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No. 15, Part I, 22 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 DUMA BEGINS HEARING ON YELTSIN HEALTH. The Communist and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia factions voted to include the question of impeaching President Boris Yeltsin on health grounds on the agenda of the 22 January Duma session, ITAR-TASS reported. Our Home Is Russia, Yabloko, Popular Power, Russian Regions, and the Agrarians voted against, making the final tally 206-164 with two abstentions. The Our Home Is Russia faction left the Duma chamber in protest when the body began discussing the issue. Instead of trying to impeach Yeltsin now, Popular Power leader Nikolai Ryzhkov called for adopting a law setting up a procedure for removing a president who is no longer able to carry out his duties. The Duma directed its committee on legislation to look into the possibility of creating the position of vice president in Russia. Earlier, First Deputy Duma Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin, representing Our Home Is Russia, warned that any effort to remove the president could be viewed as a coup attempt, forcing Yeltsin to take "appropriate measures." -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN MEETS CHERNOMYRDIN IN KREMLIN. President Boris Yeltsin met with Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin in the Kremlin on 22 January, ITAR- TASS reported. Yeltsin left the hospital on 20 January after undergoing treatment for pneumonia for 12 days. Yeltsin's doctors have expressed concern that he is not limiting his activities enough to recover fully. -- Robert Orttung DUMA TO INVESTIGATE CHUBAIS'S TAXES. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin has announced that the Duma will debate on 24 January whether Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais paid taxes on all of his income for 1996, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Novaya gazeta's Aleksandr Minkin has already published allegations that Chubais did not pay those taxes (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 January 1997). Chubais, however, claimed that he had paid his taxes in full: 515 million rubles ($92,000) on income derived from lectures and consultations earned before he became Yeltsin's chief of staff. Ilyukhin circulated credit card statements purporting to show that Chubais had received considerable sums after he became a civil servant on 15 July, Reuters reported. The last credit is from August, "which is not inconsistent with Chubais's response that he made the money before July," the agency noted. -- Robert Orttung MOSKOVSKII KOMSOMOLETS PUBLISHES LETTER FROM FAPSI GENERAL. The popular daily Moskovskii komsomolets on 21 January published an appeal it claimed was written in February 1996 by Maj.-Gen. Valerii Monastyretskii, head of a finance department at the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI) until he was arrested on charges of embezzlement. In the letter, Monastyretskii alleged that during the renovation of government buildings in 1994 and 1995 the Main Protection Administration, the Federal Security Service, and Presidential Security Service--then controlled by Mikhail Barsukov and Aleksandr Korzhakov--purchased expensive surveillance equipment from dubious sources in the U.S. for their own purposes. Monastyretskii concluded that the aim of the security services was "to place all statesmen and political activists under all-out surveillance so as to compromise them and subsequently use them to pursue their personal political interests." Numerous articles implicating Korzhakov and Barsukov in illegal activities have been published since their dismissal in June last year. -- Penny Morvant COMMUNISTS HONOR LENIN. Gennadii Zyuganov led a few hundred Communists at a wreath-laying ceremony on Red Square on 21 January to honor the 73rd anniversary of Lenin's death, Russian media reported. In comments to reporters, Zyuganov repeated communist opposition to suggestions that Lenin's body should be removed from the Red Square mausoleum and reburied. On the subject of Yeltsin's health, Zyuganov noted that the president had been unable to perform his duties for long periods over the past two years and spoke out in favor of establishing a medical commission to monitor his condition. Communists in St. Petersburg also held a number of meetings to mark Lenin's death. Most national TV reports of the Lenin anniversary stressed the low turnout at the meetings. -- Penny Morvant SCANDAL OVER GENERALS' LETTER ON NATO. Izvestiya on 22 January harshly criticized an open letter to President Yeltsin signed by a group of admirals and generals serving in Sevastopol which called on the president to take vigorous countermeasures against NATO enlargement. The letter, released by Interfax on 20 January, urged Yeltsin to counter NATO expansion by not signing START II, building up Russia's nuclear arsenal, targeting alliance members with nuclear weapons, and demanding revisions in the 1990 CFE Treaty. Izvestiya commented that the letter contains "absurdities," such as urging Yeltsin not to sign the START II treaty, which he signed in 1993. It also blasted the letter as a "manifesto" with a tone "akin to mutiny." The paper concluded that Yeltsin must discipline the unruly generals and admirals or else they may soon "move from words to deeds." -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA REITERATES OPPOSITION TO NATO ENLARGEMENT. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said on 21 January that while Russia is discussing a new relationship with NATO, it "maintains and will maintain a negative approach to NATO enlargement," Russian and Western agencies reported. He added that the NATO-Russia talks "cannot be regarded as a compensation for our acceptance of enlargement." Tarasov added that the next round of NATO-Russia talks would take place in February but gave no exact date or location. Izvestiya on 22 January cited NATO sources as saying that the latest Primakov-Solana meeting was much warmer than those held last year. It attributed this "sharp change of tack" to Moscow's desire to conclude an agreement with NATO before the alliance issues invitations to prospective members at its July summit. In contrast NTV argued that the press blackout imposed on the Primakov- Solana talks suggested the negotiations were proceeding "with difficulty." -- Scott Parrish STROBE TALBOTT IN MOSCOW. Acting U.S. Secretary of State Strobe Talbott arrived in Moscow on 21 January for talks on bilateral issues and European security, Russian and Western agencies reported. Talbott, one of the architects of U.S. policy toward Russia, will stay on as deputy secretary of state during President Bill Clinton's second term. He is serving as interim head of the State Department pending Madeleine Albright's confirmation by the U.S. Senate, expected on 22 January. Talbott's main goal is to finalize plans for the scheduled 5-7 February session of the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission, but he will also discuss the proposed NATO-Russia charter with his Russian interlocutors. -- Scott Parrish CFE REVISION TALKS OPEN. Delegates from the 30 signatories of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty gathered in Vienna on 21 January to discuss revising the Cold War-era accord, Russian and Western agencies reported. The talks are being held at Russia's request. Moscow has long argued that the treaty, based on the principle of establishing a stable military balance between NATO and the now defunct Warsaw Pact, has become obsolete. Russia would like to see the treaty's bloc ceilings on military equipment replaced with national limits, and also wants to modify the zonal restrictions it places on heavy weapons deployment. Such changes would help minimize the possible military consequences for Moscow of NATO enlargement. Despite some sympathy for the Russian position, Western diplomats have predicted that it could take two years to hammer out a revised treaty. -- Scott Parrish CHORNOBYL VICTIMS STAGE HUNGER STRIKE; OTHER PROTESTS. More than 50 workers involved in clean-up operations after the Chornobyl nuclear disaster have been on hunger strike in Tula for more than a week to protest delays in the payment of social benefits, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 January. Nine of the hunger strikers have been hospitalized. The clean-up workers are owed three months' worth of pension payments and have not received compensation payments for damage to their health since March 1996. The local authorities have promised to address the issue, but the protest is continuing. The total debt to Chornobyl programs in Tula Oblast exceeds 300 billion rubles. Meanwhile, ORT reported on 21 January that health-care workers in Primore have begun a four-day strike to protest wage arrears and that teachers' strikes are continuing in 28 Russian regions; a national teachers' protest was held last week. -- Penny Morvant FARMS BEING SQUEEZED. Despite a good harvest last year--69 million metric tons, 9% up on 1995--three-quarters of Russia's farms ran at a loss in 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 January. Nationally, the losses totalled 16 trillion rubles ($2.9 billion), and only in three of 89 regions (Krasnodar and Stavropol krais and Bashkortostan) was the farm sector profitable. The losses rose from 37 rubles per 100 rubles of output in 1995 to 100 rubles in 1996. Only 8.7 trillion rubles of the 13.2 trillion allotted in the 1996 federal budget for farm support were actually paid out. -- Peter Rutland AMENDMENTS TO INCOME TAX LAW COME INTO FORCE. Several new personal taxes came into force on 21 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The law imposes a 15% tax on interest earned by individuals from bank deposits if the bank's interest rate exceeds the Central Bank's (TsB) refinancing rate (currently 48%) for ruble deposits or 15% for foreign currency deposits. Also, from now on insurance payments will be taxed if they exceed the premiums paid by the client. Likewise, low-interest loans will also be treated as taxable income. These measures are expected to bring some 400 billion rubles ($71 million) to the state coffers. The new law aims at preventing tax evasion: many firms have been paying salaries in the form of insurance payments, loans, and high-interest bank accounts. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN UPDATE. Georgian air traffic controllers have barred the military cargo planes that supply Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia from flying in Georgian airspace because of Russia's $250,000 debt for air traffic services, RFE/RL reported on 21 January. An unnamed Russian air force official declined to say when the debt will be repaid. In other news, the Foreign Ministry of the self-proclaimed Republic of Abkhazia accused Georgia of planning "large-scale terrorist and sabotage attacks" in Gali, Tkvarcheli, and Ochamchira districts, according to an Interfax report monitored by the BBC. The ministry says that the Georgian State Security Ministry wants to prevent the Russian peacekeeping mandate from being extended by destabilizing the situation in the region on the eve of the upcoming CIS summit. -- Emil Danielyan AZERBAIJANI ECOLOGY COMMITTEE HEAD DETAINED. Azerbaijani Ecology Committee Chairman Arif Mansurov was dismissed by presidential decree on 19 January, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 January. Mansurov was detained by the police the same day while in hospital for heart problems. There has been no official explanation of his dismissal. However, several committee employees were arrested some time ago. -- Lowell Bezanis AIDS STATISTICS IN ARMENIA. National Center for AIDS Control and Prevention director Lev Zohrabyan said that an "AIDS chain reaction" is taking place in Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported on 21 January. Zohrabyan claimed that in 1996 there were 26 reported HIV-carriers in Armenia (three of whom have died) as opposed to only three reported HIV cases from 1988 to 1991. Zohrabyan blamed the situation on a lack of awareness, low living standards, migration, and prostitution. Also, Zohrabyan said the Armenian Health Ministry is now developing a program to tackle the problem. -- Emil Danielyan NEW KYRGYZ MOVEMENT APPLIES FOR REGISTRATION. The movement For Deliverance from Poverty in Kyrgyzstan on 21 January applied to become an official opposition bloc, RFE/RL reported. The Justice Ministry could take months to process the application. The movement argues that Kyrgyz governmental policies are responsible for wage arrears, a deterioration of social services, and falling standard of living. The movement held its founding congress in December 1996, after which one of its leaders, Jumagazy Usupov, was jailed for 15 days. Another founder of the new movement, Topchubek Turgunaliyev, was given a 10-year prison sentence after being found guilty of embezzlement in early January. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov CAREFUL, KIND WORDS FOR TURKMENISTAN FROM IMF OFFICIAL. IMF official Emine Gurgen has noted that Turkmenistan is making progress toward a market economy but must continue pushing forward with economic reform, RFE/RL reported on 21 January. She said that in the last year Ashgabat has shown an increasing awareness of the need to undertake such reforms and pointed to progress in several areas, including the establishment of a two-tier banking system, a reduction of inflation to 10-12% a month, a slowing production decline, and some liberalization of price controls. She said GDP declined by 4% last year. While gas production was said to have exceeded 1995 levels, it was more than offset by a sharp decline in agriculture due to poor cotton and grain harvests. Turkmenistan has been a member of the IMF since 1992. -- Lowell Bezanis NIYAZOV ADDRESSES UN FORUM ON AFGHANISTAN. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov opened a two-day UN-sponsored forum on Afghanistan on 21 January, international media reported the same day. Some 300 representatives of donor countries, UN agencies, and private relief groups are in Ashgabat to discuss how to maintain the flow of aid to Afghanistan and explore means of synchronizing aid and peace negotiations. In his address, Niyazov said Turkmenistan's "largest projects" are linked "to peace and stability in Afghanistan," Reuters reported. He specifically noted that his country is desperate for an international energy consortium to build a $2 billion gas pipeline that would run across Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean, a project he said could also greatly benefit the citizens of Afghanistan. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to email@example.com 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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