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No. 5, Part I, 8 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 YELTSIN SPENDS ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS IN BED. A cold and fever forced President Boris Yeltsin to celebrate Orthodox Christmas on 7 January partially confined to bed at a suburban Moscow residence, Reuters reported. Yeltsin's temperature was 37.5 C (99.5 F). The president has no plans to return to the hospital. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIANS CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. Millions of Russians attended church services on 7 January to celebrate Orthodox Christmas, Russian and Western agencies reported. Hours after leading a long Christmas Eve ceremony, Patriarch Aleksii II led a mass at the newly rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Noting that President Yeltsin has designated 1997 a year of reconcilitation and accord, the patriarch said that "now is a time to create" after a period of devastation. In a Christmas interview with Dom i otechestvo, Aleksii II had warned of the dangers of "Godless materialistic consumerism" but said he believed the Russian people had sufficient moral strength to chose "moral renaissance." On the revival of Orthodox Russia, Aleksii said: "We should not feel embarassed to call Russia an Orthodox country. We should remember our kinship and know that the majority of Russians are rooted in Orthodoxy." -- Penny Morvant CHECHEN UPDATE. Abu Masaev, the head of the Chechen State Security Department, said on 7 January that they have identified the person who ordered the killing of six Red Cross workers on 17 December, NTV reported. Masaev refused to name the individual, but said that he was now outside Chechnya. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin urged the Duma to immediately grant a complete amnesty to jailed Chechen fighters, as the only way to secure the release of Russian captives in Chechnya, ORT reported on 6 January. There are an estimated 1,500 Chechen prisoners, while 1,058 Russian servicemen are missing, many thought to be held captive by private citizens in Chechnya, NTV reported on 6 January. That day, ITAR-TASS reported that acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev has refused to serve in the new government if he is defeated in the 27 January elections. Presidential candidate Movladi Udugov dismissed the report as Russian disinformation. -- Peter Rutland GERMANY, U.S. DOWNPLAY RUSSIAN THREATS OVER NATO. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel on 8 January said that, although it will be "very difficult," Russia will eventually accept the enlargement of NATO, AFP and RFE/RL reported. He interpreted the latest Russian denunciations of the alliance's expansion plans as bargaining ploys, saying "Russia knows that it cannot prevent NATO expansion and wants to obtain a good price for it." He said Russia should have an "equal and effective" role in European security, but insisted that "NATO will not make decisions in concert with Russia" over issues like enlargement. U.S. State Department spokesman Glyn Davies said that Washington is "aware" of Russian objections to expansion but will proceed anyway, since the policy is "not directed against Russia." NTV said on 7 January that President Yeltsin's recent warnings on the subject were having no effect on Western policy. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA, BELARUS SLAM NEW YORK POLICE. The Russian and Belarusian missions to the UN held a joint press conference on 7 January at which they reiterated allegations that New York police unjustifiably beat two diplomats over a traffic citation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 and 3 January 1997), Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian diplomat Boris Obnossov and his Belarusian colleague Yurii Oranzh said the police officers had dragged them from their car and beaten them, despite being shown diplomatic identification. Obnossov admitted receiving about 400 parking tickets in 1996 and conceded that his car was illegally parked when the incident occurred, but denied police charges that he was intoxicated. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani termed the diplomats' version of events "a pack of lies" on 7 January, saying seven witnesses corroborated the police officers' account, according to which the visibly drunk diplomats threw the first punch. -- Scott Parrish SPECULATION ON NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOSCOW. Citing anonymous State Department sources, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January that J. Stapleton Roy, currently the American ambassador in Indonesia, will be appointed as the new U.S. ambassador in Moscow. Roy, 61, is a career diplomat like his predecessor Thomas Pickering, having previously served as ambassador in China and Singapore, and holds the top U.S. diplomatic rank of career ambassador. Although many of his recent postings have been in Asia, the agency said Roy, a Princeton graduate who speaks Russian, had earlier served in the U.S. embassy in Moscow and worked at the State Department's Soviet desk. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN ARMS SALES IN 1996 TOP $3 BILLION. Oleg Sidorenko, deputy director of the state-owned firm Rosvooruzhenie, said on 6 January that Russia was the world's second leading arms exporter in 1996, selling an estimated $3.5 billion of weapons abroad, an increase over the $3.1 billion figure for 1995, Interfax reported as monitored by the BBC. Sidorenko charged the United States, Britain, and France with "actively obstructing" Russian access to world arms markets, saying Paris, London and Washington observe "no ethical standards" in the competition for arms contracts. The same day, Defense Industry Minister Zinovii Pak also estimated 1996 arms exports would top $3 billion, and said Moscow plans to triple that figure in the next few years. -- Scott Parrish OFFICIAL COSSACK BULLETIN ISSUED. The president's Main Department for Cossack Troops (GUKV) published the first issue of its information bulletin, marking the Cossacks' official return to state service, ITAR- TASS reported on 8 January. In tsarist Russia, the Cossacks, usually living in special settlements near the country's borders, fulfilled border guard and territorial militia functions in exchange for a number of economic privileges. Since the end of the 1980s, following the era of Soviet repression, the Cossacks have sought to restore their former position and have won official support in recent years. Yeltsin established the GUKV in January 1996. Currently there are 438 Cossacks organizations with 700,000 participants in Russia. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski KREMLIN DENIES REPORT ON ROMANOV HEIR. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii dismissed a report published on 5 January in the British Daily Telegraph, which claimed that the Kremlin is preparing a presidential decree to reinstate a 15-year-old descendant of the Romanov dynasty, Reuters reported on 6 January. The paper said Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich Romanov would play only a ceremonial role and that plans to bring him back were connected to a Kremlin-sponsored search for a Russian national idea. Yastrzhembskii said the story would be "funny if it were not annoying," speculating that the British media "has run out of its own monarchy stories" and wants to expand onto Russian territory. -- Laura Belin TULEEV BLOC DOMINATES NEW KEMEROVO LEGISLATURE. The Power to the People bloc, formerly led by Aman Tuleev before he became minister for CIS affairs, won nine of the 16 seats decided in the 29 December elections to the Kemerovo Oblast legislature, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 January. The Communists won five seats and the Agrarian Party took two. Results are still being tabulated in an additional district, while four other districts must hold repeat elections because turnout there fell below the mandatory 25%. The returns do not augur well for Governor Mikhail Kislyuk, Tuleev's rival, who faces elections later this year. The legislature's first task will be to define the provision of the electoral law for the gubernatorial elections. -- Robert Orttung TV SCREENS DARK IN KRASNOYARSK. Communication workers removed Russian Public TV (ORT), Russian TV, and local state TV from the air before 8 p.m. local time on 6 January in a warning strike to protest against those broadcasters' failure to pay for their air time, Radio Russia reported. The television companies owe more than 11 billion rubles ($2 million) and the situation is unlikely to improve soon since there is little money in the federal budget to finance the media. Murmansk viewers lost many of their TV stations for a week in December for the same reasons. -- Robert Orttung MORE FUEL CRISES IN FAR EAST. The sinking of the Russian oil tanker Nakhodka has caused an energy crisis in Kamchatka as well as blackening a 100 km stretch of Japan's western shoreline and fouling prime fishing areas. The Nakhodka, which broke up on 2 January, was carrying 19,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii. NTV reported on 6 January that the city's administration had announced measures to ration electricity supplies because of the shortage of fuel oil; Kamchatka's reserves were used up last summer. According to Radio Mayak, however, a deal with local military units obviated the need for power cuts over Orthodox Christmas. According to the Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry, 20,000 tons of fuel oil are due to arrive by 18 January. Meanwhile, electricity supplies to customers in Primorskii Krai have also been reduced because of a shortage of fuel oil. The energy company Dalenergo, owed more than 1 trillion rubles by local state-funded organizations, cannot afford to pay for fuel supplies. -- Penny Morvant INTERNET PROVIDER CUTS SERVICE TO RUSSIA. Internet service provider America Online (AOL) is no longer permitting users in Russia direct access to its services by telephone because of rampant credit card fraud, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. The agency quoted AOL spokeswoman Susan Porter as saying that many subscribers have been using stolen credit cards to purchase time on line, leaving the company to foot the telephone bill. There have also been cases of people using stolen passwords to access information. AOL, which has more than 6 million subscribers worldwide, has not said when it plans to reinstate services for users in Russia. Under the new Criminal Code, which went into effect on 1 January, the illegal manufacture or sale of credit cards is punishable by two to six years imprisonment. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA HUNDREDS OF VEHICLES STILL STUCK IN GEORGIAN MOUNTAIN PASS. More than 200 vehicles remain blocked in a mountain pass connecting Georgia and Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 January. The pass has been closed since 26 December following an avalanche in the Caucasus Mountains (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 January 1997). Georgian traffic workers continue to clear the most difficult section of the road, using tractors and snow- plows, while rescue helicopters evacuate people trapped in the Georgian mountain resort of Gudauri. According to ITAR-TASS, Georgian authorities expect traffic to resume "in the near future." -- Emil Danielyan FRANCE BECOMES CO-CHAIR OF KARABAKH NEGOTIATIONS. The OSCE has named France as the new co-chair of the deadlocked negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, RFE/RL reported on 7 January. France, beating out an active U.S. bid, succeeds Finland, which held the office for 20 months. The other co-chair is Russia, whose post is permanent. The chief French negotiator will be Jacques Blot. -- Lowell Bezanis RUSSO-AZERBAIJANI TALKS "USEFUL AND CONSTRUCTIVE." Following two days of talks, Russia and Azerbaijan agreed to improve trade and economic ties, signing protocols on trade in major commodities in 1997 as well as the development of transport and metro building, Russian media reported on 7 January. The head of the Russian delegation, Valerii Serov, termed the meetings constructive and useful, noting that it was the "first time" the two sides had agreed on specific joint actions. Serov also noted that the two sides continue to hold differing views on the Caspian Sea, and on mutual debts. While both Serov and Azeri officials were upbeat about moving Azeri oil through Chechnya soon, Chechen sources, cited by Reuters the same day, claim Russia is dragging its feet in oil negotiations it was to have completed by 1 December. -- Lowell Bezanis TROUBLE IN TAJIKISTAN'S "WILD WEST." Elements of Tajikistan's First Brigade moved toward the western city of Tursun Zade during the night of 7-8 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The brigade is under the command of Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, who last January led one of two mutinies which for two weeks threatened the capital Dushanbe. The other mutiny was led by the former mayor of Tursun Zade, Ibodullo Baimatov. Like Khudaberdiyev, Baimatov returned to his base following concessions by the government. Since then, control of Tursun Zade, the site of the largest aluminum plant in Central Asia, has been contested by several criminal groups. Baimatov was ousted by late summer 1996 but the city remained outside the jurisdiction of the government. Khudaberdiyev mended relations with the Tajik government and sources from the brigade's headquarters say this latest move is an attempt to restore order in Tursun Zade. -- Bruce Pannier FLOUR ENTITLEMENTS DOWN IN TURKMENISTAN. The amount of wheat flour available to Turkmenistan's citizens at subsidized rates has been decreased by presidential decree, according to a 7 January Interfax report monitored by the BBC. As of 1 February 1997, citizens whose average monthly income does not exceed 200,000 manats (about $40) are entitled to six kilos of flour at 25 manats per kilo. In rural areas the eight kilo ration will remain in effect. -- Lowell Bezanis LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbekistan's law on political parties came into force on 7 January, according to Uzbek media monitored by the BBC. The law prohibits parties based on ethnic or religious lines and those advocating war or subversion of the constitutional order. Prospective parties must submit details of at least 5,000 members spread over eight provinces. Applications for registering a party are to be directed to the Justice Ministry and the Supreme Court has the right to suspend or ban them if they are found guilty of persistent legal violations. Parties have the right to take part in elections, publish newspapers, and establish parliamentary and local groups. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 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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