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OMRI DAILY DIGEST - No. 62, Part I, 28 March 1997
OMRI DAILY DIGEST No. 62, Part I, 28 March 1997 **Note to readers** On behalf of the analysts, editors, and archivists involved in producing the OMRI Daily Digest since its premier on 2 January 1995, we would like to thank the many thousands of regular readers that have made it a success. 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 Everyone subscribed to the OMRI Daily Digest will automatically receive RFE/RL's NewsLine beginning on 1 April. OMRI will continue to publish a monthly magazine, TRANSITIONS (see below for more information). --OMRI Publications ======================================================================== In the 4 April issue of OMRI's journal TRANSITION**: THE BALTIC STATES - Back in Europe, to Stay - Economies Show Solid Performance Despite Many Obstacles - Poland and Lithuania Look Toward a Common Future - 'Our Problems Are Europe's Problems' interview with Vytautas Landsbergis - Political Stability Through Disenfranchisement - Conflicting Claims to Victimhood in Lithuania PLUS... - RUSSIA: The Oligarchs in Charge of 'Russia, Inc.' - RUSSIA: Slow Progress on Abolition of the Death Penalty - UKRAINE: Rival Clans Mix Business, Politics, and Murder - ROMANIA: 'The People Are Ready for Change' interview with Emil Constantinescu - POLAND: Harmonizing the Discordant Right 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 WORKERS STAGE PROTESTS . . . Workers took part in strikes and demonstrations on 27 March in a national day of protest against delayed wages, international agencies reported. RIA quoted the Interior Ministry as saying 1.8 million people took part in 1,300 protests, which were coordinated by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR); ITAR- TASS, also citing the police, put turnout at 1.22 million in 984 rallies in 73 regions. The biggest rallies were reportedly in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kemerovo. FNPR Chairman Mikhail Shmakov, however, told TASS on 28 March that 21 million people had participated, of whom 5.1 million stopped work at least temporarily. Whatever the true number of participants, the protest was clearly larger than a similar day of action held last November. Slogans demanding the resignation of President Boris Yeltsin and the government were in evidence at many of the rallies, accompanied by red flags and portraits of Lenin, but the demonstrations passed off peacefully, and many reporters described the dominant mood as one of resignation. -- Penny Morvant . . . POLITICIANS RESPOND. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 27 March requiring the government and the presidential Control Administration to submit material to the Temporary Extraordinary Commission by 30 April on the misuse of federal budget funds earmarked to pay wages, ITAR-TASS reported. Wage arrears totaling some 50 trillion rubles were the main grievance of workers participating in the union day of action. Speaking at the first meeting of the new government, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin stressed its efforts to reduce the budget wage debt and promised to work more closely with the unions. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov described the protest as a no-confidence vote in the new cabinet, contending, "Changes in the government have convinced no one," Reuters reported. Aleksandr Lebed attributed the protest to the poverty in the country, saying: "One gets the impression that it has been decided that a third of the population are to be killed off." -- Penny Morvant MEDIA DOWNPLAY SIGNIFICANCE OF PROTESTS. Reports on the protests dominated Russian news coverage on 27 March, but most news agencies and electronic media outlets emphasized that dissatisfied citizens turned out in lower numbers than had been expected and made primarily economic rather than political demands. The three major television networks all noted that the number of demonstrators nationwide was closer to 1 million than to the 20 million that opposition leaders had predicted. They also reported that extreme political demands found little support among the protesters. For instance, state-controlled Russian Public TV (ORT) noted that just a few hundred supporters turned out to rallies organized by Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Viktor Anpilov, leader of the radical communist movement Workers' Russia. -- Laura Belin GOVERNMENT PLAN FOR INDUSTRIAL RESTRUCTURING. At its meeting on 27 March the government instructed Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Vasilev to draft a plan to promote more effective corporate management in privatized enterprises, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Minister without Portfolio Yevgenii Yasin argued that lack of clarity in accounting procedures and in defining managers' duties was deterring investors. "Companies which infringe shareholders' rights will not get government support," Vasilev said. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said: "Those firms which do not follow basic reform parameters must be cut off from all sources of budget funding," Kommersant-Daily reported. One of the perks will be that progressive companies will be given ownership of the land on which they are located. To date only 1,264 firms have been allowed to buy their own site. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA STILL WANTS VETO, NOT JUST VOICE IN NATO. In a 27 March interview with Moskovskii komsomolets, presidential foreign policy aide Dmitrii Ryurikov said that as part of its proposed charter with NATO, Russia wants a veto over NATO decisions with which it disagrees. He said Moscow does not accept U.S. President Bill Clinton's statement after the Helsinki summit that the charter will give Russia a voice, but not a veto. Ryurikov asserted that President Yeltsin "acts on the assumption that if our country has a voice, it will have the right to block decisions that are unacceptable to it," adding that "otherwise, there is no sense in having a voice." Ryurikov concluded that it was important to make sure that any agreement with NATO "precludes ambiguous interpretations." His comments suggest that the negotiations on the proposed charter will prove arduous, as its specifics remain contentious. -- Scott Parrish CIS LEADERS MEET. The heads of government of the 12 CIS countries met in Moscow on 27 March: the heads of state meet on 28 March. The ostensible aim of the meeting is to promote economic integration. However, despite the signing of 700 inter-governmental agreements and the creation of 80 supranational CIS organs, coordination of economic policies remains weak to non-existent, while political rifts continue to grow. The Ukrainian and Azerbaijani presidents met earlier this week and issued statements affirming that the CIS must be a union of equals. Andranik Migranyan, a Yeltsin adviser, accused the other CIS members of "consolidating power on an anti-Russian basis," AFP reported. "If they develop alternative economic and military unions Russia will be unable to maintain its territorial integrity, because they will serve as an example for Russia's regions," he said. Like OMRI, the CIS seems to have outlived its usefulness as a temporary organization bridging the transition from socialism to capitalism. -- Peter Rutland CIS FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS TAJIKISTAN, ABKHAZIA . . . In preparation for the 28 March summit, the CIS councils of foreign and defense ministers met in Moscow on 27 March, Russian media reported. The foreign ministers discussed the future of the predominantly Russian CIS peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan and Abkhazia. They recommended that the CIS heads of state extend the mandate of the peacekeepers in Tajikistan until the end of 1997, and broaden the mandate of those in Abkhazia. Georgia had earlier said it would demand the peacekeepers' withdrawal unless their mandate was broadened to include police powers. Citing the "immense quantity" of CIS interstate organizations that have been created since 1991, many of which are duplicative and wasteful, the session imposed a moratorium on creating new ones. -- Scott Parrish . . . WHILE DEFENSE MINISTERS CONSIDER NEW CIS MILITARY COOPERATION HEAD. Meanwhile, CIS defense ministers continued discussing a Russian proposal to reinstate Army General Viktor Samsonov as head of the CIS military cooperation staff, Russian media reported. Despite earlier reports suggesting that the January session of the council had approved his nomination (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1997), it apparently has not been finalized. Samsonov resigned from the post in October 1996 when he was appointed chief of the Russian general staff. After the non- Russian members of the CIS rejected Yeltsin's suggested replacement for Samsonov, Moscow suggested that he could head both the Russian general staff and the CIS cooperation staff. Reflecting the tenuous nature of CIS military cooperation, only nine of the 12 CIS states attended the meeting. Moldova was absent, while Ukraine and Turkmenistan attended only as observers. -- Scott Parrish NEMTSOV BACK IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov went to the Volga region for his first official business trip and addressed the trade union protest rally in his native city of Nizhnii Novgorod with a promise to solve all acute social problems facing the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 March. Nemtsov said he plans to support Russian producers, reduce tariffs for electricity and transport as part of the reform of natural monopolies, narrow the gap between rich and poor, and fight corruption. According to a Public Opinion Foundation poll cited by ITAR-TASS, 52% of Russia's urban population approve of Nemtsov's being appointed to the government, with only 12% expressing disapproval. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski JOURNALIST WHO ACCUSED "PASHA MERCEDES" VINDICATED. The presidium of the Moscow city court overturned the October 1995 conviction of journalist Vadim Poegli, who was accused of insulting the honor and dignity of then Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Russian media reported on 27 March. In October 1994, Poegli published an article on corruption in the military in the popular newspaper Moskovskii komsomolets, under the title "Pasha Mercedes: A Thief Should Be In Prison, Not Defense Minister." Rather than bringing a civil suit against Poegli, Grachev sought a criminal conviction, and the journalist was sentenced to one year of corrective labor, although he was amnestied before having to serve his sentence (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 October 1995). -- Laura Belin ANTONOV PLANES GROUNDED AFTER CRASH. Following the crash of an Antonov An-24 in the Caucasus on 18 March in which some 50 people were killed, the Russian Federal Aviation Service (FAS) decided to suspend the domestic use of all airplanes of this type, Izvestiya reported on 28 March. All An-24s will now be subject to a technical inspection. An-24s form the core of the Russian passenger fleet, servicing 40% of all passenger traffic in Russia. The An-24 is also one of the oldest Russian passenger carriers; manufacture began in 1962 and continued until the end of the 1970s. The ban can be lifted only when An-24s get another technical certificate. -- Natalia Gurushina OIL JOINT VENTURES IN RUSSIA IN 1996. There are some 40 joint ventures with the participation of foreign capital operating in the Russian oil industry, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 27 March. The bulk of them (73%) are extracting companies, and the rest render technical and other services. About half the oil joint ventures operate in Western Siberia, while the remaining firms work deposits in the Caucasus, Far East, and Eastern Siberia. In 1996, joint ventures extracted 22 million metric tons of oil, or 7.7% of Russia's total oil output (compared to 6.5% in 1995). Joint ventures accounted for 12.5% (12 million metric tons) of Russian oil exports. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA HUSEINOV EXTRADITED TO BAKU. Former Azerbaijani Prime Minister Suret Huseinov, who staged the June 1993 coup that resulted in Heidar Aliev's return to power in Baku, was arrested near Tula on 20 March by Russian and Azerbaijani Interior Ministry officials and extradited to Baku on 27 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. Huseinov faces charges of treason and armed rebellion in connection with a so-called coup attempt in October 1994, following which he fled to Moscow, and an alleged plot to assassinate Aliev in December 1996. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN-ARMENIAN COOPERATION. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin met in Moscow on the eve the CIS summit, Russian media reported on 27 March. Rybkin called for a "renewed" comprehensive treaty between the two countries that should also include a "military component." According to Ter-Petrossyan, Russia is Yerevan's "main strategic partner," and the parliaments of both countries will soon ratify the treaty on a Russian military base in Armenia. Meanwhile, during his one-day visit to France, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev said there is no need for the Russian military presence in Armenia and Georgia, Reuters reported on 27 March. "I don't think it's right and I even protest against that," he added. -- Emil Danielyan INTERPOL CALLS KAZAKSTAN MAJOR DRUG HIGHWAY. Bekzhan Karikbolov, the head of Interpol in Kazakstan, said on 27 March that up to 100 kilograms of raw opium pass through the Central Asian country every month on the way to markets in Europe, Reuters reported. Karikbolov also said that besides being a transit route for opium from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kazakstan produces a large amount of marijuana and hashish and there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of ephedrine in circulation. In 1996, 16 tons of narcotics were confiscated but it is estimated that that represents only 7% of the total which made its way through the country. Karikbolov said there are 20,000 registered drug addicts in Kazakstan but that the real figure of addicts was likely five to 10 times higher. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan BRITISH FIRM WINS KAZAK ENERGY GRID TENDER. A tender to upgrade Kazakstan's electrical grid has been won by the British National Grid Company, AFP reported on 27 March. The company plans to spend $1 billion on Kazakstan's system over the next 10 years to construct new power lines, install new meters and create an integrated, automated control and accounting system. The operational center will be located at Akmola, the future capital. Deputy Finance Minister Zhannat Yertlesova said on 26 March: "I have no problem with foreign ownership. The main thing is there is an owner," Reuters reported on 27 March. -- Bruce Pannier TURKMEN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES CIS ROLE. Ahead of the CIS summit in Moscow, Saparmurat Niyazov said the CIS role as a forum for bilateral and multilateral cooperation was useful but added that there was no need for the establishment of supranational structures, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March. Niyazov said "maximum use" should be made of those structures "which represent the CIS," but that no attempt should be made to "step up any processes artificially." According to Niyazov the present formation of the CIS allowed each country to participate and "find (its) own forms of partnership." -- 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. 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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