|To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson|
No. 45, Part I, 04 March 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ GRACHEV READY TO MEET WITH DUDAEV. While touring military installations in Rostov Oblast, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev on 2 March declared himself willing to meet with Chechen separatist President Dzhokhar Dudaev, NTV reported. Grachev, scheduled to arrive in Grozny on 4 March, said that "if Dudaev wants to meet with me, I will do so." He reiterated that any peace settlement must be predicated on Chechnya remaining within the Russian Federation--a condition Dudaev has consistently rejected. NTV described Grachev's remarks as "sensational," since Russian officials, including Grachev himself, have repeatedly refused to meet with Dudaev. Russian analysts speculated that Grachev's remarks reflect President Yeltsin's desire to find a resolution to the Chechen conflict before the June presidential election. -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA FIGHTING INTENSIFIES IN CHECHNYA. Federal forces and separatist fighters clashed repeatedly in Chechnya on 13 March, as federal forces continued to shell Bamut, near the border with Ingushetiya, Russian media reported. Military spokesmen say 500 fighters are holed up there in the underground bunkers of a former Soviet missile base. On 1 March, fighters attacked federal positions in central Grozny, while on 2 March they staged a raid against federal forces headquarters in Khankala, outside Grozny. Also on 2 March, the Baku-Stavropol natural gas pipeline was blown up near the village of Sholkovskaya. A similar explosion, blamed on separatist fighters, cut the pipeline on 22 February. On 3 March, intense fighting broke out in Sernovodsk, 45 km west of Grozny, when Chechen fighters ambushed federal troops who had entered the town to search for arms caches. RFE/RL reported continued fighting there on 4 March. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN SUPPORTERS HOLD CONFERENCE. President Boris Yeltsin's campaign machine moved into high gear on 2 March when 900 delegates from 37 political parties and movements attended a conference in Moscow to support the president, Russian media reported. Conference speakers including former presidential chief of staff Sergei Filatov portrayed Yeltsin as the only alternative to the bad old days under the Communists. Sergei Belyaev, head of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, said attempts to create a "third force" that is neither pro-government nor pro-communist (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 February 1996) were misguided and based on "illusions." He said society is divided into two camps--that is, for and against a return to communism, Russian TV reported. -- Laura Belin GORBACHEV TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced that he will run for president this year because Russians deserve a "real alternative" to both Yeltsin and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Russian and Western media reported on 1 March. He called on all "democratically-minded leaders" to choose a common presidential candidate, adding that if such a coalition nominated somebody else, he would bow out of the race, according to ITAR-TASS. In recent opinion polls only 1-2% of respondents said they would consider voting for Gorbachev. Nevertheless, Gorbachev's campaign has already collected 700,000 signatures supporting his candidacy, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin DEADLINE EXPIRES FOR REGISTERING INITIATIVE GROUPS. Thirty-eight initiative groups nominating presidential candidates submitted their documents to the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) on 2 March, the last day before the deadline expired, Russian Public Television (ORT) reported, citing TsIK secretary Aleksandr Veshnyakov. The commission has already registered 59 groups nominating a total of 49 candidates (10 of the groups support Yeltsin, two support Aleksandr Lebed). However, no more than a dozen presidential hopefuls are likely to win a spot on the ballot, since most candidates will fail to collect the necessary 1 million signatures by 16 April. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN CHANGES RULES ON REGIONAL ELECTIONS. . . President Yeltsin on 2 March issued a decree allowing regional legislative bodies to set the date for regional elections on their own, ITAR-TASS reported. The electoral terms for all of Russia's regional legislatures expire in 1996. In a September decree, Yeltsin fixed December 1996 as the date for all regional elections. -- Anna Paretskaya . . .DISCUSSES LISTEV INVESTIGATION WITH SKURATOV. A year after the murder of TV journalist Vladislav Listev, President Yeltsin met with Procurator-General Yurii Skura-tov to discuss the case, Segodnya and Rossiiskie vesti reported on 2 March. Although Listev's killing remains unsolved, Skuratov denied that the investigation, which has been widely criticized, has reached a dead-end. -- Penny Morvant ANTI-FASCIST YOUTH MOVEMENT HOLDS CONFERENCE. Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar told an anti-fascist youth conference that the country's Communist Party has evolved into a national-socialist rather than a social-democratic party, and that if it wins the elections it could pose a danger to world peace, NTV and Russian TV reported. The conference, held in Moscow on 3 March, was attended by about 60 representatives of the movement Youth Action against Fascism (AMD) from 17 regions. AMD Chairman Petr Kaznacheev said Russia's democratic youth are seeking to establish a "white" anti-communist and anti-fascist belt throughout Russia to counterbalance Russia's "red belt." -- Penny Morvant NUMBER OF CIVIL SERVANTS INCREASING. The number of civil servants in federal and regional bodies rose by 6% in 1995 in comparison with the previous year, Radio Rossii reported on 3 March citing the State Statistics Committee. There are now more than 1 million civil servants, excluding administrative personnel in the Defense Ministry, law enforcement organs, and Customs Service. The sharpest increase last year was in the number of apparatchiks in legislative bodies--up 23%. Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan said last September that the government intended to reduce the number of civil servants. -- Penny Morvant NORWEGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS MOSCOW. Norwegian Foreign Minister Bjoern Tor Godal held talks in Moscow on 2 March with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Prima-kov, Russian and Western agencies reported. During their discussion, Primakov reiterated Russian objections to any eastward expansion of NATO. Primakov also described the recent NATO exercises in northern Norway as "nothing unusual," despite earlier Russian protests (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 February 1995). Primakov announced that President Yeltsin will visit Norway later this month. A visit to Norway scheduled for July 1995 was postponed when Yeltsin was hospitalized with heart problems. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN MILITARY LACKS FOOD AND MONEY. The armed forces were allocated 500 billion rubles ($104 million) for food for January but so far have received only 100 billion rubles, Novaya gazeta reported on 28 February. The current budget allocates only 8,735 Rubles ($1.80) per day to feed each soldier. According to a military spokesman, the army has not received 9 million uniforms it ordered and soldiers stationed in Chechnya have been forced to wear sneakers and winter hats donated by Menatep bank. -- Constantine Dmitriev RUSSIA TO BUILD NEW SPACE LAUNCH SITE. President Yeltsin has approved the creation of Russia's third space launch site near Svobodnyi in the Far East, Western agencies reported on 1 March. Russia has been leasing the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for $115 million a year for manned flights, but cannot reach agreement with the Kazakhstani government over the upkeep of the facility. Russia's two other cosmodromes--at Plesetsk in northwestern Russia and Kapustin Yar near Volgograd--are used only for launching satellites. The first lift-off from Svobodnyi is expected by the end of 1996. However, experts warn that by stretching its financial resources, Russia may be unable to fulfill some of its international obligations under the "Mir" program. -- Natalia Gurushina DRUG ADDICTION INCREASING. Vladimir Yegorov, director of the Russian Center for the Study of Drug Addiction, said on 1 March that at least half a million Russians are dependent on illegal drugs and that the number of drug users could be as high as 1.5 million, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 March. Owing in part to Russia's porous borders, a wide range of drugs are now available, but Yegorov said that only the well-off can afford to buy imported drugs such as heroin and cocaine. He said he hoped treatment for drug addiction will improve after the construction of five rehabilitation centers envisaged in a federal program passed last year. -- Penny Morvant IMPORT TARIFF HIKE. . . Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said on 29 February that import tariffs will be raised by 20%, increasing the average tariff to 17-18%, Segodnya reported. The step, mainly intended to raise revenue, drew criticism from an EU spokesman, who pointed out that Russia did not consult the EU before announcing the move, Reuters reported on 2 March. Such consultation is required under the terms of the EU interim trade agreement with Russia, which came into effect on 1 February. The EU claims that the average tariff they charge on Russian imports is 1%. On 27 February, an EU delegation arrived in Moscow to discuss Russia's threat to introduce quotas to correct the two-to-one imbalance in the textile trade with the EU, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian customs service announced on 1 March that limits for duty-free import of personal purchases will be lowered from $2,000 to $1,000, above which they will be taxed at 5 ECU per kg. -- Peter Rutland . . .ZAVERYUKHA REACTION. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha said that tariffs will not be enough to protect Russian farmers from foreign imports, and that quotas are needed, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 March. Zaveryukha claimed that farm subsidies in the U.S. amount to $341 per hectare, in Germany $800, and in Russia only $35, so Russia cannot hope to compete in terms of price. He stated that Russian farms have only 40% of the fuel and 70% of the machinery they need for the spring sowing, according to Delovoi mir on 2 March, and made the customary call for state-subsidized credits for farm suppliers. -- Peter Rutland INFLATION AT ALL-TIME LOW. Consumer price inflation in February was a mere 2.8%, the lowest level since 1991, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told Russian Public TV (ORT) on 1 March. Inflation was 4.1% in January and 3.2% in December. However, the same day, Russia's two largest oil companies, LUKoil and Yukos, said they would increase their domestic prices by up to 25%. Even assuming the February inflation figure is reliable, it is unlikely that monthly inflation will fall below 2% later this year, as government spokesmen insist. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA OSCE CHAIRMAN MEETS AZER-BAIJANI LEADER, DISCUSSES NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti, in his capacity as OSCE chairman, arrived in Baku on 2 March to discuss the prospects for a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Russian and Western sources reported. After the meeting, Cotti stressed that the "principle of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan" is critical to any negotiation, adding that "autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh" can be established within such a design, Turan reported on 3 March. During his stay in the region, Cotti also hopes to persuade Karabakh officials to release 64 Azer-baijani prisoners of war, who should have been released under the two-year-old ceasefire, RFE/RL reported. -- Roger Kangas IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati arrived in Baku on 2 March to attend the opening of an Iranian trade fair and to meet with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Turan and international media reported. Velayati said Iran's economic relations with Azerbaijan are improving. He attended the inauguration of the Mashhad-Serakhs-Tedzhen railway, and called for the construction of another railway via the border town of Astara. On 3 March, Velayati arrived in Tbilisi to meet his Georgian counterpart, Irakli Menagharishvili, and President Eduard Shevardnadze, to the discuss the latter's peace initiative for the Caucasus, Russian media reported. -- Irakli Tsereteli AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARY OFFICIAL MURDERED. The body of Ruhangiz Muhtarova, a senior adviser on the parliamentary Ecology and Natural Resources Commission, was found in her flat on 28 February with several stab wounds, Turan reported on 1 March. Sources in the Interior Ministry said the murderers have been found but gave no further details. -- Irakli Tsereteli TAJIKISTAN ROUNDUP. The government accused opposition forces of breaking the ceasefire in Tavil Dara on 2 March and presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said the government would take "preventive measures," Russian and Western media reported. In an interview with RFE/RL, opposition leader Ali Akbar Turajonzoda denied the reports, saying the government is trying to find an excuse to launch an attack. On 4 March, the Russian Federal Border Service director, General Andrei Nikolaev, arrived in Dushanbe to discuss strengthening border control cooperation, a topic of last week's border services meeting in Brest, Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 March 1996). -- 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. 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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