|The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. - Shirley MacLaine|
No. 45, Part I, 3 March 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 YELTSIN SACKS MOSCOW MVD CHIEF AND PROSECUTOR. At a mourning ceremony for murdered Russian Public Television Director Vladislav Listev, President Boris Yeltsin promised a new crackdown on organized crime, declaring the authorities had the means "to make the mafia quaver," agencies reported. "Because we have been afraid of [being accused of] turning Russia into a police state, we have been afraid to step up the fight against bandits," he added. Yeltin singled out Moscow as the crime center of Russia, accusing city officials of turning a blind eye to mafia penetration of the Interior Ministry and the capital's administrative bodies. He announced the dismissal of Moscow Prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev and the capital's police chief, Vladimir Pankratov, and appointed a high-level government commission, headed by Interior Minister Viktor Yerin, to investigate the killing. Law enforcement bodies have been harshly criticized following Listev's assassination. Russian TV chairman Oleg Poptsov said the crime demonstrated their "complete helplessness," adding that "nothing changes, but they want to increase the strength of the militia and the Federal Counterintelligence Service, they want to have the right to bug, to spy, to compile dossiers on citizens." Duma security committee chairman Viktor Ilyukhin said the issue of Yerin's resignation might be raised again in the parliament, but he noted earlier calls for his dismissal (after, for example, the assassination of Duma deputy Andrei Aizdrdis) had been ignored by the president. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DEPUTIES SPEAK OUT AGAINST DISMISSAL OF PONOMAREV. The chairmen of the legal committees of the State Duma and Federation Council, Vladimir Isakov and Issa Kostoev respectively, issued a joint statement defending the dismissed Moscow prosecutor. They described Ponomarev as one of the country's best prosecutors who was known for his unbiased position and argued that he was being made a scapegoat for disorder in the Russian Prosecutor's Office, which has had "no legitimate leader" for more than a year. (The parliament has consistently refused to confirm the appointment of acting Prosecutor-General Aleksei Ilyushenko.) Isakov and Kostoev warned that if Ponomarev were actually removed, they would raise the issue in parliament, saying "prosecutors themselves need protection . . . .;. The arbitrariness of crime must not grow into a criminal arbitrariness of power." Duma security committee head Viktor Ilyukhin said he has evidence that the Moscow prosecutor was to be sacked in the spring and contended that the authorities had used Listev's death as a pretext to dismiss Ponomarev beforehand, Interfax reported. Federation Council deputy Yury Boldyrev said Ponomarev's dismissal was "a typical case of using the death of a well-known person in political games." He noted that Ponomarev had begun a criminal case against Ilyushenko on charges of "fabricating a case against former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. JOURNALISTS REACT WITH SORROW, ANGER TO LISTEV'S MURDER. Coverage of Listev's assassination dominated the Russian press and television on 2 March. All six Russian television channels broadcast Listev's photo from noon to 7 p.m., the first time Russian programming was so drastically altered since the death of Communist leader Konstantin Chernenko in 1985, Reuters reported. Russian newspapers of nearly every political orientation prominently featured tributes to Listev. A headline in Nezavisimaya gazeta was typical: "Now anything is possible in Russia." On the same day, Russia's Union of Journalists released an angry statement, complaining that while political figures try to put more restrictions on the press, "Not a single journalist's murder has been fully investigated," Interfax reported. Eduard Salagaev, chairman of Russia's private TV Channel 6, demanded the immediate resignation of the heads of Russia's "power ministries" (interior, defense, and FSK). Russian TV chairman Poptsov told Interfax that Russia's journalists must unite to save the country from further catastrophe: "We hold the key to society's conscience and we will either wake it up or will die along with it." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. LISTEV KILLED FOR FINANCIAL GAIN . . . Russian observers are divided on whether financial or political motives lie behind Listev's murder. Yeltsin's spokesman, Vyacheslav Kostikov, told reporters on 2 March that Listev's "contract killing" was connected to "disorder in the advertising sector, which is probably controlled by the mafia." Russia's Choice leader Yegor Gaidar suggested on Ekho Moskvy that Listev "crossed the path of someone whose income was based on the illegal sale of advertising time." On 1 March, Ostankino TV chairman Alexander Yakovlev had estimated that Ostankino's new rules on advertising would have cost unnamed "moguls" at least 30 billion rubles ($6.6 million) a month. The State Duma press and information committee chairman Mikhail Poltoranin said the November 1994 reorganization of Ostankino Channel One into Russian Public Television Ostankino was "a hastily planned adventure," Interfax reported on 2 March. He added, "The old mafia around Ostankino will not give up such a juicy morsel as channel one without blood." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. . . . OR FOR POLITICAL REASONS? Other observers suggested that Listev's assassination was politically motivated. After first blaming those who would have suffered financially from the advertising rules, Yakovlev changed his tune on 2 March, telling Yeltsin that "ultimately this was a political murder." Vsevolod Bogdanov, chairman of the Union of Journalists, also linked the killing to a battle for "influence" in Russian society. Sergei Gryzunov, chairman of the Russian State Press Committee, whose dismissal was suspended by President Yeltsin on 28 February, told Interfax that Listev's murder "has nothing to do with criminal activity" but is connected to recent attempts to restrict press freedoms, as well as Russia's upcoming election campaign. Meanwhile, others expressed fears that politicians will use the atmosphere of crisis following Listev's murder to consolidate power. Alexander Lisin, editor of Vechernaya Moskva, believes the assassination will be "profitable to those who want to impose a state of emergency in Russia and extend the powers of the State Duma and President Yeltsin indefinitely." Television director Nikolai Svanidze told viewers of the Commonwealth television network, "There will be elections and people will follow the first bastard to say, 'I will restore order, I will defend you.' And we, like a flock of frightened sheep, will choose a wolf to protect us and he will use us for his own purposes." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV ON CHECHNYA OPERATIONS. On 2 March, Krasnaya zvezda printed a long extract from Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's 28 February report to the armed forces leadership on the operations in Chechnya. In it, he described what he believed to be a well-planned operation that went awry because of unseen circumstances, but also because of a number of serious shortcomings in performance, training, organization, and equipment. As a result, the advance on Grozny, which was planned for a three-day period, took 16 days to complete. Additional reinforcements had to be called in before northern Grozny could be seized, and this stage took 20 days to complete rather than the allotted four. Specific shortcomings included poor cooperation between the military, interior troops, border troops, and Federal Intelligence service personnel, and even between different branches of the army, officers poorly trained in the command and control of lower units, the poor combat effectiveness of rocket artillery and reconnaissance equipment, and poor troop education and motivation. Grachev explained that the reinforcing units had to be formed with inputs from many military districts because no single unit was fully manned and equipped. In the future, he said, every district should have one or two fully deployable divisions and two or three combat brigades. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. ELECTION PLANNING UNDER WAY. All legislation necessary for electing local legislatures will be ready by December, State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin told Interfax on 2 March. Rybkin urged legislators to speed up the process because the electoral laws must be published at least four months before voting can take place. He also said the electoral law for the State Duma must be adopted and signed by the president by 12 August, in preparation for the December elections. It will be submitted for its second reading in March. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta of 1 March, the current Duma version calls for 225 deputies to be elected by party list, which is more than Yeltsin is willing to accept. Additionally, the Federation Council confirmed four of the five members proposed by Russia's regions and republics to the Central Electoral Commission, which will oversee the parliamentary and presidential elections, Russian TV reported on 2 March. The Duma and the president also will propose five candidates each to the 15-member body. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA SEEKS ALLIES. The Democratic Russia Party is ready to work with any democratic groups in the elections, party co-chairman Lev Ponomarev told Interfax on 2 March. The Yabloko group has already rejected ties to the party because Democratic Russia refused to denounce Yeltsin's use of tanks against the Russian White House in October 1993. Ponomarev said he supports the president's efforts to reduce the number of deputies elected on party lists because he believes voters are not mature enough to sort out party programs and instead vote for personalities. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV PRAISES SINO-RUSSIAN RELATIONS. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev is particularly enthusiastic about the state of Sino-Russian relations, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 March. "There is every reason to think that the last five years of this century and the start of the next millennium will be marked by unprecedented stability, benevolence, and neighborly relations between the great states which are Russia and China," he said. Deng Rong, the daughter of Deng Xiao Ping, said the Chinese leadership places considerable significance on Russia's reaffirmation of the 1991 border deal, Interfax reported. Kozyrev discussed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with the Chinese and cited the need for further cooperation. He also defended Russia's nuclear deal with Iran. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN SHOPS FOR INVESTMENT, TRADE. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ended two days of talks in Britain on 2 March, Reuters and AFP reported. He told British officials that economic reform will not be derailed and that he thinks Russia will conclude an IMF deal within the next 10 days. He said Russia is currently receiving $4 billion of foreign capital a year, but it could easily absorb up to three times as much. "The scope of potential operations is limitless," he said, stressing that "attracting foreign capital is certainly of major importance in pursuing our economic reforms." He signed a memorandum on 2 March to set up a framework for attracting foreign investors, Interfax reported. Chernomyrdin said he thinks oil pipelines, power stations, and automobile factories are particularly good areas for foreign investment. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA TO SELL BLOCKS OF SHARES OF PRIVATIZED ENTERPRISES. Russia will sell 15-20% blocks of highly efficient privatized industrial enterprises at money auctions beginning in late spring, according to Alexander Braverman, the head of the Russian State Property Committee's consulting group, the Financial Information Agency reported on 2 March. The federal government expects to receive 9.13 trillion rubles (4,531 rubles/$1) from such sales. More than 70% of the sales are expected to come from oil and gas enterprises. Unsold shares of LUKoil and Yukos, Russia's largest oil companies, will be sold at the auctions. Braverman said the State Property Committee is drafting decisions concerning the early sale of government shares in transport, machine-building, chemical, and timber enterprises. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. NATO MAJOR PROBLEM IN RUSSIA RELATIONS WITH WESTERN EUROPE. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasyevsky said European security cannot be assured without taking Russia into account, Interfax reported on 2 March. He said, "All problems connected with relations between Russia and Western Europe are centered on NATO," and added NATO and Russia must develop a mechanism to consult on major security issues. He said NATO expansion would have been more acceptable had it occurred in the context of an overall revision of European security. He stressed the importance of the OSCE, given that Russia and other countries that are not represented in other European institutions, work on equitable conditions within it. -- 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. 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