|Истиный друг есть величайшее из благ и вместе с тем то благо, о приобретении которого думают меньше всего. - Ф. Ларошфуко|
No. 163, Part I, 22 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, Eastern, 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 RYBKIN FORMS LEFT-CENTER BLOC. After numerous false starts, Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin formed a left-center bloc on 21 August, finally fulfilling a request President Boris Yeltsin made in late April, NTV reported. Having failed to gain the support of the Agrarian Party, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR), and the Russian United Industrial Party (ROPP) (which recently overturned a decision to join Rybkin), Rybkin's bloc now includes 50 relatively unknown parties. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky claimed the bloc has no chance of winning the 5% vote needed to get into parliament, but Sergei Yushenkov, of Russia's Democratic Choice, believes the bloc's prospects are better due to "Rybkin's balanced and reasoned approach to settling nearly all problems Russia faces," Interfax reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ZHIRINOVSKY WILL NOT RUN IN SINGLE-MEMBER DISTRICT. Zhirinovsky will run exclusively on his Liberal Democratic Party list in the Duma elections, Radio Rossii reported. In the last elections, to improve his chances of winning he ran both on the party list and in a Moscow Oblast district, where he was elected. In early August, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii challenged Zhirinovsky and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov to a three-way electoral race in the same district in Moscow. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CHECHEN FIGHTERS SEIZE POLICE HEADQUARTERS IN ARGUN . . . Late in the evening of 20 August, a group of about 250 Chechen fighters entered the town of Argun, just east of Grozny, and seized the local police headquarters, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chechen field commander Alaudi Khanzatov announced that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev had appointed him "commandant" of the town, which had been occupied by federal troops in March. General Anatolii Romanov, commander of federal forces in Chechnya, said the action was a "gross violation of the [military] agreement," and federal troops subsequently surrounded the building, evacuated the civilian population of the town, and demanded that Khanzatov and his men surrender. Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov and OSCE mediator Sandor Meszaros met with Khanzatov on 21 August to negotiate a resolution to the standoff. Although Maskhadov at first expressed surprise when told of Khanzatov's action, he later said it was consistent with the provisions of the 30 July military accord, as Khanzatov and his men were simply returning to their homes in Argun. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. . . . RUSSIAN TROOPS STORM ARGUN POLICE BUILDING. According to NTV later on 21 August, Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov announced that Khanzatov and his men would surrender at 3:45 p.m. local time. Federal troops waited until 4:45 p.m., but when no one emerged from the police headquarters by that time, they stormed the building, supported by helicopter and artillery fire. Russian officials later told ITAR-TASS that Maskhadov had been unable to persuade the fighters inside to surrender. At about 6 p.m., a Russian military spokesman said the assault had been "successfully" concluded, but sporadic gunfire continued through the night. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. ROSSEL ELECTED GOVERNOR OF SVERDLOVSK. Final vote counts confirm that regional Duma Chairman and Federation Council deputy Eduard Rossel was elected governor of the Sverdlovsk Oblast on 20 August, Russian media reported the next day. Rossel received about 60% of the vote in the second round of elections, while Sverdlovsk administrative head Aleksei Strakhov won only 32% despite spending three times as much on the campaign as Rossel. In the first round, held on 6 August, Rossel and Strakhov received 29% and 26% of the vote, respectively (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 August 1995). The result is a setback for Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc Our Home Is Russia, since Strakhov leads its Sverdlovsk branch. Rossel is a strong advocate of regional autonomy. In July 1993, then-governor Rossel declared the Sverdlovsk Oblast a "Urals Republic," after which Yeltsin replaced Rossel with Strakhov and dissolved the Sverdlovsk legislature. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. PARTY CHAIR CLAIMS BASHKORTOSTAN FUELS ETHNIC CONFLICTS. The republic of Bashkortostan in Russia is training and financing troops loyal to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Sergei Shakhrai, chairman of the Party of Russian Unity and Concord (PRES), alleged in an interview published in the 18-24 August issue of Vek. Shakhrai also accused the Bashkir state of plotting to divide the republic into Christians and Muslims, of hosting a separatist Islamic congress, and of aggravating ethnic rifts between Bashkirs, Russians, and Tatars by dismissing a Tatar from a key administrative post. The Bashkir president, Murtaza Rakhimov, telephoned Vek himself to respond, saying that Bashkortostan's constitution defines it as part of Russia and adding that it had allocated 50 million rubles ($11,000) to the restoration of a Russian church. He denied Shakhrai's accusations. Meanwhile, according to Vremya on 21 August, reports are also circulating that Chechen troops are training in the Czech Republic. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. COUP ANNIVERSARY ENDS ON LOW NOTE. An estimated 50 to 100 people gathered at the Vagankovo cemetery in Moscow on 21 August to pay their respects to the three people killed during the failed hard-line coup four years ago, Western agencies reported. Sergei Filatov, President Yeltsin's chief of staff, was the only senior official to lay a wreath on the graves. He said he was "puzzled" that no one from the government or the Moscow Mayor's Office attended the ceremony. In contrast with previous years, gatherings marking the 1995 anniversary of the putsch have attracted a low turnout. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA SEES BARSUKOV STRENGTHENING FSB. Newly appointed Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Mikhail Barsukov is trying to secure some of the former KGB's powers for his own service, Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 22 August. In particular, he wants to incorporate parts of the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information (FAPSI) and Foreign Intelligence Service into the FSB, potentially bringing him into conflict with their respective heads, Andrei Starovoitov and Yevgenii Primakov. The paper argues that Yeltsin will benefit from having Barsukov in charge of the FSB's operational- technical department during the elections because it has the capacity to tap hundreds of telephone lines and monitor correspondence. Barsukov will be able to channel the information directly to Yeltsin. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. SOLDIER ARRESTED WITH RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL. In Tver on 18 August, Federal Security Service and Interior Ministry officers arrested a former soldier found in possession of 11 crates containing large quantities of radioactive cobalt, ITAR-TASS reported. A local newspaper alleged that the material was the same as that used to poison the prominent businessman Ivan Kivelidi, who died on 4 August. Law enforcment agencies are currently investigating the cause of Kivelidi's death. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. NORWAY ON RADIOACTIVE CONTAMINATION OF ARCTIC. Speaking at the opening of an international conference on pollution in the Arctic Ocean, Norwegian Environment Minister Thorbjoern Berntsen said studies by three recent Norwegian-Russian expeditions concluded that nuclear waste dumped east of Novaya Zemlya had had little effect on the environment, Reuters reported on 21 August. He said the studies indicated that contamination was limited to areas close to the dumped material and that there has been no impact on the main body of the Kara and Barents seas. For many years, the Soviet navy dumped nuclear waste, including whole reactors containing spent nuclear fuel, in those seas, but the practice was discontinued after the collapse of communism. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. HEALTH MINISTRY RELEASES CHOLERA DATA. A Health Ministry official said on 21 August that eight cholera cases, including one death, have been registered in Russia this summer, Interfax reported. The first cases were registered in June: two in Moscow, one in Rostov-na-Donu, and one in Chechnya. No new cases were registered in July, but a resident of the Moscow area died of cholera at the beginning of August and cases were recorded in Dagestan. The Health Ministry official said urgent measures were being taken to prevent another cholera epidemic in the southern Russian republic, where several thousand people contracted the disease last year. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. NORTHERN FLEET BALKS AT LOSS OF CARRIER. Admiral Oleg Yerofeyev, commander of the Northern Fleet, has refused to meet a visiting Indian military delegation, Russian TV reported on 19 August. India wants to lease the Northern Fleet aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, but Yerofeyev has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the deal. The reporter speculated that he would probably have to give up the ship eventually, since its transfer was said to be part of a program of military cooperation with India signed during Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's recent visit to New Delhi. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. ST. PETERSBURG GAS SUPPLY CUT DUE TO NONPAYMENT. The Lentransgaz Company, a major natural gas supplier in northwestern Russia, cut back St. Petersburg's gas supply to 13.5 million cubic meters a day, Interfax reported on 21 August. Until recently, the city had consumed as much as 15 million cubic meters of gas a day. Lentransgaz acting director Yurii Streltsov told the news agency that the leadership of Gazprom's northwestern affiliate was forced to implement the tough measures to encourage debt payments from St. Petersburg's major consumers. Lentransgaz is demanding 400 billion rubles ($91 million) of the total 1 trillion rubles ($227 million) owed by St. Petersburg. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKH OPPOSITION STAGE HUNGER STRIKE AGAINST REFERENDUM. A group of about 30 opposition activists staged a demonstration and a hunger strike on 21 August near Kazakhstan's parliament building to protest against holding a national referendum on the draft constitution, ITAR-TASS reported on the same day. Khasen Kozhakhmetov, chairman of the opposition group Democratic Movement of Kazakhstan, told ITAR-TASS that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev had failed to respond to their demands that the new constitution be decided on by the national parliament--the only way it can go through a proper and detailed analysis before being passed, according to the protesters. The coalition of opposition parties and movements say the draft constitution gives the president unlimited powers over the nation's parliament and courts. A spokesman for Almaty's human rights committee told Reuters on 21 August that Interior Ministry troops arrested 19 demonstrators for violating a presidential decree against unauthorized public meetings. The opposition activists planned to hold another protest in three days. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. AKAEV TO HOLD REFERENDUM EXTENDING TERM? Local officials in Kyrgyzstan have collected 1.2 million signatures, 52% of the voting age population, in support of a proposal that President Askar Akaev prolong his term in office until 2001, a presidential spokesman in Bishkek told Reuters on 22 August. He said that the officials are campaigning on a platform of "unity around one leader, and not election campaigns." Akaev has repeatedly said that presidential elections will be held on schedule in 1996. A final decision on the referendum will be made later this month. The leaders of the neighboring states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan have already extended their terms until the year 2000 or beyond through national referendums. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. KYRGYZ PREPARE TO CELEBRATE 1,000 YEARS OF EPIC POEM. Kyrgyzstan is preparing to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of Manas--the legendary Kyrgyz leader who is believed to have united his nomadic horsemen against enemy tribes--at Talas in western Kyrgyzstan, Reuters reported on 21 August. The epic Manas, passed on orally through generations, has become the most important symbol of a new Kyrgyz national identity. Some claim that Manas is an "historical figure, at least a 1000 years old," whereas others point out that references to Manas were first found in the 15th century Tajik chronicles. A Manas aiyly, or village, is being hastily built in the capital Bishkek for the opening ceremony. The preparations for the festival are expected to cost $5 million; UNESCO and foreign investors have provided financial help. The festival runs from 25-31 August. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. CIS RUSSIAN DIVISION IN CRIMEA TO BE DISBANDED. A controversial Russian division belonging to the Black Sea Fleet will be disbanded "in several weeks," NTV reported on 20 August. The 126th Coastal Defense Division, stationed in Simferopol, was once a motorized rifle division belonging to the Ground Forces. During the negotiations for the CFE treaty, the division was transferred to the navy and transformed into a coastal defense division. The CFE treaty does not apply to naval forces, but NATO objected so strongly to the move that the Soviet Union finally agreed to count the weapons in the division against its treaty allowances. The equipment and property of the division are to be turned over to Ukraine. -- Doug Clarke, 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. 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