|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 17, Part I, 24 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ YELTSIN, ZAVGAEV ON CHECHEN PROSPECTS. President Boris Yeltsin met on 23 January with his envoy to Chechnya, Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov, to discuss the situation in Chechnya and sign a decree on the economic restoration of the republic in 1996, Interfax reported. Addressing the first session of the new Federation Council on the same day, Yeltsin reiterated the Russian leadership's commitment to resolving the Chechen conflict through "patient dialog" with all parties concerned while at the same time cracking down on terrorism and hostage taking. Meanwhile, the exchange of hostages taken at Pervomaiskoe for the bodies of Salman Raduev's men who were killed there failed to take place as scheduled on 23 January because Russian investigators had not succeeded in identifying all 153 corpses found in the village, Russian media reported. -- Liz Fuller ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YABLOKO TO PROPOSE NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. The Yabloko Duma faction has collected 45 of the 90 signatures needed to call a vote of no confidence following the government's handling of the Pervomaiskoe hostage crisis, Russian media reported on 23 January. However, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said the Communist Party probably will not support Yabloko's motion, since the party is satisfied with the recent cabinet reshuffle, especially the resignations of Andrei Kozyrev and Anatolii Chubais. Seleznev said the Communist deputies will reserve judgment until they see the government's new proposals. -- Laura Belin ZHIRINOVSKY PRAISES YELTSIN. Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that he liked President Boris Yeltsin's position on terrorism in Russia and his "corrections to the course of reform," ITAR-TASS reported 23 January. Zhirinovsky emphasized that he would not criticize the government if its policies started to produce a real improvement in the lives of ordinary Russians. Zhirinovsky's remarks followed Yeltsin's speech opening the Federation Council session. Zhirinovsky has often supported Yeltsin policies in the past and may now be seeking a more overt alliance with the incumbent president to win ministerial appointments for his party. -- Robert Orttung LAST TWO DUMA COMMITTEE HEADS APPROVED. Nikolai Gerasimenko and Vladimir Goman were appointed to chair the Duma committees on health and northern affairs, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 January. Both are from the centrist Russian Regions faction, which initially refused to fill the Duma posts allocated to it on the grounds that the committees had been unfairly distributed. -- Laura Belin FEDERATION COUNCIL ELECTS FORMER POLITBURO MEMBER AS CHAIRMAN. The Federation Council elected former Politburo member and now Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev as its new chairman on 23 January, Russian media reported. Stroev ran unopposed. He stressed that his priorities would be to address the problems of federalism, including the "complete lack of coordination" among Russia's regions and republics. He added that he would also work on improving the attendance records of Council members; the previous Council often had difficulty gathering a quorum because its members were too busy to come to its sessions. Stroev has been a member of the Our Home Is Russia leadership since May. He was elected governor of Orel Oblast on 11 April 1993 and won 80% of the vote in his December 1993 campaign for a seat in the Federation Council. -- Robert Orttung DUMA PROTESTS BALTIN SACKING. The Duma on 23 January passed a resolution "firmly protesting" the recent decision by President Yeltsin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, to dismiss Admiral Eduard Baltin as commander of the Black Sea Fleet, ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 January 1996). The resolution, passed by a vote of 276-2, was sponsored by Communist Deputy Valentin Varennikov, a1991 coup plotter who now chairs the Veteran's Affairs Committee, and Lt. Gen. (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed. The resolution said Baltin's departure effectively signaled "the dismantling of the entire Black Sea Fleet" and indirectly criticized Yeltsin for submitting to pressure from Kuchma to sack Baltin. The uncompromising Baltin had long been viewed as an obstacle to a resolution of the Black Sea Fleet dispute. Russian military sources have still not confirmed his dismissal. -- Scott Parrish KOVALEV QUITS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION. Human rights activist Sergei Kovalev resigned on 23 January from his post as head of the presidential Human Rights Commission, Russian media reported. Kovalev also said he has decided to leave the Presidential Council. Another prominent reformer, Yegor Gaidar, stepped down from the council, a consultative body, on 22 January. In an open letter to President Yeltsin, Kovalev said he was resigning his posts because of Yeltsin's preference for using forceful methods to solve political problems, the increasing secrecy surrounding the state apparatus, neglect of public opinion, and personnel changes. The parliament stripped Kovalev of the post of human rights commissioner in March for his outspoken opposition to the government's policy in Chechnya, and he has effectively been ignored by Yeltsin. -- Penny Morvant DUMA TAKES A HAND IN ST. PETERSBURG PROFESSORS' DISPUTE. The Duma on 23 January recommended that the government take urgent measures to ensure that teachers at higher education establishments in St. Petersburg and elsewhere are paid their wages, ITAR-TASS reported. About 15 union representatives went on hunger strike in Russia's second city on 22 January to press for payment of the government's 200 billion ruble ($43 million) debt to local colleges. In a resolution on wage arrears, the Duma instructed the Russian Federation Accounting Chamber to run a special check on the disbursement of funds to higher education establishments under the 1995 budget. Newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kinelev claimed that in 1995 the government had been better at fulfilling its budget obligations to the education sector than in 1994 but acknowledged that some areas had been affected by delays in January payments. -- Penny Morvant DID ORT CENSOR "VZGLYAD"? Executives at Russian Public TV (ORT) "have not forgotten Soviet propaganda methods," Segodnya reported on 23 January. The paper reported that last week's edition of Aleksandr Lyubimov's news program "Vzglyad" (View) was broadcast on Channel 1 to the Far East in its entirety, but portions about the shelling of Pervomaiskoe were removed from broadcasts west of the Urals. Lyubimov is also a vice president of the VID television company which produces "Vzglyad." He told Segodnya that under ORT's contract with VID, the network does not have the right to alter VID programs without prior agreement. "Vzglyad" was a groundbreaking news program during the Gorbachev era, launching young journalists like Lyubimov and the late Vladislav Listev to national fame. According to Segodnya, during the Soviet period authorities routinely broadcast a "sharp" version of the show in the Far East but toned it down for European parts of the Soviet Union. -- Laura Belin RESHUFFLE OF REGIONAL ADMINISTRATIONS CONTINUES. On 22 January, President Boris Yeltsin dismissed the administration heads of Chita, Ivanovo, and Kaluga oblasts, Russian media reported. The day before, Yeltsin had removed his representative in Krasnodar Krai, Vasilii Teterin, the sixth presidential envoy to be fired in the post-election reshuffle of regional officials. The dismissal of governors will leave the regions concerned with only one representative in the Federation Council instead of two for the rest of the year. By law, the parliament's upper house is composed of both executive and legislative heads from every region, but Yeltsin has barred gubernatorial elections from taking place before December 1996. -- Anna Paretskaya YELTSIN URGES COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO ADMIT RUSSIA. President Yeltsin urged the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to approve Russia's application for membership on 23 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. The assembly is scheduled to vote on the issue on 25 January, and recent developments in Chechnya have again cast doubt on whether Russia's application for membership in the 38-member organization, pending since 1992, will finally be approved. Yeltsin argued that a rejection of the Russian application would strike a blow against democracy in Russia, and would be interpreted by many as indirect support for "those who are trying to resolve the Chechen conflict through terrorist methods." -- Scott Parrish HEAD OF NATO TROOPS VISITS MOSCOW. General George Joulwan, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, met with Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev in Moscow on 23 January, Western agencies reported. He was quoted as praising the Russian forces who are taking part in the Bosnian peace implementation operation, saying they were "well-trained, well- equipped, well-led, and well-motivated." Grachev express concern at the tension between Bosnian Croats and Muslims in the region where his troops are stationed. "If we are dragged into a minor shootout," he told Joulwan, "things could escalate." -- Doug Clarke DEFENSE COMMITTEE GETS NEW CHAIRMAN. President Yeltsin dismissed Viktor Glukhikh as chairman of the Russian State Committee for the Defense Industry (Roskomoboronprom) on 23 January and replaced him with Zinovii Pak, Interfax reported. Glukhikh had headed the committee since October 1992. Pak, 56, was the director of the Soyuz defense enterprise in Lyuberets, near Moscow, according to Ekho Moskvy on 23 January. The same source reported that the average salary in defense plants in December was only 414,000 rubles ($90) a month, compared to 616,000 ($135) for the industrial sector as a whole. -- Doug Clarke CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION FACILITY TO BE BUILT. Work on a facility to destroy chemical weapons will begin this fall in the village of Gornyi (Saratov Oblast), NTV reported on 22 January. The plant, which will destroy lewisite stored in steel tanks at a Gornyi arsenal, is scheduled to become operational in 1997, although the Duma has yet to appropriate financing for it. In 1989 Russia built a facility in Chapaevsk (Samara Oblast) to destroy chemical weapons, but the plant never went into operation because residents complained it was too close to the city. Current plans call for Russia's 40,000 tons of chemical weapons to be destroyed at facilities built near the seven arsenals in which they are stored. -- Scott Parrish and Doug Clarke PRODUCTION OF OIL AND GAS DECLINED IN 1995. Russia produced 307 million metric tons of crude oil in 1995, a 2.9% drop compared to 1994, Interfax reported on 23 January, citing the State Statistics Committee. In 1994 the extraction of oil and gas condensate declined 10% over 1993. The production of crude oil alone fell by 3.8% and totaled 298 million tons. The oil output of joint-stock companies with foreign participation climbed by 29% to 13.5 million tons. In 1995 Russia's production of natural gas fell by 2% from 1994 to 570 billion cubic meters, of which 98% was produced by Gazprom. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NIYAZOV VISITS TEHRAN . . . Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, signed accords on oil, gas, agriculture, the construction of roads and a joint dam on the Hari River, the linking of both countries' power networks, and the channeling of water to the Turkmen city of Merv, IRNA reported on 23 January. In a statement aimed at Azerbaijan, the two leaders expressed their concern at the "unilateral and uncontrolled exploitation of the Caspian Sea." -- Lowell Bezanis . . . AND TALKS WITH TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER. While in Tehran, Niyazov met with Tajik opposition leader Said Abdullah Nuri, RFE/RL reported the same day. He informed Nuri that the CIS summit in Moscow had decided to extend the mandate of the Russian-led CIS peacekeepers in Tajikistan, and called on Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov to aggressively pursue a negotiated peace settlement. The next round of inter-Tajik talks will resume on 26 January in Ashgabat. -- Lowell Bezanis ENERGY CRISIS IN ALMATY. Fuel shortages have caused suspensions of hot water and electricity to many residential areas of Almaty, according to a 17 January Interfax report. A city administration official was quoted as saying that fuel reserves at power plants will last about three to four days. Fuel shortages have severely curtailed the refueling of flights arriving at Almaty, although foreign airlines that have already paid for fuel are not affected. -- Bhavna Dave KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER CLOSES. The Kyrgyz newspaper Stolitsa, which began publishing in November 1995, will close down, according to the paper's editor-in-chief, Kuban Mambetaliev. The independent paper put out only thirteen editions but in that short time acquired a reputation as an opposition voice. Mambetaliev wrote in the 19 January edition of Stolitsa, "An epoch of criticizing is gone, now we need analysis of cause and effect." The closure of Stolitsa will leave only one truly independent newspaper in the country, Res Publica. -- 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. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the new policy or look at this URL: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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