|The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness. - Dostoevsky|
No. 143, Part I, 25 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 LEBED: NATO EXPANSION NOT A THREAT . . . In an interview published in the Financial Times on 25 July, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said that he was "calm" about the prospect of NATO expanding eastward. Reiterating a position he took during the presidential election campaign, Lebed declared that "Russia is not planing to fight anyone...so this mighty NATO is being developed to do battle in the air." NATO leaders would soon have problems convincing their taxpayers to finance the alliance's expansion, he argued, but if NATO countries "have enough money and health, they are welcome" to accept new members. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told ITAR-TASS in Brussels that the alliance wants to strengthen its "partnership" with Russia, and suggested concluding a political "framework agreement" which would regulate Russia-NATO relations. -- Scott Parrish . . . BUT RODIONOV DISAGREES. Krasnaya zvezda on 25 July published excerpts from remarks made by newly appointed Defense Minister Igor Rodionov during a recent inspection tour which markedly contrast with Lebed's assessment. Rodionov described the possible expansion of NATO as the "main problem for Russia in the West," since it would "dangerously alter the strategic-military balance in Europe." He warned that if NATO expanded into Central Europe, its tactical aviation would be able to reach Western areas of Russia, like Smolesnk, Kursk and Bryansk. Commenting on military reform, he attributed some of the military's problems to competition among the various "power ministries," which he said often operate "in isolation." This comment suggests that Rodionov may try to bolster the powers of the General Staff, which supervised all uniformed military personnel in the Soviet era, but lost that authority after Russia became independent. -- Scott Parrish CHERNOMYRDIN MAY INVITE OPPOSITION TO JOIN GOVERNMENT . . . Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has not ruled out the possibility of inviting opposition representatives to join the government, Russian media reported on 24 July. However, he stressed that the cabinet will be formed on an exclusively professional basis and future ministers will have to give up their party and faction affiliations, ITAR-TASS reported. Several independent expert groups within the government are working now on drafts of the new cabinet structure and economic development until the year 2000, Russian Public Television (ORT) reported, citing an unnamed top government official. -- Anna Paretskaya . . . WHILE COMMUNISTS TO CONSIDER PROPOSAL. After a one-hour meeting with Chernomyrdin, Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced that the opposition may join the new government only if its program complies with the interests of the 30 million voters who supported Zyuganov for president, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. He insisted that any candidate for prime minister should present an outline of the new government program while being introduced to the Duma, which must approve the prime minister in his post. -- Anna Paretskaya NEW POST FOR YAROV. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 24 July appointing Yurii Yarov as his deputy chief of staff under Anatolii Chubais, Rossiiskie vesti reported. Hitherto Yarov was deputy prime minister with responsibility for social issues. He is the first senior government member to leave the cabinet since the second round of the presidential elections. Kommersant-Daily speculated that Viktor Ilyushin will replace Yarov as a deputy prime minister. Meanwhile Moskovskii Komsomolets reported on 24 July that Maj.-Gen. Georgii Rogozin, first deputy head of the Presidential Security Service and a close ally of Aleksandr Korzhakov, has been sacked. -- Penny Morvant NEW POLITICAL PARTY FOR LEBED. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed will form a new political movement to be called Truth and Order, Ekho Moskvy reported on 24 July. The new movement will include the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), on whose ticket Lebed ran for parliament last year; the association Honor and Motherland, which Lebed founded last year and which helped organize his presidential campaign; and the Democratic Party of Russia, whose leader Sergei Glazev was a leader of KRO. Truth and Order will hold its founding congress in September. -- Laura Belin PRAVDA SUSPENDS PUBLICATION. The pro-communist newspaper Pravda shut down operations on 24 July following a quarrel with the Greek millionaires Theodoros and Christos Giannikos, who have financed the paper since 1992. AFP reported that editorial staff, outraged by the owners' decision to suspend publication as of 27 July, voted themselves to stop production. But according to ITAR-TASS, Theodoros Giannikos ordered the computers at the paper's publishing center to be switched off after he was denied access to the Pravda building on 24 July. In a statement, editors accused the owners of violating their contractual obligations and showing a "lack of respect" toward readers. -- Laura Belin PERSONNEL CHANGE AT RTR. The popular Russian TV (RTR) journalist Nikolai Svanidze has been promoted to deputy chairman of the state-run network in charge of political and news broadcasting, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. He will continue to host the Sunday-evening analytical program "Zerkalo." RTR Chairman Eduard Sagalaev, whom Yeltsin appointed in February, denied rumors that he will soon take up a post in the government. -- Laura Belin POWER-SHARING TREATIES SIGNED WITH KHABAROVSK KRAI. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev have signed a package of 11 documents detailing the separation of powers between the federal government and the krai's administration, Russian media reported on 24 July. The package divides areas of competence of the federal and regional authorities in managing agriculture and industry, natural resources, development of the krai's Northern areas, and defense. The general agreement on power-sharing with Khabarovsk was approved by President Yeltsin in April during his visit to the region. -- Anna Paretskaya MASKHADOV, KVASHNIN MEETING CALLED OFF. The planned meeting between Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov and the commander of the Russian Interior Ministry troops in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin, failed to take place on 24 July, Russian and Western media reported. The commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, blamed Maskhadov but the head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, said that Maskhadov had been hindered by transport and communications difficulties, according to AFP. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov rejected Yandarbiev's call for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller CHECHEN MILITANTS RETURN TO BAMUT. Chechen separatist fighters staged a raid on the village of Bamut, the location of a former Soviet strategic missile base with a dense network of bunkers some 45 kilometers southwest of Grozny, on 23 July, Radio Rossii reported. On 24 July military officials admitted that the situation in the area had deteriorated, but denied that Bamut had been captured by the militants. Once Dzhokhar Dudaev's headquarters, Bamut has been heavily contested between federal troops and the militants for more than a year. -- Doug Clarke SPRING DRAFT COMPLETED. 200,200 people were drafted into the armed forces in the draft which concluded on 30 June, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 24 July. The proportion of draftees deemed unfit for service was 15%, down from 29% in 1995 (but up from 7% in 1987). In addition to possible fraud in the medical inspections, 26,000 persons avoided the draft by other means. Meanwhile, few military commentators are voicing support for Yeltsin's plan for an all-professional army by the year 2000. Writing in Komsomolskaya Pravda on 23 July, Vladimir Sviridov argued that professional armies in the West are not immune from the problems of budget cuts, bad morale, and poor quality personnel which bedevil the Russian Army. Rather than abolishing the draft, he proposed increasing the proportion of professionals, currently 50% (officers, NCOs, and 250,000 contract servicemen), to 70-80%, while cutting the draft period in half. -- Peter Rutland ITAR-TASS ACCUSES JAPANESE NAVY OF SPYING. ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July that six Japanese naval intelligence agents were aboard the Japanese destroyer Kurama, currently sailing toward Vladivostok where it will participate in ceremonies later this month to mark the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy. The agency accused the Japanese Navy of using the first port visit by one of its ships to Russia since 1925 to conduct espionage. A Japanese Navy spokesmen later admitted that six naval intelligence officers are on board the Kurama. But he said four will serve as translators while the others will gather open navigational information about Vladivostok's port. He said it was a "complete misunderstanding" to describe the officers as spies. -- Scott Parrish BOMB BLAST IN VOLGOGRAD. A bomb exploded on a train at Volgograd's central station on 25 July, ITAR-TASS reported. There were no casualties. The agency noted that the previous day Chechen fighter Salman Raduev had claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack on Voronezh station and threatened new terrorist acts on Russian railways, claiming that they were a military target. However, doubts have been raised over the true identity of the man claiming to be Raduev, and the Chechen separatist leadership has stated repeatedly that it opposes all terrorist acts. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN'S TEAM TO ENSURE GOOD WEATHER ON INAUGURATION DAY. Even if weather forecasters predict rain, President Yeltsin's inauguration celebration on 9 August will take place under sunny skies, according to newly-appointed Deputy Chief of Staff Yurii Yarov. He told ITAR-TASS on 24 July that money has been set aside to disperse the clouds if necessary. During the Soviet period, artificial means were occasionally employed to disperse rain clouds on important holidays. -- Laura Belin KGB GUIDEBOOK. A group of KGB veterans held a press conference in Moscow on 24 July to launch a new book they have authored, "The KGB Guide to Cities of the World,", NTV reported. Written for tourists, it reportedly includes special vignettes on life as a spy in cities from New York to Bangkok. -- Peter Rutland CENTRAL BANK RELAXES MONETARY POLICY. The Central Bank (TsB) has announced that it will lower its reserve requirements on commercial bank 30-day deposits from 20% to 18%, Kommersant-Daily reported on 25 July. The reserve requirements were raised on 10 June 1996 to offset the inflationary impact of the enforced transfer of $1 billion from the TsB to the federal budget. The relaxation appears to be a precautionary measure to forestall the possibility of a banking crisis. TsB also announced on 24 July that it will lower the refinancing rate from 120% to 110% a year. -- Natalia Gurushina NEW DEFENSE CONVERSION FUND. The government will establish a new state conversion fund to provide financial support for projects that encourage defense factories to produce civilian rather than military goods, Kommersant-Daily reported on 24 July. The Defense Industry Minister Zinovii Pak said that the fund would be financed from the state budget but would also try to attract foreign investors. The government plans to transfer some 2 trillion rubles ($386 million) to the fund by the end of 1996, rising to 8 trillion rubles in 1997. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA U.S. DROPS ARMS RESTRICTIONS FOR 5 REGIONAL STATES. According to a State Department announcement on 24 July, the United States has ended restrictions on arms trade with Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries have been removed from the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) proscribed list. This means that the U.S. will no longer automatically deny licenses for the export or import of military equipment or services to these nations. -- Doug Clarke KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA DISPUTE RESOLVED IN ALMATY. An Almaty court has lifted the proposed ban on Komsomolskaya pravda, ending a three-month dispute between the newspaper's editorial board and the Procurator General of Kazakhstan, Russian media reported on 24 July. The court said it was satisfied with the apology published in its last two issues in which the newspaper's editors admitted being guilty of permitting "factual errors" on Kazakhstan's sovereignty in the controversial 23 April article "Conversations with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn." Kazakhstan's Procurator General withdrew the case following the public statement by the editorial staff that they do not share Solzhenitsyn's views on relations between Russians and Kazakhs. -- Bhavna Dave RUSSIAN ENVOY TO TAJIKISTAN MEETS UTO LEADER. The Russian Special Envoy to Tajikistan, Yevgenii Mikhailov, met with United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri in the opposition's base at Kunduz, Afghanistan, RFE/RL reported on 24 July. Talks focused on a planned meeting between Nuri and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in Moscow. The meeting was agreed on at the recent Tajik peace negotiations in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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