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No. 134, Part I, 12 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 ************************************************************************ Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region. This week's edition includes stories on Russia's looming budget problem, a crisis hitting Romanian banks, and the newest venture by Stratton and Harvard Funds in the Czech Republic. For subscription and rate information, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org *********************************************************************** RUSSIA FIGHTING IN CHECHNYA CONTINUES . . . On 11 July, Russian forces launched new air and artillery attacks around Vedeno and Elistanzhi in southeast Chechnya, while the blockade of Gekhi and Makhety continued, Russian and Western media reported. Lyudmila Radimushkina, the head administrator of the central district in Grozny who was kidnapped on 7 July, was found shot dead on 11 July. The same day, rebel commander Doku Makhaev was killed while attempting to flee Gekhi. Also near that town, Maj. Gen. Nikolai Skripnik, deputy commander of Interior Ministry troops in the North Caucasus, died after his vehicle hit a mine. Ekho Moskvy reported on 10 July that a group of fighters left Makhety intent on killing 27 relatives or clan members of pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev in revenge for the 27 people killed in the 9 July bombardment of the town. -- Peter Rutland . . . WHILE LEBED BACKTRACKS ON ENDING THE WAR. Speaking in Moscow on 11 July, Aleksandr Lebed condoned the current offensive, saying that federal commander Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov is "taking appropriate measures" and that Russia will "fight until victory," AFP reported. Lebed continued: "If Chechnya became independent, the republic of Dagestan would be cut off. The situation then would not be simpler, and there would be a major war in the Caucasus." -- Peter Rutland U.S. BLAMES MOSCOW FOR FIGHTING IN CHECHNYA. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns on 11 July blamed the renewed fighting in Chechnya on a decision by the Yeltsin administration to "take a different tack" now that the presidential election is over, Western agencies reported. Burns said the U.S. deplores the "excessive and inappropriate" use of force against civilians by Russian units. On the same day, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, often criticized for having an overly rosy view of Russia, said any attempt to impose a military solution in Chechnya would result in "disaster." He said Vice President Al Gore would raise the issue during his scheduled 14-16 July visit to Moscow. Western governments had soft-pedaled criticism of Russian policy in Chechnya during the presidential election campaign in order to avoid harming Yeltsin's prospects, a decision which was harshly criticized by international human rights groups. -- Scott Parrish LEBED DEFINES NEW SECURITY COUNCIL POWERS. President Boris Yeltsin's 10 July decree on the Security Council gives its secretary, Aleksandr Lebed, wide-ranging powers, NTV reported on 11 July. Lebed defined his duties as covering four main types of security: defense, societal, economic, and informational, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. He now has the authority to oversee the activities of Russia's security agencies, recommend punishments for bureaucrats not fulfilling their duties, and supply information to the president on all individuals being considered for high government posts. The council will oversee Russia's domestic and foreign security, defense readiness, military cooperation, and the development of a global information system, ITAR-TASS reported. Lebed will also oversee security within Russia's regions. He wants to appoint Inkombank's Vladimir Groshev as his deputy, Izvestiya reported on 12 July. Groshev has prepared a plan for stabilizing Russia's market economy and the paper considers him capable of putting together a good team of economic advisers. -- Robert Orttung MORE ON FIGHTING CRIME IN MOSCOW. Commenting on President Yeltsin's 10 July decree on tackling crime in Moscow, Lebed said the capital was chosen as a testing-ground because of the large number of banks there and the links between state bodies and criminal groups. The decree focuses on organized crime and the black economy, giving Moscow's police, tax police, and customs officials the power to confiscate assets that do not figure in companies records. It also envisages increasing the number of Interior Troops in the capital by 10,000 and reinforcing the police, tax police, procuracy, and the courts. It allows homeless people suspected of crimes to be held for up to 30 days and in certain cases expelled from Moscow, Segodnya and AFP reported. Asked about the allegations in Novaya gazeta (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 and 11 July 1996) concerning three men in Yeltsin's inner circle, Lebed said the Procurator-General's Office is investigating the case. -- Penny Morvant JUDICIAL CHAMBER REPRIMANDS JOURNALIST, ORT OVER CHECHNYA REPORTS. . . The president's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes reprimanded controversial journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov and ORT for two reports broadcast on 11 May and 2 June, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 July. Russian soldiers were shown on Nevzorov's show "Dni" (Days) carrying the ears of Chechen rebel fighters as trophies. During the hearings, the deputy head of the pro-Moscow Chechen mission argued that the programs had inspired hundreds of new volunteers to join the rebels, while the deputy commander of Russian forces in the breakaway republic complained that the show portrayed his soldiers as "monsters." The chamber has no power to implement its decisions, but it asked the Procurator-General's Office to investigate the broadcasts. Last year, it reprimanded Nevzorov for a report he filmed in a women's prison (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 October 1995) -- Laura Belin . . . AND RECOMMENDS BAN ON RIGHT-WING WEEKLY. The Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes also recommended that the State Press Committee ban the far-right weekly Pressa Rossii for stirring up social and ethnic strife, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 July. The case was inspired by a recent Izvestiya article entitled "Fascist propaganda in Muscovites' mailboxes." Hearings revealed that the paper also printed erroneous information regarding its founder and the address of its editorial board. The chamber asked the Procurator-General's Office to investigate the paper. -- Laura Belin ANPILOV WANTS TO START NEW TV STATION. Working Russia leader Viktor Anpilov announced that he wants to launch a new television station in Russia to be called People's Television of Russia (NTR), ORT reported on 11 July. Anpilov denounced Russia's current media as an "empire of lies" and called for resuming the "siege" of Ostankino. Ostankino is the location of Russia's first channel ORT and was the scene of violent clashes in October 1993 following President Yeltsin's decision to shut down the Supreme Soviet. Anpilov hopes to collect the $50 million necessary to start broadcasts from individual contributions. The Working Russia leader said he would join a union with Gennadii Zyuganov's Communist Party, if it did not join Yeltsin's cabinet, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung CHUVASH PRESIDENT READY TO QUIT. The president of Chuvashiya, Nikolai Fedorov, has offered his resignation to President Yeltsin following Zyuganov's strong showing in the second round of the election in his republic, Obshchaya gazeta (No.27) reported. Fedorov campaigned for Yeltsin in Chuvashiya, despite the fact that the Communist Party is strong in the republic. Gennadii Zyuganov received 62.6% of the vote to Yeltsin's 31.8%. Although Yeltsin's administration has said that leaders of regions that supported Zyuganov will not be fired, the newspaper suggested that they may be punished indirectly; for example, Chuvashiya did not receive any subsidies after it was hit by a hurricane in late June, although neighboring regions were allotted federal budget money for reconstruction -- Anna Paretskaya FORMER ST. PETERSBURG MAYOR GUILTY FOR FINANCIAL PROBLEMS. An inspection commission looking into St. Petersburg's financial situation has blamed former Mayor Anatolii Sobchak for the city's current problems, Radio Rossii reported on 11 July. The commission, established by incoming Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, has determined that the municipal budget fell by half over the last three years and the local debt has doubled over the last five months to reach 2.5 trillion rubles ($500 million). The commission also accused Sobchak of inefficiently managing the state's shares in privatized enterprises. The materials gathered during the inspection were sent to the Procurator-General's Office, the tax inspectorate, and the Federal Security Service. However, the radio station questioned the commission's objectivity, since it was formed by Sobchak's rivals in the gubernatorial race. -- Anna Paretskaya ZHIRINOVSKY LIKENS NATO EXPANSION TO "BLOCKADE" OF RUSSIA. Delivering a report to the Duma on the recent fifth annual session of the OSCE parliamentary assembly in Stockholm, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said plans to enlarge NATO to include former Soviet republics "suggest a geopolitical and economic blockade of Russia, ITAR- TASS reported on 11 July. During the OSCE parliamentary assembly session, which ended on 9 July, the Russian delegation voted against adopting the Stockholm Declaration, a document outlining a future European security system. Delegation head Ivan Rybkin said the Russian deputies objected to a clause in the declaration which referred to an enlarged NATO as one pillar of a new security order in Europe. The assembly approved the original wording on a second vote despite Russian objections. -- Scott Parrish SECOND BOMB BLAST ON MOSCOW TROLLEY BUS. A bomb ripped through a trolley bus in central Moscow on 12 July injuring at least 20 people, ITAR-TASS reported. It was the second such blast in two days. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who has just been given a mandate to tackle crime in the Russian capital, described the 11 July explosion as "an insane terrorist act," contending that it was meant to "cause fear and fatigue." Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said he could not rule out a Chechen link, while Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin suggested that the explosion might have been the criminal world's answer to the decree drafted by Lebed and Luzhkov on fighting crime in the Moscow area. Speaking after the second explosion, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that he has decided to monitor the investigations personally. -- Penny Morvant ENERGY CRISES IN PRIMORE AND KOMI. Many homes and enterprises in Vladivostok and other parts of Primorskii Krai have been suffering severe power cuts for three days because of a payments crisis in the area's fuel and energy sector, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 July. The power company Dalenergo is owed almost 1.5 trillion rubles by customers and cannot pay for fuel supplies. As a temporary measure, emergency stocks of fuel oil from the Pacific Fleet are being transferred to the krai. In early July, some coal companies stopped delivering supplies to debtor customers. Meanwhile, the Komienergo power company in the northern republic of Komi on 10 July cut or restricted power supplies to 150 consumers who have not paid their bills, Radio Rossii reported. Komienergo is owed 1.1 trillion rubles and has not paid its workers since February. -- Penny Morvant GOVERNMENT TRIES TO PRUNE SUPPORT FOR REGIONS. Chairing a meeting of the government on 11 July, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov said the federal budget will allot 55 trillion rubles ($10.7 billion) in 1996 to support for the regions, ITAR-TASS reported. This amounts to 13% of the budget; Kadannikov rejected proposals to increase the share 25%. Presidential adviser Aleksandr Livshits was quoted in Delovoi mir on 10 July as saying that the office for making payments to the regions will shortly be "closed for accounting." -- Peter Rutland BANKING CONFERENCE OPENS IN MOSCOW. Irina Sedova, deputy director of the bank supervision department at the Central Bank (TsB), told a banking conference on 11 July that the TsB withdrew the licenses from 145 commercial banks in the first half of this year, ITAR-TASS reported. There were 2,605 banks in Russia as of 1 July 1996; 463 banks have been closed since 1991. Sedova said that while around 30% of the banks are still not in compliance with new, stricter TsB regulations, bank profits in the first five months of 1996 totaled 10 trillion rubles ($2 billion). Aleksandr Khandruev, the first deputy chairman of the TsB, evaluated their balance sheet more negatively. He said that over the past year their total revenue was 18 trillion rubles and outlays 20 trillion rubles, meaning a loss of 2 trillion rubles. Earlier this week, the TsB began temporary administration of Tveruniversalbank, Russia's 17th largest bank, and are still administering Unikombank, the 12th biggest, which they took over earlier this year. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION FIGURE RELEASED FROM PRISON. The deputy leader of the Azerbaijani Popular Front, Arif Pashayev, was released from prison on 11 July, international media reported. Pashayev was initially jailed for his role as a military unit commander in the surrender of the town of Lachin to Armenian forces in May 1992. A September 1994 prison escape and subsequent recapture resulted in a five-year sentence. An amnesty signed by President Heidar Aliev combined with the president's personal meetings with Pashayev's family members are cited as the reasons for the release. Pashayev, though, still believes that he could be imprisoned again, noting that certain members of the government "want him out of the way." -- Roger Kangas FATAL SHOOTING ON ABKHAZ-RUSSIAN BORDER. One of a group of four Abkhaz was shot dead by Russian border guards during the night of 11-12 July while attempting to cross illegally from Abkhazia into the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia closed its border with Abkhazia at the time of the Russian military intervention in Chechnya in December 1994 in order to preclude the channelling of weapons and mercenaries to fight on the Chechen side. -- Liz Fuller CHINESE AUTHORITIES DENY MASS ARRESTS IN XINJIANG. Yusupbek Mukhlissi, the exiled leader of the Uighur separatist group United National Revolutionary Front (UNRF) based in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, told AFP on 11 July that Chinese authorities have arrested 10,000 people in the village of Aqsu, near the Kyrgyz border and another 8,000 in the capital Urumqi. A Chinese government spokesman denied these claims as "mere rumors," and said that there were only "several thousand" arrests, AFP reported on 12 July. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have consistently pledged support for China's efforts to control cross- border separatist activities. Kazakhstani authorities prevented Uighur leaders from staging a public protest during the Chinese President Jiang Zemin's visit to Almaty last week. -- Bhavna Dave KYRGYZ JOURNALIST SENTENCED. Another journalist from the Kyrgyz independent weekly newspaper Res Publica has been jailed, Radio Mayak reported on 11 July. Yrysbek Omurzakov was sentenced to two years in a penal colony for slandering President Akayev, though the report did not mention what was said or written about Akayev. Omurzakov, who is appealing the decision, has already spent two months in solitary confinement. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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