|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 43, Part I, 03 March 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: BALKAN UNREST - 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 PLUS... - 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 email@example.com ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA RUSSIA, CHECHNYA CLOSE TO AGREEMENT. Following another one-day round of negotiations in Grozny, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and acting Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov announced on 2 March that the federal government and Chechnya may sign a treaty "on peace and agreement" during the first ten days of this month, Russian TV reported. Rybkin said that a "centuries-old confrontation" is "coming to an end." The agreement provides for Chechnya to remain within the ruble zone, but the two sides announced no other provisions. NTV quoted early critics of the new agreement as pointing out that Chechnya wants independence from everything but the budget. While acknowledging that advances have been made, Udugov stressed that the question of whether Chechnya will be independent remains unresolved, "slowing the whole process of negotiations." -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN ORDERS NEXT STEP TOWARD ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY . . . President Boris Yeltsin on 28 February ordered the Foreign Ministry to sign Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlaws capital punishment, international agencies reported. When it joined the Council of Europe on 28 February 1996, Russia undertook to sign Protocol 6 within a year and to ablolish the death penalty within three. Yeltsin also instructed the Justice Ministry to work out measures to bring about the "step by step" abolition of the death penalty in practice, but he set no timetable. Before capital punishment can be abolished, the parliament must amend current legislation, including the new Criminal Code. There is considerable support for capital punishment in the Duma, which has still not passed legislation placing a moratorium on executions. Although Russia committed itself to an immediate moratorium when it acceded to the Council of Europe, executions continued until August. -- Penny Morvant . . . AND TO PROPOSE REFERENDUM ON MERGER WITH BELARUS. Yeltsin, in his 6 March address to the State Duma, will announce that he and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, have agreed to hold simultaneous national referenda on accelerating Russian-Belarusian integration, Reuters reported on 1 March, citing Interfax. Quoting anonymous sources in Yeltsin's administration, the agency said Yeltsin will argue that the current state of "semi-unification" between the two countries is more expensive than fuller economic and political integration. The report gave no details and no date for the proposed referenda. Yeltsin proposed such referenda in a January letter to Lukashenka (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 January 1997). To date, bilateral declarations and agreements on Russian-Belarusian integration have had little effect in practice. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN, PRIMAKOV DISCUSS NATO EXPANSION, HELSINKI SUMMIT. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 2 March briefed Yeltsin on his recent visits to Brussels, Oslo, Copenhagen, and London, international agencies reported. Primakov said "progress" had been made on the proposed Russia- NATO charter, but he and Yeltsin agreed that any such agreement must not only address Russian "concerns" but be legally "binding," which alliance leaders have balked at. Yeltsin also ordered Primakov to visit Washington to finalize preparations for the 20-21 March U.S.-Russian summit in Helsinki. Addressing the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London on 28 February, Primakov argued that Western policies aimed at expanding NATO and hampering CIS integration were damaging Russia's relations with the West. He added that Moscow wants a moratorium on NATO enlargement. The alliance is moving ahead with plans to accept new members by 1999. -- Scott Parrish STROEV NOT INTERESTED IN CHERNOMYRDIN'S JOB. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, rumored to be a possible candidate for prime minister, announced that he has no desire to leave his current posts as governor of Orel Oblast and head of the upper house of parliament, Russian media reported on 28 February. Stroev's comments fueled speculation that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will keep his job in the reshuffle expected on 6 March. Meanwhile, at a 28 February conference of his Reforms--New Course movement in Togliatti (Samara Oblast), former Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko called on Yeltsin to dissolve the State Duma along with reshuffling the government. Shumeiko had reportedly been considered for Chernomyrdin's job, but his latest suggestion infuriated Duma deputies, who would have to confirm a new prime minister. Shumeiko could still be tapped to head Yeltsin's administration, should Anatolii Chubais take up a cabinet post. -- Laura Belin DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF RUSSIA REPLACES GLAZEV. The Democratic Party of Russia (DPR) replaced its leader, Sergei Glazev, with 45-year-old Viktor Petrov, chairman of the party's Rostov regional organization, ITAR-TASS reported 28 February. Petrov described the DPR as "a party of strong regional organizations" but called for a new program and set of parties rules to be adopted in May. Glazev did not seek another term, saying he was too busy as the head of the Federation Council's Information and Analytical Department. Another visible DPR leader, the Duma member and filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin has also quit the party, which has been in crisis since its founder, Nikolai Travkin, resigned as leader in late 1994. -- Robert Orttung LEBED BUILDING NEW PARTY IN REGIONS. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed appeared in Chelyabinsk to found a regional branch of his Russian People's-Republican Party (RNRP), Russian media reported on 1 March. The RNRP, which is being organized by Lebed's Honor and Motherland movement, will hold its nationwide founding congress later this month; it has already established branches in Nizhnii Novgorod, Krasnoyarsk Krai, and Bashkortostan. Also on 1 March, the Honor and Motherland headquarters in Zlatoust (Chelyabinsk Oblast) were burned to the ground in a suspected arson attack, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), on whose ticket Lebed campaigned for the State Duma in 1995, held a conference in Moscow on 1 March. KRO leader Dmitrii Rogozin told ITAR-TASS that he would have to study the program of Lebed's new party before he could determine how closely they would cooperate in the future. -- Laura Belin IRKUTSK WITHHOLDS FEDERAL BUDGET PAYMENTS. Irkutsk Governor Yurii Nozkikov has ordered that the oblast stop making payments to the federal budget as of 1 March, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 March. The money will be allocated to the oblast budget to pay wages in the social sector. Wage arrears in the oblast have reached 2 trillion rubles ($360 million). Nozhikov's move follows a trip to Moscow last week in which he met with federal officials, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and made demands totaling some 3 trillion rubles, Radio Rossii reported. -- Robert Orttung FBI AGENT ADMITS SPYING FOR RUSSIA. Earl Pitts, the former FBI counterintelligence officer arrested last December on charges of selling classified information to Russian and Soviet agents from 1987 to 1996 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 December 1996), pleaded guilty on 28 February to two espionage charges, Reuters reported. In a plea bargain negotiated with federal prosecutors, ten other charges against Pitts were dropped in exchange for his admission of guilt. Pitts still faces the possibility of life imprisonment when sentenced later this month. The plea bargain allows the government to avoid a trial in which classified information might have been disclosed. -- Scott Parrish MONEY BOUND FOR RUSSIA STOLEN AT LONDON AIRPORT. About $2.5 million of U.S. aid for Russia was stolen at London's Heathrow airport last week, British police said on 2 March. The money was seized from a high- security cargo compound on 25 February while awaiting transfer from a New York flight to a plane bound for Moscow, international agencies reported. The cash was in one of four bags, containing a total of $10 million. The Mail on Sunday said the money, in high denomination dollar bills, came from the Republic National Bank of New York and was being sent to the Moscow-based Tokobank as part of U.S. aid to Russia. On 3 March, however, the U.S. embassy in Moscow denied that USAID money had been stolen, AFP reported. "This story, as reported, is not credible," an embassy press release said. -- Penny Morvant CENTRAL BANK TO INTRODUCE 500,000-RUBLE BANK NOTE. The Central Bank (TsB) will introduce a new 500,000-ruble ($90) bank note on 17 March, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 28 February-1 March. This move appears to confirm the TsB's promise not to carry out monetary reform in the near future. The new bill will feature a portrait of Peter the Great, a metallic strip intended to prevent counterfeiting, and special signs for visually-impaired people. It will first be introduced in the Far East and northern Russia. -- Natalia Gurushina PERSONAL SAVINGS IN COMMERCIAL BANKS IN JANUARY. Personal savings kept in the Sberbank savings bank totaled 97.6 trillion rubles ($17 billion at the current exchange rate) in January, up 13% over December 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February, citing the State Statistical Committee (Goskomstat). The average personal savings deposit increased from 381,100 rubles in December to 429,800 rubles in January. The state- owned Sberbank holds 76% of all personal savings held in Russian commercial banks. -- Natalia Gurushina OIL EXPORT ROUTES. Russian oil companies are considering building a new 250 km eastern branch of the Perm-Saratov-Novorossiisk pipeline that will avoid Ukrainian territory, Segodnya reported on 28 February. Russian firms have to pay Ukraine $2.5 for each metric ton of oil transiting the Dnieper pipeline, which runs to the Russian port of Novorossiisk. In 1996, Russia paid Ukraine $200 million in oil transit fees, $75 million on the Dnieper line and $125 million on the Druzhba line, which carries oil to Slovakia and Western Europe. Russian TV (RTR) noted on 27 February that 90% of Russia's freight imports come through ports in the Baltic states, which means an estimated loss to Russia of $10 billion a year in revenue. Three new ports are to be constructed in Leningrad Oblast as well as an oil facility at Ust-Lug and a natural gas outlet at Primorsk. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AIOC FUNDS BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE. The Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) will spend $315 million on the construction of a pipeline from Baku to Supsa on the Georgian Black Sea coast, Russian and Western media reported on 28 February. Construction is to begin immediately and is scheduled to be completed by December 1998. The pipeline will carry an estimated 115,000 barrels a day of so-called early oil. Early oil is supposed to start flowing through the "northern route" to the Russian port of Novorossiisk in 1997. -- Lowell Bezanis CENTRAL ASIAN HEADS OF STATE DISCUSS ARAL SEA . . . The presidents of all five Central Asian States met in Almaty on 28 February to discuss the desiccation of the Aral Sea, RFE/RL reported the same day. Following the summit, Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the World Bank will spend $2.5 million on a pilot project to help persons living near the sea. Each republic will allocate 0.3% of its national income to the International Aral Sea Salvation Fund. Uzbek President Islam Karimov is to head the fund over the next three years. It was also agreed in Almaty to urge the UN to proclaim 1998 the year of environmental protection in Central Asia. -- Lowell Bezanis . . . AND WARN OF TALIBAN SPRING OFFENSIVE. The Central Asian presidents also discussed Afghanistan, although Nazarbayev stressed "no special decision" was taken. They expressed concern over developments there, while Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, went further, saying they feared a Taliban spring offensive that could destabilize Central Asia, international media reported. Karimov was quoted by AFP as saying the Uzbek military has been put on alert. The five leaders also unanimously urged all interested countries to support their concept of a nuclear weapon-free Central Asia, Russian media reported on 28 February. -- Lowell Bezanis TAJIK UPDATE. Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) representatives remain "far apart" on key military problems, Russian media reported on 2 March. The key sticking point in the Moscow talks is the size of the opposition forces to be integrated with those of the Tajik government. The UTO wants platoons and companies integrated, while the government wants groups of only 5-10 men. Meanwhile, owing to a lack of ammunition and food, fighting between UTO and pro-Sadirov forces in the Ramid Gorge seems to have temporarily ceased, RFE/RL reported. The Tajik Foreign Ministry has protested to Russia over what it called the anti-Tajik campaign waged by the Russian media, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 March. Dushanbe called on Moscow to curb the campaign of "purposeful disinformation." Finally, the death toll from the typhoid fever outbreak in Tajikistan has risen to over 80, Reuters reported on 28 February. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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