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No. 129, Part I, 3 July 1996
* * * Note to readers: Due to American and Czech holidays, the OMRI Daily Digest will not appear on 4 and 5 July, 1996. OMRI Special Reports on the Russian presidential election will, however, be published on both of these days. * * * 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 AVOIDS JOURNALISTS AS HE CASTS HIS BALLOT... President Boris Yeltsin voted near the Barvikha sanitorium where he is recuperating from his illness and avoided the throngs of journalists who were waiting for him at the polling place where he usually votes in Moscow, Reuters reported on 3 July. No journalists were present when Yeltsin voted, except an official photographer and a camera crew from ORT. The Kremlin released a one-minute film clip showing Yeltsin walking awkwardly, but speaking clearly as he exhorted all Russians to vote. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov reassured journalists that Yeltsin was fine, ITAR-TASS reported. Communist challenger Gennadii Zyuganov voted according to plan at his polling station in central Moscow, announcing that "the West should not be afraid of me" and that Yeltsin's health was "not good," Reuters reported. -- Robert Orttung ...AFTER WEEKEND IN ISOLATION. Yeltsin was isolated at the Barvikha sanitarium under medical supervision with only his family present over the weekend of 29-30 June, the Washington Post reported on 2 July. No presidential or campaign aides were present, suggesting that the president was seriously ill. Yeltsin cancelled a meeting with the presidents of Moldova and Ukraine scheduled for 1 July. The Russian media have generally ignored the issue of Yeltsin's health, fearing it will hurt his chances of reelection. On 2 July the Kremlin issued a press release officially denying rumors that Yeltsin was dead. -- Robert Orttung VOTING BEGINS IN RUSSIA... Polls opened early on 2 July in 2,200 of Russia's 93,500 polling stations, in regions where voting would be difficult to complete in one day. These included Chechnya and geographically isolated regions in the north. Regular voting will take place from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on 3 July. Voting began in the region of Chukotka in the Far East at 8:00 am local time on 3 July, which was 1900 GMT on 2 July. By 10:00 GMT on 3 July, voting returns from the Far Eastern regions showed turnout by midday was some 5% to 6% below the level in the first round on 16 June. -- Peter Rutland ...AS VOTERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO TURN OUT. The government and Central Election Commission (TsIK) stepped up their efforts to ensure a high turnout on 3 July. It is widely assumed that a good turnout (above 65%) will favor President Yeltsin. Advertisements encouraging voters to turn out continued to be shown on television. On 1 July the government announced that all train travel would be free on election day - to encourage people to travel back from their cottages. ORT ran the climax episodes of Brazilian soap opera on the morning of 3 July to encourage people to stay at home rather than go to the country. Other vote-boosting measures included a TsIK statement that voters would be allowed to use other forms of identification besides passports, such as military IDs, and that extra mobile voting boxes will be placed at stations and airports. AFP reported on 2 July that some Moscow residents were getting phone calls from TsIK workers asking if they intended to vote. -- Peter Rutland COMMUNISTS ATTACK ORT OVER CANCELED AD. The Communists vowed to take Russian Public TV to court after the station pulled a 10- minute ad featuring filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin, AFP reported on 2 July (See OMRI Daily Digest, 1 July 1996). ORT had claimed that the Communists had not paid for the extra five minutes the ad would have run over the free time they were alloted. However, Communist campaign manager Valentin Kuptsov produced receipts for the money which he claimed had been blocked. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said that he had protested the move to ORT and that an investigation was underway. The ad reportedly directed attention to Yeltsin's poor health, Reuters reported. At a 1 July news conference, Govorukhin said: "We are being asked to vote for a living corpse," and compared the situation with Stalin's death in 1953, which remained unannounced for three days, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 2 July. -- Robert Orttung REGIONAL COMMUNIST ACTIVISTS VIOLATE CAMPAIGN RULES. Communist Party (KPRF) local activists in several Russian regions have violated the electoral campaign rules, which prohibit any agitation on the day prior to elections, ITAR-TASS reported. It said a KPRF member appeared on local radio in Ust-Bachkare village in Tomsk Oblast on 2 July and called on local residents to vote for KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov. The same day in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, Zyuganov supporters put flyers in city residents' mail boxes which imitated a ballot with a tick next to Zyuganov's name. Khabarovsk Krai electoral commission member Vladimir Prokopenko, who was nominated by the KPRF, was fired from his duties for violating the electoral law by visiting a sick voter, who was unable to visit a polling station by himself, without the required mobile ballot box and an observer. -- Anna Paretskaya LEBED SEEKS MORE POWERS, HITS OUT AT ENERGY BARONS... Presenting his national security concept to journalists on 2 July, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said he needs additional powers to tackle Russia's immense security problems, Russian and Western agencies reported. He outlined a wide range of issues requiring attention, from the economy to the army to the environment, and promised to oversee the implementation of reforms. He was particularly critical of energy producers, accusing them of plundering the country's resources, and called for state regulation to ensure that they invest more of their profits in modernizing the oil industry. In what appeared to be a dig at Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who has close ties with the oil and gas industry, Lebed said the "energy barons" had acquired "overwhelming influence" in several regions, the government, and the president's entourage. -- Penny Morvant ...ADVOCATES TOUGH ANTICRIME MEASURES... In his national security concept, Lebed also proposed a variety of measures for stepping up the fight against crime and corruption. According to NTV on 2 July, he said he intends to toughen the Criminal Code to introduce harsher penalties for members of organized crime gangs, bribe-takers and bribe-givers, and those who fail to observe contractual obligations, as well as set up special courts to deal with particularly grave crimes. The previous day, in an interview with Russian TV, Lebed spoke out more forcefully. Asked how he intended to combat crime, Lebed replied: "I will shoot them [criminals he cannot reason with], reasonably, with minimum wastage for the police...those who cannot be persuaded, I mean. In a civilized fashion." -- Penny Morvant ...AND REITERATES OPPOSITION TO FOREIGN SECTS. Lebed apologized on 2 July for criticizing the Church of the Latter-Day Saints but reiterated his opposition to foreign sects in Russia. He said he did not want to offend anyone, but reiterated that sects such as the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo are alien to Russia and have no place there, Russian and Western agencies reported. He also qualified remarks he had made about Russia's main religions, which caused a stir because he had not included Judaism in his list. He said that the three he mentioned (Orthodoxy, Islam, and Buddhism) were just examples, adding "Judaism exists, just like Catholicism." -- Penny Morvant BATURIN ON LEBED. In an interview with Moskovskie novosti (no. 26), former presidential national security adviser Yurii Baturin spoke about his successor, Aleksandr Lebed. Asked to comment on Mikhail Gorbachev's allegations that Lebed was "bought" by Yeltsin's supporters before the election, Baturin rejected the idea that an agreement had been concluded beforehand. He said, however, that non-government structures close to the president's position did give Lebed both financial aid and guidance organizing his campaign. -- Penny Morvant DEFENSE MINISTRY PURGE IN OFFING? Rumors continue to circulate in Moscow over the anti-corruption purge which Aleksandr Lebed is thought to be planning for the defense ministry. Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 2 July that many "enthusiasts" in the ministry, emboldened by Lebed's appointment, are collecting data on "by who, when, where, and how much was stolen." Attention is likely to focus on the acquisition of dachas and apartments. Novaya gazeta reported on 1 July that Yelena Agapova, the press-secretary of fired Minister Pavel Grachev, had acquired a dacha with a market value of $300,000, and an equally well-appointed apartment. -- Peter Rutland CHECHEN PEACE TALKS IN JEOPARDY. At a meeting of the Chechen defense council on the night of 1-2 July, military commanders resolved not to attend the meeting with the Russian federal delegation scheduled for 3 July to discuss implementation of the peace agreement signed in Nazran on 10 June, Russian media reported. Ekho Moskvy quoted Chechen Minister of Information Movladi Udugov as stating that further such meetings were pointless as the Russian side was "openly ignoring" the peace agreement. The OSCE mission in Grozny called on both sides in the peace talks to avoid actions or statements that could jeopardize the agreements already signed, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 2 July, pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev flew to the town of Achkhoi- Martan to cast his vote in the second round of the Russian presidential election. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov and the deputy head of the Russian state committee for a settlement of the Chechen conflict, Sergei Stepashin, traveled to Gudermes to assess the situation there. -- Liz Fuller BAIL-OUT FOR BALTIC SHIPPERS. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 2 July ordering a state bail-out of the troubled Baltic Shipping Line, ITAR-TASS reported. The shipping company, which is 29% state-owned, owes foreign suppliers some $150 million, as a result of which 21 of its 90 ships were detained in foreign ports as of 1 June. The company also owes 245 billion rubles ($48 million) to Russian creditors. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ALIEV IN BONN. Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, on the second day of a four-day official visit to Germany, met in Bonn with Chancellor Helmut Kohl on 2 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Kohl affirmed his country's support for democratic and market reforms in Azerbaijan and for the ongoing efforts of the OSCE's Minsk Group, of which Germany is a member, to mediate a political settlement of the Karabakh conflict. -- Liz Fuller FEARS OVER "MAD COW" BEEF SALE IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstan's health officials are seeking to confiscate large quantities of Irish beef, believed to have been infected by the "mad cow" virus, which has been illegally brought into the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 July. Almaty's veterinary inspectorate reported that around 100 tons of infected beef has been smuggled into the country, possibly via Uzbekistan, since June. About 3.3 tons of infected beef has been confiscated and destroyed so far. -- Bhavna Dave WORLD BANK LOAN TO BOOST KAZAKHSTAN'S OIL PRODUCTION. The World Bank will offer a $109 million loan to Kazakhstan to aid the rehabilitation of the Uzen oil field, the country's second largest after Tengiz, AFP reported on 2 July. World Bank sources say that due to financial and operating problems, crude oil output in Kazakhstan has fallen to 17 million tons in 1995 from a peak of 25 million tons in 1991. The Bank predicts that by developing reserves oil production could be doubled by the turn of the century. -- Bhavna Dave CHINESE PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN. Jiang Zemin concluded a two-day official visit to Tashkent on 3 July, which included meetings with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, international sources reported. The two sides signed 21 intergovernmental agreements, ITAR-TASS reported, which address trade and economic relations, transport, and avoiding double taxation. Mutual trade dropped from $165 million in 1994 to $59 million in 1995 and $37 million for the first five months of 1996. According to Reuters, Jiang praised Uzbekistan's role in stabilizing Central Asia and expressed his appreciation for Karimov's supporting China's policies in Tibet and Xinjiang. Jiang will also meet with the Presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan before returning to China on 6 July. -- Roger Kangas INDIA MAY BUY TANKER AIRCRAFT BUILT IN UZBEKISTAN. India is interested in buying several Ilyusin-78 airborne refueling tankers, an official of the Ilyushin design bureau told Reuters on 1 July. The Russian-designed aircraft, which is a modification of the Il-76 cargo plane, is built at the Valery Chkalov Aircraft Plant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The plane was offered to the Indians by Tashkent Aviation, a joint venture of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Uzbekistan. They currently operate 17 Il-76 transports. -- Doug Clarke RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS IN TAJIKISTAN DETAIN OPPOSITION FIELD COMMANDER. A group of 11 men were apprehended by Russian border guards near Khorog on 28 June, ITAR-TASS and Russian Independent Television (NTV) reported. The 11, who were in possession of weapons and drugs, included opposition field commander Khudoidod. According to the 2 July NTV broadcast, opposition members surrounded the border post and demanded the release of Khudoidod, threatening to resort to violence. The commander of the border guards in Tajikistan, Lt.-Gen. Pavel Tarasenko, flew to the area to negotiate with the opposition. The Russians finally handed Khudoidod and six others over to Tajik authorities. -- 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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