|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 94, Part I, 15 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 BASAEV THREATENS YELTSIN; PEACE TALKS TO BEGIN SOON. Following a meeting on 14 May of the Russian government commission charged with implementing President Boris Yeltsin's Chechen peace proposals, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that peace talks could begin within days, Russian media reported. Ekho Moskvy reported that in the initial stage, which will exclude Doku Zavgaev's pro-Moscow leadership, the talks will focus on military issues. The Zavgaev group will be included in later political and economic discussions. It is unclear whether the commission discussed Yeltsin's proposed visit to Chechnya. Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev said Yeltsin's visit to Chechnya constitutes an insult to the Chechen people, and that "we intend to give him such a warm welcome that he will never leave," NTV reported. Also on 14 May, Russian military aircraft continued their bombardment of the villages of Bamut and Stary Achkhoi, according to ORT. -- Liz Fuller ZYUGANOV PROMISES NO WHOLESALE NATIONALIZATION OR REPRESSION. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov pledged to support a mixed economy and not to renationalize privatized enterprises as long as they "pay their taxes honestly and properly" in a 14 May free air time appearance on Radio Yunost monitored by the BBC. He explained, "If you start taking things away tomorrow, then I can assure you the result will be turmoil worse than in Chechnya." Zyuganov also promised that persecution of political opponents will be prohibited by law if he is elected. He observed, "proper democratic development is impossible without political competition and opposition. The [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] rotted and fell apart because it just couldn't remove from office a general secretary who sold it out and betrayed it." -- Laura Belin LEBED APPEALS TO "ORDINARY PEOPLE." During a 14 May free air time campaign appearance on Radio Mayak, Aleksandr Lebed said he belongs to no party and stands for the 60% of the electorate who are "ordinary people" and who support neither President Yeltsin nor Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. In his broadcast, reported by the BBC, Lebed slammed the bureaucrats who have brought Russia crime, corruption, and "nomenklatura capitalism." He promised to help citizens "win our freedom with sensible laws." Appearing on RTR the same day, the marginal presidential candidate Martin Shakkum said experts at the Reform Foundation, which he helped found along with Stanislav Shatalin, have the political and economic knowledge to tackle corruption and other problems facing Russia. -- Laura Belin BABURIN: GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT CHANGE CONSIDERABLY AFTER ELECTION. Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, leader of the nationalist Russian Public Union (ROS), said that a considerable number of the professionals who are now in the government should keep their positions regardless of the presidential election results, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. Since Baburin regards professionalism as more important than political affiliation, he says a new government should be formed that retains the most competent member of the present administration. He also supports the election of a new president and considers Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov to be the best candidate. In early April, Baburin, who was running for the Duma as number two on the party list of Nikolai Ryzhkov's unsuccessful Power to the People bloc as well as in a single- mandate district, joined the "popular-patriotic bloc" supporting Zyuganov. -- Anna Paretskaya AGRICULTURE MINISTER REAPPOINTED. President Yeltsin on 14 May reappointed Viktor Khlystun to the post of agriculture minister, ORT reported. Khlystun first held this office from 1991 to the fall of 1994, when he was dismissed under pressure from the agrarian lobby in the Duma, which accused him of not doing enough to help state farms. Khlystun was replaced by Aleksandr Nazarchuk, a member of the Agrarian Party (APR) and champion of state support for agriculture. Nazarchuk was fired in a government reshuffle in January, and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha, another agrarian, was made acting minister. Zaveryukha was subsequently forced out of the APR for his part in drafting a presidential decree allowing the sale of farmland. Before his reappointment, Khlystun served as first vice president of the commercial Agroprombank. Also on 14 May, the second congress of the Union of Landowners, which supports the private ownership of farmland, called on rural dwellers to vote for Yeltsin. -- Penny Morvant and Laura Belin CASE OPENS IN JOURNALIST'S DEATH. A court case opened in Stavropol Krai concerning the death of Russian journalist Natalya Alyakina in June 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. Alyakina, a correspondent for the German magazine Focus, was allowed to pass through a checkpoint near the southern Russian city of Budennovsk on 17 June during a hostage crisis. However, moments later two shots were fired at her car. The soldier who fired the fatal shots has been charged with carelessly handling a firearm. According to Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, this case marks the first time since the war in Chechnya began that a person responsible for a journalist's death has been brought to trial. Since December 1994, 18 Russian and foreign journalists have been killed while covering events in Chechnya. -- Laura Belin FSB: LYSENKO BLEW UP HIS OWN OFFICE. Former Duma deputy Nikolai Lysenko was arrested on 13 May on charges of staging an attack on his own office, ITAR-TASS reported. Lysenko's Duma office suffered more than 100 million rubles' ($20,800) worth of damage on 5 December last year when a home-made bomb went off in a briefcase (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 and 7 December 1995). The Federal Security Service, which investigated the incident, said that Lysenko, leader of the extremist National Republican Party of Russia, and an aide, Mikhail Rogozin, had planned the attack. At the time, Lysenko blamed it on the "Caucasian mafia." Rogozin was arrested on 18 April. Lysenko is known for his extreme views and scandalous behavior. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN MILITARY OFFICIALS MEET . . . The collegiums of the Russian and Belarusian Defense ministries signed 10 military cooperation agreements at a 13-14 May meeting in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Among the accords were a protocol on creating a single regional air defense system, a concept for a joint defense policy, joint training, and joint use of military bases and facilities. -- Doug Clarke . . . GRACHEV ON NATO EXPANSION. While denying that current Russian- Belarusian military cooperation is aimed against NATO, Grachev added that the two countries are prepared to take certain countermeasures if the alliance expands, Russian media reported. The defense minister declared that the deployment of "a powerful Russian-Belarusian military force" had not been ruled out as one possible response to NATO enlargement, a view he said was shared by Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Grachev expressed special concern that Polish and Lithuanian membership in NATO would isolate the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. But Grachev was careful to keep his threats conditional, saying that countermeasures would only be implemented if NATO ignores Russian objections to its expansion. -- Scott Parrish BORDER GUARDS FIRE AT JAPANESE TRAWLERS. Russian patrol boats on 13 May fired warning shots at 10 Japanese trawlers that were about to enter Russian territorial waters near the disputed southern Kuril Islands, Western agencies reported the next day, citing Interfax. Five rounds of Russian-Japanese talks on fishing rights in the waters around the islands have failed to produce agreement, leading to a series of incidents in which Russian patrols have fired upon Japanese fishing vessels, including one last September that wounded a Japanese fisherman. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov told ITAR-TASS on 11 May that the sixth round of the fishing talks is scheduled to open in Moscow in 2-3 weeks. -- Scott Parrish FOREIGN MINISTRY BLASTS ESTONIA. In the latest salvo in the ongoing war of words between Moscow and Tallinn, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin accused Estonia of continuing "to undermine relations with Russia," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. Blaming Estonia for the current strained state of bilateral ties, Karasin cited public statements by Estonian Ambassador to Russia Mart Helme that he claimed "go beyond...accepted diplomatic norms." He also complained that Estonia has not responded to Russian requests to establish additional polling stations for Russian citizens living in Estonia to vote in the June presidential election. Meanwhile, on 14 May Komsomolskaya pravda published an article detailing allegations by the Federal Security Service (FSB) that the Estonian volunteer defense force Kaitseliit had provided arms and explosives to the IRA. Estonian officials have denied the charges. -- Scott Parrish SATELLITE DESTROYED IN ROCKET BLAST. A Russian booster Soyuz U carrying on board a Kosmos-type military satellite exploded five minutes after take off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 14 May. Under the Russian-American SPIN-2 project, which was signed in July 1995 by the Russian firm Sovinformsputnik and the U.S. company Aerial Images, the satellite was to take high-resolution photographs of parts of the U.S. The explosion is believed to have been caused by a structural flaw in the booster's front shield. The project was insured for $2,7 million. In March 1996, Russia lost three more communications satellites launched under the Russian-Israeli and Russian-Mexican projects in a similar accident at the Plessetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. -- Natalia Gurushina INDUSTRIALISTS' CONGRESS OPENS. The seventh congress of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs convened in Moscow on 14 May, NTV reported. The union's chairman, Arkadii Volskii, criticized the government's privatization policy and called for price controls on energy and transport. Volskii complained that Zbigniew Brzezinski has removed Russia from his list of great powers, and warned that "Americans should not put their feet on the table in Russia." Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told the congress participants that taxes will be lowered in 1997. On 16 May, the political party formed by the union, the United Industrial Party, is expected to declare its support for President Yeltsin. The union has 4,500 firms as members. While it has not been very successful in establishing its presence as the centrist force in Russian politics, it has some backdoor lobbying power. The current economics minister, Yevgenii Yasin, was formerly the head of the union's Expert Institute. -- Peter Rutland NEW BOOK PREDICTS ECONOMIC BOOM IN RUSSIA. Russia will become a leading industrial power by the end of the century, provided there are no major political changes in the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May, citing a new book by the director of the Center for Economic Research of the London School of Economics and Political Science, Richard Layard, and deputy editor of The Economist, John Parker. The authors argue that Russia has passed the most difficult transitory period in its recent history and is on the eve of a period of an unprecedented economic growth. They say Russia's rich mineral resources, huge intellectual potential, and unique geographical position will be the most important factors in its future success. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TROOPS FIRE ON DEMONSTRATORS IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN . . . Five people died during a demonstration in the northern Tajik city of Ura-Tyube on 14 May after troops fired on the crowd of about 200 people, ITAR-TASS reported. The demonstration began the day before as people gathered outside the local administration building to protest the killing of a businessman the previous day. On 14 May, the demonstrators began breaking windows and started fires at the administration building, the chief prosecutor's office, a militia building, and the mayor's house. AFP reported that some of the protesters were armed. Reinforcements from the Tajik Interior Ministry are being sent to the city. The disturbance comes as demonstrations involving thousands are going on in the Tajik city of Khojent and fighting continued between government and opposition forces in the Tavil-Dara region. -- Bruce Pannier . . . RUSSIA EXPRESSES CONCERN. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin said on 14 May that his government is gravely concerned at "the deteriorating situation in Tajikistan," according to ITAR-TASS. Karasin did not say how far Russia would go to protect Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov's government but did state that events in Tajikistan have "a direct effect on the strategic interests of Russia." Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev ruled out the possibility of Russian military involvement in the Tavil-Dara fighting but did say Russian troops had been ordered "to guard and defend state and important military facilities," ORT reported. -- Bruce Pannier ECO SUMMIT RUMPUS. Amidst much acrimony, a two-day summit of the 10- member Economic Cooperation Organization opened in Ashgabat on 14 May, Reuters reported. Following talks between the foreign ministers of member states earlier in the week, heads of state agreed to expand the organization's structure and move ahead with revising the founding treaty. A 22-point Ashgabat declaration calling for priority action in transport and communications, trade and energy was also signed. Irked by Iran's verbal attacks on Israel, Uzbek President Islam Karimov threatened to withdraw his country from the grouping, indicating he opposes "transforming the organization into a military-political unit." Karimov's position was supported by his counterparts from Kazakhstan (who left the summit early) and Tajikistan. The ECO was founded in the 1960s by Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan and in 1992 expanded to include all the former Soviet Central Asian republics plus Afghanistan and Azerbaijan. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez
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