|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
No. 228, Part I, 25 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 OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html RUSSIA RUSSIAN-CHECHEN AGREEMENT SIGNED. President Boris Yeltsin on 23 November signed a decree on the withdrawal from Grozny before 27 January 1997 of the two remaining Russian military brigades, whose continued presence Chechen separatist leaders claimed was an obstacle to the signing of an interim agreement on Russian-Chechen relations, Russian media reported. On the same day in Moscow, interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed the agreement in question. It provides for the restoration of transport links with Chechnya; the signing of new agreements on the extraction and processing of Chechen oil and on ensuring the security of oil pipelines transiting Chechnya; the resolution of social and humanitarian problems, specifically payment of wages and pensions; and coordination in the field of defense, according to ITAR-TASS. At a subsequent press conference, Maskhadov termed the agreement "a concrete step towards peace," according to AFP. A new agreement on economic relations between Chechnya and the Russian Federation will be signed after the Chechen parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 27 January. -- Liz Fuller COMMUNISTS SLAM CHECHEN ACCORD. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov denounced the Chernomyrdin-Maskhadov agreement as "unconstitutional" and said it would lead to the disintegration of the country, NTV reported on 24 November. He warned that the withdrawal of troops would not calm the situation in the North Caucasus and blamed the agreement on a group of Yeltsin advisors including presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, and Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin. Zavtra editor Aleksandr Prokhanov called on Russians to "sabotage and boycott these anti-national and anti-state measures." Representatives of Yabloko charged that the Communists' statements demonstrated that they supported the use of force in Chechnya. At the Communists' insistence, the Duma Council on 24 November called an extraordinary Duma session for 29 November to discuss Chechnya. -- Robert Orttung DUMA CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF CHUBAIS, ILYUSHIN. The Duma adopted an appeal to Yeltsin on 22 November to suspend Anatolii Chubais and Viktor Ilyushin until a scandal over alleged financial irregularities during the presidential election campaign is clarified, international agencies reported. Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin said he believed the transcript published by Moskovskii komsomolets on 15 November that re-ignited the scandal over the $538,000 taken out of the White House was genuine. Yeltsin's press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 23 November that the president is aware of the appeal adopted by the Duma but that he believes it is an attempt to put pressure on the law enforcement agencies, which Yeltsin believes should be allowed "to work in normal conditions," Russian TV (RTR) reported. Chubais said the appeal was illustrative of the current flood of compromising materials, adding "it is no secret that certain political forces, backed by the Duma Communist faction, see such methods as their major tools," ITAR- TASS reported. Chubais, who argues that the Moskovskii komsomolets transcript is a forgery, said earlier he was ready to answer all questions and that he wants the truth to come out. -- Penny Morvant KORZHAKOV INTERVIEW PULLED. Another television program featuring Aleksandr Korzhakov has been canceled without explanation, Ekho Moskvy reported on 23 November. The program, "Scandal of the Week," scheduled for broadcast on TV6 on the evening of 23 November, included an interview with Korzhakov. In it, the former presidential security chief reportedly repeated his claim that he had nothing to do with the bugging of the Ilyushin-Chubais conversation but he said he recognized their voices. He claimed that the third interlocutor was not presidential aide Sergei Krasavchenko. Nezavisimaya gazeta earlier speculated that the "third man" was Sergei Shakhrai but later withdrew that claim. On 19 October RTR canceled transmission of an interview with Korzhakov. Meanwhile, on 22 November, the Main Military Procurator's Office launched a criminal case in connection with charges that Korzhakov destroyed important documents after his dismissal from the Presidential Security Service. -- Penny Morvant DUBININ CLEARED OF EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES. The procurator general cleared Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin of accusations that he had transferred money from the now bankrupt Tveruniversalbank into his personal bank account, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 November. A private citizen identified only as N. D. Kozhukhovksii filed the charges in September against Dubinin, former Tveruniversalbank Chairman Nikolai Ryzhkov, now a Duma member, and head of the Central Bank settlement center Fedor Tolstykh, and they received wide media attention. Meanwhile, Obshchaya gazeta (no. 46) argued out that anti-corruption campaigns are merely for show since only a few officials are ever sentenced and many continue to hold their positions after being charged or while they are under investigation. -- Robert Orttung INCUMBENT LOSES GOVERNORSHIP IN KURGAN. The incumbent governor of Kurgan Oblast, Anatolii Sobolev, failed to make it into the runoff after winning just over 13% of the vote among three candidates in the 24 November gubernatorial election. According to preliminary results, opposition-backed Oleg Bogomolov, chairman of the regional legislature, took 41%, while businessman Anatolii Koltashov, who served as Yeltsin's aide during the presidential campaign, finished second with 32%, RTR reported. The turnout was about 55%. Bogomolov and Koltashov will compete in the runoff which is scheduled for 8 December. Only nine governors have managed to hold on to their seats in the 21 races completed since 1 September (including Amur Oblast where the opposition victory is still being contested.) -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow YELTSIN MEETS NAZARBAYEV. In his first meeting with a foreign leader since his 5 November heart surgery, President Yeltsin met on 23 November with his Kazakstani counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev at the Barvikha sanatorium, Russian and Western agencies reported. During the 20-minute session, the two leaders discussed economic ties and the status of the Caspian Sea, according to presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Reflecting recent concerns in Moscow about Kazakh language policy, Yeltsin also suggested that Russia and Kazakstan issue a joint declaration on the status of the Russian language in Kazakstan. The two leaders agreed that a CIS summit marking the organization's fifth anniversary should be postponed from December to early January, presumably owing to Yeltsin's condition. Continuing the relentless tide of upbeat reports on Yeltsin's health by pro-government media, Nazarbayev told NTV that Yeltsin looked much better than he had anticipated. -- Scott Parrish RODIONOV DENIES SOFTENING OPPOSITION TO NATO EXPANSION. Partially retracting earlier comments (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 November 1996), Defense Minister Igor Rodionov said on 23 November that "NATO's expansion to the east is under no circumstances acceptable to Russia," Western and Russian agencies reported. Speaking after a meeting with his visiting Slovak counterpart Jan Sitek, Rodionov declared that "I have always been an opponent of NATO expansion," adding that he would remain opposed until the problem was resolved. He did add, however, that NATO has the right to accept new members. Sitek and Rodionov also signed a plan outlining bilateral military cooperation during 1997. Sitek confirmed Slovakia's desire to join NATO, but said it would not hinder military-technical cooperation with Moscow. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA, U.S. AGREE TO ACCELERATE URANIUM DEAL. Russia and the United States have concluded a five-year contract that will speed up the sale of uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads to the U.S. under a 1994 bilateral agreement, The Washington Post reported on 24 November. The original agreement, calling for Russia to dilute 500 tons of weapons-grade uranium into reactor fuel for sale to the U.S. over a 20- year period, repeatedly hit snags over prices and annual delivery quotas. The new contract specifies that Russia will deliver 18 metric tons of the uranium in 1997, 24 tons in 1998, and 30 tons in 1999-2001, in return for about $2 billion. Negotiators are also near agreement on inspection measures which will verify that uranium shipped to the U.S. is from dismantled warheads, not stockpiles. -- Scott Parrish TAX ARREARS MOUNT. Russian firms now owe 51.3 trillion rubles ($9.3 billion) to the federal budget in unpaid taxes, according to Vladimir Popov of the State Tax Service, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 22 November. Of this sum 31 trillion rubles are owed by oil and gas enterprises - although they in turn are owed 19.4 trillion rubles by state-owned customers. 73 firms each have tax debts in excess of 100 billion rubles, including three oil and gas firms (Yuganskneftegaz, Nizhnevartovskneftegaz, and Noyabrskneftegaz), who owe more than 1 trillion rubles each. The auto giant AvtoVAZ alone owes 2.8 trillion rubles ($500 million). Popov said that 43% of Russian firms report that they running at a loss, up from 31% in 1995. The government claims that tax collection has improved in recent months, and stands at 75% of the target level for the first 10 months of the year. -- Peter Rutland STOLICHNYI BANK WINS TENDER FOR AGROPROMBANK'S REHABILITATION. Stolichnyi Bank Sberezhenii (SBS) has won a tender for the financial rehabilitation of Agroprombank (APB) in competition with Imperial bank, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 November. SBS is expected to provide APB with a 1 trillion rubles ($182 million) credit within the next ten days and purchase 51% of its shares worth 130 billion rubles (of that, 24.5% will be transferred under state management). In an interview with Kommersant- Daily on 21 November, SBS Chairman Aleksandr Smolenskii said that although APB's "agro" specialization will be preserved, new lending will focus on food processing enterprises with a distribution network. -- Natalia Gurushina ELECTRICITY GIANT CANCELS EUROBOND ISSUE. The State Property Committee (GKI) has announced that it will cancel the September tender for eurobonds in the national power grid EES Rossii, Segodnya reported on 23 November. The eurobond tender, with a 7.5% federal equity stake as collateral, was won by a consortium of Russian and foreign banks led by CS First Boston, although some of the foreign banks later withdrew from the deal, accusing EES Rossii of refusing to disclose vital information. Instead, GKI has now announced that it will sell 8.5% of federal shares in a public tender between 22 November and 23 December. GKI expects to raise some 1.5 trillion rubles ($273 million) from the sale. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KOCHARYAN REELECTED PRESIDENT OF NAGORNO-KARABAKH. The presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh took place on 24 November despite its condemnation by Azerbaijan, Russia, and major Western countries, Western agencies reported. According to the Central Electoral Commission in Stepanakert, 76% of the region's 89,000 voters turned out. Robert Kocharyan, the incumbent president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, who was opposed by two other candidates, won a decisive victory, Radio France Internationale reported on 25 November. Meanwhile, mass rallies were held in Azerbaijan to protest the election, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 November. Turan quoted Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev as saying that his country will never recognize the vote. Aliev said that besides Armenia some unspecified countries also "support separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh." -- Emil Danielyan HIGH TURNOUT IN ABKHAZ POLL, GEORGIAN REFERENDUM. Parliamentary elections were held in Abkhazia on 23 November despite an appeal by the EU on 22 November for their cancellation and the resumption of talks on a political solution to the Abkhaz conflict, Russian and Western agencies reported. Eighty-one candidates, including 65 ethnic Abkhaz and three Georgians, contended the 35 seats; 30 deputies were elected in the first round. Voter participation among the 219,000 electorate was estimated at over 80%, according to AFP. Speaking at a press conference on 24 November, a spokesman for the Unrecognized Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) characterized the elections as "the free expression of the people's will," ITAR-TASS reported. Voting was marred by a series of explosions in Gali raion, home to some 40,000 repatriated ethnic Georgians; an Abkhaz Interior Ministry spokesmen blamed the incidents on Georgian saboteurs, ITAR-TASS reported. Between 18 and 23 November some 230,000 ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the fighting in 1992- 93 voted in a counter-referendum organized by the Georgian authorities and overwhelmingly registered their condemnation of the Abkhaz poll. -- Liz Fuller ARMENIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS FRESH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. The leader of the opposition National Democratic Union, defeated presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan, has demanded a fresh election following the decision by the Constitutional Court to reject the opposition's appeal of the results of the 22 September presidential polls (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 November 1996), Noyan Tapan reported on 22 November. Manukyan called on the international community to exert pressure on the Armenian government to make the latter respect democratic principles. -- Emil Danielyan KAZAKSTANIS RESIST CHANGE OF CAPITAL. With the first transfer of ministries due to take place after the New Year, the Giller Institute conducted a poll which found only 5.6% of respondents would move from Almaty to Akmola, the future capital, according to a 24 November report from ITAR-TASS. Akmola lies on the steppe in the north of the country and has much colder winters and hotter summers than Almaty. The ministries of agriculture, transportation, and communications are the first of 26 ministries scheduled to move in 1997, but presently the Kazakstani government has only about one-tenth of the money it needs to complete the first stage of the transfer. -- 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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