|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 250, Part I, 28 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIAN FORCES BOMBARD CHECHEN VILLAGES. Russian artillery bombarded Achkhoi-Martan, southwest of Grozny on 27 December, despite the withdrawal from the town of the Chechen forces loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev who had occupied it since 16 December, according to Russian Public TV (ORT) and AFP. Hundreds are thought to have been killed in the last two weeks of fighting. Several other villages were also targeted by Russian warplanes. Speaking at a wreath-laying ceremony in Moscow on 27 December to mark the sixteenth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Col. Gen. Boris Gromov, whose My Fatherland party failed to clear the 5% hurdle in the Duma elections, called for an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya, NTV reported. -- Liz Fuller ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA CHERNOMYRDIN PLEASED WITH GOVERNMENT'S WORK. Addressing the government meeting on 28 December, Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin declared his satisfaction with the government's performance in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. He argued that inflation is under control, the fall in output and income has been halted, and that the securities market has been "put on its feet." He said that "next year will be decisive" and urged ministers to work as a unified team, rather than pursuing their separate agendas. In a press conference for ITAR-TASS the previous day, the prime minister singled out the strengthening of the ruble and overcoming the August bank crisis as the government's main achievements. -- Peter Rutland BELYAEV TO LEAD OUR HOME IS RUSSIA IN DUMA. At a meeting of deputies elected to represent Our Home Is Russia (NDR) in the Duma, former State Property Committee Chairman Sergei Belyaev was chosen to lead the bloc's faction in parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 December. Belyaev took leave from his government post in August in order to run the campaign for Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc. On 26 December, Chernomyrdin addressed a meeting of 70 deputies in the Duma who are sympathetic to NDR, Segodnya reported the next day. He said that Yabloko is the closest faction to NDR but added that "there are rational, effective, and responsible deputies in all the factions." He said NDR would seek a "working dialogue" with "social democrats" within the Communist faction. -- Laura Belin and Peter Rutland ELECTORAL COMMISSION REGISTERS GROUPS BACKING YELTSIN, RUTSKOI FOR PRESIDENT. On 25 December the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) registered groups nominating Boris Yeltsin and two other candidates for 16 June presidential elections, Russian media reported. Yeltsin has said he will decide in February whether to run for re-election. An initiative group nominating Derzhava leader Aleksandr Rutskoi was also registered on its second attempt. On 14 December the TsIK refused to register Rutskoi's supporters, on the grounds that they had filled out the documents incorrectly. The third group registered on 25 December is nominating Andrei Zavidiya, director of the Galant concern. According to ITAR-TASS, Zavidiya is best known for having been the vice-presidential candidate on Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ticket during the 1991 presidential elections. Laura Belin ZHIRINOVSKY FAILS TO APPEAR IN COURT AGAIN. Former Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Sergei Stepashin's lawsuit against Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky was postponed for the third time on 27 December due to Zhirinovsky's absence at court hearings, ITAR-TASS reported. Stepashin filed the lawsuit in November 1994 after the LDPR leader called the Federal Counterintelligence Service (since re-named the FSB) a "branch of the CIA and the Mossad" and the leader of Russian counterintelligence "an agent of these services." On 20 December, Zhirinovsky failed to appear in court for the third time in his own slander case against Andrei Kozyrev, who called him a "fascist" on NTV in January 1994. -- Laura Belin JOURNALIST KILLED IN KRASNOYARSK. Vadim Alferev, a crime reporter for the Krasnoyarsk newspaper Segodnyashnyaya gazeta, was beaten to death outside his apartment building on 27 December, Russian media reported. Alferev had reportedly received numerous phone threats after writing about economic crimes. According to Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, Alferev became the fifteenth journalist to be killed in Russia in 1995; 10 of those died in Chechnya. Also on 27 December, the head of the Arint gold trading firm in Magadan, Nikolai Kovalchuk, was stabbed to death as he left his apartment, Radio Rossii reported the same day. -- Laura Belin NEWSPAPER FIREBOMBED IN VOLOGDA. Meanwhile, on 24 December authorities arrested a man who confessed to firebombing the offices of the Vologda newspaper Russkii sever, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Izvestiya on 26 December, the suspect had worked as a driver for an entrepreneur and deputy in the regional legislature who lost his bid for a single-member Duma seat in Vologda. Russkii sever had endorsed the candidate who won the seat. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN MEETS WITH KOZYREV. With many anticipating his removal, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev met with President Yeltsin on 27 December, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kozyrev said that Yeltsin had postponed any decision on Kozyrev's future until he "officially" returns to work. According to the Russian constitution, government ministers cannot hold seats in the Duma, forcing Kozyrev to choose between the Murmansk seat he won on 17 December and his ministerial portfolio before the new Duma opens on 16 January. Yeltsin also instructed Kozyrev to visit Kandahar and obtain the release of seven Russian air crew held captive by the Afghan Taliban movement since 3 August. -- Scott Parrish BORDER GUARDS' DIRECTOR ASKS FOR MORE MONEY. Russian Federal Border Service (FPS) Director Andrei Nikolaev said at a news conference on 27 December that FPS needs more money to safeguard the world's longest frontier, Russian and Western agencies reported. The FPS asked for 12 billion rubles ($2.6 million) from the 1996 budget but was awarded less than 6 billion rubles. Nikolaev said that in 1995 Russian border guards detained more than 3,000 people and along with customs officers confiscated contraband worth 27 billion rubles ($5.8 million). -- Constantine Dmitriev DUMA AGAIN OVERRIDES VETO ON MILITARY LAW. During its last session on 22 December, the Duma overrode the Federation Council's veto on changes to the law on military service, Interfax reported. The Duma insists that the service term for draftees called up before 1 October 1995, those serving in the "hot spots," and those with a single parent over the age of 53 should be 18 months instead of two years (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 December 1995). The bill now goes to President Boris Yeltsin who must either sign or reject it within two weeks. He vetoed a similar measure on 4 December but issued a decree limiting service to 18 months for those involved in combat duties for at least one month. -- Constantine Dmitriev AN EXPLOSIVE YEAR IN MOSCOW. The Moscow police announced that there were 106 criminal explosions in Moscow in the first 11 months of 1995, Radio Rossii reported on 27 December. Fifteen persons were killed and 56 wounded, but arrests were made in only six cases. Most bombings were connected to commercial activities, such as unpaid debts. Police fear that the low detection rate will only encourage criminals to resort to such measures in the future. -- Peter Rutland COLD CHRISTMAS. A total of 248 people have frozen to death in the streets of Moscow since the beginning of November, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 December. Most were drunks who collapsed while strolling, rather than homeless people. Health authorities are warning people to stay at home during the New Year festivities. Meanwhile, Russian and Western agencies report that Russia and Ukraine are in the grip of a major flu epidemic; one million people have fallen ill in Moscow, 230,000 in Yekaterinburg, and two million in Kiev. It is thought that flu is of a different strain than that circulating in the West. -- Peter Rutland YELTSIN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER AIR SAFETY. The former head of the CIS armed forces, Marshal Yevgenii Shaposhnikov, who is now director of Aeroflot-Russian International Airlines, met with President Yeltsin on 23 December, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Yeltsin instructed him to take steps to improve air safety. The meeting follows the 7 December crash in the Far East of a Tu-154 operated by Khabarovsk Airlines, which killed all 97 people on board. Preliminary investigations suggest that poor maintenance of the 20-year-old plane may have been the cause. The plane had been fitted with a new engine just two weeks before the crash. ITAR-TASS reported on 26 December that the crash of an Azerbaijani Airlines Tu-134 on 5 December, which killed 50 people, was due to the use of faulty parts in a recent engine repair. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA TO LAUNCH OWN DIAMOND EXCHANGE. The head of the Russian Association of Diamond Producers, Ararat Evoyan, said Russia will launch its first exchange for uncut and polished diamonds in January, Russian agencies reported on 27 December. Russian officials had failed to reach agreement with the South African corporation De Beers for renewal of a 1990 contract that gave the latter exclusive rights to market Russian diamonds abroad. The contract was extended for one month while talks continue. Russian producers complain that De Beer's prices are too low and that they are excluded from the more profitable stone polishing work. Russia extracts nearly 25% of the world's uncut diamonds, but its shares of global diamond polishing and jewelry manufacture are only 6.7% and 0.4% respectively. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ANTI-GOVERNMENT LEAFLETS DISTRIBUTED IN AZERBAIJAN. Anti-government leaflets produced and signed by a secret union of students named after Musavat party leader Memet Emin Rasulzade were distributed in Ganja on 22 December, Turan reported. The union criticized the country's leadership for allegedly betraying national interests and accused President Heidar Aliev's son Ilham of gambling away millions of dollars while the population is on the breadline; the leaflets also criticized the political opposition for its passivity. In November, the union had distributed comparable leaflets in Ganja and Baku. -- Liz Fuller FORMER GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON TRIAL. The trial of former Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani on charges of creating an illegal military formation opened in Tbilisi on 27 December and was promptly adjourned until 9 January, Russian media reported. Kitovani was arrested in January 1995 after launching a crusade to bring the breakaway region of Abkhazia back under Tbilisi's jurisdiction. Former Georgian Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua, a co-founder with Kitovani of the National Liberation Front of Abkhazia, is not facing legal action. -- Liz Fuller KAZAKHSTAN, ISRAEL SIGN AGREEMENTS, NAZARBAYEV MEETS ARAFAT. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres signed four accords on bilateral cooperation in the fields of health, agriculture, the environment, and investment protection on 27 December, AFP reported. Nazarbayev, on a three-day visit to Israel, said Kazakhstan would soon open an embassy in Israel. The Kazakhstani president also took the opportunity to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City where the two signed agreements on economic cooperation and education. Nazarbayev said he supported "the creation of an independent Palestinian state." -- Bruce Pannier ANOTHER DECREE ON STRENGTHENING PRESIDENCY IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev issued a decree strengthening the powers of the president on 27 December, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported the following day. The decree states that the president determines the basic course of domestic and foreign policies and serves as the symbol and guarantor of national unity, state power, the constitution, and citizens' rights. In addition, it allows the president to order parliamentary elections, to annul any existing law, and to demand the government's resignation. The decree also states that the same person cannot be elected president more than two times in a row. -- Bhavna Dave in Almaty AKAYEV PROMISES CHANGES IN GOVERNMENT. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev told a press conference on 27 December that there would be "radical changes" in the government following his victory in the 24 December election, according to Interfax. Akayev said he would ask for international help to develop a national program for battling crime, which he singled out as the gravest problem in the country. He also said he would demand that presidential powers be broadened at the first session of the Kyrgyz parliament. Akayev dismissed speculation that he plans to purge the opposition but added that he will not give government posts to those candidates that ran against him in the election. -- Bruce Pannier [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. 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