|Silence is the real crime against humanity. - Nadezhda Mandelstam|
No. 146, Part I, 30 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 ************************************************************************ Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region. The latest edition includes stories on Russia's Tversuniversalbank losing its license; a Polish court ruling that the government must raise pensions, and the decline of the CIS-dependent Moldovan economy. For subscription and rate information, please send a message to email@example.com *********************************************************************** RUSSIA PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE DENIES DEATH RUMORS. President Boris Yeltsin met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin 30 July, the president's press service announced, dismissing suggestions that Yeltsin was ill or dead, Reuters reported. Rumors about Yeltsin's condition were causing concern on international markets. The Los Angeles Times reported on 29 July that Yeltsin's latest disappearance "has left Kremlin watchers ever more mystified as to who is running Russia." Although aides continue to deny that he is seriously sick, Yeltsin has been out of the public eye for more than a month. U.S. Vice President Al Gore, the only foreign leader to meet with Yeltsin during this period, declared him fit. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN BACKS LEBED'S CHOICE AS SECURITY COUNCIL DEPUTY. President Yeltsin agreed on 29 July with Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's suggestion to appoint Nikolai Mikhailov as the deputy chairman of the Security Council, NTV reported. Mikhailov, 59, has a doctorate in economics and served as the president of Vympel Corporation, which designs and manufactures anti-missile systems. Mikhailov was one of 13 bankers and industrialists who published an appeal to presidential candidates Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov on 26 April, calling for a political compromise to avoid splitting society (See OMRI Daily Digest , 29 April 1996). The appointment suggests that Yeltsin is continuing a policy of fostering competing centers of power among his key advisors. -- Natalia Gurushina and Robert Orttung RUSSIAN JOURNALIST RELEASED AFTER CONTROVERSIAL TRIAL . . . A local court in Samara released Valerii Yerofeev, editor of the weekly Vremya- Iks, after sentencing him to 10 months in prison, exactly the time he had already served, the Moscow-based Globus Independent Press Syndicate reported on 29 July. Yerofeev was arrested in September 1995 after his paper published articles alleging that city police officers were taking bribes from brothel owners. His trial, which lasted from 18 June to 29 July, was closed to journalists. Watchdog groups including the U.S.- based Committee to Protect Journalists had protested that there were no grounds to hold the trial in closed session and that Yerofeev's prolonged pre-trial detention was unwarranted given his poor health. -- Laura Belin . . . AS TURKISH JOURNALISTS' SENTENCES COMMUTED. Talip Ozshelik and Meshmet Ali Tekin, the two Turkish journalists recently sentenced to three years in prison by a district court in the Republic of Dagestan, have been released, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 July. The two were found guilty of entering Russia illegally in November 1994 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 July 1996). Reviewing the case, the Dagestani Supreme Court reduced their sentences to eight months, exactly the time served since their arrest. -- Laura Belin CRITICAL ARTICLES REAPPEAR IN "DEMOCRATIC PRESS." Several newspapers that supported President Yeltsin's re-election with one-sided coverage during the campaign have resumed printing articles criticizing official policies, as was their practice before the spring of this year. For example, a Moskovskii komsomolets headline on 30 July declared, "Yeltsin apparently has sclerosis"; commentaries claimed the president had forgotten his campaign promises to end wage arrears and the war in Chechnya. On the same day, Izvestiya ran a story suggesting Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, a leading member of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia movement, may be involved in corruption. Izvestiya also recently completed a four-part series on corruption in Primorskii Krai, whose Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko campaigned actively for Yeltsin. -- Laura Belin MASKHADOV ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. For the second time this year, Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov on 29 July escaped an assassination attempt uninjured, Russian and Western agencies reported. A group of gunmen opened fire on the car in which Maskhadov was traveling in Nozhai-Yurt raion in southeast Chechnya; one attacker was shot dead by Maskhadov's bodyguard. On 9 April, 10 people were killed when a bomb exploded in a cemetery where Maskhadov was due to speak. Akhmed Zakaev, an aide to acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandabiev, told ITAR-TASS on 29 July that Chechen field commanders had reaffirmed their readiness to continue talks with Russian representatives on implementation of the 27 May and 10 June agreements; he also denied any splits within the Chechen ranks. Field commander Salman Raduev, however, was quoted by NTV as stating that he refuses to comply with Yandarbiev's orders to desist from further terrorist acts. -- Liz Fuller PRIMAKOV: CIS SHOULD JOINTLY OPPOSE NATO EXPANSION. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov addressed a Moscow gathering of Russian ambassadors to the CIS countries on 29 July, Russian media reported. Primakov denounced "some forces" in the West for their "negative attitude" toward CIS integration, which he attributed to a desire to block the emergence of a "powerful center" in the new post- cold war multipolar world. He argued that all CIS states have a "common interest" in the expansion of NATO's "military structures," and urged the assembled diplomats to convince other CIS states to support Russia's stance on the issue. Chernomyrdin said Russia will continue pursuing a course of "pragmatic" integration with the CIS. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA REGRETS CHINESE NUCLEAR TEST. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Andreev expressed "regret" on 29 July at the news that China had carried out a nuclear test, ITAR-TASS reported. But Andreev hailed the simultaneous Chinese decision to join the voluntary moratorium being observed by the other four declared nuclear powers pending the conclusion of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Also on 29 July UN-sponsored multilateral talks on the treaty opened in Geneva. While Russia, France, Great Britain, and the United States all now support a compromise draft CTBT, China and India, among others, still have objections to some of its provisions, and it remains unclear when the treaty will be signed. -- Scott Parrish PRIMAKOV MEETS KINKEL. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met in Paris with his German counterpart Klaus Kinkel on 29 July to discuss European security, the controversial issue of so-called "trophy art" captured during WW II, and the situation in Chechnya, international media reported. Both diplomats are in the French capital for the 30 July G-7 sponsored anti-terrorism meeting. Afterwards, Primakov said that Russia regards the "exaggeration" of the "non-existent problem" of Bosnian Serb leaders and internationally-wanted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic as a threat to the orderly holding of elections in Bosnia scheduled for September. While the United States has reportedly been pressing for Karadzic's exile, Primakov argued that since both leaders had already ended their "political activity," the elections should now be the top priority for the international community. -- Scott Parrish SECURITY STEPPED UP ON RAILWAYS. The Railway Ministry's military protection administration has been put on an emergency footing because of the number of bomb alerts on Russia's railways in recent days, ITAR- TASS reported on 29 July. The number of patrols on trains and stations has been increased following one explosion and three attempted bomb attacks in the past 10 days. -- Penny Morvant LENINGRAD POWER WORKERS SUSPEND PROTEST. Workers at the Leningrad nuclear power plant on 29 July suspended a month-long protest over wage arrears until mid-August, ITAR-TASS reported. The chairman of the plant's trade union said that the protest had been halted because the plant's director has been sacked and his replacement has pledged to produce a timetable by 9 August for paying back wages totaling 25 billion rubles ($5 million). The protest began on 24 June but was temporarily suspended during the presidential elections. -- Penny Morvant GOLD RESERVES TO MOVE TO URALS. The largest part of Russia's gold reserves will be moved to Sverdlovsk Oblast, President Yeltsin's home region, NTV reported on 29 July. The gold will be placed in a secret bunker in the woods, 70 kilometers from Yekaterinburg, the oblast's main city. According to NTV, the bunker, which was built as a shelter in case of nuclear war, hosted Russia's "reserve government" headed by Oleg Lobov during the coup attempt in Moscow in August 1991. During World War II, part of the gold reserves was also moved to Sverdlovsk Oblast. Experts say that dispersing the reserves increases security. -- Anna Paretskaya ACTION URGED TO PROMOTE FOREIGN INVESTMENT. A round table of businessmen and parliamentarians from Russia and the U.S. met in London on 29 July and called for a redoubling of efforts to remove administrative and legal barriers to foreign investment in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. Minister of Fuel and Energy Yurii Shafranik told the gathering that projects worth a total of $27 billion are under consideration. However, First Deputy Speaker of the Duma Aleksandr Shokhin urged that projects include provision for the purchase of equipment from Russian manufacturers. Foreign investors were shocked by the Duma's failure on 19 July to pass amendments to bring existing legislation into conformity with the production sharing law passed last year. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN PROCURATOR ON "ABUSE OF POWER". Georgian procurator- general Djamlet Babilashvili, in an interview with the official government newspaper Sakartvelos respublika on 29 July, charged that senior officials, including prime ministers and their deputies, passed 1,500 decrees and instructions between 1991 and 1995 that were detrimental to the country's interests, ITAR-TASS reported. Some decrees were illegal, he said. Babilashvili chairs a state commission investigating the financial activities of the Georgian cabinet; he hinted that its findings could form the basis for initiating criminal proceedings. Babilashvili's statement could herald the arrest of former Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua, who was dismissed by President Eduard Shevardnadze in 1993 and was compromised by his support in early 1995 for the abortive crusade by former Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani to reconquer the breakaway region of Abkhazia. Also on 29 July, in his weekly Georgian radio interview, Shevardnadze again reiterated that there are no political prisoners in Georgia. -- Liz Fuller NEW RUSSIAN MEDIATOR FOR KARABAKH TALKS. Yurii Yukalov, the former ambassador to Zimbabwe, will replace Vladimir Kazimirov as chief Russian mediator in talks over the Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan reported on 29 July. Baku was reportedly unhappy with the work of Kazimirov. On 26 July a mission from the Azerbaijan Milli Majlis (parliament) led by Zakhid Garalov concluded its visit to Georgia. Among the issues discussed was the possible creation of a joint force to guard the oil pipeline across Georgia. It was agreed to form a standing conference between the Georgian and Azerbaijani parliaments. -- Peter Rutland U.S. CONGRESS DEBATES AID TO ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN. On 26 July the U.S. Senate approved a $95 million aid bill for Armenia, the largest since independence, Groong reported on 29 July. The Senate also approved a continuation of the ban on U.S. aid to the government of Azerbaijan, which was introduced in 1992 in response to its blockade of Armenia. The House version of the bill included for the first time provision for aid for the 115,000 refugees in Nagorno-Karabakh, but this was absent from the Senate draft. Remaining differences between the two bills will be reconciled on 31 July. -- Peter Rutland GOVERNMENT IN CONTROL OF TAVIL-DARA. An ITAR-TASS correspondent was allowed into the town of Tavil-Dara on 27-28 July. The unnamed correspondent confirmed that Tajik government forces had regained control of the town on 12 July. The date has been disputed by the opposition which claims the government launched an offensive to reclaim the town after a ceasefire agreement had been signed in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. There has been no other independent confirmation of the situation in Tavil-Dara. Fighting continues in many of the villages surrounding the town. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK ACADEMICIAN GUNNED DOWN IN DUSHANBE. Mohammed Osimi, the 76-year- old former president of Tajikistan's Academy of Sciences, was shot and killed near his home by an unidentified assailant on 29 July, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. Osimi was the leader of the Payvand organization which keeps in touch with Tajik communities around the world. He was not known to have been involved in any political activity. Security services in Tajikistan speculate the murder was aimed at further destabilizing the situation in the country but have no leads to the murderer. -- Bruce Pannier ALUMINUM PROJECT FOR KAZKAKHSTAN. At a ceremony at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London on 29 July, Western investors signed a seven-year, $1.5 billion plan to develop the aluminum industry in Kazkahstan, RTR reported. The project includes the development of a new bauxite deposit in Kostanai and new processing facilities at the main Pavlodar plant. -- Peter Rutland [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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