|A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift|
Vol. 1, No. 17 part I, 24 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 CHECHEN RESISTANCE "WEAKENING": DUDAEV AGAIN CALLS FOR TALKS. Artillery bombardment and street fighting continued in Grozny on 23 January as Russian troops backed by reinforcements attempted to dislodge the Chechens from their new positions east of the Sunzha river, Russian and Western agencies reported. Interfax quoted a senior Russian military spokesman in Mozdok as claiming that the Chechen resistance "was weakening." In a telephone interview with Radio Liberty's Russian Service on 23 January, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev again called for peace talks with Russia but said that the issue of Chechnya's independence "is not negotiable." Speaking in Minsk on 23 January, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev suggested that Dudaev should "abandon the armed struggle" against Russia and present his case for secession to the Russian parliament, Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. REGIONAL LEADERS TO MEET. Legislators and government officials of southern Russian and the northern Caucasus will meet at a two-day conference in Stavropol beginning 24 January to discuss the Chechen crisis, Interfax reported. Federation Council Deputy Speaker Ramazan Abdulatipov and other deputies tried to hold the conference earlier this month, but it was twice postponed by the Security Council. Republican Party leader Vladimir Lysenko said the Council feared that the regional governments in southern Russia would coordinate their moves against Moscow in reaction to events in Chechnya. The conference will bring together deputy regional leaders responsible for ethnic issues from all the republics as well as the Krasnodar, Stavropol, and Rostov regions. On 23 January, Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov said at a news conference that "the issue of power redistribution between the federal authorities and the federation's constituent members has been placed at the top of the agenda once again," Interfax reported. He warned that the issue could not be resolved through pressure. Only new legislation on power redistribution, currently under consideration, could "dot the i's and cross the t's and put an end to the dispute," he said. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. EU FOREIGN MINISTERS GIVE GREEN LIGHT TO PARTNERSHIP ACCORD WITH RUSSIA. Contrary to expectations and a vote by the European parliament, EU foreign ministers did not endorse the suspension of the interim economic agreement with Russia, AFP and Reuters reported. However, they may take strong measures if the situation in Chechnya worsens, and they called for an immediate end to hositlities. The German foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, said the signing of the interim accord would go ahead on 9 March. "We all agreed that economic sanctions at this point are not appropriate," Kinkel said, protesting that sanctions would only strengthen the nationalists in Russia. He added, "We have to wait and see how things develop but we don't want to make a menacing gesture. That would only help the wrong forces in Russia." Britain also supported the German position. "We have given a clear signal that we want to continue our aim of partnership with Russia, but what has been going on in Chechnya makes that difficult," British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said. Both Ireland and Sweden had argued for stronger action against Russia. For now, any further EU response will await the report of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) mission to Chechnya. The EU will review its relations with Russia at a meeting on 19 March. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TWO CHECHEN RAIONS SEEK TO REJOIN STAVROPOL KRAI. A letter signed by 50,000 residents of Naur and Shelkov Raions in Chechnya demanding that they be annexed to neighboring Stavropol Krai was sent to President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and the speakers of the two houses of Russia's parliament, Interfax reported on 23 January citing government sources. The two areas were placed under Chechen jurisdiction by former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1957. The letter claims that under Dudaev "ethnic Russians have been robbed, killed, raped, and humiliated." The Stavropol Krai administration is said to be "distancing itself" from the issue, but the request has the support of Cossack organizations there. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. ELECTORAL LAWS TO BE ADOPTED SOON? An article complaining that draft laws for Russia's presidential and parliamentary elections have not been published yet, although they were adopted in their first reading, appeared in the 15-22 January issue of Moskovskie novosti. The newspaper speculates that final versions will be adopted soon. However, it warns, nobody is paying attention to the laws' potential defects. Both presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for the next eighteen months, although events in Chechnya have spurred calls for early elections. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUEHE'S CRITICISM OF GRACHEV CREATES STIR IN RUSSIA. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's recent outburst at liberal critics of the war in Chechnya are "totally unacceptable" said Yeltsin's chief of staff Filatov, the powerful head of Yeltsin's administration, at a 23 January news conference in Moscow. Filatov was reacting to Grachev's 20 January statements on Ostankino's "Vremya" in which he called Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev "a traitor of Russia" and lashed out at Duma Defense Committee Chairman Sergei Yushenkov, calling him a "vile toad." Filatov said that no responsible official should use such language against critics and added that the Yeltsin administration would soon make a judgment on the incident. Grachev has already been informed by German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe that he is no longer welcome to attend a February conference on European defense in Munich. In a 21 January interview with Bild, Ruehe accused General Grachev of "unacceptable slander" against his liberal opponents. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. PARLIAMENTARY ANALYSTS SAY AIR FORCE FALLING APART. Financial problems are destroying Russia's armed forces, and particularly the Air Force, say experts from the Federation Council's Analytical Center. According to a 22 January Interfax report, analysts noted that Russian pilots had been averaging 30-40 hours per year since 1991, little more than one- tenth that of Western pilots. The Air Force needed 280 new aircraft but was only able to purchase 33. Roughly half of the military's jets are grounded because of a shortage of spare parts, while less than half the needed fuel is available. The analysts found that the air bases were in similar shape. Of 209 airfields, 133 needed major repairs. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. MINERS STRIKE IN ROSTOV. Miners at eight pits belonging to the Rostovugol association have been on strike since 20 January and will be joined by miners from another 18 pits on 1 February if their demands are not met, according to the chairman of the Russian Coal-mining Industry Workers' Union, Vitalii Budko. Interfax reported that Budko said Rostov miners have not yet received their wages for October 1994 and that tension is mounting in other coal-mining regions for the same reason. The miners' leader argued that the situation could be stabilized if the government allocates 800 billion rubles for the industry in the short term. He expressed concern that the draft federal budget envisages only 6.3 trillion rubles for the industry, noting that even Economics Ministry experts believe the sector requires 10 trillion rubles. If funds are not increased, the price of coal will have to be doubled or tripled, making it unaffordable for consumers, who still owe 2 trillion rubles for deliveries last year, he said. A wave of miners' strikes swept the country in the winter of 1993-1994. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL BANK DEVELOPS REGULATIONS ON COLLATERAL LOANS. The Central Bank of Russia has developed regulations on collateral loans in which commercial banks will be able to take Central Bank loans in exchange for stocks, the Financial Information Agency reported on 23 January. A Central Bank spokesman told the press that commercial banks will be allowed to take out collateral loans for a term of up to 30 days. The collateral interest rate will be set by the Central Bank board. The Central Bank hopes that introducing collateral loans will help increase liquidity within the banking system and will give a boost to banks that are experiencing temporary insolvency. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KITOVANI'S GUILT "INDISPUTABLE." Ex-Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani, arrested on 13 January after an alleged abortive attempt to reconquer Abkhazia by force and/or prepare a coup against the Georgian leadership, could be sentenced to ten years' imprisonment as "his guilt is indisputable," according to Georgian Deputy Prosecutor-General Revaz Kipiani as quoted by Interfax on 19 January. In addition, Kitovani is likely to be charged with the illegal sale to Azerbaijan in 1992 for 300 million rubles of two military aircraft. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. ARMENIAN BLOC REJECTS US CRITICISM. A bloc of six right-wing Armenian political parties, including the ruling Armenian National Movement, rejected on 23 January the US State Department's criticism of a six- month ban imposed on the opposition Dashnaktsyutyun party, ITAR-TASS reported. The bloc called the criticism "unacceptable to forces that are struggling for statehood, democracy, and universal values" and "interference in Armenia's internal affairs." It further termed "understandable, but regrettable" statements by Communist deputies of the Russian State Duma in support of the Dashnak Party. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS CIS LEADERS TO DISCUSS "PEACE AND ACCORD PACT." A 10 February meeting of CIS heads of state and prime ministers in Almaty will debate a draft "Peace and Accord" pact drawn up by Russian President Yeltsin, which "would be a blessing for all peoples in the post-Soviet era," Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists in Moscow on 23 January. Nazarbaev described the agreements on Russian-Kazakh bilateral cooperation, signed on 20 January, as a precedent for closer integration within the CIS, affirming that Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan could spearhead this process, Interfax reported. Evgenii Utkin, deputy head of the CIS Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, similarly told Interfax on 23 January that integration, primarily economic, is increasing within the CIS. Utkin also gave a positive assessment of the concept of a Eurasian Union proposed by Nazarbaev in 1994. But not all CIS leaders share this enthusiasm. Turkmen President Sapurmurad Niyazov argued in a speech to the Ukrainian parliament on 20 January that the CIS should remain a purely consultative body; he rejected attempts to create alliances or supranational pacts as "prompted by overtly selfish interests," Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. EU SIGNS PARTNERSHIP ACCORD WITH KAZAKHSTAN. The European Union (EU) signed a partnership and cooperation accord with Kazakhstan on 23 January, AFP and Reuters report. The agreement, similar to others already signed with other former Soviet republics, is intended to promote trade, commercial, and political contacts between the EU and Kazakhstan. Kazakh President Nazarbaev signed the accord at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels. He said the economic, commercial, and technical help provided by the EU will help reforms in his country. The agreement also signals an important new phase in Kazakhstan's entry into the world marketplace. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. KUCHMA IN MOSCOW. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma arrived in Moscow on 23 January for talks on trade and economic issues, Ukrainian radio reported. Among the topics to be discussed are trade agreements for 1995, energy imports, and the delivery of components for goods manufactured in Ukraine by companies which have ties with Russia. The "zero option" and Ukraine's share of the former Soviet Union's debt will also be discussed, but it is not expected that Ukraine will agree to turn over its share of the former Soviet Union's assets in exchange for Russia taking over its share of the debt. -- Ustina Markus, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396
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