|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 241, Part I, 13 December 1995
********************************************************************** JOURNALISTS: A directory of OMRI analysts covering Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is now available. You can access it from OMRI's World Wide Web page (http://www.omri.cz/SD/SDIntro.html) or request a hard copy by sending an e-mail to email@example.com ********************************************************************** 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS HE WON'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told the latest issue of Argumenty i fakty that he does not plan to run for president in 1996, emphasizing his unwavering support for the re-election of President Boris Yeltsin. A poll by the Public Opinion Foundation indicated that Chernomyrdin would not be a viable presidential contender, as only 25% of those surveyed said they trust the prime minister, while 54% said they do not trust him, Russian TV reported on 12 December. -- Laura Belin ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA CHERNOMYRDIN STRIKES PESSIMISTIC TONE BEFORE DUMA ELECTIONS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has struck a pessimistic note in recent public appearances. The decision in 1993 to elect the State Duma for only two years was a "most serious error," he told Argumenty i fakty, adding that "one can work with this Duma. The deputies have begun to understand what is what." Speaking on Radio Rossii on 12 December, Chernomyrdin claimed to have "faith in the reason of the calm, normal person," but his appeal to voters was quite defensive. The prime minister promised that the conflict in Chechnya will not be "endless," the army's "difficult situation" will not be "eternal," people will not be left without salaries, and soldiers will not be poorly fed and clothed. Similarly, he admitted that the economic policies "of the last decade" had not always benefited rural areas but pledged to continue agricultural reform without imposing such policies "by force." -- Laura Belin GAIDAR ASKS SOME OF HIS BLOC'S CANDIDATES TO STEP ASIDE. Yegor Gaidar, leader of the electoral bloc Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats, asked Duma candidates from his bloc in several single-member districts to withdraw in support of representatives from other democratic parties, Radio Rossii reported on 13 December. In a telegram to the candidates, Gaidar regretted that no broad democratic electoral alliance had been formed at the national level and asked candidates who were unlikely to win in single-member districts to step down to prevent the victory of communists or nationalists. Recent poll results suggest Gaidar's bloc may not win the minimum 5% of the party-list vote necessary to secure seats in the Duma. -- Laura Belin LEBED DOUBTS THAT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS WILL BE HELD. Lt. Gen. (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed, deputy chairman of the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), said he doubts that the presidential elections will take place in June 1996 because President Yeltsin would be held accountable for many of his past actions if he were to lose the elections, Russian TV reported on 12 December. Lebed said the only way that Russia can get out of its current political crisis and become a "great nation" once again is through change that begins from below. He said such a movement should begin with the revival of the Russian army. -- Anna Paretskaya PARTY SUPPORT VARIES ACROSS REGIONS. Polls conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation suggest that three leading contenders will emerge from the 17 December elections, although support varies across the country, NTV reported on 12 December. In Moscow, Our Home Is Russia (NDR) topped the poll with 16% support, followed by Yabloko with 10%. In the oblasts around St. Petersburg and Moscow, however, the Communist Party was in the lead, followed by Yabloko. In Yekaterinburg, Yabloko led with 12%, followed by 10% for NDR and 8% for Gaidar's bloc. In Dagestan and North Ossetiya, polls suggest the Communists may get a third or more of the vote. However, with one week to the election some 20-30% of voters were still undecided. -- Peter Rutland VOTING TO BEGIN EARLY IN CHECHNYA. Meeting in Grozny on12 December, the Chechen Supreme Soviet adopted an election law that provides for voting in the Russian State Duma elections to begin on 14 December, Russian media reported. Citizens will be entitled to cast ballots in any polling station, regardless of their place of residence. The law also stipulates that the 17 December elections for a new Chechen leader will be considered valid if 25% of the electorate (which includes those Russian servicemen permanently stationed in Chechnya) cast votes. Also on 12 December, the Chechen Supreme Soviet named Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev to head a commission that will draft a new Chechen constitution, according to Russian TV. -- Liz Fuller CHIRAC THANKS YELTSIN FOR RESCUED FRENCH PILOTS. French President Jacques Chirac thanked President Yeltsin and his Serbian counterpart, Slobodan Milosevic, for their role in securing the release of two French pilots, downed and then held in Bosnia for more than 100 days, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December. Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic said the release of the pilots was largely the result of Russian mediation. A Russian military official based in Belgrade said the release of the pilots will allow Russia and France to contribute in a more constructive way to the peace process in Bosnia. -- Constantine Dmitriev RUSSIA MARKS CONSTITUTION DAY. . . Russians marked the second anniversary of the adoption of their constitution by referendum in 1993 with a public holiday on 12 December. The same day, Sergei Kovalev noted on Russian TV that the constitution left many issues unresolved, such as the formation of the Federation Council, and the adjudication of dual competency between it and the Duma. -- Peter Rutland . . .WITHOUT A NATIONAL ANTHEM. According to the constitution, Russia has a national anthem, but the commission which was set up in 1990 to choose an appropriate anthem recently abandoned its search, NTV reported on 12 December. It was agreed that the music will be the hymn from Mikhail Glinka's Ivan Susanin, but the commission concluded that none of the 8,000 lyrics submitted in the competition it organized accurately conveyed the essence of modern Russia. The task was simpler in 1833, when Russia adopted its first anthem, "God save the Tsar." -- Peter Rutland DUMA CANDIDATE SHOT AT; DEPUTY RUN OVER. Aleksandr Kashcheev, an independent Duma candidate from Yessentuki in Stavropol Krai, told Interfax on 12 December that his car was shot at as he drove home in the early hours of the morning. He was not hurt. Kashcheev said he believed the incident was linked to his criticism of the local mafia, which he claims has links with the regional authorities. The previous day, another Duma candidate, Anatolii Shabad, was taken to hospital after being knocked down by a car in Moscow. Shabad, who is a member of the Russia's Choice faction in the current parliament, is said to be in satisfactory condition. Another Duma deputy, Vitalii Savitskii of the Christian Democratic Union, was killed in a car accident on 10 December. Other members of the CDU insist that Savitskii was the victim of foul play, but police have dismissed such claims. -- Penny Morvant NOVOE VREMYA ANALYSES VOROBEV'S DISMISSAL. The latest issue of the weekly Novoe vremya (no. 48) argues that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was the main force behind the dismissal last month for "gross financial violations" of Col. Gen. Vasilii Vorobev, head of the Defense Ministry's budget and finance department (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November and 1 December 1995). The magazine asserts that Vorobev was involved in the misappropriation of large sums destined for the army and that this led to regular delays in the payment of servicemen's salaries. When Chernomyrdin learned the details, he reportedly went to President Yeltsin, who fired Vorobev. Novoe vremya speculated that Chernomyrdin's intervention was linked to his promise on 15 November to pay the government's debts to the military. Vorobev's dismissal, the paper contends, would allow him to attribute the shortages not to government inefficiency, but to the army, while his attempts to remove the "miltary mafia" would improve his prestige in the military ahead of the elections. -- Penny Morvant OIL WORKERS, MINERS ON HUNGER STRIKE. About 60 oil workers from two villages in the Komi Republic began a hunger strike on 12 December in Usinsk to draw attention to their dismal living conditions, ITAR-TASS reported. About 100 families are living in rundown huts in temporary workers' settlements set up by Komineft and other oil industry enterprises. There are no facilities, and the area has been badly contaminated by pollution. The strikers want steps to be taken immediately to improve their situation and the prompt payment of overdue wages. Meanwhile, about 20 miners from the Tula coal basin are on an underground hunger strike to demand the payment of back wages. The miners are still owed money from August. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA BBC CORRESPONDENT KILLED IN TAJIKISTAN. The body of a BBC correspondent has been found on the outskirts of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, Russian TV reported on 13 December. The correspondent, Mehetdin Alenpur, appears to have been killed on 12 December. The report gave no possible motive for the killing. Police are investigating. -- Bruce Pannier UN SEEKS TO EXTEND OBSERVER MANDATE IN TAJIKISTAN. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has asked the Security Council to extend the mandate of the UN observer mission in Tajikistan (UNMOT) by another six months, according to the UN Daily Report on 12 December. The current mandate expires on 15 December. Boutros Ghali said tension has risen in the Central Asian republic and spoke of the "worrying" deterioration in the country. Boutros Ghali blamed Russian border guards for the obstacles that UN observers have encountered in their investigations of ceasefire violations. The secretary general called on representatives at the inter-Tajik negotiations, which have come to a standstill in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, to find a way to stop the fighting in Tajikistan. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK PRESIDENT VISITS INDIA. Visiting Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and President Shankar Sharma to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and sign several bilateral agreements on issues ranging from investment protection to cultural exchange programs, Reuters reported on 12 December. Rakhmonov called recent events in Afghanistan "disturbing." Sharma said Afghanistan is a training ground for Islamic fundamentalists who are "financed and armed by outsiders," a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan, which the Indian government accuses of backing rebel Afghan group Taliban. -- Bruce Pannier SHEVARDNADZE NOMINATES NEW MINISTERS. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has submitted his list of cabinet nominees to the Georgian parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December. Lt. Gen. Shota Kviraia, the Georgian interior minister for the past two years, has been nominated to the post of security minister; Maj. Gen. Kakha Targamadze, the head of the Interior Ministry department on organized crime and economic sabotage, to the post of interior minister; Irakli Menagarishvili, former vice-premier and health minister from 1986 to 1990, to the post of foreign minister. Shevardnadze has left some ministers from the previous government, including the defense minister, in their posts. The current foreign minister, Alexander Chikvaidze, has fallen out of favor with Shevardnadze. -- Irakli Tsereteli IRAN AND AZERBAIJAN. On 12 December, the Iran News carried a sharply worded editorial saying Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev will be "personally responsible" for endangering regional stability "if Tehran- Baku relations are not straightened out," AFP reported the same day. Iranian Deputy Prime Minister Mahmud Vaezi is currently in Baku for talks aimed at improving relations with Tehran. The editorial appears to be part of a campaign to tilt Azerbaijan away from Turkey and the U.S. Meanwhile, Hoshbaht Yusifzade, the vice president of Azerbaijan's national oil company (SOCAR), denied reports that Tehran had rejected Baku's offer to participate in the exploitation of the Caspian Sea's Shakh-Deniz oil and gas deposits, according to a 12 December report on Turan cited by the BBC. Relations between the two countries have been acrimonious since this spring when Baku, under U.S. pressure, withdrew its offer to sell part of its shares in a deal to exploit three Caspian oil fields to Tehran. -- Lowell Bezanis ALLEGED COUP PARTICIPANT SENTENCED TO DEATH IN AZERBAIJAN. Eldar Aliev, identified as a close associate of former Prime Minister Suret Guseinov, has been sentenced to death by the military collegium of the Azerbaijani Supreme Court for his role in the alleged coup against President Heidar Aliev in October 1994, Radio Rossii reported on 12 December, quoting Interfax. -- Liz Fuller [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. 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