|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 36, Part I, 20 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 RUSSIAN CITIES BAIL OUT BLACK SEA FLEET. Adm. Viktor Kravchenko, the Black Sea Fleet commander, told a conference in Sevastopol that "donations from 38 cities and 43 districts of the Russian Federation worth more than 10.5 billion rubles (about $1.9 million at the current rate) have helped Russian sailors to keep afloat," ITAR-TASS reported on 19 February. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has been an active supporter of the fleet and the city administration has allotted 6 billion rubles for repairing the Moskva missile cruiser and is building 300 apartments for serving officers in Sevastopol. The liberal governor of Nizhnii Novgorod, Boris Nemtsov, has suggested establishing control over Sevastopol by encouraging Russian businesses to buy up property and firms in the city, according to Kommersant-Daily on 18 February. "Historical justice should be restored by capitalist methods," Nemtsov said. -- Peter Rutland SOVETSKAYA ROSSIYA DEMANDS YELTSIN IMPEACHMENT. A statement signed by the extremist Sovetskaya Rossiya Editor Valentin Chikin and Zavtra Editor Aleksandr Prokhanov and published in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 18 February called for the impeachment of President Boris Yeltsin on the grounds that he has "handed over all power to an anti-national group who have brought the country to a territorial and political catastrophe." The writers objected to the election and inauguration of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who has explicitly called for Chechen independence. They also criticized Yeltsin, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, and State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev for congratulating Maskhadov. Chikin and Prokhanov claim that Maskhadov's inauguration marks "the territorial disintegration of Russia, the deliberate flouting of the constitution, and the beginning of the rapid degradation of Russia's entire state system." -- Robert Orttung FSB OFFICERS ARRESTED FOR DRUG DEALING. Two officers from the Moscow branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) have been arrested on suspicion of dealing cocaine, Segodnya reported on 20 February. The two men, a lieutenant colonel and a warrant officer, were detained on 14 February in a joint operation mounted by the Interior Ministry and the FSB. Their detention follows the arrest on 10 February of three drug dealers involved in selling 500 grams of cocaine with a street value of about $125,000. Izvestiya on 20 February, citing unofficial sources, claimed that six officers were involved. -- Penny Morvant UDUGOV NAMED CHECHNYA'S CHIEF NEGOTIATOR WITH RUSSIA. Chechen President and Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov on 19 February named acting First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov to head a six-man commission that is to negotiate "inter-state" relations with Russia on the basis of the 31 August 1996 Khasavyurt agreement, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 19 February, Russia's deputy presidential representative for Chechnya, Viktor Medveditskov, told ITAR-TASS that the situation of the ethnic Russian population of Chechnya has significantly worsened since the withdrawal from Chechnya of Russian troops. The head of the presidential guard created by Maskhadov's predecessor has resisted Maskhadov's attempt to replace him, according to ITAR-TASS and AFP. -- Liz Fuller IRKUTSK JOURNALISTS DETAINED FOR BRIBE-TAKING. Robert Sheptalin, the editor of the Irkutsk newspaper Zemlya-Novyi poryadok, and Aleksandr Shakhmatov, a member of the paper's staff, have been arrested on charges of extorting a large bribe from a businessman. The newspaper is well- known locally for its reports on corruption in the Irkutsk Procurator's Office, and the local offices of the Interior Ministry, judiciary, and executive, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 February. The Irkutsk procurator has informed members of the regional legislature that an unnamed local businessman contacted the authorities complaining that the two journalists initially wanted $1,000 for not publishing an article critical of him and then demanded $20,000. The reporters were allegedly arrested while taking the money. -- Robert Orttung ARMS TRADE SHOULD BE STATE MONOPOLY. Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Oleg Davydov said on 19 February that the state-owned company Rosvooruzhenie should maintain its near-monopoly of arms exports, ITAR- TASS reported. He said arms sales should be carried out "only under strict state control." Although a total of nine firms now have permission to export arms, in practice 98% of the trade, worth $3.5 billion in 1996, goes through Rosvooruzhenie (see related story in Ukraine section on tank sales to Pakistan). Rosvooruzhenie was under the tutelage of former presidential security chief Aleksandr Korzhakov until his dismissal in June 1996. On 30 August, Davydov announced that his ministry has taken over the functions of the Russian State Committee on Military-Technical Policy. -- Peter Rutland HIGHER EDUCATION TEACHERS TO GET BACK WAGES. Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits, Education Minister Vladimir Kinelev, and Education Workers' Union Chairman Vladimir Yakovlev signed a document on 19 February setting a timetable for the payment of delayed wages to Russia's teachers, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Teachers at colleges and vocational schools will receive wages for November and December 1996 by June. The agreement does not cover salary debts to secondary school teachers. The same day, about 160,000 education workers took part in the second day of national protests over chronic wage arrears. Similar protests were held in January and last autumn. -- Penny Morvant CHERNOMYRDIN TO CHECK OUT STRATEGIC ROCKET FORCES. President Yeltsin has asked Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to verify personally the command system of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, NTV and AFP reported on 19 February. Chernomyrdin, accompanied by Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and missile forces commander Igor Sergeev, will visit the forces' central command outside Moscow on 21 February. Yeltsin's order follows Rodionov's public warning in early February that the army does not have enough funds to maintain the nuclear command centers. -- Penny Morvant INVESTMENT SLUMP IN ENERGY SECTOR. Fuel and Energy Minister Petr Rodionov said total investment in the industry in 1996 fell 16% compared with the previous year, amounting to 104 trillion rubles ($18.4 billion), ITAR-TASS reported on 19 February. Investment in the gas industry fell 5.5% and in the oil sector 25.7%. Rodionov noted that investment fell by almost one-half in 1996, even in such major oil companies as Yukos and Sidanko. Oil production dropped 2% in 1996, and has fallen 40% since its 1987 peak. Major foreign investors are staying away pending the approval of a list of sites authorized under the production-sharing law. Few of the earnings from oil exports find their way back into capital investment: on the contrary, oil companies are behind in paying their taxes and wages. Delovoi mir reported on 18 February that half of the oil pipelines are more than 20 years old, and 2% of the oil is lost through leaks due to corrosion and accidents. -- Peter Rutland CENTRAL BANK TO TRANSFER HALF OF PROFITS TO BUDGET. The State Duma voted 364 to 1 with one abstention to override the Federation Council's veto on the law stipulating that the Central Bank (TsB) must transfer 50% of its annual profits to the federal budget, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 19-20 February. In June 1996, the government challenged the independence of the TsB by introducing a law requiring the bank to transfer $1 billion of its 1994 profits to the federal budget. The TsB responded to that move by increasing the obligatory reserve requirements for commercial banks in order to neutralize the inflationary impact of the transfer. A similar reaction to the Duma's latest move may further tighten the liquidity squeeze in the banking sector. -- Natalia Gurushina DUMA PASSES RESOLUTION ON NORILSK NIKEL. The State Duma has passed a resolution on state support for the giant Russian non-ferrous metals company, Norilsk Nikel, which owes 1.4 trillion rubles ($250 million) to the consolidated budget and 1.3 trillion rubles in wage arrears, ITAR- TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 19-20 February. The resolution, which is not legally binding on the government, introduces a ban on the sale of the company's federal equity stake until the year 2000; obligates ONEKSIMbank (which received the federal equity stake under the loans-for-shares scheme) to return the stake to the government; stipulates that the government should repay the loan to ONEKSIMbank in state securities; and obligates Norilsk Nikel to float an additional share issue equal in value to the company's debt to the federal budget. -- Natalia Gurushina VChK BLASTS CUSTOMS PRIVILEGES. The Emergency Tax Commission (VChK) has criticized the existence of individual customs privileges that resulted in the loss of 12.4 trillion rubles ($2.2 billion) worth of budgetary revenue for 1996, Kommersant-Daily and Segodnya reported on 19 February. The commission has decided to follow the IMF's recommendations and disband the governmental bureau for international humanitarian and technological assistance (headed by Yurii Saltanov), which received 1.1 trillion rubles worth of customs benefits in the last year. VChK also warned the head of the State Customs Committee, Anatolii Kruglov, against allowing companies and organizations to postpone their customs payments, a practice that resulted in the loss of 3 trillion rubles worth of budgetary revenue in 1996. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA SHEVARDNADZE IN BAKU. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in Baku on 18 February for a three-day visit intended to open what he termed a "new stage" in the "strategic partnership" between the two countries, Russian and Western agencies reported. Following a three-hour meeting during which Shevardnadze and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, signed more than 20 bilateral cooperation agreements, including one on the export of Caspian Sea oil and gas via Georgia, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to finding a peaceful solution to all conflicts in the region, according to ITAR-TASS. Addressing Azerbaijan's Milli Mejlis (parliament) on 19 February, Shevardnadze criticized the inability of the CIS to safeguard the territorial integrity of its member states, and argued that integration within the CIS should not impede the desire of some of its members to join unspecified "European structures." -- Liz Fuller PRO-GOVERNMENT DAILY CLOSES DOWN IN ARMENIA. The editorial board of the Yerevan-based Aravot daily newspaper decided on 15 February to cease publication, Armenian media reported. The paper's editor-in-chief and former spokesman for President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Aram Abrahamyan, claimed that "the daily has fulfilled its mission as a free media outlet and exhausted its resources as such." He denied rumors in Yerevan that it was closed down for "political reasons." Nominally independent, Aravot largely supported the government's policies and is believed to have been heavily financed by former Interior Minister and current Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghyan and his associates. -- Emil Danielyan BOWING TO BEIJING OVER XINJIANG? Kazakstan has officially stated its resolute opposition to any kind of separatism in China, according to a 19 February Xinhua report monitored by the BBC. The statement comes in the wake of Uighur protest rallies in Kyrgyzstan and Turkey following Beijing's suppression of violent riots staged in early February by the Uighur minority in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. On 18 February, the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan described a demonstration that took place outside its offices in Bishkek as an act of interference in China's domestic affairs, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 February. On 17 February, Turkey officially apologized for the burning of Chinese flags by protesters but also declared its intention to "maintain an interest" in the people of the Xinjiang region, AFP reported. -- Lowell Bezanis CENTRAL ASIAN ECONOMIC UPDATE. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed a $580 million agreement with three Japanese concerns -- Itochi, JGC, and Nissho Iwai -- to build Turkmenistan's first polypropylene plant in Turkmenbashy (formerly Krasnovodsk) on 18 February, RFE/RL reported the next day. The Japanese government will reportedly extend a $400 million credit to the plant which will produce 90,000 metric tons of polypropylene annually. The U.S. firm CCL has won a tender for a three-year concession to run the Pavoldar oil refinery in Kazakstan, RFE/RL reported the same day. The terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed; the idle plant previously produced more than half of Kazakstan's gasoline needs. Local officials in the Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan are negotiating with China to open a border trading zone in the Mugab district, according to an 18 February Tajik Radio report monitored by the BBC. -- Lowell Bezanis TURKMENISTAN AIRLINES BANNED IN NETHERLANDS. Dutch Transport and Water Management Minister Annemarie Jorritsma-Lebbink has banned Turkmenistan Airlines (TA) from landing at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 February. The decision comes after a TA flight chartered in Dubai made an unauthorized landing at the airport on 17 February. The flight was carrying 173 Sri Lankan Tamils who asked for asylum in the Netherlands. No details on whether the Tamils will be allowed to stay in the Netherlands have been released. -- Lowell Bezanis ASSASSINATIONS, TYPHOID FEVER IN TAJIKISTAN. Unidentified assailants killed seven people in different residential areas of Dushanbe within a 30-minute period on the evening of 18 February, Reuters reported on 19 February. Among those killed were two U.S. Embassy guards waiting at a bus stop, a Russian serviceman, and an ethnic Uzbek scientist. The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the killings as anti-Russian; the U.S. called on the Tajik authorities to apprehend the perpetrators. One of the other victims was a Tajik policeman who worked at a psychiatric hospital; he was killed when a "patient," reputedly connected with the pro-opposition Sanginov brothers, was freed by his associates. In other news, international aid officials in Tajikistan say that at least 10 people have died and thousands have been infected in an outbreak of typhoid fever in the capital Dushanbe, RFE/RL reported on 20 February. Some 3,000 cases of typhoid fever have already been reported. -- 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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