|One must learn by doing the thing; though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try. - Sophocles|
No. 154, Part I, 9 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 GROZNY IN FLAMES. Heavy fighting continued in Grozny on 8-9 August as separatist fighters pressed ahead with their assault on the government compound in the center of the city, Russian and Western media reported. Russian officers claimed that federal forces were "expanding their area of control" in the city and driving back the rebels. But a Russian TV (RTR) reporter trapped in a hotel attached to the compound denounced such statements as "worse than lies" early on 9 August, saying that the blazing main government building had been gutted, while its defenders, having received almost no reinforcements, had "moved to other strong points." Separatist commanders earlier told AFP that they had seized part of the building and would soon capture the rest. The complex, headquarters of the pro-Moscow government headed by Doku Zavgaev, is a hated symbol of Russian power in the republic and the site of frequent separatist demonstrations. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN TAKES OATH OF OFFICE, NOMINATES CHERNOMYRDIN. Against the background of fierce fighting in Grozny and reports of ill health, President Boris Yeltsin began his second term on 9 August by pledging to protect human rights and the integrity of the country, ITAR-TASS reported. The president only spoke for a few seconds during the ceremony and made no speech, suggesting that he has not recovered from his tiring campaign. Western news described him as speaking slowly but firmly. The entire ceremony lasted 25 minutes. Yeltsin also officially nominated Viktor Chernomyrdin as his prime minister: the Duma is expected to meet on 10 August to vote on his candidacy. The president's press service announced that Yeltsin will go on vacation after the Duma vote but that the place and length of his leave have not yet been determined, Izvestiya reported. -- Robert Orttung FEDERATION COUNCIL SETS UP CHECHNYA COMMISSION. The Federation Council decided on 8 August to set up its own commission to seek a peaceful resolution to the Chechen crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. Council Speaker Yegor Stroev said that Kabardino-Balkariya President Valerii Kokov will chair the commission. "Even with bandits it is better to negotiate than shoot, even if it takes a long time," Stroev argued. In July 1995, a Duma commission on Chechnya chaired by Stanislav Govorukhin recommended President Yeltsin's impeachment, attacked critics of the war like Duma member Sergei Kovalev, and called for Chechnya's exclusion from the Russian Federation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 July 1995). -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN CALLS FOR TOUGH MEASURES IN CHECHNYA. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin called for the "toughest measures to be taken against the terrorists and criminals in the Chechen Republic" but rejected the resumption of full-scale war, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. He warned that "we cannot allow the situation to deteriorate into another Afghanistan." He said that the introduction of federal troops into the city had been delayed even though there were signals of an impending attack. He added that a number of roadblocks and checkpoints around the city had been withdrawn without explanation. Chernomyrdin said that the procurator-general would determine what had happened and punish the guilty parties. -- Robert Orttung FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS MINIMUM WAGE, PENSION HIKE. The parliament's upper house rejected on 8 August bills passed by the Duma raising the minimum wage and minimum pension, Russian agencies reported. Under the draft legislation, the minimum wage would have increased by 26% to 95,320 rubles ($18.33) a month as of 1 July; the minimum pension would rise to the same amount as of 1 August while all other pensions would be indexed by 37%. The Federation Council Social Policy Committee recommended against approving the increases, which were also opposed by the government, on the grounds that they are unaffordable. The minimum wage increase would require an additional expenditure of 8.7 trillion rubles. The Pension Fund is in severe financial difficulties, running a deficit of 6.5 trillion rubles on 1 July. The upper house consists of regional leaders, who are often held accountable for delays in wage and pension payments. -- Penny Morvant BABURIN REFUSES TO JOIN NEW OPPOSITION BLOC. The deputy chairman of the Duma and leader of the Russian All-People's Union (ROS), Sergei Baburin, has refused to join Gennadii Zyuganov's new Popular- Patriotic Union of Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. Baburin criticized Zyuganov and the Communist Party for numerous strategic miscalculations during the presidential campaign. Despite Zyuganov's offer to Baburin of a position in a potential Communist coalition government between the two rounds of the election, Baburin has been extremely critical of the Communists since the campaign. He told Vek (no. 31) that he would join President Yeltsin's government if offered a serious position. -- Robert Orttung ROSTOV MINERS CONTINUE STRIKE. The leader of the Rostov miners trade union, Vasilii Kryukov, has announced that 40,000 local miners will continue the strike they started on 4 August until all their demands are fulfilled, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. The government's transfer of 50 million rubles (about $10,000) to the Rostov Oblast was only enough to pay half of the miners' wages for March. The Russian Coal Industry Workers' Union has threatened to hold a nationwide strike on 25 August-- miners' day in Russia--if their demands are not met. -- Anna Paretskaya PENSIONERS PROTEST DELAYED PAYMENTS. A crowd of angry pensioners blocked the main streets of Abakan, the largest city in the southern Siberian republic of Khakasiya, to demand their pensions for July, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. Earlier this week, pensioners rallied in Voronezh after rumors spread that they would not receive their pensions for July, NTV reported on 5 August. -- Anna Paretskaya YET ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN MURDERED. Nikolai Povosin, the president of the construction company Boniks based in the Moscow Oblast town of Krasnogorsk, has been shot to death, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August, citing an Interior Ministry spokesman. Meanwhile, the director of the Moscow City Interior Ministry Department, Lt. Gen. Nikolai Kulikov, said that 53,000 crimes--including 900 murders--have been reported in Moscow so far this year. Kulikov also said that about 500 "tramps and panhandlers" have been ousted from Moscow since the president's July decree on combating crime in Moscow. An additional 600 "foreign citizens doing illegal business in Moscow" were expelled after a similar decree from the mayor. -- Anna Paretskaya SHORTFALL IN MILITARY HOUSING GROWS. According to sources in the Defense Ministry, more than 150,000 officers, NCOs, and warrant officers in the armed forces are on waiting lists for housing, ITAR- TASS reported on 8 August. Russian military construction workers were said to have built 12,000 new apartments so far this year, but the sources said the supply is far below demand. In October 1995, a deputy defense minister said that 125,000 officers' families were without apartments. -- Doug Clarke WAGE DEBT GROWING DESPITE MASSIVE GOVERNMENT OUTLAYS. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Lobov said on 8 August that 32% of all budget expenditure during the first half of the year went on paying wages and back wages, ITAR-TASS reported. Planned expenditure was only 15%. Despite these efforts, following a pre-election pledge by President Yeltsin to eliminate wage arrears in the state sector, the total wage debt equaled 29.9 trillion rubles ($5.7 billion) at the end of July. Continuing with his gloomy portrait of the economy, Lobov said that the state budget is owed about 80 trillion rubles and that barter deals account for up to 30% of industrial turnover. He added that revenue from state securities is now lower than the amount needed to buy back treasury bills that are due, that investment has fallen by 14%, and that capital flight exceeds $35 billion. -- Penny Morvant TREASURY TAX EXEMPTIONS ABOLISHED. The head of the State Tax Service (GNS), Vitalii Artyukhov, said that from 15 August 1996 the GNS will not accept treasury tax exemptions (KNOs)--issued by the Finance Ministry--from companies in lieu of tax payments, Radio Rossii reported on 7 August. KNOs worth 9 trillion rubles ($1.7 billion) have been issued: many of them are now being traded on the secondary financial market. KNOs and other money-surrogates, such as bills of exchange and the Finance Ministry's bank credit guarantees, are used by companies as "payment" for taxes. -- Natalia Gurushina RUSSIA SUES U.S. TAX AUTHORITIES. Russia's State Committee for Precious Metals and Stones (Roskomdragmet) is suing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the sale of assets belonging to the U.S. company Golden Ada, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 August. In 1992-1994, Russia delivered more than $171 million worth of rough diamonds to Golden Ada for cutting but received neither money nor diamonds, as Golden Ada's owners resold the company and disappeared. The scandal led to the dismissal of Roskomdragmet chairman Yevgenii Bychkov in February 1996 on corruption charges. Golden Ada's office and assets worth some $60 million were seized by the IRS for tax evasion. The Russian side, however, contests this move and claims that the confiscated property should be used to compensate Russia's losses. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN, IRAN SIGN AGREEMENT ON FIGHTING DRUG TRADE. Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov signed an agreement with his Iranian counterpart on cooperation in the fight against drug smuggling last week, according to a 6 August IRNA report monitored by the BBC. Details concerning the accord were not made available. Iran and Azerbaijan are both important transit countries for the trade in southwest Asian opium and opium poppies and cannabis are also cultivated along the border between the two countries. The opium that reaches Azerbaijan from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, or Iran is being transported via Nakhichevan to Turkey, according to the Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues, a Paris-based monitoring group. -- Lowell Bezanis ALIEV IN MOSCOW. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev expressed his willingness to meet with his Armenian counterpart, Levon Ter- Petrossyan, while in Moscow for the inauguration of President Boris Yeltsin, NTV reported on 8 August. Aliev did meet with Moscow mayor Yurii Luzhkov to discuss the recent arrests of Azerbaijanis in anti- crime actions in Moscow. Aliev also said that Chernomyrdin is preparing decrees for the opening of the Russian-Azerbaijani border, which was closed after the onset of the Chechen war. -- Peter Rutland ABKHAZ PEACEKEEPING UPDATE. The Russian Federation Council voyed on 8 August to extend the mandate of the Russian-dominated CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia by six months, RFE/RL reported. Georgia has been pushing Russia to involve the 1,500 peacekeeping troops in mine clearing and in helping some 250,000 Georgian refugees return to their homes in Abkhazia. Meanwhile, Georgian Radio on 5 August reported that the Turkish government will welcome Georgian efforts to halt ships under the Turkish flag from entering Abkhazian ports without the proper permits. The port of Sukhumi is a lifeline for the breakaway region and is also believed to be vital to smuggling activities involving Turkey and other Black Sea littoral states. -- Lowell Bezanis TURKMEN-RUSSIAN GAS PROJECT. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov met with the Russian Gazprom company chairman Rem Vyakhirev on 8 August to sign an agreement on forming the new corporation Turkmenrosgaz, NTV reported. Turkmenistan will hold 51% of the shares in the venture, Gazprom-45% and the transnational corporation Itera-4%. The first project the new corporation plans to undertake is a pipeline providing Turkmen gas to Pakistan via Afghanistan. The disruption in supply lines for Turkmen gas after the collapse of the Soviet Union has cut export of Turkmen gas nearly in half. According to RTR, Turkmenistan produced 90 billion cubic meters of gas in 1990, compared to 48 billion so far this year. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK AUTHORITIES CLOSE TO WRAPPING UP OSIMI MURDER CASE. The Tajik Security Ministry claimed on 8 August that one of the suspects in the murder of Tajik Academy of Sciences chairman Mohammed Osimi (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 July 1996) killed himself in a shoot out with the militia on 31 July, according to ITAR-TASS. Amrullo Saidov and five others, who were allegedly part of a gang that operated near Dushanbe, all died when the state militia raided their hideout. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez --------------------------------------------------------------------- --- Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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