|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 53, Part I, 17 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 YELTSIN OFFERS NEMTSOV GOVERNMENT POST. President Boris Yeltsin offered Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov the position of first deputy prime minister at a meeting on 17 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Anatolii Chubais has already been named a first deputy prime minister, and the president said that the two could form the rest of the government as they wished. Nemtsov announced that he will accept the post, despite saying as recently as 15 March that he intended to continue serving as governor. Nemtsov will be responsible for social affairs and the reform of natural monopolies. On 16 March, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov rejected an offer to serve as deputy prime minister, citing his desire to finish the job he started in Samara. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN WASHINGTON. Yevgenii Primakov arrived in Washington on 15 March for talks with his American counterpart Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, and President Bill Clinton, Russian and Western agencies reported. Primakov will focus on preparations for the rescheduled 20-21 March U.S.-Russian summit in Helsinki, which was postponed one day to allow Clinton to recover from a minor knee surgery. Meanwhile, in another step to allay Russian concerns about NATO expansion, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana announced on 14 March that "in the current and foreseeable security environment," the alliance does not plan "additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces" in Europe. Moscow has previously dismissed such assurances as insufficient, instead demanding that any NATO-Russia charter impose legally binding limits on NATO deployments in new East European members. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN STAKES OUT TOUGH POSITION ON NATO. In a 14 March interview, President Yeltsin cautioned that his upcoming meeting with Clinton might not resolve the dispute over NATO enlargement, saying the session would be "the hardest in the history of Russian-American relations," Reuters reported. Yeltsin insisted that a "categorical condition" of any Russia-NATO agreement was that the alliance not offer membership to former Soviet republics. He expressed "alarm" at NATO efforts to build ties with those states, including NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana's recent Central Asian tour. In an interview with the Finnish paper Helsingin Sanomat on 16 March, Yeltsin reiterated Moscow's view that any agreement with NATO must be a binding treaty subject to parliamentary ratification. -- Scott Parrish CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF: OFFICER CORPS DECAYING. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and top military brass met on 14 March to discuss the morale of the Russian officer corps, ITAR-TASS reported. Afterwards, Army General Viktor Samsonov, chief of the general staff, blamed abysmal living conditions and chronic wage arrears for causing 500 officers to commit suicide in 1996. Another 20% of the officer corps have already submitted resignation requests, he revealed. Samsonov warned that "if we destroy the core of the officer corps, it will be difficult to revive the armed forces, even if we have sufficient financing." -- Scott Parrish INCUMBENTS ONE FOR TWO IN REGIONAL VOTING. The former Chairman of the Evenk Legislative Assembly Aleksandr Bokovikov defeated incumbent Governor Anatolii Yakimov in the Evenk Autonomous Okrug's three-candidate gubernatorial elections on 16 March, with more than 60% turnout, ITAR-TASS reported. The results of the 22 December Evenk elections were canceled after the local electoral commission found numerous irregularities. Then, preliminary results showed challenger Bokovikov in the lead, but the final tally gave the race to incumbent Yakimov. Tyva Republican President Sherig-ool Oorzhak leads his race and may have won more than 50% of the vote, making a second round unnecessary, ITAR-TASS reported. Final results are expected Tuesday. Oorzhak leads the local branch of the pro-government Our Home is Russia. -- Robert Orttung LEBED PARTY HOLDS FIRST CONGRESS. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's Russian People's Republican Party held its first congress in Moscow on 14-15 March. Lebed called on Yeltsin to resign and proposed that Russia take a "third course" that differs from "totalitarian socialism" and "criminal capitalism," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Lebed claims 10,000 members for the party. He also announced the formation of a new political bloc Union - Third Force, which includes Chess Champion Garri Kasparov and numerous small parties but not Lebed's former allies, the Congress of Russian Communities and the Democratic Party of Russia, ITAR- TASS reported. Lebed threw Georgii Getman, Chairman of the officers' club "Shield," out of the hall after he read an anti-Semitic verse. -- Robert Orttung DUMA ATTACKS PRESIDENT. The State Duma passed a bill that would force the president to retire if he could not carry out all of his duties for a period of more than four months because of health reasons, by a vote of 287 to 23, with one abstention, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin is likely to veto the bill, as he has rejected similar measures in the past. Also, the Duma on 14 March voted 176 to 75 to reject a moratorium on the death penalty. Russia agreed to abolish the penalty within three years as part of its commitment on joining the Council of Europe in February 1996. Additionally, the Duma voted to make 4 October a "memorial day" to honor 1993's parliamentary uprising against Yeltsin, AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung RYBKIN IN NALCHIK. At a meeting with President Valerii Kokov and other members of the leadership of Kabardino-Balkariya in the republic's capital, Nalchik, on 15 March, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin discussed Russia's draft economic agreement with Chechnya, Russian media reported. Russian security officials who also attended the meeting argued that peace in the north Caucasus is contingent on the Chechen leadership neutralizing freelance armed groups. On 16 March, NTV reported that a meeting of Chechen field commanders in Grozny, including maverick Salman Raduev, had agreed that all illicit military formations should be dissolved and Chechnya's standing army should not exceed 2,000 men. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIAN, CHECHEN, INGUSH OFFICIALS DISCUSS MUTUAL RELATIONS... Georgia's Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze met on 14-15 March in the Ingush capital, Nazran, with the presidents of Chechnya and Ingushetiya, Aslan Maskhadov and Ruslan Aushev, Russian media reported. Topics discussed included furthering peace in the Caucasus; guarding Georgia's border with Chechnya and Ingushetiya; and a possible meeting between Maskhadov and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, according to NTV. Last December Shevardnadze said Georgia's future relations with Chechnya would be governed by the constitutions of Georgia and the Russian Federation; he declined to attend Maskhadov's inauguration last month. -- Liz Fuller ... AND FATE OF MISSING JOURNALISTS. The three presidents also discussed ways of securing the release of the four ITAR- TASS and Radio Rossii journalists abducted in Chechnya on 4 March, one of whom, Nikolai Mamulashvili, is a citizen of Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov said on 14 March that securing the journalists' release is "a matter of honor" for the Chechen leadership. -- Liz Fuller CHILD KIDNAPPINGS IN MOSCOW. Last week, Moscow police freed two children held hostage for ransom, Kommersant Daily reported on 14 March. Police captured five Georgians who were holding the 10-year-old son of a Georgian businessman, seized on his way home from school on 14 February. Also last week an 8-year-old daughter of a businessmen who had been snatched in Kharkiv (Ukraine) on 13 December was freed by police in Moscow. The kidnappers were demanding $1 million and $1.5 million respectively. A third hostage-freeing operation ended in a shoot-out on the banks of the river Moskva on 14 March, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Peter Rutland BUDGET REVENUE BELOW TARGET. During the first two months of 1997 the federal government collected 34.1 trillion rubles of budgetary revenue, only 55% of the expected level, ITAR-TASS and Segodnya reported on 14-15 March. Spending totaled 39.6 trillion rubles, or 50% of the projected level. The tax arrears included 12 trillion rubles of VAT, 8.6 trillion rubles of excise tax, and 5.3 trillion rubles profit tax. -- Natalia Gurushina DUMA AMMENDS TAX LEGISLATION. The State Duma passed amendments to the law on the Russian tax system, Kommersant- Daily reported on 15 March. The changes increase commercial banks' financial responsibility for transferring tax payments to the budget by imposing higher fines for each day of delay. Delay fines for taxpayers are now substantially reduced. Organizations will now be considered as having paid their taxes from the moment they submit payment documents to the bank, provided they have enough money in their accounts. The new law also bars retroactive tax increases. -- Natalia Gurushina SIDANKO OIL COMPANY UPDATE. Oneksimbank subsidiary Interros- Oil has transferred its 34% share of the Sidanko oil company to a Cyprus registered firm, Cantupun, in return for a bank loan, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 March. Oneksimbank won the shares in a loan auction in September 1996, in return for $20 million cash and a $60 million investment pledge. Interros- Oil bought the state's 51% stake in Sidanko in an auction in January 1997 for $130 million. Sidanko is Russia's fourth largest oil company, pumping about 20 million metric tons of crude (8% of Russia's total) in 1996. It has been experiencing severe financial problems: its investment fell by half last year. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA SHEVARDNADZE COMMENTS ON INTERCEPTION OF TURKISH FISHING VESSELS. The Turkish government demands the return of the Turkish fishing vessel intercepted by Russian coast guards on 12 March for poaching in Georgian territorial waters, Turkey's ambassador to Georgia told Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 14 March. Criminal proceedings have been brought against the owner of the vessel, according to ITAR- TASS. Shevardnadze expressed his regrets at the death of one of the Turkish crew when the Russian coast guards opened fire, adding that "the Georgian authorities have had serious problems with Russian border guards working on Georgian territory," according to Reuters quoting the Georgian presidential press service. Also on 14 March, Shevardnadze proposed to a session of Georgia's National Security Council that "we should clarify relations with Russian border guards once for all," and urged the Georgian parliament to pass a related law that is currently under discussion, ITAR -TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN, AZERBAIJANI REACTION TO ARMENIAN ARMS DISCLOSURE. The head of the Russian Army's General Staff, General Viktor Samsonov, and the chairman of the Russian Duma's Defense Committee, Lev Rokhlin, both told Russian TV (RTR) on 14 March that they thought Defense Minister Igor Rodionov had acted "absolutely correctly" in confirming the allegations of illicit Russian arms transfers to Armenia. Samsonov added that the investigation into the allegations had been conducted by the Presidential Main Control Department. Also on 14 March, Azerbaijan's parliament appealed to Yeltsin and to the Russian parliament to investigate the allegations, punish those responsible, and ensure that the weaponry in question is withdrawn from Armenia, ITAR-TASS reported. Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov summoned foreign ambassadors on 15 March and read a statement calling for an international inspection of Armenia's military hardware under the terms of the 1990 CFE Treaty, Turan reported. Responding to U.S. Ambassador Richard Kauzlarich, Hasanov dismissed as "an outrageous lie" Armenian claims that Azerbaijan had received arms, including hundreds of tanks, since 1994.-- Liz Fuller SOLANA ENDS CENTRAL ASIAN TOUR. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana visited Uzbekistan on 13-14 March, holding talks with government officials, Western and Russian sources reported. Solana focused on NATO's new Atlantic Partnership Council, an extension of the Partnership for Peace program. Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov brought up Russia's concerns about NATO expansion saying "without Russia, there can be no real European security," but added that the decision on joining any alliance is a "sovereign right of any state." Solana moved on to Turkmenistan on 14 March. Confronted with questions about NATO expansion or participation in a multi- country military exercise scheduled for September in Kazakstan, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov again stressed Turkmenistan's neutrality and added "(NATO) expansion westward or eastward doesn't worry us." Turkmenistan will not send troops to the September military exercise. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAK, KYRGYZ, UZBEK PRIME MINISTERS MEET. The Prime Ministers of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan met in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on 14 March, RFE/RL and Radio Mayak reported. The three were seeking to broaden cooperation in the Economic Union the three countries formed in 1994. At the conclusion, 13 agreements were signed covering industrial cooperation, a legal base for the free movement of labor among the three countries, coordination on migration, and others. The most important document was on the creation of a common economic area during 1997-1998. The presidency of the Economic Union shifted from Kazakstani Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin to his Kyrgyz counterpart, Apas Jumagulov. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov JOINT OPERATION CAPTURES TAJIK TERRORIST. Bahrom Sadirov, whose group was responsible for taking 16 foreigners hostage in February and 23 people hostage in December 1996, was captured on 14 February, in a joint operation by forces of the Tajik government and the Tajik opposition, Russian and Western sources reported. Sadirov ransomed UN workers and Russian journalists for the return of his brother from Afghanistan. The action was notable for being the first instance when government troops worked together with forces loyal to the United Tajik Opposition. Sadirov's brother Rezvon was not caught and his whereabouts are unknown. -- Bruce Pannier UN OBSERVER-FORCE MANDATE IN TAJIKISTAN EXTENDED. The UN Security Council voted on 14 March to extend the mandate of its military observer mission in Tajikistan by another three months, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. The council noted great progress in the situation in Tajikistan, particularly the military protocol signed in Moscow during the 28 February-8 March talks between representatives of the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition. -- 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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