|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
No. 161, Part I, 18 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 Central and Eastern Europe, 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 RUSSIAN PLANES BOMB CHECHEN FIGHTERS. Russian planes attacked Chechen positions near the town of Roshni Chu on 17 August, Russian and Western agencies reported. An RFE/RL correspondent saw the planes drop bombs about 1:30 p.m. local time. A Russian military spokesman said the air strike was launched in response to Chechen attacks on federal troops. In Grozny, Chechen chief negotiator Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov said the attack threatened to undermine the ongoing negotiation and disarmament process but expressed readiness to resume political negotiations on the basis of the 30 July military accord, despite recent statements by Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev contradicting some of the accord. In spite of the bombing, Chechen fighters in the towns of Shali and Gudermes began disarming on 17 August. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. FRED CUNY'S FAMILY HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE. Relatives of U.S. aid specialist Fred Cuny, missing in Chechnya since April, said at a 17 August press conference in Moscow that they believe Cuny was killed by Chechen separatist fighters shortly after he disappeared on 8 April. According to Cuny's brother Christopher, Russian intelligence agents arranged to have Fred Cuny killed in retaliation for his earlier published criticism of the Russian military intervention in Chechnya. Disinformation planted by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), added Cuny's brother, led the Chechen separatists to execute Fred Cuny as an intelligence agent on 14 April. While the U.S. Embassy in Moscow officially announced that it could not confirm the family's information, an anonymous American diplomat described the story as "credible." Aleksandr Mikhailov, spokesman for the FSB, told Interfax on 17 August that the Cuny family's account is "nonsense" and said the FSB believes Cuny is still alive. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. FOREIGN MINISTRY EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER ABM TREATY. Mikhail Demurin, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told ITAR-TASS on 17 August that Russia believes a bill pending in the U.S. Senate, calling for the design and financing of a limited defense against ballistic missile attack by the year 2003, would lead to the "actual liquidation" of the 1972 agreement. The diplomat warned that Russia continues to regard the ABM agreement as the cornerstone of all other strategic arms control agreements. New American initiatives which violated the ABM treaty could cause the Duma to refuse to ratify START-2 and might lead Russia to withdraw from START-1, Demurin added. The bill, a compromise version of an earlier Republican-sponsored proposal that was criticized by the Clinton administration, awaits examination by the full Senate this coming September. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN APPOINTS YEGOROV AS AIDE. President Boris Yeltsin appointed Nikolai Yegorov as an aide for regional and national policy, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 18 August. Yegorov was deputy prime minister and minister for nationalities and regional policy until he was forced to resign on 30 June, along with Interior Minister Viktor Yerin and Federal Security Service Director Sergei Stepashin, following the terrorist acts in Budennovsk. During his previous term in office, Yegorov was one of the main supporters of a hard-line policy in Chechnya. In comments after his appointment, he criticized the media's coverage of the Chechen conflict, Russian TV reported. Yegorov said there would not be any conflict between him and Vyacheslav Mikhailov, his successor as minister for nationalities and regional policy. On 5 July, Yeltsin rehabilitated Yerin by appointing him deputy director of Russia' Foreign Intelligence Service. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON DISTRICT BOUNDARIES. President Yeltsin signed the law designating the boundaries of the 225 single-member districts in the December Duma elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August. The Duma approved the law in a special 12 August session after the Federation Council failed to support it at the end of July. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. NEW OFFICERS' GROUP FORMS TO SUPPORT OPPOSITION. The All-Russian Officers' Assembly (VOS), an alliance of former and current members of the military, announced that it will work with other opposition groups to defeat the current regime, Russian TV reported on 17 August. The Russian National Union (RNS) and Col. Stanislav Terekhov's Officers' Union initiated the new group. Its leaders include General Valentin Varennikov, a former Soviet deputy defense minister who spent 14 months in jail after the 1991 coup and former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov, who was also involved in the coup. The new group expressed its willingness to support the efforts of opposition leaders Gennadii Zyuganov, Yurii Skokov, Sergei Glazev, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, although Communist Party leader Zyuganov was the only one present at the group's first press conference. The assembly's main goal is to strengthen the Russian military. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YAKUTIYA CONSIDERS EXTENDING TERM OF ITS PRESIDENT. Several groups in Yakutiya (Sakha) have proposed extending the term of current President Mikhail Nikolaev from 1996 to 2001, Radio Rossii reported on 17 August. Advocates of holding a referendum with this goal claim extending Nikolaev's term would save the republic from the ordeal of holding a presidential election in these difficult times. Opponents of a referendum, including the Social Democratic and Communist parties of the republic, argue that it would violate the republic's constitution and federal legislation. The republic of Kalmykiya will hold a similar referendum on 15 October. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC UNION LEADER WANTS TO MOVE CAPITAL TO NOVISIBIRSK. Vasilii Lipitskii, leader of the Russian Social Democratic Union and Duma deputy for Novisibirsk, argues that Russia's capital should be moved from Moscow, preferably to Novisibirsk, the weekly Kontinent reported in issue no. 32. Lipitskii and like minds say such a measure would help eliminate the inequality between rich Moscow and the rest of Russia. They believe that Russia's geopolitical interests have shifted away from the West and that moving the capital eastward would encourage the development of Siberia, the Far East, and relations with Russia's eastern neighbors. They also contend that the move would reduce separatist trends--provoked, it is said, by the Moscow elite's lack of interest in the provinces--and enable the state apparatus to be cut and corrupt elements eliminated. In Lipitskii's opinion, Novisibirsk would make the ideal capital because it is located in the middle of the country, has a population of more than 1 million, and is an industrial and cultural center. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW CRITICAL OF CHINESE NUCLEAR TEST. Ministry of Nuclear Energy spokesman Georgii Kaurov told ITAR-TASS on 17 August that it is "deplorable" that China had conducted another nuclear test that day. He said that "humanity is striving to remove nuclear arms from arsenals," adding that while Russian nuclear scientists might like to conduct tests, they refrained from such actions "in view of the negative attitude of the Russian and world public to nuclear testing." Another highly placed ministry official, however, told the agency that testing is "of essential importance." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. COSSACK MILITARY UNITS BEING FORMED. More than 20 Cossack units are now being formed within the Russian armed forces, according to the chairman of the Russian Union of Cossacks, Aleksandr Martynov. Interfax on 16 August quoted him as adding that 12 Cossack posts and two units are also being formed within the Federal Border Service and that a separate Cossack border regiment would be created on Sakhalin island in the Far East. Martynov said the Cossack units would be subordinate to the relevant federal departments and not to Cossack military commanders. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES. The Russian government will allocate more than 1.8 trillion rubles ($408 million) to support small and medium-sized businesses in 1996-97, Russian First Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Shapovalyants said on 17 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The aid is aimed at building a network of information and training centers for businessmen, he said. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said training programs needs to be expanded for new businessmen and the registration system for small businesses needs to be simplified. Small enterprises, employing about 9.5 million Russians, produced 12-14% of total industrial output this year, according to government figures. Shapovalyants said the state holds no more than a 25% stake in each of the small enterprises covered by the government aid; there are one million of them in Russia. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADERS PROTEST THE CONSTITUTION. A dozen opposition groups in Kazakhstan, including the Kazakh National Patriots and members of the Slavic movements, warned that the new constitution could become a destabilizing factor and may cause social fragmentation, Russian TV reported on 17 August. They claim that it would create conditions conducive to an authoritarian regime by granting the president strong personal power, creating a submissive parliament, and restricting civil rights. A referendum on whether to adopt the proposed constitution is scheduled for 30 August. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. KAZAKHSTAN CONTROLS INFLATION? In an interview with Reuters on 17 August, Grigorii Marchenko, the deputy chairman of the Kazakh Central Bank, said, "We have more or less achieved macroeconomic stabilization, in relative terms." While mentioning lower inflation rates, a stable currency, and a steep rise in foreign exchange reserves, Marchenko admitted that Kazakhstan is still lagging behind on structural reform at the enterprise level. Western bankers in Almaty affirm that the Central Bank of Kazakhstan has been the driving force behind economic reforms but note that the central bank's policies have won few friends in the ailing industrial sector. They agree that there has been little restructuring of Soviet-era industry, most big firms are still in state hands, companies often do not pay their debts, and investors are staying away because of frequently changing laws. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. TAJIK CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT EXTENDED SIX MONTHS. The Tajik government and the opposition signed an agreement to extend by six months a ceasefire that was due to expire on 26 August, according to Western agencies. On 17 August, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov signed it in Dushanbe while opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri did so in Kabul. The UN representative present at the Kabul signing, said the agreement also covers political and military integration and helps returning refugees, Voice of America reported. The two sides settled on 18 September as the date for the next round of talks, but they have not agreed to a venue. This is the third time the ceasefire agreement has been extended since last September. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CILLER CONCLUDES VISIT TO KYRGYZSTAN. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller finished her visit to Kyrgyzstan on 17 August and departed for Turkmenistan, the last stop on her tour of three Central Asian countries. Ciller said she had agreed on joint plans with Kyrgyzstan in the areas of education, power engineering, agriculture, and mining. Kyrgyzstan and Turkey also announced defense cooperation, including the joint manufacture of military equipment for sale on the world market. Turkey also expressed its willingness to subsidize any promising programs in the development of the Kyrgyz economy, according to ITAR- TASS. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CILLER IN ASHGABAT: MOVE GAS THROUGH TURKEY. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller met with Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov in Ashgabat, Western and Russian media reported on 17 August. During the talks, an agreement on double taxation and a document establishing a bilateral commission for trade and economic cooperation were signed. Ciller also proposed that Turkmen gas be transited through Turkey via an existing Russian and Georgian pipeline. This would involve the extension of an existing pipeline by an estimated 160 km. Niyazov predictably found this arrangement acceptable but noted that he would have to consult the pipeline's co-owner, Russia. However, Moscow is unlikely to encourage any pipeline that will enrich Turkey and Turkmenistan. He also pledged to repay Turkmenistan's debts to Turkish businessmen by late 1995. Official statistics cited by Interfax indicate Turkey has invested $1.5 billion in Turkmenistan. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. UZBEK STATE SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS. Uzbek President Islam Karimov opened the first session of Uzbekistan's National Security Council on 16 August, Uzbek and Russian Public TV reported. The responsibilities of the council encompass domestic and foreign policy, strategic problems, defense, "other" kinds of security, information, ecological, health, preventing and responding to emergencies, and the maintenance of stability and public order. The session also took up the issues of the council's composition and orders and discussed Uzbekistan's military doctrine. Russian Public TV noted that Karimov identified Tajikistan and Afghanistan as the main regional security problems and called for "collective effort" to confront them. He also described the especially important role of Russia, a country he referred to as Uzbekistan's "main strategic partner." -- 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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