|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 125, Part I, 27 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 APPEALS TO ZYUGANOV VOTERS. President Boris Yeltsin on 27 June appealed to voters who backed his communist rival in the first round "not to vote against a new life, even if you are unaccustomed to it today," ITAR-TASS reported. The president warned against dividing the country between red and white and said that he was ready for dialogue and cooperation "with all whose main priority is the fate of Russia." He was very critical of the communist past, warning pro-Gennadii Zyuganov voters that they might remember cheap bread, but have probably forgotten rationing coupons and shortages. The unusual appeal reflects Yeltsin's two-pronged campaign tactics: denouncing the communist past, while incorporating many of the communists' points into his own program. -- Robert Orttung COMMUNISTS ACCUSE YELTSIN OF ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN PRACTICES . . . Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov asserted in a letter to the parliament, the Central Electoral Commission, and the media that President Boris Yeltsin was buying votes with money that should be used to pay wage and pension arrears and that he had pressured local leaders into working for his campaign. The letter was published in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 27 June. Zyuganov claimed that regional leaders had been told they would be fired if Yeltsin lost in their territory. He also said that Yeltsin was using "tens of trillions of rubles" from the state budget for campaign purposes. Zyuganov argued that such practices would call into question the results of the voting and urged immediate measures that would insure equal conditions for the candidates. -- Robert Orttung . . . AND BLAST MASS MEDIA. Zyuganov charged that radio and television broadcasters are "stirring up social tensions and civil conflict," NTV reported. He laid primary responsibility on the Chairman of Russian Television Eduard Sagalaev, General Director of Russian Public TV Sergei Blagovolin, and the president of NTV Igor Malashenko. Zyuganov claimed that if the media continues its current policies, there will be a civil war. -- Robert Orttung ILYUKHIN CLAIMS WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin charged that the law enforcement agencies have considerable evidence that high government officials are engaged in corruption, bribe-taking, and squandering money allocated by the Central Electoral Commission, Sovetskaya Rossiya reported on 27 June. However, when former Federal Security Service head Mikhail Barsukov and former head of the presidential security service Aleksandr Korzhakov tried to stop Yeltsin's aides from taking $500,000 from the White House, they were fired, calling into question Yeltsin's commitment to fighting crime, Ilyukhin charged. He explained the recent firings in the Kremlin as the result of the ongoing battle between three groups: the former heads of the power ministries, representatives of the energy complex, and representatives from financial circles, Russian Public TV reported. Ilyukhin has had a long career in the procuracy. -- Robert Orttung PRAVDA: ALTAI VOTERS UPSET AT YELTSIN-LEBED ALLIANCE. The pro-communist newspaper Pravda reported on 26 June that Lebed supporters in Altai Krai are "indignant" about the retired general's recent alliance with Yeltsin. The paper quoted Aleksei Shevdov, Lebed's agent in the krai, as saying that Yeltsin is unacceptable to the majority of Lebed's electorate and that most will vote for Zyuganov in the run-off. He proposed that Yeltsin withdraw his candidacy in the second round in favor of Lebed, arguing that the general would retain the votes of those who opted for him in the first round and gain part of Zyuganov's electorate and all of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's voters. According to preliminary figures released by the Central Electoral Commission on 17 June, Zyuganov won 42% of the vote in Altai Krai, Yeltsin 22%, and Lebed 19%. -- Penny Morvant CONTROVERSY OVER RESULTS IN TATARSTAN CONTINUES. Zyuganov's supporters intend to contest the results of the first round voting in Tatarstan in the Supreme Court, Ekho Moskvy reported on 26 June. Communist deputy Aleksandr Salii contended that vote-rigging in the Tatar capital Kazan added 60,000 votes to Yeltsin's total. Salii earlier noted a large discrepancy between the results of the voting in the capital and rural areas of the republic (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 June 1996). Vitalii Khavkin, a lawyer for the Central Electoral Commission, refuted the charges, accusing the communists of bias. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN MEETS REGIONAL LEADERS. Yeltsin met with regional leaders from the Federation Council on 26 June after that body rejected the Duma land code for its anti-market character, NTV reported. Yeltsin stressed that the regional leaders must work to ensure a high turnout for the 3 July voting, according to Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel. Yeltsin said that there would be further personnel changes in his government but that they would not be announced until after the elections. Yeltsin also announced that former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin would lead his new Political Consultative Council. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Lobov added some teeth to Yeltsin's remarks, announcing that turnout would be a measure of the authority of Russia's regional leaders, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung LEGAL STATUS OF SECURITY COUNCIL UNCLEAR. The legal status of the Security Council remains ill-defined, and it is not clear that Aleksandr Lebed had the authority to carry out some of his actions, ITAR-TASS suggested in a commentary on 26 June. Under Article 83 of the Russian Constitution the role of the council should be defined by a federal law, but no such law has yet been adopted. In the interim the council functions on the basis of presidential decrees, which state that it has a consultative role. The day of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's removal, Lebed issued a number of instructions to military commanders, telling them to stay at their posts and not send telegrams of condolence. -- Peter Rutland ECONOMIC SECURITY A TOP PRIORITY FOR LEBED. A document prepared by the Security Council, "A new approach to national security issues," was leaked to the press: extracts were published in Kommersant Daily on 26 June. Initial press reports attributed the report to Aleksander Lebed, but the latter told ITAR-TASS on 27 June that most of the document had been prepared before his appointment as Secretary of the Security Council. The report proposes extending the Council's remit to include economic issues, such as privatization auctions and the dumping of minerals abroad at low prices. It calls for strict control over export earnings, and is concerned at the size of Russia's foreign debts. It proposes a tax amnesty for Russian capital that has moved abroad. It calls upon the intelligence services to play an active role in monitoring foreign banks and firms, and says that it will stop the selling of weapons to "potential adversaries." -- Peter Rutland MIKHAILOV, STEPASHIN IN GROZNY. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov and the secretary of the Russian State Commission for Regulating the Chechen Conflict, Sergei Stepashin, flew to Grozny on 26 June and traveled with pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev to Vedeno raion (which is controlled by Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev) to discuss with village elders the holding of further peace talks, NTV reported. According to ORT, Mikhailov told journalists he plans to clarify why the peace agreements signed in Moscow on 27 May and in Nazran on 10 June are being violated by both the Russian and Chechen sides, and to investigate "contradictions" between the members of the two working groups set up to implement the peace agreements and between the Russian federal troops and the OSCE mission in Grozny, which the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, has accused of bias towards the Chechen separatists. -- Liz Fuller VICTORY FOR CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS. The Moscow Oblast court on 25 June upheld a not guilty verdict in the case of a pacifist who refused to perform military service on the grounds that he had a constitutional right to opt for alternative service, Ekho Moskvy and Ekspress-khronikha reported. Vadim Gesse spent 40 days in jail after his request for alternative service was turned down, and he was arrested for failing to report for the draft. The Noginsk city court ruled in his favor in May, but the decision was appealed by the prosecutor. The case may now go to the Constitutional Court. The right to alternative service is enshrined in the Constitution, but it is strongly opposed by the military and there are no procedures for refusing conscription. -- Penny Morvant MORE SBERBANK SAVERS TO BE COMPENSATED THIS YEAR. Pensioners born between 1917 and 1921 whose deposits in the state savings bank (Sberbank) were devalued as a result of economic reform will receive compensation this year, presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits told ITAR-TASS on 26 June. Compensation for pensioners born in 1916 or earlier began to be paid on 10 June (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 June 1996). Livshits did not say how much the pensioners will receive; those eligible for payments in the first wave received up to 1 million rubles. Livshits said that about 40% of account holders in bankrupt private financial companies were pensioners. He added that a presidential decree is being prepared on compensation for those who lost their money in pyramid schemes. -- Penny Morvant FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAND CODE. The parliament's upper house on 26 June rejected a communist-backed draft land code that restricts land ownership and the sale of land, Russian and Western agencies reported. The draft code was approved by the Duma on 22 May (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 May 1996), which Yeltsin said he would veto. Yeltsin issued a decree in March allowing the partial sale of farmland, but the communists and Agrarians have opposed all such moves, arguing that they would deprive the agricultural sector of the best land. The code will now go to a conciliation commission. -- Penny Morvant EMPLOYMENT MINISTER READY TO STEP DOWN. Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan said on 26 June that changes are needed in the government team handling social issues and that he is ready to step down if need be, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin has said that more changes in the government are in the offing but will not be announced until after the second round of the election. Melikyan reported that 6.5 million people are now unemployed in Russia (8.9%), about 2.7 million of whom are registered with the Federal Employment Service. On the subject of wage arrears, Melikyan said the total debt is now 29.8 trillion rubles ($5.8 billion). The state debt is 5 trillion, 4.6 trillion of which is owed from regional budgets. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA VERDICTS HANDED DOWN IN PARAVAKAR CASE. An Armenian court on 24 June handed down verdicts of between 2 and 3 years' imprisonment on four men charged with an attack on presidential candidate Paruir Hairikyan in the village of Paravakar during the runup to the 1991 presidential elections, Noyan Tapan reported on 26 June. On that occasion, Hairikyan's car was damaged and he was threatened at gunpoint by men who demanded that he withdraw his candidacy, some of whom he identified as members of the personal staff of then parliament chairman Levon Ter- Petrossyan, the eventual presidential election winner. Hairikyan has been nominated by the Union for National Self-Determination to stand as a candidate in this September's presidential elections but is undecided whether to accept the nomination; he argued on 26 June that the results are predetermined, and that Ter-Petrossyan will be reelected. -- Liz Fuller PROTESTS OVER ALMATY AIRPORT DEAL WITH LUFTHANSA. The Kazakhstani government's decision of 28 May to transfer the administration of Almaty airport to Lufthansa has led to protests from airport workers and trade unions, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 June. The Professional Union of Aviation Workers claim that Lufthansa incurred losses of $132 million so far this year and is unable to compete with other international airlines. Kazakhstani authorities say that the renovation of landing fields at the airport alone will cost $12 million; Lufthansa has offered to invest about $17-18 million in the next 5 years. -- Bhavna Dave KAZAKHSTAN REPORTS HUGE OFFSHORE OIL RESERVES. As a result of seismic explorations of the Caspian Sea continental shelf conducted by the Caspian Sea Consortium, Kazakhstani authorities estimate crude oil reserves of 10 billion metric tons and 2 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, Reuters reported on 26 June. If confirmed, these offshore oil reserves would be10 times bigger than those of its onshore Tengiz oilfield and exceed Russia's entire oil reserves of 6.7 billion tons, Reuters added, citing British Petroleum's (BP) Statistical Review. However, Caspian Sea Consortium members, such as British Gas, BP, Agip, Mobil, Shell and others say that as no drilling has taken place yet, the estimated oil deposits are unlikely to exceed 4 billion tons. -- Bhavna Dave UZBEK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY. President Islam Karimov paid his first visit to the Pentagon on 26 June, meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry. A Pentagon press release said that the two discussed security issues in Central Asia and "the strong cooperative relationship between the United States and the Republic of Uzbekistan." Karimov said Uzbekistan was eager to strengthen its involvement in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, RFE/RL reported. -- Doug Clarke [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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