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No. 50, Part I, 12 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 NEW CHIEF OF STAFF APPOINTED. Valentin Yumashev, a former journalist who ghost-wrote President Boris Yeltsin's two memoirs, Against the Grain and Notes of a President, was appointed head of the presidential administration on 11 March, Russian media reported. The relatively unknown Yumashev, who has little administrative experience, is unlikely to have as much authority as Anatolii Chubais exercised as chief of staff during Yeltsin's illness. Komsomolskaya pravda and Kommersant- Daily reported on 12 March that Yumashev is a good friend of Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko and has close links to Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii. Since 1991, Yumashev has held senior posts at the magazine Ogonek, which is partly financed by Berezovskii's Logovaz empire. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin praised Yumashev and said he looked forward to close cooperation between the government and presidential administration, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin SHAPOSHNIKOV APPOINTED TO YELTSIN STAFF. President Yeltsin appointed former USSR Defense Minister Aviation Marshal Yevgenii Shaposhnikov as a presidential aide, Russian media reported on 11 March. According to Kommersant-Daily on 12 March, Shaposhnikov will advise Yeltsin on the development of Russia's civil aviation and space programs. Before the appointment, Shaposhnikov was general director of Aeroflot, a post he held since 1995. Previously he served as presidential representative to the state arms exporter, Rosvooruzhenie (1994-95), Secretary of the Security Council (1993), and commander of the CIS Armed Forces (1991- 93). The paper said Yeltsin values Shaposhnikov's personal loyalty, although it questioned his performance in his most recent jobs. The same day Yeltsin appointed the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yurii Osipov, to the Security Council. ITAR-TASS said Osipov will oversee the creation of a new scientific advisory board for the council. -- Scott Parrish BORODIN WARNS AGAINST ATTEMPTS TO REMOVE HIM. In a rare press conference, Presidential Business Manager Pavel Borodin warned that if he lost his job in the current reshuffling, he would be forced to go into politics, Kommersant-Daily reported on 12 March. Since taking the position in 1993, Borodin boasts that he increased the property controlled by the Kremlin 10-fold. His staff of 350 oversees 200 companies, which employ many thousands, and who operate 300 buildings in Moscow, medical facilities in Sochi and the Northern Caucasus, and the Rossiya air company, ITAR-TASS reported. His office handles financing for the parliament, government, and many federal offices in the regions. He criticized the president's annual address to the parliament for attacking a plan to build a new $1.4 billion center to house the parliament and provide accommodation for deputies. He also said that Yeltsin's family lives "modestly" in a 167 square-meter apartment. -- Robert Orttung ORT APPEALS TO SUPREME COURT AGAINST DUMA. Russian Public TV (ORT) has appealed to the Supreme Court against the recent decision by the State Duma to revoke the accreditation of the network's journalists for one month, ORT reported on 11 March. The President's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes, a consultative body, requested on 7 March that the Duma reverse its decision. The chamber found that the lower house of parliament had violated both the law on the mass media and the constitutional principle of separation of powers, since a court must approve decisions to revoke journalists' accreditation. -- Laura Belin DUMA PASSES CHECHEN AMNESTY RESOLUTION. The State Duma passed the resolution granting amnesty to participants of the war in Chechnya on the third and final reading on 12 March, ITAR-TASS reported. On 11 March, Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov announced that 14 people have been arrested in connection with the abduction last week of four Russian journalists, according to ORT. Also on 11 March, Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Shkirko said that the number of border troops deployed along the administrative frontier between Chechnya and the rest of the Russian Federation is being increased to prevent Chechen fighters and criminals infiltrating other regions. He claimed that the administration of President Aslan Maskhadov is powerless to crack down on crime, according to NTV and ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Benjamin Netanyahu discussed bilateral relations and the Middle East peace process on 11 March with President Yeltsin, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Russian and Western media reported. Yeltsin told Netanyahu that bilateral trade, which reached nearly $500 million in 1996, "can be considerably increased" now that Moscow and Tel Aviv have "put their prejudices behind them." However, Yeltsin also "voiced concern about Israel's unilateral steps in east Jerusalem," a reference to the Netanyahu government's recent decision to expand Jewish settlements there. Meeting with Primakov, Netanyahu expressed concern about Russia's technical and military cooperation with Iran and Syria, arguing it threatened regional stability. Primakov said the light-water power reactor Russia is supplying Tehran is "unrelated to military matters," and also rejected reports that Russia is help Iran develop ballistic missiles. -- Scott Parrish AFGHAN REFUGEES IN RUSSIA. There are some 150,000 Afghan refugees in Russia who fled their country after the Soviet-backed regime collapsed in 1992, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported on 11 March. Only a few hundred have been granted refugee status, the remainder have documents which say they are applying for that status. They receive no state support, and eke out an existence through petty trading. They include many former leading members of the Kabul regime, including 30 ex- generals. As they do not hold Moscow residence permits they are often picked up by the police and forced to pay a 50,000 ruble ($8) bribe to avoid deportation from that city. -- Peter Rutland UDMURTIYA RESTORES LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT. The Udmurt State Council has given in to pressure from Moscow and annulled a law abolishing elected local government institutions in the republic, ORT reported on 11 March. The law, which was passed by the republican parliament in April 1996, dissolved popularly elected local bodies and replaced them with legislatures and executives appointed by the State Council. Although the Russian Constitutional Court ruled in January that the law violated federal legislation, the republican authorities have continued to implement it. On 21 February and again on 10 March Yeltsin issued decrees ordering republican authorities to abide by the court decision and instructed federal authorities to ensure that they did (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 March 1997, and OMRI Russian Regional Report, 6 March 1997). -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow CROWD BURNS COUPLE IN DAGESTAN. A crowd in the Dagestani city of Buinaksk on 4 March burned a couple identified as Mr. and Mrs. Gadzhiev who were suspected of kidnapping a 12-year-old girl and selling her organs, ITAR-TASS reported. The girl's body had been found on 2 March, and although she was violently murdered, there was no sign that organs had been removed. The Dagestani authorities claim to have evidence connecting Mr. Gadzhiev to the murder, but not his wife. They are still investigating the circumstances leading to their death. Many children are rumored to have disappeared in Dagestan recently, and some suspect that their organs are being used abroad. Seventh Day Adventist sources (who identified the couple as Tanya and Hadgimurat Magomedov) in the U.S. report that the couple were members of the church and had provoked the ire of the local community, which is predominantly Muslim, by seeking converts. -- Robert Orttung DISPUTE OVER HOW MANY UNEMPLOYED . . . At a meeting of the government's Commission on Operational Questions on 11 March there was disagreement over the number of unemployed in Russia, Kommersant-Daily reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov said there are 17 million jobless, or 22% of the labor force, citing data from surveys conducted by Guy Standing of the International Labor Organization. Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan accused Standing of "muddying the waters" and said that at the end of 1996 there were only 7 million (9.7%) unemployed: 2.5 million registered unemployed, plus 3 million on part-time work and 2 million more on unpaid leave. Whatever figure one uses, all sides agree that the number of openly unemployed will increase this year. -- Peter Rutland . . . PLAN TO CUT BENEFITS. There are arrears of 1.2 trillion rubles ($210 million) in the payment of unemployment benefits, and there are plans to cut the level of entitlements in order to maintain the solvency of the Unemployment Fund, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March. Currently, an unemployed person receives 75% of his or her last wage. The government is preparing a new law under which the benefit will be equal to the subsistence minimum for the region in which the applicant resides. -- Peter Rutland PRIVATE SECURITY BUSINESS BOOMING. There are 9,800 officially registered private security firms in Russia which employ 155,000 people, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March, citing Interior Ministry official Nikolai Pershutkin. According to the ministry, about one-third of these firms' workers are former employees of state law enforcement agencies and special forces units. The Interior Ministry is concerned that private security agencies are often used as a front by criminal organizations. Of 5,000 security firms inspected by the ministry in 1996, one in 10 had criminal connections. Some 3,000 security agents did not have licenses. Inspectors also discovered 1,700 unregistered firearms. -- Natalia Gurushina REASONS FOR TAX NON-PAYMENTS. Only six of 89 regions met their 1996 tax obligations to the federal budget, according to Deputy General Procurator Vladimir Davydov, interviewed inRossiiskaya gazeta on 11 March. Davydov said that the main reasons for tax arrears are falling industrial output and the inefficient fiscal system. However, he noted that the mass issuance of bills of exchange (vekselya) and barter deals represent major channels for tax evasion. According to the Central Bank, Russian commercial banks and the federation subjects issued 114 trillion rubles ($20 billion) and 50 trillion rubles worth of vekselya, respectively. At any one time 11 trillion rubles of tax payments are being held by commercial banks, who delay passing the funds on to the federal authorities. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI RHETORIC. The Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 11 March calling on Azerbaijan to refrain from "a provocative propaganda war" characterized by "misinformation and groundless accusations" and aimed at "discrediting the Karabakh peace process," and to focus instead on achieving a peaceful settlement of the conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 11 March, Turan quoted Azerbaijani presidential advisor Vafa Gulu-Zade as stating that direct negotiations between Azerbaijan and the Armenian leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh can take place only after the latter accepts the resolution of the December 1996 OSCE Lisbon summit which affirmed support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, thereby excluding the possibility of de jure independence for Nagorno-Karabakh. A further round of OSCE-mediated talks on Karabakh is to open in Moscow on 1 April, RFE/RL reported on 11 March. -- Liz Fuller SOLANA VISITS KAZAKSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN. NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana arrived in Kazakstan on 10 March on the first leg of a five-day, four-country tour, international media reported. Solana assured the Kazakstani government that NATO expansion did not pose a threat to the CIS. After meeting with President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Solana described their talks as "fruitful;" the two, however, did not hold a planned press conference. Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev said NATO did not represent a threat to Kazakstan but urged that NATO move slowly in allowing more countries into the organization. Solana departed for Kyrgyzstan on 11 March and will meet with government officials on 12 March before moving on to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The four Central Asian states are part of NATO's "Partnership for Peace" program and all but Turkmenistan will participate in a joint military exercise, "Turkestan-97," along with troops from seven other countries in September to be held in Kazakstan and Uzbekistan. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK OPPOSITION DOWNPLAYS TALIBAN THREAT. In an interview in the 12 March edition of Nezavisimaya gazeta, the number two man in the United Tajik Opposition, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, called the Taliban threat to Central Asian states such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan "fabrications." Turajonzoda said the Taliban are no more a threat than NATO and noted that for one-and-a-half years they have controlled the area adjacent to Turkmenistan and there have been no problems. "They shouldn't decide in Moscow if the Taliban are a threat to us," he added -- Bruce Pannier BORDER TROOP COMMANDERS MEET. Border guard commanders from CIS states except Moldova met in Ashgabat on 11 March, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The 24th such gathering was chaired by the commander of the Russian Border Troops Gen. Andrei Nikolaev. The agency noted that exchanges of border troops is foreseen as a means of strengthening "integration processes" in guarding the outer borders of the CIS. The participants also greed to cooperate in training border guards. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! 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. 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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