|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 13, Part I, 20 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 NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MOSCOW. Javier Solana met with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 20 January to open talks on a proposed NATO-Russia charter, Russian and Western agencies reported. An anonymous NATO diplomat told AFP on 17 January that despite media reports of a "new package" of NATO incentives to defuse Russian opposition to NATO expansion, Solana was not bringing any new proposals to Moscow. Solana will simply make a "complete presentation" of existing proposals for a charter, the diplomat said. Speaking in Bonn before his departure for Moscow, Solana said he hopes a charter establishing a "durable" and "institutionalized" relationship with Moscow can be signed before the scheduled July NATO summit, when the alliance plans to issue the first invitations to prospective East European members. -- Scott Parrish MEAGER RESULTS AT CIS PRIME MINISTERS MEETING. The 17 January session of the CIS Heads of Government Council addressed 17 proposed economic agreements but approved only nine of them, Russian and Western media reported. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin declared that the council had "approved" an overall concept for CIS economic integration, but Russian CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev admitted that Uzbekistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan refused to support it, and at the insistence of Ukraine, the document will be resubmitted to a scheduled 28 January meeting of the council for discussion. Segodnya on 18 January reported that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko criticized the draft concept's proposals for unified CIS trade, labor, transport, customs, and currency systems, saying they contradict the Ukrainian constitution. Predicting that Ukraine would not agree to sign the document, the paper sarcastically said the session had continued the CIS tradition of "paper creativity." -- Scott Parrish MOSCOW POLICE TARGET FOREIGN DIPLOMATS. In a game of diplomatic tit-for- tat reminiscent of the Cold War, officers of the Moscow directorate of the State Automobile Inspectorate (GAI) launched "Operation Foreigner," Russian and Western agencies reported on 17 January. The operation, during which GAI spokesmen said 1,000 cars with foreign plates were stopped and 200 violations discovered, is apparently in retaliation for the 29 December traffic incident in New York involving allegedly drunk Russian and Belarusian diplomats (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 and 3 January 1997). U.S. diplomats were found to be the worst offenders during the operation, according to Segodnya on 17 January. Citing GAI sources, the paper reported that a U.S. diplomat had been stopped on 3 November for drunk driving, but officers had been unable to arrest him as he claimed diplomatic immunity. -- Scott Parrish LUZHKOV REJECTS UKRAINIAN PROTESTS OVER SEVASTOPOL. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has rejected Ukrainian protests over his recent visit to the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 January (see related story in Central and Eastern European section). Luzhkov declared that "no one can stop me, I have traveled and will travel to Sevastopol, which is a Russian city." He rejected the possibility that Kyiv might bar him from entering Ukraine, saying that by doing so, "Ukraine would show that it is completely undemocratic." Citing polls saying 70% of Russians believe Sevastopol belongs to Russia, Luzhkov said "Russia will never accept the current situation," adding that Ukraine will ultimately be forced to begin negotiations on Sevastopol's status. Many link Luzhkov's jingoistic posturing to his presidential ambitions and hopes to undermine Aleksandr Lebed's support among nationalist voters. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA, COLOMBIA SIGN ARMS CONTRACT. Under a contract signed on 17 January in Bogota, Colombia will purchase 10 Mi-17 transport helicopters from the Russian state-owned Rosvooruzhenie company, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Although the full value of the contract was not disclosed, Colombia will pay $42 million for the first shipment of helicopters. After an open tender, Colombia decided last year to purchase both U.S. and Russian helicopters. Moscow accused Washington of interfering in its negotiations with Bogota last October, fueling a diplomatic spat over the sale. -- Scott Parrish DIFFERENT OPINIONS ON ARMING COSSACKS. The State Duma on 17 January instructed its law committee to work out amendments to the law on weapons that would allow Cossack organizations to be armed, ITAR-TASS reported. While Deputy Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii has supported demands of southern Russian Cossack leaders to be allowed to create armed units (see OMRI Daily Digest 16 January 1996), Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov opposed the idea on 17 January, while noting that the state "must enter and protect people" if genocide against Russians erupts in Chechnya. Speaking to Russian Public TV (ORT) on 18 January, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin indicated that he is against the arming of separate Cossack units. Instead, he suggested that they serve in the region's regular army regiments. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski EXPLOSION KILLS ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN. A Moscow businessman was killed on 17 January when a remote-controlled bomb exploded as he entered his office, Russian and Western agencies reported. The businessman, Gennadii Dzen, was director of the Roskontraktpostavka trading company and a voluntary assistant to ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. On 20 January the owner of the "Dolls" strip club was shot dead in Moscow, Western media reported. On 19 January, a powerful explosion in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya, damaged the republic's Procurator's Office. ITAR-TASS, quoting the local Interior Ministry, said the explosion was caused by a gas leak, but there is speculation that the blast was linked to an 8 January explosion at the republican parliament building. -- Penny Morvant KULIKOV ON CRIME AND CORRUPTION. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said on 17 January that 29,700 murders and attempted murders were committed last year, some 2,000 fewer than in 1995, AFP reported. Of the estimated 450 contract killings, only 60 were solved. Kulikov added that 2.62 million crimes were recorded in 1996, down from 2.75 million in 1995, Russian media reported. However, he estimated the total number of crimes committed at 7 million. Kulikov said more than 200 gangs were broken up by police. But while the police scored some crime-fighting successes, corruption and other abuses within the ministry remained high. President Yeltsin's press secretary said on 18 January that the head of the Interior Ministry's Technical and Military Supplies Main Administration and 30 other officers had been fired for financial abuses, including misusing funds earmarked for salaries and prison construction. Kulikov said 10,000 employees of Interior Ministry organs were brought to book in 1996, including 3,500 for criminal offenses. -- Penny Morvant NIKITIN'S WIFE HARASSED. Tatyana Chernova, wife of environmental activist Aleksandr Nikitin, may be prevented from returning to Russia at the end of a six-day trip to Norway, AFP reported on 18 January. Russian customs officials stamped Chernova's passport "exit for permanent residence abroad" after subjecting her to a 90-minute search and interrogation when she left the country on 15 January. The Moscow Times quoted a spokeswoman for the St. Petersburg Visa and Registration Department as saying Chernova would have to file for special permission to re-enter Russia. Chernova's lawyer said there were no legal grounds for the move. Nikitin was held in a pre-trial detention center for 10 months, on accusations that he illegally gathered data for a report on radioactive contamination of the Kola Peninsula. He was released last month following an international outcry, but the Federal Security Service is reluctant to let the case drop. -- Penny Morvant UNEMPLOYMENT UP, ARREARS PROBLEM WORSE. In late December 1996, 9.3% of Russia's work force was unemployed, up from 8.8% in early 1996, Russian and Western agencies reported on 18 January, citing the State Statistics Committee. The figures were calculated on the basis of household survey data. Some 2.5 million people, or 3.4% of the work force, were registered as unemployed with the Federal Employment Service. The wage debt to Russian workers totaled 47.1 trillion rubles on 23 December, up from 46.6 trillion on 25 November. About one-fifth of the total arrears- -9.3 trillion--were in organizations funded by the federal or local budgets. -- Penny Morvant IMF NEGOTIATIONS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met IMF first deputy managing director Stanley Fischer on 17 January to discuss a resumption of the IMF loan, two $340 million monthly payments of which were suspended last year, AFP reported. Chernomyrdin said, "The West should not worry. The reforms are not going to be halted. Russia simply does not have much money at the moment." First Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank, Sergei Aleksashenko, told Reuters on 17 January that by the end of 1997 foreigners will be given full access to the government bond market on the same terms as Russian buyers--something which the IMF has been urging. One policy change which may not please the IMF is the introduction of differentiated excise duties on oil and gas, up to $17 per metric ton, on firms that buy at domestic prices and then export, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. The new tax sounds suspiciously like the resurrection of the oil export duty which was abolished at the IMF's insistence in July 1996. -- Peter Rutland NET CLOSES ON ALUMINUM MAFIA . . . Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said on 17 January that his ministry has been working on the so-called aluminum case for 18 months, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported. NTV carried an investigative series on the "aluminum mafia" in recent weeks (see OMRI Daily Digest 13 January 1997). Kulikov said that the Trans-seas Commodities company, represented by Lev Chernyi, paid on contracts with several aluminum plants using money it obtained from fraudulent bank transfer documents. He also said Moscow's Izmailovo criminal gang is involved in the aluminum business. Kulikov called for new laws obliging citizens to reveal the sources of their income. Former First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets denied NTV's accusations that he maintained links with the Chernyi brothers, although he did not refute the NTV report about his American Express account, according to an interview published in Obshchaya gazeta on 16 January. -- Peter Rutland .. . . AND TIN MAFIA. On 19 January, NTV's "Itogi" revisited the 1994 scandal around the privatization of the Novosibirsk Tin Combine (NOK). At that time it was revealed that NOK director Aleksandr Dugelnyi had managed to acquire a large portion of NOK shares and had also bought shares for government officials, including Soskovets. The investigation was closed down on the orders of then Procurator-General Aleksei Ilyushenko, who is currently in detention under criminal investigation. NTV provided fresh documentary evidence of Soskovets's share holding, and alleged that Dugelnyi, who is still the director of NOK, has $1.2 million abroad in foreign bank accounts. Dugelnyi had formerly worked with Soskovets at the Karaganda Metal Combine in Kazakstan, where an anti-corruption probe in 1991 led to 14 arrests. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN VEHICLE BLOWN UP NEAR GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ BORDER. An armored personnel carrier operated by Russian peacekeeping forces in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone blew up on 15 January after hitting an anti-tank mine, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. According to a Sakinform report monitored by the BBC, Georgian Deputy State Security Minister Avtandil Ioseliani said that "soon" Russian peacekeepers will no longer be required in the region as Georgia and Abkhazia are likely "to find a common language without a mediator." -- Emil Danielyan AZERBAIJAN UPDATE. The World Bank has extended a $14.7 million credit to Azerbaijan to promote the privatization of the country's agricultural sector, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. In other news, Azerbaijan's State Oil Company, SOCAR, has supplied 10,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran on a trial basis, Russian media reported on 19 January. SOCAR is hoping to deliver 120,000 tons to Iran on an annual basis. -- Lowell Bezanis ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY SAYS ITS MEMBER STILL UNDER ARREST. The chairman of a local branch of the opposition National Self-Determination Union (AIM), Artush Hamazaspyan, is still under arrest on charges of "participation in mass disorders" in the wake of 25 September post- election unrest in Yerevan, Noyan Tapan reported on 17 January. Norayr Khanzadyan, an AIM representative, said that Hamazaspyan was "severely beaten" while in custody and the authorities are still holding him despite repeated promises that he would be released. Out of the 27 AIM members arrested after the election, Hamazaspyan is the only one still in custody. Khanzadyan also claimed that Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisyan has not yet delivered on his "promises" to compensate AIM for some 10 million drams ($21,300) in damage to the party's headquarters. -- Emil Danielyan TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION TALKS IN TEHRAN. Two weeks of difficult talks between the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) ended in Tehran on 19 January with the signing of a joint statement approving some important procedural issues but failing to determine how many representatives each side will have in a prospective National Reconciliation Commission, Western and Russian media reported on 19 January. The government wants to dominate the commission and render it subordinate to Tajik President Immomali Rakhmonov, while the opposition sees it as the first step toward a redistribution of power in a post-war government. The two sides agreed on the procedure for approving a mutual amnesty law and a central election commission and on holding a referendum on governmental reform. -- Lowell Bezanis TURSUN ZADE STANDOFF. The Tajik Presidential Guards clashed with local self-defense forces in Tursun Zade in a fight over Central Asia's largest aluminum plant, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 January. Two were injured during the exchange of fire and an estimated 20 local-self- defense fighters were "detained" by the Presidential Guard. The fight was the latest development in an ongoing struggle for control of the country's single most valuable asset. In other news, unidentified assailants killed a junior Russian officer in Dushanbe, Reuters reported on 18 January. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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