|Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most times he will pick himself up and carry on. - Winston Churchill|
No. 44, Part I, 04 March 1997
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 RADUEV TROOPS PARADE IN GROZNY. Chechen Field Commander Salman Raduev presided over a parade of 200 armed men and some 20 vehicles in central Grozny on 3 March at a rally that attracted about 3,000 people, Radio Rossii and AFP reported. Raduev read out a decree by former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev declaring 19 January, the anniversary of the end of his terrorist attack on Kizlyar and Pervomaiskoe, as a day of historic Chechen combat glory. He reiterated his threat to burn three Russian cities on 21 April, the anniversary of former President Dzhokhar Dudaev's death. The crowd cheered the appearance of Yandarbiev, who was more restrained than Raduev, calling on the Chechen people to be calm and join forces to build an independent state. President Aslan Maskhadov did not send a representative to the gathering, while Movladi Udugov, Chechnya's chief negotiator with Russia, described the rally as a "challenge to the current authorities," AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung CHECHEN PARLIAMENT HAS NINE NEW MEMBERS. The Chechen Electoral Commission on 3 March increased the number of valid races in the parliamentary elections earlier this year from 32 to 41. The commission based the changes on corrections in its voter registration lists and responses to various complaints about the balloting, ITAR-TASS reported. Races are considered valid if 50% of the eligible voters in a district participate. The 63-strong Chechen parliament is now one short of the 42 members required for a quorum. New elections will be held to fill the remaining 22 seats. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN, EU LEADERS DISCUSS SECURITY, TRADE. President Boris Yeltsin met with Netherlands Prime Minister Wim Kok, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and EU Commission President Jacques Santer in Moscow on 3 March, Russian and Western media reported. Afterward, Yeltsin said "partnership" between Russian and the EU is the "key to strengthening security and stability on the continent." He added that the 1994 EU-Russian partnership accord, which awaits ratification by several countries, should go into effect by this summer. Kok noted that although Yeltsin reiterated Russian objections to NATO enlargement, he did not oppose the EU's parallel plans to expand into Eastern Europe. At an earlier meeting, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin pressed for greater access to EU markets for Russian products like textiles, which have been at the center of a long-standing trade dispute. The EU is Russia's largest trading partner, accounting for 40% of its foreign trade in 1996. -- Scott Parrish COMMUNIST PLENUM ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO GOVERNMENT. A Central Committee plenum of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) has passed resolutions demanding a governmental report to the State Duma and warning that if wage arrears are not entirely paid by the end of March, Communist Duma deputies will propose a vote of no confidence in the government, Russian media reported on 3 March. The plenum also expelled Central Committee member and Duma deputy Vyacheslav Zvolinskii, who has been involved in efforts to form a new Duma faction, the Russian Industrial Union (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 and 12 February 1997). KPRF deputy leader Valentin Kuptsov denounced the attempts to form an industrial group as "betrayal" and said the KPRF will take steps to strengthen party discipline, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin DUMA SPEAKER BLASTS SHUMEIKO. Reforms--New Course leader Vladimir Shumeiko's recent suggestion that the president dissolve the State Duma should be considered a "public appeal aimed at changing [Russia's] constitutional structure" and therefore illegal, according to Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev. He asked the Procurator-General's Office and the Justice Ministry to offer a legal evaluation of Shumeiko's remarks, Russian media reported on 3 March. The Russian constitution only allows for the Duma to be dismissed if it twice votes no confidence in the government or thrice rejects a prime ministerial candidate. -- Laura Belin BABURIN CALLS FOR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, addressing the seventh congress of his Russian All-People's Union (ROS) on 1 March, warned that a "revolutionary situation" is taking shape in Russia and called for civil disobedience and non- parliamentary methods of struggle, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. He urged ROS activists to establish links with trade unions and create national and local strike committees. Baburin, who supported Gennadii Zyuganov's presidential candidacy last year but refused to join Zyuganov's Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia after the election, accused the Communist Party of maintaining a weak opposition stance. He also criticized former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, although he acknowledged that most of Lebed's supporters were "patriotic." -- Laura Belin SEROV ON CIS INTEGRATION. Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov, interviewed in Delovye lyudi, no. 74, February 1997, said the CIS countries were "wasting time and effort proving that they can survive as independent countries." He accused Ukraine of "double dealing" by pursuing independent policies while 48% of Ukrainian exports are to Russia. He chastised Kazakstan for selling chrome deposits last year to Japanese companies, which led to a halt in deliveries to Russia. Serov also criticized "certain circles in the [Russian] economics and finance ministries" for seeking "short-term benefits" in relations with the CIS- -for example, by imposing VAT on CIS imports or trying to block sugar deliveries from Ukraine. In 1996, Russia's trade turnover with the CIS countries increased by 17% and amounted to $34 billion, about 26% of Russia's total trade. -- Peter Rutland CIA AGENT PLEADS GUILTY TO SPYING FOR RUSSIA. Former CIA officer Harold Nicholson, arrested last November on charges of selling classified information to Russian agents from 1994 to 1996 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 November 1996) pleaded guilty in a Washington, D.C. federal court on 3 March, international agencies reported. In exchange for Nicholson's admission of guilt and his pledge to fully full cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the damage his spying caused to American intelligence operations, prosecutors will recommend that he receive a reduced sentence. Among the classified information Nicholson admitted revealing to Moscow were the names and assignments of new agents he trained at a CIA field school during 1994 and 1995. He also admitted to disclosing documents detailing the debriefing of the notorious Russian mole Aldrich Ames after his 1994 arrest. In Moscow, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service refused to comment on Nicholson's confession. -- Scott Parrish PROCURATOR-GENERAL FEARS UNREST IN PRISONS. The appalling conditions in Russian jails could provoke an "explosion" among inmates, Procurator- General Yurii Skuratov warned on 3 March. Skuratov told a meeting of security officials that more than a million convicts and suspects are held in Russia's overcrowded prisons, including 288,000 in remand centers, RTR reported. Russia has 694 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, by far the highest ratio among Council of Europe member states, according to Izvestiya. Skuratov expressed particular concern about the rising incidence of tuberculosis, saying about 2,000 people died from the disease in prisons last year. -- Penny Morvant INAUGURAL LAUNCH FROM SVOBODNYI COSMOSDROME. Russia carried out its first launch from the new Svobodnyi cosmodrome in Amur Oblast on 4 March, sending a Zeya military satellite into orbit aboard a Start-1 booster rocket (a modified SS-25 ballistic missile), international agencies reported. The Svobodnyi space center, located at a former strategic nuclear missile base about 100 km from the Chinese border, was opened a year ago.It is intended to reduce Moscow's dependence on the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakstan.The launch was protested by environmentalists and the government of the neighboring republic of Sakha (Yakutiya), where one of the rocket's stages was scheduled to fall. -- Penny Morvant DOLLAR PURCHASES. Russians bought $5.2 billion of foreign currency in January, AFP reported on 3 March, citing the State Statistical Committee. This accounts for 24% of Russians' total income (121.6 trillion rubles or $21.7 billion) that month. The population's foreign- currency purchases increased from 14% of total income in 1995 to 18.5% in 1996. The amount of foreign currency that Russians keep at home is estimated at $20 billion. -- Natalia Gurushina SHUTTLE TRADE. The Federation Council's analytical department estimates that individuals imported $15.4 billion worth of goods, mainly textiles and consumer durables, in the first ten months of last year and exported goods worth $1.5 billion, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 March. In 1996, officially reported textile imports amounted to $1.2 billion and exports $600 million. Increased imports have caused Russian textile production to fall to 10% of its 1991 level. -- Peter Rutland LEADING RUSSIAN ECONOMIST DIES. Stanislav Shatalin died on 3 March in Moscow aged 62, ITAR-TASS reported. In 1990, Shatalin, then a member of the presidential council, and Grigorii Yavlinskii drew up the 500-day program of transition to a market economy, which was rejected by the administration of President Mikhail Gorbachev as too radical. In July 1996, Shatalin was among the Russian and American economists who wrote an open letter to the Russian government urging it to play a greater role in the transitional economy. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA ACCUSES AZERBAIJAN OF PREPARING FOR WAR . . . The Armenian Foreign Ministry on 1 March released a statement accusing Azerbaijan of undertaking a large-scale military build-up in order to prepare for a "forceful solution" to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, international agencies reported. The statement said that Azerbaijan has exceeded the weapons limit stipulated in the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty and thus violated the "letter and spirit" of the May 1994 cease- fire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the ministry, Azerbaijan purchased some 150 tanks and 10 warplanes from Ukraine between 1993 and 1995. It currently has 285 tanks, while only 220 are allowed under the CFE treaty. The ministry also voiced concern over the "concentration of the Azerbaijani military" in areas near the border with Armenia. -- Emil Danielyan . . . WHILE BAKU DENOUNCES YEREVAN'S HOSTILE INTENTIONS. An official statement released by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry accused Yerevan of building up its military potential and preparing what it called "new aggression" against Azerbaijan, Russian and Western media reported on 3 March. Baku said that Yerevan possesses missile complexes capable of launching nuclear attacks on targets up to 300 km away, claiming 20 Armenian servicemen have been trained in Russia to operate these missile systems. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Security Minister Namig Abbasov has accused Armenia of holding more than 800 Azerbaijani hostages, Russian media reported the same day. -- Lowell Bezanis GEORGIAN DEPUTIES STAGE HUNGER STRIKE. Ten deputies of the parliament, including deputy speaker Vakhtang Kolbaya, have gone on hunger strike to demand the withdrawal of Russian peace-keeping forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 March. The hunger strikers are members of the Abkhazeti caucus, which represents the 250,000 or so mainly ethnic Georgian refugees who fled Abkhazia in 1993 after Abkhaz forces took control of the whole region. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said he sympathizes with the deputies but warned against attempts "to exploit their sacred feelings" for political purposes, according to a 3 March Iprinda report monitored by the BBC. -- Emil Danielyan ABKHAZ FORCES BLOCK ALLEGED EVACUATION OF RUSSIAN BORDER-GUARD EQUIPMENT. Abkhaz speedboats on 28 February blocked a Russian border- guard naval base in the Ochamchira district to prevent the "theft of valuable equipment and ransacking of the base," AFP reported. Col.-Gen. Vladimir Ruzlyaev, commander of Russia's Caucasus Special Border District denied the Abkhaz allegations saying his troops were conducting a "routine action" aimed at the "replacement of personnel." According to a 1 March RIA-Novosti report monitored by the BBC, a spokesman for the district said the two sides "seem satisfied" with the results of talks between Ruzlyaev and Abkhaz leaders. -- Emil Danielyan KAZAKSTANI UPDATE. President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 3 March sacked seven of his 21 ministers, AFP reported. He said his government needs to be streamlined, adding that "there are 1 million officials out of a population of 16 million". In other news, Nazarbayev signed a presidential decree pledging state support for foreign investment in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 March. Under the law, foreign entrepreneurs and businessmen will be partly or completely exempt from taxes for the first five years they operate in Kazakstan. In addition, their taxes will remain low for the next five years. -- Lowell Bezanis INTER-TAJIK TALKS SUSPENDED. The latest round of inter-Tajik talks came to a halt in Moscow on 3 March, Russian and Western media reported. The unexpected recess is believed to be linked to the detention last month of six Tajik opposition partisans charged with involvement in a recent spate of killings of Russian servicemen in Tajikistan. One of the six, a member of the Kasim Ismatov group, was reportedly killed in detention earlier this week. -- 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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