|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
No. 37, Part I, 21 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 OMRI's journal, TRANSITION: 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 about OMRI's new monthly, send an e-mail message to email@example.com ________________________________________________________________________ ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ RUSSIA ALBRIGHT OFFERS NEW PROPOSAL IN MOSCOW . . . U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Moscow on 20 February for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, international agencies reported. Albright presented Primakov with a new proposal to freeze conventional forces at current levels in Belarus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, western Ukraine, and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, AFP reported. The same day, the proposal was released at the ongoing CFE talks in Vienna. Albright described her talks with Primakov as "serious and constructive," Reuters reported, while Primakov said Russia was doing everything it could to "minimize the negative consequences" of NATO expansion. On 21 February, Albright met with President Boris Yeltsin. -- Peter Rutland . . . REACTIONS UNCERTAIN. The revision of the 1990 CFE treaty which Albright proposed could qualify as the sort of "binding treaty" that Russia has been insisting on, enabling Moscow to acquiesce in NATO expansion while saving face. On the other hand, Moscow may still insist on a binding commitment not to deploy nuclear weapons in the zone--which NATO is unlikely to concede. Also, the new proposal does not address the question of the construction of new bases or the deployment of new NATO forces in Eastern Europe (within the force ceilings), issues of concern to Moscow. Russia continues to look for differences between the NATO allies. Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini was visiting Moscow on 20 February, and he said that "From Italy's point of view, the eventual NATO expansion can only take place with the consensus of Russia and not against its will." Dini, like German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel earlier this week, was able to talk to President Yeltsin by phone but not to meet him. -- Peter Rutland SENIOR FSB OFFICER FIRED. President Yeltsin has issued a surprise decree dismissing Federal Security Service Deputy Director Col.-Gen. Anatolii Trofimov, Radio Rossii reported on 20 February. Trofimov, who was also head of the Moscow and Moscow Oblast division of the FSB, was reportedly fired for "inadequate performance" and "gross violations" revealed by a recent Auditing Chamber investigation. ORT, however, quoted the head of the Auditing Chamber as expressing surprise that its audit could have provided grounds for Trofimov's dismissal. NTV noted that the firing followed a recent scandal involving drug dealing by FSB officers in Moscow (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 February 1996). It also speculated that Trofimov might have incurred the wrath of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov over a corruption expose in Novaya gazeta based on FSB sources. Trofimov was known for his hard line on dissidents and human rights activists. -- Penny Morvant BAGLAI ELECTED CHAIRMAN OF CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. The Constitutional Court elected Marat Baglai, who turns 66 on 13 March, as its new chairman on 20 February, Rossiiskie vesti reported. The former Chairman Vladimir Tumanov retired when he turned 70, the age limit for the position. Twelve of the court's current 18 members supported Baglai. Yeltsin has proposed that Mikhail Fedotov fill the court position vacated by Tumanov and he is awaiting Federation Council approval. Baglai joined the court in February 1995, after serving as the rector of the Academy of Labor and Social Relations for 18 years. Baglai has made it clear that he does not support any efforts to radically rewrite the constitution in order to reduce the president's powers. NTV described him as moderate who does not like to get involved in politics. Kommersant-Daily on 21 February noted that he is a close associate of former Chairman Tumanov, who worked assiduously to keep the court from conflicting with the president. Yeltsin quickly congratulated Baglai after his election. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH COUNCIL EXCOMMUNICATES YAKUNIN, FILARET. The Russian Orthodox Church's High Clerical Council resolved on 20 February to excommunicate former priest and Duma deputy Gleb Yakunin and former Metropolitan Filaret (Mikhail Denisenko), NTV reported. Yakunin was defrocked in 1993 for ignoring a ban on priests running for election to the Russian parliament. Yakunin believes the move was revenge for his charge that senior Orthodox priests cooperated with the KGB during the Soviet era. Filaret, defrocked in 1992, is now patriarch of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, the second largest church in Ukraine. The Council, which opened in Moscow on 18 February, also heard a recommendation from a commission considering the question of canonizing Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II. Metropolitan Yuvenalii said the commission had not found sufficient basis for his canonization, and the Council referred the issue to a wider church assembly for further consideration. -- Penny Morvant DUMA CONSIDERS BILLS ON PORNOGRAPHY, COSSACKS. The Duma on 20 February approved in the first reading a bill limiting the circulation of pornographic materials, NTV and ORT reported. The bill provides for sex- related products to be sold only in places licensed by the authorities and restricts the times when pornographic films can be shown on television (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 February 1997). The vote followed a heated debate, with some deputies opposing the draft on the grounds that it would give legal status to pornography and contribute to the moral degradation of society. The same day, the deputies also passed in the first reading a bill on the Cossacks. The law lays out the procedure for registering Cossack communities and calling up Cossacks for military service. It describes Cossacks as "a community of people...with their own traditions, areas of residence, culture, economic system, and a special attitude toward army service and their relationship with the state," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Penny Morvant NATIONWIDE RADIO BROADCASTING COMING TO AN END? The managers of several nationwide radio stations--including Radio Rossii, Mayak, Golos Rossii-- said on 20 February that state-owned radio broadcasting is gradually dying, ITAR-TASS reported. The radio stations have been forced to significantly reduce their air time after severe cuts in federal budget subsidies. Mayak, currently a round-the-clock broadcaster, must reduce its broadcast time to 14 hours a day. Mayak news director Vladimir Povoliayev said commercial radio cannot fill the gap because it is not profitable to broadcast to small towns and villages. Mayak usually spends 80% of its state subsidies just to cover its nationwide signal transmission. The station managers also expressed their support for the communication workers who are planning to go on strike on 27 March to protest wage arrears. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski LEBED'S BROTHER AUDITS CITY GOVERNMENT WITH MACHINE GUNS. Khakasiya Governor Aleksei Lebed on 20 February ordered machine gun-toting officers from the local Interior Ministry branch to confiscate financial documents from the city hall of Sayanogorsk, the republic's second largest city, ITAR-TASS reported. Sayanogorsk Mayor Sergei Bondarenko denounced the seizure as a gross violation of the law on local government since he and his deputies were willing to cooperate with the audit. While the raid was under way, Lebed ordered the closure of the local TV and radio station, according to station Director Venyamin Striga. Meanwhile, a group of investors in the recently bankrupted Sayany Bank ran into police obstacles when they tried to formally request the legislature to explain why some of the bank's former directors are now under consideration for positions in Lebed's cabinet. -- Robert Orttung KALASHNIKOV ANNIVERSARY. An exhibition opened in Moscow on 20 February marking the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Kalashnikov light machine gun, Reuters reported. The 77-year old inventor of the AK- 47, former Sgt. Mikhail Kalashnikov, attended the opening. More than 70 million Kalashnikovs have been produced in some 100 different versions and are currently used by the armies of 55 countries. The AK-47 is renowned for its reliability and ease of use. It is available on the black market from Chechnya to Angola for as little as $150. Russia is now producing a version with 5.56 mm NATO-compatible ammunition. -- Peter Rutland KURDISH ACTIVITIES IN MOSCOW. The self-styled Kurdish Parliament in Exile has organized two conferences in Moscow, Milliyet reported on 21 February. Turkey, which alleges that the parliament was created by the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has repeatedly attempted to prevent such events form taking place. The latest gathering on 20 February was hosted by the Duma Geopolitical Committee and reputedly attended by Kurdish deputies from Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and Cyprus. The paper also reported that the PKK plans to start up a radio station in Moscow. -- Lowell Bezanis GOVERNMENT APPROVES NEW TAX CODE. The government has approved the new drafts of the second, third, and fourth parts of the new tax code, ITAR- TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 20-21 February. The code, which will now be submitted to the Duma, would reduce the number of taxes from some 200 to 32; cut the profit tax rate by 2% and cancel the sales tax; switche the tax burden from industry to individuals; increase the taxation of commercial banks; and eliminate all tax privileges. The total loss of the consolidated budget's revenue due to various tax privileges is estimated at 163 trillion rubles ($29 billion at the current exchange rate). Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said that a drastic cut in the number of tax benefits in the new tax code can help increase budgetary revenue by 70 trillion rubles a year, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 February. -- Natalia Gurushina FINANCE MINISTRY ON REGIONAL EUROBOND ISSUES. The Finance Ministry has prepared a draft resolution on regional eurobond issues, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 20 February. The resolution stipulates that only those regions that have obtained an international credit rating and do not receive financial support from the government will be allowed to issue eurobonds; the total volume of annual external borrowing and the total debt-servicing costs of regions that issue the bonds should not exceed 30% and 15% of regional budgetary revenue, respectively; and the income from operations with regional eurobonds will be subject to a 15% tax. The demands have drawn a negative reaction from regional leaders, who say that no region will be able to float eurobonds under such conditions. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGED ILLEGAL ARMS SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA . . . The Russian State Duma on 19 February assigned three of its standing committees to investigate Minister for Relations with the CIS Aman Tuleev's allegations that Russia has illegally supplied $50 million worth of arms to Armenia over the past year (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 February 1997), RFE/RL and Noyan Tapan reported. The motion was submitted by Communist deputy Nikolai Bindyukov. Several deputies, including deputies from the liberal Yabloko faction and the leftist Narodovlastie group, argued that an open discussion of the issue could harm Russian-Armenian relations. Russian ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that it is in Russia's interests to offer military aid to its "strategic ally Armenia...even for free, if necessary." -- Emil Danielyan . . . AMID AZERBAIJAN'S ACCUSATIONS OF CEASEFIRE VIOLATION. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev has charged that by "illegally" receiving military equipment, Armenia has violated the May 1994 Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement, RFE/RL reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said in Baku that he does not exclude the possibility that the alleged arms supplies were delivered to Armenia from Russian military bases stationed in Georgia, Turan reported on 20 February. Shevardnadze claimed that a "group of servicemen" has been arrested in Georgia on suspicion of illegal weapons sales to Armenia. -- Emil Danielyan LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT IN UZBEKISTAN. Algirdas Brazauskas and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, signed several agreements on legal aid and transportation in Tashkent on 20 February, ELTA and BNS reported. Karimov praised Lithuania as an "extremely reliable partner," adding that he supports Lithuania's bid to join NATO. He also said the two countries see eye to eye on "virtually everything." Lithuania and Uzbekistan aim to increase trade cooperation. Bilateral trade turnover doubled last year to $66 million; Uzbek firms currently owe their Lithuanian counterparts $6 million. -- Lowell Bezanis COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS CRITICIZES KYRGYZ PRESIDENT. The Committee to Protect Journalists has expressed "grave concern about reports of increasing harassment of the independent press in Kyrgyzstan" in a letter sent to Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, RFE/RL reported on 20 February. The letter criticized the Justice Ministry's decision to shut down the newspaper Kriminal and the legal action threatened against Ryspek Omurzakov -- a reporter who was earlier given a suspended sentence for insulting the president -- for his coverage of opposition figure Topchubek Turgunaliev's trial. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. 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