|When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece. - John Ruskin|
No. 235, Part I, 6 December 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 YELTSIN-CLINTON SUMMIT SCHEDULED FOR MARCH. During a 20-minute phone conversation on 5 December, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his American counterpart Bill Clinton agreed to hold a summit meeting next March, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii did not give an exact date or location, although he said Washington, D.C. was the most likely site for the meeting. The White House also confirmed the March summit, but gave no further details. Yeltsin and Clinton last met in April 1996 during the Moscow nuclear safety summit. -- Scott Parrish RYBKIN IN GROZNY. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, together with his deputies Boris Berezovskii and Leonid Mayorov, traveled to Grozny on 5 December to attend sessions of various commissions, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Rybkin termed the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 27 January Chechnya's internal affair, but said that the Russian leadership had contacted various international organizations that would monitor the voting. Rybkin also gave the Chechen leadership various draft documents on power sharing between Moscow and Grozny. Also on 5 December, Russian Television (Channel 2) reported that Adam Deneyev, chairman of the social-political movement For the National Rebirth of the Chechen People and Chechnya, has stated his intention of running for the Chechen presidency, raising the number of candidates to seven. Field commander Salman Raduev will run for vice president, but it is not clear as whose deputy, according to NTV. -- Liz Fuller LEBED TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR IN TULA? The Tula Oblast Duma has decided that gubernatorial elections in the oblast will be held on 23 March, ITAR- TASS reported on 5 December. The agency claimed that former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed intends to contest the office, although Lebed has been coy about whether he will stand for the position. The oblast duma rejected a proposal by some deputies to postpone setting an election date until the Russian Constitutional Court rules on a Federation Council appeal which challenges the oblast legislature's legitimacy. It was elected earlier this year on the basis of a gubernatorial directive, which the Federation Council claims violated federal legislation. In the December 1995 Duma elections, Lebed won a seat in Tula which he gave up after becoming Security Council Secretary. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski BRYANSK GOVERNOR ATTACKED. Bryansk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Semernev escaped unscathed when his car was shot at in the Bryansk suburbs, Russian TV (RTR) reported the next day. The governor's press service claimed that the unknown assailant was seeking to prevent Semernev from participating in the gubernatorial elections on 8 December. Semernev, who was appointed governor in June, is one of the three front-runners. His main rivals are former regional executives Yurii Lodkin and Vladimir Barabanov. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow IMBROGLIO OVER GROUND FORCES COMMANDER CONTINUES. The scandal surrounding Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's still unresolved attempt to dismiss Army Gen. Vladimir Semenov intensified on 5 December, Russian media reported. A meeting of the presidential commission on top military ranks the previous day failed to make any final decision on Semenov's sacking, and it still remains unclear if Semenov will be removed or on what grounds. After a meeting with Presidential Deputy Chief of Staff Evgenii Savostyanov to discuss the charges against him on 5 December, Semenov said he was now being blamed for the failure of the Russian military in Chechnya. He rejected this charge, and dismissed as "absurd" continuing allegations that he was involved in illegal sales of military helicopters. Semenov told NTV that the atmosphere surrounding his dismissal resembled that of the 1930s Stalinist purges, when people were repressed on the basis of unsubstantiated denunciations. -- Scott Parrish FEDERATION COUNCIL CLAIMS SEVASTOPOL. At its 5 December session, the Federation Council passed by 110-14 (with seven abstentions) a resolution authored by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov claiming the Crimean port of Sevastopol as Russian territory, Russian and Western media reported. The resolution condemned what it termed "unilateral" attempts by Ukraine to "tear away" Sevastopol from Russia, and called for bilateral negotiations to settle the city's status. Luzhkov has for months been publicly contending that Sevastopol was not legally transferred to Ukraine in 1954 along with the rest of Crimea. Evgenii Savchenko, the governor of Belgorod oblast, which borders on Ukraine, unsuccessfully opposed the resolution, NTV reported. He argued that claiming Sevastopol would set a "bad precedent," and encourage other states to challenge Russia's 1991 borders. The Russian government, which has repeatedly insisted that it has no claims on Sevastopol, will probably ignore the non-binding resolution. -- Scott Parrish PRIMAKOV ON BOSNIA, YUGOSLAVIA. Speaking at the London conference on Bosnia on 5 December, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that the peace process was "moving in the right direction," ITAR-TASS reported. Taking Moscow's traditional pro-Serb stance, and implicitly accusing the West of favoring the Bosnian and Croat factions, however, Primakov said the peace process was threatened by "the unbalanced attitude of the international community," saying that all sides in the conflict should receive equal treatment "in terms of getting economic support ... and in terms of punishment." Primakov also condemned as "clumsy threats," Western warnings that economic sanctions might be re-imposed if the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic cracks down on demonstrators protesting the recent annulment of opposition victories in local elections. He claimed that Milosevic's role in the peace process is "a very important factor." -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN ON CIS FIFTH ANNIVERSARY. In an interview marking the fifth anniversary of the 8 December 1991 creation of the CIS, President Yeltsin said it had been the only way "to save what could be saved" from the collapse of the USSR, Russian and Western agencies reported on 5 December. While admitting that the CIS has many faults, Yeltsin called for faster and more effective CIS integration. He held up Russian cooperation with Belarus as a "vivid" example of integration's benefits, although he conceded that problems have plagued the Russo-Belarusian customs union. Yeltsin insisted that the CIS integration process is voluntary, and would not lead to the resurrection of the USSR. He also reiterated his opposition to NATO expansion, but said that CIS military cooperation is not intended as a counterweight to the alliance. -- Scott Parrish BATTLE OVER BUDGET BEGINS. The Duma began discussion of the revised 1997 draft budget prepared by the government-parliament conciliatory commission, ITAR-TASS, AFP, and Reuters reported on 6 December. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ordered all his ministers to attend the session. On 5 December, Chernomyrdin met with leaders of the Duma factions (including Yabloko, the LDPR, the Communists, and the Agrarians) which have threatened to block the revised budget. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that his party will not support a spending plan which does not meet the needs of millions of people. Before the debate began, Chernomyrdin presented the government's concept of Russia's economic development for 1997-2000, which envisages growth of over 5% a year and increasing investment to 600 trillion rubles ($110 billion) a year by 2000. -- Natalia Gurushina PARLIAMENT CONSIDERS SOCIAL LEGISLATION. The Federation Council on 5 December approved a bill raising the minimum pension by 10% as of 1 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The increase is opposed by the government, which argues that it is unaffordable. Russian Pension Fund head Vasilii Barchuk said the bill would require an additional 815 billion rubles ($148 million) a month and noted that pension payments are already in arrears. The upper house also approved a draft law on paying pensions to prisoners in line with a 1995 Constitutional Court ruling that declared unconstitutional the practice of suspending pension payments to convicts. The law will cost about 25 billion rubles a year. The Duma passed a bill that seeks to make the average wage of workers in the budget sector equal to that of industry. In the first eight months of 1996, the average salary of education, science, culture, and health care workers was only 66% of that in industry. -- Penny Morvant FNPR CONGRESS OPENS. Addressing the third congress of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), Chairman Mikhail Shmakov was sharply critical of the government's policies, Russian Public TV reported. Shmakov said that if the demands of Russia's miners, many of whom have been on strike since 3 December, are not soon met, other trade unions may join the protest. The congress did not, however, support a proposal by Russian Coal-Industry Workers' Union Deputy Chairman Ivan Mokhnachuk to pass a resolution of no confidence in the government. The FNPR congress, which opened in Moscow on 5 December, will last three days. Communist leader Zyuganov and First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin attended the meeting. -- Penny Morvant DUMA SUPPORTS STRIKING MINERS . . . The Duma passed a resolution on 5 December supporting the miners' strike, Russian media reported. It stated that the miners are owed a total of 4 trillion rubles and threatened to hold a vote of confidence in the government if the crisis in the coal industry is not resolved. Rosugol Chairman Yurii Malyshev, meanwhile, said that Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits had signed a timetable for repaying the wage debt to miners. Livshits rejected charges that the first $250 million tranche of the World Bank loan for restructuring the coal industry had not been disbursed to the regions. Despite the government's promises, the miners union resolved to continue their strike for a fourth day. -- Penny Morvant . . . POTANIN DISCUSSES RESTRUCTURING OF COAL INDUSTRY. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin said on 5 December that about 50 loss- making pits have been closed and operations suspended at another 60 since the process of restructuring the coal industry began, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that state subsidies to the coal industry now account for only 15% of financing compared with 80% before the start of reforms and that labor productivity has increased by 9%. He added that the government supports a proposal to increase budget allocations for the coal industry to 10 trillion rubles next year from the 6 trillion first envisaged. In the 1996 budget, the coal industry was allocated 7.4 trillion rubles. President Yeltsin subsequently signed a decree promising another 3 trillion, to come mainly from the $500 million World Bank coal loan. -- Penny Morvant TAX POLICE IN THE FIRST TEN MONTHS OF THE YEAR. In the first 10 months of this year, the Federal Tax Police brought charges against 5,600 tax dodgers and returned 35 trillion rubles ($6.9 billion) to the state coffers, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 December, citing Tax Police head Sergei Almazov. Almazov said that seizing tax dodgers' assets was a fairly effective measure, as companies repaid some 90% of their debts to the budget without reducing production. Almazov also noted that the tax police are experiencing serious financial difficulties: so far, they have received only 67% of required financing. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MEDIA CRACKDOWN IN AZERBAIJAN. The speaker of Azerbaijan's Milli Mejlis (parliament), Murtuz Alesqerov, on 3 December gave instructions that the accreditation of Azadlyg journalist Azer Huseynbala be revoked, and warned other opposition journalists that their accreditation will also be revoked if they publish materials "that show parliament in a bad light," Turan reported on 5 December. Parliamentary correspondents for opposition papers decided on 5 December to take turns in supplying coverage of the proceedings of the Milli Mejlis for publication in Azadlyg, the newspaper of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIA TO CREATE ITS OWN NAVY? Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 5 December, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said the country's present level of economic development is adequate to finance a navy, which he said would be used exclusively to protect Georgia's maritime borders, ITAR-TASS reported. Visiting Kyiv in September, Menagharishvili had submitted to the Ukrainian government an official claim by the Georgian leadership to part of the Black Sea Fleet, and Ukraine's ambassador in Tbilisi, Anatolii Kasyanenko, recently told Svobodnaya Gruziya that Ukraine supports this request. -- Liz Fuller KAZAKSTAN WILL DEVELOP CASPIAN DEPOSITS IN 1997. Despite lack of agreement between the five littoral states, Kazakstani Oil and Gas Minister Nurlan Balginbayev announced his country would begin oil production in the Caspian Sea in 1997, RFE/RL reported on 5 December. Balginbayev said the organizations involved in the international consortium will sign a production-sharing agreement in the near future and work will start shortly after that. Companies with shares in the project are Agip, British Gas, British Petroleum, Statoil, Mobil and Total. -- Bruce Pannier TROUBLES FOR UN OBSERVERS IN TAJIKISTAN. The UN Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) issued a press release on 3 December, condemning the treatment of its people by members of the Tajik government's military, Nezavisimaya Gazeta and RFE/RL reported. According to UNMOT, three of its officials sent to the Garm area to report on the fighting there were stopped by government troops at the Chorsada post where they were physically abused and threatened with their lives. In order to return to the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, the three had to travel first to Kyrgyzstan. The United Tajik Opposition is cited by UN Special Envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem as being instrumental in procuring safe passage through opposition-held territory en route to Kyrgyzstan. The Tajik government apologized and claimed the incident was the action of individuals and promised to investigate the matter. UNMOT has reportedly recalled all its representatives to Dushanbe. -- 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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