|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 156, Part I, 13 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 ************************************************************************ Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region. The latest edition includes stories on the reluctance of foreign investors in post-election Russia; Belarusians protesting the planned opening of a McDonald's in Minsk; and the details of a new World Bank credit deal with Bosnia. For subscription and rate information, please send a message to email@example.com *********************************************************************** RUSSIA LEBED TAKES CHARGE OF CHECHEN TALKS . . . Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed returned to Moscow from Chechnya on 12 August and briefed President Yeltsin on the results of his talks with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, Russian and Western agencies reported. Lebed later said that Yeltsin approved the general outline of the settlement plan he had discussed with Maskhadov, and would issue a decree within the next 48 hours empowering the Security Council head to implement it. Lebed said that Maskhadov had reacted positively to his proposal that Chechnya be granted a level of autonomy within the federation similar to that of Tatarstan. He added that they had both agreed that the current fighting must he stopped before serious political talks can begin. Chechen leaders have previously insisted on full independence, and earlier talks repeatedly foundered on that issue. -- Scott Parrish . . . ANNOUNCES CEASEFIRE . . . Lebed also announced that a ceasefire would begin in Chechnya at 3 p.m. Moscow time, and added that Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, the federal forces commander, would soon begin talks with Maskhadov on a mutual disengagement of forces. Chechen Information Minister Movladi Udugov offered a very positive assessment of Lebed's talks with Maskhadov, which he said offered "serious hope" that the conflict could be resolved. However, as of midnight on 12 August, Chechen military spokesmen said that Maskhadov had still not spoken with Pulikovskii, complaining that repeated attempts to contact the Russian commander had proven fruitless. -- Scott Parrish . . . AND BLASTS PREDECESSORS IN CHECHNYA. Lebed also expressed outrage at the state of federal troops in Chechnya, saying they are lice-ridden, underfed, and dressed in rags. He said they had been sent to Chechnya as "cannon fodder," and should be recalled from combat for "purely humanitarian considerations." Lebed also lashed out at the "failure" of the State Commission for Regulating the Chechen Conflict, headed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, which he described as "having made no positive progress," and attacked pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev as a liar with "delusions of grandeur." He also criticized the "passivity" of Oleg Lobov, his predecessor as presidential representative in Chechnya and currently first deputy prime minister. Lebed said "someone wants me very much to break my neck over this assignment. We'll see. I like tough assignments. They excite me." -- Scott Parrish CHECHEN FIGHTERS ATTACK FEDERAL HEADQUARTERS NEAR GROZNY. Despite talk in Moscow of an imminent ceasefire, Chechen separatist fighters on 12 August launched an assault on the federal forces headquarters in Khankala, a Grozny suburb, Russian and Western agencies reported. They were beaten off after an hour of heavy fighting. Russian military spokesmen told ITAR-TASS early on 13 August that separatist fighters continued to offer "fierce resistance" to federal troops. NTV reported that separatist fighters still controlled much of the city, which federal forces continue to blast with indiscriminate artillery barrages. Meanwhile, according to AFP, separatist fighters ambushed a Russian convoy near Vedeno, killing 20 federal troops, and fighting also continues in Argun and Gudermes. An RFE/RL correspondent reported on 11 August that a Russian unit had taken hospital workers hostage in an attempt to escape encirclement by Chechen fighters. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN POSTPONES VACATION. President Yeltsin has decided to postpone his vacation plans this week in order to deal with the renewed fighting in Chechnya and other pressing issues such as the upcoming regional elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. Yeltsin had been expected to arrive at a sanitarium in Valday, 145 km from Novgorod, this week. The president is now planning to begin his vacation on 19 August. -- Robert Orttung JOURNALIST KILLED IN CHECHNYA. Ramzan Khadzhev, a Russian Public TV (ORT) correspondent, has been shot dead in Chechnya, AFP reported on 12 August, quoting Interfax. If Khadzhev's death is confirmed, it will bring to 17 the number of journalists killed in Chechnya since the beginning of the conflict in December 1994. Meanwhile, the Glasnost Protection Foundation claimed that federal troops in Chechnya have recently launched another campaign of harassment against journalists who cover the Chechen conflict. For instance, on 8 August, federal forces fired on the cars of journalists representing various international news agencies. -- Anna Paretskaya REFUGEE CRISIS IN CHECHNYA CONTINUES. About 12,000 refugees from the Chechen capital have gathered in the villages of Staraya Sunzha, Starye Atagi, and Kalinino just outside of Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. The refugees, who started to leave Grozny after several days of heavy fighting in the city, are running out of food, water, and medicine. The local hospital cannot house all those who are in need of medical care. A corridor for refugees, which federal troops promised to open by 2 p.m. on 12 August, has not come into existence. Federal forces are refusing to let any men out of the town, fearing that rebels will escape along with the refugees. -- Anna Paretskaya HARDLINERS DENOUNCE COMMUNIST PARTY. The leader of the Russian Communist Workers' Party, Viktor Tyulkin, has asked Gennadii Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation to remove the word "communist" from its name so as not to discredit the very idea of communism and confuse working people, Izvestiya reported on 13 August. Tyulkin's request was sparked by the Communists' decision to vote for the confirmation of Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister in the Duma on 10 August. Tyulkin's party refused to join the new Popular-Patriotic Union, arguing that it had moved too far away from the ideas of "true communism." -- Robert Orttung PRAVDA STILL HOPES TO RETURN. Pravda editor Aleksandr Ilin 12 August said that he wants to revive the paper, but there is no sign of an agreement in the dispute between the paper's editorial staff and its Greek publishers, Theodoros and Christos Giannikos, Russian TV reported. The paper published its last issue on 24 July, although the publishers, Pravda International, continue to put out the tabloid Pravda-5. Ilin claimed that the paper has the potential attain a circulation of 30 million--the number of people who voted for Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov--although the paper's circulation when it folded was only 200,000. -- Robert Orttung CAMPAIGN STARTS IN KALININGRAD AND LENINGRAD OBLASTS. Seven candidates have been registered to contest the 6 October Kaliningrad Oblast election, including the incumbent, Yurii Matochkin, Radio Rossii reported. Meanwhile, five gubernatorial hopefuls in Leningrad Oblast have started to gather the required 13,000 nomination signatures, RFE/RL reported. Aleksandr Belyakov, the incumbent who is a member of the pro- government Our Home Is Russia, plans to stand for re-election in the 29 September election. Kaliningrad and Leningrad are among first federation subjects to hold regional elections this year. -- Anna Paretskaya NAZDRATENKO UNHAPPY WITH FINDINGS OF PRESIDENTIAL OVERSIGHT ADMINISTRATION. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has withheld his signature from the findings of a government body investigating the finances of his krai's administration, saying a more thorough check should be carried out, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 August. The president's Main Oversight Administration (GKU) came to the krai on 5 August to look into the distribution of federal funds allocated to the energy sector over the past two years. During the recent power cuts and the miners' strike in Primore, allegations surfaced that part of the 60 billion rubles ($11.5 million at today's rate) allotted by Yeltsin in January for miners' wages was spent on other matters. The GKU reported its findings at a closed session on 11 August. According to an ITAR-TASS source, the GKU concluded that the local authorities are more to blame for the recent crises than the federal government. The results of a similar government investigation in May this year were never publicized. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIAN ARMS TO SOUTH KOREA. South Korea has sent 30 officers to Russia to learn how to operate the tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and missiles that will soon be delivered to the Asian country, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 12 August. The spokesman said that the transfer is part of the first large arms deal between the two countries. He said that the first shipment would arrive by the end of August. Russia agreed in 1995 to provide military equipment to South Korea in partial repayment of its debt. -- Doug Clarke LACK OF FUNDING FOR EDUCATION LAMENTED. Writing in Megapolis-kontinent (no. 32), Duma Science and Education Committee Deputy Chairman Oleg Smolin lamented the low funding of education and warned that it could seriously undermine Russia's long-term well-being. Smolin, a member of former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov's Popular Power Duma faction, cited the World Bank as estimating that spending on education fell from 7% of GDP in the USSR in 1970 to 3.4% in Russia in 1994. Osipov supported a draft amendment to the 1996 budget raising this year's allocation for education from 15.2 trillion rubles ($2.9 billion) to 29 trillion rubles. He said that the budget as it stands does not take into account pay increases for teachers envisaged in an August 1995 government resolution and that it is based on an average monthly salary for teachers of 316,000 rubles ($60), a third of the average in industry. -- Penny Morvant FATHER WARDS OFF POLICE TO SAVE SON FROM DRAFT. A 20-year-old man seeking to avoid the draft has barricaded himself with his father in their home in the Khabarovsk Krai village of Kherpuchi, Izvestiya reported on 13 August. When police came to the house to take the boy away, the father opened fire out of a window with a rifle. After police released the son, the two barricaded themselves in the house. According to official figures, since 1992 about 30,000 young men have dodged the draft in each of the twice yearly call-ups. About 70% of draft-age men are eligible for some form of deferment. -- Penny Morvant TUPOLEV WANTS TO BUILD A NEW SUPERSONIC TRANSPORT. Russian and U.S. specialists on 12 August conducted the first ground tests of the modified Tu-144 supersonic transport at the Zhukovskii air base near Moscow, RIA reported. The Tu-144LL will be used as a flying laboratory during a six-month test program largely funded by the U.S. space agency NASA. Tupolev's chief designer, Aleksandr Pukhov, told Reuters that the plane could become the prototype of the "supersonic jet of the next century." Tupolev has designed an upgraded engine for the new venture. -- Doug Clarke CHERNOMYRDIN ON BUDGET PROBLEMS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, addressing officials of the State Tax Service on 13 August, said that said 25% of economic activity is evading taxes, ITAR-TASS reported. He complained of "excessive generosity in granting various concessions," and said that 60 trillion rubles of additional revenue will be needed to cover the minimum federal expenditure for the remainder of1996, which he estimated to be 130 trillion rubles, including 50 trillion for the "power ministries." -- Peter Rutland STATE AID FOR NORILSK NICKEL. President Yeltsin has signed a decree ordering a broad range of federal help for the troubled metal giant Norilsk Nickel, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. The plant has been the subject of political and legal battles since ONEKSIMbank acquired 38% of its shares in a loan auction last November. Norilsk Nickel, located in the far north of Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia, had debts of 3.9 trillion rubles ($750 million) at the end of June, Segodnya reported on 2 July. It is unable to purchase supplies for its workforce or relocate pensioners to southern districts. The new measures under the Yeltsin decree include postponing the repayment of federal loans, government guarantees for new bank credits, and an emergency issue of 500 billion rubles from federal reserves. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MORE ON RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN ABKHAZIA. The Russian Federation Council has agreed to double the number of troops in the Russian-dominated CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia to 3,000 and expand their operations to cover all of the Gali District, according to a 9 August Georgian Radio report monitored by the BBC. The council had earlier decided to extend the force's mandate until 31 January 1997 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 August 1996). Russia's ambassador to Georgia described the new policing functions as a breakthrough. Although the expanded mandate partially meets a key Georgian demand, it is only a cosmetic change since it does not state how and when the peacekeepers will be able to ensure the return of Georgian refugees to their homes in Abkhazia. Several Georgian politicians, including the chairman of the Georgian National Democratic Party and the Georgian United Republican Party, have strongly criticized the decision to extend the mandate. -- Lowell Bezanis MKHEDRIONI LEADER SENTENCED. One of the former leaders of the Mkhedrioni (Centurions) paramilitary group, Alexandre Bochorishvili, has been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, according to a 9 August Kontakt news agency report monitored by the BBC. Bochorishvili, a former security adviser to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, was found guilty of possessing large amounts of arms and drugs with the intent of selling them. -- Lowell Bezanis AZERBAIJANI COUP-PLOTTERS ARRESTED IN DAGESTAN. Three men wanted in Azerbaijan in connection with the March 1995 coup-attempt were arrested in a joint Russian-Azerbaijani operation in Dagestan, according to an 8 August Interfax report monitored by the BBC. -- Lowell Bezanis AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT ON KAZAKHSTAN PRISONS. Amnesty International (AI) has released a report on the grim conditions in Kazakhstani prisons, RFE/RL reported on 12 August. At the beginning of 1996, Kazakhstan, a country of 17 million people, had 78 prisons holding 94,000 people, 20,000 of whom were awaiting trial, according to the report. In June, the country's government amnestied 20,000 prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes. An estimated 10,000 inmates in the prison system are suffering from tuberculosis. Amnesty estimates that 1,270 prisoners died of the disease last year and 450 have died so far this year. Kazakhstan ranks fourth in the world in terms of the number of executions carried out every year. In 1995, 110 people were sentenced to death and 101 executions were carried out. Deputy Interior Minister Nikolai Vlasov told AI that the death penalty is less cruel than life in a Kazakhstani prison. -- 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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