|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
No. 120, Part I, 20 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 YELTSIN SACKS SOSKOVETS, BARSUKOV, KORZHAKOV . . . President Boris Yeltsin on 20 June fired First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, Federal Security Service head Mikhail Barsukov, and Presidential Security Service head Aleksandr Korzhakov, ITAR-TASS reported. Soskovets, who supervised the defense industry, is considered to be an ally of Korzhakov. All three are seen as hard-liners, opposed to market reform, and strong backers of the war in Chechnya. They were also against holding the presidential election. Yeltsin said that it is time to "strengthen and renew" his team with "fresh people." Yeltsin said that he was constantly being criticized because of these three men, and emphasized that he had never taken orders from Korzhakov. He criticized the "power ministries" for "taking too much for themselves, while giving too little." Yeltsin's dramatic dismissal of these key figures in his administration reflects the impact of his new ally Aleksandr Lebed in the days before the second round of the election. -- Robert Orttung . . . FOLLOWING ARREST OF TWO YELTSIN CAMPAIGN WORKERS. Two Yeltsin campaign officials, Sergei Lisovskii and Arkadii Yevstafev, were arrested on the evening of 19 June while leaving the government's White House, apparently on orders from Korzhakov and Barsukov. They were allegedly carrying a case containing $500,000, and were detained and questioned for 11 hours by Korzhakov's security service, ITAR-TASS reported. After Lebed intervened to say that the arrests were an attempt to disrupt the second round of voting, the two campaign aides were released. Korzhakov and Barsukov both denied that the arrests had a political character. Yestafev was formerly deputy managing director of Russian Public TV (ORT), where Lisovskii had also served as head of advertising. Lisovskii used his conncection with show-business figures to organize the "Vote or you Lose" concerts for Yeltsin's campaign. Yevstafev worked closely with Anatolii Chubais in preparing Yeltsin's re-election campaign. -- Robert Orttung DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES COUP ALLEGATIONS. The information service of the Defense Ministry denied on 18 June that former Defense Minister Grachev and his close associates had planned to illegally pressure President Boris Yeltsin into keeping Grachev in office, Russian media reported. The State Duma, alarmed by the coup allegations made by Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 June 1996), ordered its security and defense committees to investigate the incident. Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyushin (KPRF) said he thought Lebed had deliberately exaggerated the incident in order to bolster his political image. Izvestiya reported on 19 June that although top brass gathered in Grachev's office on 18 June as Lebed had claimed, it was merely a farewell party, not a coup-planning session. The Izvestiya report suggests that Lebed manipulated the incident to humiliate his long-time rival Grachev. -- Scott Parrish RUNOFF ALL BUT SET FOR 3 JULY. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has signed a resolution declaring 3 July a holiday so that the presidential runoff can be held on that day, ORT reported 19 June. The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) has also fallen into line in support of the proposal, according to TsIK Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko. Although Zyuganov has supported the idea of a 3 July election, the Duma voted to postpone discussion on the issue until 21 June when the final election results will be known. However, the Duma's opposition will probably not stop the formal announcement of the runoff date once the final tally from the first round is made public. Yeltsin had earlier asked for Duma backing of this proposal, but the Communist-controlled legislature was unlikely to support the plan which is expected to favor Yeltsin. According to the law guaranteeing Russian citizens basic voting rights, voting must take place on a non-working day. -- Robert Orttung ZYUGANOV, CHERNOMYRDIN DISCUSS POSSIBLE COALITION GOVERNMENT. Zyuganov and Chernomyrdin met on 19 June to discuss the selection of 3 July for second round voting. Zyuganov also put forward numerous ideas on cooperation or a coalition, Chernomyrdin press secretary Viktor Konnov told ITAR-TASS. Chernomyrdin responded by saying that he had always felt that cooperation was possible, especially when the gap between the votes cast for the two candidates was so small. The prime minister stressed the need to avoid "a split and confrontation" in society. Zyuganov noted that the first round had come off "without any violations of the law." Earlier in the day, Konnov had said that there would be no meeting between Chernomyrdin and Zyuganov on the eve of the election, suggesting that the meeting came together at the last minute. -- Robert Orttung FEDOROV BACKS YELTSIN. Eye doctor Svyatoslav Fedorov, who finished sixth in the first round of the presidential election with less than 1% of the vote, said he would back President Yeltsin in the second round, Radio Rossii reported on 19 June. He argued that Yeltsin's program is more progressive than Zyuganov's and praised Yeltsin's recent personnel changes in the government. Fedorov won about 700,000 votes in the first round, or about 0.93% of the total. His Workers' Self-Government party did surprisingly well in the December 1995 Duma election, taking nearly 4% of the vote. -- Penny Morvant KOVALEV UNHAPPY ABOUT YELTSIN-LEBED ALLIANCE. Human rights activist Sergei Kovalev believes Yeltsin's alliance with Lebed is a threat to democracy in Russia, AFP reported on 19 June, citing an interview to be published in the German news magazine Stern. Kovalev predicted that Yeltsin would rapidly reach agreement with Lebed and argued that Russia will be governed in a draconian manner. Kovalev said he will not vote for either Yeltsin or Zyuganov in the presidential runoff, arguing that "Yeltsin-style stability is as serious as the instability that would follow a Zyuganov victory." -- Penny Morvant FINANCE MINISTRY REJECTS CONCERNS ABOUT PAYING FOR ELECTION. Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov rejected the TsIK's concerns that it would not have enough money to pay for the second round of the presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 June. He said his ministry had given the TsIK 88 billion rubles ($18.3 million) on 17 June, and is planning to transfer 100 billion in "the next few days" and an additional 158 billion "at the beginning of next week." -- Robert Orttung RUSSIAN TROOPS ATTACKED ON INGUSH-NORTH OSSETIYAN BORDER. Seven Russian servicemen were killed on 18 June and four wounded in an attack on two Interior Ministry armored personnel carriers on the border between Ingushetiya and North Ossetiya, NTV reported on 19 June. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov said that Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had invited Aleksandr Lebed to join the State Commission for regulating the Chechen crisis, but he added that Lebed's involvement would not signal any changes in Russia's policy of seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict. Mikhailov warned, however, that Russian troops would undertake "special operations" against the Chechen forces should the latter violate the 10 June agreement on a cessation of hostilities. In keeping with the agreement, the 245th Motorized Infantry regiment withdrew from Chechnya on 19 June, ORT reported. -- Liz Fuller NEW GOVERNOR OF BRYANSK APPOINTED. President Yeltsin on 19 June appointed Aleksandr Semernev head of the Bryansk Oblast Administration, ITAR-TASS reported. Semernev is the fourth governor to be appointed in the past three years. His immediate predecessor, Vladimir Barabanov, was fired in May for mishandling state funds. Barabanov had also been criticized for appointing Communists to leading positions in the oblast (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 May 1995). Yeltsin took about 26% of the vote in Bryansk in the first round of the presidential election, while Zyuganov won 48%, according to preliminary results. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN TO SKIP G-7 SUMMIT. President Yeltsin announced on 19 June that he will not attend the G-7 summit in Lyons scheduled for 27-29 June, saying he needs to concentrate on the upcoming presidential runoff election, Russian and Western agencies reported. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will attend the meeting in his place. -- Scott Parrish WAGE ARREARS ARE CLIMBING AGAIN. The wage debt to workers in state- funded enterprises and organizations is growing again, Russian and Western agencies reported on 19 June. According to Goskomstat, the debt to state workers has reached 4.2 trillion rubles ($838 million), up 20% from early May. The total wage debt has risen to 27.1 trillion rubles. Tackling wage arrears was one of President Yeltsin's main pre-election promises. The results of his March campaign to slash arrears, however, appear to have been short-lived. Meanwhile, power industry workers in Komi are taking strike action to protest wage delays. Radio Rossii said on 19 June that work had stopped at a heating plant in the mining city of Vorkuta and that other stoppages will follow if workers are not paid. Komienergo is owed more than 1 trillion rubles by consumers. -- Penny Morvant STILL NO SIGN OF ECONOMIC RECOVERY. GDP fell by 3% in January-May compared with the same period in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 June, citing Goskomstat. Industrial production fell by 4%, with a steep 24% fall in light industry and construction materials, according to Finansovye Izvestiya. Although the fall in production had halted in April, it resumed in May. Inflation meanwhile fell from 4.1% in January to 1.5% in May. The other positive trend is foreign trade, which grew by 12.1% in the first four months of the year, reaching $42.8 billion. Trade with CIS states made up 26% of the total. The continuing decline in GDP will make it more difficult for the government to deal with the yawning budget deficit because of its impact on tax revenue. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ANOTHER POLITICAL TRIAL IN GEORGIA. A Tbilisi court on 19 June sentenced Conservative-Monarchist Party head Temur Zhorzholiani, an outspoken critic of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, to four years' imprisonment on charges of illegal possession of drugs and a revolver, NTV reported. Zhorzholiani was arrested last year despite his immunity as a parliament deputy, and insists that the charges against him are fabricated. Georgian observers have suggested that he was arrested because of his friendship with former deputy security chief Teimuraz Khachishvili, who is charged with the bomb attack against Shevardnadze in August 1995. -- Liz Fuller SHEVARDNADZE DEFENDS NADIBAIDZE. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 19 June said in Tbilisi that "there are no grounds to suspect Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze of organizing some coup in Moscow," ITAR- TASS reported. Nadibaidze himself said that outgoing Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's resignation came as a surprise to him, but that he would make no comment as it was an internal Russian affair. According to Izvestiya on 20 June, the senior military officials who met on 18 June--to allegedly plan the coup--did not in fact discuss Grachev's resignation. Grachev and Nadibaidze are thought to have been close personal friends. -- Liz Fuller POLICE CORRUPTION IN ARMENIA. Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 19 June, Armenian Interior Minister Vano Siradeghyan claimed that corruption had permeated the very highest levels of the country's bureaucracy, and that the struggle against it is being hampered by corruption within the ministry itself, Radio Rossii reported. In 1995, 540 Interior Ministry employees were dismissed for corruption, and criminal charges have been filed against 107 of them. An investigation in 1994 established that Armenian Interior Ministry personnel were not averse to using force to extract bribes. -- Liz Fuller NEW MUFTI CHOSEN IN TAJIKISTAN. A congress of Tajikistan's Muslims on 19 June selected Khoja Amunullo Negmatzoda as the new country's new Muslim spiritual leader, Radio Rossii and Western media reported. Negmatzoda was previously the head of the Yakubicharm Mosque located near the Tajik capital Dushanbe. The last state mufti, Fatkhullo Sharifzoda, was assassinated in January. Prior to Sharifzoda, United Tajik Opposition representative Ali Akbar Turajonzoda held the position. Reuters speculated that Negmatzoda was a compromise candidate since he has no allegiance to any particular clan in Tajikistan. -- Bruce Pannier UZBEK PRESIDENT WILL MEET WITH CLINTON. White House spokesman Michael McCurry on 19 June announced that U.S. President Bill Clinton will meet with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, during the latter's visit to the U.S. beginning on 25 June, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. The move comes despite a public request by the Uzbek opposition parties Erk and Birlik that Clinton not to meet with Karimov because of Uzbekistan's poor human rights record. However, the number of U.S. companies doing business in Uzbekistan has increased recently and observers have speculated that a failure to meet with Karimov could prompt a negative response toward U.S. businesses in Uzbekistan. An unnamed U.S. official also said that his country appreciates Karimov's "very, very negative view of Iran," according to AFP. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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