|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
Vol. 1, No. 16 part I, 23 January 1995
We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. The Digest is distriubed in two sections. This part focuses on Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and the CIS. Part II, distributed simultaneously as a second document, covers East-Central and Southeastern Europe. 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 CHECHNYA--RESISTANCE CONTINUES. Following the withdrawal of Chechen fighters from the ruined presidential palace in Grozny on 19 January, the focus of hostilities shifted on the next day to the new Chechen center of resistance on the east bank of the Sunzha river, Western agencies reported. On 21 January, Grozny was reported comparatively quiet, although Russian artillery bombardment continued; fierce fighting was reported to the west and southwest of the city as Russian troops tried to establish control of major roads and cut off the Chechens' retreat. Fighting in Grozny intensified again on 22 January. A proposal by the two senior Chechen government officials who held informal peace talks with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow last week to meet in Nazran with Russian military representatives to discuss a possible cease-fire was rejected by the Russian government, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 22 January. Speaking on Russian TV on 20 and 21 January respectively, Chernomyrdin and Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) Director Sergei Stepashin both admitted that serious mistakes had been made during the military operation in Chechnya. Stepashin further claimed that there had been "practically no civilian casualties" in the fighting. Meeting in Cairo on 22 January with Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Maguid, Russian Federation Council Deputy Chairman Ramazan Abdulatipov sought to counter perceptions that Russia's war in Chechnya was directed against Islam, arguing that the fighting is being directed "against common criminals," Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. RALLIES PROTESTING CHECHEN WAR HELD IN RUSSIA. Several rallies and meetings were held across Russia to protest the military's involvement in Chechnya. People chanted Orthodox and Muslim prayers in front of the former KGB headquarters in a 22 January gathering held to mourn victims of the war. The rally, organized by the human rights "Memorial" society and broadcast on Russian TV, was attended by many Russian celebrities, including former acting Prime Minister Egor Gaidar, songwriter Bulat Okudzhava and Human Rights Commissioner Kovalev. Similar rallies attended by politicians and relatives of Russian conscripts took place 21 and 22 January in many other cities, including St. Petersburg; Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi republic in Northern Russia; and Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka peninsula. At another demonstration in Chuvashia, thousands of people came out to back Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov, who is refusing to send people to the war. Yeltsin had earlier annulled Federov's decree. While distraught mothers suggested in speeches at the rally that Yeltsin should be shot for sending their sons to die, Fedorov told "Vesti" that he was unlikely to implement Yeltsin's decree. According to the Los Angeles Times, the president of Bashkortostan and other Volga region leaders were thinking of following Fedorov's lead -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV ATTACKS YUSHENKOV; KOVALEV LAMBASTES YELTSIN. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev lashed out at the chairman of the Duma Defense Committee Sergei Yushenkov in a 20 January speech broadcast on Ostankino's "Vremya," calling him "a vile toad" who defies the army that made him a lieutenant colonel. Grachev also said "18-year-old Russian soldiers die with a smile" and turned on another critic of the war in Chechnya, Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev, saying, "This--what's his name-- Kovalev, there's nothing about him that's decent, he is the enemy of Russia, a traitor to Russia." According to the Russian TV "Vesti" of 22 January, Grachev's remark on Kovalev may have cost him a trip to a prestigious international security conference in Munich, the hosts of which have suggested that Grachev "had better reconsider" his earlier decision to attend the event. For his part, Kovalev, in an address to the Anti-Fascist congress, in Moscow on 20 January, indirectly accused President Boris Yeltsin of falsehood and contempt for his own people. According to Kovalev, the authorities have constantly lied to the Russian public. In a clear reference to Yeltsin's interview on the occasion of the seizure of the presidential palace in Grozny, broadcast on Russian TV a day earlier, Kovalev noted that the authorities responsible for the deaths of untrained Russian conscripts and for bombings of civilian targets, "have accused [Chechen President Dzhokhar] Dudaev of committing genocide against his own people," and thus demonstrated that they regard the Russian public as ignorant. But Kovalev also added, "we deserve this, since we allow them to treat us that way." -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. THIRD CONGRESS OF RUSSIAN COMMUNIST PARTY. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov criticized Yeltsin in a speech on 21 January at the party's third congress, calling him the figure primarily responsible for all of Russia's ills over the past three years. Zyuganov stressed his party's role as the initiator of a campaign aimed at pushing the Russian president to resign, hold early presidential elections, and prevent the postponement of parliamentary elections scheduled for 1996. He also reiterated his party's opposition to the use of force in Chechnya. Zyuganov was reelected as the party leader, along with his deputy, Valentin Kuptsov. The congress, which opened on the 51st anniversary of Vladimir Lenin's death, took place on 21-22 January. The fact that the congress was held in the prestigious Column Hall of the House of Unions, revealed a new tendency among the party's opponents to treat it like a normal opposition grouping. In a sharp departure from past practices, the tone of Russian TV's "Vesti's" reports on the congress was neutral. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. RELATIONS BETWEEN RUSSIA'S CHOICE, PRESIDENT CONTINUE TO DETERIORATE. The Duma rejected General Prosecutor Aleksei Ilyushenko's request to prosecute parliamentarians Gaidar and Sergei Yushenkov of Russia's Choice for organizing unauthorized rallies in Moscow against sending troops to Chechnya, Interfax reported 20 January. The request won only 132 of the necessary 226 votes. Ilyushenko objected to the character of the slogans and placards at the rallies and their descriptions of the president. At a news rally the same day, former KGB General Oleg Kalugin, now the leader of the Defense Policy Commission of Russia's Choice, said "the Russian president is personally responsible for the military operation in Chechnya." The Commission demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Egorov, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, FSK Director Sergei Stepashin, and Secretary of the Security Council Oleg Lobov be dismissed immediately. Russia's Choice was once Yeltsin's closest political ally. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. NEW LIST OF DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTERS. President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree appointing new deputy defense ministers, Interfax reported on 19 January. As expected, Generals Boris Gromov, Georgii Kondratyev, and Valerii Mironov were not on the list, nor was the previously fired General Matvei Burlakov. Speaking on Ostankino TV on 20 January, Kondratyev said, however, that he, Gromov, and Mironov were still carrying out their duties despite the fact that others had already been appointed to their posts, and were working alongside them--a situation he described as "quite incomprehensible." Civilian Andrei Kokoshin retained his post of first deputy minister as did Chief of Staff Mikhail Kolesnikov. Col.-Gen. Anatolii Solomatin took over as deputy minister for construction and billeting of troops -- a position he had been filling in an acting capacity. Col. Gen. Vladimir Churanov was identified as the new deputy of logistical support. This list was said to authorize six deputies, rather than five as had been previously announced. Another holdover was Col.-Gen. Konstantin Kobets, the inspector general of the armed forces. The sixth name was that of Col.- Gen. Vladimir Toporov, who had been in charge of logistics. Toporov is now said to be a deputy minister "without portfolio", although the 20 January issue of Kommersant-Daily added that such things as physical fitness training and cultural and recreational activities would fall under his purview. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIANS ACCUSE U.S. OF DENIGRATING ARMS FOR COMMERCIAL REASONS. Stepan Sulakshin, chairman of the State Duma's subcommittee on the problems of the military-industrial complex, told RIA on 20 January that American military experts are spreading "groundless" rumors about the poor quality of Russian tanks in an effort to undermine Russia's position "as one of the world's largest arms exporters." He blamed the relatively high loss of armored vehicles in Grozny on shortcomings in military planning and tactical mistakes. He also said that the troops did not utilize their full fire power in order to spare the civilian population. Sulakshin did not mention that Russian military leaders were also concerned about their armor. On 18 January Interfax reported that representatives of military research institutes and weapons design bureaus had been sent to Chechnya to find out why their products had performed so poorly. One designer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said some of the design bureaus had received an urgent order to develop better protection for tanks that are operating in an urban combat zone. He said the means to protect T-72 and T-80 tanks had not been upgraded in over a decade. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. KINKEL MEETS KOZYREV IN BERN. German officials are putting increasing pressure on Russia to cease military action in Chechnya, Reuters reported on 22 January. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, in a 22 January meeting in Bern with his Russian counterpart, Andrei Kozyrev, said, "The bloodshed in Chechnya must stop immediately." In contrast to U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's statement last week that economic assistance may be cut off if the military action does not stop, Kinkel said that economic sanctions are not the answer. Kozyrev welcomed Kinkel's support for a political solution within the framework of the Russian Constitution, meaning that Chechnya would remain part of the federation. Kinkel also welcomed Russia's acceptance of a mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to assess human rights. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. DUMA REJECTS SECOND READING OF 1995 DRAFT BUDGET. Russia's Duma failed for the second time to adopt the 1995 federal budget, with 195 votes in favor, 142 against, and 1 abstention, Interfax reported on 20 January. The draft would have confirmed budget expenditures of 243,196.5 billion rubles (3,947 rubles/$1) and revenues of 168,922.3 billion rubles. The maximum budget deficit was planned at 74,272.2 billion rubles, or 30.5% of expenditures. The main obstacle in passing the budget was opposing views in the State Duma and Federation Council budget committees on the necessity for a special tax in support of certain "branches of the economy," Interfax said. Sergei Shulgin, head of the Duma Sub-Committee on Tax Legislation, argued that a special tax could "kill industry." The Federation Council Budget Committee argued that the tax is necessary to support the agri-industrial sector. The Duma Committee on Budget, Taxes, Banks, and Finances will meet on 25 January for further discussions. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CIS YELTSIN, NAZARBAEV MEET. In a joint declaration issued after their talks in Moscow on 20 January, Russian President Yeltsin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbaev announced measures to coordinate security policy, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. They vowed to create a combined military force later this year and to cooperate closely in the sphere of foreign policy. The two presidents also signed an agreement on the legal status of Russian citizens living in Kazakhstan and Kazakhs in the Russian Federation and announced that a treaty would be signed on 10 February for the joint defense of their external frontiers. The Russian and Kazakh prime ministers, Chernomyrdin and Akezhan Kazhegeldin, signed several economic and military agreements on the creation of a customs union, the introduction of uniform regulations on foreign economic activity and stipulating the terms for Russia's use of military facilities in Kazakhstan, and on the status of Russian troops stationed there. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 CET[ Compiled by Victor Gomez 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: email@example.com Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396 Jeff Gardner Information Services Dept. 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