|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 139, Part I, 19 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 RADUEV RESURFACES, CLAIMS DUDAEV TOO IS STILL ALIVE. A Chechen field commander claiming to be Salman Raduev, who commanded the Kizlyar/Pervomaiskoye hostage taking in January of this year and was reported to have been killed in a March shootout with rivals, gave a news conference in Gudermes on 18 July, ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported. Raduev said he had undergone plastic surgery in Germany after being seriously wounded by Russian troops. Raduev also claimed that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, who was reported to have been killed in a rocket attack on 21 April, is still alive. -- Liz Fuller CHECHENS REJECT RESUMPTION OF WAR. Chechen press spokesman Movladi Udugov stated on 18 July that a group of field commanders had recently discussed possible options for strikes against Russian troops but decided to refrain from further full-scale military operations although they reserve the right to respond to "provocations," Ekho Moskvy and Reuters reported. Udugov called on the Russian government to honor the commitments signed in Moscow on 27 May and Nazran on 10 June, and added that the OSCE's role be upgraded from observer to "guarantor" of those agreements, according to Reuters. OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying that he continued to maintain contact with both the Russian leadership and the Chechen separatist forces, but he was not optimistic that peace talks would be resumed. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN CALLS ON RODIONOV TO CRACK DOWN ON CORRUPTION. . . Formally presenting Igor Rodionov to senior generals on 18 July, President Boris Yeltsin called on the new defense minister to crack down on corruption among military officers, Russian and Western agencies reported. Dwelling on the "moral climate" in the army, he said "the officer corps is being corroded by corruption as if by rust." Rodionov said he intended to take up Yeltsin's challenge, arguing that the authority of the army depends on it. Military corruption has reemerged as a major issue following the sacking of Pavel Grachev, who has been accused of surrounding himself with "spongers" and "thieves." Rodionov, who is close to anti-corruption heavyweight Aleksandr Lebed, has the reputation of being incorruptible. Previous corruption campaigns in state bodies have, however, had little success. -- Penny Morvant . . .AND PLANS TO CREATE DEFENSE COUNCIL. Declaring that "profound military reform" is needed to create a professional army, Yeltsin also announced that a new Defense Council will be created to implement the decisions of the Security Council, deal with issues of defense security, and supervise military construction projects, Russian media reported on 18 July. Rodionov told Russian Public TV (ORT) that he has "dreamed" that such a council would be formed to give the army "a second wind"; he added that it should oversee all aspects of military reform. In May, Yeltsin promised to phase out conscription and reform the army by the year 2000 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 May 1996). -- Laura Belin NEW COUNCIL COULD ENHANCE LEBED'S INFLUENCE. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who strongly advocated Igor Rodionov's appointment as defense minister, could gain almost "limitless authority" over the power structures under a draft law on a proposed new "Military Council," Kommersant-Daily reported on 18 July. The article, which was published before Yeltsin announced the creation of a Defense Council, reported that Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, who also backed Rodionov, has already prepared a draft law under which the president would chair the Military Council. Decisions of the council would be "binding on all ministries and agencies under whose jurisdiction there may be armed forces, other military units, and military agencies." In the president's absence, the Security Council secretary would chair the Military Council. Kommersant-Daily speulated that given the president's "actual capacity to act" and overcrowded work schedule, the power structures and armed forces would consequently fall under Lebed's authority. -- Laura Belin NEW LEFT BLOC DISTANCES ITSELF FROM RADICALS. The most radical figures who supported Gennadii Zyuganov's presidential candidacy apparently will be excluded from a new left-wing umbrella movement to be called the Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR). Working Russia leader Viktor Anpilov, Russian Communist Workers' Party leader Viktor Tyulkin, and Officers' Union head Stanislav Terekhov are not on the NPSR's organizing committee, which is chaired by Nikolai Ryzhkov, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported on 18 July. Leading figures in the union, which will hold its founding congress on 7 August, include Zyuganov, filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin, Russian Public Union leader Sergei Baburin, former presidential candidate Aman Tuleev, Derzhava leader Aleksandr Rutskoi, and the Agrarian Party leaders Mikhail Lapshin and Vasilii Starodubtsev. By excluding outspoken "irreconciliables" and depicting the Communist Party (KPRF) as only one of many groups in the NPSR, organizers hope to appeal to those who oppose Yeltsin but are reluctant to identify with a communist movement. -- Laura Belin POLITICAL CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL ELECTS OFFICERS. President Yeltsin's Political Consultative Council (PKS), which is chaired by former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, elected three deputy chairmen at its first meeting on 18 July--Women of Russia leader Yekaterina Lakhova, Party of Russian Unity and Accord leader Sergei Shakhrai, and Forward, Russia! leader Boris Fedorov, ITAR-TASS reported. The PKS will have 12 chambers similar to the Duma's committees, NTV reported. The presidential order creating the PKS called for members of all 43 parties that participated in the Duma election to join, but nine have refused, including the Communist Party and Yabloko. Vladimir Zhirinovsky participated in the session but later described it as an "ersatz parliament." Yabloko's Viktor Sheinis said the purpose of the PKS is merely to oppose the work of the Duma. -- Robert Orttung DUMA PASSES LAW ON REGIONAL ELECTIONS. The Duma has adopted a law on elections to regional legislative assemblies, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 18 July. The law stipulates that elections must be held within three months of the end of the outgoing legislature's term, although the assembly can set the exact date for the vote. The Duma turned down a Federation Council proposal that would have granted legitimacy to all those regional legislatures that had been elected in 1993 for two-year terms but later extended their terms in office by another two years. According to the law, such regional legislative assemblies must hold elections by December this year, Segodnya reported. The Duma confirmed that by the end of the year, regional elections must be held in all federation subjects as well as gubernatorial elections in about 50 regions. -- Anna Paretskaya PRAVDA: STRENGTHEN TIES TO ISLAMIC WORLD. Pravda argued in its 18 July edition that Russia and the Muslim world can overcome their difficulties and establish strong political, military, and economic ties. Russia has been discredited in the eyes of Muslim countries, the paper asserted, because of its invasion of Afghanistan, its conduct in Chechnya, and its support for U.S. policies toward Iraq and Libya. Pravda recommended that Russia should work to lift the UN embargoes on Iraq and Libya and work to strengthen economic and military ties with those countries. In return, the Islamic world should understand that attempts to undermine Russian interests in Central Asia, Transcaucasia, and Chechnya will be rebuffed and that they only serve the interests of the mutual enemies of Russia and the Islamic countries. -- Robert Orttung PRIME MINISTER ALLOCATES OIL TO PRIMORE. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 18 July ordered 10,000 tons of diesel oil to be transferred from state reserves to Primore, which has been experiencing severe power cuts because of a non-payments crisis. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko welcomed the decision but warned that the crisis is not over, noting that much more oil will be needed for the winter, Reuters reported. Nazdratenko blames federal ministries for failing to transfer subsidies to the region in a timely fashion to cover the difference in the cost of power production and the price to consumers. He said the Finance Ministry owes the region 900 billion rubles ($175 million). The Fuel and Energy Ministry, in turn, blames the regional authorites for setting electricity prices too low, ORT reported. -- Penny Morvant NEW PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM APPROVED. The government approved a new privatization program on 18 July, ITAR-TASS, Radio Rossii and NTV reported. The program abandons the quantitative approach to privatization in favor of a case-by-case approach and extends the list of companies that require government permission to be privatized. It expands the privatization rights of regions and local authorities but abolishes privileges granted to companies' employees. The draft introduces a new principle for estimating a company's assets based on their market value on the first day of the quarter preceding the firm's privatization request. The program bars the liquidation of bankrupt companies with a federal equity stake of more than 25%; it also bars the privatization of mineral resources, forests, water, and off-shore resources. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov suggested that the privatization of enterprises dealing with construction and the production and testing of weapons be banned as a threat to national security. -- Natalia Gurushina BUDGETARY PROBLEMS PERSIST. Russia's federal budget revenues for the first six months of 1996 totaled 136.3 trillion rubles ($27.7 billion) or 88% of the expected level, expenditures reached 196 trillion rubles or 98% of the planned figure, while the deficit was 42.9 trillion rubles, ITAR-TASS and Finansovye izvestiya reported on 17-18 July, citing First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov. The government's priority now is to boost tax collection. Although there was some improvement in this area recently (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 July 1996), tax debt to the federal budget increased from 31.5 trillion rubles in January 1996 to 61.3 trillion rubles in June. Resource-rich regions-- such as eastern and western Siberia, the Urals, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, and Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug--account for about half of the increase. -- Natalia Gurushina FEDERATION COUNCIL DISCUSSES ECONOMIC SECURITY. Speaking at the Federation Council's meeting on economic security, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said that the state should play a greater role in economic affairs, NTV and ITAR-TASS reported on 18 July. At the same time, he stressed that the Chilean model of economic reform is not suitable for Russia. While calling for maximum regional independence, Lebed said that stricter controls should be imposed on the usage of budgetary funds by local authorities. Lebed pointed out that the question of land ownership is one of the most important aspects of economic security and that he favors private ownership of land. He added, however, that it should be achieved gradually by holding regional referendums. Lebed also called for measures to facilitate weapons exports and encourage the creation of financial-industrial groups on the basis of military enterprises. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW TAJIK CEASEFIRE. Representatives of the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition meeting in Turkmenistan have agreed to a ceasefire in the area around Tavil-Dara, according to RFE/RL and Reuters. The Tajik government dropped its requirement that opposition forces in central Tajikistan return to the positions they held prior to February; the new agreement allows both sides' forces to remain in their current positions. Both sides, however, have recently claimed that they are in control of the regional capital, Tavil-Dara. It is unclear which side will be permitted to control the town itself, which is near the only highway linking the capital Dushanbe with the strategic city of Khorog. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKHSTAN, MALAYSIA SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTS. Visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Moahammad and his Kazakhstani counterpart, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, signed three agreements on economic cooperation and friendship in Almaty on 19 July, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The agreements call for a cooperation memorandum between the National Bank of Kazakhstan and the Malaysian Central Bank Negara as well as the establishement of an air link between Almaty and Kuala Lumpur using Kazakhstan Airways. Mahathir said he supports Kazakhstan's application for membership in the ASEAN. A delegation of businessmen accompanying Mahathir are discussing possible contracts for construction projects in the new Kazakhstani capital Akmola. -- Bhavna Dave ARMS SMUGGLING IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek customs officials arrested four soldiers from the CIS peacekeeping mission in Tajikistan who were attempting to smuggle weapons into Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 July. The soldiers had weapons and ammunition worth $5,000 which they were reportedly planning to sell to Chechen separatists. The increase in military weaponry in the region as a result of the Tajik and Afghan crises has been a concern of the Uzbek government. Last week, Uzbek President Islam Karimov called for an arms embargo on Afghanistan, asking the UN Security Council to address the issue, the BBC reported on 17 July. -- Roger Kangas NIYAZOV ENDS IRANIAN VISIT. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov concluded a four-day visit to Iran on 18 July during which he signed an agreement that will allow the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI) to build a 600 km optical fiber cable network through Turkmenistan, Western and Russian media reported. The network will follow up on an earlier TCI project that established an identical cable connecting eastern and western Turkmenistan, Reuters reported. Niyazov and Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani also signed agreements on economic cooperation in anticipation of an increase in trade following the opening of the Meshed-Sarakhs rail link in May 1996. The current volume of trade stands at $50 million a year, with the potential value of Iranian projects in Turkmenistan estimated at $250 million. -- Roger Kangas [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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