|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 78, Part I, 19 April 1996
This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ADMINISTRATION DENOUNCES RUMORS OF FALSIFICATION. The deputy chief of staff for President Boris Yeltsin's administration, Vyacheslav Volkov, has rejected rumors in the mass media that the voting results will be falsified as an attempt by the opposition to encourage "the population's indifference to the elections," ITAR-TASS reported on 18 April. Meanwhile, the procurator general for a second time suspended a Supreme Court order to the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) to register wealthy Duma member Vladimir Bryntsalov as a presidential candidate, NTV reported on 18 April. While Bryntsalov has no chance of winning, the machinations around his candidacy belie the image of an orderly campaign the authorities claim to want to project. Additionally, TsIK Financial Director Tamara Petronavichus announced that two months before the election the commission has only received 40% of the funds budgeted to it and that the situation is worse than during the December parliamentary campaign. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA NATIONAL-SOCIALIST ENDORSES YELTSIN. Aleksandr Barkashov, leader of the openly national-socialist Russian National Unity (RNE), announced that nationalists are satisfied with President Boris Yeltsin and warned that the election of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov would lead to civil war, NTV reported on 18 April. Barkashov launched his own presidential bid earlier this year, but he did not submit a signature list to the Central Electoral Commission before the 16 April deadline. In October 1993, Barkashov supported Yeltsin's hard-line parliamentary opponents, and RNE members in black shirts were involved in street clashes outside the White House. The president's team did not comment on Barkashov's endorsement, suggesting that it is unwelcome. -- Laura Belin ZHIRINOVSKY, YELTSIN, ZYUGANOV HAVE HIGHEST NEGATIVE RATINGS . . . The latest VCIOM nationwide poll found that 56% of respondents would not want to see Vladimir Zhirinovsky elected president under any circumstances, Segodnya reported on 18 April. President Yeltsin had the second-highest negative rating of 37%, and Gennadii Zyuganov ranked third with 27%. Yeltsin was especially disliked by supporters of Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov, while Zyuganov was especially disliked by those who plan to vote for Yeltsin or Grigorii Yavlinskii. If, as expected, no candidate wins 50% of the vote in the first round, the ability of the top two candidates in a run-off to attract supporters of their defeated rivals will be crucial. -- Laura Belin . . . POLL RESULTS CAST DOUBT ON "THIRD FORCE" ALLIANCE. The poll results also indicated that Grigorii Yavlinskii, Aleksandr Lebed, and Svyatoslav Fedorov--who are still negotiating on a common presidential bid--appeal to different electorates. According to an analysis published in Segodnya on 18 April, all three candidates have low negative ratings: 9% of respondents would not want to see Lebed elected under any circumstances, 6% said the same about Yavlinskii and 4% about Fedorov. However, Lebed is especially disliked by supporters of Yavlinskii and Fedorov. Lebed told ITAR-TASS on 17 April that he, Yavlinskii, and Fedorov will not make a final decision on an alliance before mid-May. -- Laura Belin OPPONENT ASSAILS SOBCHAK POLICIES IN ST. PETERSBURG. Gubernatorial candidate and St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev denounced his opponent and boss Mayor Anatolii Sobchak's policies, saying that they would change the city's orientation from banking and tourism to industry and tourism, RFE/RL reported on 18 April. Yakovlev also accused the city's electoral commission of trying to discredit him because it alleged that many of the signatures he collected were falsified. Former Federation Council member Yurii Boldyrev, the only potential candidate with a chance of beating Sobchak, recently won a court case that will allow him to begin collecting nomination signatures, although the Constitutional Court has yet to make a final ruling on his candidacy. The electoral law requires candidates to live in St. Petersburg for one year before the election, but Boldyrev had lived in Moscow while working as the city's representative on the Council. -- Robert Orttung SPLIT IN CHECHEN LEADERSHIP? The representatives of various Chechen political parties and field commanders loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev convened in the village of Shali on 18 April to discuss a settlement to the conflict, NTV reported. Among the participants was Dudaev's chief of staff, Aslan Maskhadov, who in an interview published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 18 April had argued in favor of a "calm, sober, and realistic" assessment of the geo-political, military, and economic aspects of Chechen-Russian relations. Maskhadov also advocated direct talks between Russian and Chechen representatives but excluding pro-Moscow head of state Doku Zavgaev. NTV reported on 18 April that Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Beslan Gantemirov has split with Zavgaev's "pro-Russian" position and is seeking to form a shadow cabinet. -- Liz Fuller DUMA CALLS FOR DAY OF MOURNING. The Duma called an unplanned break in its work on 19 April to draft an appeal to President Yeltsin calling on him to declare a day of mourning in honor of the Russian soldiers killed near Yarysh-Mardy in Chechnya on 16 April, ITAR-TASS reported. The commander of federal troops in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, described the estimates that 70-90 troops died in the ambush by Dudaev's forces as "exaggerated." On 18 April, NTV reported that 93 Russians died in the attack, more than twice the original estimates. -- Robert Orttung DUMA RATIFIES INTEGRATION ACCORDS. The Duma unanimously ratified the 2 April agreement forming the Russo-Belarusian community at its 19 April session, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same meeting, the Duma also unanimously ratified the 29 March quadripartite integration agreement signed by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Both agreements now go to the Federation Council for approval. -- Scott Parrish FOREIGN MINISTRY SLAMS PRIMORSK GOVERNOR. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov harshly criticized Primorsk Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko for his opposition to the 1991 Soviet-Chinese border agreement, Russian media reported on 18 April. Panov accused Nazdratenko of attempting to torpedo implementation of the agreement and undermine Russo-Chinese relations. Russian TV (RTR) quoted Panov as systematically refuting as "mythical" all Nazdratenko's objections to the agreement and denying that areas scheduled for transfer to China under the accord are either economically or strategically significant. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN CALL FOR NUCLEAR-FREE ZONE IN CENTRAL EUROPE. Yurii Baturin, President Yeltsin's national security adviser, on 18 April called for the creation of a nuclear weapons-free zone in Central and Eastern Europe, Western media reported. Hinting that Russia might drop its opposition to NATO's eastward expansion if his proposal were put into force, he suggested that such a zone could also include Belarus and Ukraine. Nuclear Energy Minster Viktor Mikhailov had earlier suggested that the NATO nuclear powers copy Russia's plan to pull all nuclear weapons back onto its own territory. He repeated this idea on 18 April, according to ITAR-TASS, saying that Russia expects "similar steps" from other countries. The Russians have put this issue on the agenda of the G-7 nuclear safety conference. -- Doug Clarke ZYUGANOV BLASTS NUCLEAR SAFETY SUMMIT. In a front-page article in the 18 April issue of Sovetskaya Rossiya, Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov attacked the G-7 nuclear safety summit that opens in Moscow on 19 April. Attempting to undermine President Yeltsin's image as a strong defender of Russian interests, which will be emphasized in the official press coverage, Zyuganov argued that the meeting will actually be used by the West to "erode the sovereignty of the Russian state." He attacked Yeltsin for allowing the West to impose a "one-sided approach" to nuclear safety issues in which Russia is portrayed as a special threat to international security. He described this "totally unfounded" portrayal as a revamped version of the "evil empire concept," and charged that under its guise Russia is "becoming directly dependent" on aid from other countries and the international organizations that they control. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA, CANADA SIGN NUCLEAR ACCORD. Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov and Canadian Ambassador to Moscow Jeremy Kinsman signed an agreement on cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy on 18 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. The agreement, signed following a meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, calls for joint research into how plutonium from decommissioned Russian nuclear warheads can be converted into fuel for nuclear power reactors. -- Scott Parrish REPORT ON NUCLEAR WASTE IN NORTHERN FLEET. The Norwegian environmental organization Bellona said on 18 April that the START II treaty should be renegotiated to avert an ecological disaster at Russian nuclear submarine bases, Western agencies reported. In a detailed report on the dangers of the nuclear waste generated by the Russian Northern Fleet, co-authored by jailed former Russian naval officer Aleksandr Nikitin, Bellona said 52 decommissioned submarines are still waiting to have radioactive waste removed from their reactors. It said that the fleet's storage capacity is exhausted and that the storage installations are in poor condition. Bellona argues that dismantling the remaining missiles as envisaged by the START II treaty should be halted until the problem of storing spent nuclear fuel is resolved. -- Penny Morvant THIEVES MAKE OFF WITH RAILROAD TRACK. A group of thieves dismantled half a kilometer of railroad track at a station in Primorsk Krai and smuggled it across the border into China using false papers, NTV reported on 18 April. A total of 94 rails were stolen from a siding at the Talovoe station near the border and sold to buyers in China before the theft was discovered. Transport police have now detained six suspects, who were allegedly paid $200 each to carry out the operation. -- Penny Morvant GOVERNMENT DISCUSSES PRIVATIZATION . . . At an 18 April government session, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin stressed that the government is not going to reconsider 1995's privatization results, including the loans-for-shares auctions, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported. He said the absence of a mechanism to attract investments in privatized companies, the inefficient management of the state-owned stakes of shares, legal infractions, and a weak defense of shareholders' interests were the major handicaps of the process. Chernomyrdin noted that the government's new strategy should include selling companies' shares at their market prices, and moving to a pin-point privatization. He also asked the deputy head of the State Property Commission, Alfred Kokh, to develop measures to buy out the equity stakes of some companies (Sibneft, Surgutneft, YUKOS, and Norilsk Nikel, according to Kokh) that were transferred to commercial banks in the course of the loans-for- shares auctions. -- Natalia Gurushina . . . AND IMPORT QUALITY CONTROLS. Chernomyrdin also said that protecting the domestic market from "poor quality imports" should be a major priority for Russia, adding that the existing system of import quality controls is unsatisfactory, ITAR-TASS reported. He noted that in 1995, imported consumer goods accounted for 54% of domestic consumption- -a sharp increase from the 19% recorded in 1993. Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin pointed out that 8% of imported goods (mostly from China, Vietnam, Belgium, Germany, and CIS countries) were below the minimum quality standards. Chernomyrdin said the government is preparing to introduce new measures to protect the market from low quality imports. However, he stressed that new quotas and import bans alone will not solve the problem but that the solution also lies in developing legislation to provide the public with consumer rights information. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHSTAN WARNS UIGHURS IN CHINA AGAINST SECESSION. Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev warned China's Uighurs against attempting to secede or exploiting the "Islamic factor," AFP reported on 19 April, citing Kazakhstanskaya pravda. Tokayev's statement comes one week before representatives from China and neighboring CIS states are to meet in Shanghai to discuss border issues. Kazakhstan has repeatedly supported China's efforts to curb separatist activities in Xinjiang. About 5.5 million Uighurs live in China's Xinjiang province, which borders on Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Some of the estimated 180,000 exiled Uighurs living in Kazakhstan have links with Uighur separatist groups. One of them, Yusupbek Mukhlissi, leader of the Revolutionary United National Front of Eastern Turkistan in Xinjiang, told AFP that "the struggle for the liberation of Uighurs will go on." Last week, Kyrgyzstan put a three-month ban on its local Uighur society, Ittipak (Unity), for its "separatist activities" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 April 1996). -- Bhavna Dave [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. 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