Единомыслие создает дружбу. - Демокрит

No. 42, Part I, 28 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 7 March issue of OMRI's journal, TRANSITION:

- Pyramid Schemes Leave Albania on Shaky Ground
- Back to the Basics in Bulgaria
- Protests in Serbia Raise Hopes of Reconciliation in Kosovo
- In Post-Dayton Balkans, Change Comes Where It's Least Expected
- RUSSIA: Chernomyrdin: A Prime Minister Without Politics
- VIEWPOINT: Azerbaijan: Democracy in a State of Emergency

        and: Reviving the Black Sea

For subscription information about OMRI's new monthly, send an e-mail
message to transition@omri.cz


YELTSIN, CLINTON DISCUSS SUMMIT AGENDA. During a 27 February telephone
conversation, President Yeltsin and his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton,
agreed on an agenda for their scheduled 20-21 March summit in Helsinki,
Russian and Western agencies reported. The meeting will focus on three
broad topics--European security and NATO expansion, arms control, and
bilateral economic ties. Other issues, such as the Russian Ministry of
Atomic Energy's evasion of U.S. export controls on supercomputers, could
also come up. The Journal of Commerce reported on 27 February that the
U.S. may ask Moscow to return the IBM RS/6000 SP computer it recently
bought through an unspecified European middleman (see OMRI Daily Digest,
25 February 1997). The computer can perform 10,000 million theoretical
operations per second (MTOPS), while U.S. regulations require individual
approval of any sales to Russia of computers capable of more than 2,000
MTOPS. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN DISPARAGES THE BUDGET. In a short, four minute radio address on
28 February, President Yeltsin said he was "reluctant" to sign the
budget on 25 February because he doubted the government could fulfill
its conditions, ITAR-TASS. Yeltsin blamed the Duma for altering the
draft budget under the influence of "populism and lobbying interests."
The government is already being forced to resort to issuing state bonds
and even more nebulous "state guarantees" in lieu of cash payments. For
example, gold miners are complaining that the Finance Ministry is paying
off its 1.8 trillion ruble ($320 million) debt for gold deliveries with
state bonds, Izvestiya reported on 28 February. Finance Minister
Aleksandr Livshits told the Financial Times on 25 February that the
government will try to limit state guarantees for commercial bank loans
to 4 trillion rubles this year. -- Peter Rutland

met on 27 February with Col.-Gen. Viktor Chechevatov, commander of the
Far East Military District, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Chechevatov, widely rumored to be a possible successor to Defense
Minister Igor Rodionov, denied afterwards that he and Yeltsin had
discussed personnel issues. Unlike Rodionov, who has repeatedly warned
that the Russian military is on the verge of disintegration, Chechevatov
termed the current situation "serious" but added that "the troops are
controllable and capable of functioning." In his 28 February radio
address, Yeltsin did not mention Rodionov, who the previous day canceled
a scheduled 3-5 March visit to Armenia. The president reaffirmed his
commitment to introducing a professional military. While admitting that
the 1997 budget provides inadequate funding for military reform, he
called on the armed forces to exploit unspecified "reserves" to finance
it. -- Scott Parrish

General Council of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR)
resolved on 27 February to go ahead with a national day of protest on 27
March despite a government request that the action be called off, RTR
reported. An early NTV report said Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan met
with FNPR Chairman Mikhail Shmakov in an attempt to halt the protest,
but it later quoted Melikyan as saying their meeting was not directly
linked to the day of action. After confirming that the protest would go
ahead, the FNPR council appealed to President Yeltsin to sack the
government because of its failure to prevent the growth in wage arrears,
ITAR-TASS reported. Arrears total about 49 trillion rubles ($8.6
billion), of which 9.5 billion are owed by the state. Communist leader
Gennadii Zyuganov told the council that the KPRF will take an active
part in the protest. -- Penny Morvant

MORE CRITICISM OF ORT COVERAGE. Russian Public TV (ORT) has frequently
drawn criticism from various opposition politicians; during the last
week, the State Duma revoked the accreditation of an ORT correspondent
and representatives of the Agrarian Union complained about ORT coverage
of their recent conference, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February. But
increasingly, supporters of Yeltsin are also speaking out against the
network. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov recently accused ORT of carrying out
a campaign to discredit him (inspired by Presidential Chief of Staff
Anatolii Chubais and Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris
Berezovskii), and ORT General Director Sergei Blagovolin criticized his
own network's coverage of Luzhkov, Izvestiya reported on 28 February.
Izvestiya commented that Berezovskii remains the most influential figure
at ORT, despite having officially left the network's board of directors
in December. Blagovolin will likely be replaced soon, perhaps with ORT
News Director Kseniya Ponomareva, the paper added. -- Laura Belin

decided to reshuffle his public relations team in apparent
dissatisfaction with its work during his illness, Nezavisimaya gazeta
wrote on 28 February. The paper also expects the presidential press
service to be reorganized in the near future; presidential spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the press service "will diminish its
activity, because President Yeltsin wants to increase the number of his
own meetings with journalists." The paper argued that the reshuffle in
Yeltsin's public relations team may be linked to Anatolii Chubais's
possible move from presidential chief of staff to first deputy prime
minister (see OMRI Daily Digest 27 February 1997). Both Yastrzhembskii
and Mikhail Lesin, who resigned as chief of public relations for the
presidential administration this week, are close to Chubais. -- Nikolai

Maskhadov on 27 February decreed that kidnapping will be punishable by
death in Chechnya. Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev told
Kommersant-Daily that 349 people were reported to have been kidnapped in
the republic between December 1994 and January 1997, although the actual
number may be much higher. Two Russian TV (RTR) journalists were
recently released and one Italian reporter remains in captivity. The
kidnappings could be result of conflicts between Chechen field
commanders, or part of an effort to show Maskhadov's inability to
control the republic. The kidnappers may simply be criminals intent on
extorting money. The Chechen decree came on the anniversary of Russia's
admission to the Council of Europe. The council has protested Russia's
failure to carry out its promise to eliminate the death penalty. Over
the past year, Russia has executed more than 50 convicts, although none
since August. -- Robert Orttung

PRIMAKOV IN LONDON. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with
British Prime Minister John Major in London on 27 February to discuss
European security and bilateral ties, ITAR-TASS reported. A member of
the Russian delegation told the agency that Primakov was "satisfied"
with the talks, adding that Major had expressed support for concluding a
NATO-Russia charter prior to the alliance's planned July summit, at
which prospective East European members will be invited to begin
accession talks. Primakov, however, said that the content of the
charter, which Moscow insists take the form of a legally binding
agreement, is more important than its timing. Noting recent critical
commentary on NATO's expansion plans in the British press, ITAR-TASS
noted that Primakov's visit, which includes a 28 February address to the
Royal Institute of International Affairs, is aimed at influencing
British public opinion on the issue. -- Scott Parrish

Vadim Kuznetsov has expressed Moscow's concerns over the trial of nine
people who were allegedly involved in the highjacking of the Avrasya
ferryboat in January 1996, Cumhuriyet reported on 27 February. Kuznetsov
said he is disturbed at the Istanbul State Security Court's decision to
try the ongoing case as "interference in the vessel's direction" rather
than a terrorist act. He also said Russia is prepared to sell Turkey a
wide variety of arms, including assault helicopters, missile systems,
tanks, and light arms. Kuznetzov delivered his twin messages to Turkish
reporters the day after Turkish Defense Minister said Ankara would look
"elsewhere" for its military hardware needs if the U.S. does not annul a
congressional suspension imposed on a delivery of weapons originally
headed for Turkey. -- Julide Mollaoglu

miners from the town of Salair in Kemerovo Oblast broke into the local
city administration building on 27 February to protest wage arrears,
ITAR-TASS reported. The staff of the loss-making Salair lead and zinc
mining enterprise have not been paid for nine months but have been able
to purchase bread in exchange for tokens, according to Kommersant-Daily
on 28 February. On 25 February, when bread deliveries did not arrive in
the town's shops, the workers decided to march on the building; another
group stormed the enterprise's accounting office and demanded a meeting
with the oblast administration. Kemerovo Oblast deputy head Dmitrii
Chirakadze said the authorities have sent money to Salair to cover the
wages of budget workers and social benefits in an attempt to help the
miners' families, but the workers have not yet been paid. -- Penny

OIL PRIVATIZATION PLANS. The State Privatization Committee (GKI) has
approved a plan for the privatization of Rosneft, Ekho Moskvy reported
on 27 February. The state will retain 51% of the shares, 25% will be
offered to Rosneft workers, and 24% will be sold in public auction,
which is expected to raise 500 billion rubles ($88 million). Rosneft is
about the ninth largest oil company in Russia: in 1996 produced 13.1
million metric tons of oil and refined 4.8 million tons. Rosneft plans
to issue Eurobonds worth $200 million in March, Segodnya reported on 25
February. Izvestiya on 27 February wrote that the Ministry of Fuel and
Energy plans to create a new oil conglomerate comprising Rosneft,
Slavneft, Vostochnya Oil, and Sibur, which would control 15-20% of the
oil sector. Unlike the natural gas industry, the oil industry was broken
up into 16 independent companies after 1991. -- Peter Rutland


NEW CASUALTIES IN ABKHAZIA. Three Abkhaz soldiers were shot dead in
Abkhazia's troubled Gali district by unidentified gunmen, according to a
25 February Sakinform report monitored by the BBC. The commander of the
Russian peacekeeping forces, Maj.-Gen. Dolya Babenkov, warned that his
troops will "adequately react to any terrorist acts," ITAR-TASS
reported. Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan accused Georgia of
starting a "terrorist war" against its breakaway republic. Igor Akhba,
the Abkhaz representative to Russia, said that the recent outbreak of
violence is a sign of an impending "forcible resolution" of the Abkhaz
conflict by Georgia. Meanwhile, according to 26 February BGI (news
agency) report monitored by BBC, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba
said that the republic's parliament is currently preparing a declaration
of independence from Georgia. -- Emil Danielyan

ARMENIA TO SEEK A NEW KIND OF U.S. AID. During a meeting with a group of
U.S. Congressmen in Washington, Armenian Foreign Minister Aleksandr
Arzumanyan called for a "new kind" of U.S. aid to Armenia, RFE/RL
reported on 26 February. Arzumanyan argued that Armenia, the second
largest per capita recipient of U.S. aid among the former Soviet states,
has reached the point where it needs more development and technical
assistance, rather than humanitarian aid, in order to attract foreign
investment. A spokesman for the Armenian Embassy in Washington, Mikael
Bagratuni, told RFE/RL that the Armenian delegation requested a meeting
with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright but was told that she is
"recuperating from her around-the-world trip." -- Emil Danielyan

TURKMEN PRESIDENT IN ALMATY. Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev
and his visiting Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurad Niyazov, discussed a
wide range of regional issues, particularly the Caspian Sea, and signed
a clutch of intergovernmental agreements in Almaty on 27 February,
Russian and Western media reported the same day. Nazarbayev was quoted
as saying that the two-day official visit represents a "breakthrough in
all respects" and said the two countries have "immense" common
interests, specifically pointing to their desire to export hydrocarbon
reserves. Both presidents declared their belief that the Caspian should
be temporarily divided into national sectors to avoid conflict while the
sea's legal status is defined. The two sides also signed several
agreements on cooperation, including investment protection, double
taxation, and cooperation in the spheres of science, technology, health
care, and tourism. -- Lowell Bezanis

TAJIKISTAN UPDATE. The Tajik Presidential Guard and the United Tajik
Opposition forces have been launching attacks against forces loyal to
the outlaw Sadirov brothers since 25 February, Russian and Western media
reported on 27 February. The Tajik government claims to have killed 21
members of the gang and driven the pro-Sadirov group out of the Obi-Garm
area, while the UTO forces claim to have killed another 25. The region's
difficult terrain makes it unlikely that the Sadirov band will be
quickly defeated. Meanwhile, the latest round of inter-Tajik talks,
begun on 26 February, continued in Moscow on 27 February and are
expected to go on for another week, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. In
other news, 13 metric tons of emergency medical supplies, for combating
an outbreak of typhoid fever in Tajikistan reached Dushanbe from Moscow
on 27 February, Russian media reported the same day. The Tajik
authorities have thanked Russia for aid estimated at 4 billion rubles
($700,000). -- Lowell Bezanis

CORRECTION:  The OMRI Daily Digest of 26 February incorrectly reported
that Topchubek Turgunaliev, the chairman of the Erkin Kyrgyzstan party,
will reside in Bishkek and report monthly to the authorities. In fact,
he is being sent to Penal Colony no. 34, 30 km from Bishkek, to serve
his four-year sentence, RFE/RL reported on 26 February.
[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

            Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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