|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
No. 136, Part I, 16 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 GORE MEETS YELTSIN. U.S. Vice President Al Gore met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the Barvikha sanitarium outside Moscow, one day later than originally scheduled, Russian and Western agencies reported on 16 June. Some Western reporters at the meeting--the first chance for independent observers to see the president first-hand since 26 June--described him as "pale and stiff" but noted that he often looks that way in public appearances. Gore congratulated Yeltsin on his "great election victory," to which the Russian president replied, "it's our common victory." AFP reported that the two leaders would discuss European security, arms control, and possible plans for a U.S.-Russia summit meeting. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN MEDIA PLAY DOWN YELTSIN'S HEALTH PROBLEMS. As they did before the second round of the presidential election, Russian commentators are playing down the issue of President Yeltsin's health. Presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev said there are no grounds for concern after Yeltsin postponed a meeting with U.S. Vice President Al Gore, RIA Novosti reported on 15 July. Repeating an oft-heard explanation for Yeltsin's disappearances, he said the president is merely tired and needs rest before his inauguration. Komsomolskaya pravda on 16 July was the only paper to focus on the issue, citing the opinion of two Duma members as well as Medvedev. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a Communist, said he was alarmed by the president's decision to take a vacation, but he added that the Communists will not make an issue out of his health before the inauguration on 9 August. -- Penny Morvant CHUBAIS REPLACES YEGOROV AS PRESIDENTIAL CHIEF OF STAFF. President Yeltsin replaced hardline Chief of Staff Nikolai Yegorov with the reformer Anatolii Chubais on 15 July, Russian agencies reported. The move completes the rout of the hardliners within Yeltsin's inner circle following the election and the ascendance of more liberal figures. Chubais will also take over the post of first presidential aide, formerly held by Viktor Ilyushin who is expected to become a deputy prime minister. Chubais served as the linchpin of Yeltsin's economic reform program until January when he was sacked as first deputy prime minister and then played a key role in coordinating Yeltsin's reelection campaign, particularly the financial aspects. -- Robert Orttung CHUBAIS TO RESTRUCTURE ADMINISTRATION. Chubais is expected to submit a plan for restructuring the administration within 12 days. According to former Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov, Chubais' appointment will facilitate the amalgamation of the administration, the presidential aide service, and the Presidential Security Service, which had been separate until now and had competed with each other for influence, ITAR-TASS reported. Chubais said that he would not deal with economic issues, since that is the government's role. Instead, he will focus on "state building in the broadest possible sense of the phrase." He said that his staff will include the best workers from the Yeltsin campaign effort. -- Robert Orttung REACTION TO CHUBAIS APPOINTMENT. Filatov described Chubais' appointment as "a brilliant move by Boris Yeltsin," ITAR-TASS reported on 15 July. He said that Chubais would attract people with a "liberal or democratic orientation" to the Kremlin. Duma member Sergei Shakhrai said Chubais' appointment as chief of staff--where he will play a key role in relations between the federal and local governments-- is connected to Yeltsin's desire to get sympathetic governors elected in the regional elections set for later this year. The governors also work as members of the Federation Council, the upper house of the national legislature. Leftist Duma members Nikolai Ryzhkov and Viktor Ilyukhin denounced the appointment, noting that Chubais is widely hated for his economic policies. Chubais is likely to ally himself with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin against Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed within the president's inner circle. -- Robert Orttung YEGOROV TO KRASNODAR. President Yeltsin appointed Yegorov the governor of Krasnodar Krai, a position he held from December 1992 to May 1994 when he became nationalities minister, ITAR-TASS reported. Yegorov lost his position at the top of the administration because Yeltsin did not win many votes in the south, the region that Yegorov was responsible for, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 16 July. A strong backer of the Chechen campaign, he lost his ministerial position after the Budennovsk crisis in June 1995, but was able to return to power just six months later, replacing Filatov. Whether this setback will prevent another return to high office remains unclear. He will direct Yeltsin's inauguration ceremonies on 9 August. -- Robert Orttung COMMUNISTS WILLING TO JOIN GOVERNMENT. . . Speaking to journalists before the appointment of Chubais was announced, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin said members of the Communist Party (KPRF) would be willing to accept any cabinet posts offered to them, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported on 15 July. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin has not yet made any formal proposals to the Communists. Ilyukhin's remarks suggest a change in KPRF strategy; Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov recently claimed that Communists would only accept cabinet posts if they were given control over economic policy. Ilyukhin noted that only by joining the government could the Communists decide whether it is possible to work with it, suggesting that KPRF members may demonstratively quit the cabinet later. In January 1995, the KPRF expelled Valentin Kovalev after he left the Duma to take the post of justice minister, which he still holds. -- Laura Belin . . . AS YABLOKO CONTINUES TO SET CONDITIONS. Appearing on NTV on 14 July, Grigorii Yavlinskii said he could join Chernomyrdin's government "if certain fundamental conditions" were met and policy mistakes corrected. However, Yavlinskii stressed that members of his Yabloko party could not work in a government that is escalating the war in Chechnya. Echoing this line, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin told ITAR-TASS on 15 July that Yabloko members would not join the cabinet as "cover" for Chernomyrdin and must be allowed to do real jobs. Yabloko members have recently touted Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov as a good candidate for the post of finance minister. -- Laura Belin GORE SEES CHANCE FOR NEW CHECHEN CEASEFIRE. Russian federal troops on 15 July succeeded in taking the Chechen village of Makhketi, inflicting serious losses on the Chechen forces, AFP reported quoting Interfax. During the evening of 15 July, Russian helicopters launched a rocket attack on the home of acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's parents in the village of Stariye Atagi south of Grozny, injuring one child. On 16 July, Grozny residents congregated outside the government building to demand an investigation into the killing the previous day of 10 civilians when unidentified armored cars opened fire on three cars, according to ITAR-TASS. Visiting U.S. Vice President Gore said in Moscow on 16 July that he thinks there is "a distinct chance" that within a few days the Russian leadership will revise its Chechen policy and agree to a new ceasefire, Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIA, CHINA SIGN BORDER COOPERATION PROTOCOLS. Federal Border Service Director Andrei Nikolaev began an official visit to Beijing by signing three cooperation protocols with his counterparts from the Chinese Ministry of State Security, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 July. The protocols outline the procedures by which the Chinese and Russian border services will exchange information, experience, and maintain working contact under the terms of an August 1995 bilateral agreement on policing the Russian-Chinese frontier. Nikolaev said the border problem that most concerns Russia at the moment is illegal immigration from China, which he attributed to Chinese people overstaying tourist visas. He downplayed the importance of narcotics and gun smuggling across the border, and expressed optimism about developing closer cooperation with his Chinese counterparts. -- Scott Parrish PAPER: RUSSIA WANTS TO TIGHTEN ABM RESTRICTIONS. Citing leaked State Department documents, The Washington Times reported on 15 July that Russia wants to impose new limits on U.S. tactical ballistic missile defenses, while hoping to use nuclear warheads on its own equivalent systems. The Russian proposals were reportedly contained in a message from Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to his U.S. counterpart Warren Christopher, discussing ongoing talks on clarifying the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty. The treaty strictly limits strategic but not tactical missile defenses, and the two sides have been unable to agree on a mutually acceptable definition of "tactical" systems, as each fears the other will try to develop ostensibly "tactical" systems that actually have strategic capability. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns refused to confirm the authenticity of the document but said the U.S. commitment to developing tactical missile defenses remains unchanged. -- Scott Parrish COURT SENTENCES TRAFFIC POLICE IN BUDENNOVSK CASE. Five traffic police officers have been found guilty of negligence for failing to halt the progress of Shamil Basaev's convoy of Chechen fighters through southern Russia last June, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 July. The trucks were eventually stopped near Budennovsk, leading to a bloody hostage-taking crisis. The officers said the convoy had not passed through their checkpoint, but their testimony ran counter to eye-witness reports. The officer in charge of the checkpoint was sentenced to three years' corrective labor, suspended for two years, and the other four officers received two-year sentences. The five were also suspected of taking bribes, but those charges were dropped for lack of evidence. -- Penny Morvant ENERGY CRISIS IN PRIMORE CONTINUES. A severe energy crisis in Primorskii Krai in Russia's Far East has again left many homes and enterprises without electricity for long periods. Severe power cuts were experienced from 10 to 12 July, and after improving over the weekend, the situation again deteriorated on 15 July. ITAR-TASS on 16 July said the area's most powerful electric power station was producing only 30 MW of power in comparison with its usual output of 1,400 MW. Some hospitals were cut off for several hours. In an attempt to alleviate the situation, on 12 July the local coal company Primorskugol suspended a ban on shipments of coal to the power company Dalenergo, but other coal mines were still refusing to make deliveries until Dalenergo paid its debts. Dalenergo owes Primorskugol alone 400 billion rubles ($78 million). -- Penny Morvant RUSSIAN ECONOMY CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE. Most Russian macroeconomic indicators showed no improvement in the first half of 1996, Reuters reported on 15 July, citing the State Statistical Committee. GDP fell by 5% over the same period in 1995. In June, GDP declined by 9% relative to the same month a year before, following a 7% drop in May. Some experts cite holidays in May and the economic standstill on the eve of the presidential election as the main reasons for the decline. They also say that the official data are likely to underestimate the private sector's growth. Others, however, argue that the economic decline is a result of the government's tight monetary policy, which brought annual inflation to June 1996 down to 50.2%. -- Natalia Gurushina U.S.-RUSSIAN COOPERATION IN ENERGY SECTOR. The Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission's Energy Policy Committee has announced that major U.S. financial organizations are willing to provide Russia with an $8 billion credit to develop the fuel and energy sector, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 July. The U.S. side hailed Russia's work on the production-sharing law, the absence of which was a major obstacle to U.S. investment in the sector. At the same time, U.S. officials noted that the opening of a U.S. credit line to Russia is being held up by flaws in accounting, taxation, and business legislation. Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik said that by the year 2000 Russian fuel and energy companies will receive some $12 billion worth of U.S. investment. In order to encourage investment in Russia, the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission will continue its work on creating a special working group at the New York Stock Exchange. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GOVERNMENT FORCES NOT TOTALLY IN CONTROL OF CENTRAL TAJIKISTAN. Despite the Tajik government's claim that it has retaken the Tavil-Dara region, a representative of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) said planes continue to bomb the region, according to Reuters. Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, speaking from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, said government planes are attacking the area almost every day but that the opposition still occupies the town of Tavil-Dara, which he said has been almost completely destroyed by the attacks. The UTO representative accused the government of using the latest round of peace talks in Turkmenistan as a screen for launching new assaults in central Tajikistan. He added that government forces have lost 700 soldiers in the attacks and 513 more have been taken prisoner. -- Bruce Pannier UIGHUR ORGANIZATION IN KAZAKHSTAN REPORTS CLASHES IN CHINA. The United Nationalist Revolutionary Front (UNRF), a separatist movement of the Muslim Uighur minority in China, reported that 450 Chinese soldiers and militiamen have been killed in the Chinese province of Xinjiang since April, AFP reported on 15 July. The UNRF claims that on 4 July, the day Chinese President Jiang Zemin was in Kazakhstan, a member of the movement killed 20 Chinese border guards in the Kundjerbad Pass. AFP has reported that a wave of arrests occurred in Xinjiang following the signing of border treaties between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan in April. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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