|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 137, Part I, 17 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 COMMUNIST CRITICIZES CHUBAIS APPOINTMENT . . . Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev expressed dissatisfaction with the appointment of Anatolii Chubais as presidential chief of staff, saying Chubais would interfere in the government's work, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 16 July. Chubais is widely disliked for his privatization program but has said that he will not handle economic issues in his new post. Seleznev also complained that mayors of Russian cities--many of whom supported Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov in the presidential election--would have difficulty working with Chubais, ITAR-TASS reported. Chubais is expected to purge many of them before regional elections this fall. In most cases, mayors were appointed to their posts and will face elections for the first time. Seleznev said that Chubais' appointment would not prevent the Duma from confirming Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. -- Robert Orttung . . . WHILE DEMOCRATS PRAISE HIM. Sergei Belyaev, leader of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, praised Chubais as someone capable of implementing the president's decrees, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 July. This view is widely held in the pro-Yeltsin Russian press. Irina Khakamada, a member of the Russian Regions faction, claimed that Chubais' appointment give market reforms an additional chance. Nezavisimaya gazeta called his appointment "an almost ingenious political move" on Yeltsin's part, saying that Chubais will counterbalance the mutual animosity between Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chernomyrdin; this arrangement leaves ultimate control in Yeltsin's hands. Moskovskii komsomolets on 17 July argued, however, that Chernomyrdin strongly supported Chubais' appointment to help counter the influence of Lebed. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN REPORTED TO BE IN POOR PHYSICAL SHAPE. A U.S. correspondent for Reuters, one of two U.S. journalists who accompanied Vice President Al Gore to meet President Boris Yeltsin at the Barvikha sanitarium outside Moscow, said Yeltsin was pale, had lost a lot of weight, and appeared to have difficulty walking, Reuters reported on 16 July. The journalist, Laurence McQuillan, said that before Gore's arrival, he and a number of other journalists had seen Yeltsin shuffle gingerly across the room where the meeting was to be held: "His head staring at the floor, Yeltsin clearly was concentrating intently on walking," he noted. McQuillan contrasted Yeltsin's appearance with the "vim and vigor" the president had displayed when the journalist had last seen him in April, describing the difference as "shocking." -- Penny Morvant CHERNOMYRDIN-GORE COMMISSION FINISHES MEETING. The seventh session of the U.S.-Russian Economic and Technological Cooperation Commission ended on 16 July with U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin signing four agreements, Russian and Western agencies reported. These included accords outlining cooperation in building the Alpha space station, preventing industrial accidents and natural disasters, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and were among a total of 27 agreements signed during the session. Both Gore and Chernomyrdin gave glowing assessments of the prospects for future bilateral cooperation, with Chernomyrdin saying that Russia and the U.S. are now "acting together." Gore hailed the opening of a "new era" in bilateral economic ties, and downplayed concerns about President Yeltsin's health, saying Yeltsin "was in very good spirits" their 16 July meeting. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA THREATENS RETALIATION OVER HELMS-BURTON ACT. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Andreev warned on 16 July that Russia "reserves the right to take appropriate measures to protect Russian firms" if they are harmed by provisions of the Helms-Burton act tightening the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, ITAR-TASS reported. Although U.S. President Bill Clinton has delayed for six months the implementation of the act's most controversial provisions, allowing lawsuits in U.S. courts against anyone "trafficking" in Cuban property expropriated from U.S. citizens, other aspects of the law may still provoke conflict with Moscow. Andreev specifically criticized parts of the law that deny U.S. visas to businessmen using expropriated property in Cuba. The law also bars U.S. aid from being granted to countries which "assist" or "engage in non-market trade" with Cuba, which could threaten disarmament. -- Scott Parrish KULIKOV AGAINST WITHDRAWAL FROM CHECHNYA. Russian Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Anatolii Kulikov said on 16 July that Russian troops should not be withdrawn from Chechnya until "these die-hard groups of mercenaries and criminals" are wiped out, AFP reported. Kulikov also said he approves of last week's artillery bombardment of the village of Gekhi, according to NTV. President Yeltsin believes in resuming peace talks while continuing to suppress "provocations," his spokesman Sergei Medvedev told ITAR-TASS. The head of the OSCE mediation mission for Chechnya, Tim Guldimann, told Reuters that he thinks the Russian military has overreacted and that acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev is seriously trying to implement the ceasefire. Russian military spokesman Igor Melnikov denied that Russian troops were responsible for the killing of at least 13 civilians in the suburbs of Grozny on 15 July, according to ITAR- TASS. Meanwhile, Russian helicopter gunships attacked the town of Shali, southeast of Grozny, on 16 July and Russian armored vehicles took up positions in Shatoi Raion in preparation for a new offensive, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller SOLDIER GETS SUSPENDED SENTENCE IN JOURNALIST'S DEATH. Sergei Fedotov, the soldier who fired the two shots in June 1995 that killed journalist Natalya Alyakina, was convicted of mishandling a firearm but given a suspended two-year sentence, Russian and Western agencies reported on 16 July. Alyakina was shot moments after her car passed through a checkpoint near the southern Russian city of Budennovsk. Fedotov claimed that his foot accidentally caused his gun to fire as he was stepping into a tank, and the military prosecutor trying the case had asked the court for an acquittal. Alyakina's widower, Gizbert Mrozek, and the organization Reporters Sans Frontiers have complained that the official investigation into the incident was incomplete. Mrozek, who believes Fedotov could not have fired the shots accidentally and may have been ordered to do so, has appealed the verdict on the grounds that Fedotov's commanding officers were never questioned. -- Laura Belin FALSIFICATION OF VOTE COUNT ALLEGED IN KALMYKIYA. Eyewitnesses say large-scale fraud took place during ballot-counting for the presidential election in Kalmykiya, Reuters reported on 17 July. At one of the Kalmyk capital's polling stations, ballots marked for other candidates were being put on the pile for President Yeltsin during the first round vote-count, the Communist Party observer told Reuters. Another Communist observer, who tried to interfere with the count, was threatened with dismissal from her job by a presidential representative. Though the electoral law gives parties' representative the right to be non-voting members of polling station committees, observers in Kalmykiya were forcibly prevented from sitting near the actual counting procedure. Kalmyk presidential representatives and the republican electoral commission have denied the allegations, saying the only violations were committed by observers. Yeltsin won in Kalmykiya, a depressed rural region, with 70% of the vote compared with Gennadii Zyuganov's 27%. -- Anna Paretskaya YELTSIN REELECTION MOVEMENT TO CAMPAIGN FOR REGIONS. The parties and movements that formed the All-Russian Movement for Public Support of President Yeltsin's reelection campaign have decided to transform the movement into an All-Russian Coordinating Council which will field and support joint democratic candidates in the Russian regional and local elections set for the end of this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 July. The movement issued a statement noting that the Communist opposition will be out for political revenge in the regional elections following its defeat in the presidential poll. The regional elections will affect parliament since the upper house, the Federation Council, is composed of regional and republican executive and legislative heads. -- Anna Paretskaya LUZHKOV UNVEILS NEW MOSCOW GOVERNMENT. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 16 July unveiled the new city government and its district branches, and announced the responsibilities of his first deputies, Russian media reported. Boris Nikolskii will head the municipal economy administration, Oleg Tolkachev will be in charge of economic policy and property, Vladimir Resin will head the investment department, and Valerii Shantsev, Luzhkov's running mate, will lead the social affairs department. Luzhkov will be personally responsible for crime and environmental issues. The number of ministers in the city government, deputies, first deputies, and administration staff has decreased. The Moscow prefects are unchanged, except for dismissed Northwest Okrug head Valerii Parfenov, for whom a replacement has not been announced, and South Okrug Prefect Shantsev who has been replaced by Aleksandr Belyaev, former deputy of the Central Okrug prefect. -- Anna Paretskaya MOSCOW BACKS BOUTROS GHALI FOR SECOND TERM. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov announced on 16 July that Russia will support UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali's reelection bid, Russian and Western media reported. The move could cause conflict with Washington, as the Clinton Administration has announced that it will use the U.S. veto in the UN Security Council to block Boutros Ghali's nomination for a second term. A deadlock could emerge if Moscow were to use its veto power to similarly block candidates favored by the U.S. Primakov praised Boutros Ghali's performance as UN secretary- general, and asserted that Washington had provoked international confrontation over the issue by publicly declaring its opposition to his candidacy, noting that China, France, and the African countries also back the incumbent. -- Scott Parrish FAR EASTERN ENERGY CRISIS DEEPENS. The energy crisis that began in the Russian Far East a week ago continues to deepen. Lack of fuel oil means that local power plants have been operating at considerably reduced capacity, resulting in interruptions in power supplies to various vital installations, including the alarm system on the Russian-Chinese border and an air traffic control center, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 and 17 July. Industrial enterprises, street cars, and trolley buses are standing idle, and many homes have been without power for up to 16 hours a day. Concern is also mounting over the fact that Primorskii Krai has yet to begin stockpiling fuel supplies for the winter. The local power company, owed vast sums by consumers, cannot afford to purchase fuel oil or coal. -- Penny Morvant ANOTHER BOMB THREAT IN MOSCOW. One of Moscow's biggest airports, Vnukovo-1, was closed for several hours on 17 July after a bomb threat, but no explosives were discovered, Reuters reported. At a press conference the previous day, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said he is convinced that last week's trolley bus explosions were masterminded by Chechen rebels, 2x2 TV reported. Kulikov said his statement is based on information supplied by a man arrested in connection with the bus bombing in Nalchik and an intercepted telephone call. Chechen leaders, however, have reiterated their condemnation of any acts of terrorism against civilians. -- Penny Morvant TAX COLLECTION IMPROVES, BUT SITUATION STILL TENSE. Speaking at a press conference, Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Artyukhov said that tax collection for the consolidated budget in the first half of 1996 reached 206.8 trillion rubles ($42.1 billion), a 50% increase over the same period last year, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR) reported on 16 July. At the same time, it represents only 78% of the expected level. Still, tax collection in June went up to 89% of the expected figure, and then rose to 98% in the first five days of July. In order to further improve the tax collection situation, the government will encourage closer cooperation between the Interior Ministry and tax authorities. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said that in the last two weeks of June, the ministry's regional branches and tax authorities recovered some 4 trillion rubles in tax arrears and 100 billion rubles in fines. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZSTAN, MALAYSIA SIGN GOLD DEAL. Kyrgyzstan and Malaysia signed an agreement on joint exploration of the Taldybulak gold mines in the in the Issyk kul region in northern Kyrgyzstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 July. The deal between the head of a Malaysian mining corporation and Kyrgyz mining officials was concluded on the heels of a three-day visit to Bishkek by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed. In the joint venture Taldybulak Mining Corporation, Kyrgyzstan will have a 52% share of profits and Malaysia 48%. Malaysia is to provide technical assistance for the project and has promised to spend $80 million by the end of the year on gold exploration. Gold reserves in the region are estimated at 76 metric tons. -- Bhavna Dave TAJIK GOVERNMENT PUTS FORTH A NEW CONDITION. With peace negotiations continuing in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, and an impending extension of the ceasefire agreement nearly ready for signing, the Tajik government on 16 July demanded that opposition forces in Tavil-Dara return to the positions they occupied prior to January 1996, according to ITAR-TASS. Tajik presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov said that a return to the former positions would be "a tangible contribution to confidence building between the two sides." Saidov mentioned that opposition combat operations in central Tajikistan represent a violation of the Tehran ceasefire agreement. The leader of the United Tajik Opposition delegation in Ashgabat, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, said the UTO is prepared to sign the extension of the ceasefire but only on the condition that both sides maintain their present positions. -- 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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