|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 47, Part I, 07 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 for TRANSITION ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA REACTION TO YELTSIN'S ADDRESS. President Boris Yeltsin's allies have praised his 6 March address to the parliament, but Communist Party (KPRF) deputy chairman Valentin Kuptsov dismissed the speech as "the typical farce." KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that rather than making new promises, Yeltsin should report on what progress has been made on keeping promises from his previous addresses to the parliament, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR) reported. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 7 March ran a blank space on its front page in lieu of a photograph of Yeltsin. The paper noted that no Russian photographers were allowed into the room where the president was speaking, although correspondents from Western agencies were admitted. An Izvestiya commentary noted that Yeltsin repeated Zyuganov's criticisms of the authorities practically word for word, even though the president himself had appointed those authorities. -- Laura Belin NO NEWS ON GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE. In his presidential address, Yeltsin promised that ministers would be fired and the entire structure of government overhauled. However, no concrete changes were announced by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 6 March to the "enlarged" meeting of the government, which included regional leaders and the heads of State Duma factions. As Radio Mayak noted, Chernomyrdin's speech was the familiar list of achievements and problems. Chernomyrdin promised a "new cycle of reform" to tackle continuing difficulties at the microeconomic level. At a press conference afterward, Chernomyrdin described Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais as "a brilliant professional, an economist of high class," adding that specific decisions about government appointments will be made in a few days. -- Peter Rutland YABLOKO OFFERED GOVERNMENT POSTS, BUT WARY. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii confirmed on 6 March that some of his associates have been offered ministerial posts, but he said they had not yet decided whether to join the government, NTV and Ekho Moskvy reported. Assessing Yeltsin's address to parliament, Yavlinskii said the president identified the right problems but did not outline clear solutions. He said the speech made him wonder "if the president and his assistants are so well informed of the problems, then why have both the administration and the government been virtually idle for all this time?" On 4 March, Duma deputy and Yabloko Deputy Chairman Vyacheslav Igrunov announced that Yabloko members would not accept any cabinet posts unless "radical changes" were made to the 1997 budget and the entire direction of current economic policy was altered, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin JOURNALISTS STILL MISSING IN CHECHNYA. The Chechen government has decided against a proposal to expel all journalists from the breakaway republic until the conclusion of negotiations between Russian and Chechen authorities, Reuters reported on 7 March, citing Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev. The four Russian journalists kidnapped in Chechnya on 4 March remain missing, along with an Italian photographer kidnapped two weeks ago. Citing acting Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov, Russian media reported on 6 March that the Chechen government would expel all journalists in the interests of their safety. Udugov also said the kidnappings were hampering the negotiation process. Two Russian Public TV (ORT) correspondents kidnapped in January were released one month later. Also on 6 March, one Dagestani policeman was killed and four were wounded in a shootout with unidentified gunmen at the Chechen border, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin DUMA PASSES CHECHEN AMNESTY RESOLUTION. By a vote of 235-39, the Duma passed a resolution on 7 March granting amnesty to those who committed "socially dangerous actions" during the Chechen conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. The amnesty resolution was supported by the Communist, Our Home is Russia, and Russian Regions factions but opposed by Yabloko, Popular Power, and the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia. The amnesty, however, does not cover those engaged in several types of criminal activity--including weapons contraband and the theft of economic aid to Chechnya--which may limit its application to many Chechen fighters and some Russian soldiers involved in the conflict. It also does not apply to foreigners. A separate resolution, which passed by 228-0, empowered the presidential commission on prisoner exchanges to release Chechens whom Russian courts have already convicted of crimes, if it will help secure the release of Russians still held captive in Chechnya. -- Scott Parrish GROUND FORCES COMMANDER STILL REFUSES TO RESIGN. Army General Vladimir Semenev told ITAR-TASS on 6 March that he has rejected Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's recent request that he resign over allegations of using military labor for the construction of his dacha outside Moscow. Semenev, who has been suspended from duty since Rodionov charged him with misconduct last November, is waiting for a final decision on his fate by President Yeltsin, who must either confirm or reject Rodionov's order removing him from his post. Denying repeated accusations of corruption, he complained that in the three months since his suspension, no credible evidence of misconduct has been produced against him. ITAR- TASS added that the presidential commission on top military appointments has yet to receive "documentary evidence" of either financial misconduct by Semenev. -- Scott Parrish EKHO MOSKVY TO BAN MOST DUMA DEPUTIES FROM AIRWAVES. In protest of the State Duma's decision to revoke the accreditation of ORT correspondents for one month, the private radio station Ekho Moskvy announced on 6 March that it will not allow any of the 259 Duma deputies who voted for the measure to appear on the air for one month. The Union of Journalists' Committee to Protect Freedom of Speech also denounced the Duma's action as a "shameful attempt to return society to political censorship," ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, ORT pledged to file a complaint with the president's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes, a consultative body. -- Laura Belin COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MOSCOW. Daniel Tarschys met Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 6 March to discuss Russia's adherence to the obligations it assumed on joining the council in February 1996, Russian media reported. At the time, the council called on Russia to impose an immediate moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty within three years. But Moscow continued executions until August 1996; and the new criminal code, which entered into force on 1 January, still provides for the death penalty on five counts. Tarschys hailed Russia's recent tentative moves toward abolishing the death penalty but stressed the council "impatiently awaits further steps in this direction." -- Scott Parrish YAKUTIYA ANNULS AGREEMENT WITH DEFENSE MINISTRY. Yakutiya (Sakha) Prime Minister Valentin Federov on 6 March signed a directive canceling a 1996 agreement with the Defense Ministry that permitted spent booster rocket stages to fall on the republic's territory, ITAR-TASS reported. Sakha authorities were angered by the Defense Ministry's decision earlier this week to launch a military satellite from the new Svobodnyi cosmodrome, despite their appeal for further environmental and safety checks (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 and 5 March 1997). Under the June 1996 agreement, 1,142 square kilometers in a virtually uninhabited part of the republic were set aside as a "landing area" for spent booster stages. Military officials expressed "bewilderment" at Federov's action, saying the recent booster launch had neither left debris in the area nor caused any damage. -- Scott Parrish PRIMORE FACES POLITICAL, ENERGY CRISES. In the continuing struggle between Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko and Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, a Vladivostok district court has annulled all decisions taken by the Primorskii Krai Duma after its term expired on 15 January, Radio Rossii reported on 6 March. The Duma had voted to extend its term and cancel elections scheduled for 30 March. The same day, another court hearing banned a referendum that Cherepkov had planned for 23 March in a bid to strengthen his own powers. Meanwhile, a woman undergoing a Caesarean section died due to a power-cut during the operation, NTV reported on 5 March. Half the buildings in Nakhodka are without heating, including schools and hospitals. Vladimir Chubai, head of the krai's Trade Union Federation, said the region's coal miners have not been paid since September. -- Peter Rutland BUSINESSMAN KIDNAPPED IN ST. PETERSBURG. Mark Goryachev, an adviser to the chairman of the State Property Committee, was kidnapped in St. Petersburg on 5 March , Russian media reported. Goryachev became widely known as a successful businessman during perestroika and was elected in 1993 to the previous Duma, where he gained notoriety for punching Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovskii. According to Kommersant-Daily on 6 March, police investigators suggest Goryachev may have faked his own kidnapping because he had found it difficult to pay bank loans. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski LOWER INFLATION IN FEBRUARY. According to the State Statistical Committee, consumer price inflation in February was 1.5%, down from 2.5% in January 1997 and 2.8% in February 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 March. The price of the subsistence minimum basket of goods (consisting of 25 commodities) increased by 3.1% to 236,300 rubles ($41.5). Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told the government that in January and February 1997, the population's real income was up 7% on the same period last year, while the number of people with incomes below the minimum subsistence level dropped by 14%. -- Natalia Gurushina LAWSUIT AGAINST NOVOLIPETSK METAL PLANT. The international investment fund Cambridge Capital Management (CCM), which has a 17.2% equity stake in the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Combine (NLMK)--has filed a suit against NLMK in the Lipetsk arbitration court, AFP reported on 6 March. CCM says that the NLMK administration and the Trans-World Metals Group, which has a 10% stake in NLMK and manages the company, have not granted representation on the company's board to CCM and some other outside owners. Meanwhile, David Rubin, head of Trans-World Metals, published an open letter to Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore in the Wall Street Journal warning that the Russian government may use this and other disputes to try to renationalize some metals companies, Kommersant-Daily reported on 7 March. Trans-World Metals reportedly controls 50% of aluminum production in Russia. -- Natalia Gurushina IRKUTSK "TAX REVOLT" FIZZLES OUT. Irkutsk Governor Yurii Nozhikov on 1 March halted the oblast's payment of federal taxes, complaining that Irkutsk gave 4 trillion rubles ($700 million) to the federal budget in 1996 and got nothing in return. He also noted that the oblast owes 600 billion rubles in unpaid wages to budget organization workers. But during his visit to Moscow on 4 March, Nozhikov agreed to end his "tax revolt," Segodnya reported on 5 March. He met with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, who promised to transfer 310 billion rubles to Irkutsk in 1997; and with Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov, who threatened him with legal action if he did not resume tax payments. Tula Governor Nikolai Sevrugin and Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko have also threatened to stop paying taxes to Moscow if federal debts to their regions are not paid. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIA, SOUTH OSSETIA REACH AGREEMENT. Following two days of talks in Moscow, delegations from Georgia and South Ossetia have agreed on the breakaway region's political status, according to a 6 March BGI report monitored by the BBC. First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov, the chief Russian mediator, said the agreement envisages that Georgia's territorial integrity will be preserved and that South Ossetia will have unspecified "special powers for self-determination." The two have also set up a joint "special commission" to deal with the region's economic reconstruction. -- Emil Danielyan IRAN DENIES TRANSIT OF RUSSIAN WEAPONS TO ARMENIA. A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Yerevan has denied Azerbaijani accusations that alleged Russian arms supplies to Armenia were transported via Iran (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 March 1997), RFE/RL reported on 6 March. He described those charges as "propaganda." In addition to the trilateral cooperation agreement between Iran, Armenia, and Turkmenistan, Tehran wants to form an Iranian-Armenian-Greek "axis" that might also include Georgia. -- Emil Danielyan RUSSIAN SECRET SERVICES ACTIVE IN AZERBAIJAN? Azerbaijani Security Minister Namig Abbasov has accused Russian secret services of spying on Azerbaijan and trying to undermine its government, AFP reported on 5 March, citing the Turan news agency. Abbasov pointed to the case of Salman Ibrahimov, a Georgian arrested late last year in Baku, allegedly for spying on behalf of Russia. He also reiterated claims that Moscow is determined to replace Azerbaijan's present leadership with a more malleable one. Recently, Baku charged that Moscow has been clandestinely funneling military support to Armenia. -- Lowell Bezanis CENTRAL ASIAN DRUG FLOW OR FLOOD? Moscow police apprehended two Tajik Security Ministry agents who arrived at the Nikolaevka rail station on 5 March in possession of nearly 8,000 kilograms of opium, ITAR-TASS reported. The two were taking part in a training program at the Moscow Academy of the Russian Federal Security Service as part of a CIS agreement on cooperation between secret services. Meanwhile in Turkmenistan, authorities say some 16 tons of hashish were confiscated in February alone. Seven tons were found aboard a train en route from the Afghan city of Herat to Europe via Turkmenistan. -- Bruce Pannier [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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