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No. 45, Part I, 05 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 transition-DD@omri.cz **See important message below on the upcoming changes to TRANSITION ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN CHASTISES PROCURATOR-GENERAL. President Boris Yeltsin on 4 March ordered Yurii Skuratov to put the Procurator's Office in order. In televised remarks, the president said society is "seething" over a number of unsolved high-profile murders, including the March 1995 slaying of TV executive Vladislav Listev. "Despite your repeated assertions that the Listev case is nearing an end, this and other cases are virtually buried. This is impermissible," Yeltsin said. He berated Skuratov for failing to take part in a 1 March Russian Public TV (ORT) documentary on Listev's assassination and accused him of relaxing control over the Procurator's Office, saying "discipline is low or absent altogether." -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN, CHERNOMYRDIN AGREE ON CABINET RESHUFFLE. Yeltsin met Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 4 March and agreed on proposals to reshuffle and restructure the government, Russian and Western agencies reported. The changes are to be announced on 6 March. According to presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, Yeltsin approved Chernomyrdin's plans to visit China, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia during the next few months--yet another sign that the prime minister will keep his job. Several ministers responsible for economic matters are expected to be replaced, and current Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais may become first deputy prime minister in charge of the economy. Meanwhile, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that cabinet posts should be divided among the four groups that gained more than 5% of the vote in the December 1995 parliamentary election (the Communist Party, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Our Home Is Russia, and Yabloko). -- Laura Belin FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CANDIDATE. The Federation Council on 5 March rejected Yeltsin's appointment of Mikhail Fedotov to the Constitutional Court by a vote of 69-54. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin personally appealed to the upper house to confirm Fedotov as a member of the court, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian legislature also rejected Fedotov's appointment to the Constitutional Court in the fall of 1991. At that time, he had been nominated by Democratic Russia. -- Robert Orttung DUMA PASSES LAW ON OPPOSITION. The Duma on 5 March approved a law guaranteeing the right of opposition activity in Russia by a vote of 266-48 with one abstention, ITAR-TASS reported. The law seeks to protect the right of citizens to make alternative proposals to the policies of the president and the government. It provides for the introduction of alternative bills in the legislature, public criticism of the executive's policy, and the right to demonstrate. It also guarantees the right of the opposition to create a shadow cabinet. If that cabinet receives the support of one-third of Duma deputies, its members can be invited to participate in executive branch meetings with a consultative vote. Yeltsin is likely to veto the bill on the grounds that it would violate the separation of powers and because rights such as free speech are already enshrined in the constitution. -- Robert Orttung TWO RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS KIDNAPPED IN GROZNY. ITAR-TASS correspondent Nikolai Zagnoiko and an unidentified Radio Rossii correspondent were kidnapped by armed men who stopped their car in Grozny on 4 March, ITAR- TASS reported. Mauro Galligani, an Italian journalist abducted last month, remains in captivity. No conditions for his release have yet been made. Two Russian Public TV (ORT) reporters were recently released, but the authorities did not make clear if they had paid a ransom. President Aslan Maskhadov recently introduced the death penalty to stem the rash of kidnappings. -- Robert Orttung WOMEN'S CHARTER SIGNED. Thirty-eight women's organizations have signed a charter of solidarity, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 March. The charter provides for cooperation among women's non-governmental organizations in defending human rights and dealing with discrimination in the labor market. State Duma Deputy Yekaterina Lakhova, a charter signatory, said that a special law on equal rights and opportunities for women should be adopted and that all legislation should be examined for passages that discriminate against women. According to the Moscow department of labor and employment, 70% of the unemployed registered in the capital are women. The constitution provides for the equality of men and women. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski OSCE SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MOSCOW. At a 4 March meeting with visiting OSCE Secretary-General Giancarlo Aragona, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov emphasized Moscow's view that the 55-member OSCE should play a "coordinating role" vis-a-vis other European and Atlantic security organizations, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian officials have long tried, unsuccessfully, to promote a strengthened and restructured OSCE as an alternative to NATO expansion. -- Scott Parrish ZAVTRA, SOVETSKAYA ROSSIYA BACK RODIONOV. A front-page editorial in the 4 March edition of the pro-communist Sovetskaya Rossiya strongly supported embattled Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, denouncing attempts to remove him as part of a plot to destroy the Russian military. Co- authored by Sovetskaya Rossiya chief editor Valentin Chikin and the chief editor of the extremist weekly Zavtra, Aleksandr Prokhanov, the article claimed that President Yeltsin plans to replace Rodionov with Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin, whose "pro-Western" policies would "completely destroy the country's armed forces." On 27 February Rodionov met with leading Russian bankers and industrialists, in an unusual attempt to bolster his political support. Kommersant-daily speculated the next day that banks designated to handle military accounts can make large profits, giving the defense minister a potential source of political support. -- Scott Parrish YAKUTIYA SUES MILITARY SPACE FORCES. A Sakha (Yakutiya) government official is suing Russia's Military Space Forces (VKS) over the 4 March rocket launch from the new Svobodnyi cosmodrome (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 March 1996). Sakha Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Borisov told ITAR-TASS that he will go to court against acting VKS commander Valerii Grin because the VKS ignored Sakha's demand that the launch be postponed until it received further safety guarantees. Borisov called on the Sakha parliament to abrogate a treaty the republic signed with the Defense Ministry in June 1996 allowing rocket stages to fall on its territory. In further bad news for the space sector, a cargo rocket carrying supplies to the Russian space station Mir failed to complete a planned docking with the manned orbiting module. -- Penny Morvant GENERAL STAFF ON 1997 REDUCTIONS IN ARMED FORCES. In a 5 March interview with Krasnya zvezda, Col.-Gen. Leonid Zolotov, the head of the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian General Staff, outlined plans for cutting the armed forces by 200,000 servicemen. President Yeltsin ordered such cuts in a 12 February decree (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 February 1997). Zolotov, who described the force reductions as a "compromise" between the country's defense needs and its economic potential, said administrative staff would be reduced and undermanned units consolidated, especially in logistical support. Estimating that some 30,000-50,000 officers would be discharged, Zolotov revealed that the heaviest cuts in combat units would fall on the Ground Forces. He added that Russia's "deterrent" forces, including the Strategic Rocket Forces and submarine fleet, would be shielded from the cuts. -- Scott Parrish DEFENSE CONVERSION STALLED. The Duma has criticized the implementation of the 1995-1997 state defense conversion program, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 March. In 1996, the military-industrial sector received only 66% of the funds alloted to it in the federal budget. Production in the sector dropped by 28% in 1996, and the work force by 13%. A large number of those working in the sector are either pensioners or about to retire. The state owes plants in the sector 29 trillion rubles ($5.1 billion), while their own debts total 66 trillion rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina DEFENSE INDUSTRY PROTESTS. About 2,000 disgruntled workers from the Zvezda nuclear submarine repair plant in Primorskii Krai blocked the highway running between Vadivostok and the port of Nakhodka for three hours on 5 March, ITAR-TASS reported. The workers, who last year blocked the Trans-Siberian railroad, are demanding the payment of back wages owed since September 1996. According to Radio Mayak on 4 March, several engineers from a nuclear submarine plant in the northern town of Severodvinsk threatened to tamper with a nuclear reactor if they were not paid their wages. After 48 hours of negotiations with Federal Security Service officers, they were persuaded to leave the reactor room. * Penny Morvant CENTRAL BANK TIGHTENS ITS GRIP ON COMMERCIAL BANKS. The Central Bank (TsB) has approved several measures to increase stability in the banking sector, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 4 March. They include changes in calculating the size of banks' capital, which may result in a 10-15% reduction in the volume of the capital, and a gradual increase in the ratio of banks' capital to their other assets from 6% to 7%-11%, depending on the size of the capital. Effective from 1999, banks with a capital of between 1 million and 5 million ECU will be allowed to operate only on the domestic market. Financial institutions with capital below 1 million ECU will not be registered as banks. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin assured leading Russian bankers that there will be no radical change in economic policy and suggested that banks buy more longer-term state securities, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Natalia Gurushina END OF "ULYANOVSK MIRACLE." Ulyanovsk Oblast prided itself on cushioning the impact of market reform by holding down food prices. However, in recent weeks prices have risen to the same level as neighboring regions, Izvestiya reports on 5 March. A loaf of white bread has risen from 800 to 2,500 rubles (50 cents). Izvestiya argues that prices were artificially subsidized in 1995-96 by the diversion of federal credits of around 200 billion rubles per year which were supposed to be used to help farmers buy inputs. Governor Yurii Goryachev narrowly won election on 22 December, although neither the communists nor pro-Yeltsin parties supported him. Izvestiya reveals that Goryachev's son, a former state farm director, heads the private company "Food," which includes some of the region's best farms, a meat plant, retail stores, and even has its own bank. Similarly, the son of deputy governor Vyacheslav Gurinovich runs his own company, which deals in fuel supplies. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA HIGH-LEVEL TALKS BETWEEN GEORGIA, SOUTH OSSETIA BEGIN IN MOSCOW. Another round of negotiations between Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia got under way in Moscow on 4 March, Russian media reported. Representatives of Russia, the OSCE, and the Russian Republic of North Ossetia are also attending the talks. The Georgian delegation, which is led by Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarashvili, wants recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity but, according to a North Ossetian representative, may agree to grant South Ossetia an autonomous status. In an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Kosta Dzugaev, speaker of the South Ossetian parliament, said a final settlement of the conflict is impossible without "special relations" between North and South Ossetia. -- Emil Danielyan ARMENIA TO HOLD MILITARY EXERCISES. Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan, speaking on state TV, said Armenia will hold military exercises at the end of March to enhance the "combat capacity and discipline" of its army, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 March. Reserve servicemen will be mobilized for three days to take part in the exercises. Sarkisyan complained that both society and Armenians abroad are "indifferent to possible aggravation of the situation in the region." Meanwhile, Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev and his Armenian counterpart, Levon Ter-Petrossyan, have said they are determined not to preserve the current cease-fire regime, Russian media reported on 4 March. In a telephone conversation the previous night, they also discussed stepping up the OSCE-sponsored Minsk negotiations over Nagorno Karabakh. -- Emil Danielyan and Lowell Bezanis CLASH AT ARAL SEA SUMMIT? According to Nezavismaya Gazeta on 4 March, Central Asian leaders clashed when discussing the Aral Sea in Almaty on 28 February. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov reportedly was opposed to making his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, head of the International Aral Sea Salvation Fund. -- Lowell Bezanis ALMATY ON NATO EXPANSION. Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev warned against the dangers of NATO enlargement, Russian media reported on 4 March. Nazarbayev said undue haste in expanding the alliance puts Russia's pro-democracy camp in a tough position. During recent visits to Moscow, the Kazakstani defense and foreign ministers as well as the parliamentary speaker all stressed that NATO expansion should not encroach on Moscow's interests. NATO ties to Central Asian states--and those countries' views on the alliance's enlargement--are to be discussed later this month when NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana visits the region's capitals. -- Lowell Bezanis NEW KAZAKSTANI CAPITAL CAUSES MORE HEADACHES. The controversial move of the capital from Almaty to the northern central city of Akmola is falling behind schedule, RFE/RL reported on 4 March. The Transportation, Communications, and Agriculture Ministries were moved to Akmola in December 1996, but 90% of officials at those ministries reportedly returned to Almaty by January. None of the ministry buildings has yet been completed. Construction of the new presidential palace and upgrading rail links to the airport in Akmola will cost an estimated $500 million. Opposition movements in Kazakstan, notably Azamat and the Communist Party, are calling on the government to first pay wage and pension arrears, which are approaching $1 billion. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! What's in Store for the magazine Transition We've learned much in the last two years about what sort of magazine Transition can be and what role it should play in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Of greatest help in this process has been the advice of readers. Among some of the desired changes are for Transition to offer even more articles by writers in the region - lively opinion pieces as well as fact-filled analysis and expanded departments. Accordingly, Transition will be substantially restructured and relaunched as a monthly with the issue dated June 1997. The last biweekly issue will be 6 April, followed by a brief hiatus. All existing subscriptions will be honored and extended according to the new monthly frequency, which is priced at $65 for 12 issues. As before, we offer a substantial discount for readers in and of the countries we cover (apply to the contacts listed below for more information). For engaged intellectuals, policymakers, journalists, and scholars from the region, the new Transition will provide a rare forum for the exchange of ideas and criticism on political, economic, and cultural issues and events. Transition will also offer readers from abroad a window on the experiences of countries moving away from a single ideology. We are certain that the magazine's new format and orientation will make it even more useful for your work, as well as contributing more to your understanding. For more information, contact the OMRI Marketing Department at tel. (420-2) 6114 2114, fax (420-2) 6114 3181; email: transition-DD@omri.cz *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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