|[America,] it is the only place where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time. - Thomas Wolfe|
No. 3, Part I, 6 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 SPECULATION OVER POSSIBLE DEFENSE MINISTER RESIGNATION. The Defense Ministry on 5 January denied rumors that Igor Rodionov would use a 6 January meeting with President Boris Yeltsin to resign over insufficient funding of the military, NTV reported. Rossiskaya gazeta on 6 January, however, speculated that there might be "some substance" to the rumors, since Rodionov listed "normal financing" of the military as one of his conditions for taking the post last July. The same day, ITAR-TASS reported that Rodionov's meeting with Yeltsin had been postponed, although the President will chair a session of the Defense Council on 8 January. The armed forces only received 56.6 trillion rubles ($10.2 billion) of the 68.8 trillion rubles awarded them in the 1996 budget, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 6 January, and of that only 37 trillion was paid in cash, the remainder in credits and securities. A Duma staffer told ITAR-TASS that the 104 trillion rubles allocated to the military in the 1997 draft budget falls short of the minimum 160 trillion requested by the Defense Ministry. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN, KOHL DISCUSS NATO ENLARGEMENT. After meeting with Yeltsin at the Russian president's Zavidovo country residence on 4 January, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl admitted that "some differences" divide Bonn and Moscow on NATO enlargement, but he expressed the hope that a mutually acceptable compromise solution would be found this year. Yeltsin's spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, later said that the Russian president had laid out Russian objections to enlargement "fairly toughly." Kohl hailed Yeltsin's speedy recovery from his 5 November heart operation, but urged his "friend Boris" to return to work only gradually. Yeltsin agreed to visit Germany in April to accept a media award, and accepted Kohl's suggestion to meet with Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, who currently holds the rotating EU presidency, in The Hague on 4 February. -- Scott Parrish LEBED: RUSSIA BECOMING AN OLIGARCHY. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed warned that Russia is evolving toward "oligarchy" rather than democracy, AFP reported on 3 January. He argued that half the Russian economy is controlled by "a small group of banks and financial- industrial groups, while the other half is controlled by criminal clans." Lebed added, "Ordinary Russians are now as far from the real levers of power as they were during Soviet Communist Party rule." Meanwhile, 65% of 5,000 Russians surveyed by the Russian Sociological Studies Center named Lebed "man of the year," Ekho Moskvy reported on 30 December. The electronic media remains generally unfriendly to Lebed, despite his popularity. For instance, a 5 January commentary on Russian TV (RTR) acknowledged that Lebed was one of the most notable politicians of 1996 but downplayed his role in ending the war in Chechnya. -- Laura Belin CHECHNYA FREE OF RUSSIAN TROOPS. Lt.-Gen. Pavel Maslov, chief of staff of the Interior Ministry troops, stated to Interfax on 5 January that: "I officially announce that as of today not one soldier of the Interior Ministry or Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation remains in Chechnya," Reuters reported. Earlier reports of the withdrawal had been confusing: on 29 December it was announced that all combat units had left but some elements were still in place. Maslov said details of the withdrawal were kept obscure "to avoid possible provocations," and stated that all combat troops left by 31 December. -- Peter Rutland CHECHEN GOVERNMENT PLANS . . . Deputy Interim Prime Minister Ruslan Kutaev said on 3 January that the new Chechen president will not take up his seat in the upper house of the Russian parliament which is automatically granted him by the Russian constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. However, Chechnya will send a commissioner to the Russian parliament for the next five years, who will have a right to vote. The same day Kutaev said the government intends to try ousted pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev for treason (in absentia). He also explained that 14 Chechen field commanders "had a serious conversation" with maverick Salman Raduev to dissuade him from provocative acts. -- Peter Rutland . . . AND ELECTION PREPARATIONS. On 3 January the 16 presidential candidates were sworn in by Chechnya's leading mufti, Akhmed-Khodzha Kadyrov, and promised to accept the results of the elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Tim Guldimann, the head of the OSCE mission in Chechnya, said Russian officials assured him that international observers will be granted visas to visit Chechnya without delay, RIA reported on 6 January. The OSCE is providing some financing for the Chechen Electoral Commission: the OSCE will decide on 16 January whether to send its own observers. The Russian Duma has already decided not to send observers. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA, CYPRUS CONCLUDE ARMS DEAL. Cypriot officials and a Rosvooruzhenie delegation concluded a contract for the delivery of S-300 air defense missile systems on 4 January, international agencies reported. The number of missiles involved and the exact value of the deal was not revealed by either side, nor has a delivery date been specified. Unconfirmed Cypriot sources suggest Nicosia has purchased 20 missile systems for $660 million. The Turkish Foreign Ministry protested the deal, saying it undermines "regional peace," while Western diplomats cited by AFP said the S-300 missiles, which have a range of 150 km, would alter the military balance on Cyprus by neutralizing the air superiority which Turkey has enjoyed since the 1974 division of the island into Turkish and Greek enclaves. Rosvooruzhenie spokesman Valerii Podgrebnikov, however, termed the missiles "purely defensive," and dismissed Turkish concerns. Russian officials had pledged during the recent visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller to deliver only "defensive" weapons to Greek-controlled Cyprus. -- Scott Parrish COMMUNIST ELECTED PRESIDENT OF MARII-EL. Communist-backed candidate Vyacheslav Kislitsyn won the 4 January presidential election in the Republic of Marii-El, Russian media reported. Preliminary results indicated that he won 59% of the vote to 36% for Duma deputy Leonid Markelov, nominated by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia. ITAR-TASS noted that local "democrats" had supported the 33- year-old Kislitsyn in the second round, and that the outgoing president of Marii-El, Vladislav Zotin, had inadvertently boosted Kislitsyn's campaign by recently firing him as head of one of the republic's raions. (Zotin was eliminated in the first round after trying unsuccessfully to cancel the 22 December election.) Andrei Trapezni-kov, an assistant to presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, told ITAR-TASS on 5 January that the administration was satisfied with the Marii-El result; he described Kislitsyn as an experienced economic manager. -- Laura Belin YELENA MAVRODI'S ELECTION PYRAMID SCHEME IN TULA. Yelena Mavrodi, whose husband Sergei ran the infamous MMM pyramid scheme in 1994, is running a human "pyramid" scheme in her bid to claim the Tula State Duma seat once held by Aleksandr Lebed, according to Izvestiya on 5 January. Citizens can receive 3,000 rubles ($0.55) for signing contracts to become campaign "agitators" for Mavrodi; they are promised a chance for up to 50 million rubles ($9,000) after the February by-election, depending on "the election results in your polling area." Agitators are then told to recruit more agitators: for each recruit, they receive an additional 3,000 rubles. Izvestiya concluded that the 50 million ruble promise is merely bait to recruit more "agitators" while not appearing to be buying votes directly. Former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov and chess grandmaster Anatolii Karpov are also contesting the Tula by- election. -- Laura Belin KAMCHATKA OIL SPILL. The Russian oil tanker "Nakhodka" sank en route from China to Kamchatka on 1 January, international agencies reported. Up to 4,000 tons of its 19,000-ton cargo have spilled, threatening fishing grounds off Japan's main island of Honshu. Japan sent a dozen vessels to disperse the 50-km slick. The tanker's sinking threatens electricity supplies to the peninsula's 400,000 population. Industrial users will be switched off and residential areas will be cut for 4-5 hours per day until the arrival of the next fuel oil tanker, scheduled for 17-18 January. -- Peter Rutland PENSION CRISIS CONTINUES. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin chaired a government meeting on 5 January to discuss the crisis in pension payments, NTV reported. Pension arrears now total 15.8 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion), Radio Mayak reported on 5 January, while employers in turn owe 50 trilion rubles to the Pension Fund. October pensions have only been paid in 59 (out of the 89) Federation subjects, and December pensions in only 24 Federation subjects. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA TO CLAIM ARCTIC TERRITORIES? Natural Resources Minister Viktor Orlov said in an interview with Trud-7 of 4-9 January that in 1997 Russia will prepare documents in order to stake claim to 1.5 million square kilometers of the Arctic shelf. He said the U.S. and Canada are also contemplating such action. Orlov underlined that exploitation of Russia's mineral resources is the key "that will help us enter the group of the world's most developed countries." He stressed that except for a brief period in 1992 all resource development projects must be licensed in Moscow. A "dual key" system is in operation: projects must be approved both by Orlov's ministry and by the government of the federation subject (region or republic). He admitted that problems can arise - for example, development of the Timan-Pechora oil fields has been delayed for four years due to failure to reach agreement with the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Only 4% of the 10,867 licenses issued since 1992 have gone to ventures with foreign participation. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN RED TAPE HINDERS REMOVAL OF GEORGIAN URANIUM. American officials blame Russian indifference and foot-dragging for the failure of their year-long efforts to have about 2 lbs (0.8 kg) of used reactor fuel and 9.5 lbs (4.3 kg) of highly-enriched uranium transferred to Russia from a poorly-guarded research institute outside Tbilisi, The New York Times reported on 5 January. Although in 1994 Washington addressed a similar problem by directly purchasing Kazakstani uranium and flying it to the United States, the Clinton administration asked Russia in early 1996 to accept the Georgian uranium for storage and reprocessing. However, months of talks on the issue have hit repeated legal, financial, and bureaucratic snags, despite American offers to pay for the transport and provide necessary equipment. The uranium remains at the Georgian Institute of Physics under improved, but still inadequate, security. -- Scott Parrish TERRORISM IN TAJIK CAPITAL. The bodies of two Tajik military officials were found on the outskirts of Dushanbe on 3 January, RFE/RL reported. Both were killed, in separate incidents, by a shot from a pistol. On 4 January two bombs went off in downtown Dushanbe, killing one and injuring five, Russian sources reported. The first blast occurred near a market when four servicemen from the CIS peacekeeping force and 201st Motorized Rifle Division attempted to start their car after buying goods at the market. One serviceman was killed, the others were wounded along with two civilian passers-by. The other bomb went off two hours later, destroying a police post near the presidential palace. No casualties were reported. Just prior to these latest attacks the Russian Foreign Ministry had expressed its alarm at the increase in attacks on peacekeepers, noting that between 27 December and 2 January six Russian soldiers were killed and eight wounded in or near Dushanbe. -- Bruce Pannier NEW BORDER TARIFFS FOR KAZAKSTAN. A decision by the Kazakstani government to allow so-called "shuttle traders" more weight when arriving from foreign countries went into effect on 5 January, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported. The previous limit without a fine was 20 kg per passenger but under the new rule the limit is 70 kg per passenger and the first 270 kg after that is subject to a reduced tariff. The government is hoping that this new freedom to bring goods into the country will increase products on the domestic market. However, planes are often overloaded and Kazakstan has a poor history of air safety, highlighted by the November mid-air collision of a Kazakstani plane with one from Saudi Arabia over India which killed more than 300 people. -- Bruce Pannier STRENGTH OVER JUSTICE IN UZBEKISTAN. A coat of arms for Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent, was issued on 4 January, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The emblem's components are an open gate topped by an oriental dome on a background of a mountain and rivers framed by flowers, a grape vine and a plane tree in blossom. Encircling all of this are the words "In Strength is Justice" [Kuch Adolatadir], a mis-translation of the words "Rasti Rusti" [In Justice is Strength] from Firdausi's Persian epic The Book of Kings [Shah Namah]. Since the late October celebration of the birth of Tamerlane, the improperly rendered text has increasingly been associated with him and is to be found on numerous billboards, the wall of a museum erected to lionize the great conqueror-builder, as well as the star of Samarkand state medal in Uzbekistan. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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