|When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves. - Katherine Mansfield|
No. 135, Part I, 15 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 FIGHTING IN CHECHNYA CONTINUES. Chechen forces launched an unsuccessful attack on Russian positions near Shatoi on 12 July in retaliation for the bombardment of Chechen villages, Western agencies reported. Russian forces finally established control of Gekhi on 13 July but as of 14 July, they continued to blockade Makhketi, Tsentaroi, Benoi, and Vedeno in the southeast, according to Reuters. On 12 July, Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev said it is imperative to begin talks with the Chechen opposition "at the very highest level," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov similarly called for tripartite talks to include Moscow representatives and both Chechen factions, according to ITAR TASS. On 13 July, acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev said that peace talks with Moscow should be renewed only with UN mediation, and on condition that the Russian troops agree to abide by the agreements already signed, Ekho Moskvy and Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN HEALTH CONCERNS LINGER. President Yeltsin announced that he will take an unplanned two-week holiday at the state sanitarium in Barvikha, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 July. Yeltsin also canceled a meeting with U.S. Vice President Al Gore on 15 July but then rescheduled it for 16 July at Barvikha. Late last week, the president said that he had no plans to take a rest as he would be working with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on forming the new cabinet. During the presidential campaign, the pro-Yeltsin media ignored the question of his health, fearing that such concerns would reduce his support. However, the 13 July edition of Moskovskaya pravda raised a number of questions about Yeltsin's ability to carry out his duties. The paper suggested that Yeltsin has turned down treatment because he is afraid that it could hurt his political image. -- Robert Orttung POLICE ON THE OFFENSIVE IN MOSCOW. The police presence on the streets of Moscow has been stepped up in the wake of last week's two trolley bus blasts and the announcement of tough new measures to combat crime in the capital. According to AFP, citing Interfax, police have detained some 6,000 people since the 12 July blast. President Boris Yeltsin said on 12 July that he had signed a new decree on combating terrorism, and Luzhkov pledged to get rid of "all those down-and-outs, scoundrels, casual workers who come here with a view to robbery, theft, and banditry" and said that "the entire [Chechen] diaspora must be evicted from Moscow," NTV reported. Leaders of the Russian Muslim Union have warned that Luzhkov's clean-up operation could lead to repressions against Caucasians. One report claimed that a Chechen field commander had taken responsibility for the bombings, but both the pro-Moscow and the separatist Chechen leadership has denied involvement. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN CALLS FOR NEW IDEOLOGY. President Yeltsin called for the creation of a "national idea" in a meeting with his campaign workers on 12 July, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the various stages in Russian history--monarchy, totalitarianism, perestroika--each had their own ideology, but that the current democratic path of government does not have one. He called for the new ideology to be defined within one year. -- Robert Orttung DUMA PASSES NEW LAW ON TRANSFER OF POWER. The Duma on 12 July passed a new law on the transfer of presidential power by a vote of 299-1 with five abstentions, Russian TV (RTR) reported. Yeltsin had vetoed the previous version of the law on 20 June and his representative in the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, had informed the deputies that he is against adopting such a law, Segodnya reported on 13 July. The deputies, however, claimed that the new law addresses the four objections Yeltsin raised to the first draft in his veto notice to the Duma. The president is unlikely to sign the bill before his 9 August inauguration, so any legal codification of the transition will take place in the year 2000, when Yeltsin should hand over power to his successor. -- Robert Orttung DUMA FAILS TO OVERCOME VETO ON LAND CODE. The parliament's lower house failed on 12 July to overcome the Federation Council veto on the draft land code, Russian TV reported. Three hundred votes are needed to override a veto, but only 269 deputies voted for the draft; 53 voted against and three abstained. The upper house opposed restrictions in the Duma draft on the sale of arable land. A conciliation commission is to be formed to revise the draft, but it is likely to experience difficulties finding a compromise as the two houses have diametrically opposed views on the code. -- Penny Morvant REACTION TO U.S. CONSULTANTS' ROLE IN YELTSIN CAMPAIGN. Western media reports, in particular a feature article in Time magazine, about several U.S. political consultants who say they helped secure President Yeltsin's reelection have evoked a mixed reaction among Russian observers. The pro-Communist Sovetskaya Rossiya, which frequently portrays Yeltsin as beholden to Western interests, prominently published a story about the Americans on 6 July. Komsomolskaya pravda on 11 July published an interview with one of the consultants, Felix Braynin, who claimed implausibly that his team even played a role in ousting Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. NTV offered a more skeptical view on 14 July, citing presidential campaign advisers such as Georgii Satarov, Viktor Ilyushin, and Vasilii Shakhnovskii, who said they never met the Americans and dismissed their claims as self-promotion. NTV anchor Yevgenii Kiselev suggested that the Time article reflected a certain "American-centrism." -- Laura Belin SOVETSKAYA ROSSIYA ANALYZES ELECTION RESULTS. The first round of the presidential election, in which President Yeltsin gained about 35% of the vote and Gennadii Zyuganov 32%, reflected the real preferences of the population, according to a lengthy commentary published in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 13 July. The paper attributed Yeltsin's lopsided second-round victory to a combination of factors: pressure from local elites; fraud in some regions; the media's success in spreading fear of a Communist comeback; and especially Aleksandr Lebed's decision to join Yeltsin's team between the rounds. In the regions where Lebed did especially well on 16 June, Yeltsin's gains on 3 July were much greater than his average vote increase nationwide, the paper argued. -- Laura Belin TATAR NEWSPAPER ACCUSES SHAIMIEV OF INVOLVEMENT IN FRAUD. The Kazan weekly Kazanskoe vremya has published an article claiming that Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev was involved in falsifying the results of the first round of the presidential election. Shaimiev also threatened a dozen local administration heads ion regions where the Communist did well in the first round with dismissal if they failed to influence voters' preferences in the second round, Ekspres-khronika reported on 14 July, citing the newspaper. The preliminary results of the first round in Tatarstan gave Gennadii Zyuganov 40.5% of the vote to President Yeltsin's 37%, while the final report gave Yeltsin 38.34% and Zyuganov 38.10%; in the second round Yeltsin led by about 30% of the vote. The Procurator-General's Office is investigating the reports (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 July 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA ATTACKS LEBED. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 13 July slammed Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's comments on Chechnya and his apparent support for the renewed fighting there, charging that "Russian history knows not a few tragic episodes related to generals' attempts to assume political responsibility, and in many instances, after the predictably bloody outcomes, those generals attributed their failures to anybody but themselves." Before Lebed's rise to power, the paper had given him more sympathetic coverage. Lebed had been harshly critical of the conduct of the Chechen war during the presidential election campaign. However, in a 3 April Nezavisimaya gazeta article he urged President Yeltsin to fight on to a victory which he thought was very close (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 April 1996). -- Robert Orttung LUZHKOV BEGINS TO FORM GOVERNMENT. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, reelected on 16 June, has started to form his new city government. On 12 July, he named Boris Nikolskii, Valerii Shantsev, Vladimir Resin, and Oleg Tolkachev as his first deputies, Ekho Moskvy reported. Resin and Nikolskii were Luzhkov's first deputies in the previous administration; two other former first deputies have as yet not invited to join the city government. Prior to the election, Shantsev, Luzhkov's running mate, was Moscow's South Okrug prefect, while Tolkachev headed the Moscow Property Committee. -- Anna Paretskaya U.S. VICE PRESIDENT IN MOSCOW. Al Gore, the first high-ranking Western official to visit Russia since the presidential election, arrived in Moscow on 13 July for the seventh session of the bilateral economic cooperation commission he co-chairs with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian and Western media reported. While Gore hailed Yeltsin's reelection as "opening a new phase in Russian history," he added that he planned to urge Russian officials to end the renewed fighting in Chechnya. He will also discuss disputed issues like NATO expansion and Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran during his visit. Gore and Chernomyrdin held their first meeting at a dacha outside Moscow on 14 July, while U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry met with acting Russian Defense Minister Mikhail Kolesnikov to discuss bilateral military cooperation and disarmament. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN AGREEMENT CLEARS WAY FOR WASSENAAR ACCORD. A change in the Russian position has cleared the way for the implementation of a new multilateral arms export control regime, known as the Wassenaar Accord, Russian and Western agencies reported on 13 July. Negotiators from 31 countries, including Russia, reached agreement in Vienna on a preliminary framework for the regime, which had been threatened in April when Russia refused to agree to advance notification of certain arms sales. Western diplomats said Russia had now relented and agreed to inform other members of the group in advance of deals involving restricted weapons and dual-use technologies. The organization will be based in Vienna, and the delegates also invited Ukraine and Bulgaria to join. However, the negotiators could not agree on who will head it. -- Scott Parrish JAPAN REJECTS JOINT ECONOMIC ACTIVITY IN KURILS. A Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 12 July that Tokyo is not interested in pursuing Moscow's recent offer of joint economic activities on the disputed southern Kuril islands (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 July 1996). Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on 11 July announced that he will not attend President Yeltsin's 9 August inauguration, ending several days of contradictory comment on the issue. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN VETOES DUMA LAWS ON CIS CITIZENS IN BORDER SERVICE. President Yeltsin has vetoed laws ratifying three bilateral agreements with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia that allow their citizens to serve in the Russian Border Troop units stationed on their territory, RIA reported on 13 July. He charged that the ratification documents included State Duma statements that effectively amended the original treaties. -- Doug Clarke TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER'S BODYGUARDS CHARGED WITH THEFT. The Military Prosecutor's Office arrested six personal bodyguards of Vardiko Nadibaidze in Tbilisi, and charged them with robbing a local jewelry store, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 July, citing Rezonansi. The men reportedly took $8,000 and a large quantity of jewelry from the shop. -- Doug Clarke GEORGIA APPLIES FOR CE MEMBERSHIP. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili on 14 July sent a formal request for membership in the Council of Europe (CE) to the organization's secretary-general, Daniel Tarschys, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. In May 1996, Georgia was granted "special guest" status in the CE. Tarschys is currently touring the Transcaucasian states. -- Liz Fuller UN EXTENDS UNOMIG MANDATE. On 12 July, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend mandate of the 136-man UN Observer Mission in Abkhazia (UNOMIG) by another six months, Western agencies reported. A corresponding council resolution expressed "deep concern" that UN- mediated talks had failed to make any progress toward a political settlement of the conflict and that the repatriation of ethnic Georgian refugees to their homes in Abkhazia has been effectively stalled. In a letter addressed to the council last week, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze had asked the body to "peacefully pressure" the Abkhaz leadership into renewing peace talks. -- Liz Fuller TURKMENISTAN, INDIA TO EXPAND COOPERATION. Visiting Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov and Indian Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda concluded an agreement to expand bilateral cooperation within the framework of a separate trilateral agreement between India, Turkmenistan, and Iran, PTI reported on 13 July. Gowda emphasized that relations with Turkmenistan remain a "high priority" for India, and added that the $15 million Indian credit to Turkmenistan, granted last year, will facilitate the creation of joint ventures in the pharmaceutics, oil, and gas industries. -- Bhavna Dave TAJIK, KYRGYZ PRESIDENTS HOLD TALKS. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev and his Tajik counterpart, Imomali Rakhmonov, agreed to strengthen bilateral ties between their countries during talks in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 12 July, according to ITAR-TASS. Akayev also voiced his support for an extension of the CIS peacekeeping mandate in Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan have troops guarding the Tajik-Afghan border. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIKS AGREE TO EXCHANGE PRISONERS. Representatives of the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition agreed on 12 July to a gradual exchange of prisoners, Reuters reported. The UN special envoy to Tajikistan, Gerd Merrem, said the exchange will take place under the supervision of the International Red Cross. The UTO announced it will release the first 26 of an estimated 300 prisoners later in July. Meanwhile, Tajik authorities in Dushanbe say that the situation in the Tavil-Dara region is calm for the first time this year. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov emphasized this by visiting the region on 11 July, according to Tajik Radio. -- 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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