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No. 21, Part I, 30 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 BOMBARDMENT OF CHECHNYA CONTINUES AS RUSSIA DISMISSES TERROR THREAT Russian artillery bombardment of Grozny and of towns to the east and south continued from 27-29 January, Western agencies reported. On 29 January, the Russian government issued an official statement dismissing as unrealistic Dudaev's threat to extend the war to Russian cities if the aggression against Chechnya continues, Western media reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW APPOINTS NEW CHECHEN REPRESENTATIVES. An attempt by Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev on 27 January to arrange a new meeting between his envoys and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin failed, Russian media reported. After meeting with Chechen religious leaders in Moscow on 27 January, Chernomyrdin said elections could be held in Chechnya in 2-3 months. Also on 27 January, Russian President Boris Yeltsin appointed Nikolai Semenov, as federal representative in Chechnya, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Semenov, who was first secretary of the Grozny gorkom from 1976-1985, will replace Nikolai Egorov, who is hospitalized with pneumonia. On 28 January, Chernomyrdin named as Semenov's deputies Salambek Khadzhiev, head of the Moscow- appointed Chechen government, opposition Provisional Council chairman Umar Avturkhanov and warlord Beslan Gantemirov, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. AGREEMENT ON OPPOSITION AGAINST CHECHEN WAR SIGNED IN MOSCOW. Various Russian political and social organizations signed a joint document denouncing the war in Chechnya on 28 January in Moscow's Parliamentary Center. The state-owned ITAR-TASS agency reported that 40 organizations had taken part, but organizers told Russian TV there were 72 groups. The signatory parties included Russia's Democratic Choice, the Democratic Party of Russia and the human rights "Memorial" society. Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev addressed the session, saying that the agreement marked the emergence of a civil society in Russia. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. OSCE MISSION TOURS GROZNY. A mission from the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) to investigate human rights abuses in Chechnya arrived in Grozny 29 January on the final leg of a tour scheduled to visit Moscow, North Ossetia and Ingushetia, Reuters, AFP and Interfax reported. The military prevented the Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev from accompanying the mission because he didn't have a pass for the military airport. The United States has requested an explanation for this action. The five-member mission met with Chechen opposition leader Umar Avturkhanov on 28 January and held talks with local political and religious leaders opposed to Dudaev. Delegation head Istvan Gyarmati stressed that he had no mandate to mediate the conflict nor to investigate specific human rights violations. He said the OSCE considered a democratic resolution of the conflict important for Russian stability. Gyarmati added that the delegation was particularly eager to talk to Russian-held Chechen prisoners, especially since Russia has not allowed the International Red Cross to see them and does not recognize them as prisoners-of-war under the Geneva Convention. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said, on 26 January, that the OSCE mission made little sense because some members of the delegation couldn't speak Russian and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was already mediating in Chechnya. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. SURVEY FINDS KORZHAKOV INFLUENCE GROWING. The head of Yeltsin's security service, General Alexander Korzhakov, ranks number two on a list of the country's most influential people, according to a survey conducted by NTV's "Itogy," AFP reported 29 January. Every month the program asks politicians, political analysts, journalists and other opinion-makers for their top-ten listings of the country's most influential people, excluding Yeltsin. Only Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ranked higher this time. Korzhakov ranked seventh in October, fourth in November, and third in December. The survey results reflect a growing perception in Moscow that Korzhakov has become a dominant figure in the president's inner circle of advisers. He has been accused of supporting the use of military force in Chechnya and opposing some aspects of economic reform. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. COMMUNIST ACCUSES YELTSIN OF REVIVING INSTITUTIONAL CONFLICT. Vladimir Semago, a Communist member of the Duma, denounced Yeltsin's statement in Lipetsk that it was unconstitutional for the Duma to set up a commission to investigate the causes of the Chechen crisis, Interfax reported 27 January. He characterized Yeltsin's remark as "a covert signal to bureaucrats" not to cooperate with the Duma and "the start of an open confrontation with the legislature." He warned that a confrontation between the president and parliament might degenerate into armed conflict. He stressed the need to complete the establishment of the Constitutional Court to prevent such an eventuality. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. INSTITUTE SAID DRAFT SITUATION CRITICAL. Manning the armed forces "has become the most acute problem of Russia's defense capability," according to Russia's Institute for Social and Political Studies, Interfax reported on 28 January. The institute cited a demographic crisis in the country and the large numbers of deferments as causes of the problem. The report noted that the number of people between the ages of 15 and 19 in the population had dropped by nearly 1.2 million in the past fifteen years. The law allows so many valid reasons for being deferred that 84% of draft-age men evaded conscription in 1994, compared to 48% in 1989. As a result, last spring's draft was said to have brought the armed forces up to 75% of their desired personnel, with ground forces able to fill just over half of their billets. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. SPACE OFFICIALS WARN OF RUIN. Unless more money is provided to Russia's space program, the country will lose its ranking as a great space power, warned top officials of the Russian Space Agency and one of Russia's largest rocket and space enterprises in a 26 January Interfax report. The space agency's director said 104 of the 177 Russian spacecraft currently in orbit have exceeded their design lifetime and could fail at any moment. In 1994, Russia was able to complete only 49 of 102 planned launches. Gen. Vladimir Ivanov, commander of military space forces, said at most, only half of the 72 space launches planned for this year could be achieved. The director of the Energiya Corporation declared that underfinancing over the past two years had caused the curtailment of several space programs and the loss of 7,500 specialists. Another 30,000 jobs were threatened without additional funding. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS FIXED RUBLE RATE. Speaking at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos on 27 January, Russian Minister of Economics Yevgenii Yasin said that once price stabilization occurs, the government will consider introducing a fixed ruble rate, Interfax reported. According to Yasin, a fixed rate would enable the Central Bank to keep the ruble in line with hard currency interventions. It would also reduce the scale of speculations. Yasin declined to indicate when stabilization would happen. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said a fixed ruble rate could be introduced no earlier than three months from now. Russian bankers attending the event were skeptical that such measures could have a positive impact on currency stabilization and market reforms, Interfax noted. The president of Toko Bank, Viktor Yakunin, said a fixed rate would lead to "the death of the currency exchange and the emergence of a black market for currency." -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CUSTOMS COMMITTEE PROPOSES LOWER IMPORT DUTIES. Russia's State Customs Committee has proposed an average one-third reduction of customs duties on 50 imported items, including tobacco, liquor, and cars, Interfax reported on 27 January. Customs committee Chairman Anatolii Kruglov told the press that current taxes do not meet today's consumer market requirements. An estimated 30% of all exports bypass customs because excessive duties are compelling people to smuggle goods, he said. Kruglov urged the government to set up a council for representatives of the customs committee, the Foreign Trade Ministry, and other departments to work out a balanced customs regulation policy. In 1994, the committee raised 14.14 trillion rubles for the state, amounting to 21.3% of the country's budget revenues. This year, the Committee is expected to contribute 23.3 trillion rubles to the budget. Last year, the customs committee initiated 25,000 suits on tax payment irregularities, issued 130 billion rubles in fines, and confiscated 40 billion rubles in goods. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA OSCE KARABAKH MEDIATION RESUMES. On 26 January emissaries of the newly combined Russian and OSCE Karabakh mediation missions, Anders Bjurner and Vladimir Kazimirov, held talks in Baku with Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Aliev affirmed that his country will spare no effort to maintain the ceasefire, in force since May 1994, noting that it had held despite the absence of peacekeepers. On 28 January, however, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement, reported by Interfax, registering official concern at alleged violations of the cease-fire by Armenian forces in the north of Nagorno- Karabakh. Bjurner and Kazimirov proceeded to Erevan on 28 January for talks with the Armenian leadership, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile Interfax on 28 January cited a Karabakh official as claiming that about 25,000 ethnic Armenians, who had fled the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh in recent years, returned to their homes last month.-- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. ABKHAZ TALKS TO RESUME NEXT MONTH. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba linked the repatriation of ethnic Georgian refugees with the lifting of border restrictions, imposed by Russia in December 1994 to prevent Abkhaz militants from joining the Chechen fighters, Interfax reported on 26 January. The comments came at a meeting in Sukhumi between Ardzinba and a delegation from the CIS Inter-parliamentary Assembly and the CIS Committee of the Federation Council. On 28 January, the Russian delegation traveled to Tbilisi for talks with Georgian Parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze, whose chief negotiator for Abkhazia, Dzhaba Ioseliani, subsequently told Interfax that the next round of UN- sponsored talks on a political settlement of the Abkhaz conflict would take place in Geneva on 7-9 February. In a statement probably meant more for domestic consumption than as a basis for negotiations, Ioseliani said Georgia would demand that repatriation of the estimated 200,000 Georgian refugees be completed before 15 May, when the mandate of Russian peacekeepers in the area expires. He reiterated that Georgia would offer a federal model for Abkhazia, guaranteeing "all political, economic and cultural rights," but not independence. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN AGREEMENTS. The 6 January agreement between Russia and Belarus represents a means for Russia to gain control over the Belarusian economy and the country's assets, according to Zyanon Paznyak, leader of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front (BPF). At a 26 January press conference of the BPF shadow cabinet, reported by Belarusian radio, Paznyak attacked clauses in the agreement which allow Russian exports free transit across Belarusian territory and the stationing of Russian troops in the country free of charge. Paznyak said the agreement has a political character which is ruinous to Belarusian sovereignty and paves the way for the republic's incorporation into the Russian Federation. Shadow cabinet prime minister Uladzimir Zablotsky said Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir did not have the right to sign the agreement since it contravened the country's constitution and only the president can sign international accords. Paznyak also said the free-trade and customs union agreement would mean that Belarus is subject to any sanctions imposed on Russia because of the conflict in Chechnya. -- 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: email@example.com Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396
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