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No. 19, Part I, 26 January 1995
We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. The Digest is distributed 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 BATTLE FOR GROZNY CONTINUES. Russian troops continued their artillery bombardment of Chechen-held areas in southern Grozny on 25 January, Western agencies reported. Chechen fighters, quoted byThe Washington Post on 26 January, said they expect a new Russian offensive at any moment. Russian Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov told journalists after a session of the Council on 25 January that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev "still has a chance to emerge unscathed" provided he lays down his arms, but that if resistance continues, he will face criminal charges "as the main perpetrator of the bloodshed," Interfax reported. Lobov also said elections for a new Chechen parliament could be held later this year. Meanwhile, Chechnya will be administered by a National Salvation Committee, which he claimed is already functioning in eight raions. Lobov denied the Security Council is planning to divide Chechnya into northern and southern regions. - Liz Fuller SECURITY COUNCIL PRAISES GRACHEV. At the Security Council meeting, chaired by President Boris Yeltsin, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev was congratulated on the successful completion of the Chechen campaign, despite criticism leveled at his ministry for its handling of the conflict and continued fighting in the republic, agencies reported. Security Council Secretary Lobov said that restoring order in Chechnya, the second stage of the operation, will be directed by the Interior Ministry. The council also discussed priority measures for the social and economic reconstruction of the republic, which Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin estimated would cost 5-6 trillion rubles. About 80,000 civilians are said to remain in Grozny and to be experiencing "a serious shortage of food, heat, medicines, and clothes," Interfax reported. - Penny Morvant PUBLIC TRIBUNAL TO "TRY" OFFICIALS FOR WAR IN CHECHNYA? A group of Russian public organizations have suggested that the initiators of the Chechen war be put on trial, Russian TV's "Vesti" reported on 25 January. The idea was raised at a news conference by a number of prominent public figures, including Aleksei Simonov, chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Glasnost, Sergei Grigoryants, a former Soviet political prisoner, and Valerii Borshchov, a deputy for the Yabloko faction in the State Duma. At the conference, the speakers asserted that Russia has violated a number of key international agreements in Chechnya, including the Geneva Convention. They argued that, although prosecutions are unlikely, a public trial would expose discrepancies between Russian and international laws. Simonov called on journalists to send the tribunal video and audio tapes which could be used as evidence. - Julia Wishnevsky DUMA ATTACKS KOVALEV. The Duma dropped a scheduled discussion on the performance of Defense Minister Grachev on 25 January and held a debate on Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev instead, Russian TV and RFE/RL reported. The change in agenda was suggested by Yurii Kuznetsov, a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party. On his request, Kovalev addressed the legislature with a report on his mission in Grozny and suggested that it adopt a resolution condemning the use of military force in Chechnya. In turn, Kuznetsov said the Duma should call on Yeltsin to replace Kovalev as the president's human rights envoy. Kuznetsov's speech was followed by heated debates, during which the Communists attacked Kovalev for supporting the decision to send tanks against Russia's parliament building in October 1993, while the democrats lashed out at members of Zhirinovsky's party. A decision was postponed until 27 January. - Julia Wishnevsky GEN. BABICHEV GIVEN COMMAND OF CHECHNYA CORPS. Maj.-Gen. Ivan Babichev has been appointed to command the 44th Infantry Corps deployed in Chechnya, Russian media reported on 25 January. Babichev was the commanding officer of the 76th Guards Airborne division based in Pskov. He led one of the columns advancing on Grozny in mid-December and, at one point, refused to continue his advance when blocked by civilians. The announcement said the Defense Ministry had proposed that he be awarded the Hero of Russia medal. - Doug Clarke KALMYKOV DENOUNCES SECURITY COUNCIL. Former Minister of Justice Yurii Kalmykov denounced the Security Council and the leaders of parliament in a Komsomolskaya pravda article titled "The Security Council--The Politburo of our time," published 26 January. Kalmykov wrote that the council is operating unconstitutionally. According to the constitution, the status of the Security Council should be determined by federal law. But parliament has never adopted such a law, so the Council's authority derives purely from a presidential decree signed 3 June 1992. As a result, the Security Council "does not have the power to issue orders to anyone." Additionally, Kalmykov denounced the heads of both chambers of parliament, Ivan Rybkin and Vladimir Shumeiko, for joining the "secretive" body and thereby violating arrangements for a division of power. By their actions, "they are willfully or unconsciously creating a body which is beginning to replace and subordinate parliament and the government and will carry out the will of one person." He speculated that the executive and legislative branches came to an agreement in the Security Council over the Chechen war to avoid having to call a state of emergency which, according to the constitution, must be ratified by the Federation Council. - Robert Orttung FORMER GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER INJURED IN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Former Georgian Defense Minister Giorgii Karkarashvili was seriously injured and ex-Deputy Defense Minister Paata Datuashvili was killed by automatic rifle fire at close range as they were leaving their Moscow apartment on 25 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. The unidentified attackers escaped. Despite his resignation in February 1994 to protest an agreement on maintaining Russian military bases in Georgia, Karkarashvili was one of a group of top Georgian generals sent to Moscow to study at the Russian General Staff Academy. A spokesman for the Georgian Embassy in Moscow said there was no obvious motive for the attack, ITAR-TASS reported. - Liz Fuller INTERFAX CAUSES MISSILE SCARE. An erroneous report published by Interfax on 25 January indicated that Russian air defense forces had shot down a missile aimed at the country from Western Europe. Western agencies quickly revealed that Norway had launched a civilian research missile from Andoya, in northern Norway, to investigate the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) over Svalbard--a group of islands some 650 kilometers north of the country. Three Russian radar sites observed the missile, but it did not cross Russian territory and was not fired at by air defense forces. A Norwegian scientist at the test range said the program had launched a total of 607 rockets over the last 32 years, Reuters reported. - Doug Clarke "BREZHNEV DOCTRINE" REVIVED ON OSTANKINO? In a prime time broadcast on Russia's largest television station, controversial lawyer Dmitrii Yakubovsky lambasted former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev for allowing the "velvet revolutions" in Eastern Europe, as well as the reunification of Germany in 1989. The 23 January broadcast on the state- owned Ostankino station was the first of a three-part documentary series. While it is not unusual for the Russian media to criticize Gorbachev, accusations that he had "given away" Eastern Europe have not been broadcast to a nationwide audience since the end of the Soviet communist party's rule in August 1991. "Gorbachev claimed that he was unpopular because of his policy of perestroika [liberalization of Soviet society]," Yakubovsky argued on the show. "But in fact, the Russian people hated Gorbachev because he gave away Eastern Europe, which was not at all necessary." Yakubovsky was arrested in 1994 for allegedly stealing rare manuscripts from a St. Petersburg museum. He is now locked in the local Kresty prison. - Julia Wishnevsky STATE DUMA ADOPTS 1995 BUDGET. The Russian State Duma on 25 January passed the 1995 budget in a second reading with a 268-88 vote and two abstentions, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The budget, which had been rejected earlier in the day, was finally adopted after a concession from First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, who agreed to raise a value-added tax from 20% to 21.5%, bringing in an extra 5.7 trillion rubles ($1.4 billion) in revenue. These funds will be used to support the agriculture sector and to improve the financing of social and other programs. The budget must still be brought before the Duma for a third reading and then before the Federation Council. The budget provides for revenues of 169.8 trillion rubles ($42.45 billion) and spending of 243 trillion rubles ($60.75 billion), leaving a deficit of 73 trillion rubles ($18.25 billion) which amounts to 7.7% of Russia's GNP. Following the budget's approval, Duma deputies agreed to increase the minimum monthly wage by 163%, from 20,500 to 54,100 rubles ($5 to $13), beginning 1 February. However, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov warned that such an increase in the minimum wage would swell the budget deficit and fuel inflation to around 20-25%. The wage hike, which is an important factor in determining the final budget for 1995, must still be approved by the Federation Council. Opposition to the budget came from deputies who did not accept the cost estimates of the Chechen war. - Thomas Sigel ECONOMIC DECLINE IN 1994 WORSE THAN EXPECTED. Russian Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin announced, in a meeting with the ministry's board, that Russia's economic crisis in 1994 was deeper than experts expected, Interfax reported on 25 January. Yasin said the gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 15% in 1994, compared to a decline of 12% in 1993. The volume of industrial production fell by 20.9% last year, compared to 14.1% in 1993. Agricultural production dipped 9% compared to 4% in 1993. Yasin said the main decline took place in the first quarter, but some stabilization and growth took place by the end of the year. Summarizing the overall economic picture, Yasin said, "we have lost at least six months or even a year in movement forward." The main task in 1995 is to raise the efficiency of production and attract highly efficient investments which could cover initial expenses. Also, the budget deficit must be kept in line, he said. - Thomas Sigel CIS UKRAINE AND THE CIS SUMMIT. Following the CIS summit meeting in Moscow on 25 January, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko voiced concern about the attitude of some Russian deputies toward a reconstituted union, Ukrainian radio reported. According to Udovenko, who participated only as an observer at the summit, the Russian Duma's intention to review the Belavezha agreement of 1991, which ended the USSR and established the CIS, would bring instability to CIS countries. Udovenko said the CIS should be a more efficient structure with renewed economic ties, but outdated structures should not be resurrected. Interfax reported that Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan were not prepared to sign an agreement on cooperation in protecting the external borders of the CIS. - Ustina Markus SEVASTOPOL POPULAR ASSEMBLY APPEALS TO RUSSIA. The Sevastopol Popular Assembly held a rally at which it demanded that Russia restore federal status to Sevastopol and Crimea to avoid a Chechnya-type tragedy on the peninsula, Interfax reported on 23 January. The Popular Assembly also supported Russia's actions in Chechnya and called upon Crimeans to resist Ukrainian separatists unless the region is returned to Russia or joins it as one "indivisible country." In other news, Ukrainian radio reported on 15 January that there are doubts as to whether Russia can afford the estimated 100-billion-ruble cost of maintaining the Black Sea Fleet personnel or the cost of supplying Sevastopol with gas. The issue of gas supplies was discussed in a meeting between the head of the Sevastopol city council, Viktor Semenov, Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitalii Masol, and Ukrainian Parliamentary Speaker Oleksander Moroz. - Ustina Markus 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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