|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 131, Part I, 9 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 MORE ON MILITARY CORRUPTION... Retired Lt.- Gen. Lev Rokhlin told reporters on 8 July that the purpose of his revelations of high level corruption in the military was to prevent the appointment of a dishonest defense minister, arguing that that would be "mortally dangerous for the army," ITAR-TASS reported. One of the generals named by Rokhlin was Konstantin Kobets, tipped as a possible successor to Pavel Grachev. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov said that all Rokhlin's charges will be investigated and called for a federal anti-crime program to be coordinated by Security Council Chairman Aleksandr Lebed. Chief Military Procurator Valentin Panichev, meanwhile, said that in the past two years law enforcement agencies have launched 267 criminal cases over military corruption; 36 officers were convicted of bribery in 1995 and 30 more are still under investigation. More than 3,000 officials faced some sort of administrative punishment and "several dozen" officers were forced to step down. -- Penny Morvant ...CORRUPTION ELSEWHERE... Participants in a meeting at the Procurator- General's Office on 8 July said that corruption has become endemic in Russia and poses a real threat to reform, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported. The most corruption-prone sectors reportedly include the State Property Committee; the Central Bank; the Health, Agriculture, Defense, and Interior Ministries; the Tax Police; the State Customs Committee; and local power structures. First Deputy Procurator General Yurii Chaika said that 14,000 corruption cases have been filed over the past two years, one in three involving state officials, and that more than 1,000 violations concerning privatization have been reported recently. Chaika added that First Deputy Chairman of the State Property Committee Petr Mostovoi is currently under investigation. While government representative at the gold-mining company Lenzoloto, Mostovoi allegedly helped Australian firm Star Technologies acquire shares in the firm at a discount. This is the second time Mostovoi has featured in an investigation into privatization abuses. -- Penny Morvant ...AND NEWSPAPER ALLEGES CORRUPTION IN KREMLIN. In an article entitled "favorites" in Novaya yezhednevnaya gazeta, journalist Aleksandr Minkin has accused former Presidential Security Service head Aleksandr Korzhakov, former Federal Security Service head Mikhail Barsukov, and State Committee on Physical Culture and Tourism Chairman Shamil Tarpishchev of corruption and other offenses, Ekho Moskvy and NTV reported. The article includes an alleged transcript of a conversation between former National Sports Fund head Boris Fedorov, who recently survived an assassination attempt, and three others about Tarpishchev's alleged embezzlement of state funds and contacts with organized crime. Korzhakov and Barsukov are said to have protected Tarpishchev. The article also cites a note from Fedorov, who used to work closely with Tarpishchev, claiming that he has been forced to go public to prevent Korzhakov and Barsukov from killing him. -- Penny Morvant KOVALEV HOSPITALIZED. Russia's best-known human rights activist, Sergei Kovalev, has been hospitalized after suffering a major heart attack, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 July. Kovalev, 66, spent 10 years in Soviet prisons and exile. He was Yeltsin's senior adviser on human rights before breaking with the president over the Russian military intervention in Chechnya. -- Penny Morvant LEBED MEETS YELTSIN... President Boris Yeltsin approved in principle a new statute for the Security Council drawn up by Aleksandr Lebed on 8 July at their regular Monday meeting, and ordered him to prepare the final document, ITAR-TASS reported. No details of the plan were provided, but Lebed has sought wide powers over military, police, and economic issues and even the re-establishment of the vice presidency. Yeltsin has authorized him to prepare a plan to fight organized crime that would concentrate on improving the cooperation of Russia's law enforcement agencies. The president created the Council on 3 June 1992 by decree and it is mentioned in the partially obsolete 1992 law On Security. The 1993 Constitution states that there should be a law governing the Security Council, but it has yet to be adopted. -- Robert Orttung ...AND CHERNOMYRDIN. Lebed also met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for the first time since he was appointed Security Council Secretary and National Security Advisor. The two men discussed the social, economic, and political situation in the country following the elections, as well as Lebed's participation in Chernomyrdin's commission for resolving the war in Chechnya. The two are rivals for power within Yeltsin's inner circle with Lebed seeking to approve key ministers in Chernomyrdin's cabinet. Chernomyrdin has denounced Lebed's proposal to recreate the office of vice president. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN OPPONENTS RALLY IN ST. PETERSBURG. Supporters of Working Leningrad, the regional branch of Viktor Anpilov's hardline Working Russia, rallied in the center of St. Petersburg following the defeat of Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov in the presidential election runoff, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 July. The participants carried red flags and banners with slogans calling those who voted for President Yeltsin spiritless slaves of the dollar and saying that they have betrayed the motherland in line with the evil plans of the world's bankers. Meanwhile, the leader of the Tatar Party of National Independence, "Ittifak," Fauziya Bairamova, announced that she will establish a new "popular patriotic movement" in Tatarstan which will continue opposing Yeltsin and the regime of Tatar President Shaimiev, Ekspress-khronika reported on 9 July. Bairamova said she expects the Communists to join the new movement. -- Anna Paretskaya DUMA BACKS RUSSIAN TROOPS IN TAJIKISTAN. The Duma Geopolitics Committee concluded on 8 July that Tajikistan has become a target of Islamic extremism and the exit of Russian troops would result in new tensions, including the emergence of a bloc of Islamic states on the Russian border, ITAR-TASS reported. There are some 25,000 Russian troops in Tajikistan. The committee recommended that the troops remain in place to "ensure security in the region and facilitate the resolution of the Tajik conflict by peaceful means." Deputy Director of the Federal Border Service Aleksandr Manilov said that the border guards also play a role in preventing the import of narcotics and weapons. The full Duma will discuss the issue next week. -- Robert Orttung JAPAN SEEKS BETTER RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. In a telephone conversation with President Yeltsin, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto expressed interest in activating negotiations at the level of foreign ministers to hammer out a peace treaty with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The leaders discussed the possibility of Hashimoto coming to Moscow, though Hashimoto stressed that there would have to be some practical purpose to it. No Japanese prime minister has made an official visit to Moscow for almost 25 years. The Japanese were annoyed when Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov recently said that the Kuril Islands dispute should be left to future generations. -- Robert Orttung TIKHOMIROV: "I'M STILL IN COMMAND..." Contradicting media reports that he had been relieved from his duties, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov told reporters in Grozny on 8 July that he remained in command of the joint group of federal forces in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Tikhomirov had just returned from Moscow where he gave what he described as a five-hour report on the state of affairs in Chechnya. On 9 July presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev "categorically denied" that Tikhomirov had been removed, AFP reported. -- Doug Clarke ...AS FIGHTING INTENSIFIES IN CHECHNYA. Tikhomirov on 8 July accused the Chechen side of continuing to violate the 27 May and 10 June peace agreements, and issued an ultimatum to acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and his men to release all hostages, and to provide an explanation for all alleged breaches of the peace agreements, ORT reported. The hostages include the pro-Moscow administrative head of Grozny's Lenin raion, Lyudmilla Rodimushkina, who was abducted in Grozny on 7 July. Tikhomirov threatened to take "adequate measures to eliminate ... the bandits and terrorists" if Yandarbiev failed to comply by 6 p.m. local time on 9 July. Meanwhile, Russian troops began shelling villages in the south of Chechnya, Reuters reported on 9 July quoting Ekho Moskvy. A night-time curfew will be imposed throughout Chechnya beginning on 10 July, AFP reported on 9 July. -- Liz Fuller ROKHLIN COMMITTEE PREPARES MILITARY REFORM DRAFT. A new draft law "On military reform" has been submitted to President Boris Yeltsin for consideration, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 9 July. The bill was prepared by the Duma Defense Committee, chaired by Gen. Lev Rokhlin, with the involvement of Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, a former member of the committee. The draft calls for a series of measures to introduce smaller, better funded armed forces by 2005. The army would remain conscript-based until the completion of the reorganization. Defense spending would be set at least 5% of GDP and 25% of the federal budget, plus another 2% (10%) for law enforcement agencies. The draft specifies the standardization of pay and conditions for all armed units, currently spread across 20 different ministries and agencies. It also calls for an end to the use of troops for construction, harvesting and other non-military duties. -- Peter Rutland TURKISH JOURNALISTS SENTENCED. Two Turkish journalists arrested for entering Russia illegally were sentenced to three years imprisonment on 8 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Talip Ozshelik and Meshmet Ali Tekin were sentenced by a court in Magaremkent, the town on the Dagestan-Azerbaijan border where they were arrested trying to slip over the border last November. The two journalists said they had been planning to cover the war in Chechnya but had been unable to obtain visas. According to ITAR- TASS, in May 1995 the two journalists had received visas to visit Rostov-na-donu but had traveled without authorization to Chechnya. -- Penny Morvant TVERUNIVERSALBANK COLLAPSES. One of Russia's largest commercial banks, Tveruniversalbank, stopped operations and has been placed under the Central Bank's temporary management, ORT reported on 8 July. Personal accounts will be transferred to the state-owned Sberbank (Savings Bank). The bank was estimated as the 17th or 23rd largest in Russia by ORT and Reuters respectively. Experts differ on whether the bank's collapse is due to managerial incompetence or is a sign of an impending banking crisis. Speaking to OMRI, the head of the Institute for Economic Analysis, Andrei Illarionov, suggested that the bank's crash may be related to its involvement in operations with bills of exchange (vekselya). Tveruniversalbank was a leading trader in these financial instruments and attempted to play the role of the alternative Central Bank or Finance Ministry by issuing its own vekselya which, however, were not secured by real and liquid assets. -- Natalia Gurushina in Moscow TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TRANSIT TRADE AGREEMENT IN CENTRAL ASIA. After four days of talks between customs and immigration experts in Islamabad, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Pakistan signed a protocol on unified customs procedures for the transit of goods between the four countries on 6 July, according to BBC monitoring of Radio Pakistan. The agreement may facilitate the Central Asian countries' access to Pakistan's ports. -- Bhavna Dave NEW KYRGYZ ECONOMIC PROGRAM. The Kyrgyz government released a program outlining the economic development of the country up to 2005, ITAR-TASS reported. The main aims are doubling GNP and lowering the inflation rate to 8% from the current level of 50%, said Kyrgyz Economy Minister Talaibek Koichumanov. The parliament needs to approve about 100 draft laws to support the government's economic program, Koichumanov said. -- Bhavna Dave RUSSIAN TO BE AN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IN KYRGYZSTAN. The Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan has approved amendments to Article 5 of the Constitution, thus granting Russian the status of an official language, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 1 July. The article had defined Kyrgyz as the state language, granting "equal rights" for the free development and functioning of Russian and other languages, without conferring special recognition upon Russian. Earlier this year, the Kyrgyz parliament approved a proposal by President Askar Akayev that Russian be granted the status of an official language to facilitate ties with the CIS countries and prevent the emigration of Russian speakers. -- Bhavna Dave KARIMOV CALLS FOR POLITICAL REFORM IN UZBEKISTAN. Following his June trips to Italy and the United States, Uzbek President Islam Karimov stressed that the next task of his government is to institute reform measures in the areas of human rights and individual freedoms, Narodnoe slovo reported on 6 July. In a press conference on 5 July, Karimov noted that active opposition parties, a Western-style press, and the observance of citizens' rights are essential to the continued development of Uzbekistan, noting that they would "ensure democracy" in the country. Karimov also reiterated his position that Uzbekistan supports CIS agreements, but not that organization's "deeper integration." If implemented, the democratic reforms discussed by Karimov would be a significant departure from current practices, as noted in the May 1996 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki report. -- Roger Kangas INTER-TAJIK TALKS RESUME IN ASHGABAT. The continuation of the fifth round of inter-Tajik peace talks began on 8 July in Ashgabat, Russian and Western sources reported. UN Special Envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem attended, in addition to government and opposition representatives. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov was in Ashgabat on the same day for an official visit with the Turkmen government, but it is not known if he will participate in the peace talks, Opposition representative Ali Akbar Turajonzoda remarked that Russia must be an active participant in the peace process, RTR reported. -- Roger Kangas [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. 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