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No. 46, Part I, 06 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 ********************************************************************** 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 YELTSIN CALLS FOR "ORDER," CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT . . . The need to establish "order based on law" was the prevailing theme of President Boris Yeltsin's annual address to the parliament on 6 March -- his first major policy speech since his long illness. Yeltsin distributed a 66- page text to the parliament, and delivered a 30-minute speech in the Kremlin which was televised for the parliamentarians. Yeltsin said he is dissatisfied with the government and will announce changes in its lineup soon, Russian and Western agencies reported. (Anatolii Chubais evaded journalists' attempts to confirm an Ekho Moskvy report that he had already been appointed first deputy prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported.) Yeltsin also criticized proposed constitutional amendments, saying the parliament should first "learn to respect" the constitution and pass all the federal constitutional laws called for in the document. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told AFP that Yeltsin's speech made him feel "ashamed," as it contained no specifics on how to solve key problems. -- Laura Belin . . . DISCUSSES CHECHNYA . . . Yeltsin admitted that the top political leadership made mistakes in Chechnya and that the conflict has inflicted a deep wound on Russian society and tremendous damage on the economy. He noted that a decision on Chechnya's independence has been put off until 2001 to allow emotions to abate, but he stressed that the negotiation process will continue. The Chechen conflict showed that the country has weak state institutions and suffers from the fragmentation of power and society, the president said. The main lesson to be drawn from the conflict, he added, is "Russia needs order." -- Robert Orttung . . . FOREIGN POLICY . . . Yeltsin repeated his "profoundly negative view" of NATO expansion, saying "times are getting critical for Europe." He argued that "without Russia, and even more so against her," it would prove impossible to create "an effective system of security." He reiterated Moscow's demand that any Russia-NATO charter take the form of a legally binding international treaty. Emphasizing that he will strive for "cooperation between equals" at his meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton later this month, Yeltsin cautioned that no one country should be allowed to dominate international affairs. He termed fostering integration with Belarus "the most important direction" in Russian foreign policy in 1997. -- Scott Parrish . . . MILITARY REFORM . . . Yeltsin declared that he will soon make "a decision in principle" on the direction of military reform, describing its goal as the creation of a smaller, more efficient military that maintained Russia's capability to deter potential aggressors. He said reform will downsize and improve the professionalism of the military, streamline the number of service branches, reduce the number of ministries with uniformed servicemen, and create new mobile forces in each of Russia's eight military districts. Calling for technological modernization, he admitted that the Russian military lags five to fifteen years behind its Western counterparts in some areas. -- Scott Parrish . . . AND ECONOMICS. Yeltsin's address contained few new economic ideas but was rather a catalog of ills and an affirmation of the importance of continuing reform and implementing existing policies. Yeltsin called for a balanced budget by 1999, excluding the costs of debt servicing, and said he intends to take the drawing up of the budget under his "personal control." He called, predictably, for a crackdown on corruption and lamented the fact that "the criminal world has openly challenged the state and launched into open competition with it." -- Peter Rutland EFFORTS INTENSIFY TO FIND JOURNALISTS KIDNAPPED IN CHECHNYA. Russian officials and journalists continued to seek information on the whereabouts of four Russian journalists taken hostage in Grozny on 4 March. The four include an ITAR-TASS correspondent and three employees of Radio Rossii. According to initial reports, only two journalists had been captured. The Federal Security Service claimed to have preliminary information on where the journalists are being held, while executives from ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii flew to Grozny to coordinate the search efforts. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has ordered his deputies to take all steps to find the journalists, Radio Rossii reported. Komsomolskaya pravda on 6 March argued that the authorities will be unable to accomplish much and that the correspondents' freedom will have to be bought. -- Robert Orttung DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT TV COVERAGE. The State Duma has affirmed its decision to strip Russian Public TV (ORT) correspondents of their accreditation for one month as punishment for biased coverage, Russian media reported on 5 March. An ORT commentator complained of "political censorship," saying the Duma's own legal experts had found that the action violated Russian media law. Glasnost Defense Foundation head Aleksei Simonov called on all Russian journalists to impose a one-month news blackout on the Duma in solidarity with their ORT colleagues, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 5 March, Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko and new Russian TV (RTR) Chairman Nikolai Svanidze appeared in the Duma to dispel rumors that part of RTR may be auctioned off. In late 1994, Russia's Channel 1 broadcaster Ostankino was transformed into Russian Public TV (ORT), and 49% of the company's shares were sold to select investors. -- Laura Belin FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES TROPHY ART LAW. By a vote of 140 to 0 with one abstention, the Federation Council has approved a law laying claim to artworks seized by Soviet troops in Germany at the end of World War II, Russian and Western media reported on 5 March. The new legislation states that such works of art belong to the Russian Federation and are compensation for the massive losses sustained by Russia during the war. Last July, the Federation Council rejected a similar bill. Yeltsin must now sign the new law for it to go into force. Deputy Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said he believed Yeltsin would not sign it "in order to save Russia from the complications" that would follow. Russia and Germany have been disputing ownership of so-called trophy art since the breakup of the Soviet Union. -- Jan Cleave IRAQI-RUSSIAN RELATIONS. During his 5 March meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that the UN economic embargo imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait should be lifted as soon as Iraq implements UN Security Council disarmament resolutions, Russian and Western agencies reported. Primakov said he hopes that the upcoming April report of the UN special commission on Iraqi disarmament will resolve outstanding problems. But on 3 March, the UN Security Council, which includes Russia, voted to extend the embargo for another two months, after the commission reported it still cannot verify that Iraq has destroyed its stockpiles of nerve gas and ballistic missiles. Iraq owes Russia an estimated $7 billion, which cannot be repaid until the embargo is lifted. -- Scott Parrish TAX BREAK FOR FOREIGN INVESTORS. The Federation Council on 5 March approved amendments to article 5 of the law on value-added tax, removing VAT from equipment imports for foreign investors, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency also reported that the government has issued a decree laying down the procedure for implementing the state monopoly on alcohol, which Yeltsin announced in December 1996. Licenses will be issued by the Federal Service for the State Monopoly on Alcohol, and quotas will be allotted to Federation subjects. The fulfillment of quotas will be monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, which is the responsibility of Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha, an ally of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. -- Peter Rutland CHERNOMYRDIN SIGNS DECREE ON MANAGING STATE DEBT. Chernomyrdin has signed a decree on creating a unified system of managing Russia's domestic and external debt, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. The decree aims at reducing debt-servicing costs by increasing the proportion of longer-term securities. The Finance Ministry will also have the right to repurchase state securities. The government on 3 March issued short-term state securities (GKOs) with a face value of 262.2 trillion rubles ($46 billion). It is also trying to persuade commercial banks to accept 10-15 trillion rubles of long-term federal bonds (OFZs) at a 20-25% rate of interest to pay wage and pensions arrears. However, if such an issue is placed with Russian commercial banks, they are likely to demand a reduction in the obligatory reserve requirements. -- Natalia Gurushina GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES NEW DEBT-RESTRUCTURING PLAN. Chernomyrdin has signed a decree on restructuring companies' debts to the federal budget, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. If a company's debt is smaller than its equity capital, it will be asked to float additional share issues equal to the size of the debt; those shares will then be transferred to the state. If the debt is larger than the equity capital, the company will have to transfer to the government 50% of shares plus one. In the latter case, shares will be held by the State Property Committee, which will have the right to sell them if companies do not meet current obligations to the budget. Repayment of the debt's principal and interest will be spread over five and 10 years, respectively. As of 1 January 1997, companies owed 62.1 trillion rubles ($11 billion) to the federal budget. -- Natalia Gurushina SCIENTISTS PROTEST WAGE ARREARS. Scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences demonstrated against wage arrears near government headquarters in Moscow, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 5 March. They urged the government to reconsider financing for science and to grant some tax concessions to producers of goods that make use of advanced scientific methods. They also want scientists to have the status of civil servant. The previous day, St. Petersburg scientists and research workers called on Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin to change the official attitude toward science and education, ITAR-TASS reported. The federal budget owes scientific institutions some 3 trillion rubles ($ 530 million) in back wages and unpaid research grants. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MANUKYAN TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR POST-ELECTION UNREST IN YEREVAN. Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan has said in a letter addressed to the procurator-general that he was responsible for the 25 September attack on the parliament building, Ekho Moskvy reported on 5 March. The attack followed reports of widespread election-rigging in favor of incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. Manukyan argued that it would be "logical" to conduct criminal proceedings against him but not against the rank-and-file opposition activists who went on trial last month on charges of inciting mass disorder. Manukyan demanded the release of the defendants and expressed readiness to testify "only in court." -- Emil Danielyan RUSSIAN WEAPONS TO ARMENIA VIA IRAN? Top security officials told the Azerbaijani parliament on 4 March that Iran is the conduit for Russian weapon supplies to Armenia, Russian media reported. They claimed that heavy arms, 30 anti-aircraft systems, and 1,000 Strela-2 and Strela-3 missiles have been transported by ship across the Caspian Sea and over land from Iran to Armenia. Last week, Yerevan denied earlier charges of illegally receiving weapons from Russia. In related news, the Azerbaijani parliament has drafted a statement calling on the Russian Duma to identify and punish those responsible for weapons transfers. -- Lowell Bezanis TBILISI JUDGE FOUND DEAD IN HIS APARTMENT. Vakhtang Alania, the 43-year- old chairman of a Tbilisi district court, was found shot dead in his apartment, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. Investigators suggest that the judge committed suicide but do not discount other scenarios. Georgian media reports that Alania had debts totaling $5,000 and had recently said he wanted to commit suicide. -- Emil Danielyan KYRGYZ PLANT TO REFINE KUMTOR GOLD. Jalgap Kazakbayev, director of the Kara-Balta state mining company, and Leonard Homenyuk, president of Kumtor Operating Company, have signed an agreement whereby gold extracted at Kumtor will be refined at the Kara-Balta complex, RFE/RL reported on 5 March. KOC is a joint venture between the Kyrgyz government and the Canadian company CAMECO. Some 12 tons of gold are expected to be refined at Kara-Balta this year. There are believed to be 500 metric tons of gold at the Kumtor site. Earlier reports that gold would be refined abroad led to an outcry from opposition groups in Kyrgyzstan. -- Naryn Idinov ROUTING PROBLEMS FOR TURKMEN GAS. The U.S. is attempting to foil plans, initialed last year, to transport Turkmen natural gas to Turkey across Iran, AFP reported on 5 February. Washington has threatened to impose an embargo on Botas, Turkey's state pipeline company, if it goes ahead with the deal. The U.S. has also declared its support for an alternative plan to transport natural gas beneath the Caspian Sea to Turkey and European markets via Azerbaijan and Georgia. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan is pressuring Kazakstan to repay $24 million in debts for electricity supplied in 1995-96, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! Changes Ahead For OMRI's 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. 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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