|To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. - Gelett Burgess|
No. 25, Part I, 3 February 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 KULIKOV ON WAR IN CHECHNYA. Fierce fighting continued on 2 February in southeastern districts of Grozny and in the town of Argun, eight miles to the east, Western agencies reported. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Col.-Gen. Anatolii Kulikov, commander of the Interior Ministry troops who have assumed responsibility for the Chechen campaign, stated that although Russian control has been reasserted over much of Chechnya, "the turning point has not yet been reached." He predicted a protracted guerrilla war. In a statement issued in Znamenskoye, 80 miles northwest of Grozny, and quoted by AFP, the Chechen "government of national revival" stated it would take power in Grozny before the end of February. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. COUNCIL OF EUROPE VOTES TO DELAY CONSIDERATION OF RUSSIA'S CANDIDACY. The Council of Europe voted on 2 February to delay consideration of Russia's candidacy for membership, according to a CE press spokesman. The conduct of the Chechen campaign has raised concerns about whether Russia is adhering to CE principles, which include respect for democracy and human rights. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. OIC NOT TO CONDEMN RUSSIA OVER CHECHNYA? The Organization of the Islamic Conference chairman has instructed member states to refrain from any comment on Russia's policy in Chechnya and argues that Russia should be given one or two months to resolve the conflict by force, according to a Russian government press service statement, summarized by Interfax on 2 February. The statement also claimed Morocco had accused Dudaev of using Islamic slogans to further his personal goals. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV DENIES RELIGIOUS FACTOR IN WARS. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev denied that religion plays a role in the Bosnian and Chechen conflicts, Interfax reported on 2 February. He categorically dismissed attempts by "individual politicians" to characterize political conflicts in these and other regions as religious. Kozyrev made his statement at a meeting with the head of the Central European Division of the Muslim Spiritual Department, Ravil Gainutdin, and the Moroccan ambassador in Moscow. "Extremists, bandits, and militarists do not have a nationality or religion," he said. "The Chechen tragedy must not turn into a confessional war." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. AGENCY DISCRIMINATES AGAINST CHECHEN REFUGEES. The Federal Immigration Service sent out a telegram to all local services in Russia with instructions not to register any citizen of Chechen nationality as a refugee. Moscow News published the text of a telegram which was sent out on 27 December 1994. The chair of the Committee for Aid to Refugees Svetlana Gannushkina said "this discriminatory measure deprives Chechen refugees of the right to official attention and aid," Russian TV reported on 2 February. She said the policy is still in effect, and only ethnic Russians from Chechnya are being registered. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA TO SEND FARM MACHINERY TO CHECHNYA BY SPRING. Russia is to supply 1,077 tractors, 1,575 plows, cultivators, and other farm implements to Chechnya this spring, Deputy Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Efremov told Interfax on 2 February. In addition, the ministry plans to send 16.5 billion rubles ($4 million) worth of spare farm machinery parts and 23.9 billion rubles ($5.9 million) worth of fuel and lubricants to the republic. Efremov said in order to "guarantee the farming season's success," his ministry had worked out a time-table for the delivery of 10,900 tons of seeds and 15,200 tons of fertilizer to the agricultural sector. Despite Efremov's announcement, it is unclear whether Chechnya's 1995 agricultural undertaking will be successful given the war-torn environment. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CHOLERA OUTBREAK IN CHECHNYA HIGHLY LIKELY. The likelihood of an outbreak of infectious diseases, in particular cholera, in Chechnya this spring is high, a government coordinating committee chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said in Moscow on 2 February. According to Interfax, there is a danger of diseases spreading to neighboring regions, and the health authorities in those areas have been placed on a higher state of alert. The State Sanitation Monitoring Committee and the Health Ministry are to prepare a report on the epidemiological situation in Chechnya by mid-February. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DUMA DEPUTY MURDERED. The body of State Duma Deputy and businessman Sergei Skorochkin was found in Moscow Oblast on 2 February, ITAR-TASS reported. Skorochkin, who was abducted on 1 February, had been shot. He was a member of the ultranationalist Libera Democratic Party (LDP) faction in the Duma. Skorochkin made headlines last year when he killed a man who had allegedly shot at him, as well as a woman who got in the line of fire. Charges were dropped on the grounds that he had acted in self-defense. The LDP claimed Skorochkin was murdered in revenge for remarks made the same day by LDP leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. In fact, Zhirinovsky's controversial speech attacking Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev was made on 30 January, not 1 February, when Skorochkin was reportedly abducted. Two Duma deputies were murdered last year: former banker Andrei Aidzerdis and Communist Valentin Martemyanov. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS TO PARLIAMENT SAID TO BE STRONGLY DEMOCRATIC, MAY INCLUDE PERSONNEL CHANGES. Yeltsin's address to parliament next week will send a strong signal that he will continue a policy of political and economic reform, Izvestiya reported on 2 February. Among the president's main themes will be a reform of the army, his intention to hold elections as scheduled, and the continuation of privatization. To reinforce this message, the president has canceled plans his aides had discussed earlier to meet with Zhirinovsky. However, the newspaper speculates Yeltsin will need to take concrete action to convince domestic and foreign audiences of his seriousness. Kremlin sources say Security Council Chairman Oleg Lobov is looking at possible personnel changes. Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Egorov was the first casualty, although he is officially listed as sick. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Federal Counterintelligence Service Head Sergei Stepashin, and "two deputy prime ministers" may be next. The sources were especially critical of Grachev for convincing the president that a quick victory was possible in Grozny and disorienting the army by not preparing it properly. Had the operation been postponed for two or three months, the military would have had a better feel for the situation in Chechnya and a "professionally prepared plan" to impose order, the sources suggested. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN NAMES NEW CANDIDATES FOR CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. President Yeltsin nominated two new candidates for the remaining vacancy in the Constitutional Court, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. The new candidates are Marat Baglai, first deputy director of the Academy of Labor and Social Relations, and Anatolii Vengerov, chairman of the Judicial Chamber on Informational Disputes under the aegis of the president. The Federation Council is scheduled to decide when to vote on the candidates at a 3 February emergency session. The council has already rejected a number of nominees, such as Robert Tsivilev, an aide to Yeltsin's chief of staff, Sergei Filatov. The judges have decided the court cannot resume its work until all 19 members are appointed, although neither the constitution nor the law on the court provides for that. Yeltsin suspended the court's activities in the aftermath of his bloody showdown with the former parliament in October 1993. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. RADIOACTIVE WASTE IN FAR EAST TO BE PROCESSED. A contract will soon be drawn up to purify more than 5,000 cubic meters of liquid radioactive waste stored in Russia's Primorsky Kraj, an official from the region told Interfax on 2 February. Yevgenii Stomatyuk said the Pacific Fleet had accumulated it over the years. In addition, radioactive waste has yet to be removed from 35 decommissioned nuclear submarines. Japan is financing the purification project, and Stomatyuk said bids by eight competing companies would be reviewed later this month, with the winning bidder to begin work immediately. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. AMENDED AIDS BILL EXPECTED SOON. A new version of the controversial bill on AIDS will soon be submitted to the Duma, Bela Denisenko, chairwoman of the Duma's health committee, told Interfax on 2 February. The draft approved by parliament on 11 November 1994, which required all travelers to Russia to take HIV tests, caused an outcry among businessmen, AIDS activists, and tour operators and was widely regarded as being unenforceable. The new draft, which takes into account the proposals of the president, makes HIV tests compulsory only for foreigners who come to Russia for a stay of more than three months. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA READY TO PAY OVERDUE INTEREST TO LONDON CLUB. A high-ranking representative of Russia's Vneshekonombank has announced that the government is ready to pay the London Club of Creditors $100 million, the first part of its $500 million debt for overdue interest from 1992-93, Russian and Western agencies reported on 2 February. The representative said the $100 million is in a Russian commercial bank account which has been blocked since the beginning of December 1994 for "technical reasons," and could not be transferred to the Bank of England. Russia is ready to sign an agreement with the Bank of England on servicing financial dealings with the London Club, but some procedural problems connected with British banking laws have slowed the process, the banker said. Meanwhile, a group of Russian lawyers are working in London to hammer out the text of the repayment agreement. The Bank of England, acting as a mediating bank, should be able to credit the London Club in mid-February, if all goes according to schedule. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA FIRE AT KAZAKH NUCLEAR POWER PLANT. Leaking oil from a coolant pump caused a fire at Kazakhstan's Mangistau nuclear power station in late December, but the blaze was quickly extinguished, Western agencies reported on 2 February, citing an article in the Kazakh press. A spokesman for the Nuclear Safety Department of Kazakhstan's Atomic Energy Agency denied the accident had caused a leak of radioactivity into the atmosphere, Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS TAJIKISTAN ASKS FOR PEACEKEEING EXTENSION. Senior presidential aide Saidmurod Fattoyev said Tajikstan will seek to extend the CIS peacekeeping mandate in its country later this month at a summit meeting of member states in Almaty, Interfax reported on 2 February. He will also attempt to strengthen the mandate to control the flow of drugs and weapons in the country. Akbar Turanjonzoda, a leader of the Tajik Islamic opposition party, noted, "The lesson for us--and probably the Chechens, too--is the IRA. They fought for 30 years and then forced the British government to compromise. We hope it will take us a lot less time," the Financial Times reported on 3 February. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TAJIK PRIME MINISTER IN KIEV. Prime Minister Zhamshet Karimov, met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Vitalii Masol, in Kiev on 2 February, Ukrainian radio reported. The two signed an agreement on bilateral trade and economic cooperation for 1995. Under the terms of the agreement, Tajikistan will provide Ukraine with non-ferrous metals and products from its chemical and oil industries. In turn, Ukraine will supply Tajikistan with ferrous metal products, machinery, electric products, and food stuffs. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. (As of 12:00 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. 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