|You always pass failure on the way to success. - Mickey Rooney|
No. 25, Part I, 05 February 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ MINERS SUSPEND STRIKE AFTER CASH PROMISE. Russian miners suspended their nationwide strike after two days on 3 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. Miners' leaders voted to halt the strike after Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed a new pledge calling for payment of 10.4 trillion rubles ($2.2 billion) to the coal industry in 1996--3 trillion more than envisioned in the 1996 budget. According to Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik, the government owes miners 400 billion rubles in overdue wages from 1995 and 600 billion for January, Russian TV reported. Coal-Industry Workers' Union Chairman Vitalii Budko said 95% of the striking miners had returned to work but that the strike would resume on 1 March if the government reneges on its commitments. -- Penny Morvant ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA ZYUGANOV, YAVLINSKII IN DAVOS. More than 150 Russian participants descended on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov sought to assure Western politicians and businessmen that they should not be disturbed by developments in Russia. He said that "a return to a state monopoly is impossible" and that he supports a stable cimate for foreign investors, Western and Russian media reported. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii warned that "confiscation and nationalization" are key to the Communists' platform and that Zyuganov's message in Davos was different than it is at home. He also said that it would now be possible for Yabloko to form a coalition with Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, since the latter had renounced his ties with Yeltsin, NTV reported 4 February. -- Robert Orttung MASS DEMONSTRATION IN GROZNY. Some 10,000 supporters of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev staged a peaceful demonstration in Grozny on 4 February to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region, Russian media reported. Earlier, Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev said the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya could begin in 2-3 weeks, ITAR-TASS reported. His comments came after a 2 February meeting with the Russian presidential adviser for legal affairs, Mikhail Krasnov, and the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Also on 2 February, Russian Economy Minister Yevgenii Yasin told ITAR-TASS he was concerned that part of the 4 trillion rubles ($840 million) allocated for Chechen reconstruction has vanished without a trace. -- Liz Fuller OUR HOME IS RUSSIA CALLS FOR END TO CHECHNYA WAR. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin and Sergei Belyaev, leader of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia (NDR) Duma faction, called on the president and government to pursue negotiations to end the military campaign in Chechnya, Russian media reported on 2 February. Belyaev said that any presidential candidate representing the current authorities could only be elected in June if he managed to solve the Chechnya situation, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN MEETS WITH DUMA SPEAKER. President Boris Yeltsin met with Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev for more than an hour on 2 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. According to the presidential press service, the two discussed the need for the administration and parliament to cooperate more on drafting legislation in order to improve the quality of laws passed by the Duma. Seleznev told reporters that Yeltsin promised to unveil a peace plan for Chechnya soon. An NTV commentator observed that the meeting will primarily help the Communist Party become a "respectable force," an image it is trying to cultivate before the June presidential elections. -- Laura Belin FILATOV TO LEAD NEW PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS. In mid-January, Sergei Filatov was sacked after three years as President Yeltsin's chief of staff and appointed to become First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets' deputy at an "official presidential campaign headquarters." New reports suggest Filatov will lead a separate campaign headquarters for Yeltsin, Russian media reported on 2 February. Meanwhile, the Duma passed by a vote of 255-6 a motion inviting Soskovets to answer questions about the status of the campaign office he is heading, which he has insisted will not work for any one candidate. -- Laura Belin NOVGOROD REGIONAL COURT CHALLENGES PRESIDENTIAL DECREE ON ELECTIONS. The Novgorod regional court ruled on 2 February that Article 1 of President Yeltsin's 17 September 1995 decree on regional elections contradicts the constitution and requested the Constitutional Court to examine the decree, ITAR-TASS reported. A group of local deputies had challenged the Oblast Duma's decision to extend its electoral term until December 1997 in accordance with the presidential decree. -- Anna Paretskaya TAMBOV AND SMOLENSK REGIONAL LEGISLATURES EXTEND THEIR TERMS. The Tambov and Smolensk oblast Dumas have ruled to extend their term in office until December 1997, Radio Rossii reported on 3 February. The step drew protests in both cities. In Tambov both pro-reform political organizations and the Communist Party's regional branch denounced the decision as anti-democratic. The regional legislatures were elected in late 1993 and early 1994 for a period of two years. -- Anna Paretskaya CHINA LICENSED TO BUILD RUSSIAN JETS. China has been sold a license to produce Su-27 jet fighters, Reuters reported on 2 February. Col. Gen. Petr Deynekin, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, said the sale "will bring Russia at least $2 billion." The deal was signed in late 1995 and production is not scheduled to start for several years. Russia will supply the plant to build the planes and will train the Chinese in its operation. -- Doug Clarke KOKOSHIN WARNS AGAINST NATO EXPANSION. Speaking at the annual Munich Wehrkunde meeting of defense experts on 3 February, Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin warned that NATO could set off a backlash against reforms in Russia if it expands eastward, Reuters reported. In written comments he charged that such an expansion would also be "in violation of the obvious obligations of the West not to expand [NATO] after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union's consent to German unification." "This is a historical injustice," he added. "We have retreated to the East and NATO is advancing in the same direction, pushing us further and further East." German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe sharply rejected Kokoshin's assertion. -- Doug Clarke GENERAL WARNS THAT ARMY AVIATION FACING EXTINCTION. Army aviation could cease to exist as a branch of the Russian armed forces within the next few years, according to its chief, Col. Gen. Vitalii Pavlov. Russian media quoted him as telling a "crisis conference" of military and defense industry leaders on 3 February that his forces had not received a single new-generation helicopter in 1995 and could not afford to buy any now. While his forces have 2,000 combat aircraft most of them are "long out of date." Mi-24 attack helicopters have been in service for over 20 years, Mi-8 for 30 years, and Mi-6 for 40 years. -- Doug Clarke PENSION FUND STILL IN DIFFICULTIES. The Russian Pension Fund will experience constant financial difficulties in 1996, the fund's vice president, Yurii Lyublin, told ITAR-TASS on 2 February. He said the problems are linked to the declining share of wages in the total income of the population. He added that in January pensions were paid on time in only 50 of Russia's 89 regions. According to Moskovskii komsomolets on 3 February, the government still owes the Pension Fund 1.6 trillion rubles for 1992-94 ($338 million at the current exchange rate) and 3 trillion for 1995. Delays in the payment of pensions last year led to demonstrations in some towns and provided plenty of ammunition for the Communists in run-up to the December Duma elections. -- Penny Morvant GAZPROM THREATENS ACTION AGAINST BALTIC STATES. Gazprom, Russia's largest gas company and the sole supplier of gas to the Baltic states, is threatening to reduce deliveries to Latvia and Lithuania unless they pay off their debts, BNS and Russian agencies reported on 1-3 February. As of 1 February, the debts of state-owned companies Latvijas Gaze and Lietuvos Dujos to Gazprom stood at $20 million and $28 million respectively. The Latvian and Lithuanian companies claim that the current payments crisis is caused by their consumers' debts ($38 million in the case of Lietuvos Dujos). Estonia, where the gas company Eesti Gaas has been privatized, is the only Baltic state with no outstanding debt to Gazprom. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RESIGNATIONS IN TAJIK GOVERNMENT. The Tajik government announced on 4 February that First Deputy Prime Minister Makhmadsaid Ubadollayev had submitted his resignation, according to Russian and Western sources. In addition, presidential Chief of Staff Izatullo Khayeyev and the head of the Khatlon region, Abdujalol Salimov, were dismissed. The moves were meant to placate rebel military commanders who have occupied the cities of Tursun Zade and Kurgan-Tyube. The Tajik government has promised amnesty to those in Tursun Zade and Kurgan-Tyube who voluntarily surrender their weapons. -- Bruce Pannier MAJOR MILITARY ACTIVITY IN TAJIKISTAN. The Tajik government brought extra troops to the capital, Dushanbe, amid fears that two military commanders occupying cities in the south and west were preparing to attack the capital, international sources reported. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev's troops, currently occupying Kurgan-Tyube, have reportedly pulled back from their positions some 15 km away from Dushanbe. Meanwhile, fighters loyal to Ibodullo Baimatov, in control of Tursun Zade, have remained in the vicinity of the western city. In the eastern city of Tavil-Dara, 100 government soldiers are reported missing after fighting last week. Heavy snowfall has brought hostilities to a temporary halt. -- Bruce Pannier TURKISH CREDITS TO CENTRAL ASIA, AZERBAIJAN, AND GEORGIA. To date, Turkey has extended $986 million in Eximbank credits to the republics of Central Asia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, Zaman reported on 2 February. The lion's share of these credits has been extended to Azerbaijan ($270 million) and Uzbekistan ($250 million). Only about half of the credits, or $556 million, has been used so far. -- Lowell Bezanis KAZAKHSTANI SUPREME COURT HEAD ACCUSED OF TAKING BRIBES. Confusion prevails about the bribery charges levied against Supreme Court Chairman Mikhail Malakhov by another member of the court, Utegen Iskhanov, ITAR- TASS reported on 2 February. Iskhanov accused the chairman of receiving imported cars and hard currency worth "up to hundreds of thousands of dollars." The General Procurator's Office has refused to examine the charges on the grounds that the alleged briber, Almas Nasenov, remains at large. Meanwhile, Majilis Speaker Marat Ospanov rejected demands to set up a parliamentary commission to inquire into allegations of corruption and misuse of foreign credits by government members, Russian TV reported on 4 February. -- Bhavna Dave RUSSIA TO RETAIN CUSTOMS CONTROLS ON KAZAKHSTANI BORDER. Russia plans to keep its customs controls on the border with Kazakhstan despite a 3 February decree lifting them, Russian media reported on 2 February, quoting a "high-ranking staff member" on the Russian State Customs Committee. The official stated that the decree only applies to goods made in the two countries, but goods produced in third states are still liable to border controls. He added that eliminating Russian customs posts "would open the way to drugs from the Central Asian republics and free exports of Russian strategic materials," as Kazakhstan has unilaterally closed down its customs posts on the border. -- Bhavna Dave GEORGIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN TROOPS. At an emergency meeting in Tbilisi on 2 February, Georgian opposition leaders demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Russian troops from the country, Russian media reported the same day. Georgian United Republican Party leader Nodar Natadze said that "no matter who is in power in Russia--democrats, communists, liberals or nationalists--they all stand for the same imperialist ideas." They accused the government and President Eduard Shevardnadze of betraying the country's national interests in order to remain in power. According to the Georgian news agency BGI, the opposition also described the ratification of the Russo- Georgian friendship treaty as illegal and called for Georgia to quit the CIS and the annulment of the Russian peacekeeping mandate in Abkhazia. -- Irakli Tsereteli RUNOFF ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN. Runoff elections were held in Azerbaijan on 4 February in 15 electoral districts where no candidate was elected during the 12 November parliamentary elections, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Among the 47 prospective candidates were Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov running in the Genje constituency where ballot boxes were reportedly stolen during the first round of voting, and Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar who was prevented from standing in the first round as his party was barred from running for seats to be allocated on the proportional system. On 1 February, police raided Musavat's headquarters in Sumgait, where Gambar was a candidate, according to Turan. -- Liz Fuller [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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