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No. 52, Part I, 14 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 CHERNOMYRDIN DISCUSSES NEW GOVERNMENT WITH YELTSIN. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met with President Boris Yeltsin on 13 March to discuss the upcoming cabinet reshuffle, Russian media reported. Although no details were released from the meeting, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii confirmed that the new government will be formed by 19 March, when a summit in Helsinki between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton opens. On 14 March Yeltsin told a meeting of journalists that there will be seven deputy prime ministers in the new government - a modest reduction from the nine that were in its predecessor. Also on 13 March, Chernomyrdin discussed the cabinet reshuffle with the leadership of his Our Home Is Russia (NDR) movement. In recent months, there has been speculation about tense relations between the government and the NDR's representatives in the State Duma (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 November 1996) Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 13 March that a prominent NDR Duma deputy, Vladimir Ryzhkov, criticized the new presidential chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev, as lacking the expertise for the job. * Laura Belin SELEZNEV SEEKS MEETING WITH YELTSIN. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said he hopes to meet with Yeltsin to discuss the cabinet reshuffle and the recent session of the Russian-Belarusian joint Parliamentary Assembly, Russian media reported on 13 March. Seleznev called on Yeltsin to consult the leaders of all Duma factions before deciding on the structure of the government. He warned that under the de facto leadership of First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, the new cabinet would be "the most incompetent government in all recent history," deepening Russia's economic crisis and making integration with Belarus impossible, NTV reported. Last November, Seleznev demanded Chubais's resignation as presidential chief of staff following the appointment of Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii. * Laura Belin DEFENSE COUNCIL DISCUSSES NATO EXPANSION... Prime Minister Chernomyrdin chaired a session of the Defense Council on 13 March which discussed Russian relations with NATO, Russian and Western agencies reported. Opening the session, Chernomyrdin reiterated that Moscow remains opposed to NATO expansion, insisting that an "effective" European security system cannot be built without Russian participation. However, he added that Russia is "prepared to discuss constructive initiatives," which he said NATO had recently proposed. Although he gave no details, Chernomyrdin's remarks support recent media reports based on Western diplomatic sources which claim that NATO and Moscow are edging toward a deal on enlargement. After Chernomyrdin's opening remarks, the council heard a report from Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who will leave for Washington on 15 March to finish preparations for the 19-20 March Clinton-Yeltsin summit in Helsinki. * Scott Parrish ...NATO TO TOP SUMMIT AGENDA. Presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzembskii said in a radio interview with Ekho Moskvy on 13 March that Yeltsin will strike an "extremely specific, totally firm, and very tough" stance on NATO enlargement at his meeting with Clinton. Referring to the ongoing talks on a NATO-Russia charter, Yastrzhembskii said that Yeltsin would seek to discover how well the U.S. understands Russian concerns, and ascertain whether Washington is "sincere" and willing to "put on paper" pledges and concessions that have been made verbally. Yastrzhembskii repeated that Moscow wants any Russia-NATO charter to be legally binding, although he said that did not necessarily mean Russia would insist on parliamentary ratification of the agreement. A "politically binding" agreement between the executives of the countries involved, like the 1975 Helsinki Act, could be acceptable to Moscow, he added. * Scott Parrish DEFENSE MINISTRY CONFIRMS ILLEGAL ARMS TRANSFERS TO ARMENIA. Russian Minister for CIS Affairs Aman Tuleev made public on 13 March an official letter from Defense Minister Igor Rodionov confirming that a large quantity of Russian weapons, including 84 T-72 tanks and 50 armored personnel carriers, were illegally transferred to Armenia from 1994-96, Russian and Western agencies reported. Tuleev had charged on 14 February that Russia had lost 270 billion rubles ($51 million) as a result of illegal arms tranfers to Armenia. In response to these charges, Rodionov's letter, dated 28 February, said a Defense Ministry commission had determined that weapons had been transferred to Armenia for free, without authorization by the Russian government. Chief Military Procurator Valentin Panichev told ITAR-TASS an investigation into the transfers was continuing, and refused to speculate on who might be responsible for them. * Scott Parrish PROCURACY OVERWHELMED WITH WORK. Procurator General Yurii Skuratov complained in an interview in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 13 March that his embattled agency lacks the resources to deal with its responsibilities. It has only 7,090 investigators, out of a total staff of 28,677, and last year had to issue 427,000 arrest warrants, take 1,213,000 cases to court, and deal with more than 1 million complaints of rights violations. He said 880 cases involving privatization went to court last year, the "most common trick" being undervaluation of assets. At the Defense Ministry legal procedures are under way against 28 generals and almost 100 senior officers. Several of the cases against top generals were detailed in an article in Trud on 13 March. * Peter Rutland PRAVDA WINS BATTLE IN ARBITRATION COURT. The Moscow Arbitration Court on 13 March barred the Pravda International publishing house from using the famous logo from the newspaper Pravda on editions of its daily newspaper Pravda-5, ITAR-TASS reported. The publishers of Pravda-5 ignored a similar ruling handed down in September by the President's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes, a consultative body (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 September 1996). If Pravda-5 violates the Arbitration Court's decision, it may be fined 200 times the minimum wage (15 million rubles, or $2,700) for each day it uses the Pravda logo. Pravda was forced by its Greek financiers to suspend publication last July; it was replaced by Pravda-5, formerly a weekly. * Laura Belin ENERGY CRISIS HITS RUSSIAN REGIONS. Primorskii Krai declared a state of emergency on 14 March because there is not enough fuel to generate heat for apartments in Nakhodka and Dalnegorsk, where interior temperatures are hovering between 5-10 degrees centigrade, ITAR-TASS reported. The authorities decided to drain water from the city's heating system to prevent the pipes from cracking due to the expansion of frozen water inside them. The Dalenergo power generating company cannot buy fuel because many of its customers have not paid it. Similar problems in Arkhangelsk have led Governor Anatolii Yefremov to call for the unification of the region's fuel providers and energy generator under the control of the oblast administration, ITAR-TASS reported. This is unlikely to occur because, while the electricity companies are to a degree under local control, fuel providers such as the coal company Rosugol are commercially independent entities. * Robert Orttung TAX COLLECTION EFFORTS. The government has set up a commission under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov to monitor the granting of tax and customs privileges, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 March. On 11 March the government passed a decree increasing the funding and personnel of the State Tax Service, which is now under the supervision of Kulikov, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 14 March. Responsibility for collecting export taxes on natural gas will be given back to the State Tax Service, ITAR-TASS reported. In August 1996 the State Customs Service had been given the right to collect oil and gas export taxes: it will retain control of oil duties. As the country awaits news of the government reshuffle, it is unclear whether Kulikov or First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais will spearhead the effort the improve tax collection. * Peter Rutland RUSSIA FLOATS SECOND EUROBOND ISSUE. Russia has successfully floated its second eurobond issue worth 2 billion Deutsche marks ($1.18 billion), ITAR-TASS, Kommersant-Daily, and Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 13-14 March. The main parameters of the issue improved compared to the November floatation: the bonds' maturity increased from five to seven years and the annual coupon income declined from 9.25% to 9% (which means some reduction in debt-servicing costs paid from the federal budget). The issue is managed by international investment banks Deutsche Morgan Grenfell and CS First Boston, and by Russian banks Mezhdunarodnaya Finansovaya kompaniya, Rossiiskii kredit, Imperial, and Alfa-bank. The total value of eurobonds issued by the Russian government in 1997 is expected to be $3 billion, and the third issue will be denominated in Japanese yen. * Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA REACTIONS TO ARMENIAN ARMS DISCLOSURE. Publication of Rodionov's letter (see item in Russia section) caused concern in the Transcaucasus, not least because Moscow is co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk group mediating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, international media reported. Yerevan had hitherto strenously denied it received such weapons tranfers, and on 14 March Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gaspayan said "I categorically deny the statements made by Rodionov and Tuleev," Reuters reported. Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkissyan told students at Yerevan State University that Armenia's defense capability had been "doubled" in the past two years "at no cost to the budget," RFE/RL reported. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani officials declared Rodionov's disclosures will not harm Russian-Azerbaijani relations. Russian media quoted President Haidar Aliev's foreign policy adviser Vafa Guluzade as saying Russia's interests in Azerbaijan would be given "only the green light". * Lowell Bezanis U.S. DELEGATION IN BAKU. A State Department delegation headed by Eric Newsome held two days of talks in Baku with Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev and top foreign and defense ministry officials, RFE/RL reported on 13 March. The talks, termed "very useful and detailed" by Aliev, focused on safeguarding transportation arteries, NATO-related issues, regional issues, and Azerbaijan's compliance with the CFE Treaty. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov told RFE/RL that limits on military deployments stipulated by the treaty can only be addressed in the context of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. * Lowell Bezanis KYRGYZSTAN VERSUS KRIMINAL. The Committee to Protect Journalists has taken up the cause of the Kyrgyz independent newspaper Kriminal and sent a letter to President Askar Akayev. A copy of the letter obtained by OMRI, dated 13 March, asks the Kyrgyz court to lift a ban on the newspaper. The newspaper published only two editions before it was banned on 17 January for "insulting government officials" and "publishing deliberately false information." One article claimed Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov had built his new residence on the site of a cemetery. Jumagulov filed a suit against the paper in February but dropped it after a 7 March conversation with the paper's editor-in-chief Beken Nazaraliev. The Ministry of Justice, however, is still pressing charges against the paper. The paper also faces charges of insulting Vice Prime Minister Bekbolot Talgarbekov who, according the paper, squandered money intended for use in the agricultural sector, for using insulting popular nicknames when referring to government officials, and for claiming that top posts in government were given to people from the Talas and Kemin regions of Kyrgyzstan. * Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov NAZARBAYEV COMMENTS ON DECLINING TRADE WITH RUSSIA. The Russian newspaper Krasnaya zvezda on 13 March published recent comments made by Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He said his country would like to have closer relations with Russia but acknowledged that trade and economic relations between the countries were shrinking. "In the past Russia took up 80% of Kazakstan's commodity circulation....now the figure is around 40%," Nazarbayev said. He then mentioned that Kazakstan's decision to buy $114 million worth of agricultural machinery from the American John Deere Co. instead of from the Russian "Don" company of Rostov-na-Donu was a reflection of the better quality of the American equipment. Nazarbayev also noted that while Kazakstan was buying planes from Boeing and not Russian-made Tu-154s, this was true in Russia as well. Still, Nazarbayev said, "I tell all Kazakstanis....no one is closer to Kazakstan than Russia and the Russian people." * Bruce Pannier MORE DIFFICULTIES WITH TAJIKISTAN'S "THIRD FORCE." Radio Rossii reported on 13 March that protest meetings were being held in northern Tajikistan's Leninabad Region in support of a role at the Tajik peace talks for Abdumalik Abdullajonov, leader of the National Revival Movement. The report said the Ayninskii Region was particularly "active." Abdullajonov's organization has been excluded from peace talks between the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). Those demonstrating are also demanding humanitarian aid be more equally distributed, claiming they are receiving only "crumbs." Meanwhile, the UTO has complained to the Tajik government that the Sadirov brothers' group, responsible for the 4-17 February hostage crisis in Tajikistan, have returned to their area of operations, near Obigarm, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 14 March. A "highly placed military official" said the government had investigated this and found no armed unit in the area. * 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. 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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