|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 57, Part I, 21 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 the upcoming changes to TRANSITION ________________________________________________________________________ ************************************************************************ RUSSIA YELTSIN, CLINTON OPEN SUMMIT . . . Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his American counterpart Bill Clinton opened their summit meeting in Helsinki on 20 March with a formal dinner, international agencies reported. Upon arriving, Yeltsin declared, "let us not lose the partnership we have established and developed." In contrast to statements by both Russian and American officials downplaying the possibility of any agreement on the disputed issue of NATO enlargement, Yeltsin expressed hope that he and Clinton would "seek agreement," and "part as friends, as we always have." At the opening dinner, Clinton, confined to a wheelchair owing to a knee injury, said he was pleased to see Yeltsin looking "so fit and well," adding "I hope we'll work something out." The two leaders will hold a series of talks on 21 March at Maentyniemi, the Finnish presidential residence located in a Helsinki suburb. -- Scott Parrish . . . WITH MORE PROGRESS LIKELY ON ARMS CONTROL THAN NATO. Sources in Yeltsin's delegation told ITAR-TASS on 21 March that Yeltsin and Clinton would issue three joint declarations after the summit: on economic cooperation, arms control, and European security issues. U.S. officials told AFP that Clinton will show Yeltsin new nuclear arms control proposals , aimed at encouraging the Russian Federal Assembly to ratify START II. Under the treaty's current terms, missiles and their silos which are slated for elimination must be destroyed by 2003. Some Russian critics of the treaty have complained that Russia cannot afford such a quick timetable. Clinton will reportedly indicate that Washington is willing to extend the timetable for destroying the missile silos as long as the warheads are dismantled by 2003. However, cost is only one of several issues that Russian legislators have linked with START II ratification. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN'S SPIN DOCTORS TOP CLINTON'S AT HELSINKI. Yeltsin's press spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, had a slick media operation up and running in Helsinki long before Clinton's delegation even arrived, Reuters reported on 20 March. The agency said that from a specially- built Russian press center, Yastrzhembskii and his assistants were smoothly feeding international journalists a series of tirades against the American stance on issues ranging from visa policies to NATO expansion. For example, Russian Foreign Ministry official Mikhail Timoshkin gave a briefing in which he blasted the restrictive visa policies of several Western countries, accusing them of creating a new "iron curtain," by "trying everything they can to complicate procedures for receiving Russian citizens." He complained that one in four Russians who applies for an American entry visa is turned down, which he said is not an "acceptable norm for countries with partnerly relations." -- Scott Parrish FOREIGN MINISTRY PANS "PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN" IN PRAGUE OVER AMBASSADOR'S COMMENTS. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Andreev criticized on 20 March what he termed a "propaganda campaign" carried out by Czech politicians in response to comments by Nikolai Ryabov, Moscow's ambassador to Prague (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 and 19 March 1997), Russian media reported. Andreev described the reaction in Prague to Ryabov's 16 March interview with NTV as designed to "fan anti-Russian sentiment and raise additional pseudo-arguments in favor of the Czech Republic's admission to NATO." In contrast, Izvestiya on 21 March harshly criticized Ryabov, and blamed the incident on the practice of awarding ambassadorships to unqualified political allies of the president. Ryabov, the former chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, was appointed ambassador to Prague after President Yeltsin won re-election last July. -- Scott Parrish NEW GOVERNMENT MEETS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin chaired the first meeting of the new government on 20 March, NTV and Kommersant- Daily reported. He described the new ministers as "a team ready for real action" and said he expected "colossal changes." He said the absorption of the industry and defense industry ministries into the economics ministry means "an end to the old sectoral, Gosplan approach." He gave First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov two weeks to prepare a new pension budget for 1997, since the Pension Fund's draft has a 16 trillion ruble ($3 billion) deficit. Journalists noted that Chubais entered the room before Nemtsov and sat on Chernomyrdin's right, suggesting that he is the "first" first deputy. More ministerial changes are expected early next week. Yegor Gaidar suggested on 19 March that the new government should be given a grace period of 100 days, since by then "it should be clear whether or not it is able to formulate and implement a sensible policy," NTV reported. -- Peter Rutland REGIONAL LEADERS GENERALLY APPLAUD GOVERNMENT CHANGES. Yaroslavl Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn wrote in the 21 March Izvestiya that "Russia needs Chubais and Nemtsov," warning that Russians feared them because they are young, smart, and strong. Voronezh Governor Ivan Shabanov said he supported the rise of regional stars like Nemtsov since government policy would now take better account of regional interests. He nevertheless decried the lack of a high-level minister to cover agricultural questions, ITAR-TASS reported. Kareliya Prime Minister Viktor Stepanov warned that if there was no change in the government's tax, financial, and credit policies, there would be a new influx of ministers, "maybe within the coming months," Russian TV (RTR) reported. -- Robert Orttung GOVERNMENT WARNS DUMA NOT TO INSULT MINISTERS. A statement issued by the government on 20 March warned that if State Duma deputies do not change the "unacceptable" tone of their comments about cabinet ministers, government members will reconsider their participation in sessions of the lower house of parliament, ITAR-TASS reported. Various Duma deputies have condemned First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais in insulting terms. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met with leaders of the seven registered Duma factions on 20 March. -- Laura Belin CHUBAIS IN KEMEROVO. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais told workers from Kuzbass mining towns on 21 March that the government will pay off pension arrears by 30 June and its wage debt to public sector workers by the end of December, ITAR-TASS reported. In an attempt to demonstrate the government's commitment to solving the problems of Kuzbass--one of the areas worst affected by payments arrears and labor unrest--Chubais said the Finance Ministry has transferred 170 billion rubles to pay off debts to public sector employees there. At the beginning of the year regional budget workers were owed 500 billion rubles in overdue wages. Chubais flew to Kemerovo to attend the 21 March opening of the All-Russian Coal Industry Workers' Congress. The main aim of his visit, Kommersant-Daily speculated on 21 March, is to test the mood of miners ahead of the national trade union protest scheduled for 27 March. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIAN-CHECHEN COMMISSION ON MISSING PERSONS MEETS. A joint Russian- Chechen commission to determine the fate of those missing or forcibly held met for the first time in Grozny on 20 March, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides exchanged lists of individuals whose fate is unknown: 1,346 from the Russian side and about 1,500 from the Chechens. The Russians believes that 440 of the people on its list may be dead. The Chechen authorities have already set aside a building for the purpose of identifying dead bodies and the commission hopes to set up a database listing those missing. -- Robert Orttung CHAMBER ON INFORMATION DISPUTES COMPLAINS ABOUT OPPOSITION NEWSPAPERS. The President's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes has asked Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov and State Press Committee Chairman Ivan Laptev to examine whether the editors of the opposition newspapers Zavtra and Sovetskaya Rossiya could be held legally responsible for misusing press freedom and violating the law on the mass media, ITAR- TASS reported on 20 March. The chamber described various articles published this month, some of them signed by Sovetskaya Rossiya Editor Valentin Chikin and Zavtra Editor Aleksandr Prokhanov, as "large-scale political provocations aimed at destabilizing the situation in the country." One article signed by both editors reportedly encouraged Russian citizens to "study Albanian," which the chamber characterized as a call to emulate the massive armed unrest that has swept Albania in recent weeks. -- Laura Belin HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS UNHAPPY WITH PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION. A group of prominent human rights activists told a news conference in Moscow on 20 March that they will no longer cooperate with the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, ITAR-TASS reported. "We want to cooperate with the authorities, but we cannot work with this commission and therefore are demanding its dissolution," Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseeva said. She and other human rights activists, including Lev Ponomarev, Valerii Abramkin, and Boris Altshuler, signed a statement calling for the disbanding of the commission and the establishment of a new body in consultation with Russia's major human rights groups. The Presidential Human Rights Commission, headed by Vladimir Kartashkin, is accused of being too close to the authorities (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 November 1996). -- Penny Morvant MAFIA NOT A MAJOR THREAT FOR FOREIGN FIRMS IN RUSSIA. At an international conference on business security in Moscow, American experts said that organized crime was not the major problem foreign investors have to deal with in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 March. According to a survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, only 20 of 350 surveyed foreign firms in Russia reported being approached by the mafia, and only one company was forced to pay them money. Inefficient tax and customs legislation (particularly the existence of tax privileges) and corruption are considered more serious obstacles to foreign businesses. This finding somewhat contradicts a recent study by Louise Shelley from the American University in Washington, which suggested that the mafia controls more than 40% of the Russian economy, damaging its tax base and contributing to capital flight, Reuters reported on 19 March. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KOCHARYAN NAMED ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER . . . Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan on 20 March appointed Robert Kocharyan, the leader of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, as Armenia's new prime minister, international media reported. Kocharyan said he is confident that despite the appointment his supporters will implement his "program to strengthen Nagorno-Karabakh's statehood and defense capability." Kocharyan, an engineer by training, was one of the leaders of the 1988 movement for the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and is respected by many opposition groups, including the banned Dashnak party. It appears that his appointment is aimed at easing the tense internal political situation in Armenia caused largely by the controversial 22 September presidential election. The deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, Ara Sahakyan, one of the closest figures to Ter-Petrossyan, said Kocharyan will "play a consolidating role in Armenian society." -- Emil Danielyan . . . AMID AZERBAIJAN'S CONDEMNATION. Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said that Kocharyan's appointment may sour already strained relationship between Baku and Yerevan and slammed the move as a "provocation," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 20 March. Azimov added that Kocharyan should abandon "Azerbaijani citizenship and resign from the post of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian community leader." According to Western agencies, the U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns expressed the hope that the appointment of the Karabakh leader as prime minister of Armenia is not an attempt by Yerevan to "annex" the region. -- Emil Danielyan NAZARBAYEV TEMPERS STATEMENT ON PRIME MINISTER. Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 20 March withdrew his threat to sack Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin if he didn't show progress in addressing the wage and pension arrears problem by 10 April, Reuters reported. Nazarbayev said "as long as reforms continue, the premier will retain his post." Foreign investors were alarmed by the earlier statement concerning the reformist prime minister's possible ouster. Kazhegeldin is largely seen as the guarantor of market reforms in Kazakstan. Concerning the matter of arrears, Finance Minister Aleksander Pavlov said on 20 March that the state pension fund is bankrupt. The government plans to establish a private pension fund but the chairman of the National Securities Commission, Grigory Marchenko, said the fund could atake up to 30 years before it becomes effective. -- Bruce Pannier UZBEK DISSIDENT WRITER IN FINLAND. Uzbek writer Albert Musim, who was detained and eventually released by authorities in Moscow in February in connection with an extradition request from the Uzbek government, arrived in Finland on 18 March seeking political asylum, RFE/RL reported. Musim was wanted in Uzbekistan for criticizing the government. According to a 19 March broadcast by Radio Finland as cited by the BBC, Musim is the first writer to be granted asylum in Finland. -- Bruce Pannier NEWSPAPER QUESTIONS RUSSIAN ROLE IN TAJIKISTAN. The Russian daily Segodnya on 20 March shed some light on the myths and realities of politics in Tajikistan. The article claimed the Tajik government is not in control of events, and questioned the wisdom of continuing to prop it up. On the Islamic threat in Tajikistan, the paper said "only people holding the most primitive notions" of Tajikistan make this statement, noting that the leader of the Ismaili Muslims in Gorno-Badakhshan, the Aga Khan, advocates a secular state. As to the "Dushanbe regime" being pro-Russian, the article questioned the allegiance of a country which owes millions dollars to Russia yet the leading trade partners for Tajikistan are now Switzerland, Holland, and Turkey. The paper argues that Tajikistan is disintegrating economically and politically, and the country is a "black hole" into which the Russian taxpayers are throwing their money. -- 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. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to email@example.com 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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