|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 98, Part I, 21 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 DISUNITY WITHIN ZYUGANOV'S COALITION . . . Representatives of Gennadii Zyuganov's coalition met on 20 May to discuss campaign strategy and sign a document backing Zyuganov for president, Russian and Western media reported. Viktor Tyulkin's extreme Russian Communist Workers' Party, which had refused to endorse Zyuganov, joined the coalition, according to NTV; meanwhile, Russian Public Union leader Sergei Baburin, who pledged to back Zyuganov in April, refused to sign the document. Workers' Russia leader Viktor Anpilov, who like Tyulkin advocates more traditional communist policies, asked Zyuganov to be "more bold" and call for nationalizing all banks. Komsomolskaya pravda alleged on 21 May that a split within the KPRF ranks is widening, with Zyuganov among those supporting more compromises with the current authorities, while others favor a more radical stance. -- Laura Belin . . . AS SELEZNEV SWITCHES JOBS. At a closed meeting of the KPRF Central Committee on 18 May, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev was removed from the post of Central Committee secretary at his own request, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. He also quit as editor of the KPRF weekly paper Pravda Rossii. Seleznev denied rumors that colleagues were dissatisfied with his work, explaining that as speaker of the Duma he did not have the time to perform the full-time job of party secretary. Party spokesmen described the move as a promotion, since Seleznev was elected to the KPRF presidium. -- Laura Belin FEDOROV'S EYE CLINIC FORCED TO SHUT DOWN. The main branch of the famous eye surgery clinic operated by presidential candidate Svyatoslav Fedorov was forced to close on 20 May due to financial problems, NTV and Russian TV (RTR) reported. Since 15 February, the clinic has received no money from the Moscow City Mandatory Insurance Fund, which used to finance many of the hundreds of surgical operations performed there each day at no cost to the patients. According to Komsomolskaya pravda on 18 May, the clinic's 11 affiliates throughout Russia are not affected and continue to be partly financed by local authorities. Fedorov has complained that the money was shut off because he is running against President Yeltsin. In his campaign speeches, Fedorov frequently describes his clinic as a model of how the Russian economy can be rebuilt on the model of "private workers' collectives." -- Laura Belin LEBED ISSUES ELECTION PLATFORM. Campaigning in the Urals industrial city of Chelyabinsk, Aleksandr Lebed issued his election platform, containing eight "strategic tasks" for Russia, Russian TV (RTR) and ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. Among Lebed's stated priorities are: preserving the country's unity, filling the treasury, ending the war in Chechnya, taking steps to prevent environmental disasters, reorganizing and cutting the state bureaucracy, and preparing a referendum on private land ownership. He expressed optimism about his prospects, saying he hopes to win the support of the 60% of Russians who are against both "reds" and "whites." Also on 20 May, Svyatoslav Fedorov blamed Lebed's ambition for the fact that the "third force" alliance never took hold, ORT reported. -- Laura Belin TIKHOMIROV CONFIDENT OF WIPING OUT CHECHEN RESISTANCE. The commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, told journalists on 20 May that Chechen resistance would be eliminated by early to mid-June, i.e. prior to the Russian presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, diversions against both military and civilian targets continue in Grozny and elsewhere. A power line in Grozny was blown up on 20 May, Russian media reported. More evidence is emerging of the scale of embezzlement of federal funds intended for reconstruction in Chechnya. AFP, quoting Itogi, reported on 20 May that more than $2 billion is unaccounted for, and that food and humanitarian aid for Chechnya is still stockpiled in Moscow and other Russian cities. -- Liz Fuller LUZHKOV DECLARED MAYOR OF THE YEAR. On 20 May, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was announced as the winner in the national competition "Russian mayors 1995," ITAR TASS reported the next day. Of the 50 mayors competing for the honor, there was only one woman--Elenora Sheremeteva of Uglich. Luzhkov described the mayors as "the pivotal mechanism upon which the whole structure of our state rests." On 20 May, Luzhkov flew to Tajikistan, where he visited the troops of the 12th Moscow Border Guards detachment and gave them food and medicine worth 1.5 billion rubles ($500,000). -- Peter Rutland SELEZNEV SLAMS CIS LEADERS. Addressing a 20 May meeting of CIS journalists, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev (KPRF) accused the leaders of the other CIS states of meddling in Russia's internal affairs by openly supporting President Yeltsin's re-election campaign, ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev cited the public declarations of several CIS leaders following their 17 May summit (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 May 1996). He also hinted at future retaliation, reminding his audience that all agreements with CIS states must be ratified by the Duma. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA SNUBS NORDIC DEFENSE MEETING. Russia will snub a meeting of Nordic defense ministers, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May, suggesting the decision reflected Russian uneasiness about international concern over the safety of Russian nuclear submarines. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had originally agreed to attend the 20-21 May meeting in Norway and to jointly inspect decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines stored on the Kola Peninsula with his Norwegian counterpart, Jorgen Kosmo. Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Grachev would not attend the meeting, although Norway announced that one of his deputies would come instead. But ITAR-TASS reported that the Defense Ministry has now decided against any participation in the meeting, meaning that Kosmo's visit has also been canceled. -- Scott Parrish CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REAFFIRMS LAW ON RUSSIAN CITIZENSHIP. The Russian Constitutional Court issued a decision on 16 May that confirms a broadly inclusive citizenship policy, ITAR-TASS reported. The court ruled that all persons who were born in the Russian Federation; all former Soviet citizens who did not acquire citizenship in a CIS or other country; anyone deprived of Russian citizenship against their will; and all persons who once left Russia for other Soviet republics and then returned to Russia for permanent residence can claim Russian citizenship by birth. The ruling came about in the case of Aleksei Smirnov, who was born in Russia, moved to Lithuania, but did not acquire Lithuanian citizenship after the break-up of the USSR. When he returned to Russia, local courts denied him Russian citizenship. The court ordered that Smirnov be granted citizenship. -- Constantine Dmitriev SAKHAROV MUSEUM OPENS. The Museum of Peace, Progress, and Human Rights, dedicated to the memory of dissident nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov, opened in Moscow on 20 May, Reuters reported. The museum, housed in a former police station, includes relics of the totalitarian past, but also video footage of the Chechen war. The papers of Sakharov, who died in 1989, are housed in an archive at Brandeis University near Boston, Massachusetts. The only leading politician to attend the museum opening was Grigorii Yavlinskii. On 21 May, which would have been Sakharov's 75th birthday, President Yeltsin laid flowers at his grave. On 19 May, Yeltsin issued a decree listing the new members of his presidential commission on human rights. A number of liberal members of the commission, including its chairman Sergei Kovalev, stepped down in the wake of Yeltsin's use of force to crush the Pervomaiskoe hostage-taking (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 January 1996). -- Peter Rutland AIDS REMEMBRANCE. International AIDS Day was marked in Moscow on 17 May with a memorial exhibition of quilts in front of the Central Artists' Hall prepared by the friends and families of the deceased and organized by the group "Names" (Imena), ITAR-TASS reported. Russia currently reports 1,157 persons infected with HIV and 205 suffering from AIDS, with 177 deaths, Izvestiya noted on 18 May. These low official figures undoubtedly understate the real extent of the disease; there is concern that it may be spreading among drug addicts. -- Peter Rutland BUDGET PLANS. . . First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov told the government's operational commission for improving payments that the tax burden on the energy sector is "exceptionally heavy," ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. Firms in the sector are expected to pay 74 trillion rubles ($15 billion) in taxes in 1996, amounting to 27% of total federal budget revenue. However, fuel and energy enterprises are already 19 trillion in arrears on their tax payments. Aleksandr Kazakov, head of the State Privatization Committee, told ITAR TASS on 20 May that revenue from the privatization of 703 firms in the first quarter of 1996 amounted to a mere 500 billion rubles. The same day, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov denied earlier reports that the government will be taking loans from commercial banks to finance the Defense Ministry. -- Peter Rutland . . .AMID ONGOING BATTLE TO PAY WAGE ARREARS. Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Petrov told the government's operational commission for improving payments that 30.7 trillion rubles ($6.1 billion) has been dispensed since the beginning of the year to eradicate wage arrears in budget organizations, ITAR TASS reported on 20 May. However, the commission deemed the implementation of the program unsatisfactory because of widespread misuse of the funds by managers and local government officials. The head of the Federal Labor Inspectorate, Vladimir Varov, said that 23,000 cases of the misallocation of funds, involving 2 trillion rubles, has been discovered, ORT reported. A total of 400 cases have been forwarded to the procuracy for criminal prosecution. -- Peter Rutland NEW WORLD BANK LOANS IN THE PIPELINE. Russia and the World Bank are preparing to negotiate a $500 million loan to restructure the coal industry, AFP reported on 17 May. The loan will be used to finance the closure of loss-making pits and provide new investment for viable mine operations. Russia is also seeking a $25 million credit for the reconstruction of the historical part of St. Petersburg, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA ACCUSES AZERBAIJAN OVER PRISONER RELEASE. Many of the 34 supposed Armenian prisoners of war released by Azerbaijan and brought to Armenia on 9 May by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov were in fact Azerbaijanis who had been convicted of criminal offenses in their home country, according to ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan. Noyan Tapan also reported on 20 May that three of the Azerbaijani prisoners of war released by the Karabakh Armenian leadership (one Afghan and two Russian mercenaries) declined to be repatriated to Azerbaijan for fear of reprisals from the authorities. -- Liz Fuller TURKISH DIPLOMAT WARNS GEORGIA ON RUSSIAN BASE. The Turkish Ambassador to Georgia Tofik Okiauz told the Georgian newspaper Rezonansi that Turkey would respond in kind if Tbilisi allows Russia to establish a military base near the Turkish border, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. A 1994 basing agreement gave Russia the right to base troops at Akhalkalaki, some 20 km from the Turkish border, where a Soviet motorized-rifle division was once based. Okiauz said that in such an event "Turkey will build a military base on its territory, in direct proximity to the Georgian border." Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili said that countries in the region should "strive to switch over from confrontation...to international cooperation." He noted that the Russian-Georgian basing agreement would not come into force until Georgia's territorial integrity is restored." -- Doug Clarke MARKET COMPETITION DECREED IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek President Islam Karimov on 15 May established a Demonopolization and Competition Committee in the Finance Ministry, which will have the authority to penalize companies that break Uzbekistan's antimonopoly legislation, the BBC reported on 21 May. The committee will also take on the role of "consumer advocate" for both citizens and foreign companies. This development is part of a recent effort by the Uzbek government to encourage foreign investment. -- Roger Kangas VIOLENCE IN TAJIKISTAN. Violence continued in northeastern Tajikistan despite the recent signing of another three-month extension to the ceasefire agreement. Reuters reported that battles raged around the city of Tajikabad on 17-18 May and ITAR-TASS reported that two Tajik police officers were killed and four captured in a raid on an Interior Ministry department on 19 May in Jirgatal. Both cities lie on the road leading eastward from Dushanbe toward Kyrgyzstan. One police officer was killed and another wounded in an 18 May attack on a police check point in the Dushanbe suburbs. On 19 May, police opened fire on a vehicle containing an Iranian embassy employee in Dushanbe, injuring him and his five-year- old son. The Iranian embassy is demanding the arrest of the officers. -- 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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