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No. 160, Part I, 19 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 DENOUNCES INTERIOR MINISTER KULIKOV . . . At a 16 August Moscow press conference following his return from Chechnya, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed called on President Yeltsin to dismiss Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov for failing to implement orders to normalize the situation in Chechnya, Russian and Western agencies reported. Following up on his earlier promise to name those "responsible" for the Chechen conflict, Lebed said Kulikov has refused to cooperate with him, and accused the minister of a "Napoleon complex." The Security Council secretary then issued a de facto ultimatum to President Yeltsin, announcing: "you will have to make a difficult choice. Only one must stay--Lebed or Kulikov." Lebed bragged that the conflict could be ended in "20-25 minutes," but warned that if it is not resolved soon, Russia will face "a major Caucasian war." -- Scott Parrish . . . BUT KULIKOV STANDS FIRM. Kulikov quickly rejected Lebed's charges as "slander and insults," adding that he would submit his resignation and allow Yeltsin to decide if he should remain in office, Russian and Western agencies reported on 16 August. ITAR- TASS reported that on the evening of 16 August Yeltsin telephoned Kulikov and asked him to stay on, dealing an apparent rebuff to Lebed. Kulikov called a meeting of the Interior Ministry collegium on 17 August to discuss the Chechen situation, to which he invited the Security Council secretary, but Lebed's press spokesman said his attendance would be pointless, charging that the meeting would be a "spectacle" devoted solely to finding ways to save Kulikov. After the collegium meeting, Kulikov expressed regret that Lebed had not attended but also criticized him, saying he "does not yet have a full understanding" of Chechen affairs. -- Scott Parrish CEASEFIRE AGREED IN GROZNY BUT NOT FORMALIZED. The commander of federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov agreed on 17 August to a ceasefire, Russian and Western agencies reported. However, despite the agreement, sporadic fighting continued in the city on 17-18 August, with both sides accusing the other of launching attacks within hours of its announcement. The next day, talks on implementing the ceasefire broke down because of disagreements over its scope and the mechanism for monitoring it. Chechen spokesmen told AFP that Russian negotiators would not agree to a single monitoring commission with enforcement powers that would include both Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and representatives from neighboring republics. Meanwhile, NTV reported that local residents are using the current truce to flee the city. -- Scott Parrish KREMLIN DENIES THAT YELTSIN WILL HAVE HEART SURGERY ABROAD. Presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii denied reports published in Time magazine that the president is planning to fly to Switzerland for heart bypass surgery, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August. The Time report claimed that Yeltsin had suffered a crisis in June, during the presidential campaign, because he stopped taking his medicine and "went on a drinking binge that may have affected his heart as well as the left side of his brain." Meanwhile, the extremist newspaper Zavtra (no. 33) reported that a double used to stand in for Yeltsin has had two fingers removed from his left hand to simulate Yeltsin's childhood disfigurement. The double, who is slightly taller than Yeltsin and has a markedly different voice, has allegedly been used in a variety of situations, including the reception following Yeltsin's inauguration. -- Robert Orttung GORBACHEV ON AUGUST 1991 COUP ATTEMPT. Important new details about the August 1991 coup were revealed by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in an interview with RFE/RL on 18 August--five years to the day since he was placed under house arrest. Gorbachev said that on 30 July 1991 he held a meeting with Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in which they agreed on the policies they would follow after signing the new Union Treaty on 20 August. They planned to remove the heads of the KGB and Defense Ministry, and to replace Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov with Nazarbayev. Gorbachev said that the KGB taped the meeting, and KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov used the tape to persuade army leaders to support the coup. Gorbachev also said that in June 1991 George Bush warned him that a coup was imminent. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIAN AIRCREW ESCAPE AFGHAN CAPTORS. After a year of being held captive by the rebel Afghan Taliban group, the seven-man Russian and Tatar crew of an Il-76 cargo transport made a daring escape from Afghanistan on 16 August and eventually returned to a hero's welcome in Moscow and Kazan, Russian and Western media reported. The crew overpowered their guards while performing periodic maintenance on their aircraft, then flew off while holding three of the guards hostage. They landed in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, and were then flown to Moscow. Their plane had been forced down by a Taliban fighter in August 1995 while carrying ammunition for the Afghan government. Russian officials said that many countries had assisted in the escape, including Pakistan, India, the U.S., and Morocco. -- Doug Clarke YELTSIN NAMES LAST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER. President Yeltsin appointed physicist Vladimir Fortov to the post of deputy prime minister in charge of science, ITAR-TASS reported. Fortov has served as chairman of the Russian Fundamental Research Fund and in the Russian Academy of Sciences. His job will be to coordinate all of Russia's scientific efforts. -- Robert Orttung PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION ESTABLISHES WWW SITE. The presidential administration has established a site on the World Wide Web (http://www.gov.ru), Izvestiya reported on 17 August. The site, which is still under construction, will contain biographies of Yeltsin and his wife, transcripts of several of his speeches, mostly during the election, and a full collection of recent press releases. -- Robert Orttung SAGALAEV INTENDS TO CUT RUSSIAN TV STAFF IN HALF. The director of Russian TV (RTR), Eduard Sagalaev, wants to cut his staff of 4,800 staff in half, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 17 August. He said many of his employees are not performing their jobs well and that the station does not have enough money to pay all of them salaries comparable to those at Russian Public TV (ORT) or NTV. Sagalaev took over RTR on 15 February when Yeltsin fired previous director Oleg Poptsov for broadcasting "lies" in the station's critical coverage of the war in Chechnya. Sagalaev plans to turn RTR into a "people's channel" by cutting some of its political programs, the paper noted. -- Robert Orttung CHUBAIS MAKES STRANGE TRIP TO DENMARK. Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais has apparently traveled to Copenhagen to invite his friend, businessman Jurgen Tryukvid, to become an advisor on privatizing Russia's chemical enterprises, Ekho Moskvy reported on 16 August. The station claimed that it had received several threatening phone calls from Tryukvid, warning them that Chubais is unhappy with the station's news coverage and telling one of them that "it's over for you." Komsomolskaya pravda on 17 August also reported on the trip, while Rossiiskaya gazeta on 16 August quoted Chubais assistant Andrei Trapeznikov's rejection of these accusations. -- Robert Orttung CONSCRIPTS IN COMBAT TO BE RELEASED EARLY. Each day that a conscripted soldier spends in a combat zone or in a medical establishment as the result of a service-related injury or illness will count as two days of mandatory military service, ITAR-TASS reported, citing a decree signed by President Yeltsin on 17 August. Most conscripts must serve 24 months. The decree, which goes into force immediately, applies to all federal executive bodies that have military components. -- Doug Clarke BOMBS DISCOVERED IN PYATIGORSK, PENZA, KIZLYAR. A homemade explosive with a timer was found in the city of Pyatigorsk's largest department store on 15 August, RTR and ORT reported. The bomb was detected by a customer and was neutralized by police just 18 minutes before it was set to explode. Next day, another homemade explosive was found near an apartment bloc in Penza, ORT reported. Five rocket-launched bombs were found in the Terek River in the Dagestani city of Kizlyar, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 August. Those projectiles were most likely launched from neighboring Chechnya. -- Anna Paretskaya CONTROVERSY OVER VLADIVOSTOK MAYORALTY. While the reinstated mayor of Vladivostok, Viktor Cherepkov, said he is ready to resume his position, the man who has been filling in for him since 1994 says he will not give up the mayoralty, Russian media reported. Last week, Cherepkov was reinstated in his office after a court overruled President Yeltsin's December 1994 decision to dismiss him (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 August 1996). Konstantin Tolstoshein, who was appointed by the governor of Primorskii Krai to replace Cherepkov, said he plans to run in the local election scheduled for 6 October. Cherepkov, however, says there is no need to hold the October election since he was elected to a five-year term in July 1993. Some 500 people demonstrated in support of Tolstoshein on 16 August, ITAR-TASS and Ekho Moskvy reported. Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has promised to hold a referendum on Cherepkov's legitimacy if the mayoral election is canceled. -- Anna Paretskaya TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ETHNIC ARMENIANS IN ABKHAZIA. BGI on 15 August published a report detailing the strains in relations between ethnic Armenians and Abkhaz in the breakaway region. A "well informed" source in Sukhumi said the Armenians of Abkhazia have had to endure killings, kidnappings, and other harassments. The unconfirmed report also claimed that the Marshal Bagramyan Armenian battalion has been disbanded, local leaders have an "unfriendly attitude" toward the Krunk Armenian charity, and that the Armenian community suffers from economic discrimination. -- Lowell Bezanis GEORGIA DENIES RADIATION LEVELS EXCEED NORM. The Georgian Defense Ministry has denied reports in the Georgian and foreign press that higher than normal radiation levels have been measured at an unnamed military base in Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August. The agency, citing "trustworthy sources," noted that a special commission had inspected the site and decided that the radiation level on the military base posed no threat to the health and safety of the nearby population. On 15 August, Moskovsii komsomolets quoted Ramzan Goytemirov, the chairman of the Caucasus Environmental Council, as saying that the Russian military base at Vaziani is located near a nuclear waste dump. -- Lowell Bezanis NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF KAZAKHSTAN'S GERMANS HAVE LEFT. Some 65% of the German population of Kazakhstan has left the country since 1990, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August, citing the country's State Committee for Statistics. There are now about 370,000 ethnic Germans living in Kazakhstan. The chairman of the Council of Germans of Kazakhstan, Alexander Dederer, said the Kazakhstani government should attempt to lure some of the departed Germans back by offering advantageous loans to those who return, and urged the German government to help Kazakhstan's Germans start up businesses in the republic. -- Bruce Pannier "PRECISE AND EFFICIENT" QUELLING OF PRISON RIOT IN MARY. Neitralnyi Turkmenistan on 7 August carried an official account of the 4 August prison riot in Mary. The article, monitored by the BBC, quoted Interior and Security ministry sources as saying that inmates on death row carried out a "daring attack" during a routine inspection of their cells. After taking some warders hostage and releasing some fellow prisoners, they demanded arms and a vehicle for escaping. During the rescue operation by a special police unit one prisoner reportedly committed suicide, two were killed, and seven were injured. -- Lowell Bezanis HOMELESS HOLD DEMONSTRATION IN KYRGYZ CAPITAL. A group of some 200 homeless people held a demonstration in Bishkek's central square on 15 August, RFE/RL reported. The group, consisting mainly of young people, demanded that the government create a special commission to help the country's homeless. Bishkek Mayor Boris Silaev refused to meet with the demonstrators but First Deputy Prime Minister Abdujapar Tagayev showed up and promised to help them. The government has set up a project called Ashar to help the homeless, but a shortage of funding and increasing numbers of homeless have limited the project's effectiveness. -- Bruce Pannier WHO CONTROLS TAVIL-DARA? Tajik opposition leader Ali Akabar Turajonzoda told RFE/RL that opposition forces managed to re- capture the town of Tavil-Dara on 15 August. The Tajik Defense Ministry did not confirm this claim but noted that government forces still control strategic heights around the town. The ministry also alerted UN representatives that retaliatory measures would be taken to drive opposition forces out of the area. Asked if these latest events are a threat to the 20 July ceasefire agreement, the UN special envoy to Tajikistan, Gerd Merrem, replied "the ceasefire has never taken effect in the Tavil-Dara zone." -- 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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