|If you're sure you understand everthing that is going on, you're hopelessly confused. - Walter Mondale|
No. 245, Part I, 20 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 *************************************************************************** NOTE TO DAILY DIGEST SUBSCRIBERS: The OMRI Daily Digest will not be published the week of December 23-27, 1996. It will return on Monday, December 30, 1996. *************************************************************************** RUSSIA SVR: SPY SCANDALS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. Col.-Gen. Vyacheslav Trubnikov, head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), complained to ITAR-TASS on 19 December that the widely publicized arrests of FBI agent Earl Pitts and CIA officer Harold Nicholson (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 December 1996) are part of a propaganda campaign to "kindle anti-Russian sentiments." He blamed the campaign on "various forces abroad," which object to Russia's "more resolute" pursuit of its "national interests." Trubnikov refused to comment on whether Pitts worked for the SVR but argued with obvious annoyance that his agency could easily stage similar spy scandals but chose not to dramatize the "axiom" that all states conduct intelligence operations. Meanwhile, in Washington, FBI Director Louis Freeh told a Senate committee that Russian spying, especially a recent increase in economic espionage, remains a "serious problem" for his agency. -- Scott Parrish DUMA GEOPOLITICS COMMITTEE MARKS BREZHNEV ANNIVERSARY. In what ITAR-TASS described as an "atmosphere of nostalgia," a session of the Duma Geopolitics Committee examined the foreign policy of Leonid Brezhnev on 19 December, the 90th anniversary of the former Soviet leader's birth. Committee chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party) described Brezhnev's foreign policy as "realistic" and suggested that "old experience could and should be applied at present." Anatolii Gromyko, son of the longtime Soviet foreign minister, pointed out that Brezhnev's foreign policy was based on mutually incompatible premises but argued that the USSR was able to maintain its "geopolitical space" until 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev took power. Brezhnev's foreign policy, which blended attempts at detente with an across-the-board military build-up, adventurism in Africa, and the invasion of Afghanistan, had plunged the USSR into deep international isolation by the time he died in 1982. -- Scott Parrish COMMUNIST PRESS CALLS FOR TOUGHER OPPOSITION STRATEGY. The opposition press is calling on Communist Party (KPRF) leaders to adopt a less compromising posture and be less afraid that President Boris Yeltsin might dissolve the State Duma. The 20 December Pravda-5 argued that public trust in the opposition would grow if the Duma risked sacrificing itself on a matter of principle: "It is impossible to attain the title of defender of the people's interests by constantly striving to preserve your deputy's chairs at all costs." Likewise, a special 20-27 December edition of Pravda argued that if the government ignores the 11 conditions set by KPRF leaders for further support of the 1997 budget (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 December 1996), the party should make good on its threat to organize massive protests and vote no confidence in the government. ('s editors have managed to publish several editions irregularly since the paper was shut down in July.) -- Laura Belin FORBES PROFILE. Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii said an article published in the 30 December edition of the U.S. magazine Forbes was filled with "fabrications, garbled facts, and direct lies," ITAR-TASS reported on 19 December. The article alleges that Berezovskii became a billionaire through criminal means and suggests that he might have been involved in the March 1995 assassination of TV journalist Vladislav Listev and could perhaps be described as "the godfather of Russia's godfathers." Berezovskii charged that Forbes had fallen victim to a "disinformation campaign" and had become "a mouthpiece for communist propaganda." The opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya published the article in Russian before it appeared in Forbes, which NTV said "attests to clear coordination between the two publications." Meanwhile, Berezovskii was voted Patron of the Year by the Society for Supporting Science and Education; his donation of $1.3 million financed conference trips abroad for1,500 Russian scientists in 1996. -- Laura Belin ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO CENTRALIZE REGIONAL POLICY. A new commission has been created under First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin to oversee the allocation of federal funds to the regions, Segodnya reported on 19 December. Government decree no. 1450 grants the commission broad powers to coordinate all federal economic policies that affect the regions. The commission will be located in the Economics Ministry, and Deputy Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants will be its deputy chairman. The newspaper noted that the proliferation of new agencies reflects power struggles within the government. -- Peter Rutland MAYORAL CANDIDATE ATTEMPS TO SEIZE CITY OFFICES IN CHELYABINSK OBLAST. Three days before a mayoral election in Zlatoust (Chelyabinsk Oblast), candidate Aleksandr Morozov and about 100 supporters occupied several offices in the city administration building, Russian media reported on 19 December. An eyewitness said Morozov, accompanied by young men in black coats and yellow armbands, entered the office of incumbent mayor Vasilii Maltsev and announced, "Power has changed hands." Meanwhile, more supporters and an orchestra playing "triumphal marches" gathered outside the building. Interior Ministry troops and riot police were brought in to negotiate, and Morozov and his supporters eventually surrendered peacefully. (ITAR-TASS reported that the band continued to play after Morozov's men had left the building.) The Zlatoust Procurator's Office has opened a criminal investigation into the bizarre incident, and Maltsev promised to tighten security at polling stations for the 22 December vote. -- Laura Belin CHECHEN LEADERSHIP DENIES ABDUCTION OF NORTH OSSETIYAN DELEGATION. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov on 19 December denied Russian media reports that Chechen militants were responsible for the abduction of a delegation of North Ossetiyan and North Caucasian officials, for whom a $6 million ransom has been demanded, AFP reported. Udugov also told journalists that the Chechen Interior Ministry is on the track of the killers of the six Red Cross volunteers and six Russian civilians slain in Grozny earlier this week. He implicated Russian security forces in the murders, which he said were intended to undermine international support for Chechnya, Reuters and AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller MOSCOW ON CHECHEN ELECTIONS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told journalists in Kazan on 19 December that the Russian leadership considers the Chechen parliamentary and presidential elections "essential to the Chechen people" and hopes that they will be "democratic and legitimate," ITAR-TASS reported. In Moscow, however, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev argued in favor of postponing the elections, which are scheduled for 27 January. Meanwhile, Ekho Moskvy claimed on 19 December that the Ukrainian Academy of Military Sciences has asked Chechen field commander and presidential candidate Shamil Basaev to deliver a course of lectures on the subject of waging a guerilla war in current conditions. Basaev reportedly accepted the offer and declined the fee. -- Liz Fuller TATARSTAN OPENS CHEVROLET PLANT. Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and several other ministers on 19 December attended the ceremonial opening of the Yelabuga factory, which will assemble Chevrolet Blazers, RTR and ITAR-TASS reported. The plant plans to assemble 50,000 cars per year from imported components, eventually rising to 300,000. They will sell at $23,000 each. The plant will produce not the North American jeep but the more basic model that GM sells in Brazil. General Motors owns 50% of the shares in the venture; the Russian and Tatarstan governments 25% each. This is the first foreign venture in the auto industry to start production since Soviet times. -- Peter Rutland NEW QUASI-MONEY IN YEKATERINBURG. Sverdlovsk Oblast began on 18 December to issue new quasi-money to the local population, Radio Rossii reported. The bills have a water-mark and carry a picture of local Tsarst-era industrialist Nikolai Demidov. Local governor Eduard Rossel told ITAR- TASS on 7 December that he had won Central Bank approval for the scheme. Details are unclear, but it appears that the notes will be given to welfare recipients and will be issued to an amount equal to the taxes that local firms pay in barter goods. Rossel has thus backed off from the idea of issuing a full parallel currency, the so-called "Urals francs." -- Peter Rutland CORRUPTION IN THE DIAMOND INDUSTRY. Komsomolskaya pravda argued on 19 December that the main reasons for the recent reorganization of the precious metals sector was unprecedented theft and smuggling in the diamond industry. President Yeltsin issued a decree in August disbanding the State Committee on Precious Metal and Gems, and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin recently appointed Deputy Finance Minister German Kuznetsov to head the replacement State Fund of Precious Metals and Gems. The paper said that a recent audit discovered that $300 million worth of diamonds had been exported illegally in 1994 and $500 million in 1995, severely damaging the domestic diamond cutting industry. Yevgenii Bychkov, former head of the Committee on Precious Metals and Gems, was fired in February amid allegations of corruption. -- Penny Morvant BANKS CONTRIBUTING LESS. Banks are contributing less to the federal budget than in previous years, according to Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits. A study by the government's Working Centre for Economic Reforms found that while banks account for 14% of GDP, they provide only 4% of total tax revenue, Segodnya reported on 19 December. Livshits said that the government may have to change the tax mechanism for banks by replacing the tax on profit with a tax on banks' assets or liabilities. Meanwhile, reported on 19 December that the city of Moscow alone accounts for 27% of federal budget revenue. -- Natalia Gurushina SPACE AGENCY ASKS FOR MORE MONEY. Russian Space Agency head Yurii Koptev told the Duma on 18 December that the government should increase spending on the space industry in the 1997 budget by 1.8 trillion rubles to 5.1 trillion rubles ($920 million), ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. Koptev warned that without additional funds the agency will not be able to continue work with the U.S. on the Alfa space station. He noted that 50% of Russia's satellites are outdated and that the stock of rockets is virtually exhausted. Funds from Western companies and agencies accounted for 40% of the industry's funding in 1996, and the industry expects to receive $600 million from such sources in 1997. The space industry was allocated 3 trillion rubles in the 1996 budget, but only 2.4 trillion were released. As a result, Russia was able to carry out only 11 of 27 scheduled space lauches in 1996. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA LATEST ISSUE OF OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CONFISCATED IN ARMENIA. The 18 December issue of Ayzhm, the newspaper of the opposition National Democratic Union, has been confiscated by the Haymamul state-run distributing agency, Groong reported on 18 December citing Asbarez-on- line. Ayzhm's latest issue contained an article critical of Haymamul's activities. The agency, which has a monopoly over newspaper distribution, has been repeatedly slammed by Armenian journalists for its allegedly inefficient work, including delays in paying periodicals for copies sold. Some journalists claim that the agency is used by the authorities as an instrument of control over the media. -- Emil Danielyan TURKMENISTAN SUSPENDS GAS SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA. Turkmenistan has suspended natural gas supplies to Armenia because of the latter's $15 million debt for 1996, Noyan Tapan and AFP reported on 19 December. Armenian Energy Minister Gagik Martirosyan said that Armenia's energy sector now has debts of $75 million as a result of nonpayments by enterprises, government agencies, and individuals. He added that Armenian officials are currently negotiating with the Turkmen side and suggested that gas supplies may soon resume. -- Emil Danielyan IMF SUSPENDS LOAN TO UZBEKISTAN. The International Monetary Fund on 19 December suspended a $185 million standby loan to Uzbekistan, Reuters reported. Further disbursements have been postponed because Uzbekistan failed to meet the fund's inflation targets, according to Mark O'Brien, the IMF's resident representative in Tashkent. Uzbekistan's target for 1996 was 25%, but inflation is estimated to have exceeded 40%. Another factor was the introduction of draconian foreign exchange controls in October. Further payments have been condtioned on a "very tight financial policy...combined with a full liberalization of access to foreign exchange." -- Lowell Bezanis HIGH PRICES FOR KAZAKSTANI BROADCAST FREQUENCIES. Information obtained by Internews in Moscow suggests that prices at a planned auction for broadcast frequencies in Kazakstan will prove prohibitively high for independent stations. A decree signed by Deputy Prime Minister Imangali Tasmagimbetov on 12 December lists annual fees and auction starting prices for radio and television frequencies. Bidding for radio frequencies with the weakest signals (FM 100-1,000W) will begin at $30,857; radio stations will also have to pay an annual fee of $6,171. The highest starting price--$114,285--is for UHF television frequencies (100-1,000W). Companies will also have to pay an annual fee of $11,428. Discounts will be available for stations broadcasting outside Almaty and Akmola. Frequency licenses cost $500, and only Kazakstani companies can apply. Such high costs are likely to force most independent stations off the air. -- Bruce Pannier ONE MAN'S SOLUTION TO WAGE ARREARS IN KAZAKSTAN. Kazhmurad Nagmanov, the head (akim) of the eastern Kazakstan region, is encouraging heads of local factories to sell their cars in order to pay their workers, Reuters reported citing an article in the 20 December Kazakstani daily Karavan Blitz. Unpaid wages have become a chronic problem in Kazakstan, triggering several demonstrations to protest living conditions. According to Karavan Blitz, there was no indication that "the directors were rushing to take the akim's advice." -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Penny Morvant ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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