|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 128, Part I, 3 July 1995
NOTICE TO READERS: The OMRI Daily Digest will not appear Tuesday, 4 July 1995, an American holdiay. 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 YELTSIN DISMISSES FOUR OVER BUDENNOVSK . . . In a clear concession to parliament, President Boris Yeltsin dismissed Federal Security Service Director Sergei Stepashin, Internal Affairs Minister Viktor Yerin, Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Yegorov, and Stavropol Krai Governor Yevgenii Kuznetsov, Western and Russian agencies reported. The three federal officials were hawks in Yeltsin's cabinet who strongly favored the use of force in Chechnya. Their removal and the ascendancy of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin may increase the chance for a negotiated settlement of the war. Stepashin was blamed for mishandling the initial stages of the campaign against Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudaev and for his agency's inability to infiltrate rebel ranks. Liberal critics feared him because his agency had regained many of the former KGB's powers. Yerin's troops carried out the unsuccessful storming of the Budennovsk hospital and they are responsible for policing captured areas of Chechnya where they have been accused of looting and atrocities against the civil population. Also, Yerin is often blamed for the government's inability to combat the rising crime rate. Yegorov was charged with mishandling nationalities issues and bungling Moscow's relationship with Chechnya long before the fighting began. Their replacements have not been announced. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. . . . GRACHEV SURVIVES PURGE. Although he supported the widely- criticized 17 June decision to storm the Budennovsk hospital, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev was the only "power minister" to survive the cabinet shake-up, Russian and Western agencies reported on 30 June. Duma deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov predicted that Yeltsin is saving Grachev for a "big sacrifice" later, possibly during the run-up to presidential elections scheduled for June 1996, Reuters reported. Other observers speculated that Grachev's personal loyalty to the president made him too valuable to dismiss. Troops commanded by Grachev supported Yeltsin during the August 1991 coup and the October 1993 conflict with hard- liners in parliament. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. COSSACKS PROTEST REMOVAL OF STAVROPOL GOVERNOR. Cossack groups demonstrated in Budennovsk on 1 July and in Stavropol the next day in protest of Yeltsin's decision to sack Stavropol Governor Yevgenii Kuznetsov, NTV and Ekho Moskvy reported on 2 July. The Cossacks demanded that Yeltsin revoke Kuznetsov's dismissal or agree to hold gubernatorial elections in the region. Meanwhile, Yevgenii Nagai, Ataman of the Kuban Cossacks, told Moscow Television on 29 June that Russia should establish a "national guard" comprised of Cossacks to protect Russians wherever their security is threatened. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA BACKS DOWN IN NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. Only 193 members of the State Duma supported a vote of no confidence in Chernomyrdin's government, short of the 226 necessary for the motion to succeed; 116 voted against the measure and 48 abstained, Western and Russian agencies reported on 1 July. Some deputies from Yabloko and the Agrarian Party switched their vote from the successful 21 June no-confidence vote to make the government's victory possible, NTV reported. Yeltsin's unexpectedly quick decision to sack several key cabinet members played a major role in the vote. After the no-confidence measure failed, Chernomyrdin withdrew his demand that the Duma give his government a positive vote of confidence. Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin moved quickly to appease the Duma because they did not want to disband it and hold early elections. If the elections were called before December, Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia bloc could not have competed since the new electoral law states that all parties competing in the elections must be registered six months before election day. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN-GORE TALKS CONCLUDE. During two days of talks which ended on 1 July, U.S. Vice President Albert Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin reached agreement on a number of issues, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chernomyrdin reiterated an earlier promise by President Yeltsin not to conclude any additional weapons contracts with Iran and addressed American concerns by handing over details of current contracts. Gore said the U.S. would now support Russian membership in a new international organization to control the spread of conventional weapons. However, they made no progress on the controversial issue of selling Russian nuclear reactors to Iran. Gore also said an agreement had been reached that would allow Russia to join the international Missile Technology Control Regime, although it was unclear how the agreement might affect the sale of Russian missile technology to Brazil, which American officials have previously criticized. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. NATO WANTS JULY TALKS WITH RUSSIA. Talks between NATO and Russia on upgrading relations in both the military and political spheres are provisionally scheduled for 17 July, NATO sources told Reuters on 30 June. The Russian side had not yet confirmed that it would attend. The talks could lead to a new treaty and/or the creation of a standing commission to monitor ties between Russia and the alliance. NATO diplomats said the alliance wants to get this process moving before the long summer break. On 31 May, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev had initialed Russia's Partnership for Peace (PfP) individual partnership program but remarked at the time that it should only serve as the forerunner of a wider relationship. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT SET UP PERMANENT CONCILIATION GROUP. A new permanent commission to mediate disputes between the parliament and government will be set up next week, State Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin announced on 1 July, AFP reported. The commission will include five members of the Federation Council and 12 from the Duma, Rybkin, and the leaders of the 11 current parliamentary factions. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. TOP EDITOR OF ROSSIISKAYA GAZETA TO BE SACKED. Natalya Polezhaeva, editor-in-chief of the official newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta, announced that she was about to be fired, NTV reported on 2 July. On 30 June, Rossiiskaya gazeta ignored a court order to print a retraction of damaging allegations the newspaper had made about Vladimir Gusinskii's Most group. Instead, it erroneously reported that the court had ruled in its favor against Gusinskii's lawsuit. Polezhaeva's dismissal may also be connected to alleged financial irregularities at the newspaper; a recent audit revealed that the newspaper had created several closed joint stock companies. In 1994, Rossiiskaya gazeta received nearly 25 billion rubles ($5.7 million) in press subsidies; all other Russian newspapers combined received about 31 billion rubles ($7 million). Polezhaeva is expected to fight the dismissal. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. GROZNY NEGOTIATIONS STALL. Russian and Chechen delegates failed to make substantive progress during talks on 1-2 July, Russian and international agencies reported. The two delegations issued a joint statement on 1 July in which they pledged not to seek revenge and to avoid using force. However, further progress has been stymied because Chechen separatist President Dzhokhar Dudaev has not made a formal response to the so- called "zero option" proposed by the Russian delegation, Russian television reported. Negotiators also remain deadlocked over the issue of Chechnya's future political status. Chechen delegation head Usman Imaev said, "At the moment, no agreement looks likely," but added that the question could not be resolved "in a day." Izvestiya expressed pessimism on 1 July that negotiators could reach agreement on a compromise. Talks are scheduled to resume on 3 July. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. LOW QUALITY FOOD PRODUCTS POSE HEALTH THREAT. Many food products on sale in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and a number of other large cities are of poor quality and could lead to mass outbreaks of food poisoning, Radio Rossii reported on 2 July, citing health officials. About 14% of domestic meat and dairy products are said to have failed tests for chemical content while 18% did not conform to bacteriological standards. Last year, there were 35 cases of mass food poisonings. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. INDEBTED MENTAL HOSPITAL TO RELEASE PATIENTS. A mental hospital in Kaliningrad has gone broke and is planning to discharge about half of its patients, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June. According to the report, the hospital cannot even afford to pay for bread deliveries. Elderly patients will be sent home first and the rest will be released if a solution to the crisis is not found. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. AIRLINE HIJACKING FOILED. Police overpowered two hijackers who had taken over an airplane flying from Yakutsk to Moscow with 184 people on board on 1 July, international agencies reported. The pair had threatened to blow up the plane if they did not receive 1.5 million rubles ($330) when it landed for refueling in Norilsk. After receiving the money, the hijackers demanded a larger sum. They were arrested after security forces persuaded them to leave the plane to collect it. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. SAKHALIN OIL DEAL SIGNED. A Russian-American-Japanese agreement for joint exploration of oil and gas fields around Sakhalin island was signed in Moscow on 30 June, Western and Russian agencies reported. The long-anticipated deal, worth a reported $15 billion, will open fields containing an estimated 2.5 billion barrels of oil and 15 trillion cubic feet of gas. The U.S. and Japanese partners in the deal will each hold a 30% interest, while the Russian participants will hold a 40% share. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA TO PAY 1 BILLION TO LONDON CLUB IN 1995. Russian Foreign Economics Minister Oleg Davydov told Interfax on 1 July that Russia intends to repay $1 billion to the London Club of creditor banks in 1995. Davydov said the payment would erase Russia's debt to the banks incurred in 1992-94. Davydov begins negotiations with the London Club in Frankfurt on 3 July. The talks will address the long-term restructuring of Russia's $25 billion debt to the club. Estimates place Russia's total foreign debt at about $120 billion. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA, U.S. AGREE ON URANIUM. Russia and the U.S. have put a troubled uranium deal back on track. On 30 June, following talks with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin in Moscow, Gore said the U.S. corporation that is to buy 500 tons of Russian weapons grade uranium had signed a protocol to provide prompt payment to Russia. He added that the two sides had also agreed on transparency procedures for the uranium's conversion into low-enriched power station fuel, Reuters reported. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. INFLATION 6.7% IN JUNE. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said on 2 July that inflation was running at 6.7% in June, compared with 7.9% in May, Russian and Western agencies reported. The government hopes to reduce the monthly inflation rate to 2% by the end of the year. Chernomyrdin was speaking in Moscow at a meeting of the Foreign Investment Council, which comprises senior ministers and the heads of multinational corporations. He exhorted foreign investors to abandon their doubts about Russia's political stability and take advantage of Russia's "huge" investment opportunities. Direct foreign investment in Russia fell by 25% in the first quarter of 1995 compared with the last quarter of 1994. Interfax quoted Chernomyrdin as saying that the government would look into creating a single investment regime for domestic and foreign investors seeking to purchase shares in Russian enterprises but gave no details. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHSTAN'S DRAFT CONSTITUTION READY. The Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan opened a special one-month session to review the country's new draft constitution on 30 June, Reuters reported. Work began on the new constitution six months ago with the help of experts from the Constitutional Council of France. Among the items included in it are the creation of a two-chamber parliament, consisting of a 47-seat senate and a 55-seat lower house, an impeachment process and rules for dissolving parliament, and the government's right to overrule a no-confidence vote in it. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. TALKS IN TEHRAN ON CASPIAN. No progress was achieved in determining the legal status of the Caspian Sea during talks among the littoral states in Tehran, Reuters reported on 30 June, citing Iranian radio. At the conclusion of the meeting a statement was released pointing to differences on political, economic, and environmental issues. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan continue to argue that the Caspian should be classified under maritime law as an enclosed sea, which permits them to exploit resources in sectors drawn according to international treaties. Russia, Iran, and Turkmenistan argue the Caspian is a lake and its resources must be shared on the basis of common ownership. Despite the disagreement, all sides said the Tehran talks were positive and constructive and agreed to meet again in Almaty on 23 August. -- Lowell Bezanis, 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. 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