|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 38, Part I, 24 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 YELTSIN SAYS HE HAS RECOVERED. President Boris Yeltsin, appearing in public for the first time in more than a month, said on 23 February that he had completely recovered his health and now just needs to regain his strength, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin, who laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow to mark Fatherland Defenders' Day (formerly Soviet Army Day), attacked the State Duma's attempts to unseat him on health grounds as useless, emphasizing "I am a fighter and I remain one." He depicted the Duma's resolution demanding a report on his health by 1 March as a political, communist campaign for which deputies would have to pay. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski YELTSIN, ALBRIGHT ON NATO. At the Fatherland Defenders' Day ceremony, Yeltsin said "We are opposed to NATO enlargement. Our task now is to stall it as long as possible," Reuters reported. He expressed the hope that a compromise could be reached with President Bill Clinton at the summit planned for 20 March in Helsinki. There was no sign of a positive Russian response to the new proposals offered by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during her 20-21 February visit to Moscow, although she said "important progress" had been made, Western agencies reported on 21 February. The Albright visit produced no breakthrough in US- Russian relations -- but no breakdown, either. Kommersant-Daily commented on 22 February that "the sides confined themselves to presenting the already known positions." -- Peter Rutland PRIMAKOV IN BRUSSELS. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who described Albright as "an iron lady but a constructive lady," traveled to Brussels on 23 February for talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. The two men issued a joint statement, saying that "progress has been made, but differences remain," AFP reported. Primakov proceeded to Norway on 24 February for a two-day visit. ITAR-TASS complained that a forum on U.S.-European relations organized in Brussels on 23 February by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, and chaired by Zbigniew Brzezinski, did not include any representatives from Russia, although persons from Ukraine were invited. -- Peter Rutland RODIONOV BLASTS NATO. Addressing a meeting of senior retired officers on veterans day, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov said that if "NATO comes closer to the Russian border, there is a very real risk that efforts will be made for external controls over Russian nuclear weapons," Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Rodionov accused NATO of "making all possible effort to deprive Russia of its strategic nuclear weapons." and said that "the Americans are driving a wedge between Russia and Ukraine." By 2000, he said, "our country's defenses will be in ruins" if nothing is done. Rodionov accused Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin of "disinformation" over the state of the armed forces, and repeated the warning that "Russia could lose control of its nuclear arms" due to breakdowns in the command system. On 21 February at Yeltsin's request, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin toured the strategic nuclear forces command center at Odintsevo, near Moscow, and pronounced it "reliable," AFP reported. -- Peter Rutland ARMY UPBEAT ABOUT BOSNIAN MISSION. Col.-Gen. Leontii Shevtsov, Russian commander in Bosnia, gave a positive evaluation of his experiences with the NATO force to Russian Public TV (ORT) on 22 February. He said "if Bosnia hadn't happened, it would have had to be invented," in order to promote mutual understanding between the U.S. and Russian militaries. Shevtsov said it would be a good idea for Russia to join NATO because, "like in Spain," it would help deter generals from launching a coup. Meanwhile, NTV carried a report on 22 February from the Pechora early warning radar station, saying that the system was still functioning and had even paid salaries for December. The situation at the nearby AWACs aircraft base was rather grimmer: no flights have been launched since early December. -- Peter Rutland DUMA CONSIDERS BANNING ORT CORRESPONDENT. The Duma on 21 February voted 307-4 in favor of a draft resolution to ban Russian Public TV's (ORT) correspondent Pavel Ryazantsev from reporting on the lower house for a month because of his report on the Duma's debate about a law on pornography, AFP reported. A final decision is expected in March. Duma member Stanislav Govorukhin said the report made the members look like "absolute idiots," NTV reported. ORT responded that its correspondent was being criticized for using excerpts from the deputies' speeches in his broadcast. Chairman of the Union of Russian Journalists Vsevolod Bogdanov said that the authorities have no right to deny sources of information to journalists, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma has long criticized the country's largest broadcaster for its pro-presidential bias and the way it was partially privatized. -- Robert Orttung DUMA FAILS TO SOLVE HOUSING ISSUE. The Duma could only muster 259 votes, well short of the 300 needed, to override a Federation Council veto of a bill that would have given each deputy approximately $60,000 to buy an apartment in Moscow, Russian TV reported on 22 February. Yabloko member Yurii Nesterov spoke against the bill because it would let the deputies keep the apartments even after their terms are finished. The parliamentarians do not have sufficient housing now because many of the former members of the Duma refuse to give up their employer-provided apartments (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 January 1997). -- Robert Orttung STAVROPOL COURT FINDS PRO-YELTSIN VOTE RIGGING. A Stavropol court fined three election workers in the Grachevskii Raion of Stavropol Krai for stuffing the ballot box with at least 1,000 false ballots in favor of Yeltsin during the presidential elections, Kommersant-Daily reported. Grachevskii was the only raion in the krai in which Yeltsin won, arousing suspicions among communist poll watchers. Grachevskii Business Manager Lidiya Burimovaya must pay 7 million rubles ($1,200), while the other two must pay 4 million each. Although there have been many allegations of illegalities during the elections, this case is the only one that has been successfully litigated. It will not affect the overall election results. NTV claimed that newly-elected Stavropol Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov, a communist who has poor relations with Moscow, initiated the case after long complaining about wrongdoing. He has already replaced the Grachevskii raion leadership. -- Robert Orttung KULIKOV: METALS INDUSTRY UNDER THREAT. Most of Russia's aluminum industry is run by large criminal groups, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov told the Duma on 21 February. He said that virtually all aluminum deals at plants in Krasnoyarsk and Bratsk are controlled by gang leaders, ITAR-TASS reported. There has been considerable media coverage of the "aluminum mafia" in recent weeks--in particular, of the dealings of the Chernyi brothers' Trans-seas Commodities company, in which former First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets has been implicated (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 January 1997). Kulikov called for the establishment of a state commission to investigate violations in the privatization of metallurgical enterprises and the creation of large production complexes to unite mining and processing companies and electricity suppliers in an attempt to curb illegal transactions. Kulikov also asserted that Western producers are attempting to force Russia out of the aluminum market and called for protectionist policies. -- Penny Morvant THREE ASSISTANTS TO DUMA DEPUTIES HAD CRIMINAL RECORDS. Three parliamentary aides, killed in separate attacks since November 1996, had links with the criminal world, Moscow government official Anatolii Petrov said in a letter to Duma deputies on 21 February. He said the three aides, all of whom worked for Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, had criminal records or were active members of criminal gangs, ITAR-TASS reported. Petrov proposed that the Duma adopt legislation on deputies' assistants in order to tighten up the selection process. -- Penny Morvant 1996 BUDGET FIGURES. According to the government's Working Center for Economic Reform, 1996 budget revenue totaled 279 trillion rubles ($49 billion, or 12.4% of GDP) and expenditures 353 trillion rubles (15.6%), ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. The budget deficit reached 74.3 trillion rubles (3.3% of GDP), up from 3% in 1995 but still lower than the expected 3.85%. Under IMF methodology, the deficit was estimated at 174 trillion rubles, or 7.7% of GDP, compared to the expected level of 6.8%. Some 55% of the deficit was financed through domestic borrowing through the sale of state short-term securities. The remaining 45% was financed via external borrowing. Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin said that the IMF may continue to freeze the January and February tranches of the $10.1 billion extended facility fund due to poor tax collection in January. -- Natalia Gurushina DUMA PASSES LAW ON FOREIGN INVESTMENT. The Duma passed on first reading a new law on foreign investment in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. The law says that foreign and domestic investors should be treated in the same way, guarantees a stable economic environment for foreign businesses for the first five years of their operations in Russia, and protects them from nationalization. The Duma also passed a bill listing the economic sectors where foreign participation will be limited. They include the defense industry and railways. Foreign investment in Russia in 1996 topped $4.5 billion, of which some $1.2 billion was direct investment. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov said that Russia may postpone further liberalization of foreign trade until it completes restructuring of industry, which could take five to six years, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. -- Natalia Gurushina CORRECTION: An item in the OMRI Daily Digest of 21 February 1997 described the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate as the second- largest church in Ukraine. According to opinion surveys, it is judged to have the largest number of adherents. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA SENIOR OFFICIAL IN AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY ASSASSINATED. Ziya Buniyatov, First Deputy Chairman of New Azerbaijan (Yeni Azerbaycan), was killed on 21 February, Russian and Western media reported. An orientalist, Bunyatov received the top Soviet decoration, Hero of the Soviet Union, for his service in World War II. Buniyatov, 75, was a member of parliament and vice president of the Academy of Sciences. He was shot twice and stabbed four times in what the authorities have described as a likely contract murder. Further details have not been released. -- Lowell Bezanis ARMENIA, IRAN TO CONNECT POWER GRIDS. Armenia's Deputy Energy Minister Karen Galustyan said on 22 February that Iran and Armenia will soon connect their power grids over the Arax river which separates the two countries, AFP reported. Galustyan said that work is complete on the Armenian side and is almost finished on the Iranian side. According to Galustyan, tests of the new link will be carried out in early March. AFP also quoted the Iranian state news agency as reporting that, following the recent visit to Yerevan by Vice President Hasan Habibi, Iran will supply Armenia with 200 megawatts of electricity a day beginning in late March. -- Emil Danielyan NAZARBAYEV'S TIMELY TRIP TO CHINA. Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev held talks in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin on 21 February, international media reported. The two discussed expanding trade ties and involving Chinese companies in exploiting and transporting Kazakstan's hydrocarbon reserves. Earlier media reports that the two would discuss separatist violence in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Province in early February were denied by Kazakstani officials reached by RFE/RL on 22 February. Nazarbayev initially arrived in south China on 12 February for an earlier unannounced holiday and to receive what was termed preventative medical treatment. He was the first foreign dignitary to stand beside Zemin after the latter replaced deceased Chinese supremo Deng Xiaoping. -- Lowell Bezanis UZBEK ROUNDUP. Uzbek human rights activist and freelance RFE/RL correspondent Albert Mousin was detained on 24 February by Moscow police at the request of Uzbek authorities, RFE/RL reported the same day. Moscow police say Mousin is charged with "intentionally spreading falsehood undermining the state and society" under article 191 of Uzbekistan's legal code. In other news, Coca-Cola oEšned its third plant in Uzbekistan on 21 February, RFE/RL reported. At the opening of the $10 million plant in Namangan, a company representative announced plans to build yet another, this time near Tashkent, at an estimated cost of $55 million. -- Lowell Bezanis TAJIKS REACH ACCORD IN MESHED. The 20-21 February talks between the government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) in Meshed resulted in an accord on the composition of the new 26- member National Reconciliation Commission, RFE/RL reported on 21 February. The 50-50 split they agreed to leaves no place for any so-called Third Forces as earlier foreseen in UN-sponsored drafts. It appears the sides registered progress toward a formal power sharing agreement as well: 30% of all local and republican posts are slated to go to the UTO, RFE/RL reported. How the remaining 70% is to be divided up remains unclear, however. In the latest twist, presidential press spokesman Zafar Saidov on 24 February said one of the "Third Forces," the strongman in control of Tursun Zade and its lucrative aluminum plant, Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, will participate in the next round of inter-Tajik talks, slated for 26 February in Moscow. -- Lowell Bezanis TRILATERAL TALKS IN TEHRAN. A trilateral economic commission meeting attended by Iran, India, and Turkmenistan reached agreements on several joint projects, international media reported on 22 February. Among other plans announced, gas is to be transferred from Turkmenistan to India, a shipping repair installation built on the Iran-Turkmen Caspian border, and a textile factory will be built in Meshed, Iran. The sides also agreed to include Georgia in the commission. The present commission was established in 1995. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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