|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 99, Part I, 22 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 COMMUNISTS DENOUNCE MEDIA "FALSIFICATIONS" . . . Communist campaign manager and Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov on 21 May denounced what he described as "false" documents that have appeared in the press recently. He particularly criticized Komsomolskaya pravda for publishing on 15 May what it claimed were excerpts from the Communists' economic program and Moskovskie novosti, which in its 19-26 May issue published an allegedly Communist document concerning plans to overturn President Boris Yeltsin's 1991 decree banning political activity in the workplace. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow . . . WHILE THE RUMOR MILL CHURNS ON. Kuptsov and Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov also denied widespread reports of discord during an 18 May Communist Central Committee meeting, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 May. For instance, Izvestiya ran the implausible scenario that Zyuganov was about to make a deal with Yeltsin, and deliberately lose the election in exchange for being appointed to the post of prime minister. Rumors about conflict within the Communist Party (KPRF) are published almost daily in the anti-Communist press, which includes independent publications such as Izvestiya and Moskovskii komsomolets as well as official newspapers like Rossiiskaya gazeta and Rossiiskie vesti. The rumors generally highlight more extreme elements within the KPRF, presumably in order to frighten swing voters. At the same time, reports depicting Zyuganov as ready to sell out or compromise are aimed at driving a wedge between him and his Communist supporters. -- Laura Belin CANDIDATES HAVE TROUBLE FINALIZING PROGRAMS. Both President Yeltsin and Zyuganov have had considerable difficulty issuing detailed versions of their electoral programs. Yeltsin's most recent plan was to issue his campaign platform by 20 May, but he did not meet his self-imposed deadline. One of his campaign managers, Sergei Filatov, said that he thought it would appear soon but that the staff needed at least two more days to finish it. Duma member Tatyana Koryagina, who is working on the Communists' economic platform, also said that it would take her team a few more days to iron out the main points of the opposition's proposals. She reassured reporters that private property would be respected and that price and foreign exchange controls would not be reimposed. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow DEMOCRATS COMMEMORATE SAKHAROV'S BIRTH. About 50 activists in a variety of Moscow democratic political parties and 150 journalists turned out on 21 May to mark the 75th anniversary of dissident Andrei Sakharov's birth on Lyubyanka Square, under the shadow of the former KGB headquarters. The speakers recalled the large crowds that turned out to mark the physicist's death and lamented the lack of unity among today's reformers. Those present denounced Zyuganov and the possible return to power of the Communists but were divided between President Yeltsin and Yavlinskii. Also on 21 May, a square was named after Sakharov in St. Petersburg, and the apartment in Nizhnii Novgorod (formerly Gorkii) where Sakharov spent nearly seven years in internal exile was opened as a museum, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow SPECULATION ON GRACHEV'S FUTURE. The newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta claimed on 21 May that a presidential decree firing Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and replacing him with retired General Boris Gromov has already been drawn up and will be signed by 3 or 4 June. The military commentator for Segodnya, Pavel Felgengauer, said "Grachev's position looks more shaky than ever." Gromov's differences with Grachev over Chechnya and other issues led to his removal as deputy defense minister in February 1995. Gromov was elected to the Duma in December 1995, and is currently actively campaigning for Yeltsin's re-election, appearing frequently as a TV spokesman for the president to defend his decree abolishing the draft, for example. Aleksandr Zhilin, military expert for Moskovskie novosti, said Grachev's April speech contradicting President Yeltsin on halting military actions in Chechnya had "put Yeltsin in a very difficult position. Logically Grachev must go," he was quoted as saying, "although you can never be sure with Yeltsin." -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish DUMA URGES ACTION ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS. At hearings on 21 May, deputies called for the speedy adoption of laws on the destruction of Russia's stockpile of chemical weapons and compensating residents exposed to environmental damage from their production and destruction, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia has 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, which are to be processed at plants near the seven arsenals where they are stored, in the regions of Udmurtiya, Bryansk, Kirov, Penza, Kurgan, and Saratov. Duma Environment Committee Chairwoman Tamara Zlotnikova complained that in 1995 the government disbursed only one third of the funds budgeted for chemical weapons destruction, and has released no funds at all for this purpose in 1996. The deputies noted upon the government to submit for ratification the treaty banning chemical weapons which Russia signed in January 1993. -- Scott Parrish ST. PETERSBURG RUNOFF POSTPONED. The St. Petersburg Electoral Commission has postponed the second round of the city's gubernatorial election until 2 June, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 21 May. Originally, the runoff was scheduled for 26 May, but the commission's spokesman said that it needs more time for preparations. Incumbent Anatolii Sobchak and his former first deputy, Vladimir Yakovlev, finished first and second in the 19 May first round (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 May 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya ANOTHER MAYORAL CANDIDATE REGISTERED IN MOSCOW. The Moscow Electoral Commission has registered Moscow Duma deputy Olga Sergeeva as a candidate in the city's 16 June mayoral election, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported. The chairman of the nationalist Officers' Union, Stanislav Terekhov, is the deputy mayoral candidate on the Sergeeva ticket. This was Sergeeva and Terekhov's second attempt to register, after more than 4,000 of their 89,509 nomination signatures were found to have been forged the first time they tried to register. The ballot will include three other pairs of candidates for mayor and deputy mayor: incumbent Yurii Luzhkov and Moscow's Southern District administration head, Valerii Shantsev; the former head of a local Communist Party organization, Aleksandr Krasnov, and the director of a joint-stock company, Nikolai Moskvichev; the heads of another joint-stock company, Vladimir Filonenko and Nikolai Chumakov. -- Anna Paretskaya PERRY WARNS RUSSIA, UKRAINE NOT TO SEND SS-18 TECHNOLOGY TO CHINA. It would be a "significant mistake" if either Russia or Ukraine were to provide SS-18 strategic missile technology to China, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry told reporters at the Pentagon on 21 May. Perry had revealed Chinese interest in the SS-18 in a Washington Times interview. The SS-18 is the largest intercontinental ballistic missile in the world. Built at the giant Pivdenmash plant in Ukraine, the SS-18 formed the backbone of the Soviet strategic rocket force. While Russia still deploys 186 of them, they would be eventually banned under the START II treaty. Perry said that other than making the missile's booster available for space launches, any transfer of SS-18 technology would violate the START I treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime. -- Doug Clarke PRESIDENTIAL AIDE: RUSSIA WILL "WRECK" NATO EXPANSION. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 21 May, President Yeltsin's foreign policy aide, Dmitrii Ryurikov, condemned plans to expand NATO as "unwise, shortsighted, and irresponsible," saying Russia "is doing everything to wreck it." Ryurikov, apparently frustrated that repeated Russian offers of some sort of compromise have been snubbed, said he hoped "common sense would prevail," but that "for now there is little sign of this happening." He blamed NATO's inflexibility for the deadlock on the issue, claiming the alliance has no "serious thoughts" about cooperation with Russia. Meanwhile, at a conference in Dublin, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kyrlov repeated earlier compromise offers, saying Russia could accept East European countries joining NATO political but not military structures. He also urged these countries to consider Ireland, which belongs to the EU, but not NATO, as a possible model. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA HAILS IRAQI-UN OIL DEAL. Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin described the recently-signed agreement between the UN and Iraq as "a breakthrough," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 May. Under the deal, Iraq, which is still under a UN economic embargo imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, will be allowed to sell $2 billion worth of oil to purchase food and medicine under UN supervision. Karasin added, however, that Russia views the deal as a "temporary measure" which "does not replace the main task of fully unblocking" the embargo. While all members of the UN Security Council supported the deal, Russia and France hope it will foster progress toward fully lifting the embargo, while the U.S. and Britain have a more guarded stance. Iraq owes Russia about $7 billion, which it cannot repay until after the embargo is lifted. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN CRIMINALS AN INTERNATIONAL THREAT. Police officials from Europe and North America attended the third international seminar on organized crime in the former Soviet Union in London on 20-21 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The seminar was organized by Britain's National Criminal Intelligence Service. Valerii Serebryakov, from the Chief Directorate for Organized Crime, reported that there are 5,000 criminal gangs in Russia with 32,000 members, 100 of them with international operations. Extortion and money-laundering feature prominently in their activities. Maj. Gen. Giovanni Verdicchio of the Italian Financial Guards said the Italian Mafia is investing in privatized businesses in Russia. Meanwhile, in Moscow NTV reported on 20 May that Boris Fedorov, the president of the National Sports Foundation and the Natsionalnyi Kredit Bank, was arrested after drugs were found at his home. Fedorov is an associate of Shamil Tarpishchev, President Yeltsin's tennis coach and a co-founder of the National Sports Foundation. -- Peter Rutland MURDER WAVE. The number of murders in Russia rose from 15,500 in 1990 to 32,000 in 1995, Trud reported on 18 May. Many of them involve the division of the market economy spoils: last year, there were 500 contract killings, of which only 61 were solved. "We live in conditions of criminal terror," the report concluded. While 73% of murders in the country are solved--slightly more than in the U.S.--only 40% are solved in Moscow. The paper also noted that 2,447 murders were committed in Kazakhstan in 1995, which in proportion to the population is about half the Russian rate. In the latest round of a mafia turf war in Moscow, three members of the "Kazan gang" were shot dead on 20 May while standing outside a restaurant near the luxury Olympic Penta hotel, AFP reported. -- Peter Rutland YELTSIN ISSUES DECREE ON TAXATION. President Yeltsin issued a decree on 21 May promising to freeze the number and level of taxes from January 1997, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree also exempts firms from the 10 trillion rubles ($2 billion) in penalty payments which they currently owe as a result of late payment of taxes, and cuts the penalty for future tax arrears from 1% to 0.3% per day. The decree was issued in the absence of a revised Tax Code, the passage of which is bogged down in the Duma. -- Natalia Gurushina RUSSIA APPLIES FOR OECD MEMBERSHIP. Russia became the first former Soviet republic to apply for membership in the 27-country OECD, Western agencies reported on 21 May. Russia also requested entry into OECD's affiliates, the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Energy Agency. In December 1995, the Czech Republic became the first former socialist country to join the OECD. OECD officials privately suggest that Russia is a long way from meeting the club's membership criteria. Russia has also applied to join seven working groups of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Organization (APEC), ITAR-TASS reported on 22 May. World Bank President James Wolfensohn arrived in Moscow on 22 May to discuss loans of $350 million and $500 million for highway renovation and coal industry reconstruction. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UN SECURITY COUNCIL DENOUNCES OPPOSITION OFFENSIVE. Responding to an appeal from Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, the UN Security Council held a session on 21 May to discuss the situation in Tajikistan, particularly in the Tavil-Dara region, Reuters and AFP reported the same day. Security Council President Qin Huasun of China read a statement condemning "the planned and organized offensive by armed Tajik opposition in the Tavil-Dara region," and saying "that all such actions further aggravate the already serious humanitarian situation in Tajikistan." The statement called the offensive "totally unacceptable" and demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities in accordance with the Tehran ceasefire agreement signed in 1994, which was extended by another three months on 19 May. -- Bruce Pannier DEFENSE INDUSTRY CONVERSION IN UZBEKISTAN. U.S. Department of Commerce Undersecretary Barry Carter and Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov on 16 May signed an agreement establishing the basic principles of Uzbek defense industry conversion, the BBC reported on 18 May. Uzbek President Islam Karimov is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C. in June 1996. -- Roger Kangas [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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