|I'm going to turn on the light, and we'll be two people in a room looking at each other and wondering why on earth we were afraid of the dark. - Gale Wilhelm|
No. 86, Part I, 02 May 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 RUSSIA YANDARBIEV STILL ALIVE. Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev appeared on the pro-Dudaev Chechen TV channel during the night of 30 April--1 May, saying that reports of his death in a shootout two nights earlier were premature, Russian media reported. In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 1 May, Yandarbiev said that "in order to save human lives we are ready at any time to begin talks with Moscow at the appropriate level" but only on condition that Russian troops are withdrawn from Chechnya. At a joint press conference with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov on 1 May, Yandarbiev dismissed reports of a rift between himself and Maskhadov as a Russian intelligence fabrication, NTV reported. Also on 1 May, ITAR-TASS quoted Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev as saying that Russian President Boris Yeltsin intends to visit Chechnya prior to the June presidential election. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN ADDRESSES MAY DAY RALLY. . . Several thousand people took part in a May Day rally organized by Moscow trade unions and addressed by President Boris Yeltsin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin appealed to voters to support him in the June presidential election to ensure democracy, "social justice," and the continuation of reform. He blamed wage and pension payment delays on unscrupulous managers, and noted that 1,261 criminal cases have been opened against offenders. Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) leader Mikhail Shmakov said that rallies under the slogan of "Employment, Earnings, Law" were held in more than 60 regional centers. Some in the Far East expressed support for Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov. The FNPR has not endorsed any presidential candidate. -- Penny Morvant . . . BUT ZYUGANOV ATTRACTS MORE MARCHERS. On the other side of Moscow, Russian communists and other leftist groups took part in a larger, old- style May Day rally attended by Zyuganov and other leading left-wingers, including Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Agrarian leader Mikhail Lapshin, and Workers' Russia head Viktor Anpilov. Some 8,000 attended the Moscow gathering, while a rally in St. Petersburg attracted up to 35,000 marchers, according to Reuters. All the major rallies took place peacefully, in contrast to the violence that marred the 1993 May Day celebrations. -- Penny Morvant ZYUGANOV MEETS BANKERS, CHERNOMYRDIN. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov held a two-hour meeting behind closed doors with the 13 bankers and entrepreneurs who recently appealed for a political compromise before the presidential election, Russian media reported on 30 April. Logovaz Director Boris Berezovskii, who is also deputy chairman of the board of Russian Public TV (ORT), said the meeting went "splendidly," NTV and ORT reported. Zyuganov was also satisfied with the meeting; he told Russian TV (RTR) that he understood the businessmen's worries about the fate of the economy. On the same day, in his capacity as leader of the largest State Duma faction rather than as a presidential candidate, Zyuganov met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to discuss a number of issues, including the need to preserve order at the May Day rallies, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin DEPUTY ON ZYUGANOV'S PLANS TO CREATE DEFENSE COUNCIL. Duma deputy Mikhail Surkov, a member of the presidium of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, told RFE/RL on 30 April that Gennadii Zyuganov plans to set up a special Defense Council if he is elected president. Surkov said the council would be chaired by the president himself and would control the "power ministries" of defense, interior, and the Federal Security Service. He added that the General Staff of the Armed Forces would report directly to Zyuganov rather than to the defense minister, as is now the practice. -- Laura Belin COURT CONFIRMS PRESIDENT'S POWER TO APPOINT REGIONAL GOVERNORS. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the president may appoint and dismiss regional administration heads as well as set the dates for gubernatorial elections, Russian media reported on 30 April. President Yeltsin gave himself those powers in an October 1994 decree. The court case was initiated by the State Duma and the Kamchatka and Kursk oblast legislatures, which argued that the decree violated the constitution and deprives voters of their right to participate in the formation of regional governments. The court decreed that the president may appoint and dismiss regional leaders in all federation subjects that have no legislation on the election of regional administration heads. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIAN MUSLIMS UNITE. Russia's two largest Muslim organizations, the Union of Muslims of Russia (SMR) and Nur movement, have agreed to establish a single association of Muslim organizations, Radio Rossii reported on 1 May. The new organization, to be called the Russian Muslim Union, is aimed at defending and expressing the interests of Muslims more effectively than the numerous existing small groups and all Muslim organizations in Russia are welcome to join it, according to SMR President Mukhtar Seibulaev. According to official statistics, there are about 2,300 Muslim organizations in Russia serving the interests of the country's estimated 12-20 million Muslims. -- Anna Paretskaya CHECHEN OIL BLAZE. On the night of 30 April, two tanks with 10,000 metric tons of oil were set ablaze in the Zavodskoi district of Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported. There was speculation that the act may have been intended to conceal evidence of theft. So far this year, 156 underground mini-oil refineries have been discovered in Chechnya, up from 72 last year. Each operation typically drains off 7-8 tons of oil per day from the pipeline crossing the territory. The pipeline has continued to function despite the military hostilities. -- Peter Rutland FOREIGN MINISTRY: AGREEMENT WITH CHINA IS NON-AGGRESSION PACT. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov told ITAR-TASS on 30 April that Russia considers the five-nation border security agreement recently signed with China (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 April 1996) as "in effect a non- aggression treaty." Panov suggested that the treaty could serve as a model for other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and said that the next step in building a security regime along the Russian-Chinese border would be an agreement on mutual troop reductions. While denying that Russia plans to form a political or military alliance with China, Panov added that there are no outstanding bilateral problems. Meanwhile, on 2 May, the chief of staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, General Fu Quan-Yu, arrived in Russia for a six-day official visit. -- Scott Parrish MINISTER UPBEAT ON MILITARY SALES TO JAPAN. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov said on 1 May that the way is open for the export of advanced Russian weapons such as the Su-27 jet fighters to Japan, ITAR- TASS reported. During the recent visit of the head of the Japanese Self Defense Agency to Moscow, some Japanese officials expressed an interest in this aircraft. Panov admitted that the Japanese have not yet officially raised the matter but said that Russia "would only welcome such an approach." -- Doug Clarke JEWISH EMIGRATION ORGANIZATION PROTESTS BAN. The Jewish Agency for Immigration has protested the 30 April closure of a seminar it had organized in Pyatigorsk (Stavropol Krai), AFP and RFE/RL reported. Russian police officials said they closed the meeting because of a 2 April decision revoking the agency's accreditation to operate in Russia. The agency, which assists Jewish emigration to Israel from countries all over the world, organized the seminar in Pyatigorsk because it said Jewish refugees fleeing violence in the Caucasus region have concentrated there. The agency's chairman, Avraham Burg, said the agency "has never been subjected to such treatment" anywhere else in the world. Since 1989, the agency has helped about 630,000 former Soviet Jews to resettle in Israel. On 1 May, the U.S. State Department also expressed concern about possible limitations on Jewish emigration from Russia. -- Scott Parrish FSB SEIZES COPIES OF BELLONA REPORT. Russian Federal Security Service officers on 30 April confiscated copies of a report by the Norwegian- based environmental group Bellona on the environmental threat posed by the Northern Fleet's nuclear installations on the Kola Peninsula, AFP reported. The reports were seized from the home of Bellona activist Aleksei Klimov in Severodvinsk by FSB officers brandishing a document issued by the security service in St. Petersburg stating that circulation of the report in Russia is prohibited. A Russian employee of Bellona, retired navy captain Aleksandr Nikitin, is facing charges of espionage for his contribution to the report, released on the eve of the Moscow nuclear safety summit in April. Bellona representative Thomas Nilsen said the FSB's action ran counter to President Yeltsin's statement in Oslo in March that the Russian authorities have nothing against Bellona, and speculated that the FSB may be working independently. -- Penny Morvant WORLD BANK LOAN FOR SOCIAL SERVICES APPROVED. The World Bank has approved a $200 million loan to support local social services in Russia, including health care, education, water supplies, and sanitation, Reuters reported on 1 May. The money, to be repaid over 17 years, will finance improvements in key facilities in Novosibirsk and Rostov oblasts. Since 1992, local and regional authorities have taken on new responsibilities in the education and health sectors, while the contribution of the federal government and enterprises has declined. Another $537 million in loans for social services are in the pipeline: $300 million for housing, $200 million for education, and $37 million for health. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ABASHIDZE CHALLENGES SHEVARDNADZE. Adzhar parliament chairman Aslan Abashidze, whose All-Georgian Union of Revival is the third largest party in the Georgian parliament, has threatened to thwart plans for the export of Azerbaijan's oil via Batumi unless Adzharia's status as a sovereign republic within Georgia is formalized in the near future, according to a 29 April Iberia news agency report monitored by the BBC. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN SOLDIERS TARGETED IN INCIDENTS ON ARMENIAN-TURKISH BORDER. Russian soldiers guarding the Armenian-Turkish border were allegedly shot at from Turkey for the third time this month, AFP reported on 1 May. The incidents may be connected with Turkey's ongoing war with Kurdish rebels operating in Kars, the province adjacent to Armenia. On 26 April, Turkey once again declared the border area with Armenia a military zone. Later this week Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev will visit Yerevan to sign a bilateral military-technical cooperation agreement. -- Lowell Bezanis UZBEKISTAN CUTS GAS SUPPLIES TO KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstani Deputy Minister of Oil and Gas Industries Viktor Begin has arrived in Tashkent to resolve the conflict over Uzbekistan's decision to cut off natural gas supplies to Kazakhstan due to unpaid bills, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 May. Observers speculate that Kazakhstan will agree to settle the debt with shipments of petroleum and other fuels. Current gas supplies in Kazakhstan could be exhausted as early as 3 May. -- Roger Kangas A "CHINA PIPELINE" FOR KAZAKHSTAN? Following the recent reconfiguration of the Caspian Sea Consortium (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 April 1996), Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Gizzatov announced that Kazakhstan is seriously considering a pipeline route that would travel eastward through China to the Pacific Ocean, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 April. Such a project would cost up to $12 billion and would create the world's longest pipeline. -- Roger Kangas CENTRAL ASIAN BATTALION TO BE DEPLOYED IN TAJIKISTAN. A future joint battalion of Kazakhstani, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz forces under UN command will be based in Tajikistan, the three countries' respective foreign ministers announced in Almaty on 30 April. The 500-person unit, which will trained under the auspices of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, is to be formed later this year, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Roger Kangas AFGHANS READY TO NEUTRALIZE TAJIK OPPOSITION IN NORTH. A commander of the Afghan government forces, Said Najmuddin, met with the commander of the Russian border forces, Pavel Tarasenko, in the southeastern Tajik city of Khorog on 29 April, RFE/RL and Russian TV (RTR) reported. Najmuddin told Tarasenko that the Afghan government is prepared to launch strikes against Tajik opposition forces that have attacked the CIS peacekeeping force guarding the Tajik-Afghan border from their bases in northern Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier NEW UN SPECIAL ENVOY TO TAJIKISTAN. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has selected a new special envoy to Tajikistan, according to a 30 April Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report monitored by the BBC. Dietrich Mehrer, until now the deputy executive director of the UN Drug Control program, will replace Ramiro Piriz Ballon. Talks between the Tajik government and opposition have been on hold since the announcement of Ballon's departure in early April. -- 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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