|To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. - Gelett Burgess|
No. 85, Part I, 30 April 1996
Newly published OMRI Analytical Briefs: No. 89: "Central European Forum Holds Inaugural Conference in Hungary," by Peter Rutland No. 90: "Russian-Kazakhstani Relations from the Chinese Border to the Caspian Sea," by Roger Kangas No. 91: "Caspian Pipeline Consortium Reborn," by Lowell Bezanis and Liz Fuller Available on the World Wide Web: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/Index.html 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 RUSSIA CHECHNYA: WHO'S IN CHARGE? Although the Chechen constitution stipulates that parliament chairman Yakhyat Idigov should take over as acting president following the still unconfirmed killing of Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, the various Chechen field commanders object to this, according to Russian TV (RTR). Chechen military intelligence chief Abu Movsayev told Turan on 29 April that Moscow plans to eliminate the entire pro-Dudaev Chechen political leadership. The secretary of the Russian government commission to implement President Yeltsin's peace plan, former Federal Security Service head Sergei Stepashin, told ITAR- TASS that military commander Shamil Basaev is a "highly undesirable" negotiating partner. The widow of slain President Dzhokhar Dudaev appealed to Turkish President Suleyman Demirel on 29 April for support in launching a new Chechen peace initiative, AFP and Zaman reported on 30 April. Also on 29 April, the Russian military extended for 48 hours its ultimatum to rebel Chechen forces to leave the besieged town of Shali, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 April. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN TO HOLD CONSULTATIONS WITH RIVALS. Presidential aide Georgii Satarov told ITAR-TASS on 29 April that President Yeltsin will hold a series of consultations in response to the appeal by 13 leading bankers and entrepreneurs for a "political compromise" before the June presidential election. Satarov said representatives of Gennadii Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation will be invited to take part in the consultations. Meanwhile, in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, reprinted in Rossiiskie vesti on 30 April, Yeltsin warned that ideas advocated by Zyuganov's party present a threat to "Russia, Russians, and the international community," and that a Communist electoral victory would bring back the "iron curtain." -- Laura Belin ZYUGANOV CHALLENGES YELTSIN TO LIVE DEBATE. In response to the 13 entrepreneurs who published a recent appeal for a political compromise, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov released an open letter challenging President Yeltsin to a live television debate on the most important issues facing Russia. In the letter, published in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 30 April, Zyuganov also called for three measures to strengthen political stability: amending the constitution to reduce the president's "extraordinary" powers; increasing the authority of the parliament to oversee the government's actions; and holding direct elections of all heads of local administrations after the presidential election. -- Laura Belin BEREZOVSKII CALLS FOR DELAY OF ELECTIONS. Logovaz Director Boris Berezovskii, who is also deputy chairman of the board of Russian Public TV (ORT), told RFE/RL on 29 April that the June presidential election should be delayed or canceled, and President Yeltsin should invite Gennadii Zyuganov to join the government instead. Berezovskii signed the recent appeal of 13 entrepreneurs warning that Russian society is deeply split and the presidential election could lead to civil war. In March 1995, he was among those who called for postponing State Duma election, scheduled for December 1995, until 1997, but that vote was held on time. -- Laura Belin CAMPAIGN IN PRESS BEGINS. The officially registered presidential candidates were allowed to start publishing campaign materials in the press on 29 April, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Candidates will not be given free space for advertisements, but they may buy up to 10% of the volume of any publication, as long as the advertisement clearly indicates in whose interest the space was purchased. All registered parties and candidates were given free column space in state-owned or municipal newspapers before the December parliamentary elections, but most papers were never reimbursed by the Central Electoral Commission for printing costs. Campaigning on radio and television will begin on 14 May, and the last day for campaigning in the press or electronic media will be 14 June. -- Laura Belin FILATOV, SOBCHAK TRADE ENDORSEMENTS. Appearing at a St. Petersburg congress of President Boris Yeltsin's supporters, top campaign aide Sergei Filatov said Yeltsin supports current Mayor Anatolii Sobchak in the upcoming St. Petersburg gubernatorial election, while Sobchak said he will vote for Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. The St. Petersburg vote was initially scheduled for 16 June, the same day as the first round of the presidential election, but a March presidential decree moved the date to 19 May (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 March 1996). The president's camp may have feared that a higher turnout in St. Petersburg, a stronghold for Yabloko, would benefit Grigorii Yavlinskii in the presidential race. The mayoral election in Moscow, where Yeltsin is more popular than in St. Petersburg, is scheduled for 16 June. -- Laura Belin TATARSTAN TV WORKERS PROTEST CENSORSHIP. Fifteen employees of the state- owned Tatarstan TV station began a two-day hunger strike on 26 April in protest against the company's "conservative" methods, saying they are reminiscent of the "period of stagnation," ITAR-TASS reported. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, one of the protesters claimed that the company's management is practicing censorship by canceling all programs that feature people or views not to the liking of the authorities. On 12 March, a group of editors and producers published a statement in the local press and sent a letter to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev expressing their dissatisfaction with the management style. Subsequently, the authors were threatened with dismissal and "a repressive regime" was instituted against them. Tatarstan TV is widely regarded as one of the most tightly controlled regional TV networks, consistently following a pro-Shaimiev and pro-Yeltsin line. -- Penny Morvant U.S. HIKES VISA FEES FOR RUSSIANS. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow announced an increase in visa fees for Russian applicants in retaliation for recent Russian hikes in visa charges for Americans, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. Starting on 1 May, a multiple-entry U.S. visa valid for one year will cost $150, while a three-year multiple-entry visa will cost $450. Similar visas had previously cost $60 and $120 respectively. Single-entry one-year visas, which had cost $20, will no longer be available. Embassy spokesmen acknowledged that the increased fees would be very expensive for average Russians, but said that U.S. law required visa fees match those of other countries. The U.S. fees could be lowered if Russia reduces its charges, they added. -- Scott Parrish JAPAN, RUSSIA SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT. Japanese Defense Agency Director- General Hideo Usui and his Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev, signed a military cooperation protocol in Moscow on 29 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. The agreement calls for advance notice of military exercises, and also provides for exchanges of information, training missions, and naval port visits. Usui, the first Japanese defense chief to visit Russia since World War II, also met with Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to discuss bilateral relations and Asia-Pacific security. Usui told ITAR-TASS he viewed his visit as "productive," and hoped that the establishment of personal contacts with his Russian colleagues would boost bilateral ties. A member of Usui's delegation suggested that Japan is considering purchasing advanced fighter technology from Russia, and is "particularly interested" in the SU-27. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA PROTESTS EXCLUSION FROM LEBANON MONITORING FORCE. The Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the omission of Russia from the multilateral force that will monitor the recently-concluded ceasefire in southern Lebanon, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. The ministry argued that Russia's exclusion demonstrates a "clear underestimation" of Russian efforts in the region and its role as a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process. It added that Russia had made a "weighty contribution" to hammering out the ceasefire, and would fully support its implementation. However, it noted that Russia views the agreement as merely temporary, and hopes that full-fledged talks will resume soon, with the goal of restoring Lebanon's territorial integrity and securing a stable regional peace. Moscow's attempts to use the recent crisis to regain a significant role in the region have so far proven fruitless. -- Scott Parrish ENERGY WORKERS PROTEST IN KOMI AND PRIMORE. Energy workers in Komi, who last received their wages in December, are cutting back power supplies to consumers who have failed to pay their bills, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. Komienergo is owed more than 1 trillion rubles ($203 million) by consumers and cannot afford to pay its workers or purchase fuel. Meanwhile, about 1,000 employees of the Vladivostok power plant demonstrated outside the Primorskii Krai government building to protest wage arrears, Russian TV (RTR) reported. The power company Dalenergo is also owed 1 trillion rubles, much it from the military and the defense industry. The perpetual payments crisis in the energy sector has resulted in frequent power cuts in the krai. -- Penny Morvant "GENERAL DIMA" GOES ON TRIAL. The trial of controversial lawyer Dmitrii Yakubovskii, charged with involvement in the theft of valuable ancient manuscripts from the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, opened in the city on 29 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Yakubovskii, or "General Dima" as he is often called, was arrested on 20 December 1994 and has been held in the Kresty pre-trial detention center. In 1993, Yakubovskii helped gather evidence against Yeltsin's political rivals, including then Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi. He was also involved in investigating corruption in the Western Group of Forces stationed in eastern Germany. The trial was adjourned until 13 May to give Yakubovskii time to read the 33 volumes of case files. -- Penny Morvant ADVISER TO ST. PETERSBURG MAYOR INJURED IN ACID ATTACK. Aleksandr Yurev, head of the political psychology faculty of St. Petersburg University, was hospitalized on 29 April after a masked man threw acid in his face, NTV reported. The attack occurred at Yurev's home, when the professor, expecting students, opened his front door. Yurev, an adviser to St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, had been working on the latter's campaign for the gubernatorial election scheduled for 19 May. He also served occasionally as an adviser to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. A member of the government apparatus quoted by ITAR-TASS ruled out any link between the attack on Yurev and the murder of Chernomyrdin's personal physician on 26 April. -- Penny Morvant ARMY HOUSING SHORTAGE CONTINUES. Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Anatolii Solomatin said on 26 April that 117,400 army personnel are without housing because of a lack of funds, ITAR-TASS reported. Another 58,000 army families are in need of better housing, while 152,000 soldiers in the reserve are on the waiting list. Solomatin said that the state military housing program for 1996-1997, which envisages the construction of 50,000 apartments, will not fully resolve the problem and that in the first quarter of this year the program received only half the funds originally planned. Feeding the army also continues to be a problem. Rear Forces Col. Gen. Vladimir Churanov told the Duma on 27 April that the army had used up 40% of its emergency food rations, Russian TV (RTR) reported. -- Penny Morvant PROBLEMS FUNDING NEW TEXTBOOKS. Education Minister Yevgenii Tkachenko told ITAR-TASS on 29 April that his ministry will spend 500 billion rubles ($100 million) on 100 million new textbooks by the start of the next school year. However, so far the Finance Ministry has only released 100 billion rubles, so Tkachenko's ministry has taken a three month, 170 million ruble loan from three commercial banks in order to keep to the printing schedule. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA CHINA, CENTRAL ASIANS JOIN FORCES. China has reached an understanding with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and unspecified "others" to combat separatist, terrorist, and fundamentalist activities, Reuters reported on 29 April. Further details of the agreement mentioned by Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen during an interview the same day were not revealed. Any such arrangement is likely aimed at keeping a tight rein on the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang. Estimates on the size of the Uighur minority range from 7 million to 22 milion. In April, an Uighur group in Kyrgyzstan, Ittipak, was banned for three months; Kazakhstan announced it was "totally opposed" to any efforts to stoke nationalism in China's "northwest"; and China outlawed the independent publication of books or cassettes on Islam. -- Lowell Bezanis NAZARBAYEV RAISES CONCERN OVER INTERNAL STABILITY. In an address to the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced that his government is drafting a new security law designed to thwart "forces and personalities within the republic" that threaten Kazakhstan's statehood, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. Nazarbayev emphasized the need to "display more care" for the country's stability and inter-ethnic relations, and criticized those who would like to see a return of the Soviet Union. Nazarbayev did not specify which individuals or groups the new law would target. The assembly, which opened its third session on 29 April, operates on a voluntary basis and its 327 members represent the more than 40 different national cultural centers in Kazakhstan, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. This session is also scheduled to address the 29 March integration treaty with Russia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan. -- Roger Kangas THE STATE OF KYRGYZSTAN'S NATIONAL GUARD. The commander of Kyrgyzstan's National Guard, cited only as A. Chotbayev, gave an alarming assessment of his troops in an article published in Vechernyaya Moskva on 26 April. According to Chotbayev, a study of 112 conscripts in the guard conducted by doctors and psychiatrists in December 1995 showed that only 14 of them do not suffer from "deep psychological problems"; nine out of 10 were not in sufficient physical shape to serve; 45 exhibited learning deficiencies; and 19 were considered "debilitated." Chotbayev said most of Kyrgyzstan's more competent youths tend to avoid service by entering college or business. He noted that between 1994 and the first quarter of 1996, 709 officers, warrant officers, and sergeants had been convicted of military crimes. He described the national guard as "an army of workers, peasants, and criminals." The National Guard was created after 1991; Kyrgystan has stated that it will not establish a fully-fledged army. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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