|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 107, Part I, 3 June 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 CFE DEAL ANNOUNCED IN VIENNA. Diplomats at the CFE treaty review conference have agreed to give Russia three more years to meet the "flank limits" on heavy military equipment specified in the 1990 agreement, Russian and Western agencies reported on 1 June. Under the deal, Russia will have until 31 May 1999 to comply with the flank limits, which it has been violating since last November. Until then, Russia will freeze its deployments in the flank zone at their current levels: 1,897 tanks, 4,397 armored personnel carriers, and 2,422 pieces of artillery. According to Reuters, the deal also redefines the flank zones by shrinking them. As a result, even after May 1999, Russia will be permitted to deploy significantly more heavy weapons along its northern and southern borders than would have been permitted under the original terms. -- Scott Parrish FIGHTING IN CHECHNYA CONTINUES. Despite the ceasefire which supposedly took effect at midnight on 31 May, Chechen separatist forces attacked a Russian roadblock in the village of Shuani on 1 June, taking 26 Russian troops hostage, and ongoing hostilities in Shali claimed deaths on both sides, Russian media reported. ORT quoted the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, as claiming that the ongoing hostilities demonstrate that acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev cannot control his field commanders. The Russian-Chechen talks on disarmament, scheduled to take place on 1 June in Makhachkala, were postponed and will now be held in the Ingush capital of Nazran on 4-5 June, according to Russian TV (RTR) and ITAR-TASS. Four Russian troops died on 2 June when their armored vehicle was blown up in Grozny, Reuters reported. Chechen warlord and convicted murderer Ruslan Labazanov was killed in his home base of Tolstoi-Yurt during the night of 31 May-1 June, NTV reported. Chechen sources reject ITAR-TASS's claim that he was killed in a shoot-out with his own bodyguards. -- Liz Fuller CHECHNYA TO DISCUSS POWER-SHARING WITH RUSSIA. President Yeltsin decreed on 28 May that a public discussion will begin in Chechnya in June on a power-sharing treaty with Russia, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 31 May. The draft treaty admits Chechnya's right for self-determination and guarantees it special status within the Russian Federation, although it does not give the republic any special powers. The Chechen and the federal governments would share responsibility for foreign relations, the economy, and the demarcation of Chechen administrative borders, according to the draft. By the end of the month, a new version of the treaty will be submitted to President Yeltsin to consider based on the Chechen responses. -- Anna Paretskaya YELTSIN WAR CHEST NEARS LEGAL LIMIT. President Boris Yeltsin's campaign had collected 14.365 billion rubles ($2.9 million) by 27 May, just short of the 14.437 billion limit set by the electoral law, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May, citing the Central Electoral Commission. Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov took in only 3.274 billion rubles, up only 250,000 rubles since 15 May. Aleksandr Lebed showed the greatest increase, going from 155.5 million rubles on 15 May to more than 5.7 billion. Vladimir Zhirinovsky collected 7.2 billion and Grigorii Yavlinskii raised 5.9 billion. Yeltsin also led in spending, with 6.78 billion rubles, followed by Yavlinskii (5.42 billion), Zhirinovsky (3.36 billion), and Zyuganov (3.25 billion). Going into the last two weeks of the campaign, Yeltsin has a considerable amount of money at his disposal, while Zyuganov only has 20 million rubles. Most observers believe that these figures have little relationship to the candidates' actual spending. -- Robert Orttung GAZPROM BACKS YELTSIN. The annual general meeting of shareholders in the energy giant Gazprom took place on 31 May, and adopted a resolution urging the re-election of Boris Yeltsin,Trud reported on 1 June. The statement said that the other candidates were unacceptable because "none of them have experience in government, their populist programs are divorced from real life, and are aimed at another revolutionary upheaval." Meanwhile. on 1 June the full text of Yeltsin's lengthy electoral program was published in the official newspaper Rossiiskie vesti.. -- Peter Rutland COMMUNISTS REJECT SATAROV COMMENTS. Valentin Kuptsov, head of Gennadii Zyuganov's campaign staff, denied presidential advisor Georgii Satarov's statement that the Communists have a plan to seize power illegitimately, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 1 June (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 May 1996). Kuptsov called Satarov's comment a "provocative lie aimed at discrediting the Communist Party and its leader, Gennadii Zyuganov, on the eve of the election." The Communists may file a libel suit against Satarov, NTV reported on 31 May. Kuptsov argued that Zyuganov's popularity was 10-12 points higher than President Yeltsin's and that it would be impossible for the president to catch up, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Most polls show the candidates even or Yeltsin pulling into the lead. -- Robert Orttung ANOTHER POWER-SHARING TREATY SIGNED. During a campaign swing through Perm Oblast late last week, President Yeltsin signed a power-sharing agreement with the oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug, which is situated within the oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. After the ceremony, Yeltsin said that such agreements strengthen Russian statehood, but many Russian politicians, including Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, have denounced power-sharing treaties for widening inequality between regions. Perm is the 20th federation subject to sign such a deal with the government and the eighth to sign during Yeltsin's election campaign. -- Anna Paretskaya ST. PETERSBURG MAYOR LOSES ELECTION. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak narrowly lost the second round of the city's gubernatorial election on 2 June, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 3 June. According to the preliminary results, former First Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev received 47.5% of the vote, while Sobchak won 45.8%; turnout was about 43% of eligible voters. The last week of the campaign was marked by a series of scandals. For instance, nationalist Duma deputy and television journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov, campaigning on TV for Yakovlev, said he had evidence that appeared to suggest that a criminal case had been launched against Sobchak; this was later denied by Procurator General's Office. Meanwhile, one of Sobchak's campaign advertisements implicitly accused Yakovlev of corruption, showing his huge, luxurious home, NTV reported on 2 June. In 1991, Sobchak was elected mayor in the first round with 66% of the vote. -- Anna Paretskaya STRIKING WORKERS RALLY IN NORILSK. At a rally on 2 June, about 3,000 people in the Arctic city of Norilsk called on the president and government to resolve the problems facing the Norilsk industrial region, ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, more than 10,000 workers at the Norilsk Nickel copper and nickel combine went on strike to demand the delivery of winter supplies to the city and the payment of overdue wages, estimated by a union official at 1.3 trillion rubles ($260 million). Mining has stopped at one pit, and smelting is at a standstill. The strike is scheduled to continue until 4 June, when the company's president and representatives of ONEKSIMbank, the main shareholder, arrive for talks. Wage arrears were an issue in the struggle earlier this year for control over the combine (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February and 15 April 1996). -- Penny Morvant CHERNOMYRDIN ON ARREARS . . . During a visit to Mordoviya, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin promised decisive action to deal with the continuing problem of non-payments, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. He said special teams of accountants will be sent to some of the 70 firms that top the list of debtors, accounting for around two thirds of all arrears. Chernomyrdin also said that a special non-budget fund will be created to assist defense conversion, on top of the 2 trillion rubles ($400 million) allotted in the 1996 budget. The same day, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets reported that defense plants will be granted a tax waiver of 1.2 trillion rubles to help them pay electricity bills. -- Peter Rutland . . . AND ON HELP FOR MORDOVIYA. Chernomyrdin also told local leaders in the Mordovan capital of Saransk that the federal government will contribute 5 trillion rubles ($1 billion) over the next five years to a special program to revive the republic's economy. The conversion help that Chernomyrdin announced will be particularly welcome in Mordoviya, which has a heavy concentration of defense plants. Our Home Is Russia finished second to the communists in Mordoviya in the December elections. President Yeltsin will have to win in places like Mordoviya if he is to gain re-election. -- Peter Rutland WORLD BANK GIVES RUSSIA $80 MILLION ENVIRONMENTAL GRANT. The World Bank will give Russia an $80 million grant to finance two environmental projects, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. The first project is to subsidize cuts in the production of chemicals that damage the ozone layer; the second aims at protecting rare animals and plants in the interest of biodiversity. -- Natalia Gurushina AEROFLOT AND TRANSAERO ANNOUNCE PLANS TO COOPERATE. Russia's two rival aviation companies, Aeroflot and Transaero, have announced that they will consolidate their efforts in order to cut costs and to push foreign competitors from the Russian market, Kommersant-Daily reported on 1 June. The companies plan to carry out joint operations at Sheremetevo, Russia's main international airport. Aeroflot, which accounts for 90% of the country's international flights, will transport passengers from abroad, while Transaero will carry them across Russia and to other CIS states. Aeroflot is a descendant of the Soviet company with the same name. Transaero was created in September 1991 by a group of avionics enterprises, and was the first private Russian airline to lease foreign- built aircraft. -- Natalia Gurushina RUSSIA FORMALLY ADOPTS RUBLE CONVERTIBILITY ON CURRENT ACCOUNT. Russia formally adopted the IMF's Article 8 provisions on current account convertibility on 1 June, ITAR-TASS reported. This means that the government will no longer require Russian exporters to immediately exchange 50% of their foreign currency earnings. However, restrictions on capital account operations will remain in place. The move will further ease foreign trade and foreign investment in Russia. It is also possible that the ruble will soon be traded on foreign exchanges. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MORE ARRESTS IN AZERBAIJAN. Five men said to be members of the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front have been arrested in Nakhichevan in connection with an alleged attempt to assassinate President Heidar Aliev in 1993, Reuters reported on 1 June, quoting a source in the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry. A spokesman for the Azerbaijan Popular Front has denied that the men are members of the organization. -- Liz Fuller OSCE PRAISES UZBEK PARLIAMENTARIANS. OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Frank Swaelen praised Uzbekistan's parliament as a "factor of stability" in the entire region, and said he hoped it would provide an example to Uzbekistan's neighbors, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. Uzbekistan had just received similar praise from the German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 May 1996). -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKHSTANI MAJILIS REJECTS PENSIONS BILL. The lower house of the Kazakhstani parliament, the Majilis, rejected a bill on pensions, claiming that it is too harsh on the elderly, according to a 24 May Express report monitored by the BBC. The bill's proposals to raise the retirement age and abolish special benefits for various social groups such as teachers, miners, and the victims of the nuclear tests at Semipalatinsk are aimed at saving about $8 billion. -- Bhavna Dave KAZAKHSTAN LAUNCHES NEW PROGRAM TO CURB NARCOTICS FLOW. Kazakhstani legal authorities have launched a new anti-drug operation called "Mak (poppy) 96" to halt the production and sale of narcotics and to prevent them from being transported through the republic, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 June. Special police brigades, provided with helicopters, have blocked access to areas where hemp is grown; about 140,000 hectares of land in the Chu valley alone are thought to be used for this purpose. About two metric tons of narcotics have already been seized this year. -- Bhavna Dave KAZAKHSTAN'S UIGHURS CONCERNED OVER CHINESE CRACKDOWN IN XINJIANG. Muhidin Mukhlissi, spokesman for the Uighur opposition United National Revolutionary Front (UNRF) of Western Turkestan, told AFP on 31 May by telephone from Kazakhstan that 20 people had died in clashes between Uighur separatists and Chinese officials in the Uighur Autonomous province of Xinjiang in China. Chinese officials have denied these reports as "pure lies," AFP reported on 1 June. Leaders of the UNRF and two other Uighur separatist movements based in Kazakhstan allege that a major Chinese crackdown on Uighur separatists in Xinjiang began just after the 26 April summit in Shanghai between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Kazakhstan's government has pledged support to China in combatting separatist activities on the border. -- Bhavna Dave TAJIK-RUSSIAN INTEGRATED ENERGY PLAN. Russia and Tajikistan signed a protocol establishing an integrated energy plan on 1 June, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Tajikistan has enormous hydroelectric energy potential, but the reports did not mention how the energy would be transported through the countries that separate Russia and Tajikistan. The visiting Russian delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, also held meetings with Tajik officials on repayment plans for Tajikistan's debt to Russia, and Tajikistan's possible membership in the customs union with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported. -- 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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