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No. 152, Part I, 7 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 CHECHEN MILITANTS "IN CONTROL OF GROZNY." Heavy fighting in Grozny between Chechen militants and Russian forces continued during the night of 6-7 August, and as of mid-morning on 7 August the Chechen detachments were "in effective control" of the city, Reuters reported. On 6 August, the Russians lost four helicopter gunships and 23 Russian troops were killed and 91 injured, according to Reuters. Confusion persists over the identity of the Chechen commander coordinating the operation. The secretary of the Russian State Commission for resolving the Chechen crisis told Russian Public TV (ORT) that it is Ruslan Gilaev, who is based in western Chechnya, while AFP quoted Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov as stating that Shamil Basaev is in charge. It is also unclear whether the attack on Grozny, Gudermes, and Argun was launched on orders from acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. Information Minister Movladi Udugov said the assault is a reprisal for renewed Russian hostilities, adding that the Chechens still want peace talks. -- Liz Fuller STEPASHIN ISSUES ULTIMATUM. Speaking on ORT on 6 August, the secretary of the Russian State Commission on resolving the Chechen conflict, Sergei Stepashin, warned that unless acting Chechen President Yandarbiev disassociates himself from the offensive within two hours and takes immediate action together with Chief of Staff Maskhadov to withdraw the Chechen detachments from Grozny, Russia will not agree to any further peace talks. President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin called for the "neutralization" of the Chechen militants without using heavy weapons, ORT reported. -- Liz Fuller MINERS' UNION THREATENS NATIONWIDE STRIKE. The Russian Coal Industry Workers' Union threatened on 6 August to call a nationwide strike if debts to miners are not paid by 25 August, international media reported. Union officials estimate the industry is owed about 1.7 trillion rubles ($326 million) by defaulting customers and 250 billion in delayed state subsidies. In Rostov Oblast, striking miners called a government pledge to transfer 55 billion rubles to pay back wages insufficient; workers at two pits in Tula have walked out; and miners in Vorkuta are threatening to strike on 8 August. In Primore, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August that miners had gone back to work at about half the pits affected by the strike there. The previous day, union leader Vitalii Budko accused the Russian media of Soviet-style disinformation when they reported that the strike had ended, according to the Hindustan Times. -- Penny Morvant PRIMORSKII SYNDROME SPREADS. The energy crisis that has gripped the Russian Far East is spreading to Volgograd Oblast. Electricity supplies have been cut off to 200 enterprises, including the giant Krasnyi Oktyabr steel mill, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 6 August. Customer debts to the local energy company Volgogradenergo now total 1 trillion rubles ($190 million), of which some 53 billion rubles are owed by Krasnyi Oktyabr. The plant's stoppage will result in an estimated 100 billion rubles loss per month. -- Natalia Gurushina GOVERNMENT MAY REVOKE PREELECTION SPENDING PROMISES. The government has drafted a decree that envisages delaying some of President Yeltsin's preelection promises, Segodnya reported on 6 August. The draft, prepared by the special operational group on the budget crisis chaired by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin (see OMRI Daily Digest 1 August 1996), reportedly plans the postponement of four federal laws, 24 presidential decrees, and 14 governmental decrees, the implementation of which would cost the federal budget 41 trillion rubles ($7.9 billion). The paper suggests that this move will provoke intense lobbying by industrialists and regional elites. -- Natalia Gurushina YELTSIN MEETS WITH CHUBAIS, CHERNOMYRDIN, LEBED. President Boris Yeltsin met with his key subordinates on his first day back at work on 6 August following a three-week rest, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin reviewed the situation in Chechnya with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and with Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed. Lebed then seemed to encroach on Chernomyrdin's turf in the field of national economy by discussing with Yeltsin the shipping of cargo to remote areas of the country. Yeltsin also discussed the possibility of holding his inauguration in the State Kremlin Palace with Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, which would save the 6 billion rubles that may have to be spent to disperse clouds if the ceremony is held outdoors. -- Robert Orttung AGRARIANS JOCKEY FOR POWER WITHIN LEFT BLOC. Leaders of the Agrarian Party of Russia (APR) formally agreed to join Gennadii Zyuganov's new Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia but also passed a resolution demanding that APR leader Mikhail Lapshin be made co-chairman of the union, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. Lapshin argued that since rural dwellers are among the most active left-wing voters, the Agrarians "should play one of the leading roles in the constructive opposition" and not merely serve as the Communist Party's "little brother." Nevertheless, the APR is more dependent on their Communist allies than vice versa. After a poor showing in the December 1995 parliamentary election, the APR was only able to amass the 35 deputies needed for an official State Duma faction after the Communists "donated" several deputies. -- Laura Belin COMMUNISTS DECIDE AGAINST JOINING GOVERNMENT. At a closed plenum, the Central Committee of Communist Party (KPRF) decided that it would be "inexpedient" to join the government as long as economic policy is not changed radically, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported on 6 August. No KPRF members have been offered cabinet portfolios; however, in recent weeks observers have speculated that a few allies of the KPRF, including former presidential candidate Aman Tuleev, may be invited to join the government. Accepting minor cabinet posts and thereby tacitly approving the government's policies would deprive the KPRF of a potent issue in the upcoming regional elections. -- Laura Belin PREPARATIONS FOR REGIONAL ELECTIONS CONTINUE. President Yeltsin has ordered Rostov and Pskov oblasts to hold gubernatorial elections in September and October this year, respectively, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. Meanwhile, authorities in the town of Surgut located in Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug, which is in Tyumen Oblast, have taken steps to prevent candidates from running initiative groups in the town from endorsing any of the candidates in the oblast's gubernatorial election, according to ORT. Local authorities consider the okrug to be independent and are therefore advocating a boycott of the Tyumen election. Elsewhere, the leader of the Russian Socialist Party, millionaire Vladimir Bryntsalov, announced that his party will provide each of its local candidates with about $2 million in campaign money. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIA BLASTS U.S. SANCTIONS ON IRAN, LIBYA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Andreev condemned a new U.S. anti-terrorist law aimed at Iran and Libya, international media reported on 6 August. The law, known as the D'Amato Amendment, reinforces U.S. sanctions against the two countries and imposes penalties on any companies, including non-U.S. firms, who invest more than $40 million annually in their petroleum industries. Andreev termed the law "inadmissible" and a "violation of international law" because of its "extra- territorial nature." He called for "coordinated," rather than "unilateral" measures to combat international terrorism. Western European countries have also slammed the law's provisions. -- Scott Parrish OFFICIAL PAPER WARNS AGAINST ATTEMPT TO ARREST KARADZIC. The official government paper Rossiiskaya gazeta, responding to Western media reports that the U.S. is planning a special operation to seize former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, warned on 6 August that any such action would "derail" the Bosnian peace process. The paper cautioned that the Serbs would view his arrest as "an act of piracy," adding that the use of "elite troops and helicopters" is not the best way to achieve political stability in Bosnia. Meanwhile, the daily Delovoi mir published an article arguing that Russia should reverse the "passive" policies of the former Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's era and declare the Balkans "a zone of its national interests." -- Scott Parrish BLACK SEA FLEET COMMANDER CRITICIZES UKRAINE. Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, commander of the Black Sea Fleet, condemned recent critical remarks by Ukrainian Navy commander Vice Admiral Volodymyr Bezkorovainy (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 August 1996) as an attempt to "reverse negotiations on the fleet with superficial statements," ITAR-TASS reported. Kravchenko dismissed as "fantasy" Bezkorovainy's charges that in the process of dividing the fleet, Russia is handing over to Ukraine only those ships that are fit for the scrap yard and have been stripped of vital equipment. The Russian admiral charged that Moscow's "open" and "civilized" approach to negotiations on dividing the fleet was viewed by the Ukrainian navy command as "weakness," and warned that Russia might reconsider its stance. -- Scott Parrish BUDGET SITUATION TIGHT. Federal budget income for the first six months of the year was 130.7 trillion (84% of plan) and spending 139.3 trillion (95% of plan), ITAR TASS reported on 6 August. However, budget "income" includes the sale of treasury bonds and the like; actual tax income was only 82 trillion rubles--62% of the planned level. First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov told the cabinet on 6 August that by the year's end the deficit may be 88 trillion rubles. He said that "there are neither administrative, nor criminal, nor bankruptcy procedures" to force firms to pay taxes. About 30% of federal budget revenue in 1996 is expected to come from just four regions, Moskovskaya Pravda reported on 6 August. They are: Moscow city (41 trillion rubles), Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug (23 trillion), Moscow Oblast (12 trillion), and St. Petersburg (9 trillion rubles). -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES REGISTER. Seven of the nine putative candidates for the presidential race submitted their final nomination petitions by the deadline on 2 August , Noyan tapan reported on 5 August . The Central Electoral Committee will now verify that each candidate has submitted 25,000 valid signatures. Levon Ter-Petrossyan collected 39,882 signatures and Sergei Badalyan of the Armenian Communist Party 36,751. Two candidates withdrew from the race, whose first round will take place on 23 September. Rafael Hambartsoumyan failed to raise the required deposit of 2,000,000 drams ($5000), while businessman Yurii Mkrtchyan complained that lack of time prevented him from collecting the signatures. -- Peter Rutland GEORGIAN MILITARY HIGHWAY REOPENS. The main road link between Russia and the Transcaucasus reopened on 5 August after being closed for one week, ITAR TASS reported. Heavy rains on 28 July swept away bridges and several sections of the highway, marooning dozens of travellers, NTV reported on 30 July. The cost of the damage is estimated at $8 million. -- Peter Rutland KAZAKHSTANI RELATIONS WITH IRAN, CHINA Talks between Almaty and Tehran on moving 2 million metric tons of Kazakhstani crude oil across the Caspian Sea to Iranian ports have stalled, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. Unidentified sources in the Kazakhstani government said the talks, underway for two years, broke down when Iran refused to partially cover Kazakhstan's expenses for transporting the crude across the sea. In other news, the Sino- Kazakhstani border survey commission reached an agreement in Beijing on 5 August that will permit them to begin demarcating their mutual border, according to a Xinhua report monitored by the BBC. -- Lowell Bezanis PRISON RIOT IN TURKMENISTAN. Three prisoners were killed and seven wounded on 4 August when Turkmen authorities put down a prison riot in Mary Vilayet, Reuters reported on 6 August. Details on the riots are sketchy, but the day after the mutiny, Turkmen Deputy Interior Minister Altibai Charyez, national prison head Amansakhat Chungaev, and other officials were sacked. Turkmenistan's prison system is reportedly riddled with corruption and conditions in overcrowded prisons are squalid. In August 1995, 27 mutinous prisoners were reportedly killed in a maximum security prison in Ashgabat. -- Lowell Bezanis GOVERNORS SACKED IN AKHAL, TASHAUZ. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov has dismissed the provincial governors of Akhal and Tashauz Vilayet, according to a 3 August Turkmen Press report monitored by the BBC. The republic's harvest of 480,000 metric tons of grain for this year rather than the anticipated 1,000,000 tons appears to be the cause of their dismissal. During a 2 August cabinet meeting where the "very serious shortcomings and errors" associated with the harvest were discussed, Niyazov also abolished the ex-officio status of deputy prime minister granted to all regional heads. In other news, Turkmen and Russian border guards in the republic have intercepted 500 "trespassers" and confiscated 900 kg of drugs so far this year, Radio Rossii reported on 5 August. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez --------------------------------------------------------------------- --- Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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