Как мал промежуток между временем, когда человек еще слишком молод и когда он уже слишком стар. - Ш. Монтескье

No. 155, Part I, 12 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


HEAVY FIGHTING CONTINUES IN GROZNY. Fierce street fighting continued for
a seventh day on 12 August and showed little sign of abating, despite
efforts over the weekend by federal troops backed by artillery, tanks,
and helicopter gunships to blast Chechen fighters out of the city,
Russian and Western agencies reported. On 9 August, NTV reported that
federal troops had lost control over much of the city, and were reduced
to defending isolated positions. Late on 11 August, reinforcements
reached the besieged government complex in the city center, from which
several trapped journalists had been broadcasting reports contradicting
official dispatches that federal troops were gaining the upper hand in
the fighting. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said on 11
August that 169 Russian troops have been killed and 618 wounded, but
separatist spokesmen say up to 1,000 federal troops have died. Fighting
is also reported in Gudermes and Argun, the two largest towns in
Chechnya after Grozny. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN DISPATCHES LEBED TO CHECHNYA. President Boris Yeltsin appointed
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed as his representative in
Chechnya, Russian and Western agencies reported on 10 August. Lebed
replaces Oleg Lobov, who had held the position since August 1995. On 11
August, Lebed flew to Dagestan, which borders on Chechnya, saying "there
is no military solution" to the conflict. A spokesman added that Lebed
views an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Chechen fighters from
Grozny as the basis for renewed negotiations. According to ITAR-TASS on
12 August, Lebed drove from Dagestan to Starye Atagi, a Chechen village
about 20 km south of Grozny, to meet Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan
Maskhadov. While details of the talks were not released, Reuters cited a
separatist spokesman as saying that the two men had agreed that "real
and extreme" steps should be taken to end the fighting. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA APPROVES CHERNOMYRDIN. The Duma voted on 10 August to confirm
President Yeltsin's reappointment of Viktor Chernomyrdin to the post of
prime minister by a vote of 314-85 with three abstentions, ITAR-TASS
reported. The constitution requires that the Duma approve a prime
minister by at least 226 votes following presidential elections. To save
face, the Duma Council, controlled by the opposition, decided to make
the confidence vote a secret ballot. The discussion preceding the vote
was relatively formal with Chernomyrdin giving a generally positive
account of his performance as prime minister since the end of 1992,
although he admitted some errors. Deputies asked only limited questions
about Chechnya and the nonpayment and energy crisis in the Far East.
Chernomyrdin denied that he is "one of the richest men in Russia," an
assertion frequently heard because of his close ties to the gas monopoly
Gazprom. Yeltsin did not personally present Chernomyrdin to the Duma as
had been expected. -- Robert Orttung

REACTION TO DUMA VOTE. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said
that he approved a vote of confidence in Chernomyrdin to give him a
chance to stop the disintegration of the Russian state, Russian Public
TV (ORT) reported on 10 August. Zyuganov said that a power vacuum has
been created in Russia because "the president is on permanent leave, the
government has resigned, and the Duma is ineffective." Yabloko leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii did not appear in the Duma during the vote, NTV
reported on 11 August. However, his deputy, Vladimir Lukin, said that
the freely-elected president has the right to pick his own cabinet.
Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that he
supported Chernomyrdin because Yeltsin would have otherwise nominated
Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais as prime minister, forcing the Duma to
reject him three times and allowing the president to call early Duma
elections. Only Our Home Is Russia enthusiastically backed Chernomyrdin.
-- Robert Orttung

candidate Aman Tuleev has called on the Communist Party to start
negotiations with Chernomyrdin about joining a coalition government, ORT
reported on 11 August. He said the Communists cannot ignore the opinion
of millions of Russians who voted for Yeltsin and that they should set
aside party concerns to work with the government. Tuleev is a not a
member of the Communist Party, but ran in the number three slot on its
list in the Duma election and withdrew his presidential candidacy in
favor of Zyuganov. Chernomyrdin is expected to unveil his cabinet later
this week. -- Robert Orttung

following the vote to approve Chernomyrdin on 10 August, the Duma
recommended that the president formally impose a state of emergency on
Chechnya, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The move is meaningless,
since such a decree would require the approval of the Federation
Council, which is on vacation until October, and there is no law
defining how to implement a state of emergency although the constitution
requires one. During the Duma session, Interior Minister Kulikov said
that the rebels managed to enter Grozny because there were no defenses
in place to protect the city, except for a few road checkpoints, and
because there are not enough men and equipment due to the domestic
economic crisis. The Duma also set up a consultative council on the
Caucasus, to be chaired by Deputy Speaker Mikhail Gutseriev, that will
study ethnic problems in the region. -- Robert Orttung and Anna

of the State Commission on Regulating the Chechen Conflict met on 11
August, chaired by newly-reconfirmed Prime Minister Chernomyrdin,
Russian media reported. Speaking after the session, Chernomyrdin said
that federal forces in Chechnya must be reinforced and the crisis in
Grozny resolved before any new negotiations on ending the conflict can
begin. He added that in response to the Duma's request, the Justice
Ministry is preparing the legal framework for declaring a state of
emergency in Chechnya, although he said both the president and the
Federation Council would have to approve before it could be implemented.
Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, however, said after the meeting that
Chernomyrdin's remarks do not mean that more federal troops will be sent
to Chechnya, and he emphasized that only negotiations can resolve the
conflict. -- Scott Parrish

INVESTIGATION. President Yeltsin declared 10 August a day of mourning
for victims of the current fighting in Grozny, Russian media reported on
9 August. He said state flags should be flown at half-mast throughout
the country, and recommended that cultural institutions and broadcasters
cancel all entertainment programs and activities on that day. Yeltsin
described the seizure of Grozny by rebel Chechens as a well prepared
attempt to scuttle the peace process with the federal government.
Yeltsin also ordered Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov to launch an
investigation into the attack on Grozny and to assess the behavior of
Russian officials during the attack. -- Anna Paretskaya

has trapped thousands of civilians in basements and other shelters
throughout the city, NTV reported on 10 August. While many prefer to
hide rather than risk death by fleeing, several thousand others have
begun to leave parts of Grozny where the fighting is less intense. The
network said a column of refugees several kilometers long is streaming
out of the city. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported on 9
August that 3,500 Chechen refugees have fled into neighboring Dagestan
over the last three weeks, 500 of whom have arrived since the renewed
fighting broke out in Grozny. -- Scott Parrish

Minister Chernomyrdin suggested in a meeting with representatives of the
Duma's "Popular Power" faction that the regional elections could be
postponed until next year, Segodnya reported on 9 August. He complained
that the country's economy barely survived the serious shortfall of
taxes that has occurred as a result of the presidential election.
Meanwhile, Agrarian Party (APR) leader Mikhail Lapshin announced that
his party will field gubernatorial candidates in about 15 regions, Radio
Mayak reported on 11 August. Despite its failure in the 1995 Duma
election, the party will also participate in elections to regional
legislatures and local self-government institutions. About 50 governors
and 30 legislatures are to be elected by the end of the year. -- Anna

. . . DISCUSSES THE ECONOMY. Chernomyrdin said the battle against
inflation is nearly over and the government's next step will be
structural reform and industrial growth, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported on
10 August. He noted that ruble stabilization and the falling inflation
rate (0.7% in July) should provide a basis for GDP growth of 14-15% and
a 5% increase in per capita consumption by the year 2000. He stressed
that the government will increase social spending to fulfill President
Yeltsin's pre-election promises--which he said is worth an estimated 800
billion rubles ($152 million). The money will be raised by increasing
excise taxes on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and jewelry, and by
cutting the number of federal ministries from 90 to about 60. The new
custom duties on shuttle-traders (chelnoki) should bring in another $2
billion, he said. -- Natalia Gurushina

ANOTHER BOMB EXPLODES. Eight people were injured when a bomb exploded on
a train traveling from Astrakhan to Volgograd on 12 August, ITAR-TASS
reported. The blast, the third incident on this railway line in the last
month, occurred about 15 km outside Volgograd. Two days earlier, bomb
disposal experts defused a device found at an intersection near Moscow's
Vnukovo Airport. It is still unclear who is behind the recent series of
bomb explosions and bomb scares on Russia's public transport system, but
many believe there is a Chechen connection. Segodnya reported on 8
August that 449 crimes involving the use of explosives have been
committed since the beginning of this year. Since 1995, the paper said,
34 metric tons of explosives have been stolen from warehouses, many of
which belong to the Defense Ministry. -- Penny Morvant

MINERS' STRIKES CONTINUE. About 500 miners at the Tulaugol pits in the
Moscow coal basin are striking to protest a five-month delay in the
payment of their wages, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. Fourteen miners
have been on a hunger strike in the region for more than a week, while
their colleagues have refused to work. Protest actions are also
continuing in the eastern Donbass, with miners at 22 of Rostovugol's 23
pits taking some form of action, Izvestiya reported on 10 August. That
day, about 3,000 angry miners took to the streets of Novoshakhtinsk to
protest five-month wage arrears. On 9 August, several hundred miners
took part in a protest meeting in the mining town Artem. Ten of the 14
pits in Primore are working, although miners have yet to receive all the
money they are owed, Trud reported. -- Penny Morvant


Ramil Usubov was quoted by Yeni Yuzyil on 10 August as saying many of
the fugitives wanted in his country, "including those wanted for
treason," are hiding in Turkey. He said his government has sought their
extradition repeatedly, but Ankara has been unable to locate any of them
to date. Turkey has denied these charges. In other news, the Turkish
Daily News quoted the Azerbaijani Ambassador in Ankara, Mehmet
Nevruzoglu, as saying the plans of the "secret" Armenian lobby in
Turkey, which aims to open the Turkish-Armenian border for economic
reasons, could hurt bilateral ties between Baku and Ankara. -- Lowell

ARMENIA UPDATE. Armenian authorities have detained and disarmed a
"large" number of what they described as Kurdish resistance fighters
near the village of Tsorevan on the border with Turkey, Moskovskii
komsomolets reported on 8 August. In other news, two high-ranking
officers of the Armenian Interior Ministry--one responsible for
personnel and the other for passports and visas--were sacked on 8 August
for abusing their positions. Fifty people were hospitalized in the wake
of an outbreak of typhoid in Vanadzor, ITAR-TASS reported the next day.
-- Lowell Bezanis

KAZAKHSTANI OIL TO RUN THROUGH IRAN. Kazakhstani and Iranian officials
signed an agreement in Almaty on 10 August that gives Kazakhstan access
to Iranian ports on the Persian Gulf, Radio Mayak and RFE/RL reported.
Kazakhstan will ship 2 million metric tons of crude oil annually to
Iranian ports on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, where it will be
loaded and shipped south to the gulf. Iran will refine the oil and use
some of it for domestic consumption. Last week, an ITAR-TASS report
claimed that negotiations on this deal had stalled (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 7 August 1996). -- Bruce Pannier

SHOOT-OUT IN WEST TAJIKISTAN. Seven people died and six people were
wounded in a 10 August gunfight that broke out between rival gangs in
the western Tajik town of Tursun Zade, Reuters reported. Officials in
Tursun Zade stressed that the shoot-out was an isolated incident that
had no political implications. An armed revolt took place in the town in
late January. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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