|Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead|
No. 89, Part I, 07 May 1996
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Note to readers: Due to the observance of a Czech holiday, the OMRI Daily Digest will not appear on Wednesday, 8 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 YELTSIN: ELECTION WILL BE HELD ON SCHEDULE. President Boris Yeltsin announced that the election will be held on schedule on 16 June and criticized his body guard Aleksandr Korzhakov for suggesting that they would be postponed, NTV reported on 6 May. Yeltsin said he told Korzhakov not to get involved in politics and not to make such statements in the future. Korzhakov's proposal provoked wide-ranging denunciations in the Russian press, ranging from Constitutional Court justices to the organizers of Yeltsin's campaign effort. The timing of the generally secretive Korzhakov's proposal is peculiar since Yeltsin has now drawn even with Zyuganov in opinion polls. -- Robert Orttung LEBED REJECTS ALLIANCE WITH YAVLINSKII. Lt. Gen. (retired) Aleksandr Lebed announced on 6 May that he would not withdraw his candidacy in favor of Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and that he would fight to the end of the campaign. For the past two months, the Russian press has speculated over whether Lebed and eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fedorov would withdraw from the race in favor of Yavlinskii. -- Robert Orttung BUSINESSMEN ISSUE ANOTHER APPEAL TO CANDIDATES. The thirteen businessmen whose 26 April appeal asked President Yeltsin and Zyuganov to compromise issued another letter on 6 May denouncing the "extremist forces" surrounding the main candidates. The statement equated Korzhakov's call for postponing the elections with communists who summon their supporters to fight until "the last drop of blood" has been shed, NTV reported. The appeal and Korzhakov's statement may be part of an orchestrated effort to drive a wedge between the moderate and extreme communists. Yeltsin can now say that he has disciplined the extremists in his camp, after reprimanding Korzhakov, but Zyuganov has yet to denounce the extreme communists he has worked so hard to include in his coalition. -- Robert Orttung YAVLINSKII'S CONDITIONS TO YELTSIN. Excerpts from a letter Grigorii Yavlinskii gave President Boris Yeltsin during their 5 May two-hour meeting were published in Izvestiya on 7 May. Yavlinskii stated that his conditions for supporting the president include the implementation of an economic policy "to stimulate production and relieve the tax burden," a social policy to guarantee that real income increases and wages are paid on time, and military reform. He also demanded that Yeltsin end the war in Chechnya, take "urgent measures" to stop crime, and stop putting political pressure on the media. Yavlinskii's chances of being elected president are considered slim, but his support in a second round between Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov could be crucial. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN WARNS OF REFORMS BEING REVERSED. In an interview with Delovye lyudi, President Yeltsin argued that his reforms are not irreversible, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. He rejected the arguments of "some factions within Russia's democratic forces" that the legal base created in the last few years would prevent a return to the past. He also criticized the idea that conditions in the country would force any political party that comes to power to carry on the current economic reforms. He said that his opponents were prepared "to act without any limits, as happened after 1917." He characterized the Communists as a "party of revanche" that rejects "any moral norms" and is driven by a thirst for revenge against "those who managed to employ their talents, live better, or see the world previously hidden by the iron curtain." -- Robert Orttung ZYUGANOV WARNS WEST AGAINST SUPPORTING YELTSIN. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, on a visit to Germany, warned the West against backing President Yeltsin in the June election, saying it would be a mistake to support just one politician, Reuters and AFP reported on 6 May. Although Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel refused to meet with Zyuganov, he did meet with all of the parliamentary party leaders, including Wolfgang Schaeuble, leader of Kohl's Christian Democrats. Zyuganov also had an off-the-record exchange of views with about 40 bankers and industrialists. Zyuganov said his visit to Germany, at the invitation of the German Foreign Policy Society and German- Russian Forum, will be his only trip abroad during the campaign. -- Anna Paretskaya YELTSIN DECREE INCREASES JUSTICE MINISTER'S POWERS. A presidential decree signed on 3 May will speed up legal reform by granting the Justice Ministry some powers previously assigned to the procuracy, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 6 May. Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev said that from now on judicial bodies will be able to open criminal cases and carry out investigations concerning crimes in the justice system. Kovalev added that the decree will help make sure judicial decisions are better enforced, especially in the civil liberties area. In addition, the decree expands the ministry's rights to monitor the compliance of public organizations' activities with their statutory aims, as well as the implementation of the constitution, federal laws, presidential decrees, and government resolutions, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 May. -- Laura Belin MASKHADOV, IMAEV AGREE TO TALKS. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov formally stated on 6 May that he is ready for talks with the Russian military command in Chechnya on military but not political issues, Russian media reported. Usman Imaev, the former procurator in Dzhokhar Dudaev's leadership and one of the Chechen representatives to last summer's peace talks, also said talks could take place soon. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Abdulla Bugaev, however, ruled out acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev as a negotiating partner, saying he is incapable of "a sensible compromise," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Also on 6 May, Chechen and Russian Interior Ministry forces checked the identification of residents of the town of Shali, which has been blockaded for two weeks by Russian troops because of the alleged presence of Chechen rebel fighters. The verification proceeded without incident, but no information is available concerning the number of weapons confiscated and persons detained, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIA, CHINA TO SIGN MILITARY AGREEMENT. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and Chinese Chief of Staff Fu Quanyou met in Moscow to discuss Russian-Chinese military relations and sign a military-technical cooperation protocol, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. Although no details were released, the protocol specifies the terms of the 1993 bilateral military-technical cooperation agreement. Following the April 1996 Shanghai agreement signed by Russia, China, and three Central Asian states on creating a buffer zone along their borders, Grachev and Fu Quanyou discussed reducing armed forces stationed on the Russia-Chinese border. Grachev said the two countries are "strategic partners," but both Russia and China have repeatedly insisted that such a partnership is not a military alliance. -- Constantine Dmitriev RUSSIAN-BRITISH ESPIONAGE ROW. A diplomatic scandal has broken out following the arrest by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of a Russian citizen allegedly spying for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), Russian and Western agencies reported. FSB spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said the unnamed Russian was apprehended while making radio contact with London. The suspect later confessed to working for SIS and revealed details of its Moscow network, which operates out of the British Embassy, he added. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov subsequently called in British Ambassador Andrew Wood to protest and expel several members of the British Embassy staff "for activities incompatible with diplomatic status." The British Foreign Office has denied the allegations, and British Foreign Minster Malcolm Rifkind later threatened retaliation if Russia goes ahead with the expulsions. -- Scott Parrish CUBAN-RUSSIAN BARTER CONTRACT HITS SNAG. Vladimir Bzhdugov, deputy director of international ties for the Russian firm "Alfa-Eko," told ITAR-TASS on 6 May that his company has suspended implementation of the Cuban-Russian sugar-for-oil barter deal signed in October 1995. The contract calls for firms chosen by the Russian government to deliver 1.5 million metric tons of oil to Cuba in exchange for 500,000 tons of sugar during 1996. Bzhdugov said the contract was frozen because Cuba had fallen behind in delivering the sugar. -- Scott Parrish OFFICIAL: PLUTONIUM STORAGE SITE UNDERFINANCED. Viktor Fetisov, director of the "Mayak" nuclear reprocessing plant, told ITAR-TASS on 6 May that shortfalls in government financing are hindering the construction of a $300 million storage facility for weapons-grade plutonium and uranium at his plant. The facility, which is being financed jointly by the U.S. and Russia, is intended to provide secure storage for fissile materials from dismantled former Soviet nuclear weapons and should be finished by 1998. Fetisov warned that the failure of the Finance Ministry to deliver the necessary funds could lead to the suspension of construction work. -- Scott Parrish NUCLEAR MATERIAL STOLEN FROM SIBERIAN LABORATORY. A scientist in an institute in Krasnoyarsk has been arrested by the Federal Security Service in connection with the theft of radioactive materials, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. The scientist had reportedly processed and smuggled out of the country more than 1 kg of materials that could be used in the preparation of nuclear weapons. The closed city of Krasnoyarsk 26 was one of the main centers of plutonium production, while Krasnoyarsk 45 formerly manufactured enriched uranium. -- Peter Rutland INFLATION HITS RECORD LOW. The April inflation rate was only 2.2%, the lowest since 1991 and down from 2.8% in March, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 May. Goskomstat suggests that annual inflation for 1996 may be as low as 34%, compared to 131% in 1995 and 300% in 1994. The government argues that the slowdown in inflation will encourage investment, but there is no sign yet that economic growth has restarted. Most analysts expect serious financial instability in the second half of this year, not least because of the yawning budget deficit, which stands at 20 trillion rubles ($4 billion) for the first quarter, according to Finansovye izvestiya of 7 May. -- Peter Rutland TELECOM SEEKS FOREIGN INVESTMENT. Russia is again looking for foreign capital to revive the "People's Phone" project, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. Communications Minister Vladimir Bulgak said that in order to add 20 million new telephones to the existing 26 million by 2010, Russia will need to attract $750 million worth of foreign investment in 1996. (Foreign investment in the sector totaled $520 million in 1995.) The project was launched in October 1994 by the 50/50 consortium of Western and Russian companies. Western firms withdrew in March 1996 following Russia's attempts to halve their equity participation, while the ministry's efforts to set up a new consortium favoring Russian companies (Rostelekom, Svyazinvest and Rossiiskie Nalozhennye Seti) failed due to the latter's lack of capital. -- Natalia Gurushina AVIATION COMPANIES' PLANS TO BUY FOKKER MAY BE HALTED. The Russian government is blocking the plans of the Tupolev Aircraft Company and Yakovlev Aircraft Design Bureau to buy a controlling interest in the bankrupt Dutch aviation firm Fokker, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. In order to raise $370 million to buy Fokker shares, the companies sought a government-guaranteed loan. However, Finance Ministry officials said that the 1996 budget does not envisage such expenses, and suggested that the money would be better spent investing in Russian aircraft manufacturers. The takeover may also be obstructed by Fokker's former owner, the German company DASA, which holds licenses for the production of aircraft equipment and plans to develop its own manufacturing of short-range flight planes in cooperation with West European firms. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MOSCOW UNWILLING TO HAND OVER MUTALIBOV. Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General Eldar Hasanov arrived in Moscow on 6 May in the hope of expediting the extradition to Baku of former president Ayaz Mutalibov, accused of masterminding two alleged unsuccessful coup attempts, Russian media reported. Russian Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov told ITAR-TASS that Baku has not yet provided the necessary evidence against Mutalibov, whose fate must be decided by 12 May--one month after his detention in Moscow. -- Liz Fuller URANIUM SMUGGLERS APPREHENDED IN KAZAKHSTAN. Authorities in Kazakhstan have detained two men from Ust-Kamenogorsk, who were in possession of more than 100 kg of low-enriched uranium-235, according to the 5-11 May edition of Obshchaya gazeta. The two men were connected to the Ulba holding company, which has previously sold uranium to the U.S. The authorities recently found 4 kg of uranium, one kilogram of thorium, which can be converted into uranium-233, and 10 kg of indium, an extremely rare element, in a car attempting to leave the Ust-Kamenogorsk area. -- Bruce Pannier KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA BANNED IN KAZAKHSTAN? The Procurator-General has asked the Supreme Court to ban the Russian weekly Komsomolskaya pravda from Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. The justification for the move, according to Kazakhstani officials, is that an 23 April article entitled "Conversations with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn" was a "rude interference in the internal affairs of an independent government." The government said that the move was prompted by a group of Kazakhstani writers. -- Roger Kangas MORE TERROR IN TAJIKISTAN. The 65-year-old rector of the Dushanbe Medical School, Yusuf Iskhaki, was gunned down on 6 May near the capital, according to RFE/RL and AFP. Another six people were killed in a separate attack on a road some 50 km outside Dushanbe. There has been an increase in the number of violent attacks in Tajikistan as the 26 May deadline for the ceasefire agreement to expire approaches. -- Bruce Pannier RAKHMONOV IN TURKEY. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov arrived in Turkey on 5 May to sign nine bilateral agreements, such as accords on mutual investment protection and judicial, sports, tourism, and transport cooperation, Western and Turkish media reported the same day. Rakhmonov's first visit to Turkey follows Turkish President Suleyman Demirel's first trip to Tajikistan last September. To date, Turkey has invested an estimated $150 million in Tajikistan according to AFP. Turkey's belated expressions of interest in Tajikistan are part of its efforts to gain credibility in Central Asia and compensate for its earlier stress on supporting Turkish ethnicity in the region. Rakhmonov also told Demirel that Dushanbe has definitively identified the exact location of the remains of General Enver Pasha, the leading member of the triumvirate that effectively ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1908 until its collapse in World War I. The remains will be returned to Turkey. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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