|A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace|
No. 105, Part I, 30 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 CALLS FOR MILITARY REFORM. Addressing a meeting of the military's top brass, President Yeltsin declared that Russia must ensure its military security despite the reduction in international tension since the end of the Cold War, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. Yeltsin condemned plans to expand NATO eastward, saying that the West is trying to "reinforce its world leadership" by advancing "the NATO military machine to the east." He said Russia must reform its military to adjust to its new strategic situation. Instead of "hundreds of divisions which exist only on paper," he said, "what we need is a few dozen divisions made up entirely of professionals." He also called the maintenance of a strong nuclear deterrent a top priority, promised to provide sufficient funds for the military, and expressed "general" satisfaction with the current Defense Ministry leadership. -- Scott Parrish GRACHEV PANS GROMOV. At the same meeting, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev accused unnamed, "dishonorable" generals of attempting to undermine him by fabricating rumors of his imminent dismissal, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. Grachev also lambasted an unnamed "colonel general" for independently presenting military reform plans to President Yeltsin and promising to implement them if appointed defense minister. Although the general claimed the reform plans as his own, they were actually copies of plans drawn up by the Russian General Staff, Grachev said. Grachev's remarks clearly refer to Col. Gen. Boris Gromov's 23 May meeting with President Yeltsin (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 May 1996), which has triggered continuing speculation that Gromov will replace Grachev. In his remarks, Grachev also attacked the Russian media for continuing to publish stories that attempt to discredit the military and its leadership. -- Scott Parrish ZHIRINOVSKY OFFERS ZYUGANOV, LEBED ALLIANCE. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky proposed an alliance whereby he and Aleksandr Lebed could help Gennadii Zyuganov win the election in the first round, after which Zhirinovsky would be appointed prime minister and Lebed defense minister, RTR and ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. He said, "The trouble with the Communists is that they don't want to form a bloc with anyone and don't tolerate any opposition. However, Zyuganov still has time to fall on his knees before me and Lebed." In the past, Zhirinovsky has refused to cooperate with the Communists and has called Lebed a "traitor." Zyuganov has offered to join forces with Lebed but has consistently criticized Zhirinovsky's erratic views and voting record in parliament. LDPR Duma deputies sometimes vote with the Communists but on crucial votes often back the government. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN CAMPAIGN OFFERS PRIZE FOR SOVIET-ERA COUPONS. The Yeltsin campaign headquarters in the Republic of Buryatiya is offering 1 million rubles ($200) to the person who has saved the most coupons for food and other consumer goods dating from the Brezhnev era of "developed socialism," ITAR-TASS reported on 30 May. The contest is aimed at reminding voters of the shortages and lines that were common in the Soviet period, which Yeltsin supporters warn could return if Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov is elected president. -- Laura Belin PAPER: YELTSIN'S AD CAMPAIGN EFFECTIVE. President Yeltsin's paid political advertising campaign, which shows ordinary people explaining why they support the president but never shows Yeltsin himself, is very effective, according to Kommersant-Daily on 29 May. The advertising agency Video International, which developed the successful da-da-nyet-da campaign before the April 1993 referendum and worked less successfully with Yabloko before the 1995 parliamentary election, is responsible for the clips. The "man on the street" approach is connecting with ordinary people who see themselves in the advertisements, the paper argues. The advertisements were filmed using real people speaking without any pre- written script. The whole "soap opera" will have a surprise conclusion that the authors refuse to reveal in advance. By not showing the candidate, the paper argued, the advertisements are "unobtrusive" and do not "irritate the viewer." Yeltsin himself approved this subtle approach. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow VLASOV APPEALS TO PATRIOTISM. Former world champion weight lifter and presidential candidate Yurii Vlasov on 29 May called for a policy of "people's patriotism" and accused the Communists of stealing many of his ideas, including the name of his People's Patriotic Party (Zyuganov calls himself the leader of the "coalition of popular-patriotic forces"). Vlasov compared his brand of nationalism with French Gaullism, claiming that it is a more effective unifying force than communist or democratic ideals. In his opinion, Yeltsin's policies have pushed 40% of the population below the poverty line and brought the government only 3% of the real value of privatized state property. He said that he expects to win 6-7% of the vote and that he will support neither Yeltsin nor Zyuganov in the runoff. He is running at less than 1% in the polls and the media has largely ignored his campaign. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow MOVEMENT "NYET" STICKS TO ANTI-YELTSIN COURSE. Leaders of the Movement "Nyet" on 29 May rejected accusations that their call on people to cast votes against all candidates in the second round could help Zyuganov beat Yeltsin. They admitted that Zyuganov would get 35% of the vote but argued that "against all" would gain even more votes if enough people refuse to back Yeltsin. Under the electoral law, the candidate with the most votes wins the second round as long as he gains more votes than are cast against all candidates. If "against all" wins, a new election must be held, in which case Nyet leaders predict Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin or Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov will enter the race and Aleksandr Lebed and Grigorii Yavlinskii will form an alliance, while the Communist have no other obvious leader aside from Zyuganov. The Nyet movement consists mainly of long-time human rights campaigners who claim that "we are doing what we always do: going out into the square and denouncing the current government." -- Robert Orttung in Moscow CHECHEN PEACE PROSPECTS. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov on 29 May suggested that representatives of the Chechen opposition could participate in a future Chechen coalition government if acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's assertion that he is in control of the Chechen military formations proves to be true, Russian TV (RTR) reported. The commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, stated that he had held talks with unnamed Chechen field commanders who had expressed their support for President Boris Yeltsin's peace initiative and their readiness to surrender their weapons. The draft project on power-sharing between the Russian Federation and Chechnya defines Chechnya as a sovereign state within the federation with jurisdiction over all aspects of domestic political affairs and the right to conclude international treaties and agreements, while Russia retains responsibility for foreign policy, defense and security issues, and transport, Radio Rossii reported. -- Liz Fuller BRYANSK GOVERNOR FIRED. President Yeltsin dismissed Bryansk Oblast Governor Vladimir Barabanov on 29 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Barabanov was accused of misusing federal budget funds. He is the fifth governor to be fired this year for improper use of funds. On 9 April, Izvestiya reported that the leaders of 14 parties and organizations in the oblast had sent a letter to Yeltsin appealing to him to sack Barabanov, whom they accused of selling out to the Communist Party as well as squandering public money. The paper also noted that Barabanov had appointed Communists to leading positions in the oblast. Kommersant- Daily argued on 29 May that some of the signatures were falsified, adding that Barabanov, who refuted the allegations, did not meet with Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov when the latter visited the oblast on 21 May. The Communists won 35.4% in Bryansk in the December State Duma election. -- Penny Morvant ROSTOV, SAKHALIN OBLASTS SIGN POWER-SHARING AGREEMENTS. At a Kremlin ceremony, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed a series of power sharing agreements with Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chubov and Sakhalin Oblast Governor Igor Farkhutdinov, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. The agreements with Rostov delineate the division of authority between the federal and regional governments in areas such as tax and budget authority, transport, law enforcement, land use, and mineral rights. The accords with Sakhalin cover land use, education, and international economic links, among other issues. To date, similar agreements have been signed with 18 federation subjects. Chernomyrdin said the federal government intends to sign similar agreements with all 89 constituent members of the Russian Federation. -- Scott Parrish GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Finance Minister Theo Waigel arrived in Moscow on 29 May with the ostensible goal of signing a double- taxation treaty, Russian media reported the same day. Waigel met with Yeltsin, who affirmed his commitment to reform, and with First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov, who described Germany as "Russia's most important and reliable partner in Europe," according to ITAR-TASS. So far this year, Germany has promised Russia DM 4 billion in loans, including a DM 1 billion ($650 million) credit announced on 25 May. Germany also holds 46% of Russia's $40 billion debt to the Paris Club, which was rescheduled in March. -- Peter Rutland PRIMAKOV ON RUSSIAN RELATIONS WITH THE WEST. In a 29 May interview with the Italian newspaper Corrierre Della Sera , Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that despite tensions over issues like NATO expansion, "the Cold War will not return," but pointedly added that "Russia refuses to be regarded as the losing side." Primakov insisted that Russia remains a great power with an independent foreign policy, adding that "some in the West would like Russia to adopt a submissive stance, but they certainly will not secure this, no matter who wins the [presidential] election." He also complained that "NATO does not seem to want an understanding," referring to the rejection of various compromise offers on the expansion issue extended by Russia over the past few months. -- Scott Parrish MORE MONEY FOR TEACHERS. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets announced on 29 May that the government will allocate an additional 2.8 trillion rubles ($558 million) to eliminate teachers' wage arrears and to cover annual leave payments, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin issued a decree on 16 May ordering federal bodies to ensure the timely disbursal of holiday pay. Soskovets also said that the cabinet has decided to set up a new federal body to deal with fuel and energy supplies to vital institutions. There have been numerous cases of electricity supplies being cut to education establishments because of unpaid bills. The new working group will have the right to redistribute energy resources at the disposal of government bodies and of enterprises, regardless of their form of ownership. Teachers in Ulan-Ude in Buryatiya went on strike on 27 May to protest wage arrears. -- Penny Morvant U.S. RETIREE ASKED TO LEAVE VORONEZH. The local authorities in Voronezh have asked retired American Charles Swan to leave the city because of alleged irregularities in the work of the travel agency he runs, Izvestiya reported on 29 May. Swan, who used to work for the U.S. State Department, volunteers at Voronezh University as well as offering free travel services to students. Izvestiya, which is strongly anti- communist, contended that the political sympathies of officials at the local branch of the Federal Migration Service are the real reason for Swan's problems. The paper accused the authorities of taking steps against an "undesirable foreigner" because they expect a Communist victory in the presidential election. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIA TO PROCEED WITH PRIVATIZATION. Federal Property Fund Deputy Chairman Vladimir Malin has announced that the government hopes to raise 12.4 trillion rubles ($2.5 billion) this year by selling stakes in major energy and communications companies, Reuters reported on 29 May. The fund intends to sell off a 34% stake in Norsi-Oil, a 29% stake in NAFTA- Moskva, and a 1.5% stake in LUKoil, as well as 25% of shares in Svyazinvest, 22% in Moscow Central Telegraph, and 1% in the national power grid EES Rossii. Malin said the government will probably not repeat the controversial loans-for-shares auctions. The future of privatization depends on the outcome of the presidential election, since Zyuganov insists on preserving state ownership in strategic sectors. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RELEASE OF TAJIK SOLDIERS MAY BE DELAYED. The scheduled transfer of 26 government soldiers held prisoner by the Tajik opposition did not take place on 29-30 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The 26 men are among 300-400 men captured during the fighting in the Tavil-Dara region over the last eight months. The International Red Cross had arranged the deal and offered to be present at the transfer, but heavy rain is holding up the arrival of the Red Cross personnel in the Tavil-Dara region. The Tajik opposition had agreed to release the men, claiming that they were in poor health and that government blockades of the area had prevented the opposition forces from offering the prisoners basic medical care. -- Bruce Pannier FATE OF KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA IN KAZAKHSTAN. The People's Court in the Medeu region of Almaty is holding talks with the Kazakhstani Procurator- General's Office to urge it to withdraw the proposed ban on Komsomolskaya pravda , ITAR-TASS reported on 30 May. Supported by a group of Kazakh writers and political leaders, the Procurator-General's Office alleged that the newspaper had fomented ethnic discord and attacked the territorial integrity of Kazakhstan by publishing an interview with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in its 23 April issue. Solzhenitsyn's earlier statements endorsing a recreation of "Greater Russia" by incorporating Russian-inhabited border regions have made him persona non grata in Kazakhstan. However, a large number of Kazakhstani journalists claim that the proposed ban is an attempt to undermine the freedom of the press. Komsomolskaya pravda is the most popular Russian newspaper in Kazakhstan. -- Bhavna Dave [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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