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No. 38, Part I, 22 February 1995
We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. The Digest is distributed 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 RUSSIA RULES OUT FURTHER TALKS WITH DUDAEV LEADERSHIP. Russian troops launched a new offensive against the last pockets of Chechen resistance in the northeast and south of Grozny as well as in Argun and Gudermes, Western agencies reported on 21 February. They succeeded in gaining control of the last road leading into Grozny. Meanwhile, three separate proposals by the Chechen leadership to Russian military headquarters in Mozdok to cease hostilities remained unanswered, ITAR-TASS reported. A Russian military spokesman denied Chechen presidential spokesman Movladi Udugov's statement of 20 February that Chechen and Russian commanders had agreed not to resume hostilities, Interfax reported. In Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said no talks would be held with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev's representatives, ITAR-TASS reported. A Chechen delegation headed to Nazran for a further round of Ingush- mediated talks with the Russian federal military command was intercepted at the Chechen-Ingush border by Russian Interior Ministry troops and refused permission to enter Ingushetia. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. AROUND 8,000 TROOPS WOUNDED IN CHECHNYA. Around 8,000 soldiers and officers have been wounded in Chechnya, according to Col.-Gen. Yevgeny Vysotsky, head of the Defense Ministry's Personnel Department, Interfax reported on 21 February. He said those servicemen would be offered new jobs "corresponding to their physical ability." Vysotsky said most of them might end up in administrative jobs. The individual's requests would be considered and they would be sent to units near their homes. He also indicated that many wounded enlisted personnel would be promoted to warrant officer. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. KOVALEV: 24,000 DEAD IN CHECHNYA. Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev estimates that some 24,000 people in Grozny and the surrounding area died between 25 November 1994 and 25 January 1995, the Czech daily Lidove noviny reported. Kovalev said most of those were unarmed civilians, including 3,700 children under the age of 15. He said a special method was used to arrive at the estimates and the numbers could be off by up to 20%. An estimated 400,000 people have been displaced by the war in Chechnya. Kovalev attacked the UN commission for human rights for adopting an attitude of "indifferent cynicism" towards the war. He said he is preparing for another trip to the republic. -- Victor Gomez, OMRI, Inc. SOSKOVETS APPOINTED TO RESTORE CHECHEN ECONOMY. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets has been appointed head of the state commission for restoring the economy in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 20 February. In line with a Russian government resolution, signed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the commission includes leaders of all federal ministries and departments, including the Federal Counterintelligence Service and the Federal Border Service. Soskovets said the commission will "take decisive measures to restore Chechnya's economy." Among the first steps to restore normal life, he said, is to resume paying wages to the republic's inhabitants. In addition, Soskovets announced that a number of enterprises in Chechnya will be privatized by auction and the money obtained will be used to help the republic's economy recover. Soskovets noted that Chechnya's oil complex will remain state-owned for some time. He also mentioned that the company Lukoil is showing interest in the restoration of oil-producing and refining installations in Chechnya. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. LISTEV INTERVIEWS YAVLINSKY. Grigory Yavlinsky, the most popular politician in Russia according to recent polls, appeared on the 21 February edition of Ostankino TV's "Rush Hour." The interview, conducted by the station's director, Vladislav Listev, appeared to be an ice- breaking event, given that both major Russian TV channels have so far been reluctant to cover Yavlinsky's campaign for the presidency. Yavlinsky, an economist who heads the liberal Yabloko faction in the State Duma, reasserted his doubts on whether the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections would be fair. He also reaffirmed his party's unwillingness to form a coalition with former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, unless he "recognizes the fatal political errors" of the past few years. Speaking in an unusually frank manner by Russian standards, Yavlinsky revealed that his father was Russian and his mother is Jewish. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. AFGHAN WAR VETERANS: LEBED FOR PRESIDENT. The congress of Afghan war veterans almost unanimously nominated Gen. Aleksandr Lebed as its candidate for the next presidential election, Ostankino TV's "Vremya" reported on 21 February. Lebed, the controversial commander of the 14th Russian Army stationed in the self-proclaimed Dniestr republic of Moldova, served in Afghanistan during the Russian invasion of that country in the 1980s. The congress was attended by many important Russian politicians, such as Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov, who also served in Afghanistan, and former Soviet Deputy Defense Minister Valentin Varennikov. Despite the conservative mood that prevailed at the congress, the veterans adopted a resolution condemning the Russian Army's intervention in Chechnya, Ostankino reported. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF RUSSIA TO CONTEST ELECTION ON ITS OWN. The Democratic Party of Russia will draw up its own list to contest the parliamentary elections, according to Yevgeny Malkin, the party's political council chairman, Interfax reported on 21 February. The party will launch its election campaign and adopt a new program at a conference to be held in May, the fifth anniversary of its founding. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. OFFICIALS SAY REACTORS ARE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING PLUTONIUM. Alexei Yablokov, chairman of the Security Council commission for ecological security, said the nuclear plant in Bushehr, Iran, that is to be rebuilt with Russian help, will be capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. His remarks contradict assurances given last week by a Nuclear Power Ministry spokesman that the reactor could not produce weapons-grade material. Another Russian official, Yury Vishnevsky, head of the government's nuclear oversight committee, said Iran could use the reactors to generate electricity and pay a third country to produce plutonium with the spent fuel rods. The U.S. is urging Russia to cancel the Bushehr project to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV: MILITARY BUDGET TOO LOW. The Russian military is not satisfied with the budget submitted to the State Duma for consideration, Defense Minister Grachev said at a Minsk news conference on 21 February. He claimed it amounted to only one-third of the military's needs. Grachev added that the military was not a creation of its military leaders but "a powerful state institution meant for the provision of Russian security. The country will have order only when everyone starts working for that institution and quits saying it consumes the whole budget and Russia is weak," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS NO TO MILITARY DRAFT PROPOSAL. The government does not plan to consider a Defense Ministry proposal to draft students into the military and to extend the term of military service, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said, addressing a meeting of the Women of Russia faction in the State Duma on 21 February. The previous day, the ministry said the armed forces faced "a catastrophe" unless such measures were taken, Interfax reported. The military plans to sharply reduce the number of educational institutions with military faculties which entitle students to receive deferments. Their number would drop from 256 to 80. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. COMMITTEE PROPOSES ANOTHER 20 TRILLION RUBLES FOR TOP-PRIORITY BRANCHES OF ECONOMY. The State Duma budget committee will propose that the Russian parliament allocate another 20 trillion rubles for top-priority branches of the economy on 22 February, Interfax reported on 21 February. According to the Financial Information Agency, the committee expects to obtain the money by cutting about 14 trillion rubles (4,357 rubles/$1) in miscellaneous expenditures and half a trillion rubles in maintenance of the state apparatus. In addition, a special 1.5% tax could generate 5.3 trillion rubles. Committee chairman Mikhail Zadornov told a news conference that the additional funds would be used to finance investment programs (3.356 trillion rubles), offset last year's agricultural debt (1 trillion rubles), repay a debt to the defense ministry for purchases of arms and equipment in 1994 (2 trillion rubles), and subsidize the coal mining industry (1 trillion rubles). It is proposed to use part of the money to finance culture (150 billion rubles), health care (250 billion rubles), and support elite universities (300 billion rubles). -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. IMPACT OF KOMI PIPELINE LEAKS. An environmental group in Komi said that between August 1994 and January 1995 the republic's Usinsk region was contaminated by 400,000 tons of oil-containing liquid, Russian and Western agencies reported on 21 February. Last year, an estimated 60,000-100,000 tons of oil leaked from defective pipelines in the republic, polluting the Pechora River basin which flows into the Arctic Ocean. There were two more accidents in January, but those caused less damage. The World Bank has offered the Komineft corporation a $100 million loan to replace the Vozei-Usinsk pipeline and finance the clean- up operation. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CIS YELTSIN AND LUKASHENKA SIGN ACCORDS. Russian President Yeltsin and his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed three treaties in Minsk on 21 February, international agencies reported. The first was a broad accord on friendship and cooperation valid for ten years and then renewable upon mutual assent. The two men also signed an agreement on customs regulations and an agreement on the joint protection of borders. Despite the fanfare attached to the agreements, preliminary analysis indicates they do not represent any real steps toward integration. Earlier agreements, such as the one on monetary union signed in 1994, have not been implemented. The latest accord has been opposed by the Belarusian nationalist opposition and watered down so that the country receives few of the benefits it hoped for, reducing it to a letter of intent for future cooperation. So far Russia has not lifted customs restrictions on Belarusian imports and has continued to heavily tax oil shipped to Belarus. As for any military coalition, Russian Defense Minister Grachev said it is too early to speak of Russian-Belarusian coalition forces, but that two early-warning systems on Belarusian territory will be under Russian jurisdiction. On the issue of joint defense, the agreement only calls for consultations in the event that one of the two countries is attacked. Previously, Belarusian politicians have resisted any alliance that would require their forces to serve outside the country. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. CIS COUNTRIES RUNNING ANNUAL TRADE DEFICIT WITH RUSSIA. The CIS countries have run up a 15-trillion-ruble debt with Russia as of 1 January 1995, Deputy Minister for CIS Cooperation Vladimir Pokrovsky said on 20 February, Interfax reported. Gennady Galakhov, the head of the Russian Government Department for Relations with the CIS Countries, said Russia exported 31 trillion rubles worth of goods to CIS countries but imported only 28 trillion rubles in 1994. The trade and debt picture are determined largely by the export of oil to Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Pokrovsky also said the process of putting together the executive bodies of the CIS economic committee was moving slowly because several CIS countries have yet to appoint a representative. -- 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. 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