|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 54, Part I, 18 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 ********************************************************************** OMRI, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Announcement: Due to a restructuring of operations at the Open Media Research Institute, OMRI will cease publication of the OMRI Daily Digest with the issue dated 28 March 1997. For more information on the restructuring of the Institute, please access the 21 November 1996 Press Release at: http://www.omri.cz/about/PressRelease.html On 2 April, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will launch a daily news report, RFE/RL Newsline, on the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. A successor to the RFE/RL Daily Report and the OMRI Daily Digest, the new daily will nonetheless represent a major departure from its predecessors. In addition to analytic materials, RFE/RL Newsline will carry news gathered by the correspondents, bureaus, and broadcast services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. RFE/RL will disseminate this new publication both electronically and via fax to all those now receiving the OMRI Daily Digest and for the time being under the same terms. OMRI will continue to publish the periodical Transition**, for more information on Transition please access http://www.omri.cz/publications/transition/index.html or send a request for information to: transition-DD@omri.cz **See below for information on upcoming changes to Transition. ********************************************************************* RUSSIA GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE: WHO'S IN, OUT. Following his apparent return to health and on the eve of a U.S.-Russian summit, President Boris Yeltsin announced a new government on 17 March, bringing in several regional leaders to tackle the country's problems. Many key economic leaders are out, but the power ministers seem secure. There will be two first deputy prime ministers: Anatolii Chubais (also finance minister and responsible for day-to-day economic management) and Boris Nemtsov (social affairs, housing, reform of monopolies). The new six deputy prime ministers are: Yakov Urinson (also economics minister), Alfred Kokh (also head of the State Property Committee), Oleg Sysuev (housing and utility reform), Vladimir Bulgak (science and technology), Valerii Serov (national and regional policy, CIS), and Anatolii Kulikov (law enforcement). The main victims include first deputy prime ministers Aleksei Bolshakov, Vladimir Potanin, and Viktor Ilyushin and deputy prime ministers Oleg Davydov, Aleksandr Zaveryukha, Vitalii Ignatenko, Aleksandr Livshits, and Oleg Lobov. Some of these figures will retain the lower ranking jobs they held. The ministry of industry and the ministry of defense industry will now join the economics ministry and the construction ministry will be abolished. Although further announcements are expected, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, and Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Kovalev seem set to stay in their posts. -- Robert Orttung BACKGROUND ON NEW CABINET MEMBERS. Until his appointment, Oleg Sysuev was the mayor of Samara, having been popularly elected to the post twice with about 73% of the vote. Kommersant-Daily reported that Samara Governor Konstantin Titov backed his appointment in hopes of getting a more loyal politician as mayor. Titov himself had turned down the position the day before. Urinson, 52, is a 20-year Gosplan veteran and has served as first deputy economics minister since September 1993. Kokh, 36, is a close associate of Chubais who worked on privatization in St. Petersburg before his promotion to serve as deputy and then head of the national State Privatization Committee. Bulgak, 55, is a technocrat who has headed the communications ministry since 1991. Although the telecommunications industry has seen dynamic expansion, some foreign investors have been critical of efforts to keep them out of the privatization process. -- Robert Orttung NEMTSOV SETS CONDITIONS FOR TAKING GOVERNMENT POST. Boris Nemtsov said that he wants to retain his post as Nizhnii Novgorod governor for two years and remain in direct contact with Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported. However, Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said Nemtsov's decision to hold two jobs may be illegal, and his government appointment may force pre-term gubernatorial elections, Kommersant-Daily reported. Nemtsov argued that only radical changes in the government could improve the situation and praised Chubais as an "intelligent and determined person." Nemtsov's task of reforming state monopolies in order to cut the prices they charge and dealing with wage and pension arrears are among the most difficult tasks facing the government and he admitted that he may have been wiser staying on only in his capacity as governor. He also promised a campaign against corruption. -- Robert Orttung ANALYSIS OF THE RESHUFFLE. The cabinet reshuffle signals that Yeltsin is firmly back in control, and gives the government its strongest team of liberal reformers since 1992. However, the promotion of Chubais allies Urinson and Kokh has been matched by the dismissal of other reformers, such as Livshits, Yasin, and the former banker Vladimir Potanin. Also, Yeltsin still shows a penchant for "balancing" rival teams -- witness the unexpected promotion of Nemtsov to a status equal to that of Chubais, and the continuation in office of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Liberal observers welcomed the changes, although many worried that "by accepting a tempting title now, Nemtsov could ruin his future career as a politician," as Moskovskii komsomolets said on 18 March. Nemtsov's former ally, Grigorii Yavlinskii, refused to join the government, telling Russian Public TV (ORT) on 15 March that "So long as Chernomyrdin remains as the head of the government, the idea of a battle with the natural monopolies is a chimera." Despite their distaste for Chubais, the communists have adopted a cautious stance: their main concern is to avoid giving Yeltsin an excuse to disband the Duma. -- Peter Rutland YELTSIN, RODIONOV DISCUSS NUCLEAR ARSENAL. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov briefed President Yeltsin on the state of Russia's nuclear deterrent forces on 17 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. According to the presidential press service, Rodionov assured Yeltsin that the command and control system which directs the country's strategic nuclear forces is "reliable and stable," excluding "the possibility of unusual situations." Rodionov was also quoted as saying the morale of the Strategic Missile Forces is "at a high level." These statements reverse Rodionov's declaration at a 6 February press conference, when he warned that chronic underfunding meant "no one can guarantee the reliability" of Russia's nuclear forces. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN CONTINUES TOUGH PRE-SUMMIT RHETORIC. In a 17 March press conference broadcast on Russian TV (RTR), Yeltsin said his 20-21 March meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton will have a "fundamentally special character," because it will determine the nature of the Russian- American "partnership." Yeltsin said he would ask Clinton why Russian- American relations are "one-sided," complaining about American trade restrictions, the holding of NATO exercises in the Black Sea "against Russia's wishes," and the "exclusion" of Russia from international organizations "because of opposition from the United States." Arguing that "NATO is an American organization," he reiterated Moscow's opposition to the alliance's expansion, and "ruled out" suggestions that Russia might join the alliance, unless it transforms itself into a purely political organization. He also warned that START III talks could not begin until the Moscow and Washington resolve their differences over 1972 ABM treaty. -- Scott Parrish PRIMAKOV, CLINTON DISCUSS NATO, SUMMIT AGENDA. After his 17 March meeting with President Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told journalists that during his three-day visit to the U.S., Russian and American diplomats had "made a success" at narrowing the gap between Russian and Western visions of a NATO-Russia charter, ITAR-TASS reported. He asserted that Washington "understands our arguments" in favor of the charter taking the form of a legally binding international agreement, a position NATO leaders have consistently rejected in the past. Primakov insisted that Russia "will not change its position on the NATO enlargement issue," but said Moscow wants "normal" relations with the alliance. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said Primakov's visit was "productive," but added that the U.S. position on enlargement remains "unchanged," and concluded that "we are still far from signing" a Russia-NATO agreement. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN SUBMITS CWC FOR RATIFICATION. President Yeltsin submitted the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention to the Federal Assembly for ratification on 17 March, ITAR-TASS reported. The convention, signed by 161 states and ratified by 70, will enter into force on 29 April, although neither the U.S. nor Russia, which have the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, have ratified it. Plans to liquidate Russia's 40,000 metric ton stockpile of chemical agents have been hampered by financial problems and the lack of legislation. Citing safety concerns, for example, the Federation Council rejected on 23 January the latest draft of a law regulating the destruction of the stockpile. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN VETOES TROPHY ART BILL. President Yeltsin on 18 March vetoed a draft law that stated that artworks seized in Germany by the Soviet army during World War II are the property of the Russian state, ITAR-TASS reported. The controversial bill was approved by the parliament's upper house on 5 March (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 March 1997). In a letter to Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, Yeltsin called the bill a "unilateral decision" made "without regard for generally accepted norms of international law," adding that it "weakens Russian positions in difficult negotiations now under way with France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands and other countries." A 1990 friendship treaty between Moscow and Germany contained a clause on the mutual restitution or artworks, but few have been exchanged. -- Penny Morvant STATE TARGETS RELIGIOUS MINORITIES. The 1996 federal program for combating organized crime includes a paragraph that names certain religious organizations as socially dangerous, according to an Interior Ministry document obtained by Duma Deputy Valerii Borshchov, deputy head of the Committee for Social and Religious Organizations, as reported by U.K.-based Keston College. The organizations listed include the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unification Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the New Apostolic Church, and the True Orthodox Church. The latter is an offshoot of the Orthodox Church, which formed in 1927 and opposed any cooperation with the Soviet regime. The document states that "Using religion as a cover, the foreign representatives of the above-mentioned organizations are creating networks which enable them to gather socio-political, economic, military and other forms of information." Clergy of the True Orthodox Church have reportedly been harassed by the authorities, and four of them have been murdered in suspicious circumstances. -- Peter Rutland MOSCOW BOMB MAKER ARRESTED. Segodnya on 17 March reported that Moscow police arrested a former lieutenant from an elite army unit on 14 March after uncovering 649 explosive devices in his apartment. The lieutenant, Dmitrii Morev, had worked as a pyrotechnics specialist in various Moscow theaters after retiring from an elite spetsnaz unit. He is also thought to have designed home security systems for businessmen and made bombs for the capital's criminal elite. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIAN ECONOMY GREW IN JANUARY-FEBRUARY. Russia's GDP increased by 0.5% from January to February over the same period a year earlier, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 March, citing the State Statistical Committee. Industrial output also went up 0.9%. The largest increase (10%) was recorded in the non-ferrous metals industry. The production of oil and gas dropped by 2% and 1%, respectively. The coal and electrical energy output declined by 4% each. The population's real disposable income increased by 5% and the average monthly wage went up to 885,000 rubles ($155). The number of people living below the minimum subsistence level (404,000 rubles at end of February) fell from 31.9 million in January to 31.5 million in February. -- 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 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. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIA DENIES ABKHAZ ALLEGATIONS OF TROOP DEPLOYMENTS. The Foreign Ministry of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia told ITAR-TASS on 17 March that Georgia had violated the 1994 ceasefire agreement by deploying six tanks and 100 military personnel in Georgia's Zugdidi raion, which is currently controlled by CIS peacekeeping troops. The Georgian Interior, Defense and State Security Ministries issued a denial. Also on 17 March, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba sent a letter to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze warning that unless the latter takes measures to halt ongoing terrorist activities by Georgian saboteurs on Abkhaz territory, hostilities may erupt and the progress already achieved in mediated talks on a settlement of the Abkhaz conflict will be demolished. -- Liz Fuller BIBLES CONFISCATED IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek customs officials confiscated 25,000 copies of the bible's New Testament sent to Uzbekistan by the Russian Bible Society, according to a BBC-monitored 14 March ITAR-TASS report. The Uzbek authorities regard the Russian Bible Society's action as missionary activity, which is banned. -- Lowell Bezanis PENSIONERS DEMONSTRATE IN KAZAKSTAN. About 300 pensioners held a demonstration in front of the Kazakstani parliament building on 17 March commemorating the six-year anniversary of the all-Union referendum on preserving the Soviet Union, Reuters reported. Leaflets were distributed which said that 95.6% of participants six years ago, "including President Nursultan Nazarbayev, voted for the socialist development" of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. An elderly woman at the demonstration was quoted as saying a return to the past was out of the question but "it is also impossible to suffer any longer." Pensioners receive about 2,800 tenge per month ($37), often too little to provide for basic necessities. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK TROOPS CLOSE IN ON TERRORIST. Special units of the Tajik Security Ministry have closed in on Rezvon Sadirov near the village of Chormagz, about 100 kilometers southeast of Dushanbe, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on 18 March. Sadirov's brother Bahrom was apprehended near Obigarm on 14 March in an attack by government troops allied with fighters of the United Tajik Opposition. Rezvon and about 40 others are expected to be in custody soon. The Tajik opposition is not engaged in this action as it "falls outside their zone of influence." Rezvon had been in contact with the government until he broke off radio communications on 16 March. The Sadirovs and their group are wanted by both the government and opposition for two hostage taking episodes, one in December, the other in February. -- 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. 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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