|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
No. 127, Part I, 1 July 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 HEALTH IN DOUBT ON EVE OF VOTING. President Boris Yeltsin has not been seen in public since 26 June, Reuters reported as the last day of campaigning began in Russia on 1 July. In an interview published on 1 July in Rossiiskaya gazeta, Yeltsin said that he had lost his voice. The Kremlin canceled a 1 July meeting between Yeltsin and the presidents of Moldova and Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported on the same day. The Russian media has provided no detailed information about the president's health, sparking speculation from his rival, Gennadii Zyuganov, and others that his illness is serious. Finally, on the afternoon of 1 July Russian Television broadcast a short address by Yeltsin, which they said was recorded at 10:00 a.m. GMT on 1 July. Yeltsin's voice was hoarse but otherwise his appearance was normal. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN LAYS OUT MAIN PROGRAM POINTS IN LAST CAMPAIGN INTERVIEW. The president confirmed his rejection of the idea of a coalition government, stressing that his government would be made up of professionals whose main priorities were "order and care," reflecting an emphasis on cracking down on crime and bolstering social policy, Rossiskaya gazeta reported on 1 July. Yeltsin described the "whole world" as the sphere of Russian national interests, but stressed developing cooperation within the CIS, strengthening Russia's position with the West, and "seriously stepping up" policy toward the East. He said that Russia would strengthen its military base in Kaliningrad. Yeltsin described Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii as his ally, but rejected Yavlinskii's proposal to amend the Constitution to weaken the presidency as "extremely dangerous." -- Robert Orttung LEBED SEEKS VICE PRESIDENCY. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 29 June called for the recreation of the vice presidency and proposed himself for the job, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. He called on his supporters to back Yeltsin in the runoff, saying that his alliance with the president was not a betrayal of his ideals, but the union of two politicians who believe that "a non-communist future is possible for Russia." In contrast to Yeltsin, Lebed foresees a coalition government, possibly including Gennadii Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, NTV reported on 30 June. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN AGAIN DECLINES DEBATE WITH ZYUGANOV. President Yeltsin turned down yet another challenge from Gennadii Zyuganov to a live television debate, Russian media reported on 28 June. According to NTV, the president explained: "I have nothing to discuss with him ... I know all these former and current party functionaries well. They are all failures from the ranks of the nomenklatura, who haven't learned anything during these long years." Meanwhile, Zyuganov and his team are making a campaign issue out of the president's refusal to debate. During a 26 June free air time appearance on ORT, Zyuganov criticized Yeltsin for refusing to adhere to a practice he said was normal in all "civilized countries." -- Laura Belin in Moscow ZHIRINOVSKY TELLS SUPPORTERS NOT TO VOTE FOR ZYUGANOV. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 28 June dealt a blow to Gennadii Zyuganov's prospects by advising LDPR supporters not to vote for a Communist, Russian media reported. While he stopped short of endorsing President Yeltsin openly, Zhirinovsky lashed out at pro-Communist hecklers, shouting angrily: "You degraded us for 40 years...You decided where I would go for vacation. You decided where I would study, where I would live...." However, Zhirinovsky said the LDPR will not accept any cabinet posts and will "constantly criticize" both the president and government after the election, NTV reported on 28 June. -- Laura Belin in Moscow FILATOV ALLEGES MASS FRAUD IN FIRST ROUND. Yeltsin's campaign head Sergei Filatov suggested on 29 June that there may have been mass fraud during the first round of the presidential election, Ekho Moskvy and Reuters reported. Filatov said the number of people claiming to be ill and casting votes at mobile polling stations was abnormally high--3.5 million--and that most voting in such fashion had cast their ballots against Yeltsin. "This all makes you think that falsifications by Boris Yeltsin's opponents occurred during the voting," he added. According to Filatov, in some areas up to 25% of voters had claimed to be unable to go to polling stations. Yeltsin's camp earlier said no major violations were recorded during the voting. -- Penny Morvant CHERNOMYRDIN ATTENDS G7 SUMMIT... Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 28 June flew to Lyon, France to attend the G7 summit, international media reported. Yeltsin announced the previous week he would not be attending the summit. Russia was not invited to talk part in the G7 economic talks, and French President Jacques Chirac said there was no question of admitting Russia as a full member of G7, Reuters reported. Russia's NTV erroneously reported on 29 June that Russia had been promised membership in "G8." Chernomyrdin does not seem to have achieved anything concrete at the summit, although IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus said that Russia's economic performance was "a good one," and promised to open talks on possible Russian membership in the Paris Club of official creditors. -- Peter Rutland ... AND TAKES PART IN POLITICAL TALKS. Chernomyrdin took part in the political talks at the G7 summit, where he discussed Bosnia, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and the Middle East peace process. Commenting on the pre-election mood in the Russian government, he said: "We are not in the grip of euphoria at all. There is a general feeling of concern." In a meeting with Chernomyrdin on 29 June, U.S. President Bill Clinton expressed his concern over remarks about Mormons made by Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed (see OMRI Daily Digest 28 June 1996). Five U.S. senators formally protested Lebed's remarks the previous day. -- Peter Rutland CHECHEN TALKS GOING NOWHERE. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov and Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov met on 28 June in the village of Novie Atagi to discuss the failure to implement the peace agreements signed on 10 June, Russian and Western media reported. The following day, acting Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev accused the Russians of deliberately undermining the agreement, and called for the dissolution of the pro-Moscow Chechen government and the annulment of the 16 June elections to a new Chechen parliament, the first session of which opened on 29 June, according to Radio Rossii. Mikhailov responded on 30 June by accusing the Chechen side of "crude blackmail" and of "dragging out the talks indefinitely," AFP reported. Also on 30 June, President Yeltsin stated that 4,000 Russian troops will withdraw from Chechnya over the next two weeks, according to AFP quoting Interfax. Reuters on 1 July quoted Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev as arguing that hostilities in Chechnya will continue: in his opinion, the Russians do not want peace and are simply using the Russian presidential election "to buy time." -- Liz Fuller RUSSIA CONCERNED OVER ESTONIA'S PLAN TO INVALIDATE SOVIET PASSPORTS. The Russian Foreign Ministry has circulated a memorandum to the UN, the Council of Europe, and the members of the OSCE "expressing deep concern that from 12 July, hundreds of thousands of Russian residents of Estonia will remain without basic identification papers or legal residence permits," BNS reported on 28 June. Russia claims that only about 1,500 aliens' passports have been issued while applications number about 335,000. Estonian officials say that more than 50,000 aliens' passports have been issued. Estonia's Interior Minister Mart Rask explained on 21 June that while the former Soviet passports will not be valid for crossing the border and visas or residence permit stickers cannot be attached to them, they will continue to serve as identification documents. -- Saulius Girnius COUNCIL OF EUROPE DENOUNCES THE CONTINUATION OF EXECUTIONS. The Council of Europe on 28 June condemned Russia, Ukraine, and Latvia for continuing to carry out executions of criminals, RFE/RL reported. The council's Parliamentary Assembly issued a resolution warning the three countries that they could risk expulsion if they did not meet commitments to place a moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty. The council also called on Lithuania to institute a moratorium on executions without delay. Moldova was praised for abolishing capital punishment shortly after it joined the council last year. The resolution was the second warning to Russia and Ukraine over capital punishment in under a month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 June 1996). According to a report discussed at the assembly in Strasbourg, President Yeltsin has rejected 46 appeals for pardons from prisoners on death row this year. -- Penny Morvant NALCHIK EXPLOSION KILLS FIVE. Five people were killed and another 20 injured when a bomb exploded on 28 June on a bus in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya, Russian media reported. The bus was en route from Mineralnye vody to Vladikavkaz in North Ossetiya. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said after the blast that his forces had been put on a heightened state of alert throughout the North Caucasus. Sergei Filatov, President Yeltsin's election campaign head, argued that the explosion could be linked to the presidential election, noting that Kabardino- Balkariya was the only Muslim republic where Yeltsin won a plurality of the vote in the first round of the presidential election. -- Penny Morvant LENINGRAD NUCLEAR POWER WORKERS SUSPEND PROTEST. Workers protesting wage arrears at the Sosnovy Bor nuclear power plant have suspended their strike until after the second round of the presidential election, Radio Rossii reported on 30 June. The workers, who have been protesting since 24 June (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 June 1996), suspended their action to avoid "politically coloring" the action and fanning social tension on the eve of the election, according to a local union representative. If steps are not taken to meet their demands, which include the resignation of the plant director, protests will resume on 4 July. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN DECREES RIGHT TO FREE FUNERAL. President Yeltsin issued a decree on 29 June on funeral services, Russian and Western agencies reported. The decree called for full compliance with the law on funeral services, which guarantees free issuance of death certificates, provision and transportation of coffins, and burial or cremation. There have been press reports of families abandoning corpses because they are unable to pay funeral bills. In another last-minute hand-out before the second round of the presidential election, Yeltsin ordered all-expenses paid holidays in Spain for 250 Russian soldiers wounded in Chechnya. And a local branch of Yeltsin's campaign fund in Tver Oblast used a $24,000 contribution from a local company to buy clothes for the poor. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WARNS OF IMPENDING ECONOMIC CRISIS. Askar Akayev told an emergency meeting of the cabinet that "negative tendencies in the economy" could lead to "a budget, energy, and social crisis by this autumn," the BBC reported on 27 June. Akayev questioned the 2.4 % budget deficit indicated by the state statistics committee, saying the real figure "may be 10-15 % of GNP." Akayev said there was "complete corruption of the tax police from top to bottom." He also noted that agricultural production was down to one-fifth of 1995 figures, "making Kyrgyzstan the only country in the CIS where exports have decreased by four times in the past years, while imports have doubled." -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKHSTANIS FAVOR CIS INTEGRATION. Results of a public opinion poll conducted by the Almaty-based Giller Institute, reported by ITAR-TASS on 28 June, reveal that about 65% of the 1,000 respondents would prefer to live in a single integrated state within the framework of the CIS. Although over two-thirds of respondents said that the highest stage of CIS integration is unlikely at the moment, 27% favor closer cooperation with Russia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan in the framework of the recently concluded quadripartite agreement on deepening integration. About 17% said they would like the integration process to involve all the CIS states, while 14% favored the formation of a political union similar to the one between Russia and Belarus. Over 87% emphasized the need for integration between Kazakhstan and Russia, whereas only 3.7% prefer an alliance with Uzbekistan, 1.7% favor integration with Kyrgyzstan, and 1.6% favor closer ties with remaining CIS states. -- Bhavna Dave NEW SUPREME COURT HEAD IN KAZAKHSTAN. Maksut Narikbayev, Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General, has been appointed the new Supreme Court chairman in place of Mikhail Malakhov, who was dismissed in early June on bribery charges, according to BBC monitoring of Kazakhstani TV on 28 June. Kazakhstan's Senate approved Narikbayev's appointment after he was nominated by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Anatolii Konstantinov, Narikbayev's deputy, is to replace him in an acting capacity. -- Bhavna Dave RESHUFFLE AT TURKMENISTAN'S DEFENSE MINISTRY. Senior posts in Turkmenistan's Ministry of Defense have been reallocated, according to a 29 June Turkmen Press report monitored by the BBC. Under a presidential decree, Maj.-Gen. Agageldy Mamedgeldyyev, formerly commander of ground forces, was appointed head of the Main Directorate for Supplies and the Rear. Lt.-Gen. Rinat Meretdurdyyev was named as the new commander of ground forces. Lt.-Gen. Serdar Charyyarov, formerly commander of air forces and air defense forces, has been appointed head of the Directorate for Training Specialists for the Armed Forces, the agency said. -- Lowell Bezanis NEW WAVE OF TAJIK REFUGEES CROWD BORDER CITIES. An estimated 3,000 refugees have made their way to the Tajik-Afghan border cities of Kalai- Khumb and Khorog, adding to displaced masses already there, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June. Fighting in the Tavil-Dara region has already forced some 15,000 people from their homes since the beginning of 1996 and accounts of those arriving claim another 25,000 may soon be on the march. Kalai-Khumb and Khorog are garrisoned by soldiers from the CIS border guards and so offer relative safety from the battles in central Tajikistan. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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