|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 176, Part I, 11 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 DENOUNCES NATO. On the eve of a special session of the Duma to discuss the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, President Boris Yeltsin lashed out at NATO but also criticized Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, international media reported on 8 August. Calling NATO's airstrikes on Bosnian Serb positions "unacceptable," Yeltsin said Russia might send assistance other than humanitarian aid to Serbia if the airstrikes continued, and he renewed his call for an international conference on the Yugoslav conflict in Moscow in October. The president reiterated Russian opposition to NATO's expansion to the "borders of Russia," which he said would "light the fires of war all over Europe." By its actions in Bosnia, he said, NATO "showed what it is capable of." Anticipating criticism of Kozyrev, Yeltsin noted his "dissatisfaction," with the ministry, saying that if its work did not improve, he would draw "the appropriate conclusions." -- Scott Parrish DUMA PASSES RESOLUTION ON YUGOSLAV CONFLICT. At its special session on 9 September, the State Duma criticized Yeltsin, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, and NATO, Russian and Western agencies reported. After a heated debate, during which extreme proposals to dispatch troops to Serbia and recall all ambassadors from NATO countries were discussed, the Duma passed a resolution calling on Yeltsin to fire Kozyrev, withdraw Russia from UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia, impose a trade embargo against Croatia, and suspend Russian participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. The resolution, which is not binding on the president, passed 258-2 with 3 abstentions. Many liberal deputies boycotted the session. -- Scott Parrish BRAWL ERUPTS IN DUMA. A fistfight broke out during the Duma debate on Bosnia when Nikolai Lysenko, leader of the right-wing National- Republican Party of Russia, tore a 19th-century cross from the neck of dissident priest Gleb Yakunin of the Russia's Choice bloc, Russian media reported on 9 September. Liberal-Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky quickly joined the brawl, attacking deputy Yevgeniya Tishkovskaya, who was trying to defend Yakunin. Lysenko refused to return the cross to Yakunin, who was defrocked in 1993 after disobeying an Orthodox Church order not to run for parliament. Yakunin vowed to press robbery charges against Lysenko, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Laura Belin UNION OF LABOR SELECTS CANDIDATES. Russian United Industrial Party chairman Vladimir Shcherbakov, Federation of Independent Trade Unions leader Mikhail Shmakov, and Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs president Arkadii Volskii were chosen to top the party list of the new electoral bloc "Trade Unions and Industrialists of Russia-Union of Labor," ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. The group's creation deals another blow to the electoral prospects of Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, who has tried to recruit major trade union and industrial groups for his left-center electoral bloc. -- Laura Belin UNION OF PATRIOTS HOLDS CONGRESS. More than 20 groups, including the Union of Veterans and the All-Military Union, came together for the first congress of the Union of Patriots in Moscow, Russian media reported on 8 September. The movement's party list for December's parliamentary elections will be headed by three generals: All-Russian Officers' Assembly leader Vladislav Achalov, Russian National Assembly chairman Aleksandr Sterligov, and 1991 putschist Aleksandr Tizyakov, more recently affiliated with the Association of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, according to Segodnya on 9 September. Sterligov said that all the candidates have passed blood-line checks to verify that they are of Russian descent, NTV reported on 10 September. -- Laura Belin ACCUSATIONS OF CRIMINAL TIES SPLIT RUTSKOI'S DERZHAVA. Former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi tried to restore confidence in his Derzhava party at its 9 September congress after eight prominent members left, claiming that, to secure financial support, Rutskoi had included criminals in his party list. Among those leaving were former USSR People's Deputy Col. Viktor Alksnis, Chairman of the Russian National Legal Center Mikhail Astafev, and Christian-Democrat leader Viktor Aksyuchits, NTV reported. The critics specifically attacked Viktor Kobelev, Vladimir Zhirinovsky's former campaign manager, who is now no. 2 on Derzhava's list, ITAR-TASS reported. Rutskoi withdrew the party's list from the Central Electoral Committee in order to review its members. The congress changed the movement's official name to Derzhava- Rutskoi. -- Robert Orttung HIGH COURT JUSTICE UNDER FIRE FOR SPEAKING OUT ON FEDERATION COUNCIL . . . Constitutional Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov is being criticized for commenting on the court's possible decision on the law determining formation of the Federation Council. By appearing to support President Boris Yeltsin in this dispute with the parliament, Tumanov may have damaged his own reputation and the court's authority, Kommersant-Daily reported on 9 September. Tumanov had suggested that the law stipulating that the Federation Council be elected, which Yeltsin vetoed on 12 August, would have been found to be unconstitutional. Russian law prohibits judges from expressing their attitude toward cases they are considering. -- Robert Orttung . . . BUT CASE MAY NOT MATTER. Yeltsin announced on 8 September that he will sign a presidential decree on the formation of the parliament's upper house in the coming weeks, ITAR-TASS reported. The next Federation Council will be formed from representatives of the executive and legislative branches in Russia's 89 regions and republics and 4 or 5 representatives of the federal government. The current council has no deputies representing the federal government, and the innovation will allow Yeltsin to reappoint current Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko, who has loyally supported the president's policies. -- Robert Orttung ARMY CAN'T BUY ALL THE TANKS IT NEEDS. The Ministry of Defense had planned to renew Russia's tank inventory completely by 2001 with modern tanks, but it cannot afford to, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September, quoting the head of the ministry's Armor Department. Col.-Gen. Aleksandr Galkin said that the re-equipment scheme calls for 300 new tanks per year, but the military can only afford to buy between 60 and 80. He said the army has only 107 of the best new tanks, the T-90s, all stationed in Siberia. Reuters quoted Galkin as saying that 307 Russian tanks were destroyed by Chechen separatists. In a related story, the Sverdlovsk regional governor complained to ITAR-TASS on 7 September that the Uralvagonzavod plant in Nizhniy Tagil--which builds T-90s--has 350 modern tanks in its inventory that the government cannot afford to buy. He said that the factory cannot get permission to sell them to other customers. -- Doug Clarke YELTSIN UNHAPPY WITH ILYUSHENKO. In what could signal the end of the career of acting Procurator-General Aleksei Ilyushenko, Yeltsin said on 8 September that he is dissatisfied with the procurator's work and is unlikely to nominate him for the permanent position, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin made Ilyushenko procurator-general in December 1993, but the parliament twice refused to approve his appointment. Ilyushenko has been criticized for failing to solve the murders of prominent businessmen and journalists. The campaign against him in the media heated up this summer after he prosecuted the channel's popular puppet show "Kukly" for slander and tried to bring charges against an NTV journalist who interviewed a Chechen separatist leader. An NTV report noted that Yeltsin's criticism of Ilyushenko came only days after the latter closed the investigation into the bloody events of October 1993, blame for which he pinned equally on executive authorities and supporters of the Supreme Soviet. -- Penny Morvant CRACKDOWN ON CORRUPTION PROMISED. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said on 9 September that the main aim of reform in his ministry is to fight official corruption and ensure the security of individuals. Kulikov said police were investigating 1,600 cases of links between criminal groups and the upper echelons of power and that the criminal world spent an estimated 30%-50% of its income on bribing state officials, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kulikov added that crime in Russia grew 5% in the first eight months of this year compared with the same period in 1994 but homicide is down 7%. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN URGES GENTLE EASING OF STRICT FINANCIAL POLICIES. Yeltsin said in an 8 September press conference that the economy is showing signs of stabilization and, while strict financial policies should continue, the reins must be loosened to pay pensions and salaries, Russia and Western agencies reported the same day. The president signed a decree on 7 September ordering the Central Bank to allot 2 trillion rubles ($450 million) to clear pension arrears. At the conference, Yeltsin blamed the government for delays in paying pensions and salaries and claimed that there were resources available to remedy the problem. -- Thomas Sigel TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA POLICE IN ALMATY THREATEN ACTION OVER PAY. Police in the Kazakh capital, Almaty, have threatened to take "exceptional action" starting 18 September if the government fails to pay their back wages and raise salaries, Karavan-Blitz reported on 5 September. According to the paper, an open letter to the government appeared on the front page of the Interior Ministry's newspaper Na strazhe on 31 August, describing the grievances of the police, who work 12-14 hours daily for 6,000 tenge ($100) a month. It is unclear what action police will take, as employees of internal-affairs agencies are forbidden to go on strike. Karavan- blitz quoted a spokesman for the Internal Affairs Ministry's personnel department as saying that, due to low wages, the number of police taking bribes is increasing; 1,500 people have been fired on that account this year alone. -- Bhavna Dave KYRGYZ TRADE UNIONS DEMAND MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE. Kyrgyzstan's Federation of Trade Unions has called on President Askar Akaev to raise the minimum wage immediately and increase benefits for workers, the Khabar news agency reported on 7 September. The union leaders termed the parliament's decision not to review minimum wages until the end of the year an "anti-popular measure," complaining that the government's promises and various decrees on raising wages have not been implemented. The federation proposed that funds for wage increases could be raised by cutting the republic's central and local administrative apparatus. -- Bhavna Dave TURKMEN, UKRAINIAN, AND IRANIAN OFFICIALS MEET. Building on talks held in Iran last April, the foreign ministers of Turkmenistan, Iran, and Ukraine began talks in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, on 9 September, Russian sources reported. Discussion is expected to focus on trilateral economic projects, such as development of the Caspian Sea's offshore oil field, construction of new oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan, and upgrading of existing pipelines. Ukraine is also looking to devise a payment system for Turkmen gas supplies, and Turkmenistan and Iran are interested in buying machine-building and instrument-engineering technology from Ukraine. -- Bruce Pannier RUSSIA PRESSING ABKHAZIA TO COME TO TERMS WITH GEORGIA. In a telephone conversation with Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze on 8 September, Russian President Boris Yeltsin pledged to take steps to restore Georgia's territorial integrity, Russian and Western agencies reported. Talks between Georgia and the breakaway region of Abkhazia broke down in Moscow on 1 September. On 7 September, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov blamed the Abkhaz side for the failure of the talks and threatened to withdraw the 3,000 Russian peacekeepers who have policed the Abkhaz-Georgian border since October 1993. The Abkhaz leadership insists that Abkhaz sovereignty be recognized before talks can continue. Shevardnadze accused the Abkhaz of obstructing the talks in the hope that more sympathetic politicians will emerge from the December parliamentary elections in Russia. -- Peter Rutland NEW CURRENCY FOR GEORGIA. The president of the Georgian National Bank, Nodar Dzhavakhishvili, told Georgian Radio on 8 September that a new currency, the lari, will replace the temporary coupon later this year. The coupon fell from its 1993 introductory rate of 5,000 to the dollar to more than 2 million to the dollar at the end of 1994. In 1995, the government tightened monetary policy, stabilizing the value of the coupon at around 1.3 million to the dollar. This has prompted the IMF to offer a $157 million loan to back the new currency, which will be set at $0.77 per lari. -- Peter Rutland NO PROGRESS IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH TALKS. The latest round of talks in Moscow over the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, which began on 4 September, ended without resolution on 9 September, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The "Minsk Group" of representatives from the OSCE, which is mediating the talks, will meet in Moscow on 11 September. On 9 September it was announced that UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali will send Undersecretary-General Aldo Ajello as a special envoy to the region. -- Peter Rutland [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Susan Caskie 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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