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No. 144, Part I, 26 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 YELTSIN FORMS NEW DEFENSE COUNCIL . . . President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree creating an 18-member Defense Council to implement decisions of the Security Council and help draft military policies, Russian and Western agencies reported on 25 July. Yeltsin will chair the council, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will be its deputy chairman and Yurii Baturin, whom Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed replaced as presidential security adviser last month, will serve as Defense Council secretary. Other prominent members are Lebed, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, and Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Kovalev. Since Lebed will have only the status of an ordinary member, the decree appears to be yet another balancing move on Yeltsin's part. -- Laura Belin . . . AND OBJECTS TO DRAFT LAW ON MILITARY COUNCIL. On the same day he officially formed the Defense Council , Yeltsin notified the State Duma of his objections to the draft law on a Military Council, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin's statement said the draft law would violate the Constitution by granting powers to the Military Council that are already vested in the president, the Security Council, the Defense Ministry, and the General Staff. The draft law, prepared by Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, would have increased Lebed's authority over military matters (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 July 1996). -- Laura Belin SPECULATION OVER NEW GOVERNMENT CONTINUES. The main candidates for the position of first deputy prime minister covering economic issues are Presidential Advisor Aleksandr Livshits, Duma Member Aleksandr Shokhin, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov, and Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 25 July. A newcomer to the list of those under consideration is 35-year-old Oneksimbank President Vladimir Potanin, Izvestiya reported on 26 July. Oneksimbank is one of the most powerful and secretive banks in Russia. Kommersant-Daily on 26 July pointed out that Yavlinskii will not join a government that continues to wage war in Chechnya. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN RESTRUCTURES ADMINISTRATION. President Boris Yeltsin approved Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais' rationalization of the administration on 25 July, ITAR-TASS reported. The plan will be carried out over the next two months. The changes include removing four of the six departments set up by Chubais' predecessor Nikolai Yegorov -- constitutional guarantee of citizens' rights, personnel, foreign and domestic policy, and analysis (See OMRI Daily Digest, 31 January 1996). The decree concentrates power in Chubais' hands, eliminating the position of first aide, formerly held by Viktor Ilyushin, and putting Chubais in charge of Yeltsin's staff of advisors. -- Robert Orttung GOVERNMENT NOT FULFILLING PRESIDENTIAL ORDERS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin lashed out at the Finance Ministry and State Property Committee (GKI) on 25 July, Ekho Moskvy reported. The ministry was responsible for 11 of 23 unfulfilled presidential decrees, while the committee had not acted on three. Chernomyrdin said that these results would be taken into account when forming the new government, suggesting that Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov may lose his position. The GKI has been without is currently without leadership, after Aleksandr Kazakov's appointment as Chubais' assistant. According to government Chief of Staff Vladimir Babichev, the Economics Ministry and the Defense Industry Ministry were also major offenders, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 26 July. Fifty percent of presidential decrees are implemented only after their deadlines. The appointment of Yurii Yarov and Kazakov, both former members of the government, as Chubais' assistants will promote better coordination between the president and government, Russian TV (RTR) suggested. -- Robert Orttung CONFUSION OVER LEBED'S NEW MOVEMENT. The Security Council press service complained that a number of "fabricated reports" about its secretary Aleksandr Lebed have been circulated recently by the Interfax news agency, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 July. In particular, it said no official information had been issued concerning a new political movement called Truth and Order, which Lebed was reported to be forming (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 July 1996). However, later the same day the Security Council press service withdrew its statement of complaint "for technical reasons," and ITAR-TASS was not able to clarify whether the original reports about Truth and Order were correct. -- Laura Belin NEW CONDITIONS FOR RENEWING CHECHEN TALKS. Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov said on 25 July that he is prepared to meet with the head of the North Caucasus Military District, Lt.-Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin, only if the head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, is present to guarantee his safety, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov told ITAR-TASS that Moscow is ready to resume talks immediately the Chechen side starts to implement the measures specified in the 27 May and 10 June agreements. Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, who on 24 July took over as acting commander of the Russian federal troops in Chechnya, ruled out talks with either Shamil Basaev or Salman Raduev, according to ORT. Russian Independent Television (NTV) quoted the news agency Argumenty i fakty -- Novosti as reporting that Dzhokhar Dudaev is alive and convalescing in Turkey after having been spirited across the border between the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan in an OSCE jeep. -- Liz Fuller FEDERAL TROOPS IN CHECHNYA ARRESTED FOR MURDER. Two Interior Ministry soldiers have been arrested on suspicion of murdering 13 civilians in Grozny, RIA reported on 25 July. The two were said to have been the only surviving crew members of an armored personnel carrier involved in the incident. Isa Aliroev, the deputy prime minister in the pro-Moscow Chechen government, said the case was under the personal attention of Russian Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov. -- Doug Clarke WESTERN PLOT TO DESTROY RUSSIA? In an interview with Pravda-5 on 26 July, the chairman of the Duma's Security Committee, Viktor Ilyukhin, said the Western powers want to undermine the Slavic world and split Russia into 4-5 states. He suggested that Kaliningrad, the Far East, and North Caucasus are the first targets, and he warned Ukraine that the IMF, U.S., and Turkey intend to give Crimea back to the Tatars. With regard to the former Yugoslavia, "What Adolf Hitler failed to accomplish is today being realized," Ilyukhin said. Addressing the Federation Council the same day, First Deputy Minister for Nationalities Andrei Chernenko said that ethnic tension within the Russian Federation is the main threat to Russia's security, Radio Rossii reported. He noted with concern that increasing numbers of ethnic Russians are migrating out of the ethnic republics, a trend which is presumably most marked in the North Caucasus. (See related story in "Central and Eastern Europe" section.) -- Peter Rutland MOSCOW CONDEMNS LIBYA, IRAN SANCTIONS BILL. Russia on 25 July condemned draft U.S. legislation that would penalize foreign energy companies operating in Libya and Iran, Russian and Western agencies reported. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Russia views the proposed measure as a violation of international law and infringing on Russian rights. The European Union has also attacked the measure, adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives on 23 July. The bill provides for sanctions against foreign companies that invest more than $40 million a year in the Iranian or Libyan oil and natural gas sectors. -- Penny Morvant NEW MUSLIM MOVEMENT REGISTERED. The All-Russian Public Political Movement Muslims of Russia has been registered with the Justice Ministry, Radio Rossii reported on 25 July. The new organization is headed by Mukaddas Bibarsov, who resigned as General Secretary of the Union of Muslims of Russia (SMR) in February. Though Bibarsov disagreed with the SMR leadership over supporting President Yeltsin's re-election in June, the new movement he leads will support the policy of democratic reform aimed at raising living standards. The new movement calls for the unification of Muslims of Russia and the CIS. -- Anna Paretskaya CASE AGAINST FORMER SPORTS FUND HEAD DROPPED. The case against former National Sports Foundation head Boris Fedorov, who was detained in May after 4.5 grams of cocaine were found in his car, has been dropped, ORT reported on 25 July. Fedorov, who subsequently lost his foundation position, also narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after the incident. On 8 July an article published in Novaya gazeta cited him accusing Shamil Tarpishchev, the head of the Russian Federation Sports Committee and Yeltsin's tennis coach, of links with organized crime. He also allegedly accused former Presidential Security Service head Aleksandr Korzhakov and former Federal Security Service head Mikhail Barsukov of condoning Tarpishchev's activities. Fedorov later said his words had been taken out of context, but he did not explicitly deny the charges. -- Penny Morvant FIRST PYRAMID SWINDLER JAILED. Dmitrii Khalzov, the founder of the Soyuz-Almaz investment company, has become the first of Russia's notorious pyramid scheme operators to receive a jail sentence, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 July. Khalzev robbed savers in Samara of 1.2 billion rubles in 1994. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment. Some 20 to 40 million small investors are thought to have been the victims of financial scams in Russia. The Duma is currently considering legislation on compensation for investors defrauded of their savings. -- Penny Morvant NEW SYSTEM FOR REGULATING PRICE OF GAS . . . Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed a decree on 25 July authorizing the Federal Energy Commission (FEK) to regulate the price of natural gas, ITAR-TASS reported. The FEK will oversee the introduction of differential prices for gas by region, depending on transport costs, and ensure the access of companies other than Gazprom to the gas pipeline system. These moves, allowed under the Law on Natural Monopolies, take place amidst an increase in reports of electricity shutdowns in the regions due to non- payment of fuel bills. It remains to be seen whether the FEK can be serious inroads into the pricing policies -- and profits -- of Gazprom. -- Peter Rutland . . . AND ELECTRICITY. Chernomyrdin recently signed another decree ordering the FEK to introduce from October a new system of regional prices for electricity producers, Segodnya reported on 25 July. The new system would oblige the holding company Unified Energy System to charge the same price for electricity in Siberia and the Far East, thereby subsidizing the latter region. The plan has drawn strong protests from Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk, who fear that the resulting higher energy price will make some of their industries (such as the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant) unprofitable. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA 6,000 PRISONERS AMNESTIED IN KAZAKHSTAN. According to a presidential decree signed by Nursultan Nazarbayev on 25 July, 6,000 prisoners will be freed and others will have their sentences reduced, Reuters reported. The decree, which takes effect on the first anniversary of the current Kazakh Constitution, is also designed to help reduce overcrowding in the country's prisons. Interior Minister Kairbek Suleimenov noted that Kazakhstan's crime rate dropped by 6.7% during the first six months of 1996 compared to the same period last year, adding that this stability makes such an amnesty possible. Previous reports by international organizations, such as Amnesty International, have been critical of Kazakhstan's overcrowded and disease-infested prisons this past year. -- Roger Kangas TAJIK OPPOSITION ASSAULTS KOMSOMOLABAD . . . Units of the Tajik opposition attacked the city of Komsomolabad, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 July. Under cover of darkness, opposition fighters assaulted the city, killing two government soldiers before being repelled. Battles are being fought in several areas of the Tavil-Dara region, south of Komsomolabad and this latest attack may have been a diversionary tactic. -- Bruce Pannier . . . AND FIGHTING REPORTED NEAR DUSHANBE. Fighting was reported in villages as close as 10 kilometers east of the Tajik capital Dushanbe, according to an ITAR-TASS report on 25 July. The report did not specify which villages but mentioned that armed groups under the leadership of "chieftains" Mansur and Rakhmon were in control of the villages. Tajik government forces are said to have dislodged the groups from their positions, killing nine. Further east, opposition forces are claiming to have taken the stretch of the Dushanbe-Khorog highway between the towns of Faizabad and Obigarm, according to the Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan as cited by the BBC. Faizabad is about 55 kilometers east of Dushanbe. -- 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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