When two people communicate, they each can be enriched - and unlike traditional resources, the more you share the more you have. - U.S. Vice President Al Gore
OMRI Daily Digest 5 June 1996

Vol. 2, No. 109, Part 1, 5 June 1996

The OMRI Daily Digest is published by the Open Media Research Institute, a nonprofit, public service research organization funded by the Open Society Institute, independent grants, and contracts with broadcasting organizations.

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RUSSIA

CHECHEN PEACE TALKS BEGIN. Russian and Chechen delegations opened peace talks in the Ingush capital, Nazran, on 4 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. AFP quoted Chechen delegation head Said-Hassan Abdumuslimov as stating that he would demand a referendum on Chechnya's future political status, a postponement of the scheduled 16 June election to a new Chechen People's Assembly, and the withdrawal of all Russian troops by a specified date. The Russian military insist that a withdrawal of Russian troops by 1 August is contingent on the Chechens disarming. The talks focused on procedural issues; two working commissions were created to discuss military issues as well as the exchange of hostages and prisoners of war on an "all for all" basis. Despite the ceasefire, there was sporadic small arms and machine gunfire in Grozny during the night of 4-5 June, Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller

ZYUGANOV MAKES OVERTURE TO THIRD FORCE. Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 4 June in Novosibirsk that he would offer members of the "Third Force"--fellow candidates Grigorii Yavlinskii, Aleksandr Lebed, and Svyatoslav Fedorov--positions in his "government of popular trust," ITAR-TASS reported. Zyuganov said that the candidates could consider his statement an "official invitation." Zyuganov is hoping to revive his flagging campaign by trying to convince Third Force supporters that he would represent their interests better than Yeltsin. However, all three candidates have stated that they will not withdraw from the race before the first round, and their actions before a possible runoff remain unpredictable. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN STAYS THE COURSE. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin denied that he has been "in the shadows" in recent months, according to an interview published in Komsomolskaya pravda on 4 June. He remarked "I am prime minister, not a television star." He urged voters to re-elect President Yeltsin and see through the reforms, instead of abandoning them half-way as has been the case so often in Russian history. Chernomyrdin said he paid no attention to rumors of his resignation. He said "Boris Yeltsin never took me by the hand," but let him run things his own way. As for Chechnya, he said the peace talks "were not between victors and vanquished"; and noted that he recently signed a 604 billion ruble ($120 million) decree for postwar reconstruction. -- Peter Rutland

CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION INVESTIGATING GRACHEV STATEMENT. The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) is conducting an investigation of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's assertion that the sailors who voted early had unanimously supported President Yeltsin. Revealing the initial findings of the study, TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said on 4 June that "the secrecy of the ballots had not been violated" and that Grachev's comments reflect his personal opinion, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the electoral law, results cannot be reported until voting is completed on 16 June. Izvestiya on 5 June commented that Grachev's remarks suggest that the military is not being permitted to vote freely and secretly, and serve as further grounds for his dismissal. -- Robert Orttung

DEBATE OVER FALSIFICATION CONTINUES. Communist campaign manager Valentin Kuptsov repeated on 4 June that his party plans to deploy 200,000 poll watchers who will obtain copies of the voting protocols from each electoral commission to make sure that there is no cheating, ITAR-TASS reported. He rejected presidential aide Georgii Satarov's recent assertions that these people would merely disrupt the voting. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin announced that he had send a letter to the Central Electoral Commission listing dozens of electoral law violations by President Yeltsin's team. Meanwhile, Moskovskii komsomolets charged on 4 June that one third of the local electoral commissions are sympathetic to the Communists. Rossiiskie vesti on 5 June asserted that any "falsification of the election results is impossible" because the electoral commissions are composed of representatives from different parties. -- Robert Orttung

DEFENSE LAW SIGNED. President Yeltsin on 1 June signed the law on defense, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 4 June. The law, which was approved by the Duma on 24 April and the Federation Council on 15 May, delineates the powers and duties of federal and regional bodies involved in Russia's defense and the rights and obligations of Russian civilians (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 April and 16 May 1996). The military newspaper stressed that, unlike the old defense law, the new legislation requires state bodies that include armed formations to abide by unified mobilization and combat-training plans. -- Penny Morvant

OUSTED MAYOR VOWS TO CONTINUE HUNGER STRIKE. Former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, who began a hunger strike on 28 May, vowed on 4 June to continue until a criminal case is opened against those who ousted him unlawfully and a court reviews his appeal against a December 1994 presidential decree. Cherepkov became Vladivostok's first democratically elected mayor in 1993 but was removed in March 1994 on corruption charges later proven false (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 May 1996). Primorskii Krai authorities then used fraudulent documents to persuade President Yeltsin to issue a decree removing him from office, Cherepkov claims. In his view, Yeltsin's decree violated the constitution and various federal laws, but courts have postponed his appeal more than a dozen times. Despite his hunger strike, Cherepkov told OMRI that he plans to vote for Yeltsin this June. -- Laura Belin

RUSSIAN UNION OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES CREATED. Representatives from 73 of Russia's 89 federal subjects have signed a constituent treaty of the Russian Union of Local Authorities, Russian media reported on 4 June. The union, constituted in December last year, aims at coordinating the activities of the country's local self-government institutions, effectively upholding their rights, and promoting their interests in relations with federal and regional authorities. Union leader and Duma deputy Roman Popkovich said tha a presidential decree on support for local authorities has been prepared and will be signed after the union is officially registered. -- Anna Paretskaya

PRIMAKOV CLARIFIES RUSSIAN STANCE ON NATO. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov rejected reports by Western agencies that he had told his NATO counterparts in Berlin that Russia could accept Eastern European countries joining NATO so long as foreign troops were not deployed there, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 June. Primakov said that although Russia could accept the political expansion of NATO, Moscow would oppose any eastward extension of NATO's military infrastructure, which he said included not just troops, but also joint military command structures, air defense systems, intelligence sharing, and similar measures. Nevertheless, Primakov expressed satisfaction with the results of the Berlin meeting, saying that NATO "had for the first time begun to move in the direction of adapting to new realities." He also said that Western leaders are beginning to understand that NATO cannot expand "without an intensive dialog with Russia" about the terms of expansion. -- Scott Parrish

ZYUGANOV ADVISER ON ARMS CONTROL TREATIES. Writing in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 4 June, Communist deputy Aleksei Podberezkin, deputy chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee and a foreign policy adviser to Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, proposes guidelines for Russia to follow while implementing existing arms control agreements and negotiating new ones. First, Russia should only implement agreements that bolster its security, and propose amendments to existing ones that no longer do so; second, Russia cannot afford to trade military concessions for political good will; third, Russia must link arms control agreements to the behavior of other states; and fourth, Russia can only spend modest sums on arms control. Podberezkin's comments suggest the approach that a Zyuganov administration might take toward agreements like START-2, CFE, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the proposed Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, all of which he said need modification to meet his criteria. -- Scott Parrish

FOREIGN MINISTRY ENCOURAGES TRADE LINKS WITH IRAQ. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin announced on 4 June that the Foreign Ministry and Foreign Trade Ministry are encouraging Russian firms to open commercial links with Iraq under the terms of the oil-for-aid deal that Baghdad recently signed with the UN, ITAR-TASS reported. Demurin said that under the terms of UN Resolution 986, which allows Iraq to sell a limited amount of oil to purchase food and medicine, Russian firms can conclude contracts with Iraq to purchase and transport oil. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, U.S. HOLD JOINT ANTI-MISSILE EXERCISES. Pursuant to a 1994 agreement, the first joint Russian-U.S. tactical anti-missile defense exercises have started at the Falcon military base in Colorado, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 June. A team of 18 Russian anti-missile experts headed by General Viktor Niruk and 20 U.S. experts will practice coordinated anti-missile defense operations that could be used during future joint peacekeeping missions. Meanwhile, Russian and U.S. naval officers meeting in Hawaii agreed to hold a third joint naval exercise, entitled "Assistance at Sea-96," in August near the Russian port of Vladivostok, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 June. -- Constantine Dmitriev

UNEMPLOYMENT CONTINUES TO GROW. The number of unemployed officially registered with the Federal Employment Service has risen by about 500,000 since the beginning of the year to 2.77 million, or 3.8% of the working population, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 June. Unemployment rates are highest in Ingushetiya (more than 22%) and lowest in Moscow (0.6%). There are an average of nine applicants for every vacancy. Most openings are in low-paying sectors, such as agriculture and education. The employment service has found jobs for more than 580,000 people since the beginning of the year and sent 200,000 on retraining courses. On the basis of survey data, Goskomstat estimated that the actual unemployment rate was 8.6% at the end of March. Meanwhile, participants in a conference on labor safety said about 300,000 to 400,000 people sustain industrial injuries every year, with 7,000 to 8,000 losing their lives. -- Penny Morvant

PRIVATIZATION HEAD JOINS GAZPROM BOARD. . . Aleksandr Kazakov, the head of the State Privatization Commission, was appointed the chairman of the board of directors of Gazprom at its annual general meeting, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 4 June. Rem Vyakhirev remains the president of the company's management (CEO). Under the law on joint stock companies which came into effect on 1 January 1996, the posts of CEO and board chairman cannot be held by the same person. The federal government still holds 40% of Gazprom shares. It is common to appoint government officials (usually deputy ministers) to sit on the boards of major companies in which the state has a block of shares, but this obviously raises the question of a conflict of interest. The allocation of the remaining Gazprom shares is not known. Up to 1 million individuals hold shares in the company, including its 370,000 workers and other residents of gas-producing regions. -- Peter Rutland

. . .AS GAZPROM ISSUES ANNUAL REPORT. With sales of 123 trillion rubles ($30 billion) in 1995, Gazprom ranks among the world's top 50 companies. Its output is equal to 8% of the entire Russian GDP. It was owed 43 trillion rubles ($10.2 billion) by customers at the end of 1995, rising to 57 trillion rubles as of May 1996. The author of the Nezavisimaya gazeta report, Tatyana Koshkareva, suggests that Gazprom has displaced the Central Bank as the most important source of credits in the Russian economy. -- Peter Rutland


TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

SHAH-DENIZ CONTRACT FINALIZED. A consortium of European, Russian, Iranian, and Turkish oil companies signed a major agreement estimated at $3-4 billion in Baku on 4 June to develop Azerbaijan's Shah-Deniz off-shore oil and gas fields, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. Shah-Deniz contains reserves of 200 million metric tons of oil and gas condensate and 400 billion cubic meters of natural gas. BP and Norway's Statoil--which are the largest partners in the consortium to develop the Chirag, Azeri, and Gyuneshli fields--have a 51% stake in the contract; Russia's Lukoil and the Iranian state oil company have 10% each. -- Liz Fuller

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT VISITS GEORGIA. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan arrived in Tbilisi on 4 June, Russian media reported same day. Ter-Petrossyan and his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, are to sign several bilateral agreements and a communique emphasizing the inviolability of the Armenian-Georgian border. -- Irakli Tsereteli

RFE/RL'S GAIN, RUSSIA'S LOSS IN UZBEKISTAN? Nezavisimaya gazeta on 4 June speculated that the declining cooperation with Russian journalists in Uzbekistan is linked to RFE/RL broadcasts to the country. The article alleges that RFE/RL has taken a pro-government, anti-imperial slant in its Uzbek reporting in an attempt to prevent the country from falling back into the Russian orbit. The paper also noted that the radio is supported by the U.S. Congress. While Uzbek President Islam Karimov assured Russian journalists in February that accredited reporters would be allowed to disseminate information in the country, the paper observed that shortly afterward Russian journalist Sergei Grebinyuk was found dead and that two other Russian journalists subsequently left the country. The article claimed that an "iron curtain" had fallen between the two countries in the sphere of information exchange. -- Bruce Pannier


CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

RUSSIAN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARIES CONTINUE UKRAINIAN VISIT. Pavel Grachev and William Perry with their Ukrainian counterpart Valerii Shmarov traveled to the Pervomaisk missile base in Ukraine and planted sunflowers over a former silo, international agencies reported. The ceremony marked the removal of all nuclear weapons from Ukraine's territory. Perry said the action will ensure that future generations will live in peace. Kazakhstan delivered the last of its nuclear weapons to Russia a year ago, while Belarus had delayed transferring the last of its warheads because of financial difficulties. The U.S. signed an agreement allocating $43 million to help build housing for retired rocket forces. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PRELIMINARILY APPROVES DRAFT CONSTITUTION. Ukrainian lawmakers voted on 4 June to preliminarily approve the draft of a new post-Soviet constitution, international agencies reported. Supporters of the draft managed to win a simple majority after President Leonid Kuchma threatened to call a national referendum on the main points in the document. They hailed the vote as a big step toward consolidating Ukrainian statehood. The draft enshrines Ukrainian as the only state language and limits Crimean autonomy, which is expected to elicit protests from pro-Russian forces in the region. It also schedules the next parliamentary elections for March 1998 and presidential elections for October 1999. Leftist forces said the draft is undemocratic, giving strong powers to the president and dismantling the old system of the soviets. Observers doubt the Democrats can muster the two-thirds majority vote they need to adopt the constitution in its second reading. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN SPEAKER CRITICIZES PRESIDENT. Syamyon Sharetsky told the parliament that all changes in Belarus since the Soviet totalitarian system collapsed have been for the worse, Reuters reported on 4 June. He went on to criticize President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for "hotheadedness, a mistrust toward others, and a will to take sole control of everything." Sharetsky's statements signal the parliament's increasing disillusionment with the president. The same day, an RFE/RL correspondent reported that Justice Minister Valyantsin Sukalo sent a second letter to the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) warning against unsanctioned rallies. Under Belarusian law, the justice minister has the right to unilaterally ban an organization after it has been issued two warnings. Opposition members have voiced concern that the authorities are taking steps aimed at banning the BPF since political demonstrations against Lukashenka's policies began in March. -- Ustina Markus


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