|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 112, Part I, 10 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 CHECHEN TALKS RESUME. Meeting on 9 June in Nazran after a three-day break, Russian and Chechen representatives reached agreement in principle on a timetable for the withdrawal of Russian troops and the demilitarization of Chechnya by 30 August, but they failed to sign a protocol to this effect, Russian and Western agencies reported. No agreement was reached on the Chechen demands for a postponement of the election to a new People's Assembly until after the Russian troop withdrawal. On 9 June, the pro-Moscow Chechen government criticized the head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, for allegedly exceeding his authority by holding direct talks with acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's group, according to Reuters. The pro- Moscow parliament and government also addressed a statement to President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin protesting their exclusion from the Nazran talks and questioning Yandarbiev's commitment to the 27 May peace agreement signed in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. On 8 June, Yusup Elmurzaev, the administration head of Urus-Martan, was shot dead by masked gunmen. -- Liz Fuller TROOP PULLOUT FROM CHECHNYA DELAYED. A spokesman for the General Staff on 7 June said that the withdrawal of federal troops from Chechnya is "impossible" at this time, ITAR-TASS reported. Lt. Gen. Andrei Ivanov said that the continued shelling of federal troops despite the recent ceasefire agreement require them to remain in place for the time being. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had said earlier that forces not permanently assigned to the North Caucasus military district would begin withdrawing from Chechnya on 1 June. -- Doug Clarke YELTSIN CONFIDENT OF VICTORY IN FIRST ROUND. President Boris Yeltsin said his "intuition" tells him that he will not only be re-elected but may win the election outright in the first round, NTV reported on 9 June. He also said that he has instructed his staff not to prepare for a second round election. The latest opinion polls by VTsIOM and ROMIR, broadcast on the same program, indicate that Yeltsin leads Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov among likely voters. However, he would need to win more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff, and his support is currently measured in the mid-30s. Before leaving for Tatarstan on 9 June, Yeltsin met with rival presidential candidate Aleksandr Lebed, but no details were released about their discussion. -- Laura Belin in Moscow YELTSIN SEEKS MUSLIM VOTE IN KAZAN. During his 9 June trip to Tatarstan, President Yeltsin sought to attract Muslim voters. While in Kazan, Yeltsin saluted the republic's efforts to rebuild a church and mosque in the Kazan Kremlin and said that a democratic republic would respect the religious beliefs of its people, ITAR-TASS reported. During his visit, Yeltsin wore a Muslim skull cap and promised to build a metro in the Tatar capital, AFP reported. Russia is estimated to have from 12 to 20 million Muslims. Yeltsin held up Tatarstan's willingness to sign a treaty with Moscow as an example for Chechnya. In 1991, Tatarstan declared its independence from Russia but negotiated an autonomy treaty with the federal government in 1994. The pro-government Our Home Is Russia won 29% in the republic in the December election, far better than the second place Communists, while the Islamic party NUR (light) won 5%. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN DECREES MORE SOCIAL BENEFITS. Continuing his pre-election hand- outs, President Yeltsin signed a series of decrees on 7 and 8 June increasing social benefits, ITAR-TASS reported. Shortly after ordering the transfer of 3.8 trillion rubles ($790 million) to the regions to pay for teachers' annual leave, Yeltsin on 7 June gave the government 20 days to submit a bill to the Duma that would give health and education specialists civil servant status and raise their salaries. He also issued a decree increasing benefits to those with garden plots. On 8 June, the president signed an edict giving residents of Russia's Far East the right to a 50% discount on rail or air fares to central regions once every two years. Finally, Yeltsin instructed the government to submit bills to the parliament within a month that would raise child allowances for single mothers and reduce the tax burden on families with many children. -- Penny Morvant CENTRAL ELECTORAL CLEARS YELTSIN CAMPAIGN OF VIOLATIONS. The secretary of the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) told the Duma on 7 June that the TsIK sees no reason to believe that President Yeltsin's campaign is violating the electoral law, ITAR-TASS reported. In particular, he said that a 100-page glossy photo album of the president, which the Yeltsin campaign is handing out, does not count as campaign material in the opinion of the TsIK's legal experts (OMRI Special Report: Russian Presidential Election Survey, 5 June 1996). TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov rejected an invitation from the deputies to participate in the Duma discussion, claiming that he had to attend a meeting of the TsIK. -- Robert Orttung GENERALS TOLD NOT TO ORDER TROOPS TO VOTE FOR YELTSIN. The Central Election Commission told the leaders of the Airborne Troops that their recent call on troops to vote for President Yeltsin was illegal, the Dow Jones News service reported on 7 June, citing AP. The deputy commander of the paratroops, Gen. Vladimir Kazantsev, claimed that the letter sent to all unit commanders only "recommended" to the troops that they vote for Yeltsin but did not "urge" them to do so. The commission demanded that the commander withdraw the letter. -- Doug Clarke SHANTSEV ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT VIEWED AS POLITICAL. The attack on Valerii Shantsev, incumbent Yurii Luzhkov's running mate in the 16 June Moscow mayoral election, has prompted a flurry of accusations and counteraccusations. Shantsev was seriously injured in an explosion outside his apartment on 7 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. Luzhkov speculated that the attack was the work of "pro-communist forces." His aide claimed that it was aimed at disrupting the mayoral election. Luzhkov is favored to win, but he would be legally obliged to withdraw if Shantsev died, as he would not have time to reregister with another running mate. If Shantsev had died, the mayoral election would possibly have been cancelled, reducing turnout in the presidential poll in Moscow. The Communists, meanwhile, claimed that the attack was "the first in a series of planned provocations" engineered by their opponents and aimed at derailing the presidential election. -- Penny Morvant GAZPROM TO BUY SHARES IN NTV. Gazprom, the gas monopoly with close ties to the government, will soon buy shares in the independent television network NTV, Kommersant-Daily and The Moscow Times reported on 8 June. Currently, 77% of the network's shares are held by Vladimir Gusinskii's Most group, and NTV staff own the rest. Gusinskii will reportedly keep a controlling share in the network. NTV executives said Gazprom's investment will help launch five new satellite channels later this year and will not affect the network's editorial policy. NTV's news coverage in recent months has reflected a more pro-government slant than its coverage of last year's parliamentary campaign. The network's president, Igor Malashenko, joined President Yeltsin's campaign committee in March. -- Laura Belin in Moscow DUMA CRITICIZES LATVIA, ESTONIA. The Duma on 7 June passed a resolution accusing Latvia and Estonia of "deliberately hindering" Russian citizens living there from participating in the upcoming Russian presidential election, ITAR-TASS and BNS reported. The resolution appealed to the OSCE and the Council of Europe, protesting Estonia and Latvia's refusal to open additional polling stations in areas where large numbers of Russian citizens. While estimates indicate that about 50,000 Russian citizens live in Latvia, and 90,000 in Estonia, only around 7,500 and 15,000, respectively, voted in the December 1995 Duma election. Russian officials blame the low turnout on the lack of polling stations. Estonia recently decided to permit a fourth polling station in a Tallinn suburb, and has offered to open more but Moscow has rejected Tallinn's conditions. (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 June 1996). -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN IRAN. Viktor Posavlyuk wrapped up a three-day visit to Iran by holding talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velyati on 9 June, ITAR-TASS reported. In thinly-veiled criticism of the U.S., Posavlyuk criticized attempts by unnamed third countries to "isolate" Iran. Velyati and Posavlyuk jointly criticized NATO expansion, and said their positions on the disputed issue of Caspian Sea mineral rights were "similar." But Posavlyuk admitted that discussions on the ongoing Tajik conflict "were not simple," and added that he had tried to convince his Iranian interlocutors that "there is no alternative" to the Middle East peace process, which Tehran opposes. The next stop on Posavlyuk's regional tour is Baghdad. -- Scott Parrish GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER: NO NUKES OR TROOPS NEAR RUSSIA. Volker Ruehe said that NATO does not plan to station nuclear weapons or foreign troops near Russia's borders when it expands into Central Europe, Reuters reported on 8 June. In an interview to appear in Germany's Focus magazine on 10 June, he was quoted as saying that NATO does not want to "position nuclear weapons differently or station foreign troops on Poland's eastern border." He stressed, however, that new members would have to be "integrated militarily" and would have the same rights and duties as all other NATO members. -- Doug Clarke IMF REACTION TO CENTRAL BANK TRANSFER. The IMF has expressed its concern over the Duma's decision last week to transfer 5 trillion rubles ($1 billion) of the Central Bank's 1994 profits to the federal budget (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 June 1996), AFP and Reuters reported on 7 June. An IMF spokesman said the move does not technically violate the conditions of its $10.1 billion Extended Facility Fund loan. However, by increasing the money supply it is likely to spur inflation, which hit an all time low of 1.6% in May. The IMF called upon the Central Bank to offset the inflationary impact by selling government bonds on the open market. The IMF acknowledged that the Russian government is facing budgetary problems but urged it to take steps to improve tax collection. -- Natalia Gurushina PRIVATIZATION RUMBLINGS. The State Duma on 7 June discussed the report of its commission investigating the privatization of Norilsk Nickel last year, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma passed a resolution urging the government to hold onto the state's shares and to take steps to deal with Norilsk's debt problems. The Duma also created a new commission to examine the situation at several privatized firms, including the oil company YUKOS, gold producer Lenzoloto, and chemical giant Apatity. The Moscow Arbitration Court on 4 June annulled the results of last December's Sibneft loan-share auction. However, as Nezavisi-maya gazeta pointed out on 7 June, the Communists have been strangely silent on the privatization issue, and have not tried to use it in their election campaign. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN COSSACKS CALL FOR PROTECTION OF RUSSIANS IN ABKHAZIA. The Union of Cossacks of Georgia has sent a letter to President Yeltsin and his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, protesting reprisals by Abkhaz separatist elements against ethnic Russians in Abkhazia and calling for measures to protect them, according to Georgia's Kontakt News Agency on 6 June and Radio Rossii on 7 June. The Russian population of Abkhazia numbers between 70,000 and 80,000 people. -- Liz Fuller TAJIK GOVERNMENT FORCES ADVANCE ON TAVIL-DARA. Government forces are closing in on the town of Tavil-Dara, which has been in rebel hands since early May, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 June. In a two-pronged attack, government troops have pushed to Chil-Dara, about 25 km west of Tavil- Dara, and have occupied Kalai-Khussein, 20 km east of Tavil-Dara. The opposition Voice of Free Tajikistan reported on 8 June that almost 60 government soldiers were killed in the drives, the government confirmed five dead but gave no casualty figures for the opposition. Meanwhile, in the town of Obigarm, 80 km east of Dushanbe, opposition fighters attacked a checkpoint on 8 June; one government soldier was killed and four wounded before the rebels fled, leaving seven of their own dead, AFP reported. -- Bruce Pannier KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA CASE RESCHEDULED IN KAZAKHSTAN. A Kazakhstani court on 7 June approved a postponement of the litigation case against the newspaper Komsomolskaya pravda, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported the same day. The paper's editors had claimed that due to a heavy workload surrounding the upcoming Russian election, they would be unable to send a representative to court until after 16 June. The court has now set the trial for 21 June. The paper was banned in Kazakhstan after it printed an article by Nobel Prize winning writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on 23 April in which he argued that parts of Kazakhstan naturally and historically belong to Russia. Eleven members of the Kazakhstani Writers' Union filed a suit against the paper, saying the article was an infringement on "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state." -- 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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