|To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson|
No. 51, Part I, 13 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 RUSSIA DUMA BLASTS NATO EXPANSION . . . By a vote of 300-1, the State Duma on 12 March passed a resolution harshly criticizing NATO's expansion plans, which it said would "detract" from efforts to "construct a new global security system in Europe," ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution backed the government's public negotiating stance in talks on a proposed charter with NATO, saying any such agreement should "be of a restrictive nature and contain effective security guarantees for Russia." It also argued that the 1995 Russian federal law on international treaties requires that any proposed charter be subject to parliamentary ratification. While the Russian government has insisted that the agreement take the form of a legally binding international treaty subject to parliamentary ratification, NATO has balked at this condition. -- Scott Parrish . . . WHILE RUSSIA-NATO AGREEMENT NEARS? International agencies, citing anonymous Western diplomatic sources, reported on 12 March that Russia and NATO are close to deal under which Russia would accept a limited enlargement of NATO in return for various concessions including an expanded role in the G-7. The diplomats said Moscow had dropped its insistence that the NATO-Russia agreement be a legally binding treaty, and would accept the alliance's preference for a political declaration. They added that Moscow wants the agreement signed at a separate ceremony before the July NATO summit in Madrid, at which prospective East European members will be invited to begin accession talks. Such a ceremony could take place at the scheduled June G-7 meeting in Denver, Colorado. Russia has long pressed for full membership in the G7, a position supported by Germany, though other members are more skeptical. -- Scott Parrish CHERNOMYRDIN: YOUNG EXPERTS WILL JOIN NEW CABINET. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has refused to name specific candidates for posts in the forthcoming new cabinet, but he announced on 12 March that the government will include many "professional market economy experts," who are "firm supporters of the president's reform course," ITAR-TASS reported. Chernomyrdin added that although the new appointees will be experienced administrators, "as a rule" they will not be older than 50. The prime minister's comments lent support to speculation that First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, who was appointed on 7 March, will bring several of his associates to the government. -- Laura Belin DUMA CONDEMNS CHUBAIS APPOINTMENT. The State Duma, by a vote of 230-122, passed a resolution calling the appointment of Chubais a "direct challenge to Russian public opinion," Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 March. The resolution linked Chubais "to the failure of the Russian economy, [the failure] of the financial system, and the cynical pillaging of national property under the guise of privatization." It also asked President Boris Yeltsin to consult parliament before approving new ministers, and called on Procurator- General Yurii Skuratov to accelerate his investigations into the financing of Yeltsin's re-election campaign (for which Chubais was a key adviser) and Chubais's compliance with tax laws. Duma deputy Sergei Ivanenko (Yabloko) criticized the resolution; he told NTV that left- leaning Communist, Agrarian and Popular Power factions had passed it primarily in order to conceal their support for the 1997 budget and for Chernomyrdin. -- Laura Belin YAVLINSKII'S "COMPROMISE" OFFER TO GOVERNMENT. In the latest issue of Moskovskie novosti (no. 10), Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii called on the government and Yeltsin to sign an "Anticrisis Agreement" with the "democratic opposition," with a view toward "effective reform for the majority" without any redistribution of property. He argued that the current government is neither "Red" nor "White" and has no ideology at all except for greed. Yavlinskii's proposed agreement would require the government to set a deadline for the payment of all wages and pensions owed to the public. If the debt has not been paid within 10 days of the deadline, the entire government would be forced to resign. The government would also amend the 1997 budget substantially. Yavlinskii explained that his associates would not join the government without such an agreement. "We are not engaging in horse trading; we are upholding our principles," he wrote. -- Laura Belin RODIONOV CANCELS TRIP TO UAE ARMS SHOW. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov has canceled a scheduled 16-20 March visit to the IDEX'97 arms exhibition in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 March. According to ITAR- TASS, Defense Ministry officials refused to link Rodionov's decision to the ongoing government reorganization, in which some speculate the defense minister could be sacked. Instead they said Rodionov needed to prepare for a scheduled 13 March meeting of the Defense Council, which is to discuss Russia's position on NATO expansion and the 19-20 March Yeltsin-Clinton summit in Helsinki. Instead of Rodionov, Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, head of the ministry's international cooperation department, will lead the 350-member Russian delegation to the arms fair, where Russian firms will display a wide range of weapons systems. -- Scott Parrish U.S. ADMINISTRATION WANTS TO INCREASE AID TO FORMER SOVIET UNION. In testimony to Congress on 11 March, Ambassador Richard Morningstar called for a 44% increase in U.S. aid to the Newly Independent States next year. Aid spending would rise from $625 million in 1997 to $900 million in 1998, while spending on Russia alone would go from $95 million to $225 million. Total U.S. aid to the NIS peaked at $2.5 billion in 1994, falling to $850 million in 1995 and $641 million in 1996. Rep. Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said he was doubtful Congress would support the requested increase, Reuters reported. Gilman said "We do not have any kind of 'partnership' at this point with the current government in Moscow," and objected to the idea of increasing aid in return for Russian acquiescence in NATO expansion. Morningstar said the aid program "has nothing to do with NATO expansion," VOA reported. -- Peter Rutland KRASNOYARSK CONSIDERS NUCLEAR REFERENDUM. Environmental groups in Krasnoyarsk have collected the 100,000 signatures necessary to force the local legislature to consider holding a referendum on halting the construction of a nuclear waste processing plant, NTV reported on 12 March. The legislature will make its decision on 19 March. In a referendum on 8 December, Kostroma voters rejected by 87% to 10% a proposal to complete the construction of a nuclear power station in the province. -- Robert Orttung ZYUGANOV STUMPS FOR STARODUBTSEV IN TULA. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, visiting Tula to support the candidacy of Vasilii Starodubtsev in the 23 March gubernatorial campaign, lashed out at the appointment of Anatolii Chubais as first deputy prime minister, NTV reported. Starodubtsev, who was among the 1991 coupmakers and is now a leader figure in the Agrarian Party, made clear, however, that he would work with the new government even though he did not support its policies. Because Starodubtsev is far ahead of the other 10 candidates, attracting more than 40% support in opinion polls, Sergei Filatov's pro- Yeltsin All-Russian Coordinating Council decided that it will not back anyone in the race, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March. The presidential administration has already found common ground with many opposition candidates who won gubernatorial races in the fall. -- Robert Orttung A TALENTED FIRST FAMILY. Aeroflot's board of directors has appointed Boris Yeltsin's son-in-law as acting chairman, Kommersant-Daily reported on 13 March. The 44-year-old Valerii Okulov, who worked as a navigator for 20 years, is married to Yeltsin's daughter Yelena. Okulov replaces Aviation Marshal Yevgenii Shaposhnikov, who was appointed presidential adviser for aerospace on 11 March. Okulov was appointed Shaposhnikov's deputy at Aeroflot in June 1996. Aeroflot is 51% state-owned, and has about two-thirds of the Russian air transport market. Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ is financially involved with the company. -- Peter Rutland YELTSIN SIGNS PENSION DEBT DECREE. President Yeltsin has signed a decree on restructuring companies' debt to the state Pension Fund, Kommersant- Daily reported on 13 March. The decree allows the fund to sign agreements with individual firms on debt restructuring which will take into account the company's financial situation. Russian companies' debt to the state Pension Fund now totals 60 trillion rubles ($10.5 billion). Another 14 trillion rubles are owed by the federal government. Meanwhile, Pension Fund officials called for changes in the 1997 federal budget in order to eliminate the 7.7 trillion rubles discrepancy between the fund's 1997 revenue and the corresponding item in the federal budget, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 March. -- Natalia Gurushina DOLLARIZATION OF ECONOMY STILL INCREASING. The volume of foreign currency in the non-banking sector increased by $7.7 billion from January through September 1996, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 13 March, citing balance of payments figures published by the Central Bank. The increase was caused mainly by declining yields on major financial instruments denominated in rubles, mounting non-payments in all sectors of the economy, increasing demand for foreign currency in the shadow economy, and political instability on the eve of the presidential elections last summer. Net foreign currency assets of commercial banks declined by $2.9 billion during the same period. -- Natalia Gurushina NORILSK NICKEL LOSES SOME STATE SUBSIDIES. The government has passed a decree revoking some of the state subsidies to eight industrial companies, including Norilsk Nickel, Kommersant-Daily reported on 13 March. The privileges were granted to Norilsk Nickel under a government decree of 30 August 1996. They included the allocation in 1996-1997 of $200 million worth of foreign investment credits for technical reconstruction, and providing state guarantees for credits from commercial banks in order to finance shipments of goods to the Norilsk region. Company officials reacted coolly to the new decree, saying that the August bill did not work anyway and Norilsk Nickel had received no subsidies since that time. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN COASTGUARDS INTERCEPT TURKISH FISHING VESSELS. A Russian coastguard patrol on 12 March intercepted nine Turkish fishing vessels engaged in poaching in Georgian territorial waters off the Black Sea port of Batumi and opened fire when they ignored instructions to desist, killing one Turkish sailor, Russian and Western agencies reported. The Turkish vessels were escorted to Batumi where criminal proceedings were instigated against the crew members. -- Liz Fuller REGIONAL OIL AND GAS UPDATE. The U.S. firm AMOCO will finance Kazakstan's $150 million stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) as part of deal permitting the company to transport 3 million metric tons of oil via the planned CPC line, RFE/RL reported on 12 March. Nurlan Balgimbayev, the new head of Kazakoil, which was established on 4 March as part of a wholesale restructuring of the country's executive bodies, declared the pipeline to the Russian port of Novorossiisk will be completed by early 1999. In other news, the first load of Chevron- owned Kazak crude, transported by train across Azerbaijan and Georgia, was loaded onto tankers in Batumi for sale on international markets, Russian media reported the same day. Meanwhile, Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Gochmurad Nazjanov told a major oil and gas exhibition in Ashgabat he foresees Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan reaching a compromise agreement on the disputed Azeri and Chirag fields in the Caspian Sea, Russian media reported on 11 March. -- Lowell Bezanis RUSSIAN, UZBEK ECONOMIC COOPERATION. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Uzbek counterpart Otkir Sultanov signed an economic cooperation accord in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 March. The agreement outlines cooperation in 1998-2000 in spheres including agriculture, petrochemicals, and non-ferrous industries. Chernomyrdin was quoted as saying the sides also reached agreement on the formation of undefined "large financial-industrial groups." It was also agreed that the Ilyushin-114 aircraft to be manufactured in Uzbekistan will be equipped with Russian engines and avionics. -- Lowell Bezanis KYRGYZSTAN'S VIEW ON NATO. President Askar Akayev, in talks with visiting NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, said he was opposed to NATO expansion, international media reported on 12 March. Akayev told Solana it was "important to heed Russia's concerns," and called Russia "our strategic partner." The two held more productive talks on the issues of a Central Asian peacekeeping battalion, mountain rescue operations training, and the planned joint military exercise between three Central Asian countries and seven other countries scheduled for September. Radio Rossii reported on 12 March that the peacekeeping battalion would most likely be used on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border in the event that the Afghan Taliban movement should reach the Tajik border. A spokesman for the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry said Kyrgyz troops may participate in NATO operations in the near future. -- Bruce Pannier PROOF OF TAJIK AID TO ANTI-TALIBAN FORCES? According to the 13 March edition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Tajikistan is indeed providing a safe haven and help to Afghan Gen. Ahmed Shah Masoud in his fight against the Taliban Afghan religious movement. Although Tajik press secretary Zafar Saidov denied on 7 March that any foreign troops were based in Tajikistan, the paper quoted its own reporter who had recently been in the southern city of Kulyab. According to the reporter, it was easy to meet Afghan pilots who "did not try to hide they were flying daily from Tajikistan to Afghanistan." The article also alleged that Masoud himself was living in a hotel in the center of Kulyab and that his personal airplane was in a hanger at the city's airport. -- Bruce Pannier [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. 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(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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