|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 43, Part I, 1 March 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 RUSSIAN MILITARY COMMAND ASSESSES CHECHNYA OPERATION. On 28 February, a four-day conference opened in Moscow at which representatives of the Russian military and civilian leadership are to assess the performance of Russian troops in "restoring constitutional order" in Chechnya, Interfax and Nezavisimaya gazeta reported. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev rejected as largely unfounded both widespread criticism of the abysmal performance of Russian ground troops and what he termed "populist pronouncements by individual senior military officials" concerning inadequate preparation and planning. In the latter case, he was presumably referring to his rival General Aleksandr Lebed, who dismissed the entire conference as a pointless "show." Grachev said he had held talks with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev in Mozdok on 6 December, at which Dudaev had said his position was hopeless, but claimed he was a hostage of his entourage, and therefore could not comply with Russian President Boris Yeltsin's ultimatum to disarm. Grachev further claimed that Dudaev's forces, which allegedly include up to 6,000 mercenaries from Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and the Baltic states, are currently retrenching in the towns of Gudermes and Shali. Col.-Gen. Fedor Ladygin, head of the General Staff Main Intelligence Department, predicted it will not be possible to eliminate Chechen resistance in the near future. However, Chechen opposition Provisional Council chairman Umar Avturkhanov said there will be no large-scale guerrilla war in Chechnya and that resistance to Russian forces would not last for long. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV PROPOSES MILITARY RESTRUCTURING. At the same conference, Grachev said the contract servicemen had not shown their worth in combat, and the military would have to rely on conscription. Training should be adjusted to prepare troops for local disturbances and urban combat rather than for a major war, he said. Grachev told the commanders the Russian armed forces could not drop below 1.7 million men, and a large contingent would be required in the Caucasus region for some time. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV WARNS OF TERRORISM; BOMB EXPLODES AT EMBASSY IN RABAT. Grachev also warned that troops could expect continued acts of terrorism in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February. Meanwhile, terrorism occurred on another front as a suicide bomber blew himself up at the Russian consulate in Rabat, Morocco. He died, but no injuries were reported among embassy staff. He was reportedly wearing a placard with the word "Chechnya" written on it in Arabic. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. INSTITUTE DIRECTOR SAYS $5 BILLION SPENT ON CHECHNYA. About $5 billion, or 2.5% of Russia's GNP, has been spent on military operations in Chechnya, according to Andrei Illarionov, director of the Institute of Economic Analysis. The calculations were based on official statistics provided by Russia's Defense Ministry for the operation in Chechnya beginning last December, Interfax reported on 28 February. The numbers do not include assets required to restore the republic's economy. Illarionov said defense expenditures, which amounted to 4.1% of the GNP over 11 months of 1994, jumped to 6.6% last December. That caused the federal budget deficit for 1994 to rise to 10.4% of the GNP. Meanwhile, Illarionov noted that while January inflation reached 17.8%, February's rate should be around 12%. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SUSPENDS GRYZUNOV'S DISMISSAL. President Yeltsin has asked Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to suspend the dismissal of Sergei Gryzunov, chairman of the State Press Committee, Interfax reported on 28 February. A presidential source said Gryzunov's case would be reevaluated, citing protests from journalists and the public. Although Chernomyrdin told reporters, "You know why" Gryzunov was fired, the reasons remain unclear and have sparked a debate in the Russian press. Rossiiskie vesti wrote on 1 March that "the lack of an intelligible official explanation" indicates serious decisions are now made "in the undercover style of cadre politics." On the same day, Komsomolskaya pravda wondered which "government circles" decided to fire the press chairman, since Gryzunov was "the last to know," while Yeltsin claims to have been "misinformed" on the matter. Many journalists say Gryzunov is being punished for refusing to take part in official disinformation on the Chechen crisis. Gryzunov said Mikhail Poltoranin, chairman of the Duma press and information committee, may have lobbied for his dismissal. Recently, Gryzunov had proposed that the finances of one of "Poltoranin's favorite" newspaper's, Rossiiskaya gazeta, be investigated. Gryzunov told Interfax on 28 February that even though he was fired without cause, the public controversy over his dismissal proves that democratic reform in Russia is irreversible. He praised the Russian public and Yeltsin for rejecting "behind-the-scenes intriguing" in the affair. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. FINANCE MINISTRY TO DEVELOP SECURITIES MARKET. Russia's Finance Ministry plans to further develop a securities market in an attempt to improve the system of state borrowings and balance the internal state debt, Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Kazmin said at a Moscow seminar on 28 February, Interfax reported. According to Kazmin, introducing a securities market with longer terms of repayment, together with a reasonable level of accessibility and attraction to investors, will help lower Russia's high inflation rate. Kazmin said the number of banks which have licenses to distribute treasury bonds has increased from 9 to 17, and another 15 commercial banks are on a reserve list. The decision to issue treasury bonds was adopted on 9 August 1994. The total amount in the first issuance reached 4 trillion rubles with repayment terms of three months, six months, and 12 months. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CIA: RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT MAY NOT RATIFY START II. A CIA analyst told Congress that Russia might not ratify START II, AFP reported on 28 February. Peter Clement, head of the CIA's Russian affairs division, told the U.S. Senate foreign affairs committee that some Russian lawmakers say the country's nuclear forces should not be reduced because the Chechen war showed that conventional forces are ineffective. The upcoming elections "will complicate matters further," he added. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. U.S. GROUP VERIFYING START I ARRIVES IN MOSCOW. The first U.S. commission to verify Russian compliance with the START I treaty arrives in Moscow on 1 March, Interfax reported. The group will verify initial data about numbers and types of strategic nuclear weapons on 56 inspection tours within Russia. The group will also visit Ukraine and Russian military installations in Belarus and Kazakhstan. Another U.S. team will carry out a "demand" inspection on 2 March in which the Defense Ministry will have nine hours to take the team to any area it requests. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS DUMA LEGISLATION ON DEMONSTRATIONS, MEDIA. The Federation Council failed to muster enough votes on 28 February to override a presidential veto of the law on political demonstrations, Interfax reported. Only 28 deputies supported the override, far short of the 118 necessary for a two-thirds majority. The State Duma had overridden the presidential veto on 22 February. Yevgeny Krestyaninov, chairman of the Federation Council regulation commission, said deputies must now start working from scratch on a new law. The Council also failed to pass two laws already approved by the Duma: "On Television and Radio Broadcasting" and "On Changes and Amendments to the Decree on Mass Media." The Council rejected the legislation because some of its terms were unacceptable, but did not specify exactly which provisions. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA ARRESTS EXTREME NATIONALIST. The Federal Counterintelligence Service has arrested Alexei Vedenkin, deputy chairman of the Russian National Unity party, Interfax and Reuters reported on 28 February. In a recent television broadcast, entitled "Fascism in Russia. Who?," he said he wanted to execute Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev and State Duma defense committee chairman Sergei Yushenkov, both of whom had been critical of the use of force in Chechnya. Vedenkin said he had drawn up a hit list of 150 other liberals and proposed erecting a statue to Defense Minister Grachev. The television program showed Vedenkin sharing meals with Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, but that party appeared to dissociate itself from Vedenkin when it released a denunciation of fascism on 27 February. Moskovsky komsomolets reported on 1 March that Vedenkin is no more than an "adventurist" who tries to make himself appear more important than he really is, and, therefore, was an easy target for the security services. Nevertheless, Andrei Loginov, head of the presidential administration's department on relations with political parties, associations, and parliamentary factions, urged the adoption of "urgent police measures" to oppose the fascist threat. He said a presidential decree currently being drafted will take a tough approach to the problem. Yeltsin is also planning to hold an anti-fascist conference, possibly in the second half of April. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV: UN AND CONTACT GROUP HAS FAILED TO MEET COMMITMENTS TO BELGRADE. In meetings with the rump Yugoslavia's defense minister, Pavle Bulatovic, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said, "The UN Security Council and the Contact Group owe Belgrade," Interfax reported on 28 February. Kozyrev added that he favored lifting sanctions against Belgrade, especially since Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic had supported the Contact Group's peace plan. He continued, "I am sure the UN Security Council and the international Contact Group have not fulfilled their . . . commitments." Referring to the military agreement signed between Moscow and Belgrade on 27 February, he said any actual military-technical cooperation between Russia and rump Yugoslavia must await the lifting of international sanctions. Bulatovic's visit to Moscow was featured prominently in Nasa Borba. -- Michael Mihalka and Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. CHUBAIS SAYS MINERS WILL NOT STRIKE. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais said Russia's miners would not go ahead with a strike scheduled for 1 March, Interfax reported on 28 February. The Russian Coal Industry Workers' Union had announced on 23 February that it was postponing an indefinite strike called for 1 March until 15 March. Chubais said agreement had been reached on many issues and that the government had paid the miners a total of 1.6 billion rubles by the end of February, Ostankino TV reported. Chubais admitted, however, that the money disbursed by the government did not cover its entire debt and the situation in a number of areas remains tense. A major problem, he said, was nonpayment by consumers, particularly in Vorkuta and Primorsky Krai. He added that the government intended to send a commission to those regions and was taking steps to arrange payment by debtors. Meanwhile, Interfax reported that miners in Primorsky still intended to strike on 1 March and they reserved the right to call an indefinite strike. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MINIMUM WAGE 12% OF SUBSISTENCE MINIMUM. The minimum monthly wage of 20,500 rubles is a mere 12% of the subsistence minimum, the Labor Ministry told Interfax on 28 February. A Russian requires 170,000 rubles a month to buy food and other essentials and pay utility bills. In January, the average cost of the minimum consumption basket of 19 basic items was 135,000 rubles. On 27 February, Labor Minister Gennady Melikyan said average monthly pay was just over twice the subsistence minimum. Melikyan also noted that the share of the population's income earned at official jobs has been shrinking and that the difference in pay between the lowest and highest income groups is continuing to grow. Officially, the richest 10% earn 15 times the poorest 10%, but the actual difference is much larger. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CIS CONGRESS OF UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS ON CIS. The right-wing Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists has issued a statement calling on Ukraine to withdraw from the CIS immediately, suspend its nuclear disarmament, halt negotiations with Russia over dividing the Black Sea Fleet and signing a friendship and cooperation treaty, and fortify the country's borders, UNIAR reported on 28 February. The statement was prompted by an interview with Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky published in Vseukrainski vedomosti. Zhirinovsky told the newspaper that "The Russian army will march over Ukraine, eliminating everything in its way, and will deploy its garrisons everywhere it meets resistance." -- 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. The Daily Digest is distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. 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