|The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity. - George Bernard Shaw|
No. 56, Part I, 20 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 21 March issue of OMRI's journal TRANSITION**: THE MIDDLE CLASS - Economic Reform Casts a Long Shadow in Russia - The Making of the Middle Classes - Poland's Perpetually New Middle Class - Some Russians Are Learning to Be Rich PLUS... - RUSSIA: The NATO Distraction (A discussion with Grigorii Yavlinksii) - UKRAINE: Caution is the Key for Ukraine's Prime Minister (a profile of Pavlo Lazarenko) - CENTRAL EUROPE: Security Services Still Distrusted - TAJIKISTAN: Defining the 'Third Force' MEDIA NOTES: Journalists as Physical Pawns; Political Moves at Russian TV For subscription information about OMRI's new monthly, send an e-mail message to transition-DD@omri.cz Note: Transition is not available electronically **See important message below on upcoming changes to TRANSITION ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA MORE TOUGH RHETORIC ON EVE OF SUMMIT . . . Speaking in Helsinki, where President Yeltsin meets with his American counterpart Bill Clinton on 20-21 March, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii underlined Moscow's continuing rejection of NATO expansion, which he termed "the West's biggest strategic mistake since the end of the Cold War," international agencies reported on 19 March. Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin remains convinced that there are not "any concrete reasons" which justify expanding NATO eastwards. He argued that the dispute over NATO expansion has already undermined Russian relations with the West, and said the summit was more likely to produce "gradual progress" on NATO and other issues than any major agreements. -- Scott Parrish . . . YELTSIN WARY OF TRADE OFF BETWEEN AID AND NATO EXPANSION. The U.S. would like the summit to feature new bilateral economic cooperation agreements, which would demonstrate that despite the dispute over NATO enlargement, the U.S. is not seeking to isolate Russia, Reuters reported on 19 March. But Moscow is wary of agreements that might look like a "payoff" in return for acquiescence on NATO expansion. A senior U.S. official told the agency that Washington is prepared to offer "several billion dollars" of additional investment financing to Russia through the Export-Import Bank and OPIC. Raf Sharikov, the editor of Kommersant- Daily, said that at a recent meeting with journalists, Yeltsin reported that Clinton had offered him a $4 billion investment assistance package. Yeltsin said he declined the offer, stressing that he did not want economic talks to undermine negotiations over NATO enlargement. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN DECREES CHANGES IN DEFENSE MINISTRY LEADERSHIP. President Yeltsin has issued a decree abolishing one of five deputy minister of defense positions, but creating two more, including a new first deputy ministerial post, NTV reported on 19 March. The position of deputy defense minister in charge of the Main Military Inspectorate has been abolished, since those functions are being transferred to the new State Military Inspectorate, which is an independent department of the presidential administration (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 November 1996). Anonymous Defense Ministry sources told the network that the new first deputy minister position is likely to be filled by Col.-Gen. Viktor Chechevatov, currently commander of the Far Eastern Military District, who is widely viewed as a potential successor to Defense Minister Igor Rodionov. -- Scott Parrish DUMA WANTS MORE ACCESS TO STATE TV. The State Duma on 20 April passed a resolution asking the Federal Television and Radio Broadcasting Service to change the licensing procedures for Russian TV (Channel 2), requiring it to broadcast dispatches from the legislature's company three times a week (for a total of 105 minutes) during prime time, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote passed with a tally of 293-5, and one abstention. The government's Department of Information and Culture, however, said that the resolution could not be implemented because it violates existing legislation. In particular, the Duma's press service can participate in the development of material for broadcast, but not actually serve as the broadcaster, the executive branch noted. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIA CANCELS PRODUCTION OF ADVANCED FIGHTER. Anonymous sources in the former Ministry of Defense Industry told ITAR-TASS on 19 March that since the Russian Air Force cannot afford to buy new planes, the MAPO aircraft company would not put the advanced Multi-Functional Fighter (MFI) into serial production. A prototype of the plane (known as Project 1.42 in the West) has undergone ground tests but not yet flown and is reported to incorporate advances in "thrust vectoring," which would make it highly maneuverable. While research on the MFI project will continue, MAPO will concentrate its production resources on the MiG-35, an improved derivative of the MiG-29M fighter, which is targeted at the export market in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. In 1996, the cash- strapped Russian military did not purchase a single new combat aircraft. -- Scott Parrish MASKHADOV UNVEILS NEW GOVERNMENT . . . Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov formally appointed several members to his new government on 19 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev and the head of the Yunko state oil company, Khodzh-Ahmed Yarikhanov, remain in their posts, as do two members of the previous government appointed by pro-Moscow former President Doku Zavgaev. Maskhadov offered unspecified government posts to two close allies of his defeated rival in the presidential election, field commander Shamil Basaev. Isa Astamirov was named minister for the economy, and Akhmed Zakaev, Maskhadov's national security advisor, will simultaneously serve as minister of culture. -- Liz Fuller . . . AND ISSUES DECREE RESTRUCTURING MILITARY. On the same day, Maskhadov issued a decree ordering the creation of a national guard, the structure and size of which remains unclear, ITAR-TASS reported. The guard will be partly made up of young Chechen fighters who formerly served in the field commanders' units that are to be disarmed and dissolved by early April. ITAR-TASS quoted a member of the Chechen general staff as confirming that Chechnya plans to maintain a standing army of 2,000 men, including special task battalions, an armored division, air defense units and a rapid reaction force. On 18 March Radio Rossii quoted the commander of Russia's Interior Ministry troops, Col.-Gen. Anatolii Shkirko, as stating that Maskhadov's decree on the creation of Chechen regular armed forces violates the Russian constitution. -- Liz Fuller DUMA MOVES TO LIMIT CITY NAME CHANGES . . . The parliament's lower house on 19 March passed a draft law restricting the freedom of local authorities to rename cities, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill states that name changes must be approved by the federal authorities, who must take into account public opinion, and sets out a series of procedures in the renaming process. The move comes two months after Chechnya's outgoing government renamed Grozny, its capital, Dzhokhar-Gala in honor of late Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Penny Morvant . . . CONSIDERS SOCIAL LEGISLATION. Also on 19 March, the Duma passed on second reading a draft law on the subsistence minimum, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill defines how the subsistence minimum should be calculated and amended and provides for its use in the formulation of regional social programs to assist those on low incomes. The deputies also overcame a Federation Council veto on a draft law setting the basic cost of a minimum consumer basket in 1990. The figure will be used in the calculation of compensation to Russians whose savings were devalued as a result of the economic reforms launched in 1991-1992. The Duma draft put the cost of the basket in 1990 prices at 444 rubles, whereas the government argues that it should be 524 rubles. -- Penny Morvant LAW ON PRODUCTION SHARING BLOCKED AGAIN. On 19 March, at the initiative of the Liberal Democratic Party, the State Duma voted 234-127 to postpone a planned discussion of the production sharing law, Russian TV (RTR) reported. The law itself was passed in 1995, but in May 1996 the Duma blocked approval of the government's list of approved deposits, without which the law cannot go into effect. The recent government shuffle, leaving Chernomyrdin as prime minister and Petr Rodionov as fuel and energy minister, does not suggest any radical initiatives from the government will be forthcoming to break the deadlock over energy policy. Energy output continues to fall due to a lack of investment. In the first two months of 1997 oil output fell 2%, gas 1%, coal 4%, and electricity 4%, compared to the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 March. -- Peter Rutland SUPREME COURT REJECTS HIGH-SPEED TRAIN CASE. The Russian Federation Supreme Court resolved on 19 March not to consider a lawsuit aimed at halting the construction of a high-speed railway line between Moscow and St. Petersburg, declaring that the case is outside its jurisdiction, ITAR-TASS reported. The suit was filed on 27 February by Duma Environmental Committee Chairwoman Tamara Zlotnikova, who has also threatened to appeal to the Constitutional Court. Zlotnikova argues that the project, which would require railway tracks to be laid through a national park, violates several laws and would damage the environment. She has also questioned its estimated cost (75 trillion rubles), arguing that it would cost considerably more to implement. -- Penny Morvant TAX SERVICE THREATENS BANKRUPTCY . . . On 19 March the State Tax Service threatened bankruptcy proceedings against 90 firms whose tax debts total 35 trillion rubles ($6.1 billion), AFP reported. The list is headed by auto plant AvtoVAZ, which owes 2 trillion rubles, and six oil and gas firms each owing more than 1 trillion rubles. Although the new government has promised to crack down on tax deadbeats, similar threats were made last fall (and the fall before that), but not implemented. -- Peter Rutland . . . BUT FACES UPHILL STRUGGLE. Bankruptcy proceedings rarely produce positive results in Russia. Complete closure of large firms is not an option for political reasons, and bankrupt companies that continue operating skillfully hide their revenues from the authorities. The State Tax Service estimates that only 20-30% of payments to energy suppliers go into the firm's main account, the rest being hidden, Radio Rossii reported on 18 March. Thus, for example, the Chelyabinsk Metal Plant owes 90 billion rubles to the oblast pension fund, and a local arbitration court ordered the "arrest" of its assets on 18 March. Tax inspectors seized finished steel, while managers complained that the steel had already been paid for by a foreign buyer -- which makes one wonder where the money went. The West Siberian railway has filed for bankruptcy against the giant West Siberian and Kuznetsk steel mills in Kemerovo Oblast for unpaid bills, Izvestiya reported on 19 March. The court is considering forcing the plants to issue new shares to cover their debts, but the newspaper asked "what idiot would buy them?" -- Peter Rutland PYRAMID SCHEME DOCUMENTS GIVEN TO GENERAL PROCURATOR. The Federal Securities Commission (FKTsB) has passed documentation on the activities of 984 financial companies operating without licenses to the Interior Ministry and the General Procurator's Office, Segodnya and Izvestiya reported on 19-20 March. Among these companies are the infamous financial pyramids MMM and Vlastilina. FKTsB and the federal fund for defending shareholders' rights have also decided to pay compensation to World War II invalids who lost their savings in such pyramid schemes. The fund, which gets 2% of privatization revenue, now has 10 billion rubles ($1.75 million) at its disposal. FKTsB head Dmitrii Vasilev said that the commission made its decision in reponse to the recent events in Albania. -- Natalia Gurushina CENTRAL BANK'S GOLD RESERVES INCREASE. The Central Bank (TsB) has accumulated 390 metric tons of gold reserves, or 90% of all gold reserves in Russia, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 19 March, citing TsB First Deputy Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko. In 1996, TsB's gold reserves went up by 90 metric tons. Aleksashenko said that the bank aims at increasing reserves by some 25% a year in 1997 and 1998. Experts consider Aleksashenko's statement as a major policy change for Russia, which was selling gold over the last few years in order to finance economic reforms and bring down inflation. Russia's gold output declined from 133 metric tons in 1994 to 101 metric tons last year. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NAGORNO-KARABAKH LEADER TO BE APPOINTED ARMENIA'S NEW PRIME MINISTER? RFE/RL on 19 March quoted deputies of the Armenian parliament as claiming that President Levon Ter-Petrossyan is considering appointing the president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Robert Kocharyan, as Armenia's new prime minister. Observers note that Kocharyan is currently in Yerevan, holding consultations with senior Armenian officials. Kocharyan, 42, was named president by the Nagorno- Karabakh parliament in late 1994 and was reelected to that post by popular vote in November 1996 elections that were condemned by the international community. Among other candidates to replace Prime Minister Armen Sarkisyan, who resigned on 6 March because of poor health, is controversial Yerevan Mayor and former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghyan. Earlier, Siradeghyan, who is considered by the opposition as one of the main organizers of the alleged 22 September election rigging, told RFE/RL that he will accept the post if offered. -- Emil Danielyan SADVAL, OPON MEMBERS SENTENCED IN BAKU. On 18 March, Azerbaijan's Supreme Court handed down sentences of between two and 15 years imprisonment on seven members of the Lezgin separatist organization Sadval on charges of treason, premeditated murder, and the violation of national equality, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 20 March. On 19 March, eleven former members of the OPON special police were sentenced to terms of between five and 13 years for their part in the so-called "coup attempt" by Rovshan Djavadov in March 1995, Western agencies reported. -- Liz Fuller TURKISH PARLIAMENT SPEAKER IN AZERBAIJAN. On 19 March, the first day of a two-day visit to Azerbaijan, Turkish parliament speaker Mustafa Kalemli met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Murtuz Alesqerov, who expressed the hope that Turkey would participate actively in the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil to the West, Turan reported. Addressing Azerbaijan's Milli Mejlis, Kalemli reiterated that Turkey will not endorse any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that does not ensure Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, according to ITAR-TASS. In an implicit warning to Moscow to cease its support for exile Kurdish groups with links to the PKK, Kalemli also stressed Turkey's readiness to develop partnership relations with all neighboring countries, especially Russia, on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. -- Liz Fuller UIGHUR PROTEST AT CHINESE EMBASSY IN KAZAKSTAN. A group of some 30 ethnic Uighurs held what was described as a "noisy protest" outside the Chinese embassy in Almaty on 19 March, Reuters reported. The demonstration came in response to reports by the United National Revolutionary Front of Eastern Turkestan (the Uighur independence movement) about the planned execution of two Uighur students in China. The students are charged with rioting in China's western Xinjiang province in February. The Uighurs in Kazakstan claim that hundreds of Uighurs were killed in the rioting. China says the figure was 10 killed and 100 wounded. Protesters outside the Chinese Embassy in Almaty shouted "East Turkestan" and "Allah Akbar" (God is Great) while staff inside the embassy videotaped them. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! 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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