opened the Democracy and Human Rights Institute in Ashgabat on 23 October, ITAR-TASS reported. The institute will handle complaints from citizens about human rights and democratic freedoms and will work closely with the UN. Its opening appears to be a gesture to the international community after Turkmenistan received the lowest rating for political rights from the Freedom House organization last December. Niyazov said the purpose of the institute is to protect the presidency "from the influence of other branches of power," and warned citizens not to take their complaints too far. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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 BACK ISSUES Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through the World Wide Web, by FTP and by E-mail. 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