|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 153, Part I, 8 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 *********************************************************************** Available soon -- The OMRI Annual Survey of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union -- "1995: Building Democracy." Published by M.E. Sharpe Inc., this 336-page yearbook provides a systematic and comprehensive review of the most pivotal events in the 27 countries of the former Communist bloc and former Soviet Union during 1995. Available to OMRI subscribers at a special price of $25 each (plus postage and handling). To order, please email your request to: firstname.lastname@example.org *********************************************************************** RUSSIA STANDOFF CONTINUES IN GROZNY. Fighting continued in central Grozny on 7- 8 August as Chechen militants tried without success to take the central government building, Russian and Western media reported. Two Russian helicopters opened fire on civilians fleeing south from Grozny, killing 22 people and wounding 30 more, according to AFP. Both sides dispatched reinforcements to Grozny on 8 August, Reuters reported, citing Interfax. Russian Independent Television (NTV) reported that Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov had informed pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev that he is personally coordinating the actions of the Russian federal troops deployed in Grozny. The deputy head of the Russian team engaged in negotiations with the Chechens, Vladimir Zorin, told ITAR-TASS that the attack on Grozny indicated serious disagreements and a power struggle within the Chechen camp, and called for the resumption of peace talks. -- Liz Fuller PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN LEADERSHIP BLAMES OSCE FOR ATTACK ON GROZNY. On 7 August, Ruslan Martagov, press spokesman for pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, blamed the OSCE for the recent attack on Grozny by separatist forces, Radio Mayak reported. He said the international body had failed to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Over the past 10 weeks, Zavgaev has repeatedly criticized OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann and demanded that he leave Chechnya. Also on 7 August, the Chechen Procurator-General's Office initiated criminal proceedings against acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, and Information Minister Movladi Udugov in connection with the attack on Grozny. -- Liz Fuller INAUGURATION TO BE INDOORS. President Boris Yeltsin has decided to hold his inauguration ceremony in the State Kremlin Palace (the former Palace of Congresses), ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. Izvestiya reported assertions "especially in the Western" press that the decision was taken in order to reduce the strain that the ceremony would place on the ailing president. In line with these reports, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov charged that Yeltsin "is not in a condition to work effectively," Reuters reported. However, administration sources claimed that cost cutting was the main reason behind the move. The ceremony is expected to last a maximum of 30 minutes. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN NAMES PRESS AIDE. President Yeltsin has announced that Sergei Yastrzhembskii, the current Russian ambassador to Slovakia, will be deputy chief of staff in charge of media relations, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev will remain in his position as a subordinate to Yastrzhembskii. The position of the current head of the press service, Igor Ignatev, remains in doubt. Yeltsin named former First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergei Krasavchenko to the newly created position of adviser. The president already has a number of aides. Krasavchenko had served in his former position since June 1993 when he was a member of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies and supported Yeltsin's intention to disband parliament. -- Robert Orttung FEDERATION COUNCIL OVERRIDES VETO. The Federation Council overrode a Yeltsin veto of a law defining budgetary classifications with 121 votes on 7 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The result was two more than the 119 needed for the override. Yeltsin had vetoed this bill on 31 December and 11 July, but Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov convinced the members of the upper house that the second version of the bill had taken into account all of Yeltsin's objections in spite of his veto. The law should increase oversight over how budget funds are spent, members of the upper house asserted. Vetoes have been extremely rare since it is difficult to get a two-thirds majority in both houses. -- Robert Orttung POPULAR-PATRIOTIC UNION HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS. The founding congress of the Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR) unanimously elected as its chairman Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov but also distanced itself from communist rhetoric and ideals, Russian media reported on 7 August. Zyuganov was officially nominated by Duma Culture Committee Chairman Stanislav Govorukhin, who has frequently criticized past and present communists. Addressing the delegates, Zyuganov promised that the KPRF would be "equal among equals" in the union and would not force its views on other member organizations. Meanwhile, Nikolai Ryzhkov, who heads the NPSR's organizing committee, said patriotism would be the union's fundamental ideology and social justice would be its primary goal. A statement adopted by the congress and published in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 8 August does not mention socialism, Soviet power, or communism. It pledges to respect political and religious differences and struggle for power through elections. -- Laura Belin JUDGE CALLS FOR ANTI-COMMUNIST MEASURES. Steps must be taken to counter unconstitutional and unlawful activities of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), according to a commentary by Constitutional Court Judge Ernest Ametistov, published in Izvestiya on 8 August. He also targeted bureaucrats sympathetic to the communists. Ametistov wrote that the KPRF is not a "civilized opposition," because it routinely "grossly violates" a 1992 court decision banning any revival of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on a national level or at workplaces. Ametistov, who is highly loyal to President Yeltsin, said the Justice Ministry should use powers granted to it under a May presidential decree (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 May 1996) to conduct an inquiry on why this ruling has not been enforced. He also called for a cadre policy to replace corrupt local bureaucrats and "red directors," whom he blamed for the problem of wage arrears, and for removing "totalitarian symbols" from city streets and enterprises. -- Laura Belin SOME MINERS CONTINUE THEIR STRIKE. In Primorskii krai and Rostov oblast about half the striking miners had returned to work by 7 August, Russian and Western media reported. However, it appears that some miners are not satisfied with the government's pledge to pay off the wage debt by installments. For now, the Rostov miners are only being given their wages for March. A team headed by Mikhail Klimov, the deputy head of the Presidential Oversight Commission, arrived in Vladivostok on 7 August to investigate the fate of the 60 billion rubles which Moscow sent to Primore to pay miners' wages at the beginning of the year, RTR reported. The Vorkuta miners called off their strike scheduled for 8 August after they were assured 30 billion rubles had been dispatched to the region, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Peter Rutland ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR STAYS OUT OF OBLAST POLITICS. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev has declared that he will not interfere with the gubernatorial race in neighboring Leningrad Oblast, RFE/RL reported on 7 August. He declined to endorse any of the candidates, including the incumbent Aleksandr Belyakov. Belyakov, appointed oblast head by President Yeltsin in 1991, supported Yakovlev in the June St. Petersburg gubernatorial runoff. Observers say that Yakovlev's reluctance to support Belyakov could mean that the Yeltsin administration, which announced it will support one candidate in each region, is undecided over whom to back in the Leningrad election. Other potential candidates include the left-leaning former speaker of the Leningrad Soviet, Vadim Gustov, and the liberal Nikolai Smirnov. -- Anna Paretskaya POLICE: EXPLOSION NEAR CHERNOMYRDIN'S CAR WAS "HOOLIGANISM." Police investigators have concluded that the 6 August explosion near the Rublevskoe shosse in Moscow--which took place moments before Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's motorcade drove by--was an act of random "hooliganism" and was not directed against the prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. The explosion was caused by a homemade bomb containing some 200 grams of explosives which detonated about 15 meters from the highway. -- Scott Parrish IZVESTIYA: DUMA FINANCES PRIVATE APARTMENTS FOR DEPUTIES. According to a report in the 8 August edition of Izvestiya, the State Duma recently decided to give each of its current and previous members $60,000 from the federal budget to purchase a Moscow apartment. Adopted in "strict secrecy," the decision was taken under the 1994 law on deputies' status. Many deputies of the previous Duma who did not win re-election in 1995 had refused to vacate their state-provided apartments when their terms expired. Now deputies will receive a "one-time compensation payment" to enable them to purchase housing in Moscow, which will then become their personal private property. The paper indicated that the Presidential Administration, which manages official flats in Moscow, had approved the action, and suggested its approval was intended to encourage the Duma to approve Viktor Chernomyrdin as Prime Minister. -- Scott Parrish COURTS SEIZE COMPANIES' ASSETS. A court has seized the assets of the Zvezda plant near Vladivostok that repairs Pacific Fleet nuclear submarines, and will sell some of them to pay the company's debts, Reuters reported on 7 August, citing Interfax. The shipyard owed its suppliers more than 36 billion rubles ($6.8 million), including 6 billion rubles to the water company which initiated the court action. But Zvezda director Valerii Maslyukov said his firm is owed more than 80 billion rubles, with 17 billion just by the government. Meanwhile, tax police in Khabarovsk Krai seized the assets of the Far Eastern Railway, the largest debtor in the region, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. The railway owes some 458 billion rubles to regional and federal authorities. These measures are part of the government's strategy to boost tax collection through more active involvement of law-enforcement agencies. -- Doug Clarke and Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA IMF PRAISES ARMENIA. Panos Katsambas, the head of an IMF mission that has spent the past two weeks in Armenia, on 7 August expressed satisfaction with the progress of macroeconomic stabilization and reform in the country, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. Katsambas expressed concern, however, over enterprise debts to the budget, estimated at 12.5 billion drams ($30 million). In October, Armenia is scheduled to receive the second ($25 million) tranche of a $150 million ESAF credit. -- Liz Fuller U.S. DIPLOMATS IN SUKHUMI. A U.S. delegation led by the deputy ambassador to Georgia, Larry Kerr, arrived in Sukhumi on 6 August on a fact-finding mission, ITAR-TASS and Abkhaz Radio reported on 7 August. The delegation met with newly-appointed Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan, who claimed that Abkhazia has never been an integral part of Georgia, and with parliament speaker Sokrat Djinjolia, and expressed U.S. readiness to help find a compromise solution to the question of Abkhazia's future relations with Tbilisi. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIA AGAIN DEMANDS GIORGADZE'S EXTRADITION. The Georgian prosecutor- general on 7 August issued a statement branding former security chief Igor Giorgadze a terrorist and criticizing Moscow's refusal to extradite him to Tbilisi as incompatible with its pledge to combat terrorism, Russian media reported. Giorgadze is suspected of involvement in last year's bomb attack on parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze. The statement further claimed that failure to extradite Giorgadze would pose a threat to Shevardnadze's security on his upcoming trips to Russia. -- Liz Fuller TURKMENISTAN AND PAKISTAN TALK. Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov met with Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Islamabad on 5 August to discuss the construction of a $6 billion oil and gas pipeline linking the two countries and investment in infrastructure, according to a Radio Pakistan report monitored by the BBC. Shikhmuradov, accompanied by executives of the U.S. oil firms UNOCAL and Delta, is exploring the possibility of exporting Turkmenistan's hydrocarbon riches south through areas of Afghanistan controlled by the allegedly Pakistani-backed rebel Taliban movement. U.S. sanctions against Iran are reported to have scuttled an alternative plan to move Iranian gas to Pakistan. -- Lowell Bezanis ANOTHER PRISONER AMNESTY IN UZBEKISTAN. President Islam Karimov on 7 August granted amnesties and prison-term reductions to some of Uzbekistan's prisoners, ITAR-TASS reported. The exact number of prisoners that will benefit from this decree is unclear, although the wording suggests that this is part of a "large-scale amnesty." This is the second time in the past two months that Karimov has issued such a decree. On 15 June, he pardoned 80 prisoners, including two opposition figures (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 June 1996). -- Roger Kangas UN OBSERVERS CLOSER TO TAVIL-DARA. UN military observers in Tajikistan have come closer to fulfilling one of the conditions of the 20 July Ashgabat ceasefire agreement signed by representatives of the Tajik government and opposition, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. Tajik presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov said UN observers have now set up an office in Khovaling, a town just outside of the Tavil-Dara region that is used as a base by Tajik government forces. According to the agreement, UN observers were to "position groups of observers on both sides of the conflict line" in the Tavil-Dara region by 23 July. However, continued fighting between government and opposition forces in the area prevented any independent observers from entering the region. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jeremy Druker ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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