|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 159, Part I, 16 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 LEBED MEETS YANDARBIEV . . . Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed held talks in the Chechen village of Starye Atagi on the afternoon of 15 August with acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, Russian and Western agencies reported. Lebed described the talks as "constructive" and "hopeful," saying that both sides had agreed that the conflict should be resolved by "exclusively peaceful means" but that "purely military issues" must be resolved before discussing the issue of Chechnya's status. Lebed also announced the creation of a supervisory commission to monitor "the strict observance of ceasefire conditions," saying it would include representatives from the neighboring republics of Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkariya, and Ingushetiya. Yandarbiev said Lebed's peace efforts "deserve the highest praise," while separatist spokesmen later said that Lebed had "confirmed his intention to withdraw troops from the territory of Chechnya," after an unspecified "transitional period." -- Scott Parrish . . . AND PROMISES TO REVEAL THOSE "RESPONSIBLE" FOR THE CHECHEN CONFLICT. At a press conference following his arrival in Grozny on the morning of 15 August, Lebed promised to disclose the names of the "heroes" responsible for both beginning and perpetuating the Chechen conflict, Russian media reported. He then expressed the opinion that the continuation of fighting in the republic is "profitable" for some unnamed groups. "Nobody knows if this is a war or not. Nobody knows who started it, what caused it," Lebed complained. Before his afternoon meeting with Yandarbiev, Lebed met at the federal forces headquarters in Khankala with Ruslan Aushev, president of neighboring Ingushetiya. Aushev, a frequent critic of federal government policy in Chechnya, said he fully backs Lebed's peace initiative. -- Scott Parrish GROZNY RELATIVELY QUIET. Despite sporadic gunfire, the night of 15-16 August was quieter than any in the past 10 days, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian military spokesmen said two federal servicemen were killed and 12 wounded overnight. One reason for the relative lack of fighting, according to NTV, is that separatist fighters now virtually control the entire city, with federal troops isolated in a few barracks and bunkers. The network reported that instead of federal troops, separatist fighters now run check points in central Grozny. Despite the current truce, the fighters are digging fortifications in anticipation of Russian efforts to storm the city. At a Moscow press conference, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said 2,000 Chechen fighters confront 7,000 federal troops in the city. -- Scott Parrish FOREIGN MINISTRY CRITICIZES OSCE ON CHECHNYA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin lambasted the OSCE for making statements that he claimed attributed "equal responsibility" to federal forces and Chechen separatist fighters for the recent intensification of the conflict. Demurin complained that current OSCE chairman Flavio Cotti's references to "the sides in the conflict" and "the warring parties" contradict the OSCE's position that Chechnya is an internal matter of the Russian Federation. He added that Cotti unjustifiably treated as equals the separatist fighters, whom he described as "unconstitutional armed formations," and federal troops, which he termed "government law enforcement organs." Meanwhile, Tim Guldimann, head of the OSCE assistance group in Chechnya, said he stands ready to mediate in any new negotiations aimed at resolving the conflict. -- Scott Parrish BOLSHAKOV: "A NORMAL SOVIET APPARATCHIK." First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov will be Chernomyrdin's main deputy in the new government. Former Finance Minister Boris Fedorov has labeled him "a normal Soviet apparatchik, not a radical reformer," Reuters reported. Izvestiya on 16 August described his rise as a "surprise," while Kommersant-Daily noted that he is the least known of the new first deputy prime ministers. He worked in the military industrial enterprises of Leningrad for more than 20 years. As deputy prime minister for the CIS from 1994-1996, he succeeded in restoring some economic ties between Russian and CIS enterprises and in creating a new financial network to stimulate trade and the payment of debts to Russia. His appointment indicates Yeltsin's priority on strengthening CIS ties, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 16 August. -- Robert Orttung REACTION TO GOVERNMENT FORMATION. Former Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik was apparently one of the main losers in the government reshuffle as his ministerial post remains vacant. He may be paying for his inability to pacify the country's miners and his opposition to the IMF's proposals to replace export duties on oil and gas with excise taxes, which also fall on domestic customers, Kommersant-Daily reported. The deputy leader of the Communist Party Duma faction Valentin Kuptsov said that the new government will not change the social-economic situation in the country in any substantial way, NTV reported on 15 August. Former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar said that there are too many deputy prime ministers in the new cabinet. Chernomyrdin said that some of the current vacancies could still go to members of the opposition. -- Robert Orttung ILYUSHIN MOVES INTO GOVERNMENT. As expected, President Yeltsin's senior aide, Viktor Ilyushin, was appointed first deputy prime minister in charge of "social affairs." Ilyushin is a former Komsomol organizer who had worked as Yeltsin's personal secretary since 1980, when Yeltsin was party chief in Sverdlovsk. There is much speculation over why Ilyushin has given up his crucial job as the "gatekeeper" who controls access to the president for the thankless task of dealing with Russia's bankrupt health, pension, and social welfare systems. He could have been pushed out at Chief of Staff Chubais's insistence; he could be trying to serve as "Yeltsin's man" inside the government; or he might be positioning himself for the post-Yeltsin succession struggle. -- Peter Rutland VLADIMIR POTANIN PROFILE. Vladimir Potanin, the 35-year-old chairman of Oneksimbank, was appointed on 13 August to the post of first deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs. Potanin is seen as having close ties with a wide spectrum of Russia's political elite, from reformer Anatolii Chubais to conservative Oleg Soskovets. Although he describes himself as a banker and entrepreneur, he has spent most of his career in state and state-owned foreign trade organizations: the Soviet Foreign Trade Ministry, the Interros foreign trade association (1991), and the International Financial Company (1992). In 1993, he became president of Oneksimbank, one of the five leading banks of Russia which has close ties to the state. In March 1995, Potanin was instrumental in creating the consortium of seven banks that suggested the controversial loans-for-shares auction scheme to the government. His bank subsequently played an active role in the auctions, acquiring a 38% stake in the world's largest nickel producer, Norilsk Nickel. Potanin's task will be to improve tax collection while simultaneously reviving capital investment. -- Natalia Gurushina and Peter Rutland ALEKSANDR LIVSHITS PROFILE. The former economic adviser to President Yeltsin, Aleksandr Livshits, has been appointed the new finance minister and deputy prime minister, international media reported. His main task is to concentrate on increasing taxes. Livshits spent most of his professional career (1974-1992) in academic circles, and is known for his liberal and monetarist economic views. Still, he accepts that the country needs a social safety-net. He was behind the government's pre-election campaign in March to repay wage arrears. Livshits was also one of the first officials to draw attention to unfair tax benefits enjoyed by sport organizations and organizations for the disabled, which allowed them to make money on alcohol imports. -- Natalia Gurushina STRIKES SPREAD. Miners at five coal pits in the Kemerovo Oblast have joined their colleagues in Tula and Rostov by walking off the job due to wage arrears, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 August. By the end of July, the wage debts in the sector totaled 2 billion rubles ($400,000). It is highly unlikely that the government will be able to pay such a large amount of money by 25 August, the day on which miners plan to strike across the country. Workers at the Leningrad nuclear power plant are threatening to strike unless they are paid their wages for the March-July period, Segodnya reported on 13 August. Meanwhile, the federation leader of the Independent Trade Unions, Andrei Isaev, has announced that Russian trade unions are preparing a joint strike for this fall. He added that workers in all industries are owed a total of 34 trillion rubles in back wages. -- Anna Paretskaya RYAZAN CITY DEPUTY KIDNAPPED. A deputy of the Ryazan city legislature, Aleksandr Nazarov, was kidnapped by four masked men while he was on his way to work on 15 August, Radio Rossii reported the same day. Nazarov's car was stopped by a group of men with machine guns who claimed they were with the tax police. They took him to a nearby forest , where they beat him and threatened to kill him if he did not quit his deputy job. Nazarov remains hospitalized. The Ryazan legislature chairman, Pavel Mamatov, said that many deputies and their families have been threatened. Most local deputies are Communist Party members. -- Anna Paretskaya FORCED HOLIDAYS FOR SATELLITE MANUFACTURER. Some 8,000 workers at the Applied Mechanics Association company (OPM) in Zheleznogorsk (the former Krasnoyarsk-26), which manufactures space satellite communications systems, were sent on forced leave until 1 October, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 August. OPM lacks the money to pay wages and continue production, due to the fact that in 1996 its customers--the Defense Ministry, the Russian Space Agency, and the Moscow--based association Informkosmos--only paid 10% of the money they owed. The company was in part paid with bills of exchange issued by the recently collapsed Tveruniversalbank. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA SHEVARDNADZE CLIPS WINGS OF ANTI-SEMITE. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze reacted indignantly to an anti-Semitic article printed in the paper Noy, Segodnya reported on 15 August. Shevardnadze took the article, which described Jews as "vampires and sadists," to task during his weekly radio address. Western agencies reported that the paper's editor has been charged with inciting hatred, a crime which carries a maximum three-year prison sentence. He has also been fined, and the paper has been suspended from publication. -- Lowell Bezanis DASHNAK ATTEMPTS TO REGISTER. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Dashnaktsutyun (ARF), has applied to be registered once again as a political party with the Justice Ministry, Noyan Tapan reported on 14 August. The ARF, Armenia's largest opposition party, was banned in January 1995, following allegations that it had a clandestine wing, known as Dro, which was involved in drug trafficking and political assassinations. The ARF's candidate in the presidential election, Vahan Hovannessyan, has been arrested on charges of organizing a coup and acts of terrorism, according to Noyan Tapan on 15 August. Efforts to demonstrate that the Armenian ARFF is independent of its diaspora strongholds are likely to be met with skepticism in Yerevan and abroad. -- Lowell Bezanis ARMENIAN EMBASSY IN GERMANY UNDER SCRUTINY. Armenian Foreign Minister Vahan Papazian has announced plans to establish a commission that will examine the work of the consular section of Yerevan's embassy in Bonn following allegations raised in the German journal Focus that it was involved in extorting money from Armenians in Germany, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 August. The Armenian ambassador in Germany denied the accusations. -- Lowell Bezanis BELGIAN FIRM BUYS FORMER KAZAKHSTANI STATE ENERGY COMPANY. The Kazakhstani government has sold Almatyenergo, the former state energy company and the main provider of both electricity and heat to Almaty, to the Belgian company Tractebel for $5 million, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported on 14 August. Tractebel also pledged to boost output by 30% and spend $270 million to upgrade Almatyenergo's several power stations and electricity grid. The government had feared that the indebted and capital-starved Almatyenergo would be unable to provide the capital with electricity and heat during the coming winter. The same day, ITAR-TASS reported that the U.S. company A.E.S. had concluded a similar deal for the Ekibastuz power station. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty RUSSIA CUTS OFF ENERGY TO NORTHERN KAZAKHSTAN. Citing unpaid bills, Boris Syutkin of Russia's Unified Energy System announced on 15 August that his company has temporarily ceased delivering electricity to certain regions of northern Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported the same day. Syutkin said Kazakhstan owes the company $420 million for earlier deliveries. Syutkin also criticized Kazakhstan for failing to fulfill its part of a deal to deliver coal to a Russian power station, claiming that no more than 40% of contacted coal had reached the Troitsk power station this year. Western Kazakhstan will not be cut off as regions in that part of the country have been making regular payments to Russian power stations. -- Bruce Pannier CORRECTION: In an item in OMRI Daily Digest, issue no. 158, vol. 2, Natik Aliev, president of the Azerbaijani oil company SOCAR, was incorrectly identified as President Heidar Aliev's son. Ilham Aliev, vice president of SOCAR is President Aliev's son. [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez --------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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