|Eat to live, and not live to eat. - Benjamin Franklin|
No. 101, Part I, 24 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, YANDARBIEV TO TALK IN MOSCOW. Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev agreed on 23 May to travel to Moscow for peace talks with President Yeltsin, Russian and Western media reported. Reuters quoted the head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, as saying that he will accompany Yandarbiev to the talks, which will take place "in the very near future." -- Liz Fuller RUSSIANS CLAIM BAMUT VICTORY. The commander of the 58th Army in Chechnya said on 23 May that most of the Chechen separatists entrenched in the former Soviet missile base near Bamut had been killed, ITAR-TASS reported. Lt. Gen. Gennadii Troshev said the "special units" had fought their way into the stronghold that afternoon. Earlier, a military official said that federal troops had seized the strategic heights overlooking Bamut but were not storming the village in order to avoid casualties. In Moscow, a General Staff officer claimed that there were 300 mercenaries fighting in Bamut, part of some 2,000 mercenaries with the Chechen separatists. He said 200 of these were from Afghanistan. -- Doug Clarke YELTSIN MEETS GROMOV. President Yeltsin met with Duma Deputy and former Deputy Defense Minister Boris Gromov on 23 May, Russian media reported. The presidential press service said the two men discussed Yeltsin's election campaign, in which Gromov has been playing an active role, but added that they touched upon military reform. ITAR-TASS political commentator Tatyana Zamyatina said that phrase should be viewed as a signal that Yeltsin wants to "prepare public opinion" for Grachev's resignation and replacement by Gromov, who has been one of the most vocal public critics of the current defense minister. She added that Gromov, who commanded the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, would be a suitable choice to lead the Russian army out of Chechnya. Gromov's public opposition to the intervention in Chechnya helped precipitate his removal as deputy defense minister in February 1995. -- Scott Parrish DUMA DENOUNCES CIS LEADERS. The State Duma adopted a declaration denouncing the endorsement of President Yeltsin by the leaders of several other former Soviet republics at the 17 May CIS summit, Russian media reported on 23 May (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 May 1996). The declaration was sponsored by the Popular Power faction, which is supporting Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov for president. -- Scott Parrish QUALITY OF DUMA'S LEGISLATIVE WORK QUESTIONED. Aleksandr Shokhin, one of seven deputy chairmen in the State Duma, criticized the poor quality of the Duma's legislative work, Russian media reported on 23 May. He said that only 40 of the 189 draft laws submitted to the Duma by the president and government during the last four months had been passed by 17 May. He added that eight laws submitted to the Duma a year ago or more have never been examined during a plenary session. Furthermore, many poorly drafted laws reach the floor for debate. The next day, Shokhin said the Duma should pass fewer political statements and non- binding resolutions, and concentrate on legislative work, ITAR-TASS reported. On 22 May, President Yeltsin appointed Shokhin, a member of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction, to chair the newly created Committee for Coordinating Legislative Activities. -- Laura Belin LAW ON TRANSFER OF POWER PASSED. On 24 May, the Duma passed the law on the transfer of power to a newly elected president in the third and final reading (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 May 1996), ITAR-TASS reported. It now goes to the Federation Council for approval. On the same day, Duma deputies failed for a third time to override the Federation Council's veto of the law on election monitoring. -- Laura Belin ORT TO SUE IZVESTIYA OVER BRIBE ALLEGATIONS. The Channel 1 broadcaster Russian Public TV (ORT) and one of its leading journalists, Aleksandr Lyubimov, announced plans to sue Izvestiya for 15 billion rules ($3 million) over a 21 May article alleging that Lyubimov and a producer had demanded $21,000 in bribes from presidential candidate Vladimir Bryntsalov, ORT reported on 23 May. Bryntsalov appeared on the 16 May edition of Lyubimov's show "Odin na Odin" (One on One), along with Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The article cited Bryntsalov's press secretary, but Bryntsalov himself has denied that anyone asked him for money. Lyubimov serves as chairman of the board of directors of the VID television company, which produces "Odin na Odin" and other Channel 1 shows. Both he and Bryntsalov appeared on a list of the 50 most influential entrepreneurs in Russia published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 22 May. -- Laura Belin LIVSHITS QUESTIONS COMMUNISTS' ECONOMIC GOALS. President Boris Yeltsin's economic adviser, Aleksandr Livshits, charged on 23 May that the Communists' inability to define their economic platform is hurting the economy. He said that the Communists must explain their plans for the budget, privatization, Yeltsin's decrees on the economy, treasury bonds, and the agreements Russia has concluded with the IMF "so that a normal person will know if he can live in peace." He said the Communists' commitment to "multiple forms of property" is meaningless, since both the U.S. and Stalin-era Soviet economies could be described in that manner. He denied responsibility for Yeltsin's 30 April decree on "economic security" (see OMRI Daily Digest 3 May 1996), saying obliquely that its author is in charge of "security," not economics. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow ZHIRINOVSKY APPEALS FOR COMMUNIST VOTE. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky used his 23 May free airtime slot on Russian TV (RTR) to appeal for support from rank-and-file Communists. He praised ordinary party members and those living outside Moscow and blamed the mistakes of the party on its leadership, particularly former General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. Zhirinovsky reminded the Communists that he supported their coup attempt in 1991 and fought to secure amnesties for the imprisoned Communist leaders following its failure. He described communism as "more theory than practice" and recommended that party members join him. Zhirinovsky promised to stem the current anti- communist feelings in the country. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow ELECTORAL COMMISSION RELEASES CAMPAIGN FINANCING DETAILS. The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) on 23 May released documents on the presidential candidates' current campaign financing, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. As of 15 May, President Yeltsin had accumulated 7.1 billion rubles ($1.4 million dollars), more than any other candidate. He was followed by Grigorii Yavlinskii (3.62 billion rubles), Vladimir Zhirinovsky (3.27 billion rubles, including 57 million rubles of his own money), and Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov (2.99 billion rubles). Zyuganov leads in campaign expenditures--so far he has spent 1.65 billion rubles for printing flyers and pamphlets and on mass media advertising. Yeltsin has spent 300 million rubles. Millionaire Vladimir Bryntsalov has spent nothing on his campaign. Under electoral law, each candidate is allowed to spend up to 14.43 billion rubles on their campaign. -- Anna Paretskaya ALTERNATIVE ARMY TV PROGRAM CLOSED DOWN. The Russian TV (RTR) army program "Aty-Baty" was taken off the air on 19 May, and a Defense Ministry program was shown in its place, Ekho Moskvy reported. The program's producer, Igor Serebryakov, said he had not been notified in advance and received no explanation from the RTR management. Moskovskii komsomolets on 23 May reported that the closure of "Aty-Baty," which has been on air for five years, is an attempt by the ministry to take control of all military programs on both RTR and Channel 1 (ORT). The ministry is already providing ORT with a program called "I serve Russia!"--a direct successor to the Soviet-era show "I serve the Soviet Union!" The same day, Moskovskii komsomolets reported that one of its journalists had been receiving intimidating telephone calls and her apartment was broken into after she wrote a series of articles strongly criticizing top army commanders. -- Anna Paretskaya ANOTHER REGIONAL OFFICIAL FIRED FOR MISUSING FUNDS. President Yeltsin issued a decree on 24 May dismissing Aleksei Kulyakov, his special envoy in Stavropol Krai, for misusing state funds, ITAR-TASS reported. Kulyakov was also fired from the post of administration head at the popular spa resort Mineralnye Vody. Four regional governors have already been sacked this year for misusing federal budget funds as part of Yeltsin's pre-election drive to reduce arrears in the payment of wages and social benefits. -- Penny Morvant FOREIGN POLICY COUNCIL LAUDS CIS INTEGRATION. In a lengthy set of "theses" published in a supplement to the 23 May edition of Nezavisimaya gazeta, a group of leading Russian analysts, politicians, and businessmen called for intensifying political and economic integration among the former Soviet republics, but said plans to restore the USSR are "utopian." The theses were worked out in a series of meetings sponsored by the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy chaired by Sergei Karaganov, and reflect a broad consensus among a wide swath of the Russian elite, as those signing the document ranged from liberals like Irina Khakamada to nationalist Konstantin Zatulin. While the theses show that many in Moscow want to maintain a "sphere of influence" in former Soviet space, they are also relatively moderate in their policy reccomendations, which focus largely on economic integration, and specifically argue against actions to "force" the pace of integration. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN-ESTONIAN BORDER TALKS ADJOURN. The seventh round of Russian- Estonian border negotiations closed in Pskov on 23 May without making any significant progress, ITAR-TASS and BNS reported. Although the two sides are reportedly now close to agreement on the location of the border itself, they remain deadlocked over the issue of recognizing the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty. -- Scott Parrish HELP FOR UNIKOMBANK. The Moscow Oblast government announced on 23 May that it will take steps to improve the finances of the ailing Ukimobnak, Biznes-TASS reported on 23 May. The Moscow Oblast will appoint Unikombank its sole agent, which means some 15 trillion rubles ($5 billion) in Oblast council spending will be channelled through the bank. In return the Oblast will be given a controlling packet of shares in the bank. On 20 May, the Central Bank appointed a temporary administrator for Unikombank, and is reportedly considering issuing it an emergency loan. -- Peter Rutland THE FINAL FRONTIER FOR MARKETING. In a marketing first, a contract for advertising in space has been signed between the Energiya corporation and Pepsi-Cola, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on 23 May. Russian cosmonauts Yurii Usachev and Yurii Onufrienko will drink a can of Pepsi- Cola before the cameras while in orbit. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TURKEY LOBBIES FOR BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE. Turkish Foreign Minister Emre Gonensay has wrapped up talks in Washington aimed at securing support for a $2.5 billion project to move Caspian Sea oil from Baku to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, Turkish media reported on 24 May. Gonensay's trip was undertaken to shore up what appears to be flagging support for the pipeline project. -- Lowell Bezanis LATVIAN PRESIDENT CONCLUDES VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN. Latvian President visited Uzbekistan on 22-24 May to sign several agreements with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, on economic cooperation and scientific and cultural exchanges, ITAR-TASS and BNS reported. In 1995, Latvian- Uzbek foreign trade amounted to $19 million (up from $13 million in 1994), with Uzbek imports to Latvia making up 75% of that figure. -- Roger Kangas KAZAKHSTAN SAYS NO RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL SENT TO CHINA. The Kazakhstani Embassy in Beijing has denied reports that Kazakhstan exported radioactive scrap metal to China, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 May. A complaint was lodged in the Uighur-Xinjiang region when two loads of ferrous and non-ferrous material emitting a "radioactive level exceeding norms" was detected in a shipment coming from Kazakhstan. A Kazakhstani diplomat admitted that his country had shipped scrap metal to China but added that the shipment in question came from a Karaganda plant and not from a random gathering of unchecked scrap metal. -- Bruce Pannier KYRGYZ-KAZAKHSTANI BORDER POSTS COME DOWN. In keeping with the recent customs agreement, signed by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, the latter two countries have begun to take down customs checkpoints along the Kazakhstani-Kyrgyz border, according to RFE/RL. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov and his Kazakhstani counterpart, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, attended a tree-planting ceremony at a dismantled checkpoint in the Kyrgyz village of Georgievka. -- Bruce Pannier KYRGYZ FORCES ON FULL ALERT AT KYRGYZ-TAJIK BORDER. In response to a 21 May attack on a Tajik Interior Ministry post in the city of Jirgatal, about 25 km south of the Kyrgyz border, units of the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry on the Tajik border have been put on full alert, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 May. A unit in the Gulch-Alaiskiy district and the Osh mechanized rifle brigade are at combat readiness, and officers of the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry have flown to the area to inspect border posts. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 23 May that Kyrgyz Defense Minister Myrzakan Subanov and Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva had denied that border forces had been put on alert. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK ARMY RECAPTURES NORTHERN HIGHWAY. Tajik government troops have taken the offensive in fighting with opposition forces along the highway leading northeast to Kyrgyzstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 May. Military officials claim government forces now control the cities of Komsomolabad, Garm, Tajikabad, Jirgatal, and the areas immediately surrounding those cities. A military official said opposition casualties were high but did not comment on losses among government forces. -- 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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