|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
No. 219, Part I, 12 November 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 DUMA ATTACKS PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION . . . The Duma has asked the Constitutional Court to examine President Boris Yeltsin's 2 October decree setting up the presidential administration, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 11 November. The deputies believe that Yeltsin gave Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais responsibilities that rightly belong to the president, legislature, and government. The presidential press service argues that the constitution gives the president the right to set up his administration at his own discretion. -- Robert Orttung . . . ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO AFGHAN WAR INVALIDS FUND. The day after the blast at the Kotlyakovskoe cemetery in which 13 people were killed, the Duma ordered the Procurator-General's Office to investigate the activities of the Russian Fund for Invalids of the Afghan War (RFIVA), Russian TV (RTR) reported on 11 November. The explosion occurred during a memorial service for a former RFIVA head and is thought to be linked to the fund's business operations. The deputies also instructed the Duma's Veterans Support Committee to check the activities of all organizations that enjoy similar economic privileges. The deputies observed a minute of silence in honor of those killed on 10 November. The investigation into the blast is being headed by First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov. -- Penny Morvant in Moscow SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES CHECHEN PEACE BLUEPRINT. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin chaired a closed door session of the Security Council on 11 November that addressed the finalized plans for a settlement of the Chechen conflict, Russian and Western agencies reported. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin told NTV that the plan incorporates proposals made by the Chechen side, and reaffirmed Russia's commitment to abide by the peace agreements that have already been signed. The Duma will debate the draft laws on establishing a special economic zone in Chechnya and on granting an amnesty to participants in the conflict by late November at the earliest, State Duma Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin told ORT on 10 November. -- Liz Fuller CHANNEL 2 DIRECTOR TO LEAVE NETWORK. Anatolii Lysenko, who has served as general director of RTR since the company was founded in 1990, is leaving to head the Moscow city government's Committee on Telecommunications and the Mass Media, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 November. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced new financial breaks for the media last week (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 November 1996). Lysenko co-founded RTR with Oleg Poptsov, who served as the network's chairman until President Yeltsin fired him in February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 and 19 February 1996). -- Laura Belin SHUMEIKO, ILYUKHIN SETTLE LAWSUIT. Vladimir Shumeiko, leader of the pro- Yeltsin Reforms-New Course movement, dropped his slander lawsuit against Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin after Ilyukhin apologized in public, RTR and ITAR-TASS reported on 11 November. Last year, Ilyukhin accused Shumeiko, then chairman of the Federation Council, of involvement in the shady activities of the now defunct Vlastelina company (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 September 1995). Ilyukhin apologized for making the charge before the investigation into Vlastelina's activities had been completed, and Shumeiko dropped his demand for 20 million rubles ($3,700) in damages. The judge instructed Kommersant-Daily, which was a co-defendant for having published Ilyukhin's accusations last year, to publish the settlement statement signed by both parties. -- Laura Belin GENERAL: RUSSIA NEEDS ASSISTANCE TO DESTROY CHEMICAL WEAPONS. Russia wants to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile but needs foreign assistance to build the necessary facilities, Col.-Gen. Stanislav Petrov, head of the Radiological, Chemical, and Biological Defense Troops, told ITAR-TASS on 11 November. Petrov said about $100 million in foreign aid has been pledged, but only about 10% of that has been disbursed. A federal program calls for Russia to begin destroying its 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons in 1998 and complete the task by 2005. Petrov urged the speedy ratification of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, saying that if the agreement enters into force before Moscow has ratified it, Russia may have difficulty getting financial assistance. While the U.S. has not ratified the treaty either, Hungary recently became the 65th country to do so, meaning it will enter into force on 29 April 1997. -- Scott Parrish DEFENSE COUNCIL DISCUSSES WAGE ARREARS, MILITARY DOCTRINE. The Defense Council discussed the military budget and the development of a new military doctrine at its 11 November meeting, Kommersant-Daily reported the next day. First Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Panov said the Defense Ministry's wage arrears for July have been paid, as have 74% of the August arrears, but the need to pay other Defense Ministry debts, including commercial bank loans, had postponed full repayment of the 4.9 trillion rubles ($890 million) the ministry owed servicemen as of 1 October. He pledged to clear those debts by 15 November, although Kommersant-Daily noted that Defense Ministry officials estimate that wage arrears total 6.4 trillion rubles. -- Scott Parrish CHECHEN OIL INDUSTRY PROSPECTS. A major challenge facing the new authorities in Chechnya will be restoring the local oil industry. According to an AFP report on 10 November, annual oil production could reach 2 million metric tons but would need $60 million worth of investment. Production slumped from 3.6 million tons in 1991 to 300,000 tons in 1995, and in April 1996 the pro-Moscow Chechen head of state, Doku Zavgaev, suspended the operations of the Southern Oil Company because so much oil was being siphoned off into backyard refineries (although the main transit pipeline kept operating). Acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev signed a decree on 12 October re-affirming that the drilling and refining of oil is a state monopoly, but implementation will be difficult given the vested interests of the illicit operators. -- Peter Rutland MORE CORRUPTION IN ST. PETERSBURG. Aleksei Levashov, a deputy of the St. Petersburg City Assembly, has been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 12 November. In July, a 15-year-old boy was kidnapped from a summer camp, and was later found in an apartment rented by Levashov. The police suspect the kidnapping was intended to dissuade the boy's father from testifying against a Levashov associate in a criminal trial. Earlier this month, several leading city officials were detained on corruption charges (see OMRI Daily Digest , 6 November 1996). -- Peter Rutland PROTESTS IN REGIONS. A group of coal miners and pensioners in Kemerovo Oblast set up a 24-hour picket in central Prokopevsk on 11 November to protest wage arrears and mine-closure plans, NTV reported. The protest action is planned to continue for three days. Likewise, pensioners occupied the government building of Yefremovsk Raion in the Tula Oblast to protest arrears dating back three months, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 November. -- Ritsuko Sasaki TWO POLICE OFFICERS SHOT IN TYUMEN. In a bizarre incident, two officers in the Tyumen anti-drug unit, Capt. Sergei Melnikov and Lt.-Col. Sergei Nadein, were found shot to death in their office, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 November. One theory is that Melnikov's gun accidentally discharged, killing his colleague, after which Melnikov shot himself. However, the procurator reported that both men's guns had been fired, suggesting there may have been an argument. The region's police chief, Col.-Gen. Sergei Radivil, described the incident as evidence of the psychological trauma known as the "Chechen syndrome," since both men recently returned from service in Chechnya. -- Peter Rutland INTERNET IN RUSSIA. About 50,000 people use the World Wide Web regularly in Russia, according to a report by the Russian firm Rusinfoil, ITAR- TASS reported on 10 November. Russians are the most frequent visitors to Russian sites, making up 28% of the users, while Americans are in second place, at 25%. Sixty percent of the information available is in Russian and the rest in English. -- Robert Orttung GOVERNMENT CUTS VAT IN TEXTILE INDUSTRY. In order to support Russia's ailing light industry, the government intends to cut the VAT rate for textile and clothing companies from the current 20% to 5%, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 November. The production of some textile goods dropped tenfold compared to 1991 and textile imports meet over 50% of the domestic demand. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov suggested that VAT for the light industry should be lifted altogether in 1997. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA CASPIAN SEA AGREEMENT SIGNED. Representatives from four of the five coastal states of the Caspian Sea signed an agreement in Ashgabat on 12 November on the status of the sea, ITAR-TASS and Izvestiya reported. The agreement, granting each state an exclusive economic zone 45 miles (75 km) off-shore, was recognized by all parties except Azerbaijan. Every country came into the meeting with their own proposal for the zone: Iran favored a 10-mile zone; Russia, 20 miles, Turkmenistan, 60 miles; Kazakstan, 80 miles; and Azerbaijan wanted the entire sea divided into sectors. The signatories regard the resources beyond the 45-mile zone as subject to "joint ownership." Azerbaijan's oil riches lie beyond the 45- mile zone and that country's representative did not sign the agreement. Representatives of the other states promised to review "pinpoint jurisdiction" in Azerbaijan's case. Izvestiya noted that all of the countries had already begun developing areas in the Caspian without any clear ruling on its status. -- Bruce Pannier PRISONER DIES IN JAIL. Valerii Fisyun, who was sentenced to six years' imprisonment last month for his participation in the abortive march on Abkhazia launched by former Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani in January 1995, has died in a Tbilisi jail after repeatedly requesting, but being refused, medical attention, RFE/RL reported on 11 November. -- Liz Fuller AZERBAIJAN'S OIL OUTPUT FALLS. Azerbaijan's oil output has declined for the fifth consecutive year, from 15 million metric tons in 1991 to an estimated 9 million tons for 1996, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta on 11 November. The decline is the result of a lack of investment and the loss of Azerbaijan's traditional export markets. The IMF delegation that visited Baku in August made the disbursement of a further $300 million loan contingent on the raising of domestic oil prices. -- Liz Fuller TER-PETROSSYAN INAUGURATED AMID CONTROVERSY. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan was inaugurated for a second five-year term on 11 November, Armenian and Western media reported. The OSCE questioned the vote results of the disputed 22 September presidential election, while the opposition National Accord bloc (AHD) still claims it was robbed of the victory. The ceremony, which was boycotted by the AHD deputies, took place two days before the Constitutional Court is to start hearings on the opposition's appeal to annul the election results. The defeated AHD candidate, Vazgen Manukyan, described Ter-Petrossyan's decision to take the oath before the court's ruling as a "violation of ethical principles." According to Reuters, "Ter-Petrossyan looked grave and seemed to have lost weight." Meanwhile, there were no results yet from the 10 November local elections. -- Emil Danielyan KAZAKSTANI PRESIDENT INTERVIEWED. Nursultan Nazarbayev refuted assertions that the transfer of the Kazakstani capital from Almaty to the northern city of Akmola represents an attempt at "Kazakization" of the predominantly Russian region, in an interview published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 11 November. Nazarbayev justified the change on the grounds that Akmola is a more central location for the country's capital. Answering a question about the perceived discrimination against non-Kazak, Russian-speakers, the president said criminals would continue to be held accountable for their actions. Using the Cossack movement as an example, Nazarbayev said his country reacts to calls such as "Kazakstan into Russia," and "Cossack lands to Cossacks," the same way Russians would react to "Sakhalin and Kurile islands to Japan." Nazarbayev claimed that in Kazakstan there is no language discrimination as "in more than 5,000 schools, the students are taught only in Russian, and in 3,000 in Kazak." -- Bruce Pannier KYRGYZSTAN, CHINA AGREE TO FIGHT SMUGGLING. Kyrgyz Interior Minister Omurbek Tukuyev and Chinese Public Security Minister Tao Siju agreed in Beijing on 11 November to cooperate in combating smuggling, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement has special significance for China as a new road connecting China to Pakistan via Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan opened this year. Besides bordering on China, Kyrgyzstan also borders Tajikistan where the ongoing civil war greatly facilitates the smuggling of arms and narcotics. -- Bruce Pannier RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH IN UZBEKISTAN. Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, is in Uzbekistan to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the establishment of two eparchies of the Russian Orthodox Church in Uzbekistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 November. Uzbek President Islam Karimov told Aleksei that new churches had been built in Bukhara, Kashkadarya, and Syrdarya and that the St. Aleksei Church in Samarkand had recently been renovated. Aleksii said the visit was intended to "extend spiritual and moral support to the Orthodox believers who have found themselves beyond the boundaries of Russia." -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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