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Vol. 1, No. 14, Part I, 19 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 YELSTIN RULES OUT TALKS WITH DUDAEV. Speaking at the Kremlin after the formal presentation of credentials by new ambassadors on 18 January, Russian President Boris Yeltsin affirmed, in a clear attempt to preclude further Western speculation that he is no longer in control, that he is closely monitoring the situation in Chechnya and that no decisions of substance were taken without his knowledge, Interfax and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin further ruled out any negotiations with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, given that he "unleashed a campaign of genocide against his own people," but said that the Russian government was prepared to conduct talks with Chechen military and clan leaders. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, however, was quoted by Komsomolskaya pravda on 18 January as arguing that Russia will have to negotiate with Dudaev since "he has the support of his people." The proposed cease-fire tentatively agreed to during informal talks in Moscow on 17 January between Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and two senior Chechen government officials failed to take effect as planned on 18 January. AFP reported that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai accused the two Chechen officials of duplicity and charged that they had made no attempt to travel to Grozny to brief Dudaev, while the Chechen officials told journalists in the Ingush capital of Nazran that the Russian commanders with whom they had intended to liaise had failed to make contact, according to the Los Angeles Times of 19 January. Meanwhile, heavy Russian aerial bombardment and street fighting in Grozny continued on 18 January. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV, CHRISTOPHER FINISH TALKS. US Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev signaled a warming of US-Russian relations after two days of talks in Geneva. "There will be no cold peace and the partnership between Russia and the United States will be preserved and strengthened," Kozyrev told journalists on 18 January, Interfax reported. Christopher told a news conference at the end of the two days of meetings, "I can only repeat what President Clinton said, . . . that he intends to press for aid to Russia," AFP reported. Some difficulties remained, however. The diplomats did not set a date for a presidential summit, but Kozyrev said that Clinton and Yeltsin will work out a time to meet later. Christopher warned that the Chechen war was exacting too high a price for Russia both at home and abroad, The New York Times reported 19 January. Christopher softened earlier comments that Russian democracy was at risk due to a falling out between Yeltsin and the pro-democracy politicians, saying that such disputes are normal. Kozyrev rejected allegations that Yeltsin had fallen captive to hard-line advisors and is creating an authoritarian government. Kozyrev said Yeltsin "is the main reformer who was elected by the people," and said he saw no alternative leader who could replace him. He expressed concern that some officials in the US Congress wanted to delay ratification of the START-2 treaty, which hasn't been ratified by either Russia or the US. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. WHAT ROLE FOR OSCE IN CHECHNYA? Interfax of 17 January quoted Russian Foreign Ministry official Mark Entin as ruling out any OSCE involvement in mediating a settlement of the Chechen conflict, which he termed "Russia's internal affair," but conceded that the organization could help resolve "humanitarian and legal" aspects of the crisis. Chairman of the State Duma committee for International Affairs, Vladimir Lukin, told Interfax after talks with OSCE emissary Istvan Gyarmati that the proposal to deploy OSCE observers in Chechnya is "legal and sound." Speaking at a press conference in Bonn on 18 January, Gyarmati said that he would head an OSCE delegation including diplomats and military experts that will travel to Moscow on 21 January and then to Chechnya on 24 January to gather information prior to beginning work with the Russian government on possible peaceful solutions to the Chechen crisis, AFP reported on 18 January. Gyarmati advocated free elections in Chechnya after which the republic's status within the Russian Federation should be "defined in a generous manner." -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. MORE THAN 1,000 RUSSIANS KILLED? While Interfax on 16 January reported a semi-official count of 505 Russian soldiers killed and 1,860 wounded in Chechnya, its correspondent in Mozdok said that some 1,160 servicemen had been killed in the conflict. He based his count on a tally of the bodies sent to Mozdok aboard what the soldiers grimly call "black tulips"--a term that originated during the war in Afghanistan to describe helicopters used to transport those killed in action. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. "NO CONNECTION" BETWEEN EVENTS IN CHECHNYA AND OIL PIPELINE. Interfax on 18 January quoted an unidentified official from Transneft (the Russian agency responsible for oil export pipelines) as denying any connection between the Russian military intervention in Chechnya and the planned construction of a Caspian pipeline linking the Tengiz oil and gas fields in western Kazakhstan with the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. Numerous Western analysts have hypothesized over the past few weeks that the Russian desire to establish firm control in Chechnya was largely motivated by economic considerations. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. PRESS FREEDOMS VIOLATED. Oleg Panfilov, an official with the Russian Fund for Freedom of Information, reported 97 violations of the civil and professional rights of journalists since the beginning of the Chechen conflict, Interfax reported 18 January. He listed cases of journalists being detained without explanation, threatened with bodily harm, and deprived of their equipment. The Fund is a public organization that seeks to publicize violations of journalists' rights. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. "TEMPORARY CENSORSHIP" ON RUSSIAN TV. According to Interfax, the makers of the popular TV program "Sovershenno Sekretno" (Top Secret), held a news conference on 16 January in the Moscow House of Journalists on the four-day suspension of the last edition of "Sovershenno Sekretno." Scheduled to be broadcast by Russian Televison on 14 January, the program had been advertised in the liberal media well in advance. The program contains footage filmed from inside the besieged presidential palace in Grozny on 7 January--i.e, the Russian Orthodox Christmas. According to Novaya ezhednevnaya gazeta of 11 January, the program shows a meeting of a Russian military doctor, held in the palace as a POW, and his mother, who is a nurse. On 14 January, the RTV program announcer told the audience that the program "was not ready" for broadcasting and will be aired later. The temporary ban of the film is the second such instance with "Sovershenno Sekretno" in less than three months. On 19 November, another edition of the same program, about corruption among the military, was taken off the air but broadcast a week later, following a stir of protests against censorship in the media. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN TO ADDRESS PARLIAMENT. President Yeltsin will make his annual presidential address to the Russian parliament 9 February, almost a month later than the planned 11 January date, Interfax reported 17 January. No official reason was given for the delay. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. SENATORS REJECT YELTSIN'S JUDGES, APPROVE OF LEBEDEV'S The Russian Constitutional Court will not resume its work in the near future due to the repeated failure of Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, to approve the last of the 19 judges who, according to the constitution, must be on the Constitutional Court before it may function. According to Russian television newscasts, Yeltsin's second attempt to nominate Robert Tsivilev, an aide to Yeltsin administration chief Sergei Filatov, was rejected by the senators on 17 January. Tsivilev received only 60 of the 90 votes necessary for approval. Filatov's attempt to interfere into the matter personally, in the form of an address to the Federation Council on behalf of Tsivilev, proved counterproductive. In the first vote, taken just a few weeks ago, Tsivilev lacked only a few votes to gain election as the 19th Constitutional Court judge. Later that day, the senators rejected both of Yeltsin's nominees for positions on the Russian Supreme Court. Both candidates, their critics argued, lack the necessary experience as judges. On the another hand, the Federation Council approved all five judges recommended by V. Lebedev, the chairman of the Supreme Court, for membership in its presidium. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. FOREIGN DEBT IN '95 COULD REACH $130 BILLION. Speaking at a special commission on social and economic problems at the presidential office on 17 January, Minister of Economics Evgenii Yasin said that Russia's foreign debt may grow to $130 billion this year, Interfax reported. Yasin said that Russia had to borrow more money to tame inflation, achieve economic stability and help the people adjust to changing living conditions. Yasin stated that the USSR's foreign debt grew from $25 to 30 billion in 1985 to $80 billion in 1991. According to the Ministry of Finance, Russia's debt at the beginning of 1994, inclusive of debts of the former USSR and credits extended to Russia since 1992, totaled $112.8 billion. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. IMF BEGINS TALKS WITH RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT. Crucial talks began between IMF delegates and Russian officials on 18 January to determine whether the IMF will grant Russia a $6 billion loan, Western and Russian agencies reported. Russia is counting on receiving total loans of $15 billion from Western sources, or 10% of its budget, to boost economic reform plans. In light of the political and economic implications of the war in Chechnya, the uncertainty of Russia sticking to its 1995 draft budget and the country's general ability to carry out market reforms, the IMF is expected to assess various factors and attach stringent conditions to the loan. If granted, the loan would be made in quarterly installments based on Moscow's progress in meeting budget targets and moving toward a market economy. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. WORK STOPS AT ZIL CAR FIRM. Zil, formerly one of Russia's largest industrial enterprises, temporarily shut down on 17 January owing to a shortage of cash to buy parts, agencies reported. Zil Director Valerii Saikin said the plant, which owes $110 million to the state and suppliers, needs $260 million to get over the crisis, but he was not optimistic that credits would be forthcoming. In 1994 Zil was forced to cut production by half and put employees on a four-day work week. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CIS FEDERATION COUNCIL RENEWS RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE IN ABKHAZIA. The Federation Council approved on 18 January by a vote of 129-3, with one abstention, to renew until 15 May 1995 the mandate of the 3,000 Russian peacekeeping troops deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, Interfax reported. The Russian peacekeepers were dispatched to Abkhazia for an initial period of six months in June, 1994. In an interview in Krasnaya Zvezda on 12 January, the commander of Russian peacekeeping forces, Lt.-Gen. Vasilii Yakushev, positively assessed his troops' contribution, but argued that other CIS states should also provide a contingent. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. TURKMEN-UKRAINIAN GAS AGREEMENT INITIALED. Interfax reported on 18 January that Ukraine and Turkmenistan have initialed an agreement on gas supplies from Turkmenistan to Ukraine. Under the terms of the agreement, Turkmenistan will supply Ukraine with 11 billion cubic meters of gas in 1995 for $50-60 per 1,000 cubic meters. Ukraine will pay for 40% of these supplies in hard currency and the rest will be covered by manufactured goods and commodities including meat, butter, wheat and sugar. A protocol on the schedule for Ukraine to repay its debt for deliveries from 1994 is still being prepared. -- Ustina Markus, 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. 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