|V druzhbe, kak i v lyubvi, chasche dostavlyaet schast'e to, chego my ne znaem, nezheli to, chto nam izvestno. - F. Laroshfuko|
No. 13, Part I, 18 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ HIJACKED FERRY HEADS FOR ISTANBUL. The ferry Eurasia, hijacked in Trabzon by pro-Chechen fighters, continued steaming toward Istanbul, Russian and Western agencies reported on 18 January. Reports identified the leader of the hijackers as Mohammed Tokcan, an ethnic Abkhazian who fought with Shamil Basaev in the Chechen and Abkhaz conflicts. Although the hijackers earlier threatened to blow up the vessel unless Russian forces ceased their attack on Pervomaiskoe, the Turkish news agency Anatolia reported that a deal had been reached under which the hijackers would surrender in return for being allowed to hold a news conference on their arrival in Istanbul. On 17 January, Russian officials complained that although they had repeatedly warned the Turkish government about the activities of Chechen extremists in Turkey, they had been "lightheartedly" ignored, a charge the Turkish Foreign Ministry denied. Estimates of the number of ethnic Chechens living in Turkey range from 5,000 to 40,000. -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA RUSSIAN FORCES POUND PERVOMAISKOE. . . Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman Aleksandr Mikhailov announced on 17 January that since there "are no hostages left" in Pervomaiskoe, federal troops would give up trying to rescue them and would launch an intensive bombardment of the village in order to eliminate the band of Chechen fighters led by Salman Raduev, Russian and Western agencies reported. However, at the time, only 28 of an estimated 70-150 hostages had been freed, although Mikhailov yet again claimed that Raduev was executing hostages. GRAD multiple-rocket launchers then began a withering bombardment of the village. Heavy fighting amid flaming buildings continued overnight as ITAR-TASS reported that federal troops had repulsed an attempt by Raduev's fighters to break out of the village and also turned back an attack by pro-Dudaev fighters who had crossed the border from Chechnya and attempted to break through the forces encircling the village. -- Scott Parrish . . .WHILE TIGHTENING CONTROL OF PRESS. As the bombardment of Pervomaiskoe continued, the FSB ordered journalists in the neighboring village of Sovetskoe to leave the area, AFP reported on 17 January. The expulsion left journalists without a direct view of the buildings in Pervomaiskoe. Nonetheless, Izvestiya correspondent Valerii Yarov, who had been out of touch with the paper for four days, (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 January 1995) filed a report detailing the botched storming of the village, which he said had been reduced to rubble. Yakov added that if any hostages survived, it would not be because they had been "saved" but because they were "lucky." He condemned the entire operation as a failure, saying that its only "clear success" was the muzzling of journalists trying to cover it. Ekho Moskvy and NTV offered similar negative appraisals of the operation. -- Scott Parrish INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO PERVOMAISKOE. While condemning the taking of hostages by Chechen fighters, Western governments and international organizations have also cautioned the Russian government against a disproportionate use of force, Russian and Western agencies reported on 17 January. Council of Europe officials, whose Parliamentary Assembly will consider Russia's application for membership on 25 January, warned that Moscow's harsh military actions might reduce the chances of Russia gaining admission. A German Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the hostage-taking as terrorism but urged Russia to use "commensurate means" to combat it, a view seconded by the U.S. and Ukraine. Danish Defense Minister Hans Haekkerup openly denounced Moscow's military actions, however, and spokesmen for the opposition German Social Democratic Party slammed Western governments for a "lack of principle and cynicism" in failing to openly criticize Russia's massive use of military force. -- Scott Parrish HOSTAGE-TAKING IN SIBERIA THWARTED. Interior Ministry special forces used force to free more than 20 oil workers taken hostage on a bus in the town of Surgut in Tyumen Oblast on 17 January, ITAR-TASS reported. None of the hostages was hurt, but the armed assailant, a young Russian, was fatally wounded during the storming of the bus. Early TASS reports said the hijacker had demanded to be taken by plane to the Kizlyar region in Dagestan, where Russian troops have been battling Chechen forces. -- Penny Morvant DUMA ADOPTS STATEMENT ON TERRORISM. The Duma adopted a statement on 17 January calling on the government to adopt adequate measures to stop the terrorist activities of Chechen separatists, ITAR-TASS reported. However, the statement pointed out that the previous Duma had repeatedly called for a peaceful solution to the conflict but that "practically none" of these appeals were taken into account by the president and government. The same day, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin asked the Duma to support the government's policy in Chechnya. He warned against those who deliberately or unconsciously exacerbate the situation by demanding the "separation of Chechnya from Russia, division of Chechnya, preservation of inter-Chechen confrontation, or the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops." -- Robert Orttung DUMA ELECTS COMMUNIST SPEAKER. The Duma elected Gennadii Seleznev, a Communist-backed candidate, as its speaker in the third round of voting on 17 January with 231 votes, just above the 226 required for victory, ITAR-TASS reported. Former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, supported by Our Home Is Russia, won 150 votes and Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin won 50. The Agrarian and Popular Power factions and some members of the Liberal Democratic Party supported Seleznev, NTV reported. Russian Regions did not reveal its position before the voting. The new speaker began his career as a reporter in 1974 at the youth paper Smena. He edited Komsomolskaya pravda from 1980-1988, later moving to Uchitelskaya gazeta and ultimately becoming editor of Pravda. A member of the previous Duma, he became deputy speaker in January 1995. Seleznev, 48, said his first task will be to review and act on more than 500 proposed laws leftover from the previous Duma and to adopt decisions on the violence in the Caucasus. -- Robert Orttung COMMUNISTS DO NOT PLAN NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. In discussing future relations between the president and the Duma, Seleznev approved Yeltsin's recent cabinet reshuffle and efforts to give workers their unpaid wages, as well as Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's decision to reevaluate his social policy, all demands previously made by the Communists. Seleznev told reporters that he does not plan any no- confidence votes in the government "tomorrow," ITAR-TASS reported. However, Yabloko deputy Yelena Mizulina called a no-confidence vote to be taken soon. Presidential adviser Georgii Satarov said that he would have preferred Rybkin as speaker but added that it is possible to work with Seleznev, Radio Rossii reported. -- Robert Orttung YABLOKO KEY TO SPEAKER VOTE. Yabloko's maneuvering in the vote for the speakership allowed the Communists to win by preventing the election of Rybkin as an anti-communist speaker. Yabloko initially made a deal with the Communists that they would not support a united non-communist candidate for speaker. Under the deal the Communists would nominate Seleznev as speaker instead of Valentin Kuptsov, while Yabloko, the smallest of the four factions to cross the 5% barrier, would be allowed to preserve its chairmanship of the budget and international affairs committees, Izvestiya reported on 18 January. After the initial stalemate, the Communists were able to collect the few more votes than they needed in the absence of a united opposition candidate. The failure of Our Home Is Russia, Yabloko, and the LDPR to work together before the Duma session began will cost them committee assignments, since at this point the committees must be divided among the seven deputy factions currently registered rather than the initial four. -- Robert Orttung UNITED COMMUNIST CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENCY? Nikolai Ryzhkov, former Soviet prime minister and leader of the Popular Power faction in the new Duma, said he probably will not stand for the presidency in June, RIA- Novosti reported on 17 January. Ryzhkov said he was not going to copy former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev by running for the presidency without national support. Ryzhkov said he would change his position only if he receives the backing of a serious public movement. His refusal to join the race will increase the chances of other Communist candidates. Although the Communists are considering nominating one candidate for the presidency, it is unlikely that they will have a single candidate in the first round of elections, Segodnya reported on 17 January. The Central Electoral Commission has already registered three initiative groups which nominated the leftist candidates Gennadii Zyuganov, Aman Tuleev, and Viktor Anpilov. Communist Duma member Petr Romanov has also announced plans to run. -- Anna Paretskaya NEW DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF CENTRAL BANK APPOINTED. Russian Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin appointed Aleksandr Turbanov as his deputy on 16 January, Interfax reported the same day. A source at the bank said that there had been no reshuffling of responsibilities among members of the bank's board of directors yet, and a final decision on the matter will be made after the composition of the board is confirmed by the government. However, Turbanov is likely to take over the bank's legal department and deal with security issues at the bank's various branches. -- Natalia Gurushina ENERGY CONSUMERS' DEBTS TOP $9.4 BILLION. Only 77% of all the energy delivered to Russian consumers in 1995 has been paid for, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January, citing Anatolii Dyakov, president of the United Energy System of Russia Company. As of 1 January 1996, Russian fuel and energy producing companies were owed about 44 trillion rubles ($9.4 billion), a 76% increase over the amount owed on 1 January 1995. Whereas in the third quarter of the year the level of overdue payments was comparatively low (4-11% of total deliveries), in November-December it soared to 30-55%, amounting to 17 trillion rubles ($3.63 billion) in that period. According to Dyakov, the fact that many consumers are not paying has resulted in a substantial increase in the debt owed by energy-producers to the budget and fuel suppliers. The debt is now 35 trillion rubles ($7.48 billion), of which 17 trillion is owed to the federal budget and 11 trillion to fuel suppliers. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES FRIENDSHIP TREATY WITH RUSSIA. The Georgian parliament voted by 141-34 on 17 January to ratify the treaty on friendship and cooperation with the Russian Federation which was signed in February 1994. Deputies from the opposition National Democratic Party voted against ratifying the treaty on the grounds that its ratification by the Russian State Duma was questionable and that it provides for an "unacceptable" military union between the two countries, according to Interfax. -- Liz Fuller EBRD, DEUTSCHE BANK CREDITS TO TURKMENISTAN. The EBRD will invest $17.8 million in joint venture involving Turkmenistan's Textile Industry Ministry and the Turkish firm GAP-Iplik Sanayi ve Ticaret, Interfax reported on 17 January. The funds will be used to upgrade an existing denim producing factory outside Ashgabat. Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank will extend Turkmenistan a $24 million credit to import food, Interfax reported the same day. The bank earlier provided a $54 million credit to Turkmenistan to construct a runway for Ashgabat international airport. -- Lowell Bezanis UZBEK-TURKMEN AGREEMENTS. Uzbek President Islam Karimov arrived in Chardzhou, Turkmenistan on 16 January to sign a package of agreements with his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurad Niyazov, Turkey's Zaman newspaper reported the same day. The paper called the meeting a "historic summit," pointing out that a consensus on outstanding problems over borders and the sharing of the waters of the Amu Darya River was reached. Relations between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have been icy in the post-independence period; lately tension along the Chardzhou-Bukhara Oblast border has reportedly been on the rise. -- Lowell Bezanis TAJIK OPPOSITION FIGURE REJECTS PARDON. Oynihol Bobonazarova, deputy chairman of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, has rejected a pardon granted to her by the Tajik government, calling it "an absurd act," according to a Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report cited by the BBC on 18 January. On 12 January, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov granted pardons to three opposition figures, Bobonazarova, Shodmon Yusuf, and Bozor Sobir--effectively ending the government's legal actions against the three begun in 1993. -- Roger Kangas [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. 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