|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 51, Part I, 12 March 1996
******E-MAIL NOTE: The leased line connecting OMRI to the Internet was accidentally severed on 9 March. Since then, we have had no Internet access, which means that we are unable to send or receive e-mail via the Internet, and that our WWW server has not been accessible. If you've tried to contact us, your e-mail messages have likely been returned to you as undeliverable. We're still here, and we're working with the Czech authorities to get this fixed as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.****** 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ YELTSIN CONSIDERING REPLACING LOBOV WITH GRACHEV ON SECURITY COUNCIL. President Boris Yeltsin is considering replacing Security Council Chairman Oleg Lobov, who is unable to perform his duties because of a severe heart condition that requires hospitalization, with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. ITAR-TASS claimed that Yeltsin advisers such as First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, who is organizing the president's re-election campaign, are warning the president that he will not be able to win the election with Grachev as defense minister. However, unidentified Security Council staffers told ITAR-TASS that Grachev is "unsuited for the analytical activity" the job requires. Yurii Baturin, national security adviser to the president, and former Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko are also candidates for the Security Council position. ITAR-TASS suggested that the Security Council will play an increasingly important role as Yeltsin tries to end the Chechen war and restructure his social policies. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA DEFENSE MINISTRY REJECTS RUMORS OF GRACHEV DISMISSAL. The Collegium of the Defense Ministry rejected any rumors about Grachev's resignation and said that this speculation is causing an "unacceptable destabilization of the situation in the armed forces," in a statement to politicians and the media published in the military newspaper Krasnaya zvezda on 12 March. The statement denounced "deliberately false allegations" that cast doubts on the effectiveness of the armed forces, claiming that "this kind of activity suits certain forces which are taking part in the campaign." NTV viewed the statement as a response to the Security Council staff's disparaging remarks about Grachev. Grachev's dismissal has long been rumored, but he survived Yeltsin's sacrifice of other top ministers in June 1995 following a Duma vote of no confidence after the Budennovsk hostage-taking incident. -- Robert Orttung KULIKOV ASSESSES GROZNY FIGHTING. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov has criticized the inability of Russian federal forces, Interior Ministry troops, and Chechen Interior Ministry forces to coordinate the defense of the city during the past five days of fighting against Chechen militants loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian TV reported. Speaking at a press conference in Grozny on 11 March following a session of the Chechen government, Kulikov said that 79 Russian troops were killed in the fighting, 276 wounded, and 40 missing; he estimated the Chechen casualties at 300 dead and 350 wounded, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Vakha Sagaev told ITAR-TASS on 12 March that isolated groups of Chechen militants still in Grozny continued to subject some areas of the city center to sporadic sniper fire. Meanwhile, a Chechen military commander in the village of Bamut close to the Ingush border threatened on 11 March to begin executing Russian troops held prisoner if Russian air raids on the village continue, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN SEEKS TO CO-OPT LEBED. A representative of the government has proposed to Duma member Aleksandr Lebed that he take charge of a "federal foundation" to return illegally-exported capital to Russia, Izvestiya reported on 12 March. The plan is likely aimed at winning over some of the pro-communist electorate and removing one of Yeltsin's opponents from the race. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN TURNS DOWN CHANGES TO SELF-GOVERNMENT LAW. President Yeltsin has turned down a bill passed by the Duma on amendments to the local self government law, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March. The bill, passed in February, would have prolonged the terms of office of all local administrations until January 1997. The law on self-government, adopted in August 1995, stipulates that elections to all local legislatures and executives will be held in March 1996. However, in September, Yeltsin issued a decree postponing all local elections until December 1996; in December, he proposed that the law be amended to give both regional and local legislatures time to prepare for the elections. In his rejection of the latest bill, Yeltsin said that postponing the date of the elections until December 1996 is not enough to ensure "efficient self- government." -- Anna Paretskaya HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Hungarian Foreign Minister Lazlo Kovacs met with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, in Moscow on 11 March, Russian and Western media reported. Afterwards, Primakov said Russia remains opposed to NATO expansion, but he expressed hope that a compromise "taking into account the concerns of all sides" could form the basis for a new European security system. He suggested that such a compromise could include a decision by NATO not to station troops in Eastern European countries if they joined the alliance. Kovacs reiterated Hungary's desire to join NATO but said the policy is not directed against Moscow. The two diplomats also agreed to form a new bilateral working group that will strive to reduce Hungary's trade deficit with Russia by stimulating Hungarian exports. In 1995, Hungary ran a $1 billion trade deficit with Russia, accounting for almost half of its overall trade deficit. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA REFUSES TO PARTICIPATE IN BOSNIAN AID CONFERENCE. Russian UN Representative Sergei Lavrov announced on 11 March that Russia will not participate in an international conference on military assistance for the Muslim-Croat Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. The 41-state meeting, to be held on 15 March in Ankara, aims to foster a stable military balance in Bosnia, where the Serbs have held an advantage because of access to cadres and heavy weapons from rump Yugoslavia. Lavrov said that although Russia shares the goal of promoting stability in Bosnia, efforts should center on political rather than military means. He criticized the conference's focus on augmenting the federation's military capabilities, saying it should be working on regional arms control as specified in the Dayton accords. Lavrov's statement came on the same day that the U.S. announced a $100 million military assistance package for the Muslim-Croat Federation. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN TO VISIT CHINA IN APRIL. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov confirmed on 11 March that President Yeltsin will make an official visit to Beijing during the second half of April, Russian and Western agencies reported. Other officials told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin will sign at least 10 agreements during the visit, including a multilateral border security agreement that will also be signed by the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Panov said that recent tensions between China and Taiwan would not block Yeltsin's trip. He reiterated that Russia views Taiwan as a part of China, and called for a "peaceful solution" to their dispute. Yeltsin canceled a scheduled November 1995 visit to China when he was hospitalized with heart problems. -- Scott Parrish SWISS EXTRADITE BANKER TO RUSSIA. Swiss police on 7 March handed over former Kontinent Bank Chairman Igor Kosarev to Russian authorities at Sheremetevo airport, Izvestiya reported on 12 March. The paper said it was the first extradition of a criminal suspect from Western Europe to Russia. Kosarev is under investigation for the April 1995 killing of Maj. Vladimir Markov, an inspector with the Russian Tax Police. Before his death, Markov had conducted an audit of Kontinent Bank which resulted in the bank paying a $360,000 fine, and he had also begun an investigation into the business activities of some of the bank's shareholders, including Kosarev. Swiss authorities had delayed extraditing Kosarev because of doubts about the evidence against him, but finally did so when the Moscow prosecutor proposed that Kosarev could await trial under house arrest, rather than in jail. -- Scott Parrish COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF MAYAK VICTIMS. The Constitutional Court ruled on 11 March that all those affected by the nuclear accident at the Mayak combine in Chelyabinsk Oblast in 1957 are eligible for compensation payments, Russian TV reported. A 1993 law provided for benefits to be paid only to people who were evacuated from the area completely, excluding those who were moved to neighboring streets where radioactive contamination was lower. The court ruled that the legislation contravenes Russian citizens' constitutional right to equal treatment under the law and to live in decent environmental conditions, Ekho Moskvy reported. The ruling significantly increases the number of people entitled to benefits and will require extra regional and federal spending. -- Penny Morvant SAFETY STANDARDS AT NUCLEAR STORAGE FACILITY QUESTIONED. Media reports on 11 March claimed that safety standards are being violated at a nuclear storage facility southeast of Moscow, but a spokesman for the Nuclear Power Ministry denied the allegations. NTV said that a warehouse at the ministry's Lytkarino Research Institute about 35 km from the capital, where about 40 tons of radioactive waste is being stored, failed to meet safety requirements. Security was also said to be lax. Ministry spokesman Georgii Kaurov told ITAR-TASS, however, that although more waste than normal is currently being stored there because of construction work on the road outside the warehouse, radiation levels both in and around the facility are normal. -- Penny Morvant GOVERNMENT SET TO CLEAR WAGE ARREARS. The government still intends to clear all wage arrears to state employees by the end of this month, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov told ITAR-TASS on 11 March. On top of the March wage bill for federal employees of 7.9 trillion rubles ($1.6 billion), 3.8 trillion in wage arrears will be paid. The Finance Ministry will also lend 2.5 trillion rubles interest free to regional governments to help them pay off their wage debts. Panskov explained that the money will be raised by issuing more government bonds. This will not feed inflation but will push up the cost of capital and thus hinder investment. -- Peter Rutland WESTERN TELECOM COMPANIES GET ULTIMATUM. Russia has asked U.S. West, France Telecom, and Deutsche Bundespost Telecom to confirm their participation in the 50x50 project by the end of March, AFP reported on 11 March. The consortium, set up in October 1994, aims to connect 50 Russian cities with a digital and optical fiber network adding 20 million telephones to the existing 26 million by 2010. The government is also proposing to cut by about half the 49% of 50x50 equity which the Western firms were initially offered -- Natalia Gurushina ZAVERYUKHA ON THE LAND DECREE. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha, speaking on Russian TV on 11 March, defended the land decree issued by President Yeltsin on 7 March. The Agrarian Party's faction leader in the Duma, Nikolai Kharitonov, said his party will challenge the decree's constitutionality, Pravda reported on 12 March. Zaveryukha revealed that he "temporarily" suspended his own involvement in the Agrarian Party last week. Zaveryukha said the decree will make it easier for the 12 million former collective and state farm members to claim personal land shares from their farm, and to sell the land or bequeath it to their heirs. It also loosens the size limits on dacha plots. It remains to be seen whether this measure will be implemented more effectively than a similar decree issued by Yeltsin in October 1993. The Duma is scheduled to start debating a new comprehensive Land Code in April. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIA, KAZAKHSTAN, AND OMAN SIGN FINAL PIPELINE DEAL. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman signed a final agreement on the construction of a pipeline that will run from Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field to the Russian port of Novorossiisk on the Black Sea, Western media reported on 11 March. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman are to hold half of the shares together, with the other half going to the Russian company LUKoil and the Western firms Mobil Oil, British Gas, and Agip. Oman, which was originally supposed to hold half of the consortium shares and undertake most of the financing, has a reduced share of 10% in the $1.8 billion construction project. Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) manager Edward Smith said the deal will speed up construction, which had been stalled due to disputes over shares. -- Bhavna Dave TAJIK PARLIAMENT OPENS. The Tajik parliament opened an extraordinary session on 11 March without the participation of opposition representatives, ITAR-TASS reported. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov praised the opposition for extending the ceasefire agreement until 26 May but also had harsh words for their decision to boycott the session. The opposition explained its decision by citing the government's inability to guarantee the safety of opposition representatives. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri said that if one of his members was killed while attending the session, his group would have to retaliate and any chance of peace would be destroyed. -- 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. 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 ----=_Tuesday, March 12, 1996 3:15 PM--
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