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No. 47, Part I, 06 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ HEAVY FIGHTING ERUPTS IN GROZNY. Heavy fighting was reported in Grozny on 5-6 March during which Chechen fighters seized police stations in the Zavodskii and Oktyabrskii regions of the city, ITAR-TASS reported. Other federal positions in the center of the city came under fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, commander of federal forces in Chechnya, said there were casualties on both sides. ITAR-TASS reported that the fighting had died down somewhat by late morning on 6 March, but added that "sporadic" but "intense" fighting continued in some parts of the city. Also on 5 March, agencies reported that Salman Raduev, who led the raid on Kizlyar in January, had died from gunshot wounds received in an ambush on 3 March. -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA FEDERAL FORCES CONTINUE POUNDING SERNOVODSK. Federal artillery and helicopter gunships continued to bombard the western Chechen town of Sernovodsk on 5 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. AFP, citing an independent Chechen journalist who fled the town, reported that at least 20-30 civilians have been killed. The journalist added that the center of the town has been totally destroyed by the shelling. On 4 March, federal forces had opened a corridor for civilians to flee, but it was closed again on 5 March, trapping an unknown number of inhabitants in the besieged town. Although federal commander General Nikolai Tkachev expressed willingness to negotiate an end the fighting, the bombardment of the blazing town continued into the evening. -- Scott Parrish CONFERENCE EXAMINES ROLE OF NATIONALISM. Russians are still trapped in the ideology of an imperial power and have not embraced the "national idea," journalist Vadim Kozhinov said at a 5 March conference on "Nationalism in Modern Russia" at the Russian Social-Political Center, Express-khronika reported. He argued that those who rely on Russian nationalism "will lose and suffer cruel disappointment." Others, such as writer Aleksandr Sevastyanov, claimed that nationalism is becoming the most popular ideology in Russia. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN CREATES ANOTHER CHECHNYA COMMISSION. President Yeltsin on 5 March created a third commission to come up with solutions to the Chechen crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. The commission will be headed by presidential adviser Emil Pain. Several weeks earlier, Yeltsin had ordered Pain and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to lead other commissions on Chechnya. The new commission will have more clout as Yeltsin has ordered Chief of Staff Nikolai Yegorov to ensure its efficiency. Chernomyrdin met with Yeltsin on 5 March to discuss his commission's proposals. -- Robert Orttung MOSCOW DEMOCRATS UNITE. The Moscow organizations of a number of pro- reform parties, including Yabloko, Russia's Democratic Choice, Democratic Russia, and Forward, Russia!, have signed an agreement to coordinate their activities during the presidential campaign, even though the national leaders of these parties have yet to agree on any sort of cooperation, Ekho Moskvy reported on 5 March. Representatives of the local party branches agreed to select a single candidate by 15 March. The move reflects a further collapse of organizational discipline within the pro-reform camp. -- Robert Orttung SELEZNEV PROPOSES THAT YELTSIN ABOLISH PRESIDENCY. During their monthly meeting on 5 March, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev suggested that President Yeltsin propose amendments to the constitution to abolish the presidency in 1997, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. He said that many parties would support a decision not to hold the elections in 1996 in this case. -- Robert Orttung LEBED QUITS DUMA FACTION. The deputy leader of the Congress of Russian Communities, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed, has left the Popular Power Duma faction headed by former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, NTV reported on 5 March. Lebed's departure is said to be a response to Ryzhkov's support for Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 March 1996). Lebed also intends to join the presidential race, and he is lobbying for support from some of the "popular patriotic forces" that have backed Zyuganov. If at least three more people leave the faction, which now has just 37 members, it would be disqualified from official status, since Duma regulations set a minimum of 35 members for Duma factions. -- Anna Paretskaya HARDLINERS HONOR STALIN. About 200 hardline Communists on 5 March marked the 43rd anniversary of the death of Joseph Stalin by laying a wreath on his grave, Russian and Western agencies reported. Participants in the ceremony included Working Russia leader Viktor Anpilov, but Russian Federation Communist Party leader and presidential hopeful Gennadii Zyuganov stayed away. Last week, Zyuganov dodged questions about his party's assessment of Stalin, saying it would take Shakespeare to determine the appropriate role for Stalin in history, The New York Times reported on 4 March. -- Penny Morvant PRIMAKOV ON RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY. After the end of the Cold War, Russian foreign policy was "overcorrected" and became excessively pro- Western, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said in a lengthy interview with Izvestiya published on 6 March. While endorsing the concept of an "equitable" partnership with the West, Primakov said Russian foreign policy should now focus on "more vigorously and effectively" defending Russian national interests while avoiding confrontation. -- Scott Parrish CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met his Czech counterpart, Josef Zieleniec, in Moscow on 5 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. Their discussion focused on NATO expansion, with Primakov declaring Russia will continue to oppose any expansion of the alliance. Zieleniec reiterated the Czech Republic's desire to join NATO but denied that the policy is directed against Moscow. Both diplomats stressed that bilateral relations were developing smoothly and said that the two countries held "very similar" views on almost all issues other than NATO expansion. Primakov and Zieleniec also signed a cultural and scientific agreement, and exchanged documents ratifying the 1993 Czech-Russian Friendship Treaty. -- Scott Parrish MIKHAILOV: RUSSIA DEVELOPING NEW NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Russia is continuing its research on the development of new nuclear weapons, Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov told a 4 March Moscow news conference. Russian media quoted him as saying the research is aimed at improving the safety of Russian nuclear weapons and to enhance their capability to overcome any anti-missile defense system. He also announced that Russia would reprocess 12 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium from dismantled nuclear weapons this year. He said that six metric tons had been reprocessed last year and 35 tons would be treated in 1996. -- Doug Clarke MILITARY TO BUY HELICOPTERS FOR FORCES IN CHECHNYA. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev on 4 March told an army unit near Grozny that the ministry has decided to buy 36 new helicopters from the Rosvertol company in Rostov-na-Donu for use by federal troops in Chechnya, Russian media reported. He said that the order would be for 20 Mi-24 gunships, 10 Mi- 26 transport helicopters, and six special Mi-26s configured as fuel- tankers. Rosvertol, like all Russian aircraft manufacturers, has been hard hit by the military's failure to buy its products in recent years. The Defense Ministry did not purchase a single helicopter in 1995. -- Doug Clarke COURT RULES AGAINST SOVETSKAYA ROSSIYA IN LIBEL CASE. A Moscow court ruled on 6 March that the left-wing Sovetskaya Rossiya should pay damages to popular singer Iosif Kobzon for claiming that he had ties with organized crime, ITAR-TASS reported. An article by Larisa Kislinskaya that appeared in the paper in 1992 alleged that Kobzon had personal links with organized crime bosses. The paper and journalist were ordered to pay Kobzon a total of 15 million rubles ($3,100) in compensation. Kobzon, who was no. 3 on Col. Gen. Boris Gromov's My Fatherland party list in the December Duma elections, was denied a U.S. entry visa in 1995 following the publication of an article in the Washington Times in March alleging that Kobzon was Russia's main mafioso. -- Penny Morvant PLIGHT OF RADIATION VICTIMS. The Health Ministry said on 5 March that 13.5% of those involved in the clean-up operation following the 1986 Chornobyl disaster are now invalids and that hospitals treating radiation victims are under-staffed and under-equipped, ITAR-TASS reported. A commission to distribute welfare benefits to victims of nuclear disasters has been set up in Primorsk Krai, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 5 March. It has already registered more than 1,000 people, and that number is expected to grow as more immigrants arrive from the Chornobyl and Semipalatinsk areas. The commission will probably also deal with naval and civilian personnel affected by the 1985 explosion of a reactor on board a Pacific Fleet submarine undergoing repairs. -- Penny Morvant and Doug Clarke CHICKEN DISPUTE SETTLED. A poultry trade dispute between Russia and the U.S. (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 February 1996) was settled on 5 March, ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported. In a message relayed by Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin assured U.S. Vice President Al Gore that American poultry imports will not be halted after 16 March. The prospect of trade stoppages caused protests from both American poultry exporters, who announced production cuts, and Administration officials who began considering retaliatory measures. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KABUL ON TURKMENISTAN-PAKISTAN ROAD. On the eve of Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani's visit to Turkmenistan, Kabul has condemned a Pakistani plan to repair a road linking Chaman in Pakistan to Torghundi on the Afghan-Turkmen border, Afghan and Western media reported on 5 March. Kabul Radio condemned the plan as part of Pakistan's efforts to help the opposition Taliban movement, which now controls much of Afghanistan aside from the capital and various northern provinces. Pakistan said the road is simply a means of stimulating trade with the newly independent states of Central Asia. -- Lowell Bezanis NAZARBAYEV RESHUFFLES TWO TOP OFFICIALS. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed Deputy Prime Minister Akhmetzhan Yesimov to the post of state secretary that was created under the new constitution adopted last year. In terms of formal ranking, the position is second after the presidential post. Agriculture Minister Zhanybek Karibzhanov has been promoted to the rank of deputy prime minister, but he will retain control of farming policy, a government spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 5 March. The akim (head) of Taldy Kurgan Oblast, Serik Akhymbekov, is the new agriculture minister. -- Bhavna Dave NEW MINISTRY CREATED IN UZBEK GOVERNMENT. Uzbek President Islam Karimov on 4 March issued a decree establishing a Ministry of Extraordinary Affairs, Western and Uzbek sources reported. The ministry, which is to address "the consequences of extraordinary situations of a natural and technical character," will be headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Jurabekov. Aside from organizing natural disaster relief, the specific functions of the ministry are unclear. Last year, Jurabekov headed a commission that evaluated the efficiency and agricultural production levels of regional administrations, resulting in the replacement of several hokims (governors). -- Roger Kangas KYRGYZ UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES UP. The unemployment rate in Kyrgyzstan has climbed from 0.7% to 3.2% since the beginning of 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 March. The number of registered unemployed in the Central Asian republic is 91,200. Not listed in these totals are the numerous people working part-time or those who have not received their salaries for weeks or months. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK GOVERNMENT SAYS MOST REFUGEES HAVE RETURNED HOME. The head of the Tajik commission for refugees, Temur Tabarov, announced on 1 March that the majority of refugees from the Tajik civil war have returned to their homes, according to a Tajik Radio report monitored by the BBC. According to government figures 729,179 of the registered 955,653 refugees are back in their place of residence. Support from international sources, particularly the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has helped to rebuild 24,868 of the estimated 35,723 homes that were damaged in the fighting of 1992-93. Tabarov said the government is working to repatriate the 8,000 refugees who are still in Afghanistan and another 190,000 scattered throughout former Soviet republics. -- 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. 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