|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 241, Part I, 16 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 DUMA APPROVES 1997 BUDGET. The Duma voted by 263 to 111 on 15 December to approve on first reading the draft budget for 1997, Russian media reported. The Communists and their allies voted in favor, Yabloko and sundry democrats and nationalists against. The second and third readings will be on 25 December. Earlier this month, the Duma twice rejected the budget, prompting the government to increase planned spending by 34.8 trillion rubles ($6 billion) and introduce a parallel "development budget" of tax breaks to stimulate investment. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin accepted most of the Communists' 11 demands, pertaining to timely payment of wages and pensions and spending increases, but rejected their demand to dismiss Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. The budget projects 11.8% inflation, 2% GDP growth, spending of 530 trillion rubles, and revenue of 434 trillion. The government claims that the deficit of 96 trillion is equal to 3.5% of GDP and thus within the IMF limit. -- Peter Rutland COMMUNIST BALANCING ACT ON BUDGET VOTE. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) held a closed plenum of its Central Committee on 14 December to discuss party strategy, in particular how to vote for the 1997 budget while saving face as a credible opposition. In his 15 December parliamentary address, KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov emphasized that if the government did not meet his party's 11 conditions, Communists "reserve the right to vote against the budget in later readings and raise a vote of no-confidence in the government," and might organize "acts of civil disobedience and protest" across Russia, NTV reported. Meanwhile, in endorsing the budget, Economics Committee Chairman and KPRF member Yurii Maslyukov said it was time for Communists to "change our style" and avoid confrontation, Reuters reported. -- Laura Belin YAVLINSKII REMAINS FIRM. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii called for the rejection of the government's budget on 15 December. He argued that the 1997 draft, "continues the same policy, does not change anything, and deepens the crises" related to internal and external debt. In an article published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 15 December, Yavlinskii called for rejecting a "budget of crisis and debt" in favor of a "budget of reform and development," which he argued would promote growth. Other deputies who had earlier opposed the budget, gave it their reluctant support. Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov, for example, said that the Duma should "pass this disgusting budget with one aim in mind - to maintain stability in society." -- Laura Belin NIKITIN RELEASED. Retired naval captain Aleksandr Nikitin was released from custody on 14 December, although the case against him is continuing. Nikitin was arrested on 6 February on suspicion of treason and espionage for his part in a report by the Norwegian-based environmental group Bellona on radioactive contamination of the Kola Peninsula. He was released on his own recognizance at the request of the Procurator's General's Office for procedural reasons, according to ITAR- TASS. His lawyer described the decision as a historic victory for human rights, arguing: "This is the first case in the history of Soviet- Russian state security that social pressure has succeeded in forcing the Federal Security Service to observe the laws and stop its trampling of human rights," Reuters reported. Nikitin was repeatedly denied bail and not charged until the fall. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience, the first in Russia since the collapse of the USSR. -- Penny Morvant ANOTHER RADUEV HOSTAGE-TAKING. A detachment of Chechen militants under field commander Salman Raduev attacked a Russian control post on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan on 14 December and abducted 22 Russian Interior Ministry troops in protest at having been refused permission to enter Dagestan, Russian and Western agencies reported. Raduev subsequently demanded an official apology from the Dagestani authorities, who dispatched Dagestan Security Council secretary Magomet Tolboev to negotiate the hostages' release. NTV quoted Raduev as saying the hostage-taking was to protest the proposed Chechen presidential elections on 27 January, which he claims are illegal as Dzhokhar Dudaev, believed killed by a Russian missile in April, is still alive. Interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov and his deputy Movladi Udugov condemned the attack as a provocation. Col.-Gen. Anatolii Shkirko, commander of Russia's Internal Troops in Chechnya, warned it could delay the planned withdrawal of the remaining Russian troops in Chechnya. Negotiations continue for the release of the hostages. -- Liz Fuller DUMA ACTS AGAINST REGIONAL SEPARATISM. The Duma approved on 11 December in the second reading a bill designed to stop Russia's autonomous okrugs from seceding from the krais or oblasts to which they are subordinate, Kommersant-Daily reported on 15 December. The bill declares that all resources in the okrugs belong to the krai or oblast and that the okrugs must hold elections for the oblast or krai governor. The wealthy Khanty- Mansi, Yamal-Nenets, Nenets, and Taimyr (Dolgan-Nenets) autonomous okrugs want greater independence in order to gain more control over the income generated from the resources on their territory. The Duma is moving quickly in order to try to preserve the integrity of Tyumen Oblast, where gubernatorial elections are set for 22 December. Khanty- Mansi and Yamal-Nenets are working to prevent the elections from being valid on their territory. -- Robert Orttung NENETS INCUMBENT LOSES REELECTION. The incumbent governor of Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Vladimir Khabarov, was defeated in the 13 December gubernatorial run-off. Khabarov, who was supported by the presidential administration and the opposition, received about 39% of the vote, 10% less than his rival Vladimir Butov, a businessman and member of the okrug's legislature. In the first round on 1 December, Butov finished second with 18% fewer votes than the incumbent governor but managed to double his support between the rounds. Kommersant-Daily described Butov as a "capitalist shark" who promised the voters high salaries and pensions. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow DUMA PROTESTS ASTRAKHAN VOTE. Several Duma members who acted as observers during the 8 December gubernatorial elections in Astrakhan claimed that the incumbent governor, Anatolii Guzhvin, violated constitutional provisions for fair elections, Kommersant-Daily reported on 16 December. Following their testimony, the Duma asked Yeltsin to suspend Guzhvin while the charges are investigated. Guzhvin won 52% of the vote, while his opponent from the pro-Communist Popular Power Duma faction received 40%. The Communists have also protested the gubernatorial results in Rostov, where the incumbent won by a landslide, while the administration managed to overturn the results in Amur after the Communist challenger apparently defeated the incumbent by a margin of 189 votes. -- Robert Orttung MUSLIM ORGANIZATIONS TO CREATE COORDINATING COUNCIL. Duma deputy Ramazan Abdulatipov on 15 December announced plans to set up a Coordinating Council of Russia's Muslim organizations. He said that the council will coordinate the activities of about two dozen Russian Muslim organisations and seek to defend the rights of Russia's Muslims in cooperation with the authorities, Kommersant-Daily reported on 16 December. Abdulatipov, a former deputy chairman of the upper house of the parliament, will head the new council. He opposed a plan by the Union of Muslims to organize a Muslim group in the Duma (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 December 1996). -- Nikolai Iakoubovski RUSSIA HAILS NEW UN SECRETARY-GENERAL. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov welcomed the UN Security Council's 13 December nomination of Kofi Annan as the next secretary-general of the organization, terming him a "flexible and skilled leader," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 December. The Security Council unanimously approved Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat currently serving as UN undersecretary- general for peacekeeping, after France withdrew its objections to his candidacy. He now faces a confirmation vote in the General Assembly on 17 December. Tarasov expressed hope that Annan would "make an active contribution to the rebuilding of the UN" and help it adapt "to the needs of the emerging multipolar world." -- Scott Parrish MOSCOW PIQUED OVER CHECHEN OFFICE IN WARSAW. Although Polish officials have assured Moscow that the Chechen Information Center in Warsaw has no official status, the Russian Foreign Ministry is still unhappy with Warsaw's actions, Izvestiya reported on 15 December. An anonmyous Russian diplomat described the ceremonial opening of the center on 13 December, which reportedly included the raising of the Chechen flag and was attended by Polish parliamentarians, as "unacceptable," calling it interference in Russian internal affairs. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov told NTV that any attempt to transform the office into a "pseudo-embassy" would have "the most negative consequences" for Russian-Polish relations. Chechen Foreign Minister Ruslan Chimaev told Izvestiya , however, that Chechnya's only offical foreign mission is in Moscow, adding that Chechnya cannot recieve international recognition until it resolves its relationship with Russia. -- Scott Parrish MARS PROBE UPDATE. Chilean Deputy Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez said on 13 December that the failed Russian Mars-96 probe, reported to have fallen into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile on 17 November, actually fell in Bolivia near the Chilean border, Reuters reported. Despite assurances by Russian officials, Chilean and Bolivian officials have expressed worry about possible radioactive contamination resulting from the 200 grams of plutonium the probe carried as part of its power supplies, and Santiago accused Moscow of being "tremendously unwilling" to share technical information about the probe. A spokesman for the Lavochkin design bureau, which worked on the probe, refuted the Chilean report on 14 December, telling ITAR-TASS that it had indeed fallen in the ocean without causing any damage. -- Scott Parrish WAGE ARREARS MOUNT. The total wage debt in Russia equaled 46.6 trillion rubles on 25 November, up 3.5 trillion from 28 October, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 December citing the State Statistics Committee. Organizations and enterprises funded directly by the state accounted for 8.58 trillion of the total. Mounting wage arrears are continuing to trigger strikes and other forms of protest. AFP on 16 December quoted Vitalii Budko, chairman of the Coal Industry Workers' Union, as saying that the government was failing to keep to the timetable agreed for the payment of subsidies to the industry and that another strike may be called. Miners in Rostov, who refused to abide by a union decision to end a 10-day national miners' strike on 12 December, held protest rallies in Shakhty and Novoshakhtinsk on 15 December. -- Penny Morvant IMF RESUMES LOANS. The IMF executive board approved on 13 December the disbursement of the eighth (October) $336 million tranche of the $10.1 billion Extended Fund Facility loan it granted Russia in March, ITAR- TASS and AFP reported on 14 December. The decision was made on the basis of improvements in tax collection, which totaled 20.1 trillion rubles ($3.8 billion) in November (up from 14.6 trillion in October), of which 87% was actual cash, rather than tax credits. However, Kommersant-Daily on 15 December reported that the IMF executive board criticized the Russian government for their inability to pay pensions on time and for their failure to liberalize energy prices, which are still distorted. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN SIGNS ANOTHER OIL CONTRACT. Representatives of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR signed on 14 December a $2 billion 25-year contract with a consortium of U.S., Japanese, and Saudi Arabian companies to develop the Dan Ulduzu and Ashrafi Caspian shelf deposits, Russian and Western agencies reported. The deposits are estimated to contain 150 million metric tons of oil and up to 50 billion cubic meters of gas. SOCAR will have a 20% stake in the project, Amoco 30%, Unocal 25.5%, Itochu 20%, and Saudi Arabia's Delta 4.5%. Russia's LUKoil is not a direct participant in the consortium but could acquire an interest, since SOCAR plans to link the development of Dan Ulduzu and Ashrafi with that of the nearby Karabakh deposit, according to AFP of 14 December quoting Interfax. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIAN NAVAL COMMANDER REJECTS RATIONALE FOR SACKING. Rear Admiral Aleksandr Djavakhishvili, former commander of the Georgian navy, has rejected criticism from Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze that he failed to eradicate financial irregularites and raise the combat efficiency of the service, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. Djavakhishvili was dismised from his post last week by Nadibaidze. The two men have very different views on the optimum size of the navy, whether Georgia should persist with its claim to part of the Black Sea Fleet, and military cooperation with Ukraine, according to Segodnya of 5 December. A member of the opposition National Democrats faction within the Georgian parliament, Beso Djugeli, has demanded Nadibaidze's impeachment on the grounds that he has allegedly ruined the country's entire military-industrial complex, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 15 December. -- Liz Fuller CEASE-FIRE TAKING HOLD IN TAJIKISTAN. The cease-fire agreement signed at the conclusion of a 10-11 December meeting between Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri appears to be reducing fighting in central Tajikistan, according to international sources. This latest agreement seemed doomed when less than 24 hours after its signing two bombs went off in the Tajik capital and fighting was reported in Garm. Four government soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in the town on 13 December. However, by 15 December only sporadic gunfire was reported near Garm, although a special unit of government troops remains surrounded. AFP reported that a special meeting was held on 13 December in Dushanbe attended by representatives of the government, opposition, and UN special envoy Gerd Merrem to prevent the cease-fire agreement from falling apart. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Penny Morvant ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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