|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 208, Part I, 25 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 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Note to readers: The OMRI Daily Digest will not appear on 28 October 1996, a Czech national holiday. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN DENOUNCES INFIGHTING, CALLS FOR COOPERATION. In his regular radio address on 25 October, President Boris Yeltsin denounced political infighting among his subordinates and called on all parts of the state and society to work together, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin blamed the infighting for holding up the payment of wages and pensions and warned that he would continue firing those responsible. He said that he had taken the first step to promote cooperation by ordering regular meetings between the prime minister, presidential chief of staff, and the speakers from both houses of parliament. He also said he was prepared to work with all elected governors. Yeltsin reminded politicians that Russia had elected him as its leader for the next four years and that it was not time to engage in electoral campaigns. The day before, Yeltsin rejected statements by former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed that he was about to dismiss Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian Public TV reported. -- Robert Orttung KUCHMA AND YELTSIN ANNOUNCE "AGREEMENT" ON BLACK SEA FLEET . . . Following Yeltsin's 24 October meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma at the Barvikha sanatorium, his spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced that the two leaders had reached agreement "on all questions connected with the problem of the Black Sea Fleet," Russian and Western agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii added that the agreement "resolved" the problem of the status of Sevastopol, where much of the fleet is based. He said Chernomyrdin would travel to Kyiv in mid- November to sign a formal agreement on the fleet, and also declared that Yeltsin's first foreign visit after he recovers from his scheduled heart surgery will be to Kyiv for the signing of the long-delayed bilateral friendship treaty. -- Scott Parrish . . . BUT DETAILS REMAIN UNCLEAR. Yeltsin's and Kuchma's dramatic announcement bears many of the hallmarks of previous failed agreements supposedly resolving the fleet problem, which foundered amid disagreements over the terms under which Russia will lease facilities in Sevastopol. Yastrzhembskii told journalists that it was "too early" to disclose the details of the agreement, while Kuchma later admitted that a Russian-Ukrainian working group under the chairmanship of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov and Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Durdynets would have to hammer out some remaining points before Chernomyrdin came to Kyiv. When later pushed for details, Kuchma was vague, promising only that the "necessary conditions" would be provided, and refusing to specify the length of the lease Ukraine would be willing to grant Russia. -- Scott Parrish DUMA WARNS UKRAINE ON SEVASTOPOL. The Duma adopted a resolution by 282-0 calling on the Ukrainian Rada to reverse its "unilateral approach" to the division of the Black Sea Fleet, the status of Sevastopol and the "arbitrary" 1954 transfer of Crimea to Ukraine, Russian agencies reported on 24 October. Citing Soviet-era documents, the resolution repeated claims that Sevastopol remains under Russian jurisdiction. It also proclaimed that Sevastopol "has been, and will be the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet." Ukrainian President Kuchma said the Duma's recent resolutions on the fleet and Sevastopol "alarmed" Kyiv. -- Scott Parrish DISAGREEMENT OVER RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM CHECHNYA. The deputy prime minister of Chechnya's newly created interim coalition government, Ruslan Khutaev, told the Russian State Duma's Committee on Geopolitics on 24 October that the Chechen leadership insists on the withdrawal from Chechnya of all Russian forces, NTV reported. Under the terms of the June Nazran agreement, two Russian brigades are to be permanently stationed in Chechnya; the Khasavyurt agreement signed in late August by then Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov fails to clarify the troop withdrawal issue. Also on 24 October, a spokesman for the Chechen interim government said that the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for January 1997 will be organized directly by Chechnya's Central Electoral Commission without help from its Russian counterpart, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller RYBKIN, AUSHEV CALL FOR AMNESTY. Following a lengthy discussion of the situation in the North Caucasus, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and Ingushetiyan President Ruslan Aushev called on 24 October for an immediate amnesty for all participants in armed conflicts in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported. The two also called for joint measures to preclude attempts by "extremist forces" to sabotage the peace process. -- Liz Fuller ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Nicolae Vacaroiu met with his Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin on 24 October to discuss bilateral economic ties and cooperation in the fight against organized crime, ITAR-TASS reported. The two approved an agreement between Gazprom and the Romanian gas company Romgaz, under which Russia will deliver 8 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Romania and export another 24.8 billion cubic meters to third countries via Romania in 1997. Those numbers will increase to 14 billion cubic meters and 50.7 billion cubic meters by 2010. -- Scott Parrish RUTSKOI OFFERS OLIVE BRANCH TO YELTSIN. Aleksandr Rutskoi, who won the gubernatorial election of Kursk Oblast by a landslide on 20 October, said in a TV interview on 24 October that he is willing to find a compromise with Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin, ITAR-TASS reported. The new governor, whose election victory also provided him a seat in the Federation Council, noted that he is going to work without conflict with Russian leaders and said he wants to meet with Yeltsin. On the same day, Yeltsin sent Rutskoi, his long-time foe, a telegram congratulating him on his victory. -- Ritsuko Sasaki UDMURTIYA LEGISLATURE FIRES ELECTED MAYOR. Udmurtiya's State Council fired Anatolii Saltykov, the mayor of the republic's capital Izhevsk, who was elected to his office in 1994, Kommersant-Daily reported on 25 October. The move follows the State Council's April decision to eliminate all elective local government posts and subordinate all local leaders directly to the republic's legislature. In April, the legislature abolished the post of mayor and appointed Saltykov as the city's chief administrator. Udmurtiya does not have a presidency. The Russian Constitutional Court is currently examining the validity of the State Council's April decision and Saltykov has been one of its most vocal critics (see OMRI Russian Regional Report, 16 October 1996). State Council Speaker Aleksandr Volkov charged that Saltykov was removed for irregularities in the use of the city's money. In a similar case, a Moscow court ruled that a Yeltsin decree removing Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov was unconstitutional. -- Robert Orttung FEDOROV BROUGHT BACK TO NATIONAL SPORTS FUND. Boris Fedorov, former president of the National Sports Fund who was sacked in May, was appointed vice president of the fund for a four-month trial period, Russian media reported on 24 October. By January, Fedorov has promised to locate $100-$120 million that has gone missing from the fund's coffers. Fedorov was nearly assassinated in June and recently filed charges against former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, whom he accused of trying to extort $40 million from him (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7, 10 and 15 October1996). In the personnel reshuffle, former Olympic diving champion Vladimir Vasin was elected president of the sports fund. Citing Vitalii Smirnov, the head of Russia's Olympic Committee, ORT and NTV reported that Korzhakov is being considered to head one of Russia's sports federations. -- Laura Belin PRESSURE ON JOURNALISTS INCREASING. Russian regional authorities have increased their pressure on journalists, according to Oleg Panfilov, who monitors media freedom for the Glasnost Defense Foundation. He told OMRI on 24 October that the current regional elections had intensified the struggle for power and increased constraints on the media. However, he said the situation for journalists had improved in Chechnya since a ceasefire agreement was reached there. According to the foundation's latest report on the CIS, two Russian journalists and one Armenian were detained during the month of September; another 12 journalists were beaten up, including five from Russia. Kim Yen Chan, a print journalist from Sakhalin Oblast, was killed in Moscow on 19 September, but Panfilov believes that murder was not related to Chan's journalistic work. Infringements on journalists' rights have increased during the last month in Belarus and Armenia, while remaining rather steady in other CIS countries, Panfilov said. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow COURT REFUSES TO RECOGNIZE RIGHT TO ALTERNATIVE MILITARY SERVICE. A Moscow court sentenced Aleksandr Seregin to two years in jail for draft dodging on 24 October after refusing to recognize his constitutional right to alternative service, Ekspress-Khronika reported. The court, however, suspended the sentence for three years. The judge said that there is currently no law defining how conscientious objectors can use their right to participate in alternative service. Seregin is a member of the Anti-military Radical Association. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski. ALCOHOL PRIME IN DEATHS. The director of the Anti-Alcoholism Center in Moscow, Aleksandr Nemtsov, told ITAR-TASS on 25 October that alcohol is the "main culprit" in the decline of male life expectancy from 65 years in 1990 to 57 in 1996. Nemtsov said that 400,000 Russians died in 1994 from over-consumption and drinking adulterated alcohol products. Alcohol abuse is involved in 80% of murders and 50% of suicides and road accidents. -- Peter Rutland IMF TO DELAY LOAN PAYMENT. An IMF delegation visiting Moscow this week was unable to report that Russia is in compliance with the terms of the $10.1 billion extended fund facility agreed to in April, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 24 October. The IMF will reconsider release of the $340 million payment in three weeks. The July tranche was similarly delayed. The Russian Central Bank said that the IMF was concerned over alcohol import quotas, foreigners' access to the GKO market, and delays in the introduction of new tax measures. Tax receipts in the first nine months of the year were only 65% of the planned level. Worse still, in September tax revenue was 24% down on August, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October. -- Peter Rutland GOVERNMENT HAS NEW DRAFT BUDGET. On 24 October the government presented a revised draft of the 1997 budget which was returned by the State Duma on 16 October, Reuters reported. The new draft shaves 800 billion rubles ($150 million) off total spending and revenue -- a change of 0.25% -- but includes a new 6.5 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion) item to finance cuts in the army. The new draft will be resubmitted to the Duma next week. -- Peter Rutland TATARSTAN FACES FINANCIAL SQUEEZE. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev criticized the federal government's efforts to increase tax collection, saying it was like "trying to get more milk from chronically undernourished cows," Kommersant-Daily reported on 25 October. He opposed the plan to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against the local truck manufacturer KamAZ, and said the federal budget owes Tatarstan some 300 billion rubles ($60 million). At the same time, under a 1994 agreement between Russia and Tatarstan, the Central Bank has agreed to give the republic a 100 billion ruble, one-month loan to ease its acute financial problems. Tatarstan's wage arrears alone top 1.7 trillion rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA SHEVARDNADZE CALLS ON ABKHAZ POPULATION TO BOYCOTT ELECTIONS. In a statement issued on 24 October, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze called on the population of the breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia not to participate in the parliamentary elections which its leadership has scheduled for 23 November, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported. Georgia's parliament declared the planned elections illegal on 2 October; on 22 October the UN Security Council called for their postponement pending a formal agreement on the status of Abkhazia vis-a-vis the government in Tbilisi that would expedite the repatriation of some 200,000 ethnic Georgians who fled the fighting in Abkhazia in 1993. -- Liz Fuller ARMENIAN OPPOSITION APPEALS TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. Defeated presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan has formally filed an appeal with the Armenian Constitutional Court, asking that it annul the 22 September election results, Noyan Tapan reported on 24 October. Manukyan's campaign officials submitted a document of more than 500 pages containing "the evidence of election rigging." According to Armenian laws, the court must issue its verdict within one month of the appeal being lodged. Ashot Manucharyan, another opposition candidate and leader of the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union, will also appeal to the court on 25 October. Meanwhile, several Armenian political parties, including the pro-government Shamiram party, have called for a boycott of the local elections scheduled for November. -- Emil Danielyan KAZAKSTANI OFFICIAL ON CIS ECONOMIC INTEGRATION. First Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the custom's union committee Nigmatzhan Isingarin was interviewed in the 24 October edition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He said that agreements between CIS states are often ineffective, and bilateral deals more useful. He said that in some respects integration is proceeding slower with CIS members than with other countries. Kazakstan has signed 20 agreements preventing double taxation with non-CIS countries and only one with another CIS country. Agreements on investment protection were signed with 12 foreign countries but not a single CIS country. With regard to VAT, Isingarin noted that Ukraine did not sign the relevant agreement and does not levy VAT on its exports, which complicates trade relations. He argued that Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan support the CIS politically, but not economically. -- 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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