|The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881|
No. 169, Part I, 30 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 YELTSIN GIVES ENVOY IN CHECHNYA SWEEPING POWERS. On 29 August, the presidential press service released details of the decree appointing Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov presidential representative in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the decree, Lobov will have the powers of a first deputy prime minister, with authority over all federal officials in Chechnya, including the operational command of federal forces in the republic. He will also coordinate the activity of all federal delegations sent to negotiate with separatist Chechen leaders. That Lobov, a close associate of President Boris Yeltsin, has been granted such sweeping powers suggests that Yeltsin is reasserting control over Chechen policy, in which Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has played a major role since the Budennovsk events, Izvestiya commented on 30 August. The appointment also follows Yeltsin's recent pattern of placing close personal associates in important positions within the presidential apparatus. Also on 29 August, Yeltsin reiterated his commitment to a negotiated settlement of the Chechen conflict, saying that his policy in Chechnya remains "unchanged." -- Scott Parrish GRACHEV SAYS KURILS BELONG TO RUSSIA. Speaking to a meeting of Russian war veterans, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said that the successful Soviet military offensive against the Japanese Kwantung Army in August 1945 led to the "return to Russia of lands torn away by Japan," Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 August. When asked what specific areas he had in mind, Grachev said the Kuril Islands, which he then described as "genuine Russian land," according to Interfax. Grachev's comments are likely to aggravate already shaky relations between Russia and Japan. A long-running territorial dispute over the four southernmost islands of the Kuril chain, which Russia continues to control but Japan claims, has blocked improvement in relations. Russian military officers have frequently made public statements opposing any concessions to Japan on the issue. -- Scott Parrish FOREIGN MINISTRY WARY OF NATO ACTION IN BOSNIA. An anonymous diplomat at the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax on 29 August that the possibility of NATO airstrikes against Bosnian Serb positions in retaliation for the recent mortar attack on a crowded Sarajevo marketplace could endanger progress toward a peace settlement in the former Yugoslavia. Another Russian diplomat, quoted by Interfax in Paris before a scheduled meeting of international Contact Group representatives, described the mortar attack as a "provocation" designed to undermine the peace process. He refused, however, to pin the blame on the Bosnian Serbs, saying that "extremists" among the Bosnian Muslims also wanted to block the negotiation process. In Moscow, Defense Minster Grachev told journalists that the international community should give "equal treatment" to all parties in the Yugoslav conflict, adding that the "Bosnian Serbs, Croats, and Muslims all have a big enough share of responsibility for current developments." -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN TO REMAIN ABOVE THE FRAY. President Yeltsin told a meeting of political scientists that he will not announce whether he intends to run for a second term until after the December parliamentary elections, according to Presidential Council member Andranik Migranyan, NTV reported on 30 August. Yeltsin also said that he will not identify himself with any party or bloc during the parliamentary campaign. At the meeting, Yeltsin reaffirmed his intention to hold all elections on schedule, although he said there is a danger that they will destabilize the situation. He again rejected elections to the Federation Council as unconstitutional and was advised by his interlocutors to form the upper house from the regional leadership by presidential decree if the issue is held up in the Constitutional Court. -- Robert Orttung LEBED ADDRESSES MOSCOW PARTY CONGRESS. Retired Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed addressed a conference of the Moscow City branch of the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) on 29 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Lebed is the deputy chairman of the KRO. Lebed advocated strengthening Russian statehood since "we possess a unique civilization and should preserve it." Reporters present said that the general again demonstrated his oratorical skill, which is bolstering his standing in the opinion polls. The KRO claims 80 regional branches in Russia and 43 branches in the non-Russian republics of the former Soviet Union, but it does not provide membership figures. -- Robert Orttung MOSCOW TO ELECT CITY DUMA ON 17 DECEMBER. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov signed a directive on 29 August setting 17 December as the date for elections to the Moscow City Duma, ITAR-TASS reported. The current Duma was elected on 12 December 1993, after Yeltsin shut down all local soviets in the country following his October attack on the Russian White House. -- Robert Orttung CHEMICAL WEAPONS TO BE DESTROYED BY NUCLEAR BOMBS? The Atomic Power Ministry has been working for four years on a plan to destroy chemical weapons in underground nuclear explosions, its chief told a 28 August meeting marking the 50th anniversary of the ministry's creation. NTV quoted Viktor Mikhailov as saying that while such explosions would violate the current test moratorium, they had the "indisputable advantage" of being "approximately 100 times cheaper than any other means." -- Doug Clarke TATAR STUDY ON "SHUTTLE" TRADERS. An opinion survey conducted in the Tatar capital, Kazan, by a Tatar government center suggests that women make up 80% of those who engage in "shuttle" trade-- i.e., those who make regular trips abroad to buy goods to sell at home. According to Interfax on 27 August, more than 40% of the respondents had a higher education, 20% had earlier worked in the military-industrial complex, and over 16% were former civil servants. Nearly 82% said they had to "shuttle" to keep their families. Half of the traders admitted to paying off officials, and 40% are controlled by criminal groups. -- Penny Morvant GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS REBUKED FOR TRIPS ABROAD. According to a report by the Presidential Control Administration, 525 officials from 32 ministries have violated a decree issued by Yeltsin in 1993 regulating civil servants' trips abroad, Kommersant-daily reported on 25 August. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets rebuked the offenders at a meeting of the cabinet and urged officials to spend more time traveling around Russia. The largest number of unnecessary trips was made by officials from the Foreign Economic Relations Ministry, the Economics Ministry, the Finance Ministry, and the Nationalities Ministry, while the biggest individual offender was Education Ministry department head Yelena Lenskaya, said to have traveled abroad on 80 occasions. According to Komsomolskaya pravda of 29 August, however, Lenskaya herself claims to have made only eight trips. -- Penny Morvant BANKS FAIL TO OUTLINE CLEAR POLICY ON CRISIS. The Association of Russian Banks has failed to draw up measures to overcome the interbank credit market crisis that hit banks last week, Russian agencies reported on 29 August. The Association, which unites more than 1,000 commercial banks, is working on a guiding statement to better define credit limits and create a mechanism for paying off mutual obligations but has yet to complete it. According to Interfax, dealers in Moscow estimate that only four or five banks in the capital still trust each other enough to operate on the interbank credit market. -- Thomas Sigel SECURITIES AND STOCK COMMISSION DRAFTS REGULATIONS. The changing infrastructure of the stock market requires regulations to be put in place, Deputy Chairman of the Federal Commission for Securities and Stock Markets Dmitrii Vasilev told Russian media on 29 August. Vasilev said that companies that keep shareholder registers will be subject to an audit to reveal stock market law violations and that the commission is drafting rules governing the work of mutual investment funds, which are being established in accordance with Yeltsin's decree of late July (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 July 1995). Vasilev also said that in September the commission will publish a document on amending Russian enterprises' share prospectuses to ensure that they meet world standards. In addition, the commission will draft a document authorizing it to apply sanctions and initiate criminal proceedings against companies violating the rights of investors. -- Thomas Sigel TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA CAR BOMB IN TBILISI. Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze escaped an apparent assassination attempt with minor injuries when a car bomb exploded outside the parliament building in Tbilisi on 29 August, Russian and Western agencies reported. Five other people, including parliament speaker Vakhtang Rcheulishvili and Shevardnadze's chief of staff Petre Mamradze were also hurt. Security measures in Tbilisi have been intensified, and a nationwide state of emergency may be imposed, according to Prime Minister Otar Patsatsia. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller is due in Tbilisi later this week to discuss a planned export pipeline for Caspian oil with Shevardnadze. -- Liz Fuller NAZARBAEV DISMISSES OPPOSITION, SET TO WIN REFERENDUM . . . In a country where plebiscites almost never disappoint the expectations of the authorities, the 30 August vote on the draft constitution is likely to provide a big win for Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, despite widespread apathy on the part of the electorate toward the new constitution. The Chairman of the Election Commission Yurii Kim said he was sure the president would score a major victory. In a national television address, Nazarbaev announced that soon after the anticipated referendum victory, a law setting a date for elections to the nation's parliament will be adopted. In an interview with Interfax on 29 August, Nazarbaev praised his draft constitution as the "only one" in the CIS that guarantees private property and land ownership, including the right to confidentiality regarding bank holdings "just as in Swiss banks." He maintained that the constitution clearly lays down the distribution of power between the various branches of government on the basis of a system of checks and balances in which the president has the authority to dissolve the parliament, just as the latter has the prerogative to impeach the president. Nazarbaev dismissed the opposition as "a narrow and absolutely unrepresentative group of people, motivated by private interests." He said that the country needs "competent, experienced and skilled politicians," not those who stage mass rallies and pickets. He also justified the adoption of a presidential system on the grounds that Kazakhstan lacks a "parliamentary culture and the traditions of a well- developed multiparty system." -- Bhavna Dave . . . AND ANXIETY AMONG SLAVIC GROUPS. Konstantin Zatulin, chairman of the Russian Duma committee on ties with the CIS, warned in an interview with Russian TV on 29 August that once Nazarbaev's powers are extended through a referendum, nothing will deter him from making further changes to the constitution. Zatulin expressed concern that although the Russian language has the status of an official language, the preamble of the constitution favors Kazakh. The issue of Russian speakers in the "near abroad" is likely to be raised in the Russian Duma. Most Kazakh citizens appear more concerned about provisions on land privatization, which are regarded as favoring the sale of land and factories to foreigners, according to Reuters on 29 August. Meanwhile, emigration of Russian- speakers continues to rise--more than 480,000 left Kazakhstan in 1994. "Emigration of Russians is the biggest factor explaining stability of Kazakhstan," Nurbulat Masanov, a history professor from Kazakhstan, told Reuters on 29 August. -- Bhavna Dave ISRAEL TRAINING AZERBAIJANI SECURITY AGENTS? An Israeli intelligence delegation recently arrived in Baku on a secret visit, according to a 28 August IRNA report monitored by the BBC. The Iranian agency claimed that the discussions are part of an effort to upgrade the republic's intelligence system; they are said to follow on from an earlier visit of Azerbaijani security officials to Tel Aviv. The report also alleged that a team of 45 Israeli officers are in Azerbaijan providing training to Azerbaijani security officers. -- Lowell Bezanis TURKISH INVESTMENT IN TURKMENISTAN. Over the past three years Turkey has invested more than $1.5 billion in Turkmenistan, Interfax reported on 28 August. Citing an unnamed spokesman in Turkmenistan's Foreign Economic Relations Ministry, the agency said that about 40% of that money (c. $600 million) is in construction projects. Turkish builders are involved in many of the republic's high profile projects, including its new international airport and several hotels. -- Lowell Bezanis LIBERALIZATION OF TAJIK ECONOMY TO BE ACCELERATED. The authorities in Tajikistan expect that all state property in the republic will be privatized in 1996, Tajik Radio reported on 25 August. According to the report monitored by the BBC, Tajik Prime Minister Jamshid Karimov told a consultative meeting of top industrial managers, the head of the finance ministry, and representatives from the national bank and tax inspectorate that the government intends to speed up the privatization process. He indicated that the prices for all kinds of goods and foreign trade had been completely liberalized to date with the exception of cotton. Cotton-producers have the right to dispose of 30% of the crop in 1995; in 1996 the entire crop is to be at their disposal. Karimov also noted that Tajikistan must pay $126 million in foreign debts this year. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Penny Morvant 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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