|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 143, Part I, 25 July 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 YELTSIN LEAVES HOSPITAL. President Boris Yeltsin checked out of the hospital on 24 July and went to the Barvikha sanitarium in the Moscow suburbs, Presidential Press Secretary Sergei Medvedev announced to the Russian media. Staying at the health complex will prevent Yeltsin from returning to his normal routine, since he usually works in the Kremlin or at his home outside Moscow. Yeltsin entered the hospital on 11 July, complaining of chest pains. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. BARSUKOV TO HEAD FSB AFTER ALL. After his press secretary denied earlier rumors about the appointment, Yeltsin named Col. Gen. Mikhail Barsukov to the post of Federal Security Service (FSB) director on 24 July, Russian and Western media reported. Until now, Barsukov has been in charge of Kremlin security and is a close friend of the head of the presidential security service, Aleksandr Korzhakov. Izvestiya viewed the appointment negatively, reporting that Barsukov's main qualifications are his participation in Yeltsin's fishing and hunting trips. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a Communist deputy, said Barsukov was appointed more for his loyalty to Yeltsin than for his professional ability and that the appointment would lead to more political surveillance, AFP reported. Barsukov is widely viewed as an FSB outsider. Yeltsin also named Viktor Zorin, the former head of the FSB's counter-intelligence department who has more than 30 years experience in the security services, as first deputy director of the FSB. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. PRIMORSK LEADERS DENOUNCE ARREST OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER IN VLADIVOSTOK. The Primorsk Krai Duma and administration, including Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, denounced the 20 July arrest of Primorsk tax police chief Aleksandr Bondarenko, whom they called an "honest and professional officer," Radio Rossii and ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. Bondarenko was the fifth person arrested in connection with the March 1994 ouster of Viktor Cherepkov, the first democratically elected mayor in Vladivostok. Cherepkov was removed from office on corruption charges, but the charges were dropped after the Procurator General's Office determined that the case against Cherepkov had been falsified. Cherepkov has not been reinstated as mayor. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. WOMEN END WAGE-PAYMENT PROTEST IN BURYATIYA. A group of women who were blocking railways in Buryatiya since 17 July to demand that their husbands be paid millions of rubles in unpaid wages have ended their protest, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. The men worked for the joint- stock company "Cheltailes." The company director, Yurii Moshkin, said the women agreed with the state procurator that their protest was unlawful. He added that the enterprise would begin paying out the 150 million rubles ($33,000) it owes to employees on 25 July. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. FAR EASTERN MILITARY SHIPYARD WORKERS GET SOME BACK PAY. Ship repair workers in Vladivostok defense plants received their March 1995 pay several weeks after their families demonstrated, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. The protest took place on 13 July, and the agency reported that after a "brief pause" the Defense Ministry transferred 9 billion rubles to pay the workers' salaries. It quoted local trade union officials as saying that was not enough. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GROZNY NEGOTIATIONS STALL. Talks between Russian and Chechen negotiators adjourned again on the evening of 24 July without agreement, Western and Russian agencies reported. Members of both delegations confirmed that the issue of Chechnya's status continues to hinder the signing of a political agreement. The military protocol signed on 23 June cannot be fully implemented until the political agreement has been concluded. Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov, Russia's lead negotiator, said the Russian position remains unchanged: Chechnya must remain in the Russian Federation although the "details" of its status can be discussed. He admitted, however, that the Chechen delegation continues to reject this formulation. Chechen head delegate Usman Imaev said the talks were "difficult," but he reiterated that both delegations "remain firmly committed to successfully concluding the talks." He added that he "would not attempt to guess when they will be finished." Negotiations are scheduled to resume on 25 July. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. UNUSUALLY HIGH OFFICER CASUALTY RATES IN CHECHNYA. Officers serving in Chechnya suffered an unprecedented casualty rate, NTV reported on 23 July. Quoting General Staff sources, the station reported that 20% of those killed were officers, while an Airborne Troops officer said that 128 of the 300 paratroopers lost in the fighting were officers. The report said that the ratio of officers killed to those wounded was 1:2; the historical ratio is 1:3. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. TELEPHONE BOMB THREAT TARGETS VNUKOVO. A bomb threat at Vnukovo International Airport caused the temporary evacuation of employees and passengers on 24 July, ITAR-TASS reported on the same day. An unidentified person had dialed the emergency line "02" and claimed a bomb was in the airport, but nothing was found. Located south of Moscow, the airport is used mostly for flights within the former Soviet Union, including to Chechnya. Police fear that Chechen terrorists were behind the threat, according to Western agencies. It was the fourth such threat at Vnukovo in the past month. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. REFUGEE STATUS REVIEWED IN COURT. In an unprecedented case, the St. Petersburg court is examining complaints filed by foreign citizens who have been denied refugee status, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. There are about 30 analogous legal complaints in the city, most filed by Afghans. Almost 140 Afghans are seeking refugee status in Russia, NTV reported on 17 July. The Migration Service of St. Petersburg told ITAR- TASS that it has refused refugee status to 90 people since the beginning of the year. Most are unable to find work because they lack the proper documents and face a language barrier; they are believed to be earning their livelihood through informal trade or low-paid construction work. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SCRAPS OBSOLETE MILITARY DECREES. President Yeltsin signed a decree that invalidates a number of Soviet-era decrees on the military, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. Those included a February 1991 presidential decree on military councils in the armed forces, a June 1991 presidential decree on appointing and dismissing military leaders, and a November 1991 decree establishing a "strategic containment force" with the Soviet armed forces. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. KOKOSHIN CALLS FOR LARGER MILITARY BUDGET. First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin called for greater military spending in 1996, telling a defense industry management group on 24 July that the defense budget should be "at least proportional to the growth of the GDP," ITAR-TASS reported. Kokoshin, the highest ranking civilian in the Defense Ministry, said extra funds should be spent on higher quality training and updating equipment. He also said that it is vitally important to provide the military with the money allocated to it in this year's budget. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV WELCOME IN BAVARIA THIS TIME. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev has been invited to participate in a seminar on the role of the armed forces in a democracy, a spokesman for the German Defense Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 24 July. The seminar will take place in Ebenhausen, just outside Munich, and the German delegation will be headed by Defense Minister Volker Ruehe. In January of this year, Ruehe had made it clear that Grachev would not be welcome at a February conference on European defense held in Munich after the Russian general called Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev a traitor and branded Duma Defense Committee Chairman Sergei Yushenkov a "vile toad." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSO-FINNISH TRADE TALKS IN MOSCOW. Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen discussed bilateral trade and debt issues with his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov on 24 July, Western and Russian agencies reported. Among the issues addressed were Russia's $1 billion debt to Finland, the impact of recent increases in Russian tariffs and transport fees on bilateral trade, and joint investment projects. Davydov said the most important joint project touched upon in the talks was a proposed $1 billion oil pipeline, which would connect the Finnish port of Pori with the oil fields of the Timan-Pechora Basin in northern Russia. The proposed project would provide the first direct link between Russian oil fields and European markets. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. WORST GRAIN HARVEST IN TWO DECADES EXPECTED THIS YEAR. Russian farmers are expecting the country's worst grain harvest in 20 years following a severe drought that has plagued farmlands in southern Russia, according to Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. The minister said the harvest is likely to be 75-78 million metric tons, or about 4%-8% less than last year's harvest of 81.3 million metric tons. Russia will produce enough grain for its own use, but it will no longer be able to provide former Soviet republics with cheap grain. Despite the expected poor harvest, the state does not plan to import foreign grain. Zaveryukha said he did not expect the low grain yield to result in higher bread prices because the government can be expected to subsidize bread if the price of grain starts to soar. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. AEROFLOT STAYS AFLOAT DESPITE COMPETITION. Despite increasing competition on the international market with other air passenger and cargo companies, Aeroflot, Russia's international airline company, reported success in the first half of 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 July. Flying to 143 destinations in 102 countries around the world, Aeroflot has transported around 500,000 passengers and more than 28,000 tons of cargo since the beginning of the year. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE DROPS FIVE POINTS AGAINST DOLLAR. The Russian ruble fell five points against the U.S. dollar from its rate in 21 July MICEX trading to close at 4,490 rubles to $1 on 24 July, Business-Tass reported the same day. Initial demand was $16.36 million with 24 banks participating. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZSTAN TO GET MORE LOANS. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will extend loans of between $60-70 million to Kyrgyzstan this year, AFP reported. In a welcoming speech to Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, who is on a tour of Southeast Asia, the bank's president, Mitsuo Sato, said the Manila-based financial institution remains committed to helping the Kyrgyz government meet its objectives. Kyrgyzstan is the newest addition to the bank's roster of 55 member states. The bulk of the loan will help pay for agricultural programs and the renovation of a power plant. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. TAJIKISTAN REMAINS OFFICIALLY IN ECONOMIC CRISIS. Tajik government officials concluded at a cabinet meeting that the republic's economy is still in an economic crisis, Russian Public TV reported on 24 July. Most of Tajikistan's industries have ceased to work and the rest are functioning at 50% capacity. The communications and transport systems were described as "sad." Although some pointed out that the introduction of the national currency, the Tajik ruble, is reanimating the economy, it was also mentioned that salaries are rarely paid in full. The shelves in state-run stores are empty and the prices at markets are rising. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CIVIL UNREST IN SOUTHERN TAJIKISTAN. Residents of the city of Khorog attacked a unit of the Russian Border Forces on 23 July, Russian Public TV reported the next day. The group began by hurling insults at the Russian soldiers and then started throwing rocks and sticks at them. A representative of the Border Forces Service said the soldiers fired warning shots in the air to no effect. Order was finally restored when the soldiers shot "one of the most aggressive assailants in the arm." -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CIS SOVIET-BUILT REACTORS "SAFE." A senior Russian nuclear official claimed that 10 Soviet-built reactors that were recently criticized in a U.S. federal intelligence report received a clean bill of health from the International Atomic Energy Agency, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. According to the U.S. report, 10 reactors in Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Lithuania are at "high-risk" of failure because of their poor and outdated design, inadequate regulatory regime, and economic pressures to keep them running. Anatolii Zemskov, a spokesman for the Rosenergoatom concern, said Russian reactors are subjected to regular modernization and inspections to improve their safety, but he conceded that some of the East European reactors need to be upgraded. -- 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 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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