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No. 119, Part I, 20 June 1995
We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. 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. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through our WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html RUSSIA BUDENNOVSK HOSTAGES RELEASED, GUNMEN DEPART FOR CHECHNYA. On the afternoon of 19 June, after two days of intense negotiations, Chechen fighters led by Shamil Basaev left the Budennovsk hospital and departed for Chechnya in a convoy of buses, Western and Russian agencies reported. Over 764 hostages were simultaneously freed by the Chechen gunmen. Under the agreement reached between Basaev and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the gunmen are guaranteed safe passage back to Chechnya. As "insurance," about 150 volunteers including eight parliamentary deputies, are accompanying Basaev and his 73 fighters. Basaev has promised that the volunteers will be released upon arrival in Chechnya. While en route, the convoy was denied entry to North Ossetia, and re-routed through Dagestan, delaying its arrival, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 June. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN-CHECHEN NEGOTIATIONS OPEN. As Basaev' s convoy headed for Chechnya, Russian-Chechen talks began in Grozny, international and Russian agencies reported on 19 June. OSCE official Szandar Mezaros, acting as a mediator in the talks, told Russian television the talks had touched on various "military issues" related to a ceasefire. Mezaros added that he was "very pleased" with the course of the talks, an opinion echoed by Usman Imaev, former Procurator-General in the Dudaev government and head of the Chechen delegation. Commenting on the talks in Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told Russian TV that it was very important to keep the negotiation process going in order to "end hostilities," and allow a "return to normalcy" in Chechnya. However, Chernomyrdin did not promise to withdraw federal troops from the breakaway republic, and emphasized that any settlement must fit "within the framework of the constitution." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. DUMA CONSIDERS NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. The outcome of the Duma' s 21 June vote of no confidence in the government depends on the actions of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Radio Rossii reported 19 June. "The chances of passing a vote of no confidence in the government are highest since the election of this parliament," because the authorities cannot ensure citizens' security, Boris Fedorov, leader of Forward, Russia! said. Fedorov believes that such a vote would weaken Chernomyrdin' s Our Home is Russia bloc. However, Viktor Ilyukhin, chairman of the Security Committee, said many factions of the Duma might not demand the removal of the entire government, but just some of the key ministers. The Duma' s first no-confidence vote does not obligate the president to act. But if it repeats the vote within three months, the president must either sack his government or dissolve the parliament. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN' S ROLE IN HOSTAGE CRISIS PRAISED . . . By assuming responsibility for the fate of Russian hostages in Budennovsk and apparently securing their release, Chernomyrdin has supplanted Yeltsin as the central figure during the crisis, Russian and Western media reported on 19 June. Chernomyrdin kept his composure during a series of telephone conversations with Chechen leader Shamil Basaev, some of them broadcast on national television. A commentator for Ekho Moskvy praised Chernomyrdin' s "decisive, public and moral" actions, arguing that the prime minister' s skill contrasted with Yeltsin' s poor handling of the crisis. Meanwhile, Yeltsin' s chief of staff Sergei Filatov emphasized that the president authorized Chernomyrdin' s negotiations. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. . . . AND CRITICIZED. Minister of Internal Affairs Viktor Yerin is to blame for allowing Basaev and his troops to get out of Chechnya and into Budennovsk, according to Izvestiya on 20 June. The newspaper also accuses the government of storming and shelling the hospital despite the fact that hundreds of innocent people were inside. The storming of the hospital echoed the government' s methods in Chechnya where it "shoots first and asks questions later" and pays the price in human lives, according to the newspaper. It also criticized the "crude demagoguery" of Chernomyrdin' s conversations with Basaev, which were broadcast on Russian television. It concluded that "the Russian state demonstrates impotence when it thoughtlessly uses force to destroy its own citizens." Meanwhile, Boris Fedorov, the leader of Forward, Russia!, accused the prime minister of using the crisis to improve the electoral prospects of his bloc Our Home Is Russia. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CHARGES TO BE FILED IN JOURNALIST' S DEATH IN BUDENNOVSK. Military prosecutors in Pyatigorsk will charge one soldier with violating regulations on handling firearms in the 17 June shooting death of Russian journalist Natalya Alyakina in Budennovsk, Russian and Western agencies reported on 19 June. Alyakina, a correspondent for the German magazine Focus, was shot in her car shortly after Interior Ministry soldiers checked and approved her documents. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. SECURITY IN MOSCOW TIGHTENED. Security at the Russian government building in Moscow has been tightened due to the terrorist act in Budennovsk, Interfax reported on 19 June. The reinforced militia cordons surrounding the government building have been strengthened with a fully armed combat vehicle located behind the fence of the cabinet' s residence. Meanwhile, all traffic police posts on the highway encircling Moscow have been reinforced by special purpose police armed with automatic rifles. Interfax reported that practically all trucks with non-Moscow license plates are being checked, especially those from the North Caucasus. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN APPRAISAL OF G-7 MEETING. Russia "fully participated" in economic discussions that concerned it at the G-7 summit in Halifax, a high-ranking Russian diplomat told Interfax on 19 June. Pavel Smirnov, director of the Economic Cooperation Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, added that the Halifax meeting made progress on several issues important to Russia. In their final communique, the G-7 leaders supported the idea of restructuring Russian debt, which Smirnov said will facilitate negotiations on a detailed accord this fall. On 20 June, Izvestiya criticized President Yeltsin for choosing to go to Halifax during the Budennovsk crisis, and derided claims by the presidential administration that the "Seven" had been transformed into "Seven and a Half" as humiliating. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. FOREST FIRES BLAZE IN RUSSIAN FAR EAST. Fires have been blazing over more than 15,000 hectares of Siberian taiga in 63 separate parts of the Khabarovsk oblast on 19 June, Itar-Tass reported. More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the fires. The cause of the fires is unknown. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE CONTINUES RISE AGAINST DOLLAR. The Russian ruble surged another 75 points against the U.S. dollar, despite the hostage crisis in Budennovsk, closing at 4,590 rubles to $1 on 19 June MICEX trading, Russian and Western agencies reported. Dealers said they expected the ruble to keep rising as banks dump dollars to cash in profits and invest in high-yielding domestic securities. Meanwhile, in a 18 June interview with Segodnya, Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov said the ruble, which began rising in May, cannot continue its present course as long as inflation remains high. Inflation was at 7.9% a month in May and is not expected to fall significantly in June. Davydov warned that rising production costs will price Russian exports out of international markets. He also said the government and Central Bank should be more active in stopping the dollar' s fall. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. INTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTRY GAS STATION BLOWN UP. A gas station belonging to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs was blown up in Moscow on 19 June, Radio Moscow reported. Sources do not rule out the possibility of a terrorist act. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. UNEMPLOYMENT EXCEEDS 2 MILLION IN MAY. There were more than 2 million registered unemployed in Russia last month according to the Labor Ministry. This is a 70% increase compared to May 1994 and equals 2.4% of the labor force, Russian Radio reported on 19 June. Meanwhile, the June issue of Delovoi Express reported that the areas with the highest unemployment rates are in the Ivanovo, Yaroslavl, Pskov, Kostroma, and Vladimir oblasts, where the figures ranges from 6% to 9.5% of the labor force. Moscow still has the lowest at 0.5%. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA OPPOSITION DEMANDS POSTPONEMENT OF ARMENIAN ELECTIONS. Some 15,000 people attended a 16 June demonstration in Erevan organized by 10 Armenian opposition parties to demand the immediate registration of political parties and candidates who have been refused permission to run in the parliamentary elections on 5 July, Noyan Tapan reported on 19 June. The demonstrators also demanded that the elections be postponed in order to enable those candidates to organize pre-election campaigns. Another demonstration was scheduled for 20 June to call for the resignation of Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan if the demands are not met. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. SHODMON YUSUF COMEBACK IN TAJIKISTAN? The chairman of the coordinating center of the opposition Democratic Party of Tajikistan in CIS states, Azam Afzali, told Interfax on 19 June the party may soon be registered in Tajikistan and expects to hold a founding conference in Dushanbe in the near future. According to Afzali, Shodmon Yusuf is expected to attend, having been personally invited back to Tajikistan by President Imomali Rakhmonov. However, Yusuf was reportedly relieved of his duties as party chairman at a June members' meeting in Almaty after he welcomed Rakhmonov' s election as president in November 1994. It is unclear whether this development means the party has split into two separate factions operating under the same name. -- Lowell Bezanis and Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. ALIEV FIRES ADVISER FOR DUPLICITY. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev has sacked state councilor Gabil Guseinli for alleged duplicity and grave errors, Interfax reported on 19 June. Hitherto one of Aliev' s staunchest supporters, Guseinli, whose Democratic Independence Party had intended to form a coalition for the November elections with Aliev' s Yeni Azerbaycan party, reportedly rejected Aliev' s rationale for dismissing him and accused the president of establishing "a regime of political hypocrisy." -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. SHEVARDNADZE IN ISRAEL. On 19 June, the second day of his three-day state visit to Israel, Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze held talks with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and signed a series of cooperation agreements on telecommunication, postal services, agriculture, and cultural affairs, AFP reported. Shevardnadze also announced that Georgia will open an embassy in Tel Aviv by the end of 1995. Relations between the two countries cooled in 1993 after Israel rejected Shevardnadze' s request to purchase arms for use in the Abkhaz conflict. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN-TURKMEN ACCORDS RATIFIED. The Turkmen parliament ratified 12 bilateral treaties signed in mid-May by Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, Interfax reported on 16 June. The Russian State Duma has frequently lagged behind the Turkmen parliament in ratifying such agreements. Meanwhile, parliament passed a law which bans the employment of close relatives as direct subordinates, Interfax reported the same day. Niyazov is reported to have repeatedly criticized officials for practicing nepotism. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS LUKASHENKA IN ST. PETERSBURG. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka arrived in St. Petersburg on 19 June at the invitation of Mayor Anatoly Sobchak to sign agreements on trade and economic cooperation, Radio Rossii and Belarusian radio reported. The agreements are of considerable importance for Belarus as the country has received some 45 vital industrial components from the Russian city but since 1992, the supply has almost dried up. -- 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 OMRI 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. To receive the OMRI Daily Digest by mail or fax, please direct inquiries to OMRI Publications, Na Strzi 63, 140 62 Prague 4, Czech Republic; or electronically to OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Tel.: (42-2) 6114 2114; fax: (42-2) 426 396 OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (c) 1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.
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