|The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. - Thomas Paine|
No. 239, Part I, 12 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 ADDRESSES COUNTRY ON CONSTITUTION DAY. Russia marked the third anniversary of the adoption of its constitution on 12 December 1993. In a written address to the nation distributed by ITAR-TASS, President Boris Yeltsin called the past year "particularly important for the consolidation of the constitutional system" since elections were held at the national, regional, and local levels. He stressed the fact that even the majority of those who do not like the constitution try to change it through constitutional procedures, meaning that the country's progress toward democracy is irreversible. Moskovskaya pravda on 11 December, however, reminded its readers that the constitution was drawn up "with Yeltsin in mind" and that its approval in the December 1993 referendum was surrounded by numerous allegations of fraud. The article complained that the constitution gives Yeltsin so much power that he cannot use it all, and it falls into the hands of unelected officials. -- Robert Orttung ZYUGANOV: OPPOSITION HAS DRAFTED 12 CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced that the opposition has prepared 12 constitutional amendments to alter the balance of power, which is currently heavily weighted toward the president, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 11 December. He regretted that the current constitution does not sufficiently guarantee economic rights, such as a right to a job and decent income, and again advocated creating a State Council to approve policy, on which the presidential administration, government, and parliament would all be represented. Constitutional amendments must be approved by two-thirds of the State Duma and three-fourths of the Federation Council before being sent to regional legislatures. Zyuganov's proposals could gain enough votes in the Duma but are unlikely to do so in the council. Meanwhile, Zyuganov predicted that the only big celebrations of Constitution Day in Russia would be on national television networks, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin DEFENSE COUNCIL MEETS. Russia's Defense Council on 11 December decided to increase the powers of the General Staff, granting it the authority to coordinate some two dozen federal agencies that employ uniformed servicemen, Russian media reported. But Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin said the change would take time to implement. Russian TV (RTR) reported that the council also discussed streamlining the number of service branches while reducing military manpower to 1.2 million by 2001. The new military doctrine under consideration also reportedly provides for the use of nuclear weapons if Russia faces an overwhelming conventional attack, a move Russian officials have linked to NATO plans for eastward expansion. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN SACKS SOME REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES. President Yeltsin fired his representatives in Kirov, Vologda, and Vladimir oblasts, ITAR-TASS reported 12 December. In Kirov and Vladimir, the firings were apparently connected to the recent gubernatorial elections in which the pro-Yeltsin incumbents did poorly. The presidential representative in Vladimir, Nikolai Yegorov, even competed unsuccessfully against the Yeltsin- appointed incumbent in the race there. In Vologda, however, Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev won his 6 October race with 80% of the vote. -- Robert Orttung MORE ON THE CHUBAIS, ILYUSHIN TAPE. Moskovskii komsomolets on 11 December published what it described as an expert analysis of the tape- recording on which its controversial 15 November article "Vote or..." was based. The transcript--of a conversation between Anatolii Chubais and Viktor Ilyushin--raised awkward questions about the financing of President Yeltsin's re-election campaign and the influence of the executive branch on the Procurator's Office. Both Chubais and Ilyushin have denied that the conversation took place. Moskovskii komsomolets reported that the U.S.-based Dinatronic Laboratory found that the tape had not been edited or tampered with and that the recording was probably made on a portable cassette recorder. The paper said it had turned to a U.S. company because it doubted the impartiality of the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI), which is examining the tape for the Procurator's Office, and predicted that the whole affair will be allowed to drop. -- Penny Morvant KILLED JOURNALISTS HONORED. Journalists gathered in Moscow on 11 December to honor colleagues who have been killed in the line of duty, Russian media reported. Union of Journalists Chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov noted that 135 journalists have been killed in the former Soviet Union over the last five years, 24 of them in Chechnya. So far in 1996, 22 reporters have been killed. A new insurance fund has been created to help Russian journalists who have been injured or who have worked in dangerous areas, such as the Chornobyl region, Bogdanov said. In addition, accredited journalists will be able to obtain insurance for free or at reduced rates. The fund will also pay $10,000 to families of journalists who have been killed, and the South Korean firm Samsung has already donated some money for 50 such families, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 December. -- Laura Belin RUSSIA, CHINA SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov and Chinese Central Military Council Deputy Chairman Liu Huaqing signed a military-technical cooperation agreement in Beijing on 11 December, Russian and Western agencies reported. While details of the accord were not released, Bolshakov said Russia is "determined to expand" military cooperation with China, according to AFP. The agency also reported that an accord allowing China to produce SU-27 fighters under license was finalized during Bolshakov's visit, and cited Valery Mikhailov, head of the Russian government's military industry department, as saying that future arms contracts with China will be worth "billions of dollars." Russian officials often cite increased military cooperation with China as a possible response to NATO enlargement. Bolshakov's delegation also discussed possible Russian participation in the Three Gorges hydroelectric project, and proposed oil and gas pipelines to run from Irkutsk through Mongolia and northern China. -- Scott Parrish EU CONCERNED ABOUT NEW TAXES ON RUSSIA'S BORDERS. The European Commission is extremely concerned about Russia's plans to impose taxes on individuals and vehicles entering or leaving its territory, commission spokesman Nico Wegter told Reuters on 11 December. The new law envisions fees aimed at helping to finance the border troops and also gives the service 25% of the value of any seized contraband (see OMRI Daily Digest on 10 December 1996). Citizens of CIS countries will be exempt from the fees when travelling to and from Russia. The law officially went into effect on 10 December, when it was published in the official Rossiiskaya gazeta. However, the government has yet to establish the procedure for collecting the fees. Wegter said the new measure violates the spirit of the EU's interim agreement with Russia. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski RUSSIA REGAINS MODERN SPY SATELLITE CAPABILITY. A Cyclone-2 booster launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome sent a Russian Kosmos-2335 photo intelligence satellite into orbit on 11 December, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The satellite will restore Russia's ability to acquire high- quality photo intelligence, which it has lacked since late September, when a similar satellite fell from orbit, while earlier attempts to replace it had failed. "Now we will be more comfortable," said a duty officer at the cosmodrome, explaining that Russia also has a number of older spy satellites, but they cannot produce high-quality photos or transmit them to the ground as quickly as the Kosmos-2335. -- Scott Parrish MINERS SUSPEND STRIKE. The presidium of the miners' union Rosugleprof decided on 11 December to suspend the national strike begun on 3 December, ITAR-TASS reported. A union spokesman quoted by the agency said that the government had met many of the miners' economic demands. He noted in particular the government's pledge to pay all the 1996 state subsidies to the industry by 27 December. Before leaving the Kuzbass, where he headed a government delegation looking into the crisis in the coal industry, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin said he would hold talks with World Bank representatives on the disbursal of the second 1.3 trillion ruble tranche of a $500 million loan to support the restructuring of the industry. The loan was counted in the 10 trillion rubles earmarked for the industry this year. -- Penny Morvant CORRUPTION LEAVES SERVICEMEN WITHOUT HOUSING. More than 110,000 army families are without apartments and many others require better housing, Main Military Procurator Valentin Panichev said on 11 December. He added that in the Interior Ministry's Internal Troops, one in four families-- and in the North Caucasus, one in two families--are without accommodation, ITAR-TASS reported. Another 132,500 families of ex- servicemen are without apartments, up from 27,800 five years ago. The situation will deteriorate further in 1997, when a reduction in the number of officers and NCOs is due to begin. Panichev said that money allocated for housing construction is often misused, noting that apartments for officers sometimes cost an unreasonable amount. He said his office is investigating several instances in which large sums were handed over to dubious construction companies. A number of senior officers have been implicated in housing scandals, but the cases have made little headway. -- Penny Morvant BUDGET PROSPECTS DISCUSSED. The Duma will reconvene on 15 December to discuss the draft 1997 budget, having postponed a vote on it on 6 December. If the budget is not signed into law by the beginning of the new year, spending will be limited to the average monthly outlays in 1996, according to Rossiiskaya gazeta on 11 December. Aleksei Golovkov, the deputy head of the Duma Budget Committee, said this would mean a sharp fall in spending in comparison with the 1997 draft. Industrial subsidies would be down 39%, social spending down 38%, and regional subsidies down 59%. Sergei Belyaev, head of the pro-government faction Our Home Is Russia, admitted that "Our faction is not very enthusiastic about the budget draft ... we believe that it should have been formulated on the basis of different principles," Rossiiskie vesti reported on 10 December. However, given that the government is unwilling to submit an inflationary budget, deputies may see little alternative to accepting the current draft. On 11 December, the controversial draft law on money laundering failed to pass the Duma (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 December 1996). -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TURKEY ABANDONS PLANS TO OPEN BORDER WITH ARMENIA. The Turkish Foreign Ministry on 11 December announced that Turkey will not open its border with Armenia unless the latter "takes steps" toward respecting Azerbaijan's sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh and provides for a withdrawal of Armenian forces from the "occupied Azerbaijani territories," international agencies reported. The ministry statement contradictsa an earlier announcement by Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller that the border will be opened soon (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 October 1996). The ministry might be reacting to Armenia's refusal to sign a document that mentioned Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan at the OSCE's recent summit in Lisbon. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in early 1992 after accusing it of "military aggression" against Azerbaijan. -- Emil Danielyan INDEPENDENT BROADCASTERS IN KAZAKSTAN COMPLAIN ABOUT RESTRICTIONS. Representatives of more than 80 independent television and radio stations in Kazakstan sent a letter of protest to President Nursultan Nazarbayev complaining of "abuses" against non-governmental stations, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 December. The letter specifically pointed to the shut down of the radio and broadcasting company "M" and the radio station Totem, both still off the air, as well as other stations banned for several days at the beginning of November. The pro-government Kazak TV on 9 December, in a broadcast monitored by the BBC, attributed the independent stations' displeasure to their unwillingness to broadcast in the state language, Kazak. -- Bruce Pannier GRIM SITUATION FOR KYRGYZ ORPHANS. Children in Kyrgyz orphanages are mostly handicapped, live in buildings with little or no electricity and where hygienic conditions are appalling, and they receive minimum attention from staff, according to Reuters on 12 December. They are not given toys because, as one worker said, "they would just break them." Tatyana Rupyova, a nurse at one of the orphanages who is paid $15 a month, explained "we don't have medicine, clothes, or vitamins to give them." The Kyrgyz economy is in crisis and many families with handicapped children cannot afford to take care of them, and often give them up to one of the country's four orphanages. Orphanage Director Maksim Yelizanov said when they die at the orphanages "the parents don't even come to bury their children." A Norwegian worker with the Save the Children agency in Kyrgyzstan said the situation is "worse than in Romania." -- Bruce Pannier NEW AGREEMENT ON TAJIK CEASEFIRE. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri agreed to a ceasefire on 11 December during their meeting in northern Afghanistan, according to Russian and Western press. The ceasefire was due to come into effect at midnight the same day and the two leaders will formally sign it at a 19 December meeting in Moscow. However, government forces were reportedly launching an assault on Garm on 11 December in an attempt to free a special forces unit trapped in the town. NTV reported that the opposition had suffered heavy losses in the battle. In the Tajik capital Dushanbe, two bombs went off on 12 December killing one person and injuring another. One of the bombs exploded outside the Tajik Parliament, the other near the Pakistani Embassy. -- Bruce Pannier CORRECTION: The item in the OMRI Daily Digest of 11 December 1996 (No. 238), titled "19 Former OPON Members Arrested in Azerbaijan," should have said that Yagub Mamedov is the former Azerbaijani parliament speaker. [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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