|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 28, Part I, 10 February 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 ************************************************************************ In the 21 February issue of TRANSITION, OMRI's biweekly journal: DISSIDENTS -- THEN AND NOW - Reshaping Dissident Ideals for Post-Communist Times - How Rude pravo 'Helped' Get Charter 77 off the Ground - In Poland, A Long-Standing Tradition of Resistance PLUS... - CENTRAL ASIA: The Gordian Knot of Energy - BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Janusz Bugajski on Stabilizing Partition with SFOR - VIEWPOINT: Vladimir Shlapentokh on Creating 'The Russian Dream' After Chechnya For subscription information, send an e-mail message to email@example.com ************************************************************************ RUSSIA EIGHTH MEETING OF GORE-CHERNOMYRDIN COMMISSION. Eighteen economic agreements were signed at the eighth meeting of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation in Washington, D.C. on 8 February, international agencies reported. They included a joint declaration on regional initiatives in Russia, which is expected to boost foreign investment in Russia's regions. The previous day, U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin attended the ceremonial signing of a joint-venture deal between the U.S. oil firm ARCO and Russia's LUKoil. LUKoil will own 54% of the venture and ARCO, 46%. Russian Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers on 8 February signed an agreement to spread the repayment of Russia's $2.3 billion debt to the U.S. over 25 years. -- Natalia Gurushina YELTSIN-CLINTON SUMMIT SET. President Bill Clinton will meet his counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, in Helsinki on 20-21 March, according to an announcement in Washington by Vice President Gore. The fact that the venue has been moved from the U.S. to Finland suggests that Yeltsin is not healthy enough to make the long flight to North America. Gore also said that the U.S. is ready to begin START III talks and that preliminary discussions are already under way, AFP reported. The Congress has ratified START II, but the Russian State Duma has not. -- Robert Orttung RODIONOV, BATURIN SEEK TO PRESENT UNITED FRONT. At the request of President Yeltsin, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin held a joint press conference on 7 February to discuss military reform, international media reported. The conference was aimed at dampening speculation that the two men have serious differences of opinion over the direction, speed, and funding of reform (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 January 1997). Baturin advocated a three- stage program, which Rodionov said he fully supported. The first phase, to 2000, would entail a reduction in manpower; the second phase, 2001- 2005, would deal with "qualitative issues"; and the third phase, after 2005, would include large-scale rearmament. According to Rodionov, the size of the armed forces will be cut by 200,000 to 1.5 million by 1998. Both men emphasized their good relationship, but Rodionov admitted they disagree on how to resolve "certain technical problems." -- Penny Morvant KORZHAKOV WINS DUMA SEAT. Former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov on 9 February won the Tula State Duma seat that former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed gave up after he joined the presidential administration last year, NTV reported. According to preliminary results, Korzhakov took 26% of the vote in the 10-candidate race, while his main rival, former Duma member Eduard Pashchenko (Russia's Democratic Choice), received 17%. World chess champion Anatolii Karpov, a candidate backed by the presidential administration, finished third with 16%. The turnout was about 43%. On the eve of the vote, the Tula regional court revoked the registration of Yelena Mavrodi, wife of notorious financier Sergei Mavrodi. The court ruled that Mavrodi's campaign had used illegal sources of financing. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow DUMA DISCUSSES CHECHEN AMNESTY. The Duma adopted a draft amnesty for Chechen fighters on 7 February by a vote of 263-27, ITAR-TASS reported. The amnesty covers a limited number of Russian citizens who committed crimes connected with the Chechen war between 9 December 1994 and 1 September 1996, AFP reported. It does not apply to the June 1995 Budennovsk or January 1996 Pervomaiskaya raids carried out by Chechen field commanders Shamil Basaev and Salman Raduev, respectively. It also does not apply to serious crimes such as banditry and terrorism. Communist Duma member Viktor Ilyukhin supports the current limited scope of the amnesty, while Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii wants to expand it to cover additional offenses, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 8 February. The Duma will review the issue again within the next two weeks. -- Robert Orttung ATTEMPTS TO CREATE "INDUSTRIAL UNION" IN DUMA. About 20 State Duma deputies, mostly from the left-wing Popular Power, Agrarian, and Communist factions, are forming a group called the Russian Industrial Union, Russian media reported on 7 February. Its main organizers are Duma deputies Vyacheslav Zvolinskii, Ivan Anichkin, and Leonid Kanaev. Zvolinskii said the new group would defend the interests of industry and stand for "less politics, more professionalism" in parliament, Kommersant-Daily reported. The Russian Industrial Union does not yet have the 35 deputies needed to register officially as a faction, but if it attracts enough deputies, the existence of the Agrarian and Popular Power factions could be threatened. Duma Deputy Speaker and Yabloko member Mikhail Yurev participated in organizing the new group; he denied accusations from Communists and Agrarians that deputies were offered thousands of dollars in bribes to join, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 8 February. -- Laura Belin SAGALAEV QUITS RTR. In an abrupt turnaround, Eduard Sagalaev, chairman of the state-run network Russian TV (RTR), submitted his resignation to the Kremlin on 10 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency said TV journalist Nikolai Svanidze, who currently hosts RTR's Sunday analytical program "Zerkalo," is expected to replace Sagalaev. Last week, a group of current and former journalists at the network accused Sagalaev of financial abuses and poor programming decisions at RTR (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 February 1997). Sagalaev threatened to sue his critics, charging that the accusations were part of a campaign to get him fired. -- Laura Belin ANOTHER SCIENTIST COMMITS SUICIDE. Viktor Staroseltsev, a scientist at the Nalchik Mountain Geophysics Institute, has reportedly committed suicide out of despair over his financial situation, according to ITAR- TASS on 7 February. It was not clear from the reports how Staroseltsev died, but he did leave a note saying he had decided to take his life because he had not been paid in months and could no longer support his family. Last year, a top physicist committed suicide because he was unable to pay salaries to the employees of his research institute (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 October 1996). -- Nikolai Iakoubovski IMF RELEASES FROZEN EFF TRANCHES. The IMF has disbursed two tranches of the $10.1 billion Extended Facility Fund, withheld in November and December of 1996, to the Russian government, AFP and Reuters reported on 7-8 February. An IMF statement notes that the tranches, worth $647.2 million, were released "on the basis of the achievement of monetary and fiscal targets for December 1996, the continued appropriate conduct of credit policy, as well as effort to improve tax collections and the implementation of several structural reforms." The IMF also welcomed the recent introduction of licensing for alcoholic beverages and the cut in the list of electric power consumers to whom supplies cannot be halted even if they fail to settle their energy bills. -- Natalia Gurushina CENTRAL BANK CUTS REFINANCING RATE. Effective on 10 February, the Central Bank (TsB) cut its annual refinancing rate from 48% to 42%, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February. According to TsB First Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Khandruev, the decision was motivated by a continuing fall in inflation (the increase in the rate of inflation in January 1997 was caused mainly by seasonal factors) and yields on state short-term securities (GKO-OFZ), which now average 30%. The cut is expected to stimulate investment by making credits more accessible to financial institutions and industrial enterprises. This is the sixth cut since February 1996, when the refinancing rate was lowered from 160% to 110%. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TRANSNEFT CLARIFIES STANCE ON TRANSPORTING CASPIAN OIL. Contrary to recent reports (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 February 1997), the Russian pipeline company Transneft intends to abide by the January 1996 Russian- Azerbaijani intergovernmental agreement to transport Caspian Sea oil from Baku to Novorossiisk, according to Turan on 7 February, citing Transneft deputy president Sergei Ter-Sarkisyants. Ter-Sarkisyants explained that transportation will begin only in May 1997 rather than during the first quarter because of the situation in Chechnya. Talks on the optimum schedule for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil exports are due to begin in Moscow on 10 February between Transneft representatives and the presidents of the Azerbaijan State Oil Company, Socar, and the Azerbaijan International Operating Company. -- Liz Fuller ANOTHER COUP THWARTED IN AZERBAIJAN? Azerbaijan's security services recently arrested "dozens" of people who had allegedly planned a wave of terrorist bombings in Baku as a prelude to assassinating President Heidar Aliev and seizing power, Security Minister Namik Abbasov told ITAR-TASS on 7 February. The investigation located two caches of arms and communications equipment in Gyanja and Sumgait as well as hideouts for rebel armed units in the northern raion of Belokany, near the border with Georgia. Abbasov claimed that the unidentified plotters were acting on orders from former President Ayaz Mutalibov. -- Liz Fuller RAIL LINK RESTORED BETWEEN IRAN AND NAKHICHEVAN. Iran on 9 February lifted a nine-year suspension on rail traffic to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, AFP reported on 9 February quoting IRNA. Speaking at a reception on 7 February to mark the 19th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Alirza Bikdeli said that a gas pipeline from northern Iran to Nakhichevan will begin operating next year. Bikdeli also said that he could neither confirm nor deny that former Azerbaijani Prime Minister Suret Huseinov, who fled Azerbaijan after being accused of an unsuccessful coup attempt in October 1994, is currently in Iran, Turan reported on 7 February. -- Liz Fuller TAJIK SECURITY MINISTER TAKEN HOSTAGE. Saidamir Zuhurov was taken hostage in Afghanistan on 7 February, after arriving in the Obigarm region of that country to negotiate the release of several other hostages, including Russian journalists and UN workers, Russian and Western media reported. The hostages are being held by outlaw Tajik field commander Bahrom Sadirov, who is demanding the release of his brother, Rezvon Sadirov, who was initially reported to have been a hostage of Afghan field commander Ahmed Shah Masoud. However, other reports say that Rezvon Sadirov is in fact fighting the Afghan Taliban movement alongside Masoud. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met Masoud in the Tajik city of Kulyab on 9 February in an attempt to resolve the situation. -- Bruce Pannier UN, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS PULL OUT OF TAJIKISTAN. Following a wave of kidnappings in Tajikistan targeted against employees of the UN, Red Cross, Russian media, and Tajik government, a number of organizations working in Tajikistan have either scaled back their personnel in the country or pulled out entirely, Western media reported. The Red Cross has left only a skeleton crew in Tajikistan, and on 8 February the UN sent 50 expatriate staff to Uzbekistan. The UN convoy heading west also included workers from UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank. Even UN Special Envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem has left for Uzbekistan. Most of the groups have stressed that they have only temporarily departed from the country. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKSTANI UNION LEADERS ASK FOR HUMANITARIAN AID. The chairman of the Kazakstani Federation of Independent Unions, Gennadii Nikitin, has appealed for aid from international humanitarian organizations, AFP reported on 9 February. Nikitin says that there is widespread famine in Kazakstan and that more than one-third of households have no heating, electricity, or gas. Unpaid workers are striking in several northern regions. The AFP report claims people are resorting to shooting dogs for food. "Mothers of families are coming to me asking for Kalashnikov assault rifles to attack the authorities," Nikitin said. -- Bruce Pannier KARIMOV HAILS ECONOMIC ACHIEVEMENTS OF 1996. Uzbek President Islam Karimov on 6 February applauded the country's economic achievements but also noted that corporate debt and slow agricultural reform continue to pose problems, according to an 8 February Narodnoe slovo report monitored by the BBC. Karimov said the "main task of 1996" has been achieved--namely, halting the fall in production and registering economic growth. Without providing detailed figures, he said GDP rose last year by 1.6%, industrial output by 6%, consumer goods production by 8.1%, and foreign trade turnover by 1.4%. He also noted that foreign investment doubled to more than $825 million. Karimov said the main task for 1997 will be to build up a middle class of property owners, who will form the "bedrock" of the state. He also called for an end to Soviet-era hostility to wealth and private property. -- Lowell Bezanis EARLY SUMMIT ON REGIONAL PIPELINE SOUGHT BY ASHGABAT. Turkmenistan has called for an early summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), according to a 7 February Turkmen TV report monitored by the BBC. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov wants his counterparts from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and the five Central Asian states to meet this year in Ashgabat to discuss regional pipeline schemes and measures for expediting their construction. The ECO's next summit is currently scheduled for late 1998. -- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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