RUSSIA EXPORTS A RECORD AMOUNT OF GRAIN IN THE MOST UNPRODUCTIVE YEAR

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RUSSIA EXPORTS A RECORD AMOUNT OF GRAIN IN THE MOST UNPRODUCTIVE YEAR

Izvestia, August 6, 1999, p.1

This week the Ministry of Food and Agriculture announced the volume of grain it plans to import. According to ministerial officials, Russia must by all means import no less than 8.6 billion tons of grain, while the expected volume of the grain harvest ranges between 60 and 62 billion tons. Last year Russia harvested the smallest amount of grain in the last 40 years, namely 47.8 billion tons, turned to Western countries for food supplies and, despite all this, set a record for grain export.

These figures are not secret, they are just inconvenient, because it is hard to give a reasonable explanation for them. That is why they are often overlooked. The total volume of wheat exported in 1998-1999 amounted to 1,243,000 tons. That is 37% more than in the last season, which was much more productive. And the problem is not that we exchange, say, fodder crops for food. Moreover, Russia is experiencing a considerable lack of fodder crops. So there is no market logic to be found here. How can one put Russia’s request for food supplies to the US and the European Union side by side with its active export of the same produce to Turkey, Israel, Korea, and other countries? The volumes of these two import-export flows are quite compatible. For instance, Russia received 653,000 tons of grain from the US, and at the same time exported 861,000 tons abroad.

However, all of this can be easily explained. The only problem is that this explanation will be extremely unpleasant for Russian state and commercial structures, as well as their analytical services, because it testifies to the utter incompetence and lack of professionalism of both as regards the problems of the grain market.

In the opinion of head of the SovEcon center Andrei Sizov, nothing can destroy the Russian grain market now, be it draught, locusts, or food deliveries from the West. The fact is that this market must be created first. This requires that administrative borders be opened, an up-to-date price policy be created, and real legal support for domestic producers be ensured.

POSITIONS OF TBILISI AND SUKHUMI BECOME CLOSER

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, August 6, 1999, p.2

Negotiations to solve the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict were held recently in Moscow. They were conducted by Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin on behalf of President Yeltsin as an intermediary for both parties. The Prime Minister had separate talks with State Minister of Georgia Vazha Lordkipanidze and Abkhazian leader Vladislav Ardzinba. They also had a trilateral meeting. The negotiations resulted in certain progress on the way to an agreement.

SERGEI STEPASHIN CONFIRMS THAT HE IS NOT GOING TO JOIN ANY BLOCS FORMED BEFORE THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

Moskovsky Komsomolets, August 6, 1999, p.2

According to well-informed sources in Sergei Stepashin’s inner circle, he intends to support part of the Fatherland-All Russia bloc, namely All Russia. Moreover, it is possible that Premier will “patronize” this part of the bloc. The sources, however, did not specify how Stepashin is going to support one part of the bloc and give no support to the other. As far as the Prime Minister’s attitude towards the other part – the Moscow mayor’s Fatherland movement – is concerned, the sources kept silent…

WESTERN BANKERS MADE UP A LIST OF 100 DEMANDS IN REPLY TO RUSSIA’S REQUEST FOR CREDITS

Moskovsky Komsomolets, August 6, 1999, p.2

Western bankers insist on the elimination of vicious practices like barter in Russia. Alexander Livshits expressed his opinion on this matter in the following way: “It is Russia that needs such measures in the first place, but only the Western club can make us move. That’s why I’m thankful to this club”. In September the Duma will have to turn the bankers’ demands into laws. These laws obviously won’t be well-received, especially among the oligarchs who sponsor candidates for the Duma.

BEREZOVSKY’S INFORMATION EMPIRE IS GROWING

Moskovsky Komsomolets, August 6, 1999, p.1

As we have learned, among those present at the recent shareholders’ meeting of Kommersant Publishing House was Commercial Director of ORT Badri Patarkatsishvili, who is called “Berezovsky’s right hand” (Berezovsky himself is rumored to hold 15% of the shares of “Kommersant”), as well as two representatives of the American investment company American Capital, which bought the 76% controlling shares parcel in the publishing house not long ago. Now there can be no doubt that this parcel is also in Berezovsky’s hands. Otherwise the shareholders wouldn’t have decided to abolish the post of vice president of the publishing house. In the upshot, “Kommersant’s” Editor-In-Chief Raf Shakirov, one of the top Russian experts in the sphere of the mass media, was fired, although the new masters of “Kommersant” announced not long ago that there “won’t be any changes in the managing board for a year”. The rancorous Berezovsky did not forget critical articles which appeared in Shakirov’s newspaper during the fights over its shares parcel. Another thorn in the side of Berezovsky was Shakirov’s wish to preserve political independence. There is a curious detail: when Voloshin’s meeting with the editors-in-chief of the leading Russian newspapers was being arranged in the Kremlin at the beginning of the week, he saw Shakirov’s name on the list and was greatly surprised: “Hasn’t he been fired yet?” That means that Voloshin heard about the dismissal long before the dismissed person – the latter was obviously astonished by the news. When an employee of an information agency called Shakirov and reported the sad news to him, the latter fervently denied the rumor, but two hours later he backtracked: “You turned out to be right…”, after which he took a leave and went to France.

Now the main person in charge of the publishing house seems to be former General Director of “Kommersant” Leonid Miloslavsky, who has every chance to take the position of editor-in-chief (by the way, he already exposed his ambitions yesterday by summoning a meeting of the editorial board). It is of interest that it was he who sold his 15% of shares to Berezovsky’s structures.

Now we are to expect mass purges in “Kommersant’s” personnel (although the conflict has already affected the general quality of the newspaper). There will be few journalists who will resign themselves to following Berezovsky’s line. As for Shakirov, he has already received plenty of offers, for instance, from Right Cause, which is planning to start its own daily, and from the Independent Media holding, which is now preparing to start publishing its own newspaper called “Vedomosti”.

MEETING OF THE GOVERNMENT

Independent Television, Segodnya, August 5, 1999, 14:00

Today a scheduled meeting of the Russian government took place in the White House. Despite all expectations, the report of Director of the Federal Border Guard Service Konstantin Totsky remained secret. The issue of the protection of Russian borders was the core question of the meeting.

DISMISSAL OF THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF "KOMMERSANT"

Russian Television, Vesti, August 5, 1999, 20:00

Editor-in-Chief of “Kommersant” Raf Shakirov has been dismissed from his post, and Leonid Miloslavsky has been appointed General Manager of Kommersant Publishing House. Raf Shakirov is convinced that his dismissal was instigated by Boris Berezovsky who, according to the former managing director, possesses a 100% controlling share in the publishing house.

The new director did not comment on the dismissal of his predecessor. According to his forecast, the policy of the new owner will not be seen at once, because the mechanism of the company is perfectly tuned.

STABILIZATION OF THE GASOLINE MARKET

Russian Television, Vesti, August 5, 1999, 20:00

Minister of Fuel and Energy Victor Kalyuzhny has stated that the government is in control of the situation on the gasoline market. According to him, the recent decree of the government concerning deliveries of oil products to customers will allow this problem to be solved.

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