|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 221, Part I, 14 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 MAKES PROGRESS ON GOVERNMENT BILL. The State Duma approved a bill defining the legal basis for the government's activities in the second of three readings by a vote of 344-2 with one abstention, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 14 November. The bill contains several features strengthening the Duma that President Boris Yeltsin does not support. It would give the Duma the right to approve the prime minister's dismissal as well as his nomination; remove the power ministers from direct presidential subordination and place them under the immediate control of the prime minister; and require the prime minister and other ministers to attend Duma sessions if they are asked to do so. All of the parliamentary factions supported the bill except for Yabloko, whose leader, Grigorii Yavlinskii, said the measure does not give the Duma sufficient oversight powers over the government, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Robert Orttung POLAND, RUSSIA SIGN ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS. Delegations led by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Polish counterpart, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, signed a package of intergovernmental agreements in Moscow on 13 November, including one on liberalizing bilateral trade, and another settling mutual debts dating back to the Soviet era, Russian media reported. Chernomyrdin termed the agreements of "crucial importance" for bilateral economic relations, and predicted that Russian-Polish trade would reach about $4 billion this year, up from $3.2 billion in 1995. Russian Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov said the trade liberalization agreement paved the way for a free trade zone with Poland, but Polish officials worry that such an arrangement might hamper their efforts to join the EU. -- Scott Parrish LUKASHENKA SUGGESTS JOINT OPPOSITION TO NATO. In his controversial speech to the State Duma on 13 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 November 1996), Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka proposed that Russia and Belarus jointly take "adequate measures" to oppose NATO expansion, Russian and Western media reported. Lukashenka suggested that the remaining SS-25 ICBMs in Belarus not be removed until NATO guarantees that nuclear weapons will not be deployed on the territory of any new Eastern European member. Blaming "misconceptions" about Belarus spread by the Russian media for hampering the progress of Russian- Belarusian integration, he claimed that Belarus is not an economic drain on Russia, that economic reforms are proceeding, and that his government respects human rights. -- Scott Parrish RYBKIN AGAIN SUGGESTS JOINING NATO. In an interview published in the 12 November edition of the weekly Itogi, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin again suggested that Russia join NATO's political structures. He said that "the position of France would be fully acceptable for us," adding that Moscow could join the alliance's military structures at a later date. Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin commented that Rybkin's suggestion is not "practical," since NATO has shown no sign that it wants to invite Russia to become a full member. A similar suggestion by Rybkin on 30 October drew a harsh rebuff from Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 November 1996). -- Scott Parrish DUMA DECLARES TRANSDNIESTRIA "STRATEGIC ZONE." The Duma adopted a resolution, 284-29, declaring the breakaway Transdniestria region of Moldova a "zone of special strategic interest for Russia," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 November. Citing NATO's plans to expand eastward, the resolution called on President Yeltsin and the Federation Council to consider establishing a permanent Russian military base in the region. It also called on the Russian government to negotiate cultural, economic, and military agreements with the self-proclaimed Transdniester republic, and provide it with economic aid. Moldova has repeatedly rejected attempts by Moscow to establish a permanent military base in the region. -- Scott Parrish DUMA VOTES FOR INCREASE IN MINIMUM PENSION. The Russian parliament's lower house voted on 13 November to raise the minimum pension by 10% as of 1 November, RTR and ORT reported. The minimum pension, which was last increased in May, currently stands at 69,500 rubles ($12.70) a month. The Duma's previous attempt to increase pension payments was rejected by the Federation Council on the grounds that the rise would be too expensive. According to a representative of the indebted Pension Fund, the latest projected increase would cost an additional 816 billion rubles a month. At the beginning of November, the fund owed pensioners about 16 trillion rubles in back payments. -- Penny Morvant in Moscow BEREZOVSKII ADMITS HE HELD ISRAELI CITIZENSHIP. While flying from Tbilisi to Almaty, Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii admitted that he received Israeli citizenship in 1994, Kommersant-Daily reported on 14 November. After being appointed to the Security Council, he said, he had asked the Israeli Foreign Ministry to annul his citizenship. Soon after Berezovskii's appointment, Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda questioned whether it is appropriate for a person with dual citizenship to hold high office. While never explicitly denying that he was an Israeli citizen, Berezovskii threatened to sue the papers (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 November 1996). -- Laura Belin ZYUGANOV ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov is campaigning actively for opposition gubernatorial candidates in regions where he did well in the presidential election. Along with two prominent figures from his Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia -- Duma Deputy Nikolai Ryzhkov and Vasilii Starodubtsev of the Agrarian Party -- Zyuganov flew to Stavropol Krai on 14 November to campaign on behalf of Duma Deputy Aleksandr Chernogorov, ITAR-TASS reported. Chernogorov is the favorite to win the 17 November Stavropol runoff election. On 12 November, Zyuganov stumped for Ivan Ivanov, a candidate in the 17 November gubernatorial election in Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug (in the Baikal area). In July, Zyuganov beat President Yeltsin in Stavropol by 54% to 41% and only lost narrowly to Yeltsin in Ust-Orda Buryat by 49% to 47%. -- Laura Belin LARGE PART OF VLADIVOSTOK LEFT WITHOUT HEAT. A significant part of Vladivostok, including more than 30 kindergartens, schools, and clinics, has been left without heat since 11 November, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. A steam-line rupture in the city's heating system destroyed more than 300 yards of pipe at a time when night temperatures in the region drop well below freezing. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski OIL FOUND IN SOUTH TYUMEN OBLAST. The Senior Geologist of the Tyumennedra firm, Vladimir Rudenko, announced the discovery of a promising oil field in the southern part of Tyumen Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported 14 November. He claimed that the oil is much closer to the surface in the new Nizhne-Keumskii field than the deposits in the northern part of the oblast. Until now there were no known reserves in Tyumen's south. The oil and gas rich Khanty-Mansii and Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrugs, which make up the northern part of the oblast, are seeking to secede from the poorer southern region to gain control over a greater portion of the tax revenues produced by the oil and gas production. -- Robert Orttung ALMAZY ROSSII-SAKHA THREATENS TO SUE GOVERNMENT. The president of Yakutiya (Sakha), Mikhail Nikolaev, and the chairman of Russia's major producer and exporter of raw diamonds Almazy Rossii-Sakha (ARS), Vyacheslav Shtyrov, have said that ARS is prepared to sue the federal government, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. The company rejects the government's accusations that it is breaching tax and foreign currency laws and concealing its profits (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 November 1996). The company says the charges may damage the company's business reputation and delay the signing of a final agreement with South Africa's De Beers. In 1995, ARS's net profit (of which the Russian government was entitled to receive 32%) totaled 1.5 trillion rubles ($330 million). -- Natalia Gurushina FEDERATION COUNCIL DISCUSSES ECONOMIC PROBLEMS. First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov said in a 13 November address to the Federation Council that although the government has found money to repay wage arrears in the energy sector and the army, it is still unable to meet a timetable for repaying pensions and wages to budgetary organizations, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. Regional leaders criticized the government for the lack of an anti-crisis program and called on the regions to draft their own economic program. The Council also rejected an amendment to the 1996 budget to increase subsidies to northern regions (on the grounds that it is unclear how money is spent in those regions due to poor accounting practices) and a bill on protecting Russia's economic interests in foreign trade (on the grounds that it contradicts WTO regulations). -- Natalia Gurushina TAX POLICE ACTIVE IN THE FIRST NINE MONTHS OF THE YEAR. From January through September, the Federal Tax Police managed to secure some 30 trillion rubles ($6 billion) in payments to the consolidated budget, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. Police officials said tax evasion in 1996 commonly took the form of entrepreneurs refusing to register their businesses. The State Tax Agency has threatened nine companies with bankruptcy if they do not pay their tax arrears. They are: Norilskgazprom (580 billion rubles), Tebukneft (130 billion rubles), Berezovskaya Power Station (94 billion rubles), Avtodizel (87 billion rubles), Karelskii Okatysh (58 billion rubles), Krasnyi Oktyabr (56 billion rubles), Sokol (54 billion rubles), Vakhrushevrazrezugol (50 billion rubles), and Severokuzbassugol (33 billion rubles). -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA CONFLICTING REPORTS ON LOCAL ELECTIONS IN ARMENIA. Armenia's 10 November local elections, which were boycotted by the opposition, were marred by serious irregularities, according to Noyan Tapan. A group of candidates has lodged complaints of electoral law violations at some polling stations with Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisyan. Voter turnout in one of the Yerevan districts was as low as 27%. Meanwhile, a Council of Europe observer group released a statement describing the ballot as free and fair, adding that the irregularities did not affect the results. -- Emil Danielyan U.S. DELEGATION VISITS BAKU. A U.S. government delegation headed by James Collins, special advisor to the U.S. secretary of state on the newly independent states, and the U.S. special envoy to the OSCE Minsk Group, Joseph Presel, held talks in Baku on 13 November with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov and President Heidar Aliev, ITAR-TASS reported. Collins expressed concern that the disputed status of the Caspian Sea could jeopardize several major oil consortiums; Hasanov assured him that Azerbaijan's laws "guarantee the safety of foreign companies." Collins handed Aliev a message from U.S. President Bill Clinton expressing hope that a document on conditions for resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will be signed during the December OSCE heads of state summit in Lisbon. -- Liz Fuller NAZARBAYEV RECEIVES BEREZOVSKII . . . Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev met with Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii in Almaty on 13 November to discuss economic relations and Chechnya, Kazakstani media reported. Kazakstan is no longer interested in sharing the burden of reconstructing the Chechen economy, and will most likely withdraw support pledged earlier. Despite the fact that the Caspian Sea's legal status was not on the agenda for the meeting, Russian media were quick to link the visit of the former Russian tycoon to the recent agreements signed by Caspian littoral states. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty . . . AND AWARD FROM ORTHODOX CHURCH. Nazarbayev has been awarded the First Degree Order of Duke Dmitriy of Moscow, one of the highest awards of the Orthodox Church, Kazakstani TV media reported on 13 November. The order was bestowed on behalf of Moscow Patriarch Aleksii II in appreciation of the "historical justice" that has been "re-established by the Kazakstani president in his republic" and to mark the 125th anniversary of the Turkmen diocese. Nazarbayev, who returned hundreds of buildings to the Orthodox Church that were seized by the Soviet authorities, is the first Central Asian leader to receive such an award. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty UZBEK PRESIDENT CONCLUDES BELGIAN VISIT. Uzbek President Islam Karimov ended a two-day visit to Belgium on 13 November that included a series of high-level meetings with EU and NATO officials to discuss Uzbekistan's involvement in the Partnership for Peace program and other issues, Russian and Western media reported. According to Uzbek officials, Karimov met with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and discussed the situation in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Before leaving, Karimov met with Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene to discuss bilateral relations. -- Roger Kangas MONETARY CRISIS WORSENS IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek commercial banks were severely criticized at an 11 November session of the parliamentary Budget, Banking, and Financial Affairs Committee, Halq sozi reported on 12 November. Calling the banks "irresponsible," the committee noted that they are not abiding by recent decrees enumerating the monetary transactions that a bank may engage in. As part of an effort to curb the drop in the som's value, the Uzbek government has initiated a series of measures that effectively restrict access to hard currencies. The report noted, however, that the guidelines are difficult to enforce and 432 million soms worth of violations have occurred in recent weeks. -- Roger Kangas [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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