|If you're sure you understand everthing that is going on, you're hopelessly confused. - Walter Mondale|
No. 158, Part I, 15 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 FIGHTING SLACKENS IN GROZNY. An uneasy calm settled over central Grozny on the afternoon of 14 August, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chechen fighters control most of the town, except for isolated Russian strongpoints. The commander of federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, denied that a formal ceasefire had been negotiated, saying he had merely ordered his troops to open fire only if attacked. Pulikovskii and separatist Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov met at 5:45 p.m. to discuss joint monitoring of the ceasefire and a prisoner exchange. But while nine wounded federal servicemen were later exchanged for nine Chechen fighters, Pulikovskii later told Russian TV (RTR) that a formal ceasefire could not begin until the separatists gave up their demand for Chechen independence, and he accused separatist forces of launching several attacks. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN PLANES ATTACK REFUGEES OUTSIDE GROZNY. Russian aircraft on 14 August attacked a column of refugees near the village of Guliakov, just south of Grozny, Russian and Western agencies reported. The attack killed 10 refugees, according to separatist Chechen Information Minister Movladi Udugov. On the same day, the pro-Moscow Chechen government complained that Russian air raids in Gudermes and Grozny had killed at least 35 Chechen civilians on 13 August. Meanwhile, Chechen officials estimate that up to 40,000 refugees remain trapped in the village of Staraya Sunzha outside Grozny. Federal troops will only allow women and children to pass through checkpoints there on foot. About 200 seriously wounded refugees were evacuated by bus from the village late on 13 August. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN ORDERS LEBED TO RESOLVE CHECHEN CRISIS . . . President Yeltsin on 14 August signed a decree granting Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed primary responsibility for finding a settlement to the Chechen conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree gives Lebed "additional powers to coordinate the activities of federal executive agencies," and also dissolves Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's State Commission for Regulating the Chechen Conflict, which Lebed had harshly criticized. The decree, which was short on details, specifies that any settlement of the conflict must be in accord with "the existing constitution," which precludes full independence for Chechnya. Shortly after the decree was issued, Lebed left Moscow for Grozny on 15 August for additional talks with Chechen leaders, who are insisting on full independence. -- Scott Parrish . . . CHERNOMYRDIN CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY. Chernomyrdin on 15 August claimed that he had not forsaken responsibility for Chechnya and that it is not an issue that befits a power struggle, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Chernomyrdin, Lebed's Security Council will have three new committees to handle the problem. One will bring together representatives of the power ministries to resolve strategic issues, the second will address logistical problems, and the third will be a working group made up of representatives from federal agencies. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN NAMES NEW FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTERS . . . Prime Minister Chernomyrdin announced that former Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, 56, former Presidential Senior Aide Viktor Ilyushin, 59, and Oneksimbank President Vladimir Potanin, 35, will serve as first deputy prime ministers in the new cabinet, ITAR-TASS reported. Potanin will apparently take charge of the economy, Ilyushin will be responsible for social policy, and Bolshakov will handle industry and stand in for Chernomyrdin when he is away. Potanin's bank, one of Russia's largest commercial financial institutions, was a key player in last year's shares-for-loans scheme in which banks gave loans to the government in exchange for shares in state-owned firms. He is considered to be close to Chubais, Reuters reported. Bolshakov has worked on building a high- speed train between Moscow and St. Petersburg and in the last cabinet handled Russia's relations with the CIS. Ilyushin has worked as a Yeltsin aide since his days in Sverdlovsk. -- Robert Orttung . . . AND OTHER CABINET MEMBERS. In addition to the three first deputy prime ministers, the new cabinet has seven deputy prime ministers--two of whom are also ministers--and 15 ministers. The new government is broadly similar to its immediate predecessor. The deputy prime ministers are: Vladimir Babichev (also government chief of staff), Oleg Davydov (foreign economic relations), Aleksandr Livshits (finance), Aleksandr Zaveryukha (agriculture), Vitalii Ignatenko (information), Oleg Lobov (demoted from first deputy prime minister), and Valerii Serov. Livshits replaces Vladimir Panskov, whom Chernomyrdin criticized last month for failing to implement Yeltsin's decrees (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 July 1996). Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin, Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov, and Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev will remain in place. Vladimir Kadannikov, who replaced Chubais as first deputy prime minister for monetary and finance policy in January, was not included in the new government. Overall, Chernomyrdin cut the number of federal departments from 89 to 66. -- Robert Orttung CHUBAIS CONTROLS PRESIDENTIAL DECREE PROCESS. Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais now has the authority to decide whether or not presidential decrees are ready for signing, according to a presidential directive published in Rossiiskie vesti on 15 August. Only decrees that include direct instructions from the president may circumvent this new procedure. It is the first attempt to impose a one-man system of administration within the president's staff, Segodnya argued on 14 August. In the past, the president's decrees were the product of stiff competition among his subordinates. The paper views Chubais as a competent administrator although biased in favor of a "political- economic group whose interests are generally considered to be objectively progressive." -- Robert Orttung TENSION REPORTED BETWEEN LEBED, RODIONOV. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov has refused to carry out Security Council Secretary Lebed's proposal that a purge of officers be carried out in his ministry, Argumenty i Fakty reported on 13 August. Lebed lobbied for Rodionov to take over the ministry and the two are said to be very close. -- Doug Clarke HARDLINERS PREPARE NEW COMMUNIST BLOC. A group of hardline communist parties, including the Russian Communist Party-KPSS, the Officers' Union, and the United Front of Working People, have set up an organizing committee to form a communist bloc opposed to Gennadii Zyuganov's Popular-Patriotic Union, Kommersant-Daily reported on 15 August. The bloc accused Zyuganov of compromising with the current authorities and only pretending to fight against them. Working Russia leader Viktor Anpilov was barred from the organizing committee on the grounds that he was too close to Zyuganov during the recent election. The so far unnamed organization is planning a founding congress for 12-13 October. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN PUNISHES PRIMORSKII KRAI OFFICIALS FOR ENERGY CRISIS. President Yeltsin formally placed the blame for last month's energy crisis in the Far East on the Primorskii Krai administration, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. Yeltsin ordered krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, whom he described as "not completely qualified," to fire his deputy, pay miners their overdue wages, and stabilize the situation in the region's energy system by 15 September. Yeltsin's orders come after the presidential Main Oversight Administration commission reported that Nazdratenko was not to blame for the crisis in the region (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 August 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya FORMER VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR ACQUITTED. After an 18-month trial, the Khamovniki Raion Court of Moscow on 14 August ruled to retain Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov in his office, ITAR-TASS reported. Corruptions charges against Cherepkov were dropped for lack of evidence earlier this year. President Yeltsin dismissed Cherepkov, who was popularly elected in July 1993, in a December 1994 decree citing corruption charges. Cherepkov will resume his work on 24 August if the ruling is not appealed within 10 days. -- Anna Paretskaya ADYGEYA DOES NOT WANT ITS POLICE SENT TO CHECHNYA. The president of Adygeya, Aslan Dzharimov, has protested against the federal Interior Ministry's intention to send one of the republic's police units to Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. Earlier this week, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev sent a similar protest to the ministry (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 August 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya MOSCOW DENIES "DEAL" ON NATO EXPANSION. Presidential Press Secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii refuted on 15 August media reports that President Yeltsin had told his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, that Russia would acquiesce in the admission of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary into NATO, if the alliance promised not to include the Baltic states, ITAR-TASS reported. Kommersant-Daily, citing BNS, reported the day before that Yeltsin had sent a confidential letter to Clinton proposing such a deal. Yastrzhembskii denounced the reports as "pseudo- information," and said that Moscow's opposition to NATO expansion remains unchanged. Meanwhile, the CIS Council of Defense Ministers, meeting in Moscow on 14 August, issued a communique expressing their negative opinion on the eastward expansion of NATO, Russian and Western sources reported. The Ukrainian minister did not sign the communique, saying that it is "a matter for the president." -- Scott Parrish and Roger Kangas RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN BORDER TALKS. Russian and Ukrainian delegations agreed in Moscow on 14 August to form a working group that will begin the process of delineating their common border, which has not been officially codified since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russian media reported. The two delegations, led by Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Patyukov and Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko, said that while the border should be legally defined, and customs and contraband controls tightened, they plan to maintain its "openness" and simplify crossing procedures for citizens of both countries. Ukraine has long pushed Russia to begin talks on formalizing the border. -- Scott Parrish GOVERNMENT MAY TAX FOREIGN CURRENCY IMPORTS. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's remark in a 13August speech about the possible introduction of custom duties on imports of foreign currency caused a stir in the Russian financial community, Kommersant-Daily reported on 15 August. Russian banks reportedly import as much as $30 billion a year in cash. A tax on imports of large sums of cash imports would be a somewhat desperate measure to raise revenue and limit the dollarization of the domestic economy, which may have reached some 25% of current operations. Bankers argue that such a tax would shift cash imports to the shadow economy, increase the commission for currency buyers, and lead to a rise in currency speculation (as the gap between the cash and non-cash exchange rates will widen). The step may also cause a conflict with international financial organizations, since the new duty may be classified as tariff protection or as a violation of IMF provisions on current account convertibility, which the Russian government accepted in June. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MORE ON ABKHAZ PEACEKEEPER MANDATE. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin said that Georgia and Abkhazia have agreed to extend and somewhat amend the mandate of the Russian-dominated CIS peacekeepers in Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. The extension is expected to be approved at a meeting of CIS heads of state in two weeks time. The 8 August vote of the Russian Federation Council to extend the mandate was not legally sufficient without the consent of the two parties and the CIS presidents, contrary to earlier media reports. The fourth anniversary of the onset of hostilities between the breakaway region of Abkhazia and Georgia passed on 14 August. ITAR-TASS, citing a recently released Georgian Defense Ministry report, noted that 3,365 Georgian soldiers died in the fighting, plus an estimated 5,000 Abkhaz fighters. Eleven journalists (six Georgian, three Abkhaz, and two Russians) were killed during the conflict. -- Lowell Bezanis SOUTH OSSETIAN POLITICIAN SENTENCED. A court in Tskhinvali has sentenced the former deputy chairman of the South Ossetian parliament, Alan Chochiev, to five years imprisonment, according to a 13 August ITAR-TASS report monitored by the BBC. He was found guilty of abuse of office and the embezzlement of state funds. From 1989-1994, Chochiev was the chairman of Adamon Nykhas (Voice of the People), the leading public and political organization in South Ossetia, and he held senior posts in the regional administrative apparatus from 1990-1994. -- Lowell Bezanis AZERBAIJANI STATE OIL COMPANY REASSURES RUSSIA. SOCCAR President Natik Aliev said on 14 August that his company considers the Russian port of Novorossiisk as the best point for transporting early oil, ITAR-TASS reported. The comment comes just two days after Aliev was quoted as saying that Azerbaijan would try to accelerate the construction of a pipeline running from Baku to the Georgian port of Supsa if the war in Chechnya continues to escalate. He now predicts that preparations for moving the oil to Russia will be completed soon and that the oil will begin to flow "on the first day of next year." The Turkish press has interpreted Aliev's original remarks as a demonstration of his willingness to "change" horses in mid-stream. Aliev is the son of Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev. -- Lowell Bezanis UZBEKISTAN'S AIRPORTS TO BE UPGRADED. International sources are to contribute nearly $200 million to upgrade the airports in Tashkent, Bukhara, Samarkand, and Urgench, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. According to the head of Uzbekistan's national airline company, Arslan Ruzmetov, the reconstruction will make it possible for the airports to handle up to 500 flights a day. The Tashkent Airport is currently being renovated at a cost of $49 million, while Japan has pledged $146 million to upgrade the other three. -- Roger Kangas [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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