|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 6, Part I, 9 January 1996
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CHECHEN REBELS SEIZE HOSTAGES IN DAGESTAN. Chechen rebels led by a son- in-law of President Dzhokhar Dudaev occupied a hospital and maternity home in the town of Kizlyar in Dagestan in the early morning of 9 January, ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported. The rebels took up to 1,000 people hostage and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. A fierce exchange of fire was reported between the Chechen contingent and several hundred Russian troops who surrounded the buildings; at least five civilians, two police officers, and five Chechen militants were reported to have been killed. -- Liz Fuller ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN BLASTS SECURITY MINISTRIES. Following a 9 January meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and other high-ranking officials to discuss the situation in Kizlyar, President Boris Yeltsin sharply criticized the leaders of Russia's security ministries for failing to prevent the attack by pro-Dudaev fighters. "How can we understand you generals?" said Yeltsin. "The lessons which should have been learned by the security services were apparently not sufficient," he added, in an obvious reference to last June's Budennovsk events, when Chechen fighters also seized a hospital and hundreds of hostages. "The Border Guards were sleeping," Yeltsin noted, pointing out that he had previously ordered the administrative boundary between Chechnya and Dagestan sealed against incursions. -- Scott Parrish FEDERATION COUNCIL APPARATUS MISAPPROPRIATED FUNDS. An audit of the Federation Council apparatus requested by the Council itself found that during 1994 and the first half of 1995, 700 million rubles ($152,000) in budgetary funds were misappropriated, Radio Rossii reported on 8 January. For instance, bureaucrats spent 82 million rubles ($18,000) on sportswear, 90 million rubles ($19,500) on holiday gifts, and 15 million rubles ($3300) on wine and vodka for trips abroad. -- Laura Belin DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA MAY NOMINATE STAROVOITOVA FOR PRESIDENT. In October, Democratic Russia withdrew from the party-list ballot and threw its support behind Yabloko for the Duma elections, but the movement appears unwilling to endorse Grigorii Yavlinskii for the presidency. Andrei Frolov, a Democratic Russia representative, told Interfax on 7 January that "all democratic forces" in Russia should unite behind one presidential candidate. But he added that Democratic Russia may yet nominate its own candidate, most likely co-leader Galina Starovoitova, who was elected to the Duma from a St. Petersburg single-member district. Democratic Russia helped form the Russia's Choice movement in 1993 but split with Yegor Gaidar the following year. -- Laura Belin MORE CALLS FOR UNITY AMONG DEMOCRATS. Dmitrii Kataev, a member of Democratic Russia's federal council, wrote in the 5 January issue of Kuranty that democratic parties must move beyond discussions and round tables and form a "single organization." He said this organization should include members of various parties and seek compromise positions on issues but should then enforce party discipline to support the positions agreed upon. Kataev said such an organization should be built from below, starting with local and regional branches of democratic parties. However, he admitted that unity is easier to support in principle than in practice. At Democratic Russia's April 1995 congress, delegates voted nearly unanimously to form a united democratic bloc, but only half as many voted to join Yavlinskii's party and half that number voted to unite with Gaidar. -- Laura Belin GAIDAR: YABLOKO AND OUR HOME IS RUSSIA SHOULD COOPERATE. In a 5 January interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta, Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar said reconciliation between his party and Yabloko is no longer the "main question of democracy in Russia." He added that "however humiliating it may be for us," the main question now is a rapprochement between Yabloko and Our Home Is Russia (NDR). Gaidar said his party will try to persuade Yabloko and NDR to agree on a common presidential candidate in the first round of elections, so as not to leave Russians with a choice between Gennadii Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky in the runoff. He added, "Let Yabloko, which received fewer votes, and NDR, which received more votes, agree on whom they should nominate." Gaidar has already said he will not run for president in 1996. -- Laura Belin KALMYKIYA CREATES OIL AND GAS MINISTRY. Kalmykiyan President Kirsan Ilumzhinov has issued a decree creating a Gas and Oil Production Ministry in the republic, Interfax reported on 4 January. Under the decree, the ministry is to carry out land surveys and develop the republic's hydrocarbon resources. The ministry will also be responsible for implementing a $22 million project to build an oil refinery in the Kalmykiyan capital Elista. The refinery has been under negotiation with a number of foreign countries since August last year. Currently, Kalmykiya ships all its crude to neighboring regions for processing in return for manufactured goods. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIA URGES IRAQ TO ACCEPT UN OFFER. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk, currently on a tour of the Middle East, urged Iraq to accept the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 986, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 January. Under the resolution, Iraq can sell a limited amount of oil under UN supervision in order to purchase food and medicine. Iraq has rejected the resolution as an infringement on its sovereignty. On 5 January, the UN Security Council again extended its trade embargo against Iraq, imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, citing Iraqi failure to cooperate with UN disarmament inspectors. -- Scott Parrish MORE RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS TO EAST SLAVONIA? According to sources at the UN, Russia may be asked to boost the number of its peacekeepers in Eastern Slavonia, Western agencies reported on 8 January. The UN will soon formally establish a new mission of some 5,000 peacekeepers in the Serb-dominated area of Croatia, which is to gradually revert to Croatian control under a 12 November agreement. Russia currently has about 950 peacekeepers serving in Eastern Slavonia under a previous UN mandate and could be asked to double that number for the new force. Meanwhile, ITAR- TASS reported that the lead elements of the Russian brigade participating in the Bosnian peace implementation force (IFOR) will arrive in Bosnia on 11 or 12 January. How Russia will pay for its participation in these peacekeeping operations, however, remains unresolved, as Russian media have repeatedly pointed out. -- Scott Parrish RUSSO-NORWEGIAN FISHING DISPUTE. Russian fishermen are angered by restrictions recently placed on the amount of herring Russian trawlers can catch in Norwegian territorial waters, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 9 January. The Norwegian government's restrictions allow the country's own fishermen to catch 705,000 tons of herring annually, while Russia will be restricted to only 1/6 that amount. The Russian State Committee for Fisheries plans to protest the Norwegian regulations, saying they are a violation of earlier Russo-Norwegian agreements and unfair because the herring spawn in Russian waters but then migrate to Norwegian territory after they mature. ORT attributed the restrictions to purely financial motives, since herring sells for $500/ton on the world market. -- Scott Parrish HEALTH MINISTER DENIES EMBRYO EXPERIMENTS. Health Minister Aleksandr Tsaregorodtsev denied on 8 January a television report claiming that aborted embryos are sold to foreign doctors in Moscow for use in developing a drug to treat Down's Syndrome, Russian media reported. The report, based on an investigation by Germany's Spiegel-TV and shown on NTV's "Itogi" on 7 January, claimed that more than 1,000 women went to a Moscow maternity center to have late-term abortions, signing documents giving doctors rights over the dead embryos, and that the drug used in the operations is banned in Germany. Tsaregorodtsev, who was ordered by the prime minister conduct an urgent investigation into the allegations, rejected the report, asserting that abortions in Russia are carried out within 21 weeks of conception. He also denied that footage showing abortions of almost fully formed embryos was shot in a Moscow clinic and said that the drug allegedly used in the abortions is not registered in Russia. -- Penny Morvant AUTHORITIES IN BASHKORTOSTAN COVER UP SCALE OF OIL SPILL. A leak from an oil pipeline running along the Belaya River in Bashkortostan that has contaminated the drinking water of dozens of villages near the capital Ufa is far larger than was initially reported, Bashkortostan's environment minister, Rustem Khamitov, said on 6 January. The authorities had initially maintained that the spill, which occurred on 27 December, involved only 100-150 tons of crude oil, but they now admit that thousands of tons of oil may have been lost. As of 8 January clean- up workers had recovered more than 560 tons of oil mixed with water and absorbents, and a higher than normal concentration of oil has been found downstream in neighboring Tatarstan. Authorities in Bashkortostan claim they were deliberately misled by the company that runs the pipeline. -- Penny Morvant KIVELIDI REPORTEDLY KILLED BY CHEMICAL DEVELOPED FOR RUSSIAN MILITARY. Ivan Kivelidi, the late chairman of Rosbiznesbank and the Russian Business Roundtable, was poisoned by a chemical developed for the Russian military, according to an 8 January Interfax report citing a source close to the Moscow procurator. Kivelidi died in hospital on 4 August 1995 from heavy-metal poisoning; his secretary, who displayed similar symptoms, also died (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 August 1995). A member of the Board of Rosbiznesbank was detained in connection with the investigation in October but released a month later without charges being brought. Most contract killings in Russia remain unsolved. -- Penny Morvant EARTHQUAKE HITS SAKHALIN. An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale shook northern Sakhalin on the night of 8-9 January rendering 14 apartment blocks uninhabitable, ITAR-TASS reported. There were no casualties and no serious damage to oil or gas pipelines. The epicenter of the quake was close to Neftegorsk, the oil town destroyed by a major quake last May that killed more than 1,800 people. Another minor quake was registered on 9 January near the Kuril Island of Urup. -- Penny Morvant INVESTMENT BOOM UNLIKELY IN 1996. In a debate on Radio Rossii on 8 January, presidential adviser Aleksandr Livshits, seemingly recovered from his recent heart trouble, said the reduction in inflation may cause interest rates to fall from their current level of 100% per year, which would lead to a revival of domestic investment. Domestic investment has fallen to about 25% of its 1990 level. However, the prospects for an inflow of foreign investment look dim. Economist Pavel Bunich said there is little chance that Yeltsin will sign a bill on production sharing which was passed by parliament, because of the Duma's amendments limiting privileges for foreign investors. On 7 January, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said on Radio Mayak that "the world reaction to the Duma elections has been strong, maybe too strong," which will unfortunately scare off foreign investors. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KARIMOV AND NIYAZOV AGREE TO MEET. After months of disagreements and canceled meetings, Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov have finally agreed to meet in the Turkmen city of Chardzhou. According to Radio Mayak on 5 January, the leaders will meet on 16 January to discuss the problem of water conservation and management in the Amu Darya River, as well as the potential development of oil and gas reserves on the right bank of the river, which defines part of the Uzbek-Turkmen border. -- Roger Kangas REBELS OR DRUG-RUNNERS? On 7 January, Russian border troops killed four armed men out of a group of 15 who attempted to cross into Tajikistan from Afghanistan near Pyanj, while the rest fled back across the border, Russian and Western media reported. Although NTV reported that the group were rebels who had crossed to commit sabotage and terrorism, another band that was repelled in the same area by Russian forces on 6 January left behind 70 kg of narcotics valued at 300 million rubles (about $650,000). Meanwhile, in an area near Kalai-Khumb Russian troops detained two men and confiscated 8 kg of narcotics on 7 January. The recent incidents suggest that this latest outbreak of violence along the border is likely the result of the drug trade rather than intensified rebel activity. -- Bruce Pannier IMF CONDITIONS FOR MORE AID TO GEORGIA. The IMF has put forward several conditions for the continuation of financial aid to Georgia, Interfax reported on 8 January. According to the office of the Georgian Minister of State, the IMF requires that the budget be approved in January and that laws be adopted on commercial banks and the buying and selling of land. The initial draft predicted a budget deficit equal to 28% of GDP. -- 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. 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