|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 26, Part I, 6 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 CHECHENS DOWN RUSSIAN FIGHTER PLANE. On 3 February, Russian troops succeeded in breaking through Chechen lines at Goiti, southeast of Grozny, and secured control of one of the last remaining roads out of the city, Reuters reported. Air attacks on Grozny and on Argun, to the east, continued on 3 and 4 February. On 4 February Chechen militants shot down a Russian SU-25 fighter plane, killing the pilot. Heavy artillery bombardment of Grozny resumed in the afternoon of 5 February, after a lull, and Russian forces moved to strengthen control over districts south of Grozny. Russian forces were also reported to be advancing on Grozny from the west. On 4 February, the Chechen opposition Provisional Council issued a statement condemning "barbaric, senseless, and cruel" bombardments of civilian areas, Reuters reported. The next day, the Russian government press service alleged that Dudaev's supporters were preparing for a massacre of Russians in Grozny on 20-23 February to mark the anniversary of the Chechen population's mass deportation in 1944. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. G7 SAYS CHECHNYA THREATENS RUSSIAN ECONOMIC REFORMS. The Group of Seven major industrialized countries believes the Chechen operation's cost threatens Russian economic stabilization, Reuters reported on 4 February. Although deploring the excessive use of force, G7 foreign ministers said they would still invite President Boris Yeltsin to the group's Halifax summit in June. German Finance Minister Theo Waigel said, "The financial impact of the war in Chechnya threatens to burst the Russian budget [and] because of that, the outlook for a stabilization of Russia's economy will be further endangered." Russian officials are expected to attend the next meeting of G7 finance ministers in Washington this April to discuss the economic situation. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA ACCEPTS OSCE CALL FOR IMMEDIATE CEASE-FIRE IN CHECHNYA. The Russian delegation agreed on 3 February to an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Chechnya and condemning the "disproportionate use of force by the Russian Armed Forces." An OSCE official told OMRI the Russian action is "quite remarkable," and stressed it showed Russia is taking the organization seriously. The Russian delegation initially did not accept the document on 2 February, as it waited for instructions from Moscow, AFP reported. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. SON OF DUMA COMMISSIONER ON CHECHNYA WOUNDED. Independent TV station director Sergei Govorukhin was hospitalized after being wounded in Grozny on 3 February. The next day, Nezavisimaya gazeta noted that Govorukhin was shot while filming a documentary on the Chechen war in the Western part of the city, which is under Russian control. Russian TV's "Vesti" claimed the Russian military had deliberately fired at the journalist. Sergei's father, prominent film director Stanislav Govorukhin, is the chairman of a commission set up last month by the State Duma to find out which officials are responsible for the Chechen conflict and why the Russian army performed so poorly. During his visit to Lipetsk earlier last week, Yeltsin called Govorukhin's commission "unconstitutional." -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL FAILS TO RATIFY STATE OF EMERGENCY. The Federation Council could not ratify a state of emergency decree for part of Northern Ossetia and Ingushetia on 3 February because it lacked a quorum, Interfax reported. Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko said a state of emergency decree which is not approved in three days "loses its force and the population of the territory under question is informed of that through the mass media." Yeltsin had issued the decree on 31 January. Following the council vote, Yeltsin reissued the decree 5 February and said it would be resubmitted to the upper chamber, AFP reported. A "well-informed source" in the Defense Ministry told Interfax the same day that the situation in Ingushetia is deteriorating and the region could become a source of tension in the near future. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, quoted by Interfax, dismissed the failure as meaningless given that none of the previous decrees had been enforced. The state of emergency was first issued in 1992, when inter-ethnic fighting forced 35,000 Ingush to flee their homes, and has been consistently renewed, usually for two-month periods. -- Robert Orttung and Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. SEGODNYA: FINANCIAL SCANDAL PUTS GRACHEV IN HOSPITAL. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev checked into a hospital for medical tests shortly after he was shown a document revealing the existence of a questionable ministry account in a German bank, Segodnya reported on 3 February. The document allegedly showed that the military opened an account in a German bank near Berlin in late 1992 with a deposit of $20.6 million. The money was said to have come from the sale of Soviet war reserve supplies in Eastern European countries. The document was allegedly shown to Grachev at the end of a 25 January Security Council meeting. The reporter, quoting unnamed sources on Yeltsin's staff, said Grachev claimed to know nothing about the affair and instead, implicated Col.-Gen. Vasilii Vorobev, head of the General Staff's budget and financing directorate. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. SHUMEIKO SUPPORTS SECOND TERM FOR YELTSIN. Rumors that the Federation Council chairman will run for president in 1996 are untrue, the council's press service chief Yurii Algunov told Interfax 3 February. The rumors, which appeared in the Russian media on 2 February, allegedly quoted a statement Vladimir Shumeiko had made on a trip to Kaliningrad that day. Shumeiko instead has stressed that a second term for Yeltsin would be the best solution for the country and its reforms. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. BURBULIS ADVISES DEMOCRATS TO MAINTAIN TIES WITH YELTSIN. It is too early for Russia's democratic politicians to announce their opposition to Yeltsin because such a step would "incapacitate them in influencing the new generation of Russian politicians," former State Secretary Gennadii Burbulis told Interfax 3 February. Burbulis was attending a conference in Moscow to mark the fifth anniversary of the formation of the Democratic Platform within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Burbulis said that after Chechnya, Yeltsin will seek alliances with "a new wave of pragmatically minded professionals." He noted that Yeltsin is capable of working with those who supported the decision to intervene in the secessionist republic, as well as those who opposed the decision, and advised the democrats "to accept these maneuvers rather than repulse the president." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. SUPREME COURT REJECTS PROTEST AGAINST COUP PLOTTER'S ACQUITTAL. The Russian Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by acting Prosecutor- General Aleksei Ilyushenko to reverse the acquittal of former deputy Valentin Varennikov--a defendant in the case of the failed coup plot against former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Interfax reported on 3 February. Varennikov is the only suspect to have stood trial in the case, and in February 1994, the State Duma declared an amnesty for all those involved in the plot. By rejecting Ilyushenko's protest, the Supreme Court endorsed the verdict of its Military Colegium which had found Varennikov not guilty of high treason. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. JANUARY INFLATION AT RECORD HIGH. The growth of consumer prices in Russia stood at 17.8% against 16.4% in December, the highest index over the past 12 months, the State Statistics Committee reported to Interfax on 3 February. The report said January food prices rose by 21.1%, consumer goods by 12%, and paid services to the population by 22.8%. Consumer goods and services became most expensive during the last week in January in the Volgo-Vyatka area and Kaliningrad Oblast, with an increase of almost 4% over December. The North Caucasus had the lowest price increases, at 2.1%. Overall, meat, milk, and egg prices grew by 27% to 36%, the report indicated. Prices for gasoline rose 26.3% and coal rose 21.6%. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. LAW AGAINST CRIMINAL EARNINGS. The final draft of a bill on criminal earnings will soon be sent to President Yeltsin, one of its authors, MVD official Vladimir Ovchinsky, told Interfax on 4 February. He said "dirty" money is corrupting official bodies and giving criminal organizations a greater hold on the country's economy. The Russian Banks Association estimates that at least 16 billion "dirty" dollars are circulating in Russia and that 40% of the money in the economy was obtained through criminal operations both in and outside the country. The draft law calls for controls on capital investment and requires people to declare the source of income used in real-estate deals, business ventures, and the import and export of currency. Critics argue that the proposed legislation violates banking laws and the basic rights of Russian citizens, since it authorizes law enforcement agencies to obtain information about bank deposits and financial transactions if a person is suspected of money-laundering or helping to launder illegally obtained money. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MINERS' STRIKE TO GO AHEAD. The Russian Trade Union of Coal Workers intends to press ahead with a national one-day strike on 8 February, union chairman Vitalii Budko told Interfax on 4 February. After a meeting on coal-industry problems, chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, Budko said the government had proposed halving the 2.5 trillion rubles the state owes miners. Budko said this was totally unacceptable and he wants full payment and a government injection of 10 trillion rubles into the ailing industry. Miners at Vorkuta, meanwhile, intended to hold a one-day strike on 6 February. They too are demanding payment of wage arears as are miners at Rostov, who downed tools on 1 February. Some mines belonging to the Chelyabinsk coal association have introduced coupons of various ruble denominations that workers can use in enterprise shops and canteens. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ELECTIONS IN KYRGYZSTAN. Some 72.3% of the electorate participated in elections on 5 February to a new bicameral parliament in Kyrgyzstan, Russian and Western agencies reported. A total of over 1,000 candidates from 12 political parties were competing for seats in the 35 member legislative assembly, which will sit full-time, and the 70-member people's assembly, which will convene twice a year. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev told journalists in Bishkek on 5 February that the new parliament will be transitional as the country is only taking its first steps toward democracy. He expressed the hope that the legislature would nonetheless reflect the whole social spectrum, Interfax reported. The IMF delegation in Bishkek was waiting for the election results, before going ahead with loans to the Central Bank. -- Liz Fuller and Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CIS UKRAINE AND BELARUS SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Ukraine and Belarus have signed an agreement on military cooperation for 1995, Vo slavu rodiny reported on 21 January. The accord covers high level exchanges between military staffs, cooperation in exchanging medicine and medical technology, consultation on military transport, and meetings of military delegations on maintaining weaponry and technology at Ukrainian repair plants. The agreement also calls for exchanging information on national security and joint research between the two countries' air forces. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE ACCUSES BLACK SEA FLEET. A temporary parliamentary commission on the political-legal situation in Crimea has accused the Black Sea Fleet of selling its assets without taking the upcoming division of the fleet into account, Interfax reported on 2 February. According to Dmytro Stepanyuk, a member of the commission, 14 sites belonging to the fleet are being considered for sale, and 29 sites in Sevastopol and other cities have been rented out. The money from these deals has allegedly gone into the accounts of several individuals in the Black Sea Fleet command. However, the command has rejected the allegations. -- 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. 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