|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
No. 151, Part I, 6 August 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 CHECHENS LAUNCH MAJOR ASSAULT ON GROZNY. During the early morning of 6 August, up to 300 Chechen militants attacked Grozny, and heavy fighting was reported in several parts of the city, Western and Russian agencies reported. Simultaneous attacks were launched on the towns of Argun and Gudermes, east of the capital. Speaking at a public rally in Grozny on 5 August, pro-Moscow head of state Doku Zavgaev expressed his readiness to include in the new Chechen government any members of the armed opposition who are prepared to surrender their weapons, AFP reported. NTV reported on 5 August that Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov had laid down new conditions for a resumption of peace talks and is demanding that Russian forces withdraw to the positions they occupied at the time of the signing of the 10 June Nazran agreements and release all civilians forcibly detained since that date. -- Liz Fuller EXPLOSION ON PRIME MINISTER'S ROUTE. An explosion occurred on 6 August on a Moscow highway only minutes before Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was about to drive by on his way to work, Russian and Western agencies reported. A police spokesman said it was too early to say whether the blast was directed against Chernomyrdin. Two days earlier, a hand grenade was found on a train at the VDNKh metro station in northern Moscow, and on 3 August a gunman held up a passenger train en route from Moscow to Mariupol for 30 minutes before being arrested. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN RETURNS TO WORK. President Boris Yeltsin returned to work at the Kremlin 5 August after spending three weeks at the Barvikha sanitarium, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin has decided to take his oath of office on a specially prepared copy of the constitution adopted at his insistence in a 1993 referendum. Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais has already rejected the idea of performing an ode to the president at the inauguration, figuring it would be too bombastic given the poor state of the Russian economy. The ceremony is expected to last about an hour and Yeltsin's speech only 10 minutes due to his poor health, The New York Times reported. His first inauguration took place as part of a session of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies. -- Robert Orttung MINERS' STRIKE ENDS IN PRIMORE. Miners in Primorskii Krai resolved to go back to work on 6 August after they started receiving back wages, ITAR- TASS reported. About 10,000 miners took part in an unofficial strike that began on 15 July. Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik, who spent two days in the region, said that Moscow would earmark 4.6 trillion rubles for bailing out the region's fuel and energy sector. He said tough measures need to be taken, including raising electricity prices to 530 rubles per kW hour and removing commercial intermediaries from the chain linking coal producers and customers. Meanwhile, about 50 miners at a pit in Tula began a sit-in on 4 August and work has stopped at 19 of the 23 pits belonging to Rostovugol in the eastern Donbass, NTV reported on 5 August. About 6,000 miners and their families held a meeting in Sholokhov Raion in Rostov Oblast to protest wage arrears. -- Penny Morvant DEPUTIES PUSH FOR DISCUSSION OF PRIMORSKII KRAI. Deputies from Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR) are calling for a State Duma discussion of the debt and energy crisis facing Primorskii Krai during the special session of the chamber scheduled for 10 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The session has been called to approve President Boris Yeltsin's choice of Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister. The deputies have collected 20 of the 90 signatures necessary to put the issue on the agenda. The Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction has been trying to block Duma discussion of the issue. DVR is also planning to introduce a bill that would give the federal government the power to remove elected governors from their offices in some situations, another idea opposed by the NDR since it wants to maintain good relations with the regional leaders. -- Robert Orttung ZYUGANOV STRESSES MODERATION, ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF PLAYING "GAME." Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov told ITAR-TASS on 5 August that his party has firmly rejected "radical methods of struggle" and that unity among all left-wing movements would only be possible when "those who have remained in the last century" recognize that the new political environment requires new methods of battle. On the same day, he accused the government of deliberately withholding money owed to striking coal miners in order to exacerbate tension in society, NTV and Russian TV (RTR) reported. The ultimate purpose of the government's "game," according to Zyuganov, is "the further collapse of the Russian Federation." Zyuganov has consistently said that Communists and their left-wing allies in parliament will decide whether to confirm Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin only after the government reveals its economic program. -- Laura Belin COLONEL KILLED IN VORONEZH; ANOTHER ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT FAILS. A Russian army colonel was killed on 5 August in his apartment building in Volgograd, ORT reported. Colonel Yurii Kim, rear services deputy commander of the 20th Motor Rifle Division of the 8th Guard Corps, was killed by a bomb which exploded when he stepped into the elevator. Kim was reportedly involved in business activities. He served in Chechnya with current Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, who caused a stir recently by accusing senior Defense Ministry officers of corruption. Some press reports have accused Rokhlin of involvement in dubious financial transactions when he was based in Volgograd. Also on 5 August, an unidentified attacker fired eight shots at the general director of the Nizhnevartovskneft oil company, Khakim Gumerskii, Delovoi vtornik reported on 6 August. Gumerskii was seriously injured. -- Penny Morvant CRIME RATE FALLS SLIGHTLY IN FIRST HALF OF YEAR. About 1.3 million crimes were recorded in Russia from January to June 1996, 3% less than in the first half of 1995, according to the State Statistics Committee. There was a marked increase in the number of drug-related crimes. The crime rate fell in more than 60 regions of Russia, including Moscow. According to Moskovskii komsomolets on 6 August, 53,254 crimes were reported in the capital, a 1.3% fall from corresponding figures for 1995. The number of murders fell from 962 to 954 cases; the incidence of assault, larceny, and hostage taking also fell. The number of rape cases in Moscow, however, increased sharply. 237 women have been raped in Moscow since the beginning of the year, a 22% increase over the same period of 1995. -- Penny Morvant ORT MANAGEMENT CRITICIZED. The 51% state-owned Channel 1 broadcaster Russian Public TV (ORT) should not call itself "public," since it only serves a narrow group of financial and political interests, according to Izvestiya on 6 August. The paper said Boris Berezovskii, deputy chairman of the ORT board of directors, wields enormous power over programming decisions. Berezovskii owns about 16% of the shares in ORT (other private investors own between 3% and 5%), and he helped finance the presidential campaigns of both Boris Yeltsin and Aleksandr Lebed. The titular chairman of the ORT board, Aleksandr Yakovlev, "has nothing to do with" running the network. In fact, the paper said, ORT's board of directors is "fictitious," as is its board of trustees. According to Izvestiya, other figures who play an active role in ORT include presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko, who also heads the state-run ITAR-TASS news agency. -- Laura Belin NEW ST. PETERSBURG ADMINISTRATION UNVEILED. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev presented his administration of 15 people to the public on 5 August, Radio Rossii reported. Six members of the new government, including Yakovlev, worked in the previous administration. Yakovlev announced that his government's most important tasks will be to overcome the city's financial crisis, improve performance of local industrial and construction enterprises, and revive social welfare. These tasks will be the responsibility of the two first deputy governors, Vyacheslav Shcherbakov and Igor Artemev. Both of them were candidates in the election but withdrew from the race to throw their support behind Yakovlev. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIA PROTESTS TURKEY'S REFUSAL TO ADMIT ZHIRINOVSKY. The Russian Foreign Ministry called in the Turkish charge d'affaires in Moscow and expressed "bewilderment" with Ankara's recent decision to deny ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky an entry visa, Russian media reported. Zhirinovsky had planned to vacation in a Turkish coastal resort, but he was not allowed to board a plane in Moscow on 1 August because he did not have a visa. Zhirinovsky, trained as a specialist in Turkish affairs, was expelled from Turkey in 1970 on charges of distributing communist propaganda. He had been working there as a translator. -- Scott Parrish MOSCOW CITY TAKES OVER ZIL AUTO PLANT. The Moscow City government will take over majority ownership of the city's ailing auto giant, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 August. The city will buy 30% of ZIL stock from the holding company Mikrodin to add to the 25% it already owns. ZIL is running at a loss and was on the verge of firing several thousand workers. Last year, it produced 10,000 vehicles, half of its output in 1994. -- Peter Rutland ECONOMIC SLUMP CONTINUES. The economy continued to decline in the first half of this year, according to official statistics reported by Finansovye izvestiya on 6 August. GDP dropped by 5% over the same period in 1995, while industrial output fell 4%, agricultural production fell 7%, and the volume of investment plunged by 14%. Although the monthly rate of inflation dropped to 0.7% in July, the situation in the financial sphere is deteriorating. The budget deficit as a proportion of revenue went up from 22% in January-June 1995 to 47% this year, and wage arrears reached 29.8 trillion rubles ($5.7 billion at the current exchange rate) in July. The proportion of loss-making industrial enterprises increased from 26% of the total in January-May 1995 to 36% during the same period this year. -- Natalia Gurushina FOKKER DEAL CHALLENGED. Earlier this year, it was announced that the Yakovlev air corporation (YAK) intends to conclude a $261 million takeover of the ailing Dutch firm Fokker. Aleksandr Yermishev, the director of the Saratov aircraft plant, has come out against the deal, complaining that the money could be used to retool three domestic plants, NTV reported on 5 August. YAK argues that the deal would give them access to Fokker's service network in 60 countries and facilitate the international certification of their own aircraft. Also, YAK intends to transfer the manufacture of fuselages for Fokker planes to the Saratov plant, which is part of the YAK corporation. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NEWSPAPER CLOSED DOWN IN AZERBAIJAN. The Azerbaijani Information and Press Ministry on 1 August ordered a halt to the publication of the partly Turkish-owned daily newspaper Avrasiya (its editor is Hurriyet's Baku correspondent), according to the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontieres. Information and Press Minister Nariman Hasan-Zade told Avrasiya's editor that the paper had been shut down because of six recent articles on controversial topics including the Gebele early-warning radar station and Azerbaijani-Iranian relations. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIAN ARMY MANEUVERS. On 5 August, 3,000 Georgian troops began three days of maneuvers in western Georgia close to the border with Abkhazia under the personal supervision of Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze, BGI reported. The Abkhaz army had held exercises near Sukhumi on 1-2 August under the supervision of Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba and President Vladislav Ardzinba, according to reports in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 3 August and Interfax on 1 August monitored by the BBC. -- Liz Fuller EMIGRATION FROM GEORGIA. Between 800,000 and 1 million people, or approximately 20% of the total population, have left Georgia over the past five years, generally for economic reasons, according to ITAR-TASS on 27 July and Russian Public TV (ORT) on 5 August. The majority of emigres are university graduates under 35 years of age. -- Liz Fuller YEREVAN UNOFFICIALLY LOBBIES ANKARA. Armenian parliamentary deputy Telman Ter-Petrossyan was in Ankara on a private visit recently to lobby the Turkish government to open up its border for trade with Armenia, Cumhuriyet reported on 5 August. Along with other unnamed businessmen, the elder brother of Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan held talks with Turkish parliamentarians, businessmen, and journalists to encourage Turkey to buy Armenian electricity and cement, and to accept Armenia as a market for Turkish goods and as a transit country for Turkmen and Russian natural gas. -- Lowell Bezanis UN SPECIAL ENVOY MEETS WITH TAJIK PRESIDENT. Gerd Dietrich Merrem, the UN Special Envoy to Tajikistan, met with President Imomali Rakhmonov on 5 August to discuss the implementation of the Ashgabat ceasefire agreement, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement allows for prisoner exchanges and UN monitoring of the situation in the contested Tavil Dara region. Last week, UN observers attempted to reach the city of Tavil Dara but were unsuccessful, RFE/RL reported. Merrem said that the prisoner exchange is important for "strengthening trust" between the two sides. Rakhmonov again reiterated his willingness to hold talks with the opposition, as long as there are no conditions attached. -- 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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