|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
No. 10, Part I, 15 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIAN FORCES LAUNCH ATTACK ON PERVOMAISKOE. On the morning of 15 January at 9 a.m. (Moscow time) Russian forces assaulted the village of Pervomaiskoe, where 150-200 Chechen rebels were holding 70-150 hostages. After a two-hour barrage by artillery and helicopter gunships, Russian infantry fought their way into the village. Moscow refused to grant Salman Raduev's group safe passage back to Chechnya unless they were willing to first give up their hostages and weapons. The Chechens were given a deadline of 10 a.m. on 14 January (Moscow time), but that passed without incident. On the afternoon of 14 January, talks ceased and the Russians reported some firing from the Chechen side. Unconfirmed ITAR- TASS reports on 15 January claimed that the Chechens had killed two hostages that evening. -- Peter Rutland ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA WHY NEGOTIATIONS FAILED. The crisis began with the Chechen seizure of the hospital in Kizlyar on 9 January. Dagestani officials negotiated the release of most of the 3,000 hostages. In return, Raduev was given a convoy of buses and allowed to return to Chechnya with 150 hostages (including nine Dagestani ministers, who were later released). However, Russian troops blocked the convoy at Pervomaiskoe, and Dagestani officials did not have the authority to negotiate on behalf of the Russian forces. All they could do was convey Moscow's ultimatum to the Chechens. Raduev was only willing to continue to Chechnya with a human shield of reporters, aid workers, and "honest" Russian politicians. The only sign of flexibility was the release of 8 hostages on Friday evening. General Mikhail Barsukov, head of the Federal Security Service, and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov arrived in Dagestan on the morning of 14 January, and they had the authority to launch the attack. -- Peter Rutland DAGESTANI ATTITUDES SHIFT. Dagestanis, who had previously been sympathetic to the Chechen cause, reacted with hostility to the initial Kizlyar attack. Meetings in various cities called for the expulsion of the more than 100,000 Chechen refugees living in the republic, and even for revenge attacks on relatives of the attackers. However, Dagestanis opposed Russia's plan to use force in Pervomaiskoe. On 13 January, a crowd of 1,500 marched to the village and offered to form a "human corridor" to the nearby Chechen border. Dagestani President Magomedali Magomedov appealed to President Yeltsin not to use force in a telephone conversation on Sunday, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. With the 15 January attack, Yeltsin seems to have lost the political advantage in the North Caucasus that Raduev's banditry had presented him. -- Peter Rutland COUNCIL OF EUROPE CRITICAL OF RUSSIA ON HUMAN RIGHTS. Speaking at a 13 January Moscow press conference, members of a Council of Europe fact- finding mission admitted that Russia cannot currently be considered a "rule of law state," ITAR-TASS reported. The mission noted serious violations of human rights in Chechnya and also criticized Russia's criminal justice system, which it said often violated the civil rights of the accused. Nevertheless, Rudolf Bindig, a spokesman for the mission, said it would recommend that Russia be accepted for membership in the council, on the grounds that it had started to reform its legal system, and council membership would encourage more progress. The council's Parliamentary Assembly will consider Russia's membership application on 25 January. -- Scott Parrish YEGOROV REPLACES FILATOV AS PRESIDENTIAL CHIEF OF STAFF. President Boris Yeltsin named hard-line former Nationalities Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Yegorov as his chief of staff in place of the more liberal Sergei Filatov on 15 January, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin sacrificed Yegorov, Federal Security Service Director Sergei Stepashin, and Internal Affairs Minister Viktor Yerin, in the wake of the Budennovsk crisis. Yegorov was the president's representative in Chechnya from November 1994 to February 1995, during the most intense stage of the fighting. The promotion of someone so closely identified with the unpopular war is a strange choice for Yeltsin as the presidential campaign heats up, but Yegorov is supported by the influential head of the Presidential Security Service, General Aleksandr Korzhakov. Filatov's departure has long been rumored since he is seen as an opponent of Korzhakov's hard-line attitude. -- Robert Orttung FACTIONS PREPARE FOR DUMA OPENING. The heads of the four parties that crossed the 5% barrier met in Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov's office on 14 January to discuss who will be the Duma's next speaker and committee chairmen but came to no agreements. The main stumbling bloc was Vladimir Zhirinovsky's demand to chair either the Defense or International Affairs committees or to become the first deputy speaker, NTV reported. The Communist Party plenum reportedly demanded that Communists be appointed to the positions of speaker, one deputy speaker, and nine committee chairs . -- Robert Orttung AGRICULTURE MINISTER SACKED. President Yeltsin dismissed Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Nazarchuk on 12 January and appointed Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha acting head in his place, Russian media reported. Nazarchuk was second on the party list of the Agrarian Party, which failed to win 5% in the Duma elections. He is the sixth cabinet official to leave the government during the latest reshuffle. On the same day, Yeltsin appointed Nikolai Tsakh to replace Vitalii Yefimov as transportation minister. Tsakh was formerly Yefimov's deputy. -- Laura Belin COMMUNIST PARTY TO BACK ZYUGANOV FOR PRESIDENT. A closed 12 January plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) officially postponed a decision on nominating a presidential candidate until a 15 February party conference. However, ITAR-TASS reported that the committee members decided to back party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. Also on 12 January, Petr Romanov, who was elected to the Duma on the KPRF party list, told Russian TV that he will seek the presidency representing both "left-centrist" and "patriotic" forces. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN SACKS REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES. President Yeltsin fired his presidential representatives in Kursk, Smolensk, and Novosibirsk oblasts and in Agino-Buryat Autonomous Okrug on 13 January, Russian media reported the same day. On 9 January, Yeltsin fired his representative in Bryansk. Earlier this month, Yeltsin ordered Sergei Filatov, former chief of staff, to prepare a list all those envoys whose work has been unsatisfactory (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 January 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya PRIMAKOV ON RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY. Yevgenii Primakov held his first press conference as foreign minister on 12 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. Primakov emphasized that Russian foreign policy should reflect the country's status as a great power, although he stressed that Russia will continue building relations of "equal, mutually beneficial partnership" with the West. He also outlined four priority tasks for Russian foreign policy: create external conditions which strengthen Russia's territorial integrity; foster integrative tendencies within the CIS; stabilize regional conflicts, especially in the former USSR and ex-Yugoslavia; and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. He told journalists his first trips abroad would be to CIS capitals, and he also met with other ministers on 12 January to coordinate Russian CIS policy. -- Scott Parrish CONTRACT SIGNED FOR NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL PLANT. Russia's State Committee for Defense Industry on 11 January signed a contract worth several tens of millions of dollars with a number of Japanese and U.S. companies for the construction of a floating nuclear waste recycling plant in the Far East, Interfax reported. The plant will be able to process 7,000 cubic meters of waste per year and will be put into operation at the end of this year. Nuclear waste in the Northern Fleet will be treated by an existing installation. Its capacity will be increased from 1,000 to 5,000 cubic meters per year, with the U.S. and Norway financing the project. The report predicted that the facilities could enable Russia to solve the problem of liquid nuclear waste from atomic-powered submarines within the next two years. -- Doug Clarke CIS FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET IN MOSCOW. The foreign ministers of the CIS states met on 12 January in Moscow to prepare for next week's summit of the CIS heads of state, Russian and Western agencies reported. Security issues, as opposed to economic relations, dominated the discussion. In particular, the foreign ministers discussed the conflicts in Abkhazia and Tajikistan and attempted to define how those conflicts can be formally addressed within the CIS framework. Overall, the agenda suggests that the CIS may become a more active vehicle through which inter-state disputes are settled. In addition, humanitarian aid laws and a mechanism for resolving border disputes were discussed. At the meeting, Vladimir Zemskii, the current Russian ambassador to Georgia, was chosen to replace Gennadii Shabannikov as secretary-general of the CIS Collective Security Council. -- Roger Kangas 1995 HARVEST WORST SINCE 1963. The dismissal of Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Nazarchuk came after the release of the final figures for last year's harvest. The grain harvest was 63.5 million metric tons in 1995, 22% down from the 81 million tons gathered in 1994, Interfax reported on 11 January. Fodder crops also dropped, by 36%. The poor harvest was partly due to a severe drought. However, a lack of cash meant that farms were unable to buy adequate supplies of fuel and fertilizer, and this is presumably the reason for Nazarchuk's dismissal. A second factor is that the Federal Procurement Fund, which supplies the army and major cities, has only purchased 10% of the 8.6 million tons of grain it needs, again because of a lack of funds, according to ITAR-TASS on 10 January. Russia will probably import 3 million tons of grain this spring. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 January that NATO ration packs are on sale in a Chelyabinsk market, source unknown. -- Peter Rutland FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN RUSSIA TOPS $6 BILLION. By 1 November 1995, Russia had received more than $6 billion in foreign investment. In the first nine months of 1995 the inflow of foreign capital was $1.57 billion (a 112% increase compared to the same period in 1994), Finansovye izvestiya reported on 12 January. The largest flows in 1995 went into trade and catering ($232 million), financial services ($206 million), fuel and energy ($162 million), and chemicals ($127 million). Fuel, energy, and chemicals, which in 1994 absorbed about half of all foreign investment, attracted less than 20% in 1995. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UN EXTENDS MANDATE IN ABKHAZIA. Late on 12 January, the UN Security Council approved a six-month extension of its mission in Abkhazia, the province which broke away from Georgia in 1993, Western agencies reported. A total of 136 UN observers and 3,000 Russian peacekeepers are monitoring the Georgian-Abkhaz border. Russia initially supported the separatists but is now pressuring Abkhazia to allow some 250,000 Georgian refugees to return to their homes. Russia has been maintaining a partial blockade of the Abkhaz port, Sukhumi, since October. -- Peter Rutland RE-REGISTRATION OF AZERBAIJANI MEDIA. The Azerbaijani media has been obliged to re-register with the republic's Ministry of Press and Information by 30 January or face being banned, Turan reported on 11 January. On the same day, Azerbaijani Radio noted that re-registration is necessary as "the various media and publishers [in the country] are rampantly exploiting freedom of the press and information," adding that slander, among other things, has become common. Turan noted that the Azerbaijani media has been obliged to re-register twice before. The republic's media already faces strict military and political censorship. -- Lowell Bezanis UZBEK-TAJIK ACCORD ON GAS SHIPMENTS. Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Tajik Prime Minister Jamshed Karimov worked out a payment schedule for shipments of Uzbek gas to Tajikistan during meetings in Tashkent on 10 January, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Tajikistan will repay the $200 million debt by the year 2003 and, with IMF assistance, will start interest payments in 1997. According to Russian Public TV (ORT), Uzbekistan had cut off fuel supplies to Tajikistan on 8 January. Meanwhile, the presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan met in Kokchetav, Kazakhstan, on 12 January to discuss regional integration, the role of a Central Asian peacekeeping force, and plans to maintain a unified front at the CIS summit on 19 January, Narodnoe slovo reported on 13 January. -- Roger Kangas LEADER OF ERKIN KYRGYZSTAN IN JAIL. The head of Erkin Kyrgyzstan, Topchubek Turgunaliyev, is in jail and according to his wife is on hunger strike, Stolitsa reported on 11 January. Turgunaliyev was arrested several days before the 24 December presidential election in Kyrgyzstan on charges of inflaming ethnic hatred between Kyrgyz and Kazakhs. At that time Turgunaliyev was the campaign head of Medetkan Sherimkulov, one of two candidates who ran against Askar Akayev for president. -- 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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