|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 22, Part I, 31 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 "FINAL ASSAULT" ON GROZNY IMMINENT? Russian troops are preparing for the "final assault" on Grozny, according to a Russian government press service statemetanuary. The statement comes six days after Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev claimed the army had liquidated Chechen resistance in the city. One third of Grozny is estimated by Western correspondents and Chechen officials to remain under Chechen control. Russian artillery bombardment of the city continued on 30 January. In addition, Russian reinforcements were being deployed south of Grozny in an apparent attempt to seal off the city, AFP reported. In an interview given to a Kuwaiti weekly paper and summarized by ITAR-TASS on 30 January, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev affirmed that continued resistance to Russian forces had been planned "on a scientific basis," and the center of Chechen resistance would be relocated from Grozny to the mountains. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. OSCE DELEGATION REPORTS ON CHECHNYA. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) fact-finding mission returned to Moscow from Grozny on 30 January, the Los Angeles Times reported. Delegation member Audrey Glover said she had never seen anything as horrific as the consequences of the Russian attack on the Chechen capital, the Czech daily Lidove noviny reported. "It is only possible to compare Grozny to the state Dresden was in after the Second World War," she said. Delegation head Istvan Gyarmati specifically condemned Russian bombing of Chechen cities, which have killed thousands of people. However, he found no evidence that Russian soldiers are torturing and summarily executing Chechen prisoners. Gyarmati said both the warring sides had agreed to allow representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit their prisoners of war. This was the first international mission to Chechnya during the seven-week war, and its conclusions were at odds with Moscow's official version of events. -- Victor Gomez and Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. SEMENOV TO RECONSTRUCT CHECHNYA. Reconstructing most important industries in Chechnya will require a special effort because of the flight of many qualified workers from the republic, the new Russian governor of Chechnya, Nikolai Semenov, said at a 30 January news conference broadcast on Russian TV. Semenov called for an end to artillery bombardment and advocated negotiations with all local political powers. According to "Vesti," Semenov also said he did not intend to talk with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. He added that it is up to the military to stop the fighting. Semenov said he intended to rely in his work on a so-called National Salvation Committee that he has begun forming, presumably comprised of members of the pro-Moscow opposition to Dudaev. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. BURLATSKY: EGOROV INITIATED CHECHEN WAR. Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai D. Egorov provided the first push for the military campaign in Chechnya, Fedor Burlatsky charged in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 31 January. According to Burlatsky, Egorov was probably influenced by the emotions of Cossacks who suffered from living next door to a criminal zone. In this scenario, the president's advisers prepared the decision, but the president himself made it, and the Security Council was only a deliberative body. However, when the decision was made, no one considered the character or the consequences of the war. Burlatsky claimed the decision-making process for Chechnya was the same as Josef Stalin's decision to start the Korean War and Nikita Khrushchev's decision to place missiles in Cuba. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. SECURITY COUNCIL DEEMED USEFUL. In the same article, Burlatsky argued that the Security Council plays a necessary role that the media has not understood. He denied that the recent inclusion of parliamentary leaders in the body limits their ability to control the executive branch. Russians, he charged, are too concerned about the idea of a separation of powers. Such a separation cannot work when politicians refuse to cooperate with each other. "Therefore it is necessary to have an institution in which the main figures come together and collectively resolve the most important problems." The speakers of both houses can use their position effectively to represent the collective will of the legislature in the Council, he claimed. He advocated the adoption of a new law on the Security Council which would restrict its decision-making power to protecting state security at home and abroad, and fighting armed groups, the mafia, and corruption. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. SHUMEIKO PROPOSES CONFERENCE ON THE PARLIAMENT. In a letter to President Yeltsin, Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko proposed the convocation of an all-Russian conference on the future of parliament, Izvestiya reported on 31 January. He warned that the level of disagreement about how to elect a new parliament was so high, that without the conference, the country might fall into another constitutional crisis. The events in Chechnya have deflected the country's attention from the fact that, in a year when parliamentary elections will be held, the country has no electoral law. "Now there is no hope that the parliamentarians will be able to find a quick solution in the eleven months before the elections," Izvestiya wrote. In the Duma, the current members want to protect their interests by preserving the seats elected by party lists. One consequence of this system has been that many members come from the Moscow area. Many Federation Council deputies are unhappy with the president's policies and with their own inability to influence them. The council's impotence has raised concerns that important regional elites will not be interested in it or in the electoral law used to choose its members. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DEFENSE MINISTRY SAID TO HAVE BEEN TOLD ABOUT NORWEGIAN MISSILE. A Russian Foreign Ministry official said his department had twice passed on advance information to the Defense Ministry regarding the 25 January launch of a Norwegian research rocket. The military at first thought the missile might be headed toward Russia and while it was in flight, President Yeltsin consulted with top military officials using his "black box" emergency communication equipment. Yuri Fokin, Russia's new ambassador to Norway, said the confusion was caused by "a misunderstanding which must not be repeated," Interfax reported on 30 January. Fokin confirmed that Norway had complied with the usual notification procedures regarding the rocket launch. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. CONTROVERSIAL JUBILEE OF SOVIET WRITERS' UNION. Seven organizations of Russian writers have protested against planned festivities to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Union of Soviet Writers, Russian TV's "Vesti" reported on 30 January. Formed in August 1934 by Josef Stalin's chief ideologist Andrei Zhdanov, the Writers' Union played a key role in the oppression of Soviet writers and the suppression of artistic freedoms in the former USSR. The writers' union jubilee is scheduled for next month in the highly prestigious Column Hall of the Unions' House. The gala event will be presided over by 82-year-old poet Sergei Mikhalkov, a co- author of the Stalin-era Soviet anthem. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. UNEMPLOYMENT, WAGE DIFFERENTIALS INCREASING. Federal Employment Service head Fedor Prokopov said more than 2 million jobs will be lost in 1995 and the number of officially registered unemployed will rise to 3,600,000, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 January. He expects half a million jobs to be lost in industry, another half a million in agriculture, and 200,000 in construction; only the service sector is expected to expand. On 29 January, a representative of the union of textile and light industry workers told RIA that 400,000 people could lose their jobs in these industries by the end of February, largely because of shortfalls in cotton imports from Uzbekistan. Also on 29 January, Interfax reported that the richest groups in society now earned 15 times as much as the poorest groups. In 1991, they earned only four times as much as the poorest sector. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CASH-STRAPPED ZIL RESUMES PRODUCTION. After a two-week halt in production, ZIL, Russia's leading mid-range truck manufacturer, resumed operations on 30 January, Interfax reported. The Moscow company temporarily ceased production due to a cash flow crisis resulting from debtors' inability to pay ZIL for truck parts. Interfax said ZIL is counting on state aid and planned to produce 100-150 trucks a day over the next two weeks, down from a daily average of 200 vehicles over the past two months. Last year, the factory produced 30,000 trucks, a fraction of its 250,000 vehicle capacity. ZIL is best known for its black limousines, which, in the Soviet heyday, were reserved for the highest ranking government officials. But it also came close to bankruptcy in 1994. Consequently, a restructuring plan was implemented which resulted in layoffs for 20,000 of its 85,000 employees. The government promised to give the troubled company a boost by offering a subsidy of 180 billion rubles ($44.5 million). That subsidy has yet to be seen. According to Interfax, ZIL's chief executive, Valerii Satkin, said the factory's total debt is 420 billion rubles (about $104 million). -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. COMPANY TO SELL AIRLINERS TO BRITISH FIRM. The Samara-based Aviakor aircraft company plans to sell ten Tu-145M airliners to the British leasing firm TTG, in a deal worth about $50 million, an official from the Russian plant announced on 26 January. Vladimir Safronov told Interfax this would be the first major sale of Russian aircraft to a West European country. The former Samara Aircraft Plant was one of the largest producers of Tu-154s in the USSR, but only sold two of its planes in 1994. Last July, it entered bankruptcy hearings and sent most of its workers on forced leave. The hearings were later suspended for one year. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA ENERGY SITUATION IN KAZAKHSTAN IMPROVES; SOME COAL MINERS RETURN TO WORK. The energy situation in Kazakhstan improved 30 January as some coal miners, who had been on strike for 17 days, returned to work, Reuters reported. Deliveries of coal to the massive steelworks at Karmet, which had been threatened with shutdown, resumed after the company agreed to pay part of its debt for past deliveries. About 100,000 coal miners from the Karaganda field went on strike to demand payment for wages due to them since autumn. Although miners returned to one pit, most of the other pits remained on strike. Strike leader Vyacheslav Sidorov said the situation is tense. "The mood of the miners is still to take to the streets." Job security is the miners' main concern as the government intends to close the smaller, unprofitable pits. "Payment of wages is only a partial solution--the main problem is the fate of the Karaganda coal basin," Sidorov added. Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mette was expected in Karaganda, 800 km north of the capital Almaty, on 30 January to hold talks with the miners. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. NAZARBAEV PROPOSES "ALTERNATIVE" TO OPEC. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev called for increased Western investment in his country's energy sector, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January. Nazarbaev stressed that at present, only about 1% of Kazakhstan's oil potential is being exploited. The country has an estimated 4.5 billion tons of oil and 5.9 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in reserves. Western investment in the Russian and Kazakh energy sectors would be mutually beneficial and reduce Western dependence on OPEC, he argued. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS RUSSIA OBJECTS TO US INVOLVEMENT ON UKRAINIAN DEBT. US mediation over the issue of Ukraine's energy debt to Russia is "unreasonable and out of place," according to a statement issued by the Russian Petroleum Information Agency on 30 January. Last December, Thomas Pickering, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, proposed that his country act as a mediator in resolving the debt problem. The agency statement said Russia views Ukraine's debt as a bilateral issue between the two former Soviet republics. It also said Russia supports a plan for Ukraine to use western credits in paying off its energy debts. -- 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. 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