|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
No. 116, Part I, 14 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 ORT BROADCASTS YELTSIN INTERVIEW ON EVE OF ELECTION. On the morning of 14 June, the last day campaigning is allowed in the mass media, Russian Public TV (ORT) broadcast a lengthy interview with President Boris Yeltsin. Helped along by friendly questioning, Yeltsin repeated some of his main campaign themes, insisting that the reforms should be finished by the person who started them and that a Communist return to power would lead to violence. When asked about Chechnya, Yeltsin emphasized that he never declared a war "against the Chechen people" and personally felt pain for every soldier killed there; however, he argued, the military campaign was absolutely necessary to prevent the disintegration of Russia. At the end of the interview, Yeltsin reminded voters that the 16 June vote will "decide Russia's fate." The interviewer then wished Yeltsin "victory, victory, and victory." -- Laura Belin in Moscow YELTSIN SIGNS MORE POWER-SHARING AGREEMENTS. President Yeltsin on 13 June signed power-sharing agreements with Tver, St. Petersburg, and Leningrad Oblast, ORT reported. Since 1994, he has signed agreements with 26 federation members--15 of them since the beginning of the presidential campaign--in an effort to win the support of regional leaders. Yeltsin will wind up his campaign on 14 June in his hometown of Yekaterinburg, the city where he launched his campaign. Presidential political adviser Georgii Satarov said that Yeltsin "remains open" to political consultations with leaders of all parties, including the Communists, although he still hopes for a victory in the first round. Satarov did not exclude the possibility of negotiations before the runoff. -- Robert Orttung ZYUGANOV QUESTIONS OPINION POLL REPORTS. "We are confidently heading toward the election and, in fact, have already won," Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov told ITAR-TASS on 13 June. Zyuganov rejected recent opinion polls showing Yeltsin in the lead, saying that two-thirds of the country support the program of his bloc. If victorious, he said that he would form a government of national trust based on consultations with major business and political groups, NTV reported. He said that he considers the presidency a "heavy burden" and that if he was not committed to public service "with my connections, I could become a very rich man in Russia." He invited Yeltsin to a televised debate on 14 June. The main candidates did not show up for debates planned on 13 June, however, and ORT canceled them. Zyuganov refused to participate in Yeltsin's absence. Meanwhile, the Hungarian newspaper Magyar Hirlap confirmed the authenticity of Zyuganov's recent interview praising Stalin, noting that historian Miklos Kun had recorded it on 31 May, the BBC reported, citing MTI (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 June 1996). -- Robert Orttung SCUFFLE OVER DUMA EXHIBIT. Three days before the presidential election in Russia, an exhibit opened--and then quickly closed--at the State Duma building with the title, "The Moscow Apocalypse." The exhibit includes several photographs of the October 1993 armed clash between the president and parliament. One part of the exhibit was labeled "Mass executions near the Ostankino television center." An anti-communist assistant to Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova took one part of it off the wall and left. When the assistant came back, left-wing Agrarian deputy Tatyana Astrakhankina, the author of the book on which the exhibit is based, was waiting for him and started to hit him. The police arrived and the exhibit was closed. -- Anne Nivat in Moscow ZHIRINOVSKY SAYS HE WILL BE PRESIDENT IN 2000. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 13 June said that he would win the presidency in the year 2000, NTV reported. By then, Yeltsin would no longer be a candidate and the Communists would not be able to benefit from popular dissatisfaction since the economy would have improved, he reasoned. He also rejected any alliance with the Communists, saying it would be good if he "did not sell out his voters." Overall, he gave his campaign performance a "C." -- Robert Orttung YAVLINSKII MAKES CASE FOR DEMOCRATIC OPPOSITION. Appearing on NTV on 13 June, Grigorii Yavlinskii disputed the suggestion that his candidacy was "quixotic," even though opinion polls show he has virtually no chance of advancing to the second round. Every vote for the "democratic opposition" is a vote to change Yeltsin's policies and decrease the influence of more extreme opposition forces, Yavlinskii argued. He asserted that if Zhirinovsky finishes third on 16 June, Yeltsin will drift toward Zhirinovsky's policy stands before the second round. In contrast, if the democratic opposition has a strong showing, Yeltsin will be forced to meet some of Yavlinskii's demands, such as replacing the prime minister and defense minister. -- Laura Belin in Moscow LDPR SECRETARY KILLED IN SIBERIA. Vladimir Oberderfer, secretary of the Novokuznetsk branch of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, was shot dead on 13 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. Zhirinovsky argued that the murder was politically motivated, but the deputy governor of Kemerovo Oblast said that the killing was probably connected to Oberderfer's business dealings. According to the Moscow Oblast police chief, the recent murder of Zhukovskii Mayor Viktor Mosolov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 June 1996) was probably also a contract killing with an economic motive. The presidential press office, however, was quick to issue a statement saying that it was another act of terrorism meant to intimidate voters on the eve of the election. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN ENDORSES CRIMINAL CODE. President Yeltsin approved the long awaited Criminal Code on 13 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The code was adopted by the Duma on 24 May and the Federation Council on 5 June and will go into effect on 1 January 1997. It retains capital punishment but reduces the number of crimes liable to the death penalty from 18 to five and provides for life imprisonment. Presidential legal adviser Mikhail Krasnov said on 8 June that the new code gives priority to crimes against an individual rather than crimes against the state. It pays particular attention to economic crimes, including concepts such as unfair competition and money laundering. -- Penny Morvant CHAIRMAN OF PRESIDENTIAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CRITICIZES PREDECESSOR. Vladimir Kartashkin, appointed to succeed Sergei Kovalev as chairman of the presidential human rights commission on 20 May, criticized his predecessor for paying more attention to violations of the human rights of Chechens than to discrimination against ethnic Russians living in Chechnya, Ekho Moskvy reported on 13 June. Kovalev, a sharp critic of the government's policy in Chechnya, resigned in January after being sidelined by the president. Kartashkin, a professor at the Academy of Sciences' Institute of State and Law, clearly wants a less antagonistic relationship with the authorities, saying that the human rights movement should "move from the negative to the positive." Also on 13 June, Yeltsin issued a decree on support for the human rights movement. Among other provisions, it calls for the creation of an expert council under the commission to be staffed by prominent human rights activists. -- Penny Morvant CHECHEN ELECTION IMBROGLIO CONTINUES. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov on 13 June threatened an "incredible" response if the election to a new Chechen parliament is not postponed, Russian and Western media reported. Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev said that if the election went forward on 14-16 June, as scheduled by the pro-Moscow Doku Zavgaev government, he would not abide by the peace agreement recently signed at Nazran. President Yeltsin has apparently decided to remain aloof from the dispute, announcing in St. Petersburg that the timing of the election is a local matter. However, Russian presidential adviser Emil Pain later said that even if the scheduled election was held now, a new election could be called after the demilitarization process is completed. Meanwhile, NTV reported that Maskhadov and Russian Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov had met the same day to discuss implementing the demilitarization agreement. -- Scott Parrish DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN SYRIA. Viktor Posuvalyuk, continuing his Middle East tour, met with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq-al-Shara in Damascus on 13 June, Western agencies reported. Posuvalyuk and Shara discussed the effect of the election victory of Israeli Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu on the Middle East peace process, as well as bilateral issues. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN SHARE OF WORLD ARMS TRADE UP. Russia's share of global arms deliveries jumped from 4% in 1994 to 17% in 1995, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Reviewing SIPRI's annual yearbook on 13 June, Reuters reported that the U.S. remained the largest supplier, with 43% of the market. Meanwhile, Sergei Svechnikov, chairman of the State Committee for Military-Technical Policy, announced that Russian arms exports in the first five months of 1996 had increased by 30% over the same period in 1995, Radio Rossii reported. He attributed the increase to improved government support for arms exporters. -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish WAGE ARREARS SEEN AS POLITICAL INSTRUMENT. Presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits contended on 13 June that some enterprise directors have deliberately withheld wage payments to provoke dissatisfaction among workers for political reasons, shifting the blame onto the local or federal authorities, ORT reported. He said, for example, that a factory director in Omsk who is also a leading member of the local Communist Party branch delayed wages for four months although the company had money in the bank. In its pre-election campaign against wage arrears this year, the government has repeatedly dwelled on the role corrupt managers have played in exacerbating the problem, presumably in an attempt to divert attention away from its own shortcomings. -- Penny Morvant GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT PROMPT TAXPAYERS. Following a meeting with the Orenburg Oblast administration, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced that the tax reform scheduled to commence in 1997 will reward enterprises that pay taxes on time and do not resort to barter operations, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 June. He said the tax on such companies' profits will be cut by 3.5% and they will become priority recipients of centralized investment (on a competitive basis). Such companies will also be provided with government credits to increase their working capital. Chernomyrdin said the government intends to clamp down on tax dodgers by granting tax deferrals only if companies file for bankruptcy. -- Natalia Gurushina RUSSIA, U.S. SIGN FISHING AGREEMENT. The deputy head of the Russian Fishing Committee, Vyacheslav Zilanov, and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering on 13 June signed an agreement granting Russia exclusive control of all fishing grounds in the Sea of Okhotsk, ITAR- TASS reported. The area (2.7% of the sea's territory) is surrounded by Russia's 200-mile economic zone. Until now, fishing in this area has not been regulated, depleting the reserves in Russia's economic zone. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS U.S. AID BILL. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev met with the U.S. ambassador to Baku on 13 June to protest a congressional bar on U.S. aid to Baku, Reuters reported the same day. Aliev said relations between the two countries would be "seriously damaged" if Congress approved a foreign aid bill that envisages only a slight easing of the ban on aid to Azerbaijan with separate aid treatment for Nagorno-Karabakh. Aliev said that in treating Nagorno- Karabakh separately from Azerbaijan, the amendment infringes on Azerbaijan's sovereignty. -- Lowell Bezanis ISLAMIC DEVELOPMENT BANK CREDIT TO KAZAKHSTAN. The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) will offer a $298,000 credit line to Kazakhstan for the construction of a Karaganda-Akmola highway, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 June. The IDB credit offer follows a memorandum of understanding on Kazakhstan's membership in the IDB signed by Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin and IDB President Ahmed Muhammed Ali. -- Bhavna Dave LAST STATE-OWNED BANK IN KYRGYZSTAN TO BE LIQUIDATED. The Kyrgyz Supreme Court of Arbitration on 30 May declared the state-owned Kyrgyzelbank insolvent, and appointed a liquidator, the BBC reported. The bank was in a financial crisis due to what the court described as the "management's poorly thought out" policy on attracting deposits and crediting, and the Kyrgyz government's failure to return 29.8 million som (about $2.7 million) to the bank. The Kyrgyz court ordered the government to take measures to repay Kyrgyzelbank's investors as soon as possible -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK GOVERNMENT DENIES BOMBING TAVIL-DARA. Tajik presidential press spokesman Zafar Saidov on 13 June described opposition reports that the town of Tavil-Dara has been almost totally destroyed as "outright fabrication," according to ITAR-TASS. The opposition claims that Russian bombers leveled the town in a series of raids on 11 June. Saidov stated that Russian planes are used only to guard the Tajik-Afghan border and lately have flown to areas in eastern Tajikistan in order to deliver humanitarian aid but do not fly missions in support of Tajik military operations. Saidov also admitted that the Tajik army has its own warplanes but added that they have not been used because of the fear of inflicting civilian casualties. These claims cannot be independently confirmed as journalists and UN observers have been kept away from the scene of the fighting. -- 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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