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No. 64, Part I, 30 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 YELTSIN TO REMAIN SECLUDED DURING VACATION. President Yeltsin has canceled his plans for a cross-country train journey and decided to remain in his dacha near Kislovodsk, ITAR-TASS reported. The third change in plans since the vacation began three days ago again stirred speculation that Yeltsin's health was deteriorating. Additionally, Yeltsin's security staff may have urged him to abandon the trip for fear it exposed the president to unacceptable risks, as Mikhail Berger, a political commentator for Izvestiya, told the Los Angeles Times. During Yeltsin's 19 February visit to Almaty, the president's most recent trip out of Moscow before his vacation, television footage showed him receiving assistance to climb stairs. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. GAIDAR, COMMUNIST REJECT BANKER'S CALL TO POSTPONE ELECTIONS. Yegor Gaidar, the leader of Russia's Democratic Choice Party, rejected the idea of postponing the federal elections in an interview published in the 26 March-4 April edition of Moskovskie novosti. The most visible advocate of delaying the balloting now is Oleg Boiko, a successful banker who recently resigned from the leadership of Gaidar's party. Gaidar told the newspaper, "I do not think the ruling authorities will take this extremely dangerous path. However, this option cannot be fully ruled out." Vladimir Semago, a State Duma member from the Communist Party, said in the same issue, "it is clear who wants to retain the current 'stability:' those who have established personal contacts with the executive authority." He argued that if the elections bring new groups to power, it will dramatically hurt the financial interests of the banks associated with Boiko. Meanwhile, Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko warned that Russia may run into a political impasse by holding the parliamentary elections in 1995 because an electoral law is unlikely to be passed this year, Segodnya reported on 29 March. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. "REANIMATION OF THE KGB" POSSIBLE IN RUSSIA? Despite official reassurances, Russia's increasingly powerful and centralized security services have made the "reanimation of the KGB" entirely possible, according to a 30 March article in Nezavisimaya gazeta. The article claimed that Yeltsin's 28 March decree, which created the Federal Security Service (FSB) out of the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK), vastly broadened the authority of the special services. The author cited "independent experts" speculating that Alexander Korzhakov, the head of Yeltsin's personal security service, might be behind the reorganization. Nezavisimaya gazeta asserted that Korzhakov's "future plans" might include becoming the head of the powerful FSB in the run-up to the 1996 presidential elections. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN FORCES SURROUND SHALI. Russian troops have encircled the town of Shali, Interfax reported. Only the road leading directly to the south remains open and it is constantly under fire. The town is one of the last bastions of resistance for troops loyal to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. The Russians began their final push to capture Shali on 27 March with day-long air raids, artillery barrages, and tank advances, backed by helicopter gunships, AFP reported. Some Chechen fighters managed to slip out through gaps in the Russian lines. Uvaz Natiyev, a doctor who made his escape before Shali was completely surrounded, said, "They pulled out. They decided it was useless." The press center of the joint command of federal troops told Interfax that Gudermes, the only other stronghold of resistance, was also encircled. AFP cited unconfirmed reports that the town had been stormed. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. SOLDIERS' MOTHERS PROTEST BAN ON PEACE MARCH. The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers picketed the Defense Ministry in Moscow to protest a ban on their peace march to Grozny, Russian TV reported on 29 March. On 26 March, OMON troops blocked the road from Nazran to Grozny and turned back the mothers, who had pledged to bring their sons back from the front. Col.-Gen. Anatoly Kulikov said he could not guarantee the mothers' safety from "provocation" by Chechen fighters. However, representatives of the mothers' committee told Russian TV that armed troops had "held the defenseless mothers hostage" on 26 March and forced them to leave the next morning. Maria Kirbasova, the leader of the nationwide Soldiers' Mothers Committee, told Interfax on 27 March that the peace marchers were "more afraid of provocation from the federal troops than of shelling by illegal armed formations," Interfax reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV PROMOTES ZHIRINOVSKY. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev promoted Vladimir Zhirinovsky to the rank of reserve lieutenant colonel on 27 March, Interfax reported on 29 March. The press office of Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) told the agency that the promotion came on the eve of their leader's fiftieth birthday and was in recognition of his "outstanding contribution to strengthening Russia's defense capability . . . " -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION TO BEGIN BROADCASTING ON SCHEDULE. Russian Public Television will begin broadcasting as scheduled on 1 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian Public Television was created in November 1994 to take over broadcasting on Channel One from the state-run Ostankino company, but the reorganization plan has been controversial and highly unpopular among Ostankino employees. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin mediated talks on 29 March between representatives of both companies, and he promised that the state would continue to order cultural and educational programs produced by Ostankino radio and television, Interfax reported. In addition, officials from Ostankino and Russian Public Television agreed to create a fund to support Ostankino employees whose jobs are to be eliminated in the restructuring, AFP reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV PROMOTING NPT ON MIDEAST TRIP. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev is using his current Mideast trip to promote the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Interfax reported on 29 March. At a 28 March press conference in Cairo, Kozyrev said one of the major purposes of his trip was "to estimate the contribution which the Russian party can make in the nuclear non-proliferation regime both on the global and the regional level." He applauded Egypt's stance on the NPT as "well- balanced and just" and criticized Israel for failing to adhere to the treaty. Although Russia favors an indefinite extension of the NPT, Egypt is refusing to support renewal until Israel agrees to reciprocate. Alluding to Russian nuclear aid to Iran, he said, "All member-countries of the NPT should have access to the peaceful utilization of atomic energy. This is the essence of the treaty." Egypt does not favor an indefinite extension of the NPT as promoted by Russia. Arriving in Damascus March 29, Kozyrev expressed satisfaction with the talks, saying he and his Egyptian counterparts were on the "same wavelength." ITAR- TASS reported that Kozyrev is scheduled to meet with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shar' on 30 March. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. INVESTMENT NEEDED FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY. Russian economic recovery is impossible without improving the investment climate, Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin said at a conference on investment incentives in Moscow on 29 March, Interfax reported. Yasin spoke of a rapid decrease of capital investment in the Russian economy in recent years and noted that investment fell by 26% in 1994 from the previous year. Almost 50% of investments were channeled to housing construction. The minister said the government must now shift to a "new investment regime" which includes financial stabilization, government support for private investment, and lower investment risks caused by crime, corruption, and bureaucracy. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TEENAGE CRIME ESCALATES IN MOSCOW. Teenagers committed 60 murders in Moscow in 1994, compared to only three in 1991, Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 March. "The modern juvenile criminal is much younger than his predecessors; he is not studying or working and often commits a crime without reason and with extreme cruelty," commented Tatyana Maximova, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman. Maximova cited a gang of children led by a 10-year-old, which robbed shops, kiosks, and state institutions and surprised the police with their effectiveness. Under Russian law, criminals under the age of 14 cannot be held responsible for their crimes, but their parents can be fined. Although a 1993 presidential decree called for the establishment of reform schools for juvenile criminals, no such schools have been established in Moscow, according to Maximova. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. MINERS STAGE HUNGER STRIKE. About 30 miners in the city of Partizansk in far eastern Russia began a hunger strike on 29 March against the Avangarde mine in an effort to obtain three months of back pay, AFP and Interfax reported. Vladimir Guetoun, the Avangarde mine director, said negotiations were underway to remedy the situation. Miners at Vorkuta in the far north of Russia staged a strike in mid-March for the same reason. Miners' unions in many regions of Russia have threatened for two months to strike for back pay, but have delayed the protest several times. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI MEDIA PROTEST CENSORSHIP. Fourteen Azerbaijani newspapers have indefinitely suspended publication to protest alleged government censorship, international media reported on 29 March. Following the suppression of a rebellion by a special police force earlier this month, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev has clamped down on opposition parties and newspapers. Government officials have been censoring all articles that refer to the failed mutiny. Newspapers in Azerbaijan currently have to pass three official censors: military, political, and state of emergency. They also must have presidential approval to publish. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. .. . . AND AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADERS ARRESTED. Following the banning of the third congress of the Azerbaijan Popular Front in Baku on 25 March, four of its leaders have been arrested, AFP reported on 29 March. Three vice presidents--Asim Mollazade, Ibragim Ibragimli, and Mirmakhmud Fattayev--and the head of the front's women's section, Nouvella Dzhafarova, were detained at front headquarters in Baku and taken to a police station, according to party sources. Some 400 arrests have been made in the wake of a failed special police revolt earlier this month. The four front leaders are charged with "having organized mass demonstrations in violation of regulations under the state of emergency" which has been in force since autumn in Baku and Gandzha. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. UZBEKISTAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL ON NEED FOR SHAKE UP. Prosecutor General Buritosh Mustafayev struck out at the professionalism of Uzbekistan's managerial corps in an interview with the pro-government newspaper, Narodnoye Slovo, saying they do not meet the "scope and standards" of economic reforms, Interfax reported on 29 March. He noted that 19,000 officials faced varying degrees of punishment last year and suggested the figures would be much lower if managers were more competent both "legally and professionally." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS CIS JOINT EXERCISES BEGIN IN TAJIKISTAN. A CIS peacekeeping exercise was scheduled to begin on 29 March in Tajikistan, Interfax reported on 28 March. Russian Ground Forces Commander Vladimir Semenov said in Dushanbe that the exercise has an important political component, arguing that it will provide "a display of force for those who may cherish plans to destabilize the situation in the region." Russian and Uzbek units, totaling 1,500 troops, are to be involved. Tajik government forces cannot participate because of a 26 April cease-fire agreement with the opposition. It is the third such exercise to be held since 1993. Meanwhile, Russian and Armenian forces are holding their first joint exercises, from 28 March to 1 April at a Russian training center in the Caucasus, as part of the CIS collective security agreement. -- 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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