|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 172, Part I, 5 September 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 APPROVES ELECTION OF NIZHNII NOVGOROD GOVERNOR. Russian President Boris Yeltsin approved Nizhnii Novgorod's intention to hold elections for its governor, Radio Rossii reported on 1 September. Novgorod, Vladimir, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Tambov, and Saratov oblasts have also officially requested permission to hold similar elections as has the Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin will soon approve elections in two or three of these, according to Presidential Chief-of-Staff Sergei Filatov. Meanwhile, in a 1 September Kremlin meeting with the newly-elected Governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast, Eduard Rossel, Yeltsin agreed to consider a treaty defining the relationship between the federal government and the oblast. Rossel defeated Yeltsin's preferred candidate in his campaign. -- Robert Orttung BOLDYREV QUITS YABLOKO. One of Yabloko's founders, Yurii Boldyrev, dropped out of the party on 2 September because he believes that Grigorii Yavlinskii's leadership has become autocratic and sacrificed liberal principles, Ekho Moskvy and Reuters reported. He did not appear at the party's congress on 2-3 September in Moscow. Although Boldyrev was one of the party's founding members, contributing the "B" to its name, his withdrawal does not have immediate consequences since he was not planning to run for the Duma. The party's top three candidates will be Yavlinskii, Chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs Vladimir Lukin, and Deputy Chairwoman of the Duma Committee on Labor and Social Security Tatyana Yarygina. Seven other parties held their congresses over the weekend. -- Robert Orttung OUR HOME IS RUSSIA NAMES PARTY LIST. The second congress of Our Home Is Russia set on its tone for the election campaign on 2 September, choosing supporters of strong Russian statehood for its party list. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will top the list, followed by film director Nikita Mikhalkov ("Burnt by the Sun"), and General Lev Rokhlin, commander of the troops that stormed Grozny, Russian media reported on 3 September. Mikhalkov had previously been associated with former vice president Aleksandr Rutskoi and his Derzhava movement. Other prominent figures on the list include former Democratic Party of Russia chairman Nikolai Travkin and Vladimir Bashmachnikov, leader of the liberal farmers' union AKKOR. In his address to the congress, Chernomyrdin was optimistic that his bloc will overcome early campaign setbacks and divisions among supporters of economic reform. On 20 August, the bloc's candidate was defeated in Sverdlovsk gubernatorial elections, and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai deserted the bloc last week. -- Laura Belin PROCURATOR CLOSES OCTOBER 1993 CRIMINAL CASE. The Procurator-General's Office has closed its criminal investigation of the events on 3-4 October 1993 in which more than 150 people died. It declared that both executive authorities and supporters of the Supreme Soviet were to blame for the armed clashes and bloodshed, Russian Public Television reported on 4 September. Prominent parliamentary supporters, including Ruslan Khasbulatov and Aleksandr Rutskoi, were released from prison in February 1994 when the Duma granted amnesty to all sides in the conflict. One NTV reporter commented that by not charging a single person in the case, procurators had followed one of Russia's "most frightening traditions: bury the dead, but don't name the murderers." -- Laura Belin LITTLE PROGRESS IN CHECHNYA. The recent highly-publicized meeting of the Security Council to discuss the Chechen conflict has as yet delivered few concrete results. The disarmament process continues to move very slowly, with federal military sources telling Interfax on 2 September that only 1,100 weapons had been surrendered by Chechen fighters. Some fighters are keeping their weapons because they are being allowed to join new self-defense units, AFP reported. On 2 September, Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov said that an agreement had been reached on the terms of a long-delayed prisoner exchange, but Russian Public Television reported on 4 September that the exchange had still not taken place. Meanwhile, on the night of 3-4 September, federal troops in Chechnya came under attack 19 times, with mortars used to shell federal positions for the first time in weeks, according to ITAR- TASS. -- Scott Parrish KOHL AND YELTSIN DISCUSS YUGOSLAV CONFLICT. Talks on 2 and 3 September between German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Yeltsin failed to produce agreement between Russia and the Western members of the international Contact Group on the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Western and Russian agencies reported. Kohl told journalists that "our opinions on the air raids did not coincide," in reference to NATO airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs, which Russia has condemned. Kohl did add, however, that he and Yeltsin agreed that the Yugoslav conflict could only be solved at the negotiating table, not by military means. On other issues, Kohl promised German financial aid for the destruction of Russian chemical weapons, and Yeltsin reiterated Russian opposition to the eastward enlargement of NATO. -- Scott Parrish TRAGEDY IN KUZBASS. Fifteen people were killed in an explosion on 4 September at the Pervomaisk mine in the Kuzbass coal field in western Siberia. Izvestiya on 5 September said it was the ninth serious accident in the Kuzbass this year. According to Kemerovo Governor Mikhail Kislyuk, the death rate in the area's mines has tripled since 1989. On average, every million tons of coal mined now costs two lives. Meanwhile, Russian Public Television said that 27 miners are on a hunger strike in the southern Russian mining area of Rostov to protest wage arrears totaling at least 27 billion rubles ($6 million). -- Penny Morvant PRISONERS SUFFOCATE IN PERM. Two prisoners suffocated and four others collapsed in an overcrowded remand prison in Perm in the Urals on 2 September. ITAR-TASS quoted the prison warden as saying the remand wing housed twice as many suspects as it was built to hold. In July, 11 inmates died of heat exhaustion in a remand cell in Novokuznetsk. Rossiiskaya gazeta on 24 August said that more than 270,000 suspected criminals are held on remand in Russia. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN APPROVES LOAN-EQUITY SWAP PLAN. In a move to reduce the federal budget deficit, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 1 September authorizing banks and private investors to manage state shares in certain enterprises in exchange for major loans, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. The measure allows the state to retain ownership of the shares, but they will be transferred to the banks and investors if the state defaults on the loans. The decree said the rights to manage the shares would be allocated by tender, open to the banks and Russian and foreign investors. The amount of the loans and the conditions and guarantees attached to them will be determined by the successful bidders. The tenders will be issued from 1 October. -- Thomas Sigel EXPORT TARIFFS SLASHED, YET GOVERNMENT TO MILK GAZPROM. Russia slashed tariffs on key exports on 1 September, but moved to boost state coffer revenues by hiking natural gas excise taxes of the state gas giant, Gazprom, by 10% and eliminating a tax break on the company's hard currency earnings, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. President Yeltsin signed a decree to lower export tariffs by an average of 30% on goods from metals to machinery. The new rates, which have not been made public, took effect immediately. At the same time, the government decided to raise the excise taxes on Gazprom's natural gas from 25% to 35%. Gazprom already channels billions of dollars into the Russian economy. According to Segodnya, First Deputy Prime Minister responsible for the Economy and Finance, Anatolii Chubais, said the extra revenue from Gazprom would bring in an additional 3.5 trillion rubles ($780 million) by the end of the year. -- Thomas Sigel INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT AND GNP FALL. Russia's industrial output fell by 7% in the first half of 1995, compared with the same period in 1994, and gross national product (GNP) fell by 4%, Russian agencies reported on 2 September. Citing official statistics, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said that recent figures were more encouraging, and pointed to a 2% increase in June's industrial production, compared with May, and a rise of 3% in GNP. He said the rate of decline was slowing compared with 1994. For all of 1994, industrial production fell by 21%, after a decline of 16% in 1993, while GNP dropped by 15% in 1994, compared with 12% in 1993. Soskovets said that June's figures gave rise to optimism that recovery was on the way. He pointed to a rise in production during the first six months of 1995 in the steel, chemical, petrochemical, machine and paper industries, but noted a 35-40% decline in light industrial production. Meanwhile, the government released August's monthly inflation rate--4.6%--the lowest level in one year. -- Thomas Sigel YELTSIN LOWERS ARMS EXPORT DUTIES. Russian President Yeltsin has ordered the government to reduce export duties on defense industry products, Interfax reported on 1 September. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets announced this to Khabarovsk authorities during his working visit to Russia's Far East. He said this would mean that the aircraft factory in Komsomolsk would not be required to pay any duty on its Su-27 jet exports to China. -- Doug Clarke TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NAGORNO-KARABAKH TALKS OPEN IN MOSCOW. Talks began near Moscow on 4 September between representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno- Karabakh, Russian and Western media reported. The talks, which are being held under the auspices of the OSCE, are aimed at consolidating the ceasefire which has held in the region since May 1994. Azerbaijan is refusing to recognize the independent status of Nagorno-Karabakh until Armenia returns the Azerbaijani territory which was seized during earlier fighting, including the land corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Upcoming talks over the construction of pipelines to export oil from the Caspian Sea, scheduled for 9 October, may encourage the two sides to reach a settlement. -- Peter Rutland SHEVARDNADZE TIGHTENS GRIP AFTER ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Georgian Security Minister Igor Giorgadze and his deputy Temur Khachishvili were sacked on 2 September for failing to prevent the 29 August bomb attack on Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze, AFP reported on 3 September. Khachishvili, a supporter of Shevardnadze opponent Dzhaba Ioseliani, was arrested on 2 September along with two leading members of the Mkhedrioni, a paramilitary group. They were accused of involvement in an April attack on a Shevardnadze aide. On 3 September, police conducted raids on regional headquarters of the Mkhedrioni, which backs Ioseliani, seizing their buildings and confiscating weapons. On 3 September Deputy Minister Avtandil Ioseliani was appointed interim security minister, while Shevardnadze told the parliament he will take direct, personal control over three elite security units. The parliament officially approved Shevardnadze's actions. On 4 September, Shevardnadze concluded a one-day visit to Uzbekistan. -- Peter Rutland AZERBAIJAN COURT BANS COMMUNIST PARTY. The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan has banned the Communist Party, preventing it from registering for the 12 November elections, a Western news agency reported 4 September. Fazil Mamedov, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, accused the Communist Party of threatening Azerbaijan's independence by calling for the restoration of the Soviet Union. Party leader Ramiz Akhmedov said the party will appeal to President Heidar Aliev to lift the ban. On 2 September Interfax reported that two major opposition parties, the Popular Front of Azerbaijan and the Social Democratic Party, will be allowed to run in the elections despite earlier being denied registration (See OMRI Daily Digest 4 August 1995). -- Peter Rutland TAJIK MILITARY UNITS FIGHT EACH OTHER, AGAIN. The Kurgan-Tyube area in Tajikistan's south was once again the scene of fighting between the first and eleventh brigades, according to western sources. Both groups were members of the Popular Front which backed the Communists return to power in late 1992. Conflict broke out following the assassination of Izatullo Kuganov, commander of the eleventh brigade, in early June. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov had announced that both brigades would be moved to positions on the Tajik-Afghan border, but this didn't occur. The eleventh brigade came under attack on 1 September. Usmon Marchayev, a commander in the eleventh brigade, said 300 men, six tanks and several armored personnel carriers participated in the assault on his unit. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKHSTAN OFFICIALS REJECTS U.S. CRITICISM ON REFERENDUM. Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev rejected a statement by the U.S. embassy in Almaty that criticizes the new Kazakh constitution as undemocratic, Interfax reported on 2 September. Tokaev said that the people of Kazakhstan have democratically adopted the new constitution, favoring a strong presidential system, and expressed faith that his country's ties with the U.S. will only become closer. A leader of the Russian opposition in Kazakhstan told Reuters on 1 September that voter turnout in the 186 voting stations in Almaty was between 14 and 28%. The Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of Kazakhstan claimed that in the 622 polling stations monitored by the opposition, the actual turnout was only 34%. Yuri Kim, the chairman of the electoral commission, claimed that 90 percent of the electorate voted in the referendum. He denied the "biased" claims of the opposition, who he said had observed only 622 of the 10,253 polling stations. -- Bhavna Dave [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner 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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