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No. 50, Part I, 11 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CHECHEN MILITANTS RETREAT FROM GROZNY. After five days of bitter fighting throughout Grozny, Russian media reported on 11 March that Chechen forces loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev had split into small groups and retreated to the outskirts of the city where fighting was continuing, but that the city center was "quiet." Casualties on both sides run into the hundreds. Oil storage tanks at the Lenin oil refinery are reportedly ablaze and electricity and water supplies have been disrupted. Meanwhile, on 8 March Russian federal troops succeeded in retaking the border village of Sernovodsk, and the local population is beginning to return to their homes. -- Liz Fuller ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA SOSKOVETS OUTLINES YELTSIN CAMPAIGN THEMES. Imbuing economic reform with greater social support, strengthening Russian statehood, and fighting crime will be the main themes of President Boris Yeltsin's re-election platform, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, the head of the coordinating council for the campaign, said 9 March. To counter the "opposition's baseless criticism of everything the government does," the president will try to explain to Russians how the government's actions promote stability, he said. The government is taking measures to promote domestic production and resolve the enormous wage arrears problem while still trying to secure financial stabilization, Soskovets told ITAR- TASS. -- Robert Orttung POLITICIANS WOO FEMALE VOTERS. President Boris Yeltsin courted Russia's female voters on 8 March, extolling women as the source of goodness, love, and peace in a televised speech to mark International Women's Day. His rival for the presidency, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, bestowed flowers and champagne on women reporters and spoke about his home life at a news conference on 7 March. Hard-line communists decried the effect of reform on women at a small rally in Moscow on 8 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. Working Russia leader Viktor Anpilov contended that only Soviet power can return respect and equality to women, who he claimed have been turned into "slaves" by the current regime. He went on to urge voters in the capital to back Olga Sergeeva of the Russian Communist Workers' Party in the city's mayoral elections on 16 June. -- Penny Morvant NIZHNII NOVGOROD GOVERNOR CONFIDENT OF COMMUNIST VICTORY. Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov said that he believes a Communist candidate will win the June presidential elections due to the pro-reform parties' failure to rally around a single candidate, NTV and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 10 March. Nemtsov added that he does not think a Communist victory would be a catastrophe, saying the country's independent media and political opposition and the influence of Western countries will be stabilizing factors. Last week, Nemtsov said he would not run for the presidency and proposed that limits be imposed on presidential powers (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya ABSENCE OF REGIONAL POLITICS DESTABILIZES RUSSIA. The absence of a state regional policy in Russia is one of the most destabilizing factors in the country, according to experts from the Center of Research on Federalism. Historically, regional policy consisted of agreements between the central and regional elites. The center's specialists say that all of the Russian Federation's subjects should be treated equally regardless of their size or status in order to preserve Russian unity, Russian TV reported on 10 March. -- Anna Paretskaya NORWAY DOUBTS RUSSIA CONDUCTED NUCLEAR TEST. Refuting recent allegations in the U.S. media, Norwegian Foreign Minister Bjoern Tore Godal said on 9 March that his government has uncovered no evidence that Russia conducted a secret underground nuclear test at its Novaya Zemlya test site in January, ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March 1996). Godal declared that it was "impossible" for a test to occur at Novaya Zemlya without Norway detecting it. Scientists from the Norwegian Radiation Safety Institute and Norwegian Seismological Service confirmed that they were unaware of any evidence that such a test--even of very low yield--had taken place. The Novaya Zemlya test site is located on a remote island off the north coast Russia, about 1,000 km away from Norway. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN TO CO-SPONSOR ANTI-TERRORISM SUMMIT. President Yeltsin will address the opening session of the scheduled 13 March anti-terrorism summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh, Russian and Western agencies reported. Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev said Yeltsin, along with U.S President Bill Clinton and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, would co-chair the meeting. The 31-state gathering aims to boost the stalled Middle East peace process, of which Russia is a co- sponsor. Iran, Iraq, and Libya have condemned the meeting; Syria also may not attend. Medvedev noted that Russia is eager to help combat the "evil" of international terrorism. Russia was embarrassed on the eve of the meeting, however, by the 8 March hijacking of a jetliner in Cyprus by a Turkish national, who said he wanted to attract attention to the ongoing Chechen conflict. -- Scott Parrish HEALTH MINISTRY ON CONTINUING EFFECTS OF CHORNOBYL CATASTROPHE. Health Ministry experts said on 9 March that about 800,000 Russian children were affected by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster and are under medical surveillance, Russian and Western agencies reported. About 3,000 children have been hospitalized and another 70,000 are said to have received medical treatment. The ministry noted an increase in diseases of the endocrine gland and in tumors among women and children living in affected areas. About 7,000 Russian towns were contaminated by radioactivity as a result of the Chornobyl accident. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ALIEV IN TBILISI. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev arrived in Tbilisi on 8 March for an official three-day visit that had been postponed several times before, Russian and Western media reported. Aliev and his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, signed a 15 agreements on friendship and cooperation plus a declaration on peace, stability, and cooperation throughout the Caucasus. Of particular importance was an agreement signed by representatives of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Azerbaijani International Operating Company (AIOC)--the steering company representing a consortium of 10 Western oil companies involved in exploiting three Caspian oil fields--to export part of the oil via Georgia. The AIOC vice-president told AFP, however, that agreement has not been reached on financing the Western pipeline, which is unlikely to be fully operational before September 1997; the first early oil is due to be exported in late 1996. -- Liz Fuller DELEGATION FROM NAHICHEVAN IN ANKARA. A high-level delegation from Nahichevan, an autonomous region of Azerbaijan, is in Ankara for talks focused on economic and trade issues, Zaman reported on 11 March. To date, Nahichevan, which shares an approximately10 km-long border with Turkey, has used $19.6 million of a $20 million line of credit extended to the region by Turkey's Eximbank. The delegation, led by Nahichevan's Ali Majlis (parliament) Chairman Vasit Talibov, includes other officials responsible for the region and republic's foreign economic relations. -- Lowell Bezanis KYRGYZSTAN TO RECEIVE MORE FUNDING FROM U.S. U.S. presidential adviser James Collins said U.S. aid to Kyrgyzstan this year will reach at least the 1995 level of $50 million, according to a Radio Rossii report from 9 March. Collins said the continued aid is a demonstration of U.S. satisfaction with Kyrgyzstan's progress in democratic reforms, adding that the Central Asian republic is a leader among CIS countries in this regard. -- Bruce Pannier U.S.-UZBEK RELATIONS IMPROVING. Uzbek President Islam Karimov received official notification from U.S. President Bill Clinton on 8 March that the U.S.-Uzbek Bilateral Investment Treaty has been submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification, ITAR-TASS reported. Signed on 16 December 1994, the treaty states that both sides agree to international law standards on property expropriation and compensation, free transfer of funds for investment, and "fair, equitable, and most-favored-nation treatment." Until now, some U.S. investors were concerned about the absence of a legal framework for recourse in Uzbekistan. In addition, Clinton stressed the importance of the military conversion commission that was in Tashkent last week (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March 1996). In contrast to past criticisms of Uzbekistan, Clinton said that "our two countries can work together" and that "Uzbekistan can play a key role" in Central Asia. -- Roger Kangas AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZES KAZAKHSTAN. Amnesty International has criticized Kazakhstan for executing 101 people last year, ranking the state of 17 million among countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria which have the highest numbers of death penalties, Reuters reported on 9 March. No executions have taken place this year due to bureaucratic obstacles, according to the Amnesty report. Human rights groups criticized the Kazakhstani government last year for allegedly screening videotapes of executions on the state TV channel in order to deter criminals; the screenings later turned out to be a hoax. An Interior Ministry spokesperson told Reuters that the death penalty is justified by the level of violence and the high crime rate in Kazakhstan. Local human rights organizations have called for a moratorium on executions while a review of the country's criminal code is carried out. -- Bhavna Dave NAZARBAYEV APPOINTS TWO NEW REGIONAL HEADS. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed Serik Umbetov and Umirzak Uzbekov as the new heads of the Almaty and Taldy Kurgan oblasts respectively, Kazakhstani TV reported on 6 March. Uzbekov replaces the previous head, Serik Akhimbekov, who became the new agriculture minister last week. In an address carried by Uzbek TV and monitored by the BBC on 7 March, Nazarbayev called on the new head of the Almaty Oblast to promote economic recovery and combat the growing crime wave in the region. The state treasury provides 50% of the Almaty Oblast's budget. -- Bhavna Dave POLITICAL GROUPS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS SIGN AGREEMENT IN TAJIKISTAN. Thirty-four officially registered organizations in Tajikistan signed a social accord in Dushanbe on 9 March, NTV reported. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said the agreement will achieve "peace as well as public and ethnic concord in society, ensure human rights and freedoms, and secure the supremacy of the constitution and accepted norms of international law." In a likely reference to splinter groups of the United Tajik Opposition, Rakhmonov also added that Tajikistan's judiciary will soon allow formerly banned parties that revise their charters to be registered in the country. Meanwhile, the head of the Tajik Party for Political and Economic Revival, Mukhtor Babayev, was gunned down in his car by unknown assailants on 8 March in the north of the country. Police are investigating the murder. -- 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 email@example.com 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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