|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 240, Part I, 12 December 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. 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/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF CHECHEN INVASION. Russian Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko marked the 11 December anniversary of the military incursion into Chechnya by arguing that the invasion had been undertaken in order to enable the Russian leadership to negotiate with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev "from a position of strength," according to Interfax. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov claimed that Chechnya had become a hotbed of criminal activity and therefore a threat to Russia, but he admitted that the military intervention had been botched. Some 2,000 Dudaev supporters demonstrated in Grozny on 11 December amid heightened security precautions to protest the Russian- Chechen agreement signed on 8 December and the planned 17 December elections, Russian TV reported. They also demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. -- Liz Fuller ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA FEDERAL CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA MOUNT. More than 2,300 members of the Russian federal armed forces have died in Chechnya since the military operation began there one year ago, Interfax reported on 11 December. Citing the press office of the Defense Ministry, the agency reported that nearly 1,930 of the dead were army personnel, 360 were Interior Ministry troops, and 27 were border troops. Slightly less than 5,500 servicemen were wounded. Russian forces are still suffering daily casualties despite the truce in Chechnya. -- Doug Clarke HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CALL FOR CANCELING ELECTIONS IN CHECHNYA. Sergei Kovalev's Memorial, the Moscow Helsinki Group, and the Moscow Center for Human Rights Studies issued a joint statement on 11 December demanding that the 17 December elections in Chechnya be canceled, Interfax reported. The groups warned that the elections will not be fair, because they will be held in a "virtual state of emergency" and a large proportion of the republic's population, including thousands of refugees, will not be able to vote. However, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told Radio Mayak on 10 December that the elections would be a "step forward" toward peace and must be carried out despite attempts at "intimidation." -- Laura Belin LEBED IS THE MOST POPULAR GENERAL. A recent poll of 1,360 urban residents conducted by the Public Opinion foundation asked respondents which of the generals running for the Duma they most trusted to protect their interests, Interfax reported on 11 December. Congress of Russian Communities leader Aleksandr Lebed was the most popular with 30%, followed by Boris Gromov (My Fatherland) with 15%, Aleksandr Rutskoi (Derzhava) with 10%, and Lev Rokhlin (Our Home Is Russia) with 5%. -- Peter Rutland SOSKOVETS LOOKS FOR VOTES IN DEFENSE PLANTS. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets just completed a 20,000 km pre-election trip to defense industry cities in Siberia, Russian TV reported on 11 December. Among the places he visited was the Transmash company in Omsk, which in the past two years has not sold a single one of the tanks it produces. The association had recently started producing tractors, "but for some reason nobody bought those either." Soskovets encouraged them to follow the example of their neighbor, the Polet enterprise. It has started producing the AN 72 civil transport aircraft and is negotiating with Mercedes to assemble buses. -- Peter Rutland BASHKORTOSTAN INTRODUCES PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF SMALL LAND PLOTS. Although last week Murtaza Rakhimov, Bashkortostan's president, signed a decree allowing restricted ownership of small plots of land, the question of unrestricted trade for landowners will be decided in the republican referendum on 17 December, Russian media reported on 11 December. The 6 December presidential decree grants citizens the right to own land for personal use, as well as the right to sell, lease, and mortgage land plots, although owners are prohibited from using individual plots of land for anything other than their original purpose. According to opinion polls, less than 18% of voters favor unlimited private land ownership and the number of people who support the free trade of land may go down following Rakhimov's decree, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The referendum will also ask whether or not the republic should seek greater economic independence from the Russian Federation. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIAN OFFICER PROTESTS RELOCATION OF PEACEKEEPING BRIGADE. Colonel Andrei Demurenko, head of UN security forces in the Sarajevo sector, complained that plans to move the Russian peacekeeping brigade further east, away from the town of Brcko, may make their participation in the overall operation "pointless" and "decorative," ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December. The colonel said that it had been agreed with the Serbs that the 1,500 man Russian brigade would police the area around Brcko in the crucial Posavina corridor, which links the two halves of the Bosnian Serb entity. -- Peter Rutland and Michael Mihalka UN TRIBUNAL REJECTS RUSSIAN REQUEST. The chief prosecutor for the UN International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Richard Goldstone, rejected a Russian request to put genocide charges against Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic on hold (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 December 1995), Western agencies reported on 11 December. Goldstone told journalists that the Russian ambassador in the Netherlands who made the request did not provide acceptable reasons for putting the charges on hold. Goldstone added that Russia's request could be connected to France's demand that the Bosnian Serbs provide information on two French pilots downed three months ago. -- Constantine Dmitriev RUSSIA STARTS TO PAY OFF UN DEBTS. Russia announced on 11 December that it will contribute $284 million to the UN's peacekeeping budget, ITAR- TASS reported on 12 December. That covers Russia's contribution for 1995 and includes $54 million towards the payment of arrears. Already this year Russia has paid off its remaining $63 million debt to the regular UN account. Russia's total debts to the UN are $600 million, while the U.S. owes $1.5 billion. -- Peter Rutland KOVALEV ON HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES. Human rights abuses in Russia are "systematic and flagrant" in many areas, according to a report being prepared by Sergei Kovalev, chairman of the presidential commission on human rights. Kovalev told a meeting of activists on 10 December that the report will reveal widespread and growing abuses and the systematic violation of the country's constitution by officials, Interfax and Reuters reported. He said that "in many cases citizens are detained, beaten, and humiliated by Interior Ministry bodies without reason" and that "tortures and murders are also practiced." He argued that Russian security bodies are returning to Soviet-style practices with regard to official secrecy and surveillance, warning that "the lack of control over the actions of the security organs is the path back to a totalitarian regime." Following his harsh criticism of the Russian operation in Chechnya, Kovalev's commission has been ignored by President Yeltsin but not formally disbanded. -- Penny Morvant SECURITY STEPPED UP PENDING ELECTIONS. Law enforcement agencies are taking additional security measures to prevent terrorist attacks as election day approaches. On 11 December, police and Interior Ministry troops began extra patrols in public places such as railway stations and bus stops, Interfax and Ekho Moskvy reported. Police will guard all polling stations as of 16 December and firefighters will inspect them before the voting begins. Special measures are being taken in Chechnya. -- Penny Morvant SYPHILIS AND AIDS SPREADING. Some 200,000 cases of syphilis were registered in Russia in the first 10 months of the year, according to Yevgenii Belyaev, the chairman of the State Committee for the Prevention of Epidemics. He said the figures were unprecedented in Russia and blamed the increase on the easing of travel restrictions, the rise in immigration, and a "lapse in moral standards," Interfax and Ekho Moskvy reported. On the subject of AIDS, he said that there are now 1,033 registered HIV-carriers in the country and that more and more cases are being diagnosed among high school and college students. AIDS support groups believe that the official figures for HIV infection should be multiplied by a factor of 10 to get a true picture of the situation in Russia. -- Penny Morvant OLD SOVIET SATELLITE FALLS TO EARTH. A space satellite launched nearly 25 years ago re-entered the Earth's atmosphere south of Hawaii at 11 p.m. Moscow time on 10 December and burned up, Interfax and Western agencies reported on 11 December. Experts originally feared that the satellite would scatter fragments weighing up to 200 kg across the ocean, but only a few small pieces were reported to have hit the Earth's surface. Cosmos-398 was launched on 21 February 1971 as part of a program to study the moon, and has been designated as "space trash" since March of that year. According to Russian TV, it is not powered by a nuclear reactor. -- Doug Clarke RUSSIAN VENTURE IN EASTERN GERMANY FALLS FLAT. Two years ago, the Moscow firm Sokolniki, headed by industrial lobbyist Yurii Gekht, was given control over a DM 1 billion pulp and paper factory in Pirno near Dresden for the symbolic sum of one mark, NTV reported on 10 December. Gekht was supposed to invest DM 270 million ($186 million) but only managed to come up with DM 15 million, and the factory has laid off all 800 of its former workers. Gekht complained that his plans to raise money by exporting coal had been blocked in Moscow. Meanwhile, the Russian company MES (International Economic Cooperation) announced plans to set up joint ventures with three Hungarian agricultural producers, Interfax reported on 11 December. MES plans to supply Moscow and St. Petersburg with $200 million of food every year. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK OPPOSITION WALKS OUT OF TALKS. The United Tajik Opposition (UTO) has announced that it will temporarily suspend its participation in the inter-Tajik talks, Interfax reported on 11 December. Speaking in Ashgabat, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, a UTO representative, said the Tajik government's continued military action in the Tavil-Dara region of Tajikistan has made it "impossible to hold talks on political issues." A group of observers from the opposition and the UN have arrived in Tajikistan to assess the situation but have been unable to visit the conflict area because, according to the opposition, government troops are still fighting. The government has countered that the observers should be flown to Shuroabad in the south where border guards have been attacked several times during the last two weeks by rebel groups crossing from Afghanistan, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 7 December. The opposition delegation will remain in Ashgabat to hold meetings with the UN special envoy. -- Bruce Pannier UZBEK-SOUTH KOREAN RELATIONS. The charge d'affaires of Uzbekistan, Vitalii Fen, is in Seoul, South Korea to open a diplomatic mission, according to ITAR-TASS on 12 December. South Korea has said it will reciprocate by opening a consulate in Tashkent a year from now. Some 220,000 Koreans live in Uzbekistan. In the 1930s, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin forcibly moved thousands of Koreans from the Far East to the Central Asian republic. -- Bruce Pannier ARMENIA REJECTS TURKISH CFE REQUEST. Armenia has rejected a Turkish request to inspect Russian military units based in Armenia, Turkish Daily News reported on 12 December. Turkey made the request in early December on the basis of the monitoring provisions of the CFE treaty. Erevan had initially granted Turkey permission to conduct observation flights above the units on 7 December, but then withdrew it without explanation two days later. The paper pointed out that the Armenian rejection is in keeping with Russia's refusal to comply with the CFE treaty in the Caucasus. -- Lowell Bezanis GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT NAMES MINISTER OF STATE. The Georgian parliament appointed Niko Lekishvili, former mayor of Tbilisi, to the post of minister of state, Georgian Radio reported on 8 December. His duties will include coordinating the executive authorities and acting as a liaison with the legislature and judiciary. According to ITAR-TASS, he is second in the state hierarchy after the president, since the post of prime minister doesn't exist under the new Georgian constitution. On the same day, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze appointed Badri Shoshitaishvili, formerly premier of the Tbilisi municipality, to the post of mayor. Shoshitaishvili was first secretary of a raikom in one of the Tbilisi districts in the late 1980s. -- Irakli Tsereteli [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and Central, Eastern, 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. To receive the OMRI Daily Digest by mail or fax, please direct inquiries to OMRI Publications, Na Strzi 63, 140 62 Prague 4, Czech Republic; or electronically to OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Tel.: (42-2) 6114 2114; fax: (42-2) 426 396 Please note that there is a new procedure for obtaining permission to reprint or redistribute the OMRI Daily Digest. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the new policy or look at this URL: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (C) 1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 Greg Cole, Director Center for International Networking Initiatives The University of Tennessee System Phone: (423) 974-7277 2000 Lake Avenue FAX: (423) 974-8022 Knoxville, TN 37996 Email: email@example.com
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