|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 2, Part I, 3 January 1997
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 NEW CRIMINAL CODE GOES INTO EFFECT. A new criminal code came into force on 1 January 1997 after President Yeltsin signed the corresponding law on 27 December 1996, Russian media reported. The new code replaced the RSFSR's criminal code of 1960. Although it retains capital punishment and increases the maximum sentence for banditry and murder from 15 to 20 years, it significantly reduces the number of crimes punishable by death and reduces sentences for non-violent crimes. The code also includes almost 100 new articles. Convicts serving time for offenses no longer considered criminal may be eligible for early release, Radio Rossii reported on 27 December, citing the presidential press service. On 25 December, the Federation Council approved Russia's new Criminal Correctional Code, which will come into effect on 1 July 1997 if signed by Yeltsin. Meanwhile, Yeltsin signed the law on the judicial system, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 December (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 December). * Nikolai Iakoubovski FAPSI CONTROLS GOVERNMENT, COMMERCIAL NETWORKS. In a 24 December interview with Krasnya zvezda marking the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI), the agency's chief of staff, Maj.-Gen. Ivan Shepotkov, said FAPSI's main purpose is to provide a "reliable" and "independent" communications network for the Russian president. He said the experience of the August 1991 coup, when the KGB cut off communications links to then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, showed the need for an independent communications agency. He also said FAPSI protects government secrets from the "information war" which Western countries are waging against Russia. Emphasizing the importance of economic secrets, he added that FAPSI runs and is developing secure networks over which electronic commercial, financial, and banking transactions in Russia are conducted, and angrily denied suggestions that the agency might eavesdrop on confidential business transactions. * Scott Parrish WHAT SOME JOURNALISTS WERE AFRAID TO WRITE IN 1996. The year-end issue of the weekly newspaper Kommersant asked 16 journalists what they had been afraid to write in 1996. One Kommersant reporter was afraid colleagues would accuse him of taking bribes, another mentioned that he was afraid of provoking libel suits, and a third had feared for his physical safety after writing one article about business dealings, adding that to protect himself he shaved off his beard and did not answer the phone for a week. Aleksandr Loktev, chief editor of Kommersant-Daily, said, "Most of all we were afraid that we would have to write, '[Communist Party leader Gennadii] Zyuganov became president of Russia.'" Kseniya Makhnenko, chief editor of the glossy magazine Domovoi, said her magazine did not publish a feature about presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, because "there are too many emotions surrounding his personality, and our magazine tries to avoid openly scandalous subjects." Nataliya Gevorkyan of Kommersant said she had been tempted to criticize fellow journalists for engaging in what she called "brainwashing" but decided to adhere to the principle, "don't touch your own." * Laura Belin MASKHADOV STEPS DOWN. On 2 January, Aslan Maskhadov stepped down as Chechen prime minister in order to run in the 27 January presidential race, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. He will be temporarily replaced by Ruslan Gelaev, a former field commander. President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev will continue serving in office until the election results are known. Also on 2 January, 16 candidates were formally registered for the presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported, citing the press secretary of the Chechen Central Election Commission, Shaaman Akbulatov. * Peter Rutland NEW YORK MAYOR DEMANDS RECALL OF RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has sent letters to the Russian and Belarusian UN missions demanding that two diplomats involved in a recent altercation with New York police be sent home, Reuters reported on 2 January. Rejecting Russian demands for an apology over the incident (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 January 1997), Giuliani said he is "very proud of what the police officers did," adding that they "did their job trying to stop drunk people from driving." The incident began when police officers attempted to ticket the diplomats for illegal parking. Giuliani said that in the first six months of 1996, 122 vehicles registered with the Russian UN mission received 14,437 traffic citations. Under the 1961 Treaty of Vienna, foreign diplomats are obligated to observe U.S. law but have diplomatic immunity from prosecution * Scott Parrish MORE INTERIOR MINISTRY TROOPS TO PATROL MOSCOW STREETS. The head of the Moscow branch of Interior Ministry troops, Lt.-Gen. Arkadii Baskaev, told ITAR-TASS on 3 January that 10,000 additional Interior Ministry troops will patrol the streets of the capital in 1997. Baskaev claimed that in other Russian cities where the presence of such troops has increased, the crime rate decreased by 22% last year, but he did not cite any specific examples. In 1996, approximately 4,000 Interior Ministry troops patrolled the streets of Moscow every day. * Laura Belin DRUG-RELATED CRIMES UP IN MOSCOW IN 1996. Although the overall crime rate in Moscow dropped in 1996, the number of registered drug-related crimes increased to 4,600, up from 3,000 in 1995, Reuters reported on 2 January, citing figures released by the Moscow branch of the Interior Ministry. Drug-related crimes have increased sharply in Russia in recent years, as the country has become an important transit point for traffickers bringing drugs from Central Asia to Europe. In all, there were about 87,600 registered crimes in Moscow in 1996, compared with 92,600 the previous year. * Laura Belin ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT UPDATE. In recent months, Afghans have become the largest group of illegal migrants to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 January, citing Yurii Arkhipov of the Federal Migration Service (FMS). Arkhipov estimated that 150,000 illegal Afghan migrants live in the Moscow area. Like many Russian officials who blame illegal immigrants for crime, Arkhipov complained that Afghan migrants bring their political disputes with them to Russia, often sparking violent conflicts. Overall, he estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million illegal migrants from some 52 countries are currently on Russian territory, many hoping to move on to Western Europe. Arkhipov predicted that illegal immigration would increase in 1997 but said recently passed legislation on refugees would help the FMS deal with the situation. * Scott Parrish POPULATION DECLINE CONTINUES. Between January and December of 1996, Russia's total population declined by 430,000, to reach 147.5 million at the end of the year, AFP reported on 2 January, citing data released by the State Statistics Committee. The natural decrease of the population, the difference between the number of deaths and births, was even greater (661,600), but the net inflow of migrants partially offset the population loss. Although the death rate fell from 15.0 to 14.4 per 1,000 in the course of the year, it continued to exceed the birth rate, which also dropped from 9.5 to 9.0 per 1,000. The birthrate is even lower in St. Petersburg and Moscow: 6.7 and 7.2 per 1,000, respectively. The State Statistics Committee predicted in 1995 that the Russian population would decrease by 5.1 million by the year 2005. * Nikolai Iakoubovski DE BEERS DIAMOND CONTRACT LAPSES. . . De Beers has announced that from 1 January 1997 it will no longer adhere to its previous arrangement for handling Russian diamonds, international media reported. The contract between De Beers and the Russian government, which gave the former the right to sell 95% of Russian diamonds, lapsed in December 1995. In 1995, Russia accounted for about $1.1 billion, or 26%, of De Beer's global sales. Through 1996, De Beers continued to adhere to the old arrangement, and in February 1996 they negotiated a new three-year contract, under which Russia would sell 87.5% of its diamonds through De Beers. The new deal included letting the pick of $650 million worth of stones go to Russia's own cutting industry. However, in 1996 Russian producers began independently selling large amounts of diamonds on the world market, perhaps as much as $500 million worth. In June, the Australian firm, Argyle-a small-stone producer like Russia-quit the cartel, so De Beers cut prices for small stones, causing the market to collapse, the Independent reported on 29 December. * Peter Rutland . . . ALMAZY ROSSII-SAKHA ARGUES IN FAVOR OF DE BEERS CONTRACT. Vyacheslav Shtyrov, the head of Almazy Rossii-Sakha (ARS), Russia's main diamond producer, has argued in favor of signing the De Beers contract, but he has reportedly been blocked by government officials who want Moscow to reap more benefits from the diamond trade. In what may be an unrelated incident, on 30 December Lev Safronov, the vice-president of ARS, was beaten on a Moscow street by two assailants. Earlier that day, he was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying that a deal with De Beers would be signed soon. * Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ON 1996. In his New Year's Day address, Heidar Aliev described 1996 as a year of peace and stability, RFE/RL reported on 1 January. He highlighted the effectiveness of the1993 Nagorno- Karabakh ceasefire and termed the OSCE Lisbon summmit last month as very important to the conflict's ultimate resolution. He said the country has survived "attempts mounted by internal and foreign forces" to destabilize it and said much work had been accomplished in building a democratic, secular, and law-abiding state. Aliev said the economy grew for the first time since the collapse of the USSR (albeit by only 1.2%), the decline in the rate of production slowed, and agricultural output rose by 3%. He also noted that monthly inflation was less than 1% and foreign investments doubled last year. * Lowell Bezanis TURKISH PRESIDENT TO FURTHER SUPPORT AZERBAIJAN. In a televised New Year's Day interview, Suleyman Demirel said Turkey will stand behind its "brother," Azerbaijan, at all future international negotiations, Asbarez-on-line reported on 2 January, citing Cumhuriyet and Turkiye. Demirel claimed that Azerbaijan occupies an "extremely important and exclusive place" in Turkey's foreign policy. Demirel excluded the possibility of "forcible" border changes in the disputed Nagorno- Karabakh region. Demirel praised President Heidar Aliev for managing to "achieve internal stability" and stop the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. * Emil Danielyan MANUKYAN ON 1996, NEED FOR NATIONAL FRONT. The leader of Armenia's opposition National Democratic Union, Vazgen Manukyan, said the "Armenian state" failed a crucial test last year, pointing to what he termed the undemocratic presidential elections which took place last September. According to a 30 December Interfax report monitored by the BBC, Manukyan harshly criticized the governemnt's social and economic policy while applauding the high political activity of the Armenian population. He said he is willing to maintain a dialogue with the authorities only to discuss new presidential elections and a new constitution; he also called for the establishment of a "national front" of "political parties and various public forces" to effect change. * Lowell Bezanis TURKMENBASI TO CONTINUE ECONOMIC REFORMS IN 1997. In his New Year's Day address, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov said he his pleased with the accomplishments of 1996, RFE/RL reported on 1 January. He argued that Turkmenistan's ties with neighboring countries have been consolidated. While acknowledging that Turkmenistan's agricultural output was below the desired level (the cotton and grain harvests were disastrous in 1996), he said living standards were starting to improve. Niyazov vowed to press on with economic reform and pledged to invest more than 2 trillion manats (about $400 million) in social programs. * Lowell Bezanis GEORGE SOROS NAMED "MAN OF THE YEAR" IN KYRGYZSTAN. The Rukhaniyat organization of Kyrgyzstan has awarded its 1996 Man of the Year award to philanthropist George Soros, RFE/RL reported on 2 January. In 1996, Soros donated more than $4 million to fund programs helping educational and cultural programs in Kyrgyzstan. The award's previous winners are Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Uzbek President Islam Karimov, and the head of the UNDP office in Kyrgyzstan, Erjan Murat. * Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov NEW MUFTI FOR KYRGYZSTAN. The controversial Muslim Congress held in Bishkek on 26 December elected Absatar-Agy Majitov as the head mufti of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported. Majitov replaces Kimsanbai-Agi Abdurakhmanov, who did not take part in the congress, claiming the schedule agreed to in 1993 stated the congress would meet every four years. Abdurakhmanov, however, has been accused of corruption, a possible reason for convening the congress early. The new mufti named his four top deputies,. representing four different ethnic groups, on 2 January. They are: Abdylda Aslankulov-Kyrgyz, Lukmar Agi-Dungan, Abdymajit Kary-Uyghur, and Rakhmatulla Kary-Uzbek. * Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov NEW RULE ON RAISING PRICES IN KAZAKSTAN. The chairman of Kazakstan's Anti-Monopoly Committee, Nikolai Radostovets, announced on 1 January that the country's businesses will only be allowed to raise their prices on a quarterly basis, RFE/RL reported. Prices for heating and electricity will remain at 1996 rates and in some areas will be reduced. He also said that the cost of cargo transportation services is expected to rise in 1997. * Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan TERRORISM IN TAJIK CAPITAL. The ceasefire agreed to by Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri in Moscow on 23 December appears to be holding, although the number of terrorist attacks on Russian soldiers and support personnel in Dushanbe has increased since 23 December, according to Russian media reports. On 28 December, five soldiers were wounded when their vehicle was attacked: on 2 or 3 January, a Russian soldier was shot and killed in Dushanbe's Sakhovat district and the bodies of a Russian doctor and nurse were found on a Dushanbe street on 3 January. Both the Tajik government and opposition are blaming the attacks on groups that are trying to derail the peace agreement. * Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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