|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 91, Part I, 10 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 ADDRESSES MILITARY PARADE . . . Thousands of soldiers marched across Red Square on 9 May to mark the 51st anniversary of the end of World War II, Russian and Western agencies reported. President Yeltsin, flanked by Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, reviewed the parade by 7,370 military personnel. In contrast to Soviet times, no heavy weaponry was on show. The occasion gave Yeltsin the opportunity to hammer home his patriotic credentials. Atop the Lenin Mausoleum, he hailed the victory over Nazi Germany and the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in the struggle. He also lauded the red Soviet-era victory flag, which flew alongside the Russian tricolor, as a sacred symbol of the Motherland. In a bid to win the support of veterans, Yeltsin issued a decree on 16 April restoring the flag as an official symbol for ceremonies marking the victory over Nazi Germany. -- Penny Morvant . . . COMMUNISTS ALSO RALLY. While Yeltsin addressed the military parade, Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov led an estimated 30,000- 50,000 supporters on a victory rally through Moscow. The marchers included young communists and war veterans bearing portraits of Lenin and waving Soviet flags. Zyuganov said on 8 May that if elected president he would call a referendum on replacing the tricolor with the Soviet flag. He argued that the Russian flag was used by Russian collaborators who fought alongside the Germans against the Red Army in World War II. The rally had a pre-election feel, with supporters chanting "Victory to Zyuganov!" The communist leader himself said that Russia is now at war again "but a war in which the main weapon is lies. We are promised happiness and prosperity, but crime and theft have become the rule." Zyuganov was accompanied by numerous left-wing leaders, including former Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi and former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN VISITS VOLGOGRAD. President Yeltsin also visited Volgograd, the former Stalingrad, to mark the 9 May holiday, the first time since the war that a Russian leader has left the capital during the celebrations. In the city of the decisive World War II battle, he was met by cheering crowds who yelled "we love you" and "Yeltsin is a democrat," according to the official ITAR-TASS agency. The president observed a moment of silence at the memorial on the Mamaev kurgan (a giant statue of a woman holding a sword) in the city. He also met with young people who were mainly interested in housing questions; Yeltsin said that he was planning to build more apartments. He also pledged 10 billion rubles for the reconstruction of a local library. -- Robert Orttung GORBACHEV GETS COLD RECEPTION IN VOLGOGRAD. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was met by jeering protesters from the orthodox communist Workers' Russia movement during a 9 May campaign stop in Volgograd, Russian and Western media reported. Viktor Anpilov, leader of Workers' Russia, confronted Gorbachev as the ex-president inched through a largely hostile crowd to place a wreath at the memorial commemorating the battle of Stalingrad. Anpilov, backed by banners reading "No place for traitors on the holy ground of Stalingrad," blasted Gorbachev for causing the collapse of the USSR. Gorbachev retorted that inflexible communists like Anpilov and Gennadii Zyuganov wrecked his attempts to reform the USSR. -- Scott Parrish YAVLINSKII MOVES CLOSER TO ALLIANCE WITH YELTSIN. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii moved closer to an alliance with President Boris Yeltsin, telling the BBC that "the issue we are going to discuss would be a first in Russian history: a political coalition between the government and democratic opposition," Reuters reported on 9 May. Yeltsin and Yavlinskii met on 5 May and since then Yavlinskii has been hinting that he will give the president greater support. That meeting was only the second time the two men have spoken since Yeltsin became president. Contradicting earlier reports that Yavlinskii wants the prime ministerial position and that Yeltsin is not prepared to offer it, Yavlinskii indicated that Yeltsin had raised the possibility of naming him prime minister, but that he is "not prepared to discuss this issue." Although Yavlinskii still has numerous reservations about working with Yeltsin, he may have no choice but to support the president to avoid a communist victory. -- Robert Orttung TV AND RADIO COMPANIES IN DEBT TO COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRY. The Communications Ministry is owed 720 billion rubles ($145 million) for 1995 and the first three months of 1996 by Russian television and radio broadcasting companies, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. The main debtors are the state-owned stations Radio 1, Radio Mayak, and Radio Yunost, along with the state-owned Russian TV network (RTR) and the 51% state- owned Russian Public TV network (ORT). A spokesman for the ministry said that the failure of broadcasters to pay for communications services is creating a financial crisis for communications enterprises, which lack the funds to maintain transmission equipment adequately. Those enterprises in turn owe about 240 billion rubles ($48 million) to power engineering workers. Wage arrears for staff of communications enterprises are estimated at 112 billion rubles ($23 million). -- Laura Belin ANOTHER JOURNALIST KILLED IN CHECHNYA. The body of Nina Yefimova, a correspondent for the pro-Russian Chechen newspaper Vozrozhdenie, was found in Grozny on 9 May, ITAR-TASS reported. She had been shot more than once in the head. Colleagues suggested Yefimova's death may have been connected to a recent series of articles she had written on crime in Chechnya. She is the 18th journalist to be killed in Chechnya since fighting escalated in December 1994. Most of those have been accidental deaths, but Yefimova is the second journalist to be abducted and shot in recent weeks. In April, Obshchaya gazeta correspondent Nadezhda Chaikova was found dead in the breakaway republic; she had been severely beaten, blindfolded and shot execution-style in the back of the head. -- Laura Belin ST. PETERSBURG DEMOCRATS REFUSE TO BACK INCUMBENT MAYOR. A number of democratic parties have jointly decided not to support St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak in the local election on 19 May, St. Petersburg Channel 5 TV reported on 6 May. An agreement to that effect was signed by the regional leaders of Svyatoslav Fedorov's Party of Workers' Self- Government, Irina Khakamada's Common Cause, Boris Fedorov's Forward, Russia!, and Marina Sale's Free Democratic Party of Russia. The bloc called on Sobchak's main rivals, Yurii Boldyrev, Aleksandr Belyaev, and Aleksandr Belyakov, to rally behind a single candidate who would have the best chance of defeating Sobchak. Sobchak is running at about 30% in the polls--far ahead of the other 17 candidates. -- Anna Paretskaya JEWISH CEMETERY DESECRATED IN KURSK. Forty gravestones at an ancient Jewish cemetery in Kursk were damaged recently, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 7 May. Kursk Jewish community members say they have been receiving an increasing number of anonymous telephone threats. Many local Jewish residents, afraid of violence, want to leave the area and community leaders have turned to the Israeli Embassy, the Russian Jewish Congress, and several U.S. human rights organizations for assistance. -- Anna Paretskaya OFFICIAL: NO LINK BETWEEN SPY SCANDAL AND ELECTIONS. President Yeltsin's foreign policy aide, Dmitrii Ryurikov, characterized as "idiotic" suggestions that Russian authorities had deliberately provoked the recent espionage scandal with Britian in order to bolster the president's re-election campaign, Russian and Western agencies reported. Some Russian media reports suggested that the incident was engineered so that Yeltsin could posture as a "tough" defender of Russian national interests. Meanwhile, talks between British and Russian officials aimed at defusing the incident continued, according to the British Foreign Office. While Moscow has threatened to expel nine British diplomats for spying, an official declaration of their expulsion has not yet been issued. -- Scott Parrish SITUATION ON SECURITIES MARKET "HIGHLY UNSTABLE." Uncertainties over the state of financial markets after the June election have pushed interest rates on government securities to very high levels, Kommersant-Daily reported on 8 May. Three-month GKOs are trading at an effective annual interest rate of 160%, and six-month paper at 210%. At the 24 April sale, six-month GKOs with a face value of 2.1 trillion rubles ($400 million) were sold at an effective rate of 130% (i.e. 70% of nominal). About half of them were bought by foreigners. The current market offers rich pickings for foreign investors, who can buy six-month GKOs and hedge against ruble depreciation by buying dollar futures. Such an operation will yield a hard-currency return of 155% per year. The high rates make it expensive for the government to raise money to cover the budget deficit. The Finance Ministry issued 6 trillion rubles worth of securities in March and 11.5 trillion in April. -- Peter Rutland WORLD BANK FUNDS HOUSING PRIVATIZATION. The World Bank approved on 8 May a $300 million loan to help finance the transfer of housing from firms to new private owners in six pilot city projects, ITAR-TASS reported. Firms have been encouraged to divest housing since the launch of the mass privatization program in 1992, but tenants and local councils are reluctant to take over housing because of the burden of maintenance and utility costs. In the pilot cities, the councils already have managed to increase the proportion of operating costs paid for by tenants from 13% to 35%. The six cities, chosen by competition, are Novocherkassk, Orenburg, Petrozavodsk, Ryazan, Vladimir, and Volkhov. The Russian government will spend another $250 million on the project, mainly for building repair and the installation of meters. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA PRIMAKOV VISITS STEPANAKERT, YEREVAN. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov held talks in Stepanakert on 9 May with Robert Kocharyan, president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Primakov said he was "very satisfied" with the talks but refused to give details. On returning to Yerevan, Primakov again discussed possible solutions to the Karabakh conflict with President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, according to Radio Rossii. Ter- Petrossyan noted the importance of extending the two-year-old ceasefire until the signing of a political settlement of the conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. -- Liz Fuller TURKEY WITHDRAWS FINANCING BID FOR BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE. Turkey has withdrawn a proposal to provide $250 million for a pipeline running from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa, Reuters reported on 9 May. The move was prompted by last week's decision by the Azerbaijani International Oil Consortium (AIOC) and Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR to reject Turkey's conditions for building the line, which amounted to their commitment to building another pipeline down to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Earlier in the week, the AIOC announced that it would finance the Baku-Supsa line. Turkish Foreign Minister Emre Gonensay will travel to Washington to seek U.S. support for the Baku-Ceyhan route. Turkey has committed itself to exploring alternatives to the Baku-Supsa-Ceyhan line with Georgia and Azerbaijan. -- Lowell Bezanis ANTI-IRANIAN DEMONSTRATION IN BAKU. Some 100 people demonstrated outside the Iranian Embassy in Baku on 9 May to demand a halt to the persecution of ethnic Azeris in Iran, RFE/RL reported. Hundreds of Iranian Azeris living in Azerbaijan have reportedly been arrested for demonstrating in support of Azeris who stood as candidates in the Iranian parliamentary election. -- Liz Fuller MALARIA EPIDEMIC IN AZERBAIJAN. The incidence of malaria in Azerbaijan has skyrocketed in recent years, with 2,802 cases reported in 1995 compared with only 23 in 1993, Western agencies reported on 9 May quoting a World Health Organization report. The majority of those affected are reportedly persons displaced as a result of the Nagorno- Karabakh conflict. The WHO expressed concern that the disease could spread to neighboring countries. -- Liz Fuller INTEGRATION EFFORTS IN CENTRAL ASIA. The presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan reconfirmed their commitment to further economic integration in a joint statement at the 6 May summit in Bishkek. In addition to general comments on political and regional cooperation, the statement, published in Narodnoe slovo on 7 May, stressed the need for the states to "make effective use" of their industries and create a "mutually beneficial division of labor." One area of expressed concern was water resource management. In an effort to promote integrative measures, a new weekly, Central Asia: Problems of Integration, will be launched. -- Roger Kangas AUTHORITIES RELEASE TAJIK DEMOCRATIC PARTY MEMBERS. The two Tajik Democratic Party (DPT) representatives who were arrested on 1 May (OMRI Daily Digest, 3 May 1996) have been released by the authorities, according to an 8 May Voice of Radio Free Tajikistan report monitored by the BBC. The still unnamed men were held for spreading anti-government propaganda and possessing copies of the outlawed newspaper Charoghi Ruz. No reason was given for their release. -- Bruce Pannier RED CROSS/RED CRESCENT THREATENS TO PULL OUT OF TAJIKISTAN. The Red Cross/Red Crescent, which was on the verge of obtaining its own chapter in Tajikistan, is now saying it may leave the Central Asian country all together, according to a 7 May Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report monitored by the BBC. Complaining of government interference at times and total indifference at others, the organization said it may "cease its activities in Tajikistan." The group was instrumental in the last official exchange of prisoners between the government and the opposition, which took place in November 1994, and has rendered aid to Tajik refugees inside northern Afghanistan. -- 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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