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Newsline - June 29, 1995


Vol. 1, No. 126, 29 June 1995
President Boris Yeltsin met with Federal Border Guards' Service Director Andrei Nikolaev, Federal Security Service director Sergei Stepashin, Internal Affairs Minister Viktor Yerin, and Defense Minister Pavel Grachev individually on 28 June, Russian Public Television reported. In each case, he discussed material gathered by the Security Council examining the conditions that allowed Shamil Basaev to succeed in his attack on Budennovsk. Russian TV reported that the Security Council is unlikely to recommend the sacking of any ministers, but that Yeltsin will use the conclusions of the meeting to make personnel decisions later. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The Duma will take a second vote on the issue of no confidence in the government first and only then consider the government's demand to give it a positive vote of confidence, Speaker Ivan Rybkin announced at the conclusion of two conciliatory commission meetings that brought together all the Duma factions on 28 June, Ekho Moskvy reported. He said the decision would allow the Duma to complete the constitutional process it started with the first vote. He rejected the so-called "zero option," strongly supported by the official Rossiiskaya gazeta, in which the government would withdraw its demand that the Duma give it a vote of confidence if the Duma rejected a second no-confidence measure, NTV reported. The deputies also said that no agreement has been struck with Yeltsin to support the government if he fires the power ministers, as he claimed yesterday, Russian Public Television reported. The factions' conciliatory commission will meet again on 29 June to discuss the results of today's Security Council meeting. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

After a three-day break, Russian and Chechen negotiators resumed discussions in Grozny on 28 June, Russian and international agencies reported. The current round of talks focuses on political issues. Russian TV reported that negotiators spent the day discussing a Russian proposal for the formation of an interim Chechen National Council to govern the country until elections are held. After the talks ended for the day, an OSCE mediator described the atmosphere as "good," while Russian delegation head Vyacheslav Mikhailov characterized the day's discussions as "difficult." Russian military spokesmen again claimed that the Chechens had violated the current ceasefire in attacks on 27 June that killed two Russian servicemen and wounded 12 others. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

The Constitutional Court will consider a Federation Council appeal concerning the legality of secret decrees on Chechnya beginning on 10 July, NTV reported on 28 June. The secret decrees were issued by the president and government in November and December 1994 to authorize the deployment of troops in Chechnya and the start of the military campaign. In May, the court turned down the council's first request to rule on the Chechnya decrees because of technical flaws in the documents attached to the appeal. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Komsomolskaya pravda on 29 June attacked outspoken war critic Sergei Kovalev for seeking an amnesty for all Chechen fighters, including Shamil Basaev. The newspaper reported that in a 28 June speech, Kovalev and two other Duma deputies condemned Russian special forces much more strongly than Basaev, whom they called "not so bad" and a "remarkable personality." The author noted that Kovalev's speech and amnesty petition were not well received, even by those who oppose the government's military campaign in Chechnya. Komsomolskaya pravda has generally given favorable coverage to Kovalev in the past. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

One murder is committed in the Moscow Oblast every five hours and one gang assault takes place every six hours, the Moscow Oblast Police Department and Moscow Oblast Prosecutor's Office revealed at a joint meeting on 28 June, according to Moskovsky komsomolets on 29 June. The meeting addressed the crime problem and acknowledged that the crime rate has risen beyond a "socially tolerable level." -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

State Press Committee Chairman Sergei Gryzunov said the government should allocate more than 16 billion rubles ($3.6 million) to support Russian-language publications in former Soviet republics, Russian TV reported on 28 June. Currently the government only spends 3 billion rubles ($680,000) on such subsidies. Committee members suggested that priority should be given to Russian-language newspapers in areas where the ethnic Russian population is most threatened, such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

On 28 June, President Yeltsin outlined four "priority tasks" of Russian national security policy in a speech to graduates of Russian military academies, Russian and international agencies reported. These are: the restoration of constitutional order in Chechnya, the formation of a CIS collective security system, the development of a new European security system, and the strengthening of Russian ties with the Asia-Pacific region. While expressing willingness to "deepen cooperation" with NATO, Yeltsin reiterated Russian objections to any expansion of the alliance. He said NATO should transform itself from a "Western military bloc" into a component of an all-European security order. The Russian president also announced that the stabilization of the Russian economy has rendered further cuts in the military budget unnecessary, and he promised that military expenditures for 1996 would be held at the 1995 level. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

The volume of non-payments in the banking sector totals 158 trillion rubles ($359 million), Russian Bank Association President Vyacheslav Zakharov said, according to Rossiiskaya gazeta on 29 June. Of that total, 35 trillion rubles ($79.54 million) is owed by enterprises to banks for overdue loan payments. The rest of the money is made up of interbank debts. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

Russian Central Bank managers moved to "maximally reduce cash in circulation" after they received a confidential telegram signed by the bank's first deputy chairman, Arnold Voylukov on 27 June, Segodnya reported the next day. The telegram ordered cash balances and settlement and clearing ledgers to be reduced to a minimum by 30 June. It also instructed the bank to fully transfer bank notes from circulation cash departments to reserve funds. The telegram, which was leaked, stirred talk of a money reform of cash circulation, although a law on the Central Bank explicitly forbids cash circulation confiscation measures. More likely, the telegram was a directive to the Central bank to continue tightening cash discipline for banks and enterprises. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

A wage hike is needed to counter the continuing decline in Russian living standards, even if it means overburdening the country's lean budget, Russian Labor Minister Gennady Melikian said on 28 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The minister said the government must raise minimum wages and pensions by this autumn to stem the decline. Real incomes have fallen by 20% since September 1994, despite a steady rise in inflation-adjusted incomes. A 113% minimum wage hike on 1 April to 43,700 rubles (about $10) a month had little effect, Melikian said. The Labor Ministry proposes to raise the minimum wage to a maximum of 65,000 rubles a month by early autumn, a costly step for the federal and local budgets. Very few workers are actually paid at minimum wage. Instead, the figure is used as a multiplier to calculate wages and benefits throughout the state sector. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 126, 29 June 1995
The Tajik Interior Ministry has taken Lt. Col. Sharip Shapirov into custody in connection with the murders of 12 Russian and Tajik government soldiers and other subversive acts, Western soruces and Ekho Moskvy reported. Shapirov was arrested along with eight other suspects in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. Besides the charges of murder, Shapirov is suspected of using military cargo planes to smuggle rebels and drugs from Afghanistan. Police allege the Russian officer was receiving orders from Islamic opposition leaders. Shapirov serves in the 201st army division, currently stationed on the Tajik-Afghan border. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

Maj. Gen. Rustam Inoyatov, 50, was appointed head of Uzbekistan's national security service on 28 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. He replaced Gulyam Alieyev, who will be appointed to an as-yet unspecified post. Uzbek authorities have not given a reason for the personnel change. Inoyatov reportedly rose to become Alieyev's first deputy after having begun his career as a rank-and-file KGB agent. Tashkent was said to be the KGB's regional center in Central Asia during the Soviet period; since independence, outlawed opposition groups and international human rights organizations have accused its successor of being very intolerant of any activities against the present regime. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

After experiencing the sharpest economic decline of any of the former Soviet republics, Armenia was the first to record economic growth--5%--in 1994. Annual inflation ran at 50% last year, but the government forecasts it to fall to a monthly rate of 1% by August and hopes for an economic growth rate of 7.5% next year, Reuters reported on 29 June. The dram has also stabilized. Armenian Economy Minister Armen Yegiazaryan told the agency "we have passed the most difficult times." He argued that the gradual turnaround in the economy stems from the government's tight fiscal policy, price liberalization, and support from international financial organizations. The republic's currency reserves are $64 million, according to Noyan Tapan on 28 June. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

Following two days of talks beginning on 25 June, the foreign ministers of Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Iran signed several accords in Ashgabat, Noyan Tapan reported on 28 June. A package of documents, including agreements on the mutual exchange of goods and services and the establishment of trilateral joint enterprises and a transport company were signed. Armenia and Turkmenistan also signed a protocol on cooperation in the field of energy. The next round of talks between the three sides is scheduled for the second half of August. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

Heavy rains in southern Kyrgyzstan have caused mud slides, killing four people in the Jalalabad region and three in the Osh region on 27 June, according to Reuters. Hundreds of houses have been damaged. The Central Asian republic is more than 90% mountainous and the people have traditionally herded sheep, which provide food and material for clothing. However, overgrazing has left much of the area susceptible to mud slides in the rainy season. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

The largest statue of Vladimir Lenin in the former Soviet Union had its head removed in the northern Kazakhstan city of Semipalatinsk on 27 June, Segodnya reported. The removal of the head is the first step in the total dismantling of the statue ordered by Semipalatinsk Mayor Galymzhan Zhakiyanov. Zhakiyanov had ordered the removal of all monuments to former Soviet leaders to "get rid of the last vestiges of the communist ideology, which caused numerous deaths." Kazakhstan lost millions of people during the famine and purges of the 1930s. The 59-foot-high, 176-ton statue will be moved to a park for historical monuments on the bank of the Irtysh River, Reuters reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 126, 29 June 1995


Law enforcement officials told the Crimean Parliament on 28 June that weekend clashes between Crimean Tatars and alleged organized crime groups in several towns occurred spontaneously, Radio Ukraine reported the same day. They said they are working to restore law and order in the region's bazaars and markets and plan to hire up to 60 new police inspectors for communities populated mainly by Tatars. They also said that on 25 June two suspects were arrested in the killings of two Tatar merchants on 23 June, which Tatar leaders assert were prompted by the merchants' refusal to pay protection money to local gangs. In Kiev, Yurii Karmazyn, head of the Ukrainian legislature's temporary commission on Crimea, said Ukraine should step up its effort to obtain funds from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to repatriate Tatars from their countries to Crimea. In 1944, Stalin ordered the deportation of some 180,000 Tatars from Crimea to other parts of the USSR. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

President Leonid Kuchma issued a decree on 28 June to ensure enforcement of the privatization program for 1995, Radio Ukraine reported the same day. The decree will allow foreigners to participate in privatization of enterprises on equal terms with Ukrainian citizens. The same day, lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill enabling the creation of so-called financial-industrial groups, which would unite Russian and other CIS capital with Ukrainian industry in an effort to save ailing enterprises. The Russian weekly Delovoi Vtornik reported on 27 June that the Ukrainian government plans to use $10 million of a $1.9 billion IMF loan awarded it this year to build six candle factories. The country's electrical power crisis and power outages have forced many Ukrainians, particularly in rural areas, to burn candles more frequently. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

Russian hydrography workers reported on 28 June that they completed marking the border with Estonia the previous day by placing buoys on Lake Narva, BNS reported. As with the land border in 1994, Russia marked it unilaterally, ignoring Estonia's claims that the border should be based on the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov told his Estonian counterpart Raul Malk on 26 June that Moscow would stand by its decision not to recognize the Tartu Treaty and a border agreement could be signed only when Estonia follows suit. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

The Seimas, by a vote of 50 to 27 with 9 abstentions, passed a Law on Free Economic Zones (FEZ) on 28 June, BNS reported. The law provides privileges on land, value added, and profit taxes in the FEZ, but bans any economic-commercial activities related to state security and defense, the production of weapons, hazardous and narcotic substances, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco as well as establishing or running gambling houses. The former Soviet military airport at Zokniai near Siauliai and the port of Klaipeda have already done most of the preparatory work for setting up FEZs in their territories. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Acting Defense Minister Leanid Maltsau said that the total number of people in the armed forces currently stands at 153,840, of which 90,400 are troops, Belarusian radio reported on 27 June. After reductions, the total number should be no more than 60,000 servicemen and 18,000 technical workers. Meanwhile, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka appointed Maj. Gen. Valeryi Frantsavich as the first deputy commander of the Main Staff of the Armed Forces; Col. Yuryi Syamenchanka was named chief-of-staff and deputy commander of the 28th army corp; and Maj. Gen. Viktar Osipau was appointed first deputy head of the military academy of Belarus. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

On 29 June the Sejm adopted its own draft of a controversial law on defense with 321 votes for, 26 against, and 19 abstentions. The Sejm's draft makes the chief of staff responsible to the civilian defense minister, a presidential draft had made him responsible to the president "in matters of command." According to Henryk Goryszewski, the chief of the National Security Office, a presidential veto is likely after the vote on the draft, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 29 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

According to a Demoskop public opinion poll taken in mid-June, 75% of Poles would support Poland's entry to NATO and the European Union if a referendum on the issue were held; 57% think that Poland is secure in its frontiers but 33% believe a threat from "some country" is coming. Among the respondents perceiving such a threat, 80% mentioned Russia as the source and 11% Germany, Gazeta Wyborcza reports on 29 June. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

The Czech government on 28 June chose TelSource as the winner of a five-way contest to take a 27% stake in the national phone company SPT Telecom. Economy Minister Karel Dyba told a news conference TelSource will pay $1.32 billion for the stake and provide a further 131 million dollars worth of services and know-how. The deal, the biggest partial privatization project in the Czech Republic, is intended to double the phone network by the year 2000 to around 40 lines per 100 inhabitants and reduce the waiting time for a line from 3 years to 14 days. PTT Telecom Netherlands owns 51% of TelSource and Swiss Telecom the remainder, while AT&T is providing technical support. Unsuccessful bidders included STET of Italy, TeleDanmark and consortia involving American, German and French firms. 26% of SPT Telecom was sold to Czech investors in the second wave of coupon privatization; the government will retain the balance. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

The French company Total withdrew from an international consortium negotiating a 49% stake in the Czech Republic's two oil refineries just three days before a deal was due to be finalized. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said on 28 June the pullout came as a surprise to both the Czech government and the other companies in the International Oil Consortium (IOC) -- Conoco, Shell and Agip. Trade and Industry Minister Vladimir Dlouhy told Czech Television the remaining three IOC companies have agreed to make up Total's stake and should confirm their intention to continue with the deal, which could be worth more than $500 million, by the original deadline of 30 June. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

An opinion poll carried out in April and May by AISA SLOVENSKO and GfK-SLOVAKIA showed that the tabloid-style Novy Cas continues to be the most popular daily in Slovakia, with 27% readership. Leftist daily Pravda was next with 13%, followed by Sport with 9%, Praca with 8%, Sme and Slovenska Republika each with 6%, Uj szo with 5% and Narodna obroda with 4%. Only Sme and Uj szo saw their readership grow since a fall 1994 poll. STV 1 continued to be the most watched television station, with 64.2%, while the Czech private station NOVA reached 16.8%, Sme reports on 29 June. In other news, according to a Pravda report on 29 June, the dailies Sme and Smena have signed a licensing agreement, according to which the two papers will be gradually reunited. Sme emerged from Smena in January 1993 following government intervention to replace top staff members. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

In an interview with TASR on 28 June, Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar responded to Czech media reports that he refused a meeting with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus the previous day during the EU summit in Cannes. Meciar said he received an offer for a meeting with Klaus just as he was going for a bath. At the time when the meeting was supposed to take place, Meciar already had talks planned with another delegation, he claimed. He also noted that the offer for a meeting was "not at all serious, since such a meeting is prepared through diplomatic channels." Meciar also complained that Klaus did not accept his proposals for changes in the bilateral clearing agreement. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

According to an opinion poll taken by the Slovak Statistical Office in early May, a majority of Slovaks approve the signing of the Slovak-Hungarian basic treaty in March, Narodna obroda reports on 29 June. A total of 26% of respondents fully approved, 29% somewhat approved, 4% somewhat disapproved, 4% fully disapproved, 24% were not interested and 13% were undecided. Although the Hungarian parliament recently ratified the treaty, the Slovak parliament has yet to begin discussion on it. In other news, on 28 June a delegation of Hungarian parliamentary deputies ended a four-day visit to Slovakia. Visiting the district of Dunajska Streda, which is predominantly ethnic Hungarian, discussion focused on government plans to implement "alternative" (bilingual) education, which ethnic Hungarians fear will lead to assimilation and threaten jobs of teachers at Hungarian schools who cannot speak Slovak well. In a press conference on 28 June, Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Bela Bugar said the Hungarian coalition will press for the removal of Education Minister Eva Slavkovska. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Russia will provide Hungary with armored vehicles and jet fighter parts as partial repayment for its remaining debt, CET and Reuters reported on 28 June. The reports said the new agreement did not specify the exact amount involved. The two sides were said to still be at odds over the exact valuation of the Russian military equipment that will be provided. Under a deal reached last year, Russia agreed to use goods and stakes in companies it is privatizing to repay Hungary a $900 million debt from the communist era. The reports said a Hungarian delegation will visit Moscow in July to settle details of the new agreement. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 126, 29 June 1995
Nasa Borba reports on 29 June that on the previous day Bosnian government forces launched three separate attacks on the approaches to the capital Sarajevo. Bosnian Serb forces retaliated in part with renewed shelling of the city. One of the targets of the 28 June attacks on the capital was the media facility of Radio and Television Sarajevo. Vjesnik reports that at least four people were killed and 38, including foreign journalists, injured as a rocket exploded after slamming into the building, gutting the complex. At least three other civilians were killed in Sarajevo as other parts of the city also came under shelling. For at least the 12th consecutive day Sarajevo civilians have been casualties of the unrelenting crisis. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

NATO on 28 June endorsed a plan, known as Operation 40104, for withdrawing peacekeeping operations from the former Yugoslavia in case the peacekeeping mission collapses. The International Herald Tribune on 29 June quotes one NATO official as emphasizing that withdrawal is "only a last resort. . . . [and NATO] strongly supports the continued presence of UN forces." If the plan were invoked, however, up to 60, 000 troops, including some 25, 000 US soldiers, would be dispatched to the former Yugoslavia to oversee the withdrawal of peacekeeping forces. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

Thugs publicly burned copies of the satirical independent weekly Feral Tribune in the center of Split on 26-27 June. The action on the 27th also involved stealing large quantities of the paper from kiosks. Journalists and television crews were present, but the police were not to be seen. Novi list on 28 June quotes the editors of Feral as suggesting that the ruling party may have been behind the incident. The opposition Social Democratic Action, Dalmatian Action, and Istrian Democratic Party have condemned the attacks. The editors of the weekly fear that physical violence may now be used against them. -- Patrick Moore, in Krk, Croatia., OMRI, Inc.

Nicolae Vacaroiu on 28 June ended a four-day visit to Jordan and Lebanon, Radio Bucharest reported. Vacaroiu, who headed a governmental delegation, discussed in Amman with King Hussein, Premier Zeid bin Shaker, and other Jordanian officials ways to enlarge economic cooperation and the Middle East peace process. Romania and Jordan signed agreements on trade and health cooperation. In Beirut, Vacaroiu held talks with his Lebanese counterpart Rafiq al-Hariri on boosting bilateral political and economic ties. The two countries signed five agreements, including one preventing double taxation. In a statement released on returning to Bucharest, Vacaroiu described the outcome of the tour as "positive." -- Dan Ionescu and Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Gheorghe Tinca on 27 June began an official visit to Germany, Romanian media report. On 28 June, Tinca discussed with his German counterpart Volker Ruehe prospects for bilateral military cooperation as well as Romania's cooperation with NATO. The two sides agreed that a German military unit will participate in a training program in Romania in mid-September as part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Tinca's agenda also includes visits to military units and German firms specializing in military equipment. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Moldovan President Mircea Snegur on 28 June discussed bilateral relations in Moscow, western media reported. The talks focused on the situation in the Dniester region and the planned withdrawal of Russian troops from eastern Moldova. Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Snegur said that Russia offered to mediate a settlement of the Dniester conflict. The two presidents stressed the need to speed up negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol aimed at granting a special autonomous status to the breakaway Dniester region, while preserving Moldova's territorial integrity. Snegur told Yeltsin that his country was not prepared to accept military bases on its territory, since this contravened the Moldovan constitution. He further insisted that Russia honors the agreement initialed in October 1994 on the withdrawal of the 14th Russian Army from eastern Moldova over a three-year period. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

Six of the 12 deputies of the Bulgarian Business Bloc (BBB) left the party on 28 June, Demokratsiya reported the following day. They are expected to leave the BBB caucus on 29 June and declare themselves independent, together with another faction member who does not belong to the party. The deputies left the BBB after a fight with party leader Georges Ganchev over who should become vice-president of the parliament. Ganchev tried to secure the support of the Bulgarian Socialist Party for his candidate, Hristo Stoyanov, which the six were not willing to accept. As one BBB deputy declared himself independent earlier this year, the caucus will be reduced to five members from the original 13. Ganchev himself had to leave the parliament in April after his election was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

On his return from the EU summit in Cannes, Andreas Papandreou on 28 June fiercely attacked other EU members for staging what he called an "orchestrated campaign" against his country and asked his compatriots to form a "sacred union" to fight it, AFP reported the same day. Papandreou had been isolated at the summit on two central issues of Greek foreign policy, Macedonia and Turkey. He said he had "seen the work of the directorate of the European Union," and that decisions are being taken by a "triumvirate of the great powers." The Greek premier attacked French President Jacques Chirac for his position on Macedonia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 June 1995), saying it is a "provocation for Greece and myself personally." Papandreou made it clear that Greece will not leave the EU, from which it will have received a total of $45 billion by the year 2000. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Gerasimos Arsenis will visit Albania in early July to hold talks with his counterpart Safet Zhulali, President Sali Berisha, the head of the Albanian Orthodox Church Anastasios, and high-ranking army officials, AFP reported on 28 June. Arsenis will be the first Greek defense minister to visit Albania in 50 years. Albanian diplomatic sources were cited as saying that the visit is designed to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Education Minister Emilija Simoska on 27 June announced that a new draft law on middle and higher education will allow private high schools to be opened, MIC reported the following day. Foreign legal entities will be allowed to open high schools at which the classes will be conducted in one of the world languages. Classes at the university will still be held in Macedonian, but classes at the pedagogical faculties can be conducted in the languages of the nationalities, such as Albanian or Turkish. Nova Makedonija reported that tuition in one of the minority languages in middle schools will also be possible. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle