|When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves. - Katherine Mansfield|
Vol. 1, No. 13 part I, 18 January 1995
We welcome you to the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest Part I--a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and the CIS. Part II, covering East-Central and Southeastern Europe, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. The Daily Digest picks up where the RFE/RL Daily Report, which recently ceased publication, left off. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting. RUSSIA CONFUSION OVER NEW CHECHEN CEASE-FIRE. A Chechen government delegation held what were termed "discussions not talks" in Moscow on 17 January with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai and First Deputy Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov on the feasibility of enforcing a cease- fire in Chechnya, Interfax reported. (Minister for Nationalities Nikolai Egorov is reportedly "in poor health" and failed to attend either these "discussions" or the Federation Council session on 17 January.) The Chechen delegation told journalists on 17 January that at a subsequent meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, agreement was reached on a cessation of hostilities, possibly beginning in the evening of 18 January. But ITAR-TASS later quoted Russian government spokesman Valerii Grishin as stating that Chernomyrdin's talks with the Chechens had been "unofficial" and that a formal response to the Russian proposal for a cease-fire was awaited from Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev in Grozny. The head of Yeltsin's presidential staff, Sergei Filatov, expressed doubt whether the proposed cease-fire would take effect given that Dudaev "clearly does not control the situation" in Chechnya, according to The New York Times of 18 January. Meanwhile, AFP reported that the Russian artillery bombardment of Grozny continued on 17 January, while the Russian government press service claimed that street-to-street fighting was subsiding and that Chechen forces were retreating from the city in groups of 700-900 men. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Earlier on 17 January, Federal Counter- Intelligence Service (FSK) Director Sergei Stepashin told Interfax in Mozdok that talks with Dudaev's representatives should focus only on the conditions under which illegal militias would lay down their arms, and not on political issues. Stepashin added that Dudaev's present whereabouts were unknown, and predicted that anti-Dudaev Chechen forces subordinate to Provisional Council Chairman Umar Avturkhanov and Beslan Gantemirov could enter Grozny on 18 or 19 January to begin "mopping up" operations. (Ruslan Labazanov, the former head of Dudaev's bodyguards, who subsequently went over to the anti-Dudaev opposition, realigned himself with Dudaev in early January, according to The Economist of 6-12 January.) Russian Security Council secretary Oleg Lobov told Interfax on 17 January that any government installed in Chechnya following the "restoration of constitutional order" will only be a temporary one, but that given that many of its members have lived in Chechnya for years and had a power base there it would be wrong to regard it as Moscow's puppet. Lobov discounted the possibility of either a protracted guerrilla war in Chechnya or any attempt to launch a resistance movement with the help of foreign media and mercenaries. US military intelligence experts testifying on 17 January before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services and quoted by AFP predicted, however, that although the Russians were poised to gain control of Grozny they would then face "a long siege" against guerrilla forces in the mountains. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV, CHRISTOPHER MEET. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev assured Secretary of State Warren Christopher of his country's commitment to democracy and market reform and its determination to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Chechnya during a three-hour dinner in Geneva on 17 January, The New York Times reported on 18 January. Kozyrev did not indicate what concrete steps his country intended to take; he claimed that Russia's inability to find Chechens to negotiate with prevented any progress from being made. Christopher warned Kozyrev to find a political way out of the conflict so that Russia can have a normal relationship with other countries, a senior official paraphrased Christopher as saying. Christopher also mentioned several issues that have put a strain on US-Russian relations: Russia's determination to sell arms to Iran, its eagerness to end the international embargo against Iraq, its refusal to provide information about its chemical weapons program and, most important, its unwillingness to halt attacks on civilians in prosecuting its war in Chechnya. Nevertheless, Christopher praised President Boris Yeltsin as "the most committed democrat in the country who is in a high position." Yeltsin has invited US President Bill Clinton to come to Moscow around May 9 to participate in the 50th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. Christopher told Kozyrev that Clinton could not yet make a firm commitment on the invitation. The diplomats plan to meet again on 18 January. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CHUVASHIA TOLD TO CANCEL DECREE ON CHECHNYA. President Yeltsin has called on Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov to rescind a decree issued last week challenging Moscow's right to intervene in Chechnya, telling him it is unconstitutional, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. In addition, the Russian government was quoted as saying that the decree "stirs up disobedience" among residents of the republic and encourages draft dodging. The Presidium of the Chuvash parliament, however, called for an amendment to the constitution to limit the use of military power in circumstances similar to those in Chechnya. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. KORZHAKOV SPEAKS OUT. The head of President Yeltsin's security service, Aleksandr Korzhakov, suggested creating a special body to coordinate the activities of Russia's special services, Interfax reported 17 January, quoting an article to be published in Argumenty i fakty on 18 January. Korzhakov claimed the need to create such a body was strong because criminal financial and industrial groups were buying officials in the special services and dictating their will through them. He declared that he will not be one of the leaders of the new body. Korzhakov also denounced claims that his service was becoming an independent political force in Russian politics. He said that his duties included working out security arrangements for the president's activities as well as fighting corruption. Korzhakov claimed that the Interior Ministry and Federal Counter-Intelligence Service (FSK) as well as his staff were responsible for security in the country, and that the new body was necessary to coordinate all their activities. Korzhakov rejected allegations that he was the leader of a "war party" in Russia, saying that if the point at issue was a war on crime, corruption, and illegal armed groups, he was certainly a supporter of such a party and would uncompromisingly fight against that evil. He denied sole responsibility for initiating the conflict in Chechnya, implying that the decision had been taken collectively by presidential advisors, the chief of the presidential staff, the former deputy chief of the FSK and security council members. In light of concerns that Russia was becoming a police state, he pointed out that "the real threat to society is posed not by the security service, but by those who unceremoniously and outrageously walk about the center of Moscow heavily armed under the nose of the mayor and the financial mafia, which nurtures a new generation of politicians in order to have a puppet government." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. SENATORS STOP SHORT OF REPLACING SHUMEIKO. The opposition in the Federation Council's Defense and Security Committee did not succeed on 17 January in their attempt to replace Vladimir Shumeiko as the speaker Federation Council, Russian television newscasts, ITAR-TASS and an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow reported. The attempt was initiated by Petr Romanov, who is the reported joint candidate of communists and moderate Russian nationalists for the next presidential election. Romanov disapproved of the speaker's pronouncements on the Chechen war (Shumeiko has made a number of contradictory public statements, proclaiming his whole- hearted support for the use of force in order to crush Chechnya one day, and protesting the bombing of Grozny a day later.) Apart from this, critics have accused Shumeiko and Ivan Rybkin, the speaker of the State Duma, of "acting as the president's representatives in the parliament, rather than representing their positions within their chambers of the parliament . . . " Romanov further complained that Shumeiko does not report to the Federation Council on the proceedings of the Security Council, of which Shumeiko is a member. Although five of the nine members of the Federation Council's Defense and Security Committee shared Romanov's opinion on the speaker (according to ITAR-TASS), after the day of debates the Committee decided not to include Shumeiko's status on the agenda. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA'S GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT DROPS 39% IN THREE YEARS. Gross domestic product (GDP) in 1994 numbered 630 trillion rubles ($165.78 billion), a 15% decline from 1993 and a 39% drop from pre-reform 1991, Interfax reported on 17 January. The official figures, released by the Russian Statistics Committee on 17 January, stated that 62% of the GDP came from the private sector. The rate of decline in industry in 1994 appeared higher than in the two previous years and totaled 20.9%, compared to 16.2% in 1993 and 18% in 1992. The Statistics Committee noted that the 1994 fourth quarter, as compared to a year earlier, showed a 17.8% growth in production. Other 1994 figures showed a continued reduction of capital investments in the economy--a fall of 27% in the past year. Overall, investments have fallen 61% since 1991. Retail prices grew 220%; wholesale prices rose 230%. Real income figures for the population were up 14% from 1993, while unemployment increased 28.6%, up 5.3 million from the previous year. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL BANK CURBS OPEN CURRENCY POSITION OF BANKS UP TO 30%. In an effort to ease the problems of crediting and monetary policies amidst rising inflation, the Central Bank has reduced the open-currency positions of commercial banks. All currency above the 30% limit must be sold effective 18 January, Russian agencies reported. This move will most likely force many banks to withdraw from the currency market. Central Bank of Russia Vice President Aleksandr Khandruyev, according to Interfax on 17 January, said that "the degree and extent of the dollarization of the Russian economy cannot be underestimated." He said that foreign cash is often used for savings and settlements between companies and individuals, which is a breach in the country's legislation Khandruyev said that the ultimate goal of the Central Bank is to establish a predictable floating ruble rate, but in order to achieve this, the Central Bank needs to strengthen gold and foreign exchange reserves and utilize part of the excessive ruble reserves built up by commercial banks operating in the currency markets. Khandruyev hoped that this latest Central Bank move would be a step toward financial stabilization. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CIS OFFICIAL STATEMENTS ON UKRAINIANS IN CHECHNYA. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Henadii Udovenko has sent a letter to his Russian counterpart, Andrei Kozyrev, denouncing reports by the Russian media of Ukraine's involvement in the Chechen conflict, Ukrainian Television reported on 17 January. According to Udovenko, there is no evidence of Ukraine's involvement in Chechnya and allegations by senior Russian officials of Ukrainian mercenaries participating in the fighting are an attempt to damage Russian-Ukrainian relations. He charged the Russian media with not taking Ukraine's official position into account in their reporting. Reuters reported the same day that the leader of the ultra- nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA), Dmytro Korchynsky, had openly acknowledged that as many as 100 members of UNA's paramilitary arm, the Ukrainian National Self-Defense Organization (UNSO), were involved in the fighting on the side of Chechen President Dudaev. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc., OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The Daily Digest is distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. To subscribe, send "SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L YourFirstName YourLastName" (without the quotation marks and inserting your name where shown) to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU No subject line or other text should be included. The publication can also be obtained for a fee in printed form by fax and postal mail. Please direct inquiries to: Editor, Daily Digest, OMRI, Na Strzi 63, 14062 Prague 4, Czech Republic or send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396
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