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No. 37, Part I, 21 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 CHECHNYA: RENEWED CLASHES, NEW CEASE-FIRE APPEAL. Western journalists in Grozny reported renewed small arms fire and sporadic shelling in the south of the city on 20 February, following the expiration of the cease- fire. In an appeal carried by ITAR-TASS, the commander of Russian federal troops in Chechnya, Col.-Gen. Anatoly Kulikov, called on the Chechen population to cease hostilities immediately, release all hostages and prisoners, and surrender heavy weapons. He then advocated the formation of new bodies of self-government and talks with federal representatives. Chechen presidential spokesman Movladi Udugov said the Interior Ministry commander of Russian troops in Chechnya, General Kvashnin, had held talks with Chechen military Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov and that the two men had agreed to avoid further fighting, Ekho Moskvy reported on 20 February. They also agreed that further talks on a settlement should be conducted by politicians rather than military representatives. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 20 February, the head of the Chechen government of national revival, Salambek Khadzhiev, asserted that there was no point in conducting peace talks with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. He claimed that he controlled seven of Chechnya's 12 raions, but admitted only new elections could restore "legitimate power" in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. DUMA HOLDS HEARING ON CHECHNYA. The first open session of the Duma commission investigating the Chechen conflict, turned into a parade of former top Soviet and Russian officials, Russian TV reported. None of the officials still in power in Russia has agreed to address the session. The hearing opened with a film showing scenes from the war zone. Valery Tishkov, the former chairman of the Russian state committee on nationalities, said military intervention was not necessary, because Dudaev had been willing to negotiate with the Russian government on the eve of the attack. Former Russian parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov predicted the entire North Caucasus would secede because of Yeltsin's mishandling of the Chechen crisis. On the eve of the first Russian operation against Grozny on 26 November 1994, Khasbulatov said Dudaev had been immensely unpopular in Chechnya, but the intervention has made him a national hero. The possibility of using force against Dudaev had been raised as early as November 1993, according to former acting Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar. Gaidar said he had managed to convince Yeltsin at the time, that such an option could lead to major bloodshed and a guerrilla war in the Caucasian mountains. Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev, claimed the military attacks on civilians in Chechnya had caused tens of thousands of deaths during the first two months of fighting. The head of the pro-Moscow puppet Chechen government, Khadzhiev, was the only speaker at the session who said that achieving a truce with Dudaev was impossible. All the rest demanded a stop to the fighting. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. SPECULATION ON ROOTS OF CHECHEN WAR AT DUMA HEARING. Many speakers at the Duma hearings offered opinions on who was to blame for the Chechen crisis. Vladimir Kryuchkov, last Communist chairman of the KGB and a leader of the August 1991 coup against former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, said the KGB detected signs of a potential explosion in the republic before August 1991, when radicals in President Boris Yeltsin's entourage began promoting Dudaev because of his opposition to the coup plotters. Yusup Soslambekov, former Chechen parliament speaker under Dudaev, said the Chechen president owed his power to Yeltsin's top democratic allies at the time--namely, Gennady Burbulis, Mikhail Poltoranin, and Galina Starovoitova. Soslambekov suggested that Russian forces be replaced by peacekeeping troops, to be made up of Tartar, Backer, Calmed, and North Caucasian soldiers. Former Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi said Yeltsin must be held responsible because he prevented the declaration of a state of emergency in Chechnya in November 1991, before Dudaev began forming his army. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. AIRBORNE COMMANDER BLAMES POOR PLANNING FOR INITIAL DEBACLE IN CHECHNYA. Russian airborne commander Gen. Yevgeny Podkolzin said lack of preparation caused the large initial losses in the Chechen operation, Interfax reported on 20 February. He also cited the failure to prepare public opinion properly, the lack of better trained troops caused by the seasonal rotation of servicemen in November, and the weather factor which caused aircraft to fly higher and drop bombs with less accuracy. He added that the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FCS) could have provided better information for the operation. The FCS later dismissed Podkolzin's charges as "personal opinion" in a statement read on Ostankino Television. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA SHOWED RESTRAINT IN INITIAL ASSAULT ON GROZNY. The Russian military showed restraint in its initial attack on Grozny in order to limit casualties, according to Gen. Gennady Ivanov, who was representing Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev at the Duma hearings, ITAR-TASS reported. He said Grozny was assaulted because the military leaders feared a rear attack after moving into Chechnya. He added, "There was no storming of Grozny, only slow pressure" by Russian forces. A full scale assault on Grozny would have required first mass air and artillery barrages. Only then would troops have entered the city "where there would have been no one left to shoot and no place to shoot from." He said the Chechen forces numbered 30,000 initially, backed by 7,000 fighters from elsewhere. Russians troops at the beginning of the campaign numbered less than 11,000, although they had clear superiority in equipment. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. MILITARY TELLS OF DRAFT PROBLEMS. The Defense Ministry has notified the State Duma that it faces "a catastrophe" in recruiting unless the present rules on deferments and length of service are changed, Interfax reported on 20 February. The military reported that only one-fifth of the men in the draft pool are actually drafted, with the rest taking advantage of one of the 21 reasons for deferment. Unless the rules are changed, the ministry predicted it would induct no more than 100,000 men this year--only 60% of its requirements. To remedy this problem, the ministry proposed that vocational school students, men having young children, and those with elderly parents no longer be allowed to escape the draft. It also proposed that army service for inductees be increased to 24 months from the present 18. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. PLANS FOR GERMAN-RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING EXERCISE CALLED OFF. The Russian Defense Ministry has called off plans for a joint German-Russian peacekeeping exercise originally scheduled for this summer, Interfax reported on 20 February. A Russian military official cited comments on Chechnya by the Bundeswehr command and German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe as the reason. He said Ruehe's statements "can be considered only as interference in Russia's domestic affairs." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SPOKESMAN CRITICIZES CLINTON'S POSSIBLE POSTPONEMENT OF VISIT. President Bill Clinton has no reason to put off a visit to Russia, President Yeltsin's spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov said on 20 February in reaction to reports that the U.S. president would not come until after the Chechen conflict is resolved, AFP reported. The spokesman said there would be no reaction from Yeltsin. The Russian government had invited Clinton to a summit to coincide with the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany on 8 May. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT FORMS TWO EQUAL CHAMBERS. Russia's Constitutional Court passed a resolution on 20 February creating two equal chambers, Interfax reported. Although one chamber has ten members and the other only nine, both chambers are empowered to judge the constitutionality of federal laws and presidential or governmental decisions. Members of the larger chamber are: Judges Marat Baglai, Nikolai Vitruk, Gadis Gadzhiev, Anatoly Kononov, Tamara Morshakova, Yury Rudkin, Nikolai Seleznev, Oleg Tyunov, Boris Ebzeev, and Vladimir Yaroslavtsev. The smaller chamber is composed of: Judges Ernest Ametistov, Nikolai Vedernikov, Yury Danilov, Valery Zorkin, Viktor Luchin, Vladimir Aleinik, Vladimir Strekozov, Vladimir Tumanov, and Olga Khokhryakova. Both chambers will have a rotating chairmanship. Ametistov told Interfax that the court considered "about one third of seventy [pending] appeals" on 20 February. Most of the cases were simply sent back to the archive. Ametistov expects the court to finish reviewing the other applications in the next several days. He told Interfax that no appeal had been filed to consider the constitutionality of the president's decrees authorizing the use of force in Chechnya. On 10 February, the Federation Council had voted to ask the court to look into this matter. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. OSTANKINO TO BAN COMMERCIALS. The state-run TV channel Ostankino announced on 20 February that it would stop broadcasting commercials until there are strict rules to regulate them in the interests of "the economic development of society and ethical standards." The statement did not say how the station would compensate for the resulting huge loss of revenue. Two days earlier, Yeltsin imposed a ban on media advertising of tobacco and alcohol, which advertising executives estimate could cost Russia as much as $1 billion in direct investment over the next five years, agencies reported. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE PLUNGES FURTHER AGAINST DOLLAR ON MICEX TRADING. The Russian ruble lost 25 points on MICEX trading, closing at 4,339 rubles to $1 on 20 February, the Financial Information Agency reported. A total of $53.5 million was sold, with initial demand at $53.52 million and initial supply at $40.32 million. Forty-two commercial banks participated. The Central Bank of Russia was the most active trading participant, selling $13 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL BANK RECALLS LICENSES OF 10 BANKS. Since 16 February, the Central Bank of Russia has recalled the licenses of 10 commercial banks which have violated policies, including issuing risky credit, Interfax reported on 20 February. From January to November 1994, the central bank recalled licenses from 52 commercial banks. There are about 2,500 commercial banks officially registered in Russia. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZ ELECTION RESULTS DELAYED. A press briefing scheduled to announce the preliminary results of the Kyrgyz runoff elections on 20 February was canceled following complaints from dissatisfied candidates and allegations of widespread irregularities, Interfax and Reuters reported. Voter participation was only 61%. A Central Electoral Commission spokesman said another round of voting is scheduled for 26 February in those constituencies where less than half the registered voters participated, Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS YELTSIN IN BELARUS. President Yeltsin arrived in Minsk on 21 February to sign a comprehensive treaty on friendship and cooperation with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, international agencies reported. Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Syanko stressed that the agreement was not merely an arrangement to enable Belarus to receive energy supplies from Russia at reduced prices. Rather, he said that it would ease trade barriers and that any documents which infringed upon Belarusian sovereignty would not be signed. The nationalist opposition Belarusian Popular Front has said it will denounce the treaty if its members win a majority of parliamentary seats in the May elections. Belarusian Communist Party leader Viktar Chikin also criticized the agreement, but for different reasons, Interfax reported. "It [is] unusual for parents and children to sign friendship and cooperation treaties," he said. -- 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. 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