|The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously. - Henry Kissinger|
No. 157, 19 August 1994
RUSSIA ROUNDUP ON NUCLEAR SMUGGLING. German-Russian relations have not been harmed by the row over the origins of weapons-grade plutonium seized recently by Munich police, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's chief aide, Friedrich Bohl, said on German television on 18 August. According to Bohl, the German Chancellor views Russian President Boris Yeltsin's willingness to discuss the problem of nuclear smuggling with Western leaders--and to seek solutions to the problem--as a positive development. The chief of the Russian Counterintelligence Service (FSK), Sergei Stepashin, has also emphasized that his agency is ready to cooperate with its Western counterparts in related investigations. However, Georgii Kaurov, an official of the Ministry of Atomic Energy, told RFE/RL's Moscow correspondent that he considers the publicity generated by the smuggling cases to be a "Western police provocation." In Kaurov's words, the quantity of plutonium seized in Munich would have required lead containers so heavy that the alleged smugglers could not conceivably have passed through Sheremetevo airport or Lufthansa security check points. Russian television has commented only briefly on Western reactions to the plutonium scandal, and has generally highlighted those Western reports which cast doubt either on the Russian origins of the seized plutonium or on assertions that it is of weapons-grade quality. Victor Yasmann, RFE/RL, Inc. SECURITY CHIEF: "SITUATION IN RUSSIA IS STABLE." Stepashin, has dismissed predictions voiced recently by opposition leaders that Russia faces the prospect of political and social disturbances this fall, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 August. Speaking on the eve of the third anniversary of the anti-democratic August 1991 coup, Stepashin said that the situation in Russia has stabilized. Despite complicated economic and social problems in several regions of Russia, he said, the FSK feels "no concern" over the population's reactions to these problems or over the possibility of political instability. Stepashin added that the FSK cannot exist "outside of politics" and that his service "openly supports the existing power structure as it is embodied in the head of state." Victor Yasmann, RFE/RL, Inc. LEBED'S POLITICAL PROSPECTS. The liberal Novaya ezhednevnaya gazeta predicted on 17 August that Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, commander of Russia's 14th Army in Moldova, "may become the frontrunning candidate in Russia's coming presidential election." It described Lebed as "a figure of national dimensions, his entire future still ahead of him," and a more serious candidate than either Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky or former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi. Lebed, meanwhile, having just received Yeltsin's support despite the Defense Ministry's apparent attempt to dislodge him from his command, has again, if obliquely, attacked the President. The General told Izvestiya of 17 August that private as opposed to national interests are "precisely what guides the people from the President's closest circle." Asked whether he would answer the political call of "patriotic forces," Lebed said that he would avoid both "left-radical and right-radical patriots." A portrait of Lebed in the latest (no. 7) issue of Zhurnalist reveals that he was a member of the Central Committee of Ivan Polozkov's Russian Communist Party and made speeches at the CC plenums calling for the restoration of order in the USSR. Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. MMM OPERATIONS TO RESUME SHORTLY? An Ostankino TV news program on 18 August broadcast what it described as "a sensational" report from the Moscow Sailor's Resort prison, where Sergei Mavrodi, the president of the controversial MMM investment company, is locked up on charges of tax evasion and obstructing the work of tax inspectors. According to the newscast, Mavrodi has sent a message from his prison cell which orders the resumption of MMM operations on Monday, 21 August. Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL, Inc. UNIONS ISSUE ULTIMATUMS TO GOVERNMENT. On 18 August Russian TV's "Vesti" opened with two reports on the workers' movement in Russia. According to the first, independent unions representing Russian coal miners have issued an ultimatum threatening the government with major industrial protests if the miners are not paid several months back salary by the end of September. This item was followed by a story on a conference of the confederation of official trade unions, which is reportedly considering a national strike if the government fails to make good its debts to state-owned enterprises. It is worth noting that various Russian political actors and organizations, including Boris Yeltsin, have attempted at various times over the past three years to call a general strike in Russia. Thus far none has been successful. Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL, Inc. JOINT PEACEKEEPING EXERCISE SET. The US Defense Department announced on 18 August that some 500 Russian and US soldiers, 250 from each country, would conduct a joint peacekeeping exercise from 2 to 10 September at the Totsk training ground in the Orenburg region of Russia, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. The exercise, to be called "Peacemaker 94," will be followed by a second similar exercise next year in the US, Pentagon officials said. The maneuvers were originally scheduled for early July in Russia, but were postponed after objections were raised to them by nationalists in the Russian parliament. Russia's Defense and Foreign Ministries have generally favored holding the exercises and, after some initial hesitation, Boris Yeltsin appears to have sided with them. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. MOSCOW WILL CONTINUE MILITARY COOPERATION WITH IRAN. An unidentified but "high-ranking" official of Russia's Foreign Ministry was quoted by Interfax on 18 August as saying that Russia would ignore US objections and would continue to pursue military-technical cooperation with Iran. The official said that Russia was following through on obligations assumed by the USSR and that Moscow properly documents its arms transfers to Iran in the UN register on conventional weapons. He denied charges that Russian exports to Iran include potentially destabilizing dual-use technologies, and accused the US of hypocritically trying to use trade prohibitions against Iran to protect its own access to the Iranian market. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PATRIARCH DIES. Vazgen I, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, died of cancer in Erevan on 17 August at the age of 85, ITAR-TASS reported. Since his consecration as Catholicos in 1955 Vazgen had actively defended Armenian national values and the role of the church in Armenian society. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan has announced three days' national mourning culminating in a state funeral on 28 August. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. OPPOSITION FIGURES ARRESTED IN BAKU. Up to 10 members of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front were detained during a police raid on the Baku editorial office of the Front's newspaper, Azadlyg, on 18 August, AFP reported. A Front spokesman denied any involvement in a demonstration in Baku earlier on 18 August by some 200 veterans of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh who demanded increased medical and social care. AFP quoted an unidentified diplomatic source as claiming that the veterans' demonstration had been orchestrated by Prime Minister Suret Huseinov in an attempt to embarrass the leadership of Heidar Aliev. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. TELEVISION CHIEF ASSASSINATED IN DUSHANBE. The director of Tajik TV's domestic programming, Davlatali Rakhmonaliev, was shot and killed outside his home in Dushanbe on the morning of 18 August, Russian news agencies reported. Rakhmonaliev was a former director of the state TV in Kulyab, the home of chief of state Imomali Rakhmonov and many supporters of the present neo-Communist government. Sources reporting the murder refrained from speculating on who might be behind the killing, and whether it was motivated by political or regional antagonisms. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. CIS RUSSIAN CALL FOR "TOUGH" CIS. The Deputy Chairman of Russia's Federation Council, Valerian Viktorov, told a briefing in Moscow on 18 August that CIS member states are "fed up with their sovereignty" and that Russia is "the locomotive capable of pulling them out of crisis," Interfax reported. Viktorov predicted the formation within one or two years of a "tough" CIS in which "the republics will resolve jointly all economic and social problems." He called for the establishment of "a legislative body to determine the rules of the game for the CIS countries." Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. QUESTION MARKS OVER RUSSIAN-MOLDOVAN TROOP AGREEMENT. While vacationing in Sochi, Boris Yeltsin is expected to discuss with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev a number of military issues including the future of Russia's 14th Army in Moldova, Interfax reported on 17 August. Yeltsin had on 15 August publicly disavowed the Ministry's plan to reduce that Army's personnel and status, preparatory to its gradual withdrawal under the Russian-Moldovan agreement initialed on 10 August. Russia's officially controlled TV channels have since pointedly commented that the ministry must obey the president. The 14th Army's commander, Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, who opposes a withdrawal and is otherwise a critic of Yeltsin, has now found it possible to term the President's intervention in the matter "brilliant," according to ITAR-TASS on 16 August. Meanwhile, Russian Federation Council Deputy Chairman Valerian Viktorov told a briefing on 18 August that it will take six months for the Russian government to "draft and sign" the agreement to withdraw the troops within three years, Interfax reported; Moldova had expected it to be signed next month without any further "drafting." Argumenty i Fakty, no. 32, cites Ministry of Defense sources as "not doubting that the 14th Army will be kept in Transdniester under a different name such as a 'limited contingent'." Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. RESULTS OF BLACK SEA FLEET TALKS. The head of the Ukrainian delegation in Moscow negotiating the division of the Black Sea Fleet, deputy premier Yevhen Marchuk, has said that the Ukrainians hoped the fleet would soon be divided into two separate navies, Ukrainian radio reported on 17 August. He also said that Ukraine was preparing a proposal for a system of rental payments for the use of Crimean territory which would take Crimean interests into account. The head of the Russian negotiating team, Yurii Dubinin, said that the talks should result in the formulation of concrete proposals resolving the division of the Black Sea Fleet which will be presented to the presidents of Russia and Ukraine. Interfax reported on 18 August that the issue of basing (which had proved to be a stumbling bloc in earlier negotiations) had not been raised. The talks reportedly focused more on improving cooperation between the Ukrainian navy and Black Sea Fleet, rather than on the division and basing of the fleet itself. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Stephen Foye and Sharon Fisher The RFE/RL DAILY REPORT, produced by the RFE/RL Research Institute (a division of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc.) with the assistance of the RFE/RL News and Current Affairs Division, is available through electronic mail by subscribing to RFERL-L at LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU. This report is also available by postal mail, as are the other publications of the Institute, and by fax. 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