|A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. - Samuel Johnson|
No. 88, Part I, 06 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 KORZHAKOV CALLS FOR POSTPONING ELECTIONS. The head of President Boris Yeltsin's security service, Aleksandr Korzhakov, called for postponing the 16 June presidential election because he believed that Yeltsin could lose, according to a report in the British newspaper Observer cited by NTV on 5 May. Korzhakov argued that "many influential people in Russia support postponing the elections because we need stability more than anything else now." He predicted unrest whatever the outcome. If Yeltsin wins, he claimed, the opposition will argue that the results were falsified, and if Zyuganov wins, the radicals in his party will not allow him to conduct a centrist policy and will push for extreme measures. Korzhakov rarely speaks to the press and he is one of Yeltsin's closest advisers. His statement seems to be a conscious effort to signal that some of the president's inner circle do not want to hold the election, and confirms previous opposition statements that the election may be canceled. -- Robert Orttung REACTION TO KORZHAKOV STATEMENT. Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev was not informed of Korzhakov's statement and stressed that the Kremlin continues to support holding the election on time, NTV reported. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said the election will go ahead as scheduled and that he is not under any pressure from Korzhakov. Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov warned that any postponement of the election would be "a gross violation of the constitution." Following a conversation with President Yeltsin, Yabloko's Grigorii Yavlinskii said Korzhakov was only expressing his personal opinion, AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung YAVLINSKII, THIRD FORCE UPDATE. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and President Yeltsin met for two hours on 5 May; it was only their second meeting during the last five years, Yavlinskii told NTV. Citing unnamed Kremlin sources, Russian TV (RTR) reported that Yavlinskii is ready to back Yeltsin in exchange for the post of prime minister, but the president is not willing to offer him that post. Meanwhile, Yabloko member Vyacheslav Igrunov told the latest issue of Obshchaya gazeta that the "third force" group of Yavlinskii, Aleksandr Lebed, and Svyatoslav Fedorov will soon release a joint declaration. But Lebed's press service denied that any agreement had been reached, NTV reported on 3 May. In a lengthy 4 May appearance on Ekho Moskvy, Lebed did not say he would step down for Yavlinskii. Nevertheless, Izvestiya speculated on 5 May that Lebed and Fedorov will withdraw their candidacies on live television between 15-20 May. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN VISITS YAROSLAVL. During a campaign swing through Yaroslavl, President Yeltsin said that while he is not beyond criticism, he has been a consistent defender of freedom of speech, ITAR-TASS reported 3 May. Yeltsin said his opponents are using the media to denounce him, but he questioned whether they would preserve press freedoms if they came to power. Facing angry questions from local residents about the government's failure to pay salaries on time, Yeltsin blamed local authorities and enterprise directors. He said that there are now 1,261 cases of directors being prosecuted for abusing their positions. -- Robert Orttung POLLS SHOW YELTSIN, ZYUGANOV RUNNING NECK AND NECK. President Yeltsin and Communist leader Zyuganov are even at 28% according to the most recent poll conducted by ROMIR, NTV reported 5 May. Grigorii Yavlinskii and Aleksandr Lebed each have 7%; Svyatoslav Fedorov 6%; Zhirinovsky 5%; and Mikhail Gorbachev 2%. About 15% remain undecided. For the first time, the ROMIR data showed that Yeltsin could beat Zyuganov in the second round. According to this poll, Zyuganov has not improved his position since the beginning of March, while Yeltsin was able to close a 9 point gap. Yeltsin's position may have improved partly because Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Russia's Democratic Choice party leader Yegor Gaidar's names are no longer included in the poll and their supporters, about 5%, went over to Yeltsin. Recent Russian experience has shown that polls of voting intentions are not entirely reliable. -- Robert Orttung SPECULATION OVER THE "LETTER OF 13." Debate continues over the meaning of the letter signed by 13 businessmen calling for a political compromise which was published on 26 April (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 April 1996). There are rumors that they were acting at the behest of President Yeltsin, who allegedly wants to persuade Zyuganov to agree to postpone the election, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 5 May. However, the fact that Zyuganov met with the letter's authors has fueled speculation that the businessmen are less worried about a Communist victory than about possible authoritarian steps by Yeltsin should he lose the election. -- Peter Rutland EXTREME NATIONALISTS DEMONSTRATE IN MOSCOW. Several young members of the national-socialist Russian National Union (RNS), a former part of the Pamyat group, staged a "day of white struggle," demonstration in the center of Moscow on 4 May, Russian TV (RTR) reported. Marching under Nazi flags, they demanded the "restoration of Russian nation rule." -- Anna Paretskaya YELTSIN SETS DATE FOR VISIT TO CHECHNYA. Russian President Boris Yeltsin will visit Chechnya on 16 May, Ekho Moskvy reported on 4 May; acting separatist President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev warned that he cannot guarantee Yeltsin's safety. Yeltsin proposed trilateral peace talks between Dudaev's camp, the Russian leadership ,and the pro-Moscow Chechen government, but Yandarbiev told ITAR-TASS on 5 May that the latter should participate as members of the Russian delegation. Yandarbiev also said he will participate in peace talks only on condition that the Russian government issues an official denial of responsibility for the death of Dzhokhar Dudaev. On 4 May, former Grozny Mayor and Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Beslan Gantemirov was arrested at Sheremetevo airport on charges of embezzling several billion rubles intended for the reconstruction of Grozny, Russian media reported. On 5 May, Dudaev's men shot down a Russian fighter aircraft in eastern Chechnya, killing the two pilots, NTV reported. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER AT BALTIC SUMMIT. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin joined 10 leaders from the Baltic region for a summit meeting in Visby, Sweden on 3-4 May, Russian and Western agencies reported. Besides signing the joint summit declaration,(see related story in East European section), Chernomyrdin held a separate meeting with Estonian President Tiit Vahi. Russian-Estonian relations are strained, however, and Radio Mayak reported that the two leaders accomplished nothing substantive. Earlier, Chernomyrdin had said that Russia "could not accept" the current treatment of the Russian minority in Estonia and Latvia, and reiterated that Russia remains "categorically opposed" to the Baltic states joining NATO. On the eve of the summit, Baltic media quoted Russian Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov as calling the Baltic States economic "parasites," enriching themselves at Russia's expense. -- Scott Parrish FINLAND, RUSSIA SIGN AGREEMENTS. During a 24-hour working visit to Finland on 4-5 May, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed six bilateral agreements with his Finnish counterpart, Paavo Lipponen, discussed security issues with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, and visited a joint Russian-Finnish automobile plant, Russian and Western agencies reported. Among the six accords were an investment protection pact, a tax agreement, and two accords covering the shipment of Russian military equipment as partial payment for Russia's $1.2 billion debt to Finland. Part of the deal includes the "Buk-M-1" anti-aircraft missile complex--also known as the S300--which Russian officials claim is superior to the U.S. Patriot ( see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995), and which was valued at $300 million. After his meeting with Ahtisaari, Chernomyrdin said Russia and Finland had "generally similar" views on European security, and he praised Finland's policy of military non- alignment. -- Scott Parrish PRIMAKOV: RUSSIA CANNOT ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY YET. Russia cannot yet abolish the death penalty, AFP quoted Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as saying after the 3 May session of the Ministerial Committee of the Council of Europe. Primakov argued that Russian public opinion "would not understand" its abolition under current circumstances. Critics in the council's Parliamentary Assembly claim Russia has actually accelerated the pace of executions since joining the council on 28 February. They point to some 30 executions carried out in Russia since then, despite Moscow's pledge to abolish capital punishment within three years. Primakov also contended that Moscow is pushing for a peaceful settlement in Chechnya, another obligation it assumed upon joining the council. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN ORDERS SPECIAL PEACEKEEPING FORCE. President Boris Yeltsin on 3 May ordered the Defense Ministry to form a special international peacekeeping force of up to 22,000 men by 1 December of this year, ITAR- TASS reported. The presidential decree calls for the formation of "a special military contingent to participate in maintaining and restoring international peace and security." The force is to be made up of 17 motorized rifle battalions and four airborne battalions. -- Doug Clarke SITUATION AROUND MAYAK NUCLEAR PLANT STILL CAUSE FOR CONCERN. A meeting of the Commission on Operational Questions, chaired by Oleg Soskovets, declared the implementation of the program to clean up the area around the Mayak nuclear plant highly unsatisfactory, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 5 May. The Mayak plant, used to produce weapons-grade plutonium and process nuclear waste, was the scene of three accidents in 1949, 1957, and 1967, which together released 10 times more radiation than the Chornobyl disaster. Yet no funds have been provided for the government program adopted in 1992 to prevent further leaks from the waste dumps and compensate local inhabitants, and the Chelyabinsk Oblast has been left to deal with the problem on its own, RTR reported. -- Peter Rutland AMUR STEEL MILL PLACED IN RECEIVERSHIP. The Arbitration Court has placed the only steel mill in Russia's Far East, Amurstal in Komsomolsk-na- Amure, into temporary receivership, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 May. The company's output in January-March 1996 fell to 6% compared to the same period in 1995. Amurstal's major creditor, Nizhne-Amurskii Bank, insisted that the company be declared bankrupt and its assets sold to foreigners to repay a 180 billion ruble ($36 million) debt to the bank. However, the court decided instead that Amurstal will be managed by the deputy head of the local government, Sergei Khokhlov. Amurstal will get an 18-month moratorium on repaying its debts. In recent years, the management tried to save the plant by establishing joint ventures with South Korean, Australian, and Maltese firms. However, when foreign investors' hopes for quick profits did not materialize, they withdrew. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UN STUDY ON POPULATION SHIFTS IN FORMER SOVIET STATES. Approximately 9 million people have changed their place of residence in the former Soviet Union since 1989, with the most traffic running between the Central Asian states and Russia, RFE/RL reported on 6 May, citing a recently released UN study. The figure does not include military transfers or voluntary migration. Noting that the definition of the term 'migrants' is subjective, the report focuses on the plights of "punished peoples"--the Stalin-era victims of mass-deportation such as the Crimean Tatars and Volga Germans--and the "homeless refugees" fleeing from conflicts in areas ranging from the North Caucasus to Tajikistan. In addition, "ecological migrants" are a growing problem, with at least 700,000 people forced to leave an estimated 300 "lethal environments," including parts of Chornobyl and Lake Baikal, Semipalatinsk, and the Aral Sea region. -- Roger Kangas MOBIL OIL GAINS SHARE OF TENGIZ OIL FIELDS. The Mobil Oil Corporation and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on 3 May giving the U.S. company a 25% share of the joint venture set up to develop the Tengiz oil fields, Russian and Western media reported. Chevron will retain its 50% control and Kazakhstan's share will be reduced to 25%. However, Kazakhstani Oil Minister Nurlan Balgmbayev told Reuters that after royalties, fees, and taxes, Kazakhstan will have a 72% share of the profits. This agreement follows on the heels of the 27 April Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) accord that reorganized the venture's ownership (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 April 1996). Mobil owns a 7.5% share of the CPC, in addition to a 50% share of the Tulpar Munai Ltd. oil field, also in Kazakhstan. -- Roger Kangas INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES IN TASHKENT. The five Central Asian foreign ministers on 4 May signed a memorandum on mutual cooperation in fighting drugs smuggling at the close of an international symposium in Tashkent, RFE/RL and Russian TV (RTR) reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 May 1996). The conference outlined a three-year, $3.38 million drug prohibition program in the region. In a speech, Uzbek President Islam Karimov highlighted the connection between weapons sales in Afghanistan and drug money. Tashkent hosted two other international conferences over the weekend: a four-day international transportation seminar that focused on the need to develop an effective transport corridor linking Europe with Central Asia, and a UN seminar on refugees, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. -- Roger Kangas PROTESTS, TERROR, MISTAKES IN TAJIKISTAN. United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri sent a protest to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali claiming that the Tajik government is refusing to abide by the ceasefire agreement, Radio Mayak reported on 3 May. Nuri said the government has poured some 4,000 additional troops into the Tavil-Dara region where opposition forces re-established bases in October 1995. ITAR-TASS and NTV reported on 5 May that a car carrying members of the Tajik Security Ministry was attacked in the Tavil-Dara area; three people are reported dead and a fourth wounded. The opposition's Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan reports that Russian aircraft and Tajik government artillery are to blame for the deaths of eight government soldiers who were being held captive in the same region. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES PERSONALITY CONFLICTS. United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri and the opposition's chief negotiator Ali Akbar Turajonzoda dismissed a 1 May Tajik government radio report that they are engaged in a power struggle, according to a 2 May Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report monitored by the BBC. Both Nuri and Turajonzoda said the government radio report contained "slander" and "lies" dreamed up by the "puppet" regime of Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and his "Kremlin protectors." -- 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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