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No. 211, Part I, 31 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 MORE DENUNCIATIONS OF BEREZOVSKII APPOINTMENT. Politicians across the spectrum denounced the decision to make Boris Berezovskii, head of the LogoVAZ empire and the dominant figure at Russian Public TV (ORT), a deputy secretary of the Security Council, Russian media reported on 30 October. Critics blamed the appointment on Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii described the appointment as "outrageous incompetence," while Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called it "ridiculous and insulting." Even Duma Deputy Roman Popkovich of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction told NTV that he was "astonished" by the criteria used in choosing Security Council staff, since Berezovskii was not a "professional" in such matters. According to the 31 October Komsomolskaya pravda, the appointment reflects the growing power of the "Chubais clan." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said he saw nothing "extraordinary" about Berezovskii's appointment. -- Laura Belin REACTION TO SELEZNEV'S BOYCOTT THREAT. Officials loyal to the president held the line against Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev's demand that Chubais resign and his threat to boycott all meetings of the Consultative Council while Chubais stands in for Yeltsin. Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii and Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin advised Seleznev not to interfere in presidential appointments; Yastrzhembskii added that Chubais would remain on the so-called "permanent four" regardless of Yeltsin's health. Chernomyrdin dismissed Seleznev's threat as a "game." He told ITAR-TASS that the first meeting of the Consultative Council will go ahead whether Seleznev attends or not, but said it will be postponed until next week to allow Seleznev and Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev to attend a CIS parliamentary assembly on 1 November. ORT, the network at which Berezovskii is a top executive, suggested that Seleznev's threat would bring him "dubious glory" as a provocateur or a "political terrorist." -- Laura Belin BEREZOVSKII TO BE PUT IN CHARGE OF CHECHNYA. Berezovskii initially indicated that he would cover economic matters on the Security Council, and Chernomyrdin at first said Berezovskii would be in charge of business questions. However, Chernomyrdin and Rybkin announced on 30 October that Berezovskii would be responsible for settling the Chechen conflict, Russian media reported. Meanwhile, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed again accused Berezovskii of trying to intimidate him after Lebed signed a peace agreement with Chechen separatists in late August. Lebed told Radio Rossii that Berezovskii accused him of ruining good "business" in Chechnya. Lebed first made that charge immediately after being fired on 17 October. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN VETOES LAW ON REGIONAL LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS. President Boris Yeltsin on 30 October vetoed a bill that would have ordered regional legislatures that extended their terms to hold new elections within six months , ITAR-TASS reported. Numerous legislatures were elected to two- year terms in 1994 and then extended their stay in office for an additional two years, following a September 1995 presidential decree (see OMRI Regional Report, 23 October 1996). Yeltsin claimed that the bill arrogated for the federal government the regional governments' right to set the date of the elections and the length of the term to which regional representatives would be elected. The Duma had approved the bill only after overcoming a veto by the Federation Council, half of whose membership is made up of the chairmen of regional legislatures, many of whom do not want to face new elections. Yeltsin's action is likely an attempt to buy off the upper house in order to use it as a buffer against the more opposition-minded Duma. -- Robert Orttung DICTATORSHIP IN UDMURTIYA. The State Council of the Urals republic of Udmurtiya is imposing a dictatorship, according to a NTV report on 30 October. Anatolii Saltykov, the elected mayor of the capital Izhevsk, remains in the hospital following his removal from office (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 October 1996). The report said he and his supporters are under surveillance and their phones are tapped. State Council Chairman Aleksandr Volkov is also canceling broadcasts or removing journalists from their jobs after critical reports. Volkov claims that the crackdowns are necessary to prevent unfair criticism of ailing local industries, like Izhmash, which produces Kalashnikovs, and the oil company Udmurtneft. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN'S CHECHEN TRIP IN JEOPARDY. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin may postpone a planned trip to Chechnya because of hard- line statements reasserting Chechen independence by acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov at the All-National Congress of the Chechen People on 27 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Viktor Medveditskov, the Russian presidential envoy in Chechnya, told ITAR-TASS on 30 October that he will lodge an official complaint with the Chechen leadership following an attack by Chechen militants on a Grozny airport in which three Russian soldiers were wounded. -- Liz Fuller ABM AGREEMENT COLLAPSES. Last-minute demands by Russia have triggered the cancellation of a planned 31 October Geneva ceremony at which an agreement on tactical ballistic-missile defenses was to be signed, Western agencies reported on 30 October. The agreement, endorsed by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher on 23 September (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 September 1996), clarifies the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty. A second follow-up agreement covering higher-speed interceptors was then to be negotiated. However, last week Moscow reversed its earlier position, insisting that the first agreement not enter into force until the second agreement was concluded, a demand which Washington rejected, leading to the impasse. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN-NATO CHARTER TO TAKE A BIT LONGER. Revising an earlier prediction, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said on 30 October that a formal Russian-NATO charter would not be signed in 1996 but expressed hope that it could be concluded by mid-1997 when a NATO summit is due to name the first Eastern European candidates for membership, Western agencies reported. Although President Yeltsin has argued that a Russian- NATO charter should be signed before NATO enlarges, Solana insisted that "there is no relationship" between the charter and NATO enlargement, saying the two processes would not proceed in "sequence," but "converge." -- Scott Parrish SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER IN RUSSIA. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Swedish counterpart Goeran Persson signed a protocol on crime fighting and a communications agreement at their 30 October Moscow meeting, Russian and Western agencies reported. The two men also discussed a proposed gas pipeline linking Russia and Sweden via Finland. ITAR-TASS reported that Chernomyrdin complained to Persson about the treatment of the Russian minority in Estonia and Latvia. Publicly, however, Chernomyrdin said he was "impressed" with Sweden's policies toward the Baltics, while Persson declared that the Baltic states were "honestly working" to resolve the Russian minority issue. -- Scott Parrish DEBATE OVER FORMING MILITARY POLICE. Competing proposals for a military police force were aired at a 30 October press conference by Lt.-Gen. Vladimir Kulakov, head of the service troops department of the General Staff, and Nikolai Karlov, a staffer from the Duma Defense Committee, Kommersant-Daily reported on 31 October. While both men agreed that a new military police force is needed to combat crime and corruption in the armed forces, Kulakov said such a force should be subordinated to the Defense Ministry, while Karlov, whose views are supported by the other "power ministries" with uniformed troops, argued that an independent organization should be created. -- Scott Parrish TOP PHYSICIST COMMITS SUICIDE. Vladimir Nechai, the 60-year-old director of the Federal Nuclear Center in Snezinsk, near Chelyabinsk, shot himself, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 October. Colleagues said that Nechai, who also headed the All-Russian Technical Physics Institute, was depressed over budgets cuts and his inability to pay his staff their salaries. -- Peter Rutland FURTHER DECLINE IN RUSSIA'S POPULATION. Russia's population decreased by 350,000 people during the first nine months of 1996, reaching 147.6 million people, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 October, citing the State Statistics Committee. This decline was offset by net in-migration of around 150,000 during the first half of 1996, as reported by Radio Rossii on 20 October. The death rate is 14.5 per 1,000 and the birthrate 9.1 per 1,000. The Statistics Committee did note, however, that the mortality rate began decreasing in 1995. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski PENSION DEBTS MOUNT. Pensioners are owed 17 trillion rubles ($3 billion) in unpaid pensions, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 October. That figure includes 1.7 trillion rubles owed from August and 5.8 trillion from September. Of Russia's 89 regions and republics, 22 are able to pay pensions from their own receipts, and 67 rely on subsidies from the federal fund. Pension Fund official Natalya Petrova told ITAR-TASS that firms owe 48 trillion rubles in pension contributions, and the fund is also owed money from the federal budget. She said the fund had been forced to take loans from commercial banks, but has exhausted its creditworthiness. -- Peter Rutland STRIKE STATISTICS AFTER THREE QUARTERS. Some 3,767 enterprises and organizations have participated in work stoppages in the first nine months of 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 October, citing the State Statistics Committee. The strikes involved some 356,000 workers and nearly two billion work hours were lost. The main motive of the strikes was wage arrears. Educational institutions and coal mines had the largest number of strikes. The greatest loss of working hours occurred in the mining regions of Rostov and Kemerovo Oblasts and Krasnoyarsk and Primore Krais. -- Ritsuko Sasaki FEDERAL BANKRUPTCY COMMITTEE'S WORK IN 1996. The Federal Bankruptcy Committee secured the repayment of 4.9 trillion rubles ($900 million) of tax arrears to the consolidated budget from January through September, Kommersant-Daily reported on 31 October, citing its head Petr Mostovoi. Of that, some 2.6 trillion rubles were raised in August and September. Mostovoi confirmed that the Tatarstan truck manufacturer KamAZ has been taken off the bankruptcy list. Earlier this week, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev held meetings with Viktor Chernomyrdin and Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, and it was agreed that KamAZ will pay the reduced sum of 51 billion rubles ($9 million) in back taxes, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 October. -- Natalia Gurushina MONEY SUPPLY STILL TIGHT. In the first nine months of 1996, money emissions stood at 18.6 trillion rubles, down from 30.6 trillion rubles over the same period in 1995, AFP reported on 29 October. From July to September the Central Bank issued no new money, and withdrew some 6.5 trillion rubles from circulation. Many firms and regions now complain of an acute shortage of cash. Members of the regional association "Siberian Accord" called on the government to print more money in an appeal reported by ITAR-TASS on 30 October. -- Natalia Gurushina SIBNEFT OIL COMPANY SELLS SHARES. The Rifanoil company won an investment auction for a 15% equity stake in Sibneft by offering to invest $35 million over the next three years, Segodnya reported on 29 October. In December 1995 the government sold 51% of Sibneft to Stolichnyi Bank Sberezhenii and Neftyanaya Finansovaya Kompaniya for a $100 million loan under the controversial loans-for-shares scheme. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN POWER MINISTERS ACCUSED OF PLANNING COUP. Former Armenian National Security Minister David Shahnazaryan accused the country's "power" ministers of plotting a coup d'etat and demanded their resignation, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 October citing Vremya. Shahnazaryan, who used to be one of the closest figures to President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, called for a dialogue between the authorities and the opposition. According to him, fresh parliamentary elections are a "political necessity." Meanwhile, acting presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan said Armenia's political situation is returning to normal and praised the opposition for its efforts to "return to legal activity," Noyan Tapan reported on 30 October. -- Emil Danielyan NEW POLITICAL OFFICE CREATED IN UZBEKISTAN. In an address to the cabinet, Uzbek President Islam Karimov announced that Qobiljon Obidov will be appointed to the newly-created position of first deputy prime minister with special responsibility for agriculture and water resources, Uzbek TV reported on 29 October. Given recent poor harvests in the Syrdarya and Jizzak regions (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 October 1996), Karimov has called for greater oversight and a more defined division of labor in the presidential apparatus. -- Roger Kangas MESHETIAN TURKS OF KYRGYZSTAN TO HOLD CONGRESS. A congress of Meshetian Turks will be held in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on 2 November, RFE/RL reported. The leader of the Turk Association of Kyrgyzstan, Maksut Izzatov, claims there are presently 57,000 Meshetian Turks living in Kyrgyzstan, the majority of whom would prefer to move to Turkey. Large numbers of Meshetian Turks were forcibly relocated in Central Asia during World War II from the Caucasus, and in 1989 some were forced to flee Uzbekistan when rioting broke out in areas where they lived. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov TURKMENISTAN ANNIVERSARY. The Chistopol watch factory in Tatarstan has produced a rush order of 81,000 wrist watches for Turkmenistan, ITAR- TASS reported on 31 October. The watches are designed to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence. The watch face depicts Turkmenistan's President, Saparmurad Niyazov. -- Peter Rutland [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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