|You see things and you say 'Why?' But I dream thing that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'. - Geroge Bernard Shaw|
No. 152, Part I, 7 August 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 PRISONER EXCHANGE DELAYED IN GROZNY. A scheduled exchange of Russian and Chechen prisoners on 5 August was delayed, Russian and Western agencies reported. In accordance with the 30 July military agreement, Chechen military officials had promised to exchange several Russian prisoners for 30 Chechens but did not do so. The prisoner exchange issue threatens to block further progress in negotiations to end the Chechen conflict. General Anatolii Romanov, commander of federal forces in Chechnya, said on 5 August that negotiations could continue only after the Chechen side had submitted a full list of its Russian prisoners. However, Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen military chief of staff, told journalists that compiling such a list would be difficult because the Chechen forces are fragmented. A joint Russian-Chechen team left Grozny on 4 August to search remote Chechen positions for Russian prisoners. Despite the slowdown in prisoner exchange, Russian military sources reported a decrease in fighting in the republic over the weekend. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA CONDEMNS CROATIAN OFFENSIVE. A statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry on 5 August harshly condemned the recent Croatian military offensive against Serb-held areas of Croatia, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement complained that "Zagreb's preparations did not receive the proper assessment," and that Russian warnings about Croatian intentions had gone "unheard." It added that Russia would insist that the UN Security Council adopt a "strict and unbiased response." Vladimir Zhirinovskii, leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, criticized the government response as insufficient, telling journalists on 5 August that "if Russia had another president, the Russian army would already be in there and no one would be able to touch the Serbs." Duma deputy Vladimir Averchev, of the Yabloko faction, said Russia had no moral standing to criticize Croatia because Russian actions in Chechnya are similar to the Croatian offensive against ethnic Serb separatists. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. NATIONAL SALVATION FRONT TO SEEK DUMA SEATS. The National Salvation Front (FNS) announced that it will participate in the parliamentary elections under new leadership, Russian TV reported on 5 August. Valerii Smirnov is now the acting chairman of the Political Council in place of the former leader Ilya Konstantinov. The FNS's three main program points are restoring the Soviet Union, ending the privatization program, and removing the institution of the presidency, NTV reported. Yeltsin banned the front from participating in the 1993 elections after its members clashed with pro-Yeltsin troops in the fighting around the Russian White House in October 1993. The Front believes that the Duma does not have the power to change government policy but that the campaign will be useful for uniting opposition groups. Like the previous leadership, Smirnov does not exclude the use of force in the battle for power. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. TATARSTAN STOPS PAYMENTS TO FEDERAL BUDGET. Tatarstan Prime Minister Farid Mukhamedshin announced that his republic has stopped payments to the federal budget, Russian Public TV reported on 6 August. Since 5 August, Tatarstan has redirected the money it would normally reserve for the federal budget to local defense workers who are owed past wages. Once the debts are paid off within a month, Tatarstan will resume its payments to the federal government. There has been no official reaction from Moscow. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUNOFF REQUIRED IN SVERDLOVSK GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS. Early returns in the gubernatorial elections in Sverdlovsk Oblast indicate that no candidate will receive more than 50% of the vote and a runoff will consequently be required, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. Approximately 40% of voters participated in the elections, well above the required 25% turnout for the elections to be valid. Incomplete vote counts suggest that Eduard Rossel, the chairman of the Sverdlovsk Duma who lobbied for permission to hold direct gubernatorial elections in the region, leads the field. Regional administrative head Aleksei Strakhov, a leader of the Sverdlovsk regional branch of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, is in second place, despite having nearly three times as much money to spend on the campaign as Rossel (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 August 1995). A date for the runoff has not been set. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DEMOCRATIC UNION PROTESTS SENTENCING OF OREKHOV. The radical Democratic Union picketed the headquarters of the Procurator General's Office to protest the sentencing of former KGB officer Viktor Orekhov to three years in prison, Ekho Moskvy reported on 4 August. Orekhov was convicted of illegal possession of a firearm, but many human rights activists believe the case against him was fabricated and are demanding that it be reconsidered, Ekspress-khronika reported the same day. As a KGB officer during the 1970s, Orekhov routinely warned dissidents of imminent searches and arrests. A statement issued by the Democratic Union charged that the KGB's desire for "revenge" lay behind the arrest and sentencing of Orekhov. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. PROMINENT BANKER KILLED. Ivan Kiveldi, president of Rosbiznesbank and head of the politically influential entrepreneurs' group Russian Business Roundtable, died on 4 August after being poisoned by salts probably containing cadmium, Russian and Western media reported. His secretary died the previous day after being hospitalized with similar symptoms. The cause of the banker's death has yet to be officially determined, but it is being widely regarded as a contract killing. Members of the Roundtable, which includes leading industrialist Arkadii Volsky, Russian United Industrialists Party head Vladimir Shcherbakov, and Most group chairman Vladimir Gusinskii, said they believed the slaying was political and unconnected to Kiveldi's commercial activities. Shortly before his death, Kiveldi had expressed opposition to plans by leading banks to finance the budget deficit. He was also a fierce critic of corruption and incompetence in the police force. Over the past three and a half years, 83 bankers have been the victims of assassination attempts, of whom 46 have died, according to ITAR-TASS on 5 August. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN REJECTS LAW ON SUBSISTENCE MINIMUM. President Yeltsin has rejected the draft law on the subsistence minimum on the grounds that it conflicts with existing legislation, Radio Rossii reported on 3 August. The draft entitles people whose income falls below the minimum to monetary benefits. The minimum subsistence level, to be determined by the Labor Ministry on a quarterly basis, would also be used as the basis for defining the minimum wage, pensions, and other allowances. Goskomstat put the subsistence minimum in June at 277,400 rubles a month, Radio Rossii reported on 5 August. The same day Russian TV, citing a poll by VCIOM, reported that 48% of Russian families consider themselves to be living in poverty. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. NEW AIDS DATA. According to Health Ministry official Aleksandr Golyusov, 967 people including 277 children, are now registered as HIV-positive in Russia. He added that 176 people have full-blown AIDS and that 154 people have died of the disease, Vechernyaya Moskva reported on 3 August. AIDS activists argue that the official figures should be multiplied by at least a factor of 10 to obtain a true picture of HIV in the country. Implementation of a new law mandating HIV tests for all foreigners coming to Russia for longer than three months, which was scheduled to take effect on 1 August, has been delayed for procedural reasons. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. ANTINUCLEAR PROTEST BROKEN UP. Police on 6 August broke up an anti- nuclear demonstration on Red Square organized by Greenpeace on the grounds that it had not obtained a permit, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. The protesters, who had set up 50 crosses marked with radioactive warning signs, were marking the 50th anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima by an atomic bomb. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. INGUSH RETURN TO NORTH OSSETIYA. According to the North Ossetiyan minister of internal affairs, the majority of the inhabitants of the Prigorodnii Raion look favorably upon the return of those Ingush refugees who "took no part in the conflicts in the fall of 1992," ITAR- TASS reported on 6 August. Russian TV reported on 5 August that 400 out of the 600 families that left have now returned and the North Ossetiyan government has pledged to do all it can to make their return permanent. However, contrary to the account of a smooth transition given by the minister, Russian TV emphasized the difficulty of the resettlement. According to the station, police accompanied columns of Ingush refugees to their former homes in order to forestall any provocation that might complicate the peace initiative between the Ossetiyan and Ingush leadership. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. INDIAN FOREIGN MINISTER LEAVES MOSCOW. Following three days of "constructive" talks with Russian officials, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee left Moscow on 5 August, Russian and Western agencies reported. Economic ties, including conventional arms sales, were one focus of the talks. Russian-Indian trade, which drastically declined following the collapse of the Soviet Union, has increased 44% in the past year, and is expected to reach $1.6 billion in 1995, an Indian spokesman said. Mukherjee also told journalists that a decision would be made "soon" on an Indian proposal to build a light-water nuclear power reactor with Russian assistance. Mukherjee denied that India wants nuclear weapons, although he said that India needs a large conventional army to defend itself against Pakistan. Kozyrev, apparently anticipating criticism of the proposed nuclear deal, said Russia does not need advice from "third countries" on its relations with India. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSO-TURKISH RELATIONS AND THE KURDS. Following a late July visit to Ankara, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Albert Chernyshev has, once again, clarified his government's stance with regard to Turkey and the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) by saying that Russia "regards the Kurdish problem as Ankara's internal affair," Segodnya reported on 4 August. In a reference to the PKK, he also said "foreign parties and organizations" will not be allowed to "build nests" on Russian territory. Those remarks will clearly please officials in Ankara but may not go far enough; Turkey wants Moscow to close down the "Kurdish House" in Moscow and take other steps to break ties between Kurdish nationalists in the CIS and Middle East. Chernyshev and other Russian officials have repeatedly denied Russian involvement in supporting or encouraging PKK-connected organizations and activities in Russia, but Turkey continues to suspect that Moscow gives them tacit support so as to extract concessions from Ankara on other issues. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. SECURITY EXPERT: U.S. PROGRAM THREATENS NUCLEAR ARMS CONTROL. Anton Surikov, an adviser at the Institute for Defense Studies, told ITAR-TASS on 4 August that U.S. plans to develop a new anti-ballistic missile system could prompt Russia to reconsider its obligations to cut its nuclear arsenal. Surikov was commenting on the recent U.S. Senate decision to increase funding for ABM programs. He warned that moves like this could prompt Russia to "refrain from ratifying the START-2 treaty and reconsider some provision under START-1." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GAZPROM TO RECEIVE $1 BILLION TO FINANCE PIPELINE. Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom, announced it has signed a deal with Western creditors for $1 billion to finance its part in the construction of two gas pipelines in Germany, Russian and Western agencies reported on 4 August. The former state gas company said it received DM 1.3 billion ($932 million) from a consortium of 27 Western banks to build the pipelines. Gazprom said it is the largest Russian investment abroad and the largest financing project with a Russian participant that is not guaranteed by the Russian state. The credit deal will provide backing for Gazprom's 35% stake in the construction of pipelines that will link northwestern and central Germany to the French border. Gazprom's German partner in the project is the chemicals group BASK-Wintershall. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CHINESE TRADE TALKS BEGIN. A Chinese trade delegation left for Russia on 5 August to follow up on economic cooperation accords signed during Premier Li Peng's visit to the country in June, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported the same day. China is seeking to resume and develop its economic links. Sino-Russian trade, which dipped 30% last year, was up 3% to reach $2.3 billion in the first half of 1995. The delegation will also travel to Belarus and Ukraine. -- Thomas Sigel, 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. ISSN 1211-1570
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