|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
No. 130, Part I, 8 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 DUMA DEFENSE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ACCUSES GENERALS OF CORRUPTION... Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, in a speech to the Duma on 5 July, attacked former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev for allowing "massive criminal embezzlement in the armed forces" and accused five top generals of corruption, Russian and Western agencies reported. Rokhlin, who commanded the Russian assault on Grozny in January 1995, said his findings were based on the results of an investigation by the Accounting Chamber into a Moskovskii komsomolets report on corruption in housing construction for the military. Rokhlin accused Defense Ministry Inspector Gen. Konstantin Kobets of turning a blind eye to shady dealings by the Lyukon construction company, of which Kobets' son was said to be a cofounder, and alleged that Vasilii Vorobev, former head of the ministry's main budget and finance department, had illegally transferred huge sums abroad. The other generals implicated by Rokhlin were Grachev's brother-in-law Col.-Gen. Dmitrii Kharchenko, Col.-Gen. Vyacheslav Zherebtsov, and Col.-Gen. Vladimir Churanov. Rokhlin also laid out his allegations in an article in Dom i Otechestvo, No 17. -- Penny Morvant ...AND FAVORS RODIONOV FOR DEFENSE MINISTER. In the same speech, Rokhlin proposed appointing Gen. Igor Rodionov as Russia's new defense minister. Rodionov's candidacy has been supported by Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed. Rokhlin also backed Lebed's call for more powers over the defense and security establishment, advocating the creation of a Military Council under the jurisdiction of the Security Council that would be in charge of all bodies responsible for defense and security. Several observers have contended that the timing of Rokhlin's speech was linked to the debate over the appointment of the new defense minister, arguing that his aim was to support Rodionov and discredit Kobets, another possible candidate for the post, NTV reported. -- Penny Morvant REACTION TO CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS. Following Rokhlin's accusations, the Duma adopted a resolution demanding a legal investigation of the abuses. The deputies instructed the Accounting Chamber to audit the Military Insurance Company and the Rosvooruzhenie military exporter, two firms linked by Rokhlin to shady deals. ITAR-TASS on 5 July quoted an unnamed member of the military procurator's office as saying that 428 officers faced criminal charges in 1995. Kobets said the allegations were without foundation and had only one goal--to discredit candidates for the post of defense minister. He denied that his son had any connection with the Lyukon company, Ekho Moskvy reported. Vorobev also said the accusations were groundless and had already been investigated on more than one occasion. He announced his intention to sue Rokhlin. -- Penny Morvant LEBED SAYS HE WILL CONFIRM NEW "POWER MINISTERS." Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed told ITAR-TASS on 6 July that while Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has the overall responsibility for forming a new government, appointments to the "bloc of power ministries should be agreed with me." Lebed denied widespread media reports that he and Chernomyrdin are now engaged in a struggle for influence over the composition of the new government, saying "there are no contradictions" between himself and the Prime Minister. "Each has his own affairs, everything is normal," he declared. Speaking after an inspection of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Lebed also responded angrily to the announcement on 5 July by Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev that his ministry will "strictly monitor" the Security Council's activity. Lebed said he would be "accountable" like all other ministers, and derisively attributed Russia's problems to an excess of "bosses and supervisors." -- Scott Parrish DUMA PASSES LAW ON FASCISM. The Duma on 5 July approved a draft law banning fascism in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill instructed the Interior Ministry to warn all groups engaged in such activities and bring legal action against repeat offenders. Yeltsin issued a similar decree on 23 March 1995 in an attempt to crackdown on fascist groups on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. That measure had little visible effect. -- Robert Orttung TV NETWORKS STILL SHY AWAY FROM HEALTH ISSUE. Analytical programs broadcast on 7 July on state-run RTR and the private network NTV devoted considerable time to reviewing the election results, Yeltsin's successful campaign strategy, the likely composition of the new cabinet, and Yeltsin's priorities for his second term. However, in reviewing the week's events, neither RTR's "Zerkalo" nor NTV's "Itogi" discussed the continuing questions concerning the president's health, or the fact that their networks' television cameras were not allowed to film Yeltsin voting on 3 July. NTV avoided the issue altogether, while RTR's Nikolai Svanidze only hinted that since Yeltsin first took office, he "has not become healthier" and must now "reconcile his political temperament with his actual physical capacities." -- Laura Belin in Moscow IZVESTIYA REPORTS "SECRET" YELTSIN LETTER TO CLINTON ON BALTICS. On 6 July, Izvestiya summarized a confidential letter President Yeltsin sent to his American counterpart Bill Clinton in an attempt to influence Clinton's stance during his 25 June meeting with the three Baltic presidents. Written in a "harsh" tone, the letter appealed to Clinton to reverse American "indifference" to the situation of the Russian minorities in Estonia and Latvia and pressure Riga and Tallin to take a more "objective" approach to the issue. The letter also reiterated Russia's "categorical" rejection of even "the hypothetical possibility" of NATO membership for the Baltics, but supported their joining the EU. The paper speculated that Yeltsin's letter may have had some impact, since Clinton disappointed the Baltic presidents with only vague assurances about NATO membership, and also made a token reference to the minority issue. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA REITERATES NEED FOR NEW TREATY WITH NORTH KOREA. Speaking during a reception at the North Korean embassy marking the 35th anniversary of the signing of the 1961 Soviet-North Korean Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov said the treaty had "fulfilled its historic role" and should be replaced, Russian and Western agencies reported on 6 July. Russia unilaterally renounced the defense assistance clauses of the treaty in 1993, and last year informed Pyongyang that it would not renew the treaty, which expires this September. Panov said that although Moscow has submitted the draft of a new treaty without a military assistance clause to Pyongyang, it has received no response yet. He added that Moscow hopes to build equally good relations with both North and South Korea. -- Scott Parrish CHECHEN PEACE AGREEMENT IN JEOPARDY. Russian forces renewed artillery bombardment of villages in south-east Chechnya on 7 July amid mutual accusations of non-compliance with the peace agreements of 27 May and 10 June, Russian and Western media reported. A spokesman for Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov said that the Russian forces had failed to remove roadblocks in places outside Chechen towns and villages or to close filtration camps by the 7 July deadline, according to AFP; the Russians accuse the Chechens of continuing attacks on Russian forces. Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's personal representative for Chechnya, Sergei Drogush, travelled to Grozny on 6 July to prepare for a visit by Lebed himself. Lebed was quoted by ITAR- TASS as stating that he would meet with Chechen opposition representatives only if asked to do so by pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev. Radio Rossii quoted Zavgaev on 7 July as stating that he is prepared to begin peace negotiations with acting Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. -- Liz Fuller NEW FEDERAL COMMANDER IN CHECHNYA. President Boris Yeltsin has replaced Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov as the commander of federal troops in Chechnya, Russian TV reported on 7 July. The information was said to have come from the command headquarters in Grozny. Tikhomirov's replacement was said to be Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskiy, the deputy commander of the North Caucasus Military District. Tikhomirov, with the reputation of a hardliner, saw little hope in a negotiated settlement of the conflict. The previous day he was quoted by Radio Russia as saying attempts to hold a constructive dialogue with the "bandits" were fruitless. -- Doug Clarke IS RUSSIA FACING A FINANCIAL CRISIS? Speaking at the Carnegie Foundation in Moscow on 6 July, Washington-based economist Anders Aslund said he does not believe that an economic crash will occur in Russia later this year. Aslund said that pre-election spending promises were lower than many reports suggest, and that "inflationary budgets are a thing of the past." In contrast, Mikhail Delyagin argued in the 5 July edition of Izvestiya that some sort of financial crisis is inevitable, given that in April the federal budget deficit reached 7.1% of GDP, roughly double the limit allowed in the agreement between Russia and IMF. -- Laura Belin in Moscow and Peter Rutland DUMA PASSES LAW ON TROPHY ART. The Duma on 6 July passed a bill making artworks transported from Germany to the Soviet Union during World War II the legal property of the Russian Federation, international agencies reported. The draft must be approved by President Yeltsin and the Federation Council before it becomes law. Negotiations between Germany and Russia over so-called trophy art have been deadlocked for the past two years. Russian officials argue that the 200,000 or so artworks and 2 million books seized by Soviet troops are just compensation for the massive cultural losses the USSR sustained during the war. Germany, however, demands that Russia abide by international law, which prohibits the seizure of national art treasures. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told a German weekly on 7 July that if Russia pressed ahead with its "unilateral action," Russian-German relations would suffer. -- Jan Cleave TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UN OBSERVERS' MANDATE IN ABKHAZIA TO BE EXTENDED? UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has recommended to the Security Council that the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Abkhazia (UNOMIG), which is due to expire this month, be renewed until January, 1997, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 July. The head of the UN mission, Liviu Bota, informed the secessionist Abkhaz leadership on 5 July that Georgia is ready to renew talks on future relations between Abkhazia and the leadership in Tbilisi, and handed over a message on the resumption of talks from Boutros-Ghali's special envoy for Abkhazia, Eduard Brunner. On 6 July, an OSCE mission called for an international investigation into grave human rights violations in Abkhazia including what it termed a campaign of genocide against ethnic Georgians, Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller KAZAKHSTAN, CHINA SIGN JOINT DECLARATION. China and Kazakhstan signed a joint declaration on bilateral cooperation and friendship following a three-day official visit by Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Western, Russian and Chinese media reported on 4 and 5 July. Both countries pledged to begin the boundary demarcation process in the spirit of the Shanghai agreement of this April, conclude a treaty on mutual reduction of border troops, and expand trade. China promised a moratorium on nuclear testing in September. Russian Radio reported on 5 July that Kazakhstan's security officials prevented Uighur separatists and anti- nuclear activists from staging protests. -- Bhavna Dave KYRGYZ-CHINESE COOPERATION AGREEMENTS. Before arriving in Almaty, President Jiang Zemin signed a series of agreements with Kyrgyzstan on 4 July, concluding a two-day visit to Bishkek, Chinese and Western media reported. Five agreements on bilateral cooperation in civil and legal affairs, air transport, customs, meteorological technology and banking were signed. China also offered 3 million yuan ($370,000) aid in goods to Kyrgyzstan. Both countries have concluded a demarcation of all but one mountain portion of the state border between the two countries, Xinhua reported on 4 July. -- Bhavna Dave TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION ON FIGHTING IN TAVIL DARA. After days of fierce fighting, both sides claim to be in possession of the strategic city of Tavil Dara, Western and Russian media reported. On 5 July, Tajik Presidential Spokesman Zafar Saidov acknowledged that not only were government troops in control of the city, but had moved 2-3 kms eastward. In addition, at least 10 other villages had been retaken in fighting that resumed in late June. Ali Akbar Turajonzoda of the National Islamic Movement denied these claims, noting that the government attack had been repulsed after sustaining heavy casualties, AFP reported on 6 July. Opposition sources claim that Tavil Dara, which they have controlled since 12 May, is still firmly in their possession. Meanwhile, the latest round of inter-Tajik peace talks resumed on 8 July in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov will attend the talks. -- Roger Kangas TURKMEN, IRANIAN, AND ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Boris Shikhmuradov, Ali Akbar Velayati, and Vahan Papazyan concluded a two-day meeting in Ashgabat on 4 July at which they signed several long-term cooperation accords, Western and Iranian sources reported. At the center of the agreements is a three-way barter trade that would send Turkmen gas to Armenia, Armenian rubber and light bulbs to Iran, and "unspecified goods and services" from Iran to Turkmenistan, with each shipment estimated at $20 million, Reuters reported on 5 July. Equally important is the commitment on the part of the three foreign ministers to continue working together on issues of regional concern. The ministers will meet again in six months' time in Yerevan. -- Roger Kangas [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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