|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 35, Part I, 17 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 MINOR CEASE-FIRE VIOLATIONS IN CHECHNYA. Grozny was mostly quiet on 16 February although artillery fire was observed south and west of the city, Russian and Western agencies reported. A Russian military spokesman in Mozdok said Chechen forces were taking advantage of the cease-fire to regroup. Shamil Basaev, leader of a Chechen battalion that distinguished itself fighting on the Abkhaz side during the hostilities there in 1992-1993, rejected a Russian proposal to declare Grozny a demilitarized zone. Meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin has signed a decree to create a State Commission on Restoring the Chechen Economy, to be headed by a deputy premier appointed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Interfax reported on 16 February. Yeltsin has also appointed First Deputy Premier Oleg Soskovets temporary presidential envoy in Chechnya. In an interview to be broadcast on Ostankino Television on 17 February and previewed by Interfax, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev argues that Chechnya is the only legitimate state in the former USSR. He also denies the existence of a Chechen mafia. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. KULIKOV: FUTURE OPERATIONS IN CHECHNYA TO BE "SELECTIVE." Col.-Gen. Anatolii Kulikov, the commander of Russian troops in Chechnya, said operations in the republic would be "selective" from now on, ITAR-TASS reported. "The Chechen developments have passed to another phase . . . priority will be given to the solution of economic tasks." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SEES MORE CHECHNYA-TYPE SITUATIONS IN FUTURE. In a separate document passed out to the Russian parliament before his 16 February address to that body, President Yeltsin said he foresees more Chechnya-type situations in the future, Reuters reported on 16 February. He said Moscow would encounter "special danger from armed conflicts breaking out in Russia and on its borders, on the territory of the former Soviet Union, because of aggressive nationalism and religious extremism." In the document, Yeltsin said a program for military reform to reflect the lessons learned in Chechnya would be forthcoming in a few months. In his view, Russia must defend itself against "social, political, economic, territorial, regional, national-ethnic, and other contradictions . . . ambitions of other states and political forces to solve conflicts by use of armed struggle." The document also said the country's security interests may require the presence of Russian troops in other CIS states to prevent destabilizing developments. "We will, and want to, act jointly [with other CIS states]. But Russia remains, for the moment, the only force capable of keeping feuding sides apart on the territory of the former USSR, and bringing them to the negotiating table." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV CALLS YELTSIN'S CRITICISM OF THE MILITARY IN CHECHNYA "FAIR." Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev characterized as "fair" Yeltsin's criticism of the military in Chechnya during his 16 February address to parliament, Interfax reported. "However, even under the difficult financial conditions, the army fulfills its goals ensuring the country's security. When there are new laws and budget funds, the army will be much stronger and mobile," Grachev added. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. INGUSH-NORTH OSSETIAN STATE OF EMERGENCY LIFTED. President Yeltsin signed a decree lifting the state of emergency imposed on parts of North Ossetia and Ingushetia following inter-ethnic clashes in 1992, AFP reported on 16 February. The decree also provides for the creation of an ad hoc committee to oversee the repatriation of some 35,000 Ingush made homeless during the fighting. The committee supersedes the Temporary Administration headed by Vladimir Lozovoi, which has been repeatedly criticized as ineffective by Ingush President Ruslan Aushev. A 4 February Yeltsin decree to extend the state of emergency was twice rejected by the Federation Council. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS EVALUATE YELTSIN'S ADDRESS. Sergei Baburin, a former arch-enemy of President Yeltsin and leader of the ultranationalist Russian Path group in the Duma, appears to have been the only independent politician who approved of the president's address to parliament. In his reaction to the speech, Baburin depicted Yeltsin as a truer president in 1995 than he was at the time of his election in 1991, Russian TV and news agencies reported. Grigorii Yavlinsky, head of the liberal Yabloko group in the Duma, was not available for comment. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Mikhail Lapshin of the Agrarian Party condemned the address as being hollow and lacking in new ideas. Vladimir Zhirinovsky predicted it would be forgotten before the end of the day it was delivered. Sergei Glazev, of the centrist Democratic Party of Russia, said he did not believe Yeltsin would back his statement with actions. And former allies, Yegor Gaidar and Ella Pamfilova of Russia's Choice expressed regret that Yeltsin did not condemn the military's actions in Chechnya. But those occupying executive positions, such as Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, praised Yeltsin's address. Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin also responded positively. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. MOMENTUM BUILDING FOR NATO SECURITY TREATY WITH RUSSIA. Despite events in Chechnya, momentum is building in NATO circles for a bilateral security treaty with Russia to form a "strategic partnership," international agencies reported on 16 February. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe told the Bundestag defense committee on 15 February that a formal exchange of letters could take place within the next six months. Although he said the intent was not to grant Russia special status within NATO, he added the alliance's relationship with Russia has to be given special consideration when talking of expansion eastward. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe recently broached the idea of a special NATO-Russia treaty as part of a "quid pro quo" for NATO and Western European Union expansion eastward. President Yeltsin warned of the consequences of such an expansion in his major address to the Russian parliament on 16 February. In it, he repeated a theme he has raised over and over again. "This continent . . . has already generated two global military catastrophes, and we do not want Europe and the world to return to old or new division lines." Picking up on that theme, NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes said in an interview with Le Monde that NATO should avoid isolating Russia over the Chechen war. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. NON-STATE SECTOR ACCOUNTS FOR 62% of RUSSIAN GDP. Russia's private sector accounted for 62% of GDP last year, according to Yeltsin's address to parliament on 16 February, AFP reported. The president said the banking, capital markets, commercial, and insurance sectors have helped to open and develop the Russian economy. He stressed, however, that there must be guarantees for private ownership of property rights, share holders rights, and rights of creditors to use assets as collateral. "The state is obliged to protect the population against dishonest entrepreneurs," he said. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. NOVELIST ZHIRINOVSKY ADVOCATES CLOSURE OF BORDERS. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky attacked the Yeltsin administration at a 16 February news conference, saying it had destroyed the country, Russian TV reported. He suggested sealing Russia's borders for five to 10 years to prevent the Baltic States and countries in the south from capitalizing on the country's natural wealth. Zhirinovsky also proposed the expulsion of all ethnic Chinese and Japanese from the Russian Far East. Claiming the army is the only reasonable center of power in the country, he added that holding parliamentary or presidential elections in Russia would be superfluous. Later that day, Zhirinovsky celebrated the release of his novel, titled Last Train North. The book includes a preface in which the author suggests that many Russian politicians, including former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, his liberal adviser Aleksandr Yakovlev, as well as Yeltsin and his entire team, be sent to the sites of the former Stalinist camps. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN APPOINTS SEROV AS MINISTER FOR CIS COOPERATION. President Yeltsin has appointed Valery Serov, a former senior Soviet official, as minister for cooperation with the CIS, Interfax reported on 16 February. Serov served as deputy premier in charge of construction in Nikolai Ryzhkov's Soviet government of the late 1980s. Most recently, he headed the International Union of Builders. His new job was created late last year when Russia's committee for cooperation with CIS countries was converted into a ministry. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DECLINE IN INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION LEVELS OFF. The steady decline in Russia's industrial production leveled off last month amid increasing indications that the slump is bottoming out, Goskomstat announced on 15 February, according to Russian and Western sources. January output was down only 0.7% from one year ago, the smallest decline since the onset of reforms in 1992. GDP was down only 4% from 1994 figures, the report indicated. For the whole of 1994, industrial production fell 21% from 1993, while GNP was down 15%, the sharpest decline since reforms began. The monthly figures on industrial production indicated stabilization, or even slight increases in recent months. However, state figures on industrial output are not totally accurate since they do not account for much of the private sector activity. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GORBACHEV LOOKS TO U.S. FOR HELP. In a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow, Mikhail Gorbachev urged the U.S. political and business communities to extend to Russia the same help they gave to Mexico in helping remedy that country's financial crisis, Russian and Western agencies reported on 16 February. The former Soviet president said even though the Clinton administration has been taking "a responsible attitude to cooperate with Russia," U.S. aid and declarations of support are "not enough" to boost the ailing nation. A critic of President Yeltsin, Gorbachev called for early elections to help Russia emerge from its crisis. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for December and presidential elections are slated for the summer of 1996. Gorbachev said that without political change, Russia will not be able to create favorable conditions for economic growth and Western investments. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DUMA ADOPTS LEGISLATION ON SECURITY SERVICES. The Duma passed a bill "On Federal Security Service Bodies" on its second reading, on 15 February. The draft changes the name of the Federal Counterintelligence Service to the Federal Security Service--the fourth such change since the KGB was split after the collapse of the USSR. It gives the security service sweeping powers, allowing it to carry out operations in almost total secrecy, Western agencies reported. All information about service employees will be classified as state secrets, and methods used in countering crime and espionage, including the use of video and audio surveillance systems, will be kept secret from the General Prosecutor's Office which is in charge of all law enforcement bodies. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN INVESTIGATOR SAYS STEALING URANIUM EASIER THAN TAKING A SACK OF POTATOES. In a report on the trial of a Navy lieutenant colonel convicted of stealing nuclear fuel rods, a British TV program quoted Russian investigators as saying the theft "was easier than taking a sack of potatoes," Reuters reported on 15 February. Lt.-Col. Aleksei Tikhomirov said he just walked into the storage area at the headquarters of the Russian fleet in Severomorsk and forced a padlock on the door. He took several canisters of fuel rods containing 20% uranium-235. Western governments, concerned that weapons-grade material could end up in the hands of terrorists, have frequently criticized the poor security at Russian nuclear installations. -- Penny Morvant, 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. 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