|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 157, Part I, 14 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 CEASEFIRE IN GROZNY? The commander of Federal Forces in Chechnya, Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, and separatist Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov met in the Chechen village of Novye Atagi on 13 August to discuss a ceasefire, Russian and Western agencies reported. Following the three-hour meeting, a Chechen spokesman told Russian media that a ceasefire would go into effect at noon on 14 August, and troops from both sides would pull back from the front lines. However, a spokesman for the federal military command later denied that a ceasefire agreement had been concluded, terming the media reports "premature." He added that Pulikovskii and Maskhadov had merely agreed to limit combat operations to allow the exchange of the dead and wounded, the delivery of medical supplies, and the evacuation of civilians. Despite the Russian denials, separatist Chechen Information Minister Movladi Udugov told AFP that Chechen fighters would observe the announced ceasefire. -- Scott Parrish FIGHTING STILL RAGES IN GROZNY. While ceasefire talks got underway, fighting continued in Grozny and other parts of Chechnya on 13 August, Russian and Western media reported. Intense street fighting continued in the center of Grozny, especially around the local headquarters of the Federal Security Service, located near the government complex. Chechen fighters claim to control about 80% of Grozny, and NTV blasted federal military spokesmen for "lying" about the situation in the city. The network did report a decrease in the intensity of air and artillery strikes by the federal forces, however. Fighting also continued around Argun and Gudermes, but Chechen fighters now control both towns. Meanwhile, the federal command announced that 221 federal troops have been killed, and 766 wounded in the recent Grozny fighting. Chechen spokesmen claim that 1,230 federal soldiers have been killed. -- Scott Parrish DEBATE OVER IMPOSING STATE OF EMERGENCY IN CHECHNYA. In an interview with Russian TV (RTR) on 13 August, acting Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev said he opposes Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's recommendation that a state of emergency be imposed in Chechnya (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 August 1996). Kovalev said that despite his personal opposition, his ministry is moving forward with preparations to implement a state of emergency in Chechnya, which he described as an "extremely complicated" process. He said that under old legislation pre-dating the 1993 constitution, regular military forces cannot be used to implement a state of emergency. He also argued that declaring a state of emergency would trigger a negative domestic and international reaction. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed also opposes such a step, saying that "there are no resources" to implement it. -- Scott Parrish REFUGEE CRISIS IN CHECHNYA INTENSIFIES. According to Russian media reports, thousands of refugees from Grozny remain trapped in Staraya Sunzha and other villages just outside the city, as federal troops have not yet opened a promised corridor for their evacuation. Abdula Bugayev, a government official at the Staraya Sunzha refugee center, told ITAR-TASS that it is impossible to count all the refugees, and warned that the center is running out of food. Meanwhile, AFP reported that Russian troops had refused to permit three International Red Cross trucks carrying food and medicine to reach the refugee center. A separatist spokesman estimated that up to 30,000 refugees are trapped in the area, and said federal forces "periodically open random artillery fire on them." Meanwhile, the pro-Moscow Chechen government released a statement calling on federal forces to "stop the extermination of unarmed civilians," and calling for the immediate opening of a humanitarian corridor to evacuate the refugees. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN NAMES NEW PRESS SECRETARY . . . President Yeltsin appointed former Russian Ambassador to Slovakia Sergei Yastrzhembskii to be his press secretary on 13 August, replacing his former spokesman who took the job of first deputy general director of Russian Public TV (ORT), Kommersant-Daily reported. Medvedev was the most recent associate of former Presidential Security Service Director Aleksandr Korzhakov to fall victim to Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais's purge of Yeltsin's inner circle. The old press secretary did a good job of limiting access to the Kremlin, particularly in the case of NTV, and his successor is unlikely to reveal more, Ekho Moskvy commented. Chubais has been very successful in surrounding the old president with a group of young liberals who are now in a position to increase their power. Medvedev suffered a better fate than his predecessor, Vyacheslav Kostikov, who was appointed to be Russia's ambassador to the Vatican and then fired after criticizing Yeltsin. -- Robert Orttung . . . AND MAKES MORE APPOINTMENTS IN HIS ADMINISTRATION. Yeltsin filled out the ranks of his administration by appointing Sergei Samoilov to head the Territorial Department, Vyacheslav Romanov to head the Personnel Department, and Andrei Loginov to head the Department for Ties with Political Parties, Social Organizations, and Federal Assembly Factions and Deputies, ITAR-TASS reported. Valentin Yumashev became Yeltsin's third adviser, following the appointments of Sergei Krasavchenko and Vyacheslav Volkov to this newly created position, and he will specialize in links with the media. Yumashev has worked at Ogonek since 1987 and became its general director in 1995. Although Yeltsin had sought to rationalize his administration, numerous overlapping jurisdictions remain. -- Robert Orttung CHUBAIS, CHERNOMYRDIN AIM TO CURTAIL LEBED'S POWER. Kremlin insiders are concerned that Lebed's visibility in working to end the fighting in Chechnya may strengthen his position among President Yeltsin's closest aides. Chief of Staff Chubais advised Yeltsin not to grant Lebed's 12 August request to be charged with resolving the Chechen conflict, fearing that such a move would give the retired general too much power, Izvestiya reported on 14 August. Rossiiskaya gazeta, the newspaper controlled by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, responded to Lebed's criticism of the Chernomyrdin-led commission for resolving the conflict by asking sarcastically in an editorial critical of the press conference, "Are we going to talk in vain again?" During the press conference, Lebed said that his appointment as the president's representative to Chechnya was part of a Kremlin intrigue to make him look bad by assigning him to resolve an intractable problem. -- Robert Orttung JOURNALIST'S DEATH CONFIRMED. Colleagues of Russian Public TV (ORT) journalist Ramzan Khadzhiev have confirmed that he was shot in the head twice by Russian federal soldiers on 11 August while trying to flee from Grozny with his family during the rebel siege, Russian and Western media reported. The circumstances of his death are unclear: ORT reported that the journalist had received numerous threats from rebels who accused him of a pro-Moscow bias. -- Anna Paretskaya BOMB BLAST IN DAGESTAN. One person was injured and a city hospital slightly damaged when a home-made bomb blew up in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala on 13 August, ITAR-TASS reported, citing a Federal Security Service spokesman. The first deputy interior minister of Dagestan, Valerii Beev, blamed the explosion on hooligans. Some observers, however, claim that it could have been an attempt on the life of Dagestani Deputy Prime Minister Said Amirov, who lives near the hospital. -- Anna Paretskaya TULA MINERS GET PAYMENTS. The Tula Oblast administration has started to pay overdue wages to workers at the Podmoskovnaya pit, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 August. Sixteen miners at Podmoskovnaya are on a hunger strike in the pit. The oblast administration received 8 billion rubles ($1.5 million) from the federal budget and a 5 billion ruble loan from a commercial bank to pay off the back wages and buy basic food products. The company owes its workers about 80 billion rubles in unpaid wages dating back to March. Six out of the 13 pits owned by the Tulaugol company have either entirely or partially ceased operating. -- Anna Paretskaya TATARSTAN TAKES CHECHEN SIDE. The president of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiev, has called on the federal government not to send Interior Ministry troops from Tatarstan to fight in Chechnya, RFE/RL reported on 14 August. The same day, Shamil Basaev, the rebel Chechen commander, thanked the people of Tatarstan for the humanitarian aid that was sent to Chechnya from the Tatar city of Naberezhnye Chelny. Earlier this year, Shaimiev volunteered to mediate between the federal government and Chechen militants in peace negotiations. Last week, Shaimiev blamed the recent escalation of the conflict in Chechnya on the federal government's inconsistent and contradictory policies. -- Anna Paretskaya PRIMORSKII KRAI GOVERNOR NOT GUILTY IN FINANCIAL CRISIS. Yevgenii Nazdratenko has been cleared of blame for a scandal surrounding a federal allotment of money to the region, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 13 August. The investigation, which was carried out by the presidential Main Oversight Administration (GKU), looked into the fate of a federal budget allotment of 60 billion rubles ($11.5 million) that was earmarked for paying overdue wages to miners in the region. The money was split between the coal company Primorskugol and the electrical energy supplier Dalenergo. Both companies later spent the money separately without the participation of the krai administration. Nazdratenko, who refuted accusations of wrongdoing, was a strong supporter of President Yeltsin during the recent election. -- Anna Paretskaya AGREEMENT WITH LONDON CLUB IS LIKELY TO BE IMPLEMENTED. First Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that most of the London Club's 600 creditor banks are likely to support the framework agreement on restructuring Russia's $32.5 billion debt (including interest) signed by Russia and the club's coordination committee in November 1995, RTR and Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 12-13 August. Under the plan, Russia's debt should be repaid over 25 years with a seven-year grace period, during which it will pay only interest, although some reports are now suggesting slightly different terms. So far, banks holding $2 billion worth of debt have signed onto the deal, which will go into effect when the signatory's debts reach $20 billion. Recently, Russian debt has been trading at 55 cents on the dollar on the secondary market, up from 33 cents earlier in the year. -- Natalia Gurushina ARS PRESSES FOR FINAL DEAL WITH DE BEERS. Russia's largest producer and exporter of uncut diamonds, Almazy Rossii-Sakha, has restarted negotiations on the trade agreement with South Africa's De Beers, AFP reported on 13 August. The two sides signed a preliminary three-year deal in February 1996, but discussion of the final contract was put on hold pending the presidential election. De Beers is complaining that exports of uncut stones from Russia have risen from $10-15 million in March-April to $40-60 million in June. Under the preliminary deal, Russia promised to restrict such sales to 5% of the amount sold to De Beers. Russian authorities also believe that these unauthorized exports undermine the development of the domestic cutting industry. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ASTRONOMER AMBARTSUMYAN DIES. Viktor Ambartsumyan, internationally renown for his work in theoretical astrophysics and stellar astronomy, died on 11 August, ITAR-TASS and Western media reported two days later. In 1989, he went on a three-week hunger strike to bring attention to Nagorno-Karabakh's efforts to secede from Azerbaijan. Yerevan plans a state funeral for the scientist who served as the president of Armenia's Academy of Sciences from 1946 to 1993. -- Lowell Bezanis SHEVARDNADZE ON ECONOMY. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said inflation will not exceed 15-18% this year, and GDP will rise by 10%, according to a 12 August statement on Georgian Radio monitored by the BBC. He noted that the tax inspectorate has trebled its contribution to the budget over the last year, which has now reached 150 million lari. He also said there has been an increase in exports, notably in wine with 5 million bottles exported to Russia, and in tea with 502 metric tons sent to Turkmenistan. Shevardnadze added that Georgia is set to supply Uzbekistan with 2,000 metric tons of tea and 50 million bottles of Borjomi mineral water. -- Lowell Bezanis NATURAL GAS CONSORTIUM FOUNDED. The U.S. firm Unocal, Saudi Arabia's Delta, Russia's Gazprom, and the joint Turkmen-Russian Turkmenrusgaz have signed a memorandum of understanding on the $2 billion project to move natural gas from Turkmenistan's Dauletbad field to Pakistan via Afghanistan, Western agencies reported on 13 August. The companies will now negotiate a definitive agreement defining the rights and obligations of each member of the consortium, according to AFP. Unocal and Delta together will hold an 85% share in the deal, Gazprom 10%, and Turkmenrusgaz 5%. Unocal's chairman said additional parties will be invited to join the consortium. -- Lowell Bezanis UZBEKISTAN TO ASSIST REPATRIATION OF CRIMEAN TATARS. Following a visit to Ukraine, Uzbek President Islam Karimov has expressed a willingness to help Crimean Tatars currently living in Uzbekistan to return to their homeland, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. The deputy speaker of the Crimean parliament, Refat Chubarov, said Karimov will participate in the establishment of a mechanism to ensure repatriation. Uzbekistan has, up until this point, refused to address the issue. -- Roger Kangas COSSACKS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST KAZAKHSTANI GOVERNMENT. A group of Cossacks from northern Kazakhstan and "Moscow nationalists" rallied near the Kazakhstani Embassy in Moscow on 13 July to protest against Almaty's policies toward them, NTV reported. The leader of the Siberian Cossack Army, Viktor Antoshko, said the Kazakhstani government does not defend the rights of the country's non-Kazakh citizens and that crimes committed against non-Kazakhs often go unpunished. He claimed that Kazakhs have been awarded all positions of authority in the country's banking system, law enforcement agencies, government, and court system. -- 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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