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No. 29, Part I, 11 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 *********************************************************************** OMRI, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Announcement: Due to a restructuring of operations at the Open Media Research Institute, OMRI will cease publication of the OMRI Daily Digest with the issue dated 28 March 1997. For more information on the restructuring of the Institute, please access the 21 November 1996 Press Release at: http://www.omri.cz/about/PressRelease.html On 2 April, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will launch a daily news report, RFE/RL Newsline, on the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. A successor to the RFE/RL Daily Report and the OMRI Daily Digest, the new daily will nonetheless represent a major departure from its predecessors. In addition to analytic materials, RFE/RL Newsline will carry news gathered by the correspondents, bureaus, and broadcast services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. RFE/RL will disseminate this new publication both electronically and via fax to all those now receiving the OMRI Daily Digest and for the time being under the same terms. OMRI will continue to publish the periodical Transition, for more information on Transition please access http://www.omri.cz/publications/transition/index.html or send a request for information to: transition-DD@omri.cz ********************************************************************* RUSSIA SAGALAEV EXITS WITH HEAD HELD HIGH. President Yeltsin has appointed TV journalist Nikolai Svanidze chairman of state-run Russian TV (RTR), while former Chairman Eduard Sagalaev has announced that he will return to the private network TV-6, which he founded in 1992, Russian media reported on 10 February. Sagalaev will continue to host the Saturday evening RTR program "Otkrytye novosti." He told ITAR-TASS that resigning was "the most dignified step" he could take in the current situation, adding that he was leaving "with a clear conscience and a proudly raised head." Sagalaev told NTV that he still plans to sue current and former RTR journalists who accused him of destroying the network and using it for personal financial gain. Svanidze, whose appointment was favored by Sagalaev, had only praise for his predecessor, saying he was convinced a court would find that the accusations against Sagalaev were false, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin WILL RTR'S EDITORIAL LINE CHANGE? Rumors that Sagalaev would be forced out of his post at RTR first began to circulate last July, after Anatolii Chubais was appointed presidential chief of staff. Sagalaev told NTV that his enemies had long resented his journalistic independence, because he frequently said no to various politically- motivated "suggestions." (He apparently did not always resist such pressure: in October, an interview with former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov was pulled from an RTR program; see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 October 1996.) Meanwhile, Izvestiya noted on 11 February that Svanidze is known to have warm relations with Chubais. Svanidze told NTV that he will continue to host the Sunday analytical program "Zerkalo." Asked whether reporting the main events of the week while holding a high-ranking bureaucratic post might constitute a violation of journalistic ethics, Svanidze replied, "There are no independent people or independent commentators." -- Laura Belin LUZHKOV CHANGES STAND ON CHECHEN INDEPENDENCE. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told Russian Public TV (ORT) on 10 February that there is no need to prevent Chechnya from leaving the Russian Federation. In a sharply-worded statement, Luzhkov said no free economic zones in Chechnya should be established and the border between Russia and Chechnya should be closed to prevent criminals, drugs, and weapons from moving into Russia. Earlier, Luzhkov had been an ardent critic of the Khasavyurt accords, which postponed a decision on Chechnya's status for five years and a strong advocate of keeping Chechnya within the Russian Federation. A few days earlier, Luzhkov met Grozny's deputy mayor, Mulayk Saydulayev, to discuss mutual cooperation and announced that the city of Grozny would soon send a representative to Moscow, Moskovskaya pravda reported on 8 February. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski YELTSIN DETAILS RYBKIN TO ATTEND MASKHADOV INAUGURATION. President Boris Yeltsin on 10 February met for 45 minutes with Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin to discuss the situation in Chechnya and the possible creation of a Russian State Committee for the North Caucasus, Russian media reported. Yeltsin also named Rybkin his personal representative at the 12 February inauguration of Chechen President- elect Aslan Maskhadov. Delegations from Morocco, Poland, and the Baltic states, as well as former Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi are also expected to attend the inauguration ceremony. Rybkin told Russian Public TV (ORT) that Yeltsin reiterated his commitment to continuing the search for a peaceful solution to the situation in Chechnya. -- Liz Fuller TULA DEPUTY GOVERNOR ARRESTED. Police have arrested Tula Oblast Deputy Governor and Oblast Property Commission Chairman Boris Shapovalov for abuse of public office, forgery, and misuse of state property, ITAR-TASS reported 10 February. Criminal proceedings were launched against Shapovalov in December, but he continued to carry out his official duties because Governor Nikolai Sevryugin refused to fire him. Sevryugin will stand for election later this spring since Tula is one of the few regions that has not yet elected a regional executive. -- Robert Orttung REACTION TO KORZHAKOV VICTORY. In his first interview after winning a seat in the Duma, Aleksandr Korzhakov was quoted in Izvestiya on 11 February as saying that voters elected him because of the state's "impotence." He was vague about his previously advertised plans to release compromising information about those in power. NTV, one of Korzhakov's most vociferous critics, suggested that the results of the vote would be declared invalid because of irregularities in the financing of Korzhakov's campaign. Such a move is unlikely, however, since President Yeltsin's victory in the presidential election could be canceled on similar grounds. The co-chairman of the administration's coordinating council on regional elections and a long-time Korzhakov foe, Sergei Filatov, called him a "zero" as a legislator and a person "who does not respect the law." -- Robert Orttung IZVESTIYA CRITICIZES CHERNOMYRDIN. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin damaged his own reputation and that of the Russian authorities in general during his recent trip to the U.S., according to a commentary published in Izvestiya on 11 February. When the notoriously inarticulate Chernomyrdin was asked about Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's warnings that insufficient military funding is threatening the Russian nuclear command-and-control system (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February 1997), he asked the reporter whether Rodionov's comments were reported in a newspaper. When the answer was affirmative, Chernomyrdin asserted, "That means [Rodionov] did not say that." Izvestiya argued that Chernomyrdin was either in "blissful ignorance" of what was going on in his own country or was attacking the media to evade an unpleasant question. Either way, the prime minister acted badly, the paper said. -- Laura Belin SHUMEIKO FOUNDS ORTHODOX RUSSIA MOVEMENT. Delegates from 57 regions attended the founding conference of the new movement Orthodox Russia, which was organized by Vladimir Shumeiko and his Reforms-New Course movement, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported on 9 February. Shumeiko said Orthodox Russia would focus on Russia's spiritual revival, whereas Reforms-New Course will concentrate on economic issues. He added that Orthodox Russia would not discriminate against citizens of other religions. Many army, police, and security officers were invited to the conference, and Shumeiko said the new movement was in part designed to encourage patriotism among officers. Shumeiko has close ties with President Yeltsin, who sent a message to the conference welcoming the new movement's creation. He is reputed to have presidential ambitions and has cultivated contacts among the regional elite since serving as Federation Council speaker from 1994 to January 1996. -- Laura Belin BILL ON PORNOGRAPHY DRAFTED. The Duma Culture Committee has drafted a bill regulating trade in pornographic materials, NTV and ITAR-TASS reported on 10 February. The new Russian Criminal Code that went into effect on 1 January forbids the illegal distribution of pornography, but there is as yet no legislation stipulating how such material can be traded legally. Under the new bill, porn magazines could be sold only in special retail outlets, sales would be subject to a new tax, and newspapers would have to purchase a license to publish ads offering sexual products and services. Committee chairman and film director Stanislav Govorukhin estimates that in Moscow alone the porn trade is worth about $5 million each month. Under the old Criminal Code, the distribution of pornography was punishable by up to three years imprisonment, but the legislation was almost never enforced. -- Penny Morvant MOSCOW HOLDS FIRM ON REACTOR SALE TO INDIA. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin said during Indian Foreign Minister I. K. Gujral's visit to Moscow that Russia is planning to go ahead with its $2.6 billion sale of two light-water reactors to India, Reuters reported 10 February. The U.S. lobbied against the sale, saying it violates a 1992 treaty not to transfer nuclear technology to non-nuclear states. Russia claims that the reactors, which it is now building in Iran and planning to sell to China as well as India, cannot produce weapons-grade uranium or be put to any military use, ITAR-TASS reported. In addressing the Russian- Indian Commission on Trade, Scientific, and Cultural Cooperation, Ilyushin stressed that one of the main obstacles to trade between the two countries is that India does not accept the guarantees of Russian commercial banks. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIAN-GERMAN MANNED SPACE MISSION LAUNCHED. A German-Russian manned space mission was successfully launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakstan on 10 February, ITAR-TASS reported. German astronaut Reinhold Ewald is expected to stay at the Russian orbital space station Mir until the beginning of March. The German space agency will pay Russia $60 million for the flight. Some of this money will be used to finance Russia's work on the international space station Alfa, and in particular to reduce Russia's nearly one-year lag behind schedule. During last week's Gore-Chernomyrdin commission meeting, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin assured the U.S. side that Russia is committed to working on the Alfa station as a full partner. -- Natalia Gurushina MORE ON U.S.-RUSSIAN COOPERATION. The State Duma has supported a U.S. Congress initiative to use the resources of U.S. banks to finance housing construction in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 February. The Duma-Congress working group held in Washington, D.C. on 5-9 February came up with the suggestion to give Russia a 30-year $5 billion credit which will bear 6%-8% annual interest. The next meeting of the group is scheduled to take place in Moscow in April 1997. Meanwhile, the Russian oil giant LUKoil and the U.S. petroleum firm ARCO have announced that they will invest some $400 million in the development of oil projects in Russia in 1997. The projects will be carried out by their joint venture LUKARCO (See OMRI Daily Digest, 10 February 1997). -- Natalia Gurushina ECONOMIC INDICATORS IN JANUARY. The State Statistical Committee recorded a slight increase in both GDP and industrial output, which went up by 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively, in January 1997 in comparison with the same period a year earlier, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 February. According to the State Tax Service, there was also an improvement in tax collection in January, which reached 10.1 trillion rubles ($1.8 billion)--26.3% more than the expected level. The real disposable income of the population increased in January by 9% and the average wage by 33% compared with January 1996. The number of people with incomes below the official minimum subsistence level dropped by 14%. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION. Foreign Ministers and other high-ranking officials from the 11 member-states of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization met in Istanbul on 7 February to discuss the creation of a free trade zone, AFP reported. The group includes Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller used the meeting to announce that the planned Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, to be based in Thessaloniki, will have $300 million in contributions from member-states at its disposal. She also expressed her hope that in the future the BSEC will be "integrated into Europe." -- Lowell Bezanis TURKMENISTAN, IRAN COORDINATE CUSTOMS, BORDER PROCEDURES. An agreement coordinating customs and border procedures for cargoes moving through Sarakhs railway station has been reached by Turkmen and Iranian railway officials, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 February. The Sarakhs station, which is being expanded to increase its capacity, opened in May 1996. It is the only rail link between the two countries, and is Iran's solitary connection to the larger Central Asian rail network. According to Turkmen Railway Minister Mered Kutliev, more than 123 million metric tons of cargo has passed through the station to date. -- Lowell Bezanis NEW DEVELOPMENT IN TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS . . . Outlaw Tajik field commander Rezvon Sadirov, the subject of an ongoing hostage-taking crisis, has reportedly arrived in the Obigarm region of Tajikistan where the hostages are being held, international media reported. His brother, Bahrom Sadirov, is holding several hostages--including nine UN workers, five Russian journalists, and the Tajik security minister--and demanding that Rezvon Sadirov be granted free passage from Afghanistan to Tajikistan. It is not clear what Rezvon Sadirov's arrival in Obigarm means for the crisis, as negotiations appeared to continue on 10 February. Bahrom Sadirov has changed his demands several times, at one point insisting that his group be allowed to participate in the peace talks between the government and the opposition. The kidnapping has been condemned throughout the international community. -- Bruce Pannier . . . BUT NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE . . . Meanwhile, Russian Minster for the CIS Aman Tuleev arrived in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on a visit that will focus on the hostage crisis, rather than his originally scheduled series of meetings and visits, international media reported. Also, the commander of the Tajik presidential guard, Gafar Mirzoyev, held talks with Bahrom Sadirov over the release of the hostages. Earlier reports had indicated that Rezvon Sadirov was fighting alongside Afghan field commander Ahmed Shah Masoud against the Taliban movement and that he had no desire to return to Tajikistan. The hostages have been allowed to contact officials in Dushanbe and Moscow via satellite telephone. All of them say they are in good condition. -- Bruce Pannier . . . AND TAJIK OPPOSITION PROTESTS. The United Tajik Opposition (UTO), which is currently involved in peace talks with the government, has complained that the authorities violated the ceasefire agreement when they allowed outlaw Tajik field commander Rezvon Sadirov and an armed band to enter the Obigarm region. The UTO is unofficially in control of the region. -- Bruce Pannier [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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