|The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn|
No. 32, Part I, 14 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ GAIDAR CALLS ON YELTSIN NOT TO RUN. Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar called on President Boris Yeltsin not to run for re- election, saying it would "virtually guarantee" Zyuganov's victory in the runoff, Express-Khronika reported on 14 February. Gaidar has rejected an alliance with Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, arguing that "many democrats have refused to vote for him under any conditions." Gaidar believes that Yeltsin's exit would open the door for more palatable candidates, such as Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov or Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. A recent VCIOM poll suggested that Zyuganov would beat Yeltsin or Zhirinovsky in the second round, but would lose to Yavlinskii. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES PREPARE TO ANNOUNCE. On 14 February President Boris Yeltsin travelled to his hometown of Yekaterinburg, where he is expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency the next day, Russian media reported. Also on 15 February the Communist Party of the Russian Federation will convene a national conference which is expected to nominate Gennadii Zyuganov as its presidential candidate. On 13 February Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev claimed that a number of other left and nationalist candidates will withdraw in favor of Zyuganov, including Sergei Baburin, Vasilii Starodubtsev, Nikolai Ryzhkov, Petr Romanov, and Aman Tuleev, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. He even included Lt.Gen (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed on the list, although Lebed himself has given no public indication of such an intention. -- Peter Rutland MEDVEDEV DENIES LOCKING NTV OUT OF KREMLIN. Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev said he was "surprised" by NTV's claim that it had been denied access to the Kremlin, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 February. Medvedev said that there are varying degrees of access to events and that journalists cover them on a rotating basis because there is not enough room for everyone. Medvedev contended that NTV's statement was an attempt to attract larger audiences, a method he described as "regrettable." While NTV stuck to its guns, Aleksei Simonov, chairman of the Glasnost Defense Fund, described its charges as a "canard," Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 14 February. -- Robert Orttung DUMA SEEKS FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE FROM PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION. At a meeting with presidential administration business manager Pavel Borodin, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that the Duma should be funded directly by the Finance Ministry rather than via the presidential administration as is now the case, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 14 February. Seleznev said such a change is necessary to make it clear that the president does not control the Duma. He said that when the pay of Duma members and and staff was delayed in January, many believed that it was because the president disliked the new Duma rather than the result of general difficulties in paying state sector employees. -- Robert Orttung CAMPAIGN PROMISES COST MORE THAN 41 TRILLION RUBLES. The president's recent promises to increase social spending on the eve of the elections could increase budget expenditure by as much as 41 trillion rubles ($8.6 billion), Andrei Illarionov, the director of the Institute for Economic Analysis, argued in Izvestiya on 14 February. In the past six weeks, he said, Yeltsin has promised higher pensions and student stipends, greater benefits for miners, higher defense spending, and large sums to rebuild Chechnya. Illarionov argues that such spending could drive inflation to 10% a month, cause the International Monetary Fund to deny Russia further credits, and increase the budget deficit. -- Robert Orttung LDPR SAYS NEMTSOV ATTEMPTED TO KILL ZHIRINOVSKY. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) Duma faction has accused Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov of attempting to kill party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Aleksei Batogov from the faction's press office told OMRI on 14 February. Batogov alleged that Nemtsov hired an assassin for $5,000 but that the killer decided not to commit the muder "after he listened to a speech by Zhirinovsky." He also said that Nemtsov was possibly planning to assassinate President Yeltsin. The LDPR has called on federal authorities to sack Nemtsov from the post of governor and arrest him. Earlier this week, the deputy leader of the LDPR's Duma faction was shot and wounded by unknown assailants (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February). -- Anna Paretskaya TALMUD PUBLISHED IN RUSSIAN. The first volume of the Babylonian Talmud in Russian was presented at the Moscow Mayor's Office on 13 February, ITAR-TASS reported. It is the first time since before 1917 that the Talmud, the central work of Jewish civilization, has been published in Russia. It was translated from the original Aramaic and Old Hebrew by Israeli Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who has the title of spiritual rabbi of Russian Jews. The full Babylonian Talmud is about 2.5 million words long, and Steinsaltz estimates that, along with commentaries and interpretations, the Russian version could fill 150 to 200 volumes. -- Anna Paretskaya GUNMAN ATTACKS RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN NORTH KOREA. An unidentified Korean gunman burst into the Russian trade mission in Pyongyang on 14 February and exchanged gunfire with North Korean police guards, killing three and wounding others, ITAR-TASS reported. Citing anonymous Russian sources at the Pyongyang embassy, where the trade mission is located, the agency said that no Russian personnel had been injured and that negotiations are now under way with the gunman, who is demanding political asylum but is not holding any hostages. Russian relations with North Korea have been strained since the Soviet Union recognized South Korea in 1990. The incident could heighten tension, since a 1957 Soviet-North Korean Treaty obligating each country to repatriate fugitives accused of crimes in the other remains in force. -- Scott Parrish FSB DENIES ADMITTING SMUGGLED PLUTONIUM IN GERMANY CAME FROM RUSSIA. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) issued a statement to ITAR-TASS on 13 February denying that it had sent a letter to the German Justice Ministry admitting that plutonium seized by German agents at the Munich airport in August 1994 came from Russia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February). The statement asserted that the FSB had sent a letter to Bonn requesting that samples of the "radioactive material" seized in Munich be sent to Moscow for testing, adding that the origin of the material could be determined only after such tests were completed. The FSB also criticized Germany for failing to respond to the request, thereby hampering its investigation, and accused German media of fostering the impression that Russia cannot adequately guard its nuclear arsenal by intentionally misquoting excerpts from the letter. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA CRITICIZES ARREST OF BOSNIAN SERB OFFICERS. On 13 February, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin protested the transfer of Bosnian Serb General Djorje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic to the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February). According to Russian and Western agency reports, Karasin described the transfer of the two officers as "unacceptable" and warned that it could undermine the implementation of the Dayton Accords. Karasin said Russia planned to discuss the incident with both the International Tribunal and the other members of the international Contact Group. -- Scott Parrish SELEZNEV ENDORSES START II TREATY. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told journalists on 13 January that he supports the ratification of START II, Russian and Western agencies reported. The communist Seleznev, cautioned, however, that enlargement of NATO or the withdrawal of the United States from the 1972 ABM Treaty would kill any chance of ratification. He added that ratification would not be "simple" but concluded that most deputies would eventually support the treaty because "we simply do not have the economic means" to maintain the current nuclear arsenal. Earlier remarks by communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov suggested that his party might not support the treaty. Meanwhile, ITAR- TASS reported that military officers will present expert testimony on the treaty to several Duma committees on 19 February. -- Scott Parrish COAL MINING MAYORS UNITE. The mayors of 38 towns in mining regions met in Moscow on 12 February to form an Association of Coal Mining Towns, Radio Rossii reported the same day. Association President Vladimir Astafev, mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetsk, insisted that the group will discuss social issues such as miners' pensions and "will not engage in political battles." Yet in the next breath he went on to voice support for the re- election of President Yeltsin. Comentators suggested that the initiative for forming the association came from the presidential administration. -- Peter Rutland WAGE ARREARS SPARK MORE STRIKES. Workers at Promtraktor, Russia's largest tractor plant, in Cheboksari, Chuvashiya, went on strike on 12 February, Russian Television reported. The workers, who have not been paid since September, held a meeting addressed by radical communist leader Viktor Anpilov. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov, wage arrears in Russia now total 13.4 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion), of which 3 trillion are in federal budget agencies, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. The head of the federal labor inspectorate, Vladimir Varovoi, told Trud on 14 February that inspections show that 90% of firms that were late paying wages did in fact have money available. -- Peter Rutland and Penny Morvant SCIENTISTS JOIN PROTESTS. Scientists held meetings to protest wage arrears in St. Petersburg and other scientific centers on 13 February, ITAR-TASS reported. In 1995, the Russian Academy of Sciences received only two-thirds of the money allocated to it in the federal budget. Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kinelev told ITAR-TASS that by the end of February 436 billion rubles ($92 million) will be transfered to the Academy to eliminate their debts. he said that a bigger problem is the 1.5 trillion rubles owed to secondary school teachers, since that comes out of local budgets. The number of scientific workers has fallen by two-thirds since 1992. -- Peter Rutland NOVOROSSIISK STEAMSHIP GETS $225 MILLION LOAN. Russia's largest tanker fleet company, Novorossiisk Steamship, signed a $225 million credit deal with 13 foreign banks, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 13 February. Out of that, $60 million will be granted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The credit will be used to buy 11 tankers to be built in Croatia. On 13 December a daughter company of Novorossiisk Steamship, Novoship, bought a 20% stake in the company in a loans-for-shares auction. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MINERS IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN ON HUNGER STRIKE. About 25 miners in Kentau in southern Kazakhstan, who have not been paid for 15 months, have begun an indefinite hunger strike, an ITAR-TASS correspondent reported on 14 February from the Press Bureau of the Independent Trade Union of Kazakhstan. The union speculated that the strike could spark countrywide mass protests as wages are long overdue in a number of other state enterprises as well. -- Bhavna Dave KAZAKHSTANI FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS CHINA. Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev, who is on a three-day visit to China, assured his counterpart Qian Qichen of Kazakhstan's support for the "one China" policy, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 February. Tokayev said that the Kazakhstani government has set up a demarcation committee on the bilateral border agreement that went into effect last September. Tokayev's visit is seen as a preparation for a five-nation border summit to be held in April in Shanghai on creating a 100 km demilitarized zone between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Kazakhstan and China share a 1,700 km border, some parts of which are disputed. -- Bhavna Dave GOVERNMENT CONVOY AMBUSHED IN TAJIKISTAN, 22 REPORTED DEAD. A convoy bringing supplies to government troops in Tavil Dara was ambushed on 11 February, killing 22 people, according to Russian and Western sources. The convoy was attacked near the village of Sicharog in the Komsomolabad region about 100 km from the Tajik capital Dushanbe. Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 12 February that the battle lasted several hours and that 22 border guards were killed during the fighting. -- Bruce Pannier SHEVARDNADZE CRACKS DOWN ON GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has ordered the public prosecutor, the auditing department, and the Interior Ministry to examine the government's financial activity over the last six years for possible incidents of corruption, Russian media reported on 12 February. Shevardnadze stated that "outrageous instances of corruption" had come to light in the government, including among deputy prime ministers. -- Irakli Tsereteli [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Penny Morvant 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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