|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 30, Part I, 10 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. RUSSIA MIXED SIGNALS OVER ELECTIONS IN CHECHNYA. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai said elections to a new Chechen parliament could take place in December 1995, at the same time as elsewhere in the Russian Federation, Interfax reported on 9 February. Shakhrai suggested that elections to local Chechen bodies of power could take place earlier. He also disclosed that a referendum in Chechnya was planned in which he hoped the population would vote in favor of abolishing the presidency. Also on 9 February, Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov told Interfax he has no plans to organize or hold elections in Chechnya despite President Boris Yeltsin's decree asking the commission to assist the Chechen Provisional Committee for National Accord to do so. Meanwhile, the head of the Russian Federation's Territorial Administration in Chechnya, Nikolai Semenov, held a conference on restoring the Chechen economy and local administration. One of the speakers was opposition Provisional Council's armed forces leader Beslan Gantemirov who has been restored to his former post as mayor of Grozny. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. MORE THAN 1,000 MILITARY DEAD IN CHECHNYA. Col.-Gen. Mikhail Kolesnikov, the Russian armed forces chief of staff, told a 9 February Moscow briefing that 1,020 federal troops had been killed in the Chechen war between 11 December and 8 February. Radio Mayak stressed these were only losses suffered by the armed forces and did not include Interior Ministry or Federal Counterintelligence Service troops. Kolesnikov reported that 6,690 Chechen fighters had been "eliminated" and another 671 taken prisoner. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV DENIES CORRUPTION . . . Defense Minister Grachev, who has come under attack for alleged corruption and his mishandling of the Russian operation in Chechnya, rejected press reports that he had a secret foreign bank account and said the real target of the attacks on him was President Yeltsin, agencies reported on 9 February. His critics "want to force President Yeltsin out of office in the nearest future, and I get in their way," he said. Grachev added that the botched Chechen campaign was not the fault of senior commanders but of lower-ranking officers in the field. The defense minister's remarks came on the same day as a report on German television claiming that Russian troops took home more than $4 billion in illegal earnings during their four-year withdrawal from eastern Germany. The program quoted German investigators as saying that the illegal deals, involving cars, electronic goods, fuel, cigarettes, and alcohol, "clearly show the participation or knowledge of generals," Reuters reported. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. . . . BURLAKOV FIRED AGAIN. President Yeltsin issued a decree dismissing Deputy Defense Minister Matvei Burlakov, who has been charged with corruption in connection with his tour as commander in chief of the Western Group of forces in Germany, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 February. Yeltsin had already suspended Burlakov late last year. The latest decree also announced the dismissal of Deputy Defense Minister Georgii Kondratev, who opposed the Chechen operation. Generals Boris Gromov, Kondratev, and Valerii Mironov were omitted from the list of deputy defense ministers released on 16 January. The 9 February decree does not mention Gromov or Mironov, so apparently they continue to serve in tandem with the officers appointed to replace them. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN, RYBKIN MEET ON ELECTORAL LAWS. President Yeltsin and Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin met on 9 February to discuss draft electoral laws for parliament, Interfax reported. Rybkin said the law for the Federation Council, currently under discussion in the Duma, does not conform with the constitution because it does not propose electing the body directly, but rather, forming it from the heads of legislative and executive branches of the constituent members of the federation. In the aftermath of the events of October 1993, Yeltsin decreed that the council be elected for a two-year transitional period, with each of the Russian Federation's 89 members entitled to two representatives. The majority of council members, however, supported a proposal to have the legislative and executive branches of each unit of the federation nominate candidates who would then stand for popular elections. Seventy- three of 106 council members voting, supported the proposal. There are 176 members. Only 33 members backed a proposal by the council's chairman, Vladimir Shumeiko, to automatically make the heads of the local executive and legislative branches members of the Federation Council, as Rybkin and Yeltsin discussed. On the same day, the Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov told journalists the Duma would probably be elected by temporary regulations approved by presidential decree, Interfax reported. Ryabov explained that he doubted the Duma members would be willing to accept Yeltsin's proposal to change the proportion of deputies elected by single-member district and party list. In 1993, 225 deputies were elected by each method. Yeltsin now wants to have 300 members elected in single-member districts and 150 by party lists. Ryabov claimed Duma deputies support permanently adopting the interim law issued for 1993 elections, but if it is adopted, Yeltsin will veto it, and the Duma will have to find a two-thirds majority to override his veto, which is unlikely, Ryabov explained. Such an eventuality could cause legal difficulties because the constitution stipulates that federal laws regulate parliamentary elections. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. NATIONAL-PATRIOTS FORM UNIFIED BLOC. A new bloc called "For a United Russia" will bring together the country's national-patriotic movements to coordinate efforts for the coming elections, Russian National Assembly Chairman Aleksandr Sterligov said at a news conference, Interfax reported on 9 February. The Second Congress of the Russian People decided to form the new organization, to be headed by Federation Council member Pyotr Romanov, at its recent meeting in Volgograd. Sterligov believes that "officers, Cossacks, employees of law enforcement bodies, and agricultural workers" would make up the core of the membership. In spite of the decision to contest the elections, however, he believes that parliamentary government has "discredited itself in Russia" and the people should address the Patriarch of All Russia Alexei II with a request to convene a popular assembly to resolve the country's problems. The assembly would devise new state institutions for Russia and form the new government. Sterligov believes that an active fifth column -- those "working in the interests of Western capital against the Russian people" -- is preventing Russia from overcoming its crisis. He rejected accusations of fascism and reported that the Volgograd conference urged the president to stop Jews in his administration from calling the Russian National Assembly fascist without providing proof. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. LEBED DENIES HE CALLED FOR YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION. The 14th Russian army head, Lt.-Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, denied a Reuter's report that he had called for President Yeltsin's resignation, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 February. He said he never made the interview in the Ekho Kishineva paper cited by Reuters. He also denied rumors that he was a candidate to become the next defense minister. "I am not a graduate of a General Staff academy. I am an army commander and I intend to remain as such," he said. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RYBKIN CONCERNED OVER FARM SECTOR HARDSHIPS. State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin has drawn attention to the plight of farm producers resulting from delayed subsidies, Interfax reported on 9 February. In a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Rybkin said the parliament-approved law on government purchases of farm products and food is ineffective because of the cabinet's failure to decide how to implement it, thus putting farm producers in a financial crunch for this year's sowing. The letter said most farms are short of fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides, while 70-80% of machinery and equipment needs repairing. Rybkin also wrote that the majority of farms are insolvent and spoke of "grim prospects" and "dire consequences" that may follow against the "backdrop of other political events." Rybkin urged Chernomyrdin to help pass a government resolution immediately to enforce the law on financing the agro-industrial sector. Meanwhile, the Federation Council suggested on 9 February that the government decide in 10 days about offering 12 trillion rubles (4,170 rubles/$1) in centralized credits to agriculture and related industries. The council also urged the cabinet to lend 4 million rubles to farms for purchasing farm machinery, vehicles, and pedigree cattle in the first six months of 1995. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MINIMAL PROGRESS IN KARABAKH TALKS. The latest round of talks on the Karabakh conflict, mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, ended in Moscow on 9 February, Interfax reported. Only one provision of the new draft agreement -- formed by merging the previous Russian and OSCE peace plans -- was agreed on. A major sticking point was specifying the number of parties to the conflict. The Azerbaijani delegation is now insisting that the conflicting parties recognize either two sides (Armenia and Azerbaijan) or four (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Nagorno- Karabakh). On 8 February, a spokesman for the Presidential Press service of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic reiterated that talks on a political solution should not begin until after an international peacekeeping force is deployed in the region.-- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. REGISTRATION OF CANDIDATES FOR TAJIK ELECTIONS COMPLETED. Tajikistan's Central Electoral Commission Chairman Kholmurod Sharipov said registration of candidates for parliamentary elections on 26 February is complete, Interfax reported on 9 February. A total of 399 candidates will contest 181 seats in the new unicameral parliament. The four registered political parties -- the Communist Party, the Popular Party, the Party of Popular Unity and Accord, and the Party for Economic and Political Revival -- have nominated 31 candidates. The Islamic opposition is boycotting the elections and has also rejected Moscow as the venue for the fourth round of UN-mediated talks on a settlement to the conflict. Sharipov dismissed as unwarranted OSCE and UN proposals that the elections be postponed in order to facilitate opposition participation. Speaking in Almaty on the eve of the CIS summit, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva expressed concern at the international community's alleged lack of interest in resolving the Tajik conflict and called for CIS peacekeeping troops in Tajikistan to be given UN status. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS SUMMIT OPENS IN ALMATY. Security and economic integration issues are scheduled to top the agenda at the CIS summit which opened on 10 February in Almaty, international agencies reported. President Yeltsin was particularly enthusiastic about a peace and stability pact proposed by Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev. Before departing for Almaty on 9 February, he said, "I believe that the document on collective security of all countries of the CIS will be signed at the commonwealth summit in Almaty." Earlier, at a meeting of CIS Defense Ministers, the proposed pact was watered down into a memorandum. That meeting also saw the failure of a plan for a common air defense system and external border. Nazarbaev will also use the summit to push for his Euro-Asian Union. Nazarbaev's press secretary, Dulat Kuanyshev, said, "This union will not replace the current Commonwealth of Independent States. It will rather resemble a body like the European Commission within the European Union." This could mean that the union would serve as an executive agent for economic matters within the CIS. President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan also supports the plan which has received a lukewarm reception from the Russians. During a meeting in July with the leaders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Akayev said, "It is our goal to build a Euro-Asian Union that would mitigate the problems arising from an amorphous structure like the CIS," AFP reported. -- Michael Mihalka, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396
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