My ohotno proschaem nashim druz'yam nedostatki, kotorye nas ne zadevayut. - F. Laroshfuko

No. 161, Part I, 20 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:


Minister Gamid Gamidov was killed by a powerful car bomb that exploded
outside the finance ministry building in Makhachkala on 20 August, ITAR-
TASS reported. Gamidov was standing in the entrance to the building when
the bomb exploded. Another three people were reported killed and dozens
injured. Gamidov, an entrepreneuer, was elected to the Duma in December,
but resigned his seat in order to take over the finance ministry in
Dagestan. He attracted some investment to the republic, built a series
of industrial enterprises, and set up several commercial banks. --
Robert Orttung

federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, late on 19
August ordered all civilians to evacuate Grozny within 48 hours, Russian
and Western agencies reported. While denying that he was issuing an
ultimatum, Pulikovskii said he "reserved the right" to launch an all-out
artillery and aerial bombardment of separatist positions in the city
after this deadline passed. Signaling that the Russian military are
unwilling to accept their humiliating defeat in the recent Grozny
fighting, Pulikovskii added early on 20 August that he saw no
alternative to using force to resolve the current situation in Grozny,
AFP reported. Sporadic fighting continued on 19 August, although a
fragile truce seemed to be generally holding. But on the morning of 20
August, Pulikovskii announced that federal artillery had begun to
bombard separatist positions in the city. -- Scott Parrish

Secretary and presidential representative in Chechnya Aleksandr Lebed
said on 19 August that he opposes the resumption of air strikes in
Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking after a meeting with pro-Moscow
Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, Lebed underlined his view that the
Chechen conflict can only be resolved through peaceful means. On 20
August, Lebed said he would fly to Grozny the same day to take
"extraordinary measures" to resolve the renewed tension there. He also
declared that resolving the conflict was more important than either "my
personal ambitions or those of [Interior Minister Anatolii] Kulikov." --
Scott Parrish

secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 19 August that President
Yeltsin has ordered Lebed to "restore the order that prevailed" in
Grozny before 5 August, when the latest Chechen separatist offensive
began, Russian and Western agencies reported. He specifically instructed
Lebed to "free government buildings, checkpoints, and places where
Russian units are posted" in Grozny, many of which are currently
encircled by separatist fighters, but also told him to observe the terms
of the earlier peace agreements signed in Narzan and Moscow. He also
ordered Lebed to present a plan for resolving the Chechen crisis by 26
August. Yastrzhembskii added that Yeltsin had not met with or spoken to
Lebed since his return from Chechnya, when the Security Council
secretary unsuccessfully demanded the sacking of Interior Minister
Anatolii Kulikov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 August 1996). -- Scott

REACTION TO LEBED-KULIKOV DISPUTE. Commentators have interpreted
Yeltsin's treatment of Lebed since the Security Council secretary
unsuccessfully demanded the ouster of hard-line Interior Minister
Anatolii Kulikov as a sign that the president supports Kulikov's
position on Chechnya, Russian media reported on 20 August. Pavel
Felgengauer, military correspondent for Segodnya, described the conflict
between Lebed and Kulikov as a "typical Russian bureaucratic duel,"
adding that he expected both men to remain in the government. Pro-
communist Pravda-5 suggested that the Chechen separatists would be the
only winners of the bureaucratic conflict in Moscow. -- Scott Parrish

taken two days off to fly to Valdai, a lake region 200 miles northwest
of Moscow, to determine whether he would like to spend a longer vacation
there, his press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 20 August.
Yeltsin is expected to return to Moscow later this week for
consultations with the members of his new government, ITAR-TASS
reported. Ekho Moskvy claimed that Yeltsin has been hospitalized since
15 August with heart trouble, but Yastrzhembskii called the report
"utterly absurd," AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung

rubles more than his communist challenger Gennadii Zyuganov during the
presidential campaign, according to figures released by the Central
Electoral Commission, Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 August. Yeltsin
spent 14.4 billion rubles ($2.7 million) while Zyuganov used 11.3
billion ($2.1 million). Yeltsin spent about 10.3 billion rubles on TV
and radio, while Zyuganov only bought 1.5 billion rubles worth of air
time. Zyuganov concentrated his resources on the print media and flyers.
Both candidates received most of their money from corporate
contributions and stayed within the legal limit of 14.5 billion rubles.
Few believe that these officially reported figures reflect actual
campaign expenditures. -- Robert Orttung

JOURNALISTS SEEK WAY TO END CHECHEN WAR . . . In its 15-21 August issue,
Obshchaya gazeta polled a number of Russian newspaper editors asking if
they thought that journalists should unite to press for an immediate
halt to the Chechen war, a pullout of troops, and granting Chechnya
independence. Some, like Moskovskii komsomolets Editor Pavel Gusev,
fully supported the idea. Komsomolskaya pravda's Valerii Simonov doubted
the ability of the journalists to unite, while Nezavisimaya gazeta's
Vitalii Tretyakov backed the idea of pressing for an immediate halt to
the war, but questioned whether an immediate troop withdrawal was a
realistic option. Vladimir Volin of Megapolis-Ekspress said that some
sort of journalist action was needed, but could think of nothing that
would get the government's attention. Obshchaya gazeta itself originated
as a common newspaper put out by journalists opposed to the August 1991
coup. -- Robert Orttung

. . . AND BEGIN PLANNING FIRST ACTIONS. An organizing committee that
grew out of the Obshchaya gazeta publication held its first meeting on
19 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Several newspapers are planning to call
for a mass demonstration against the war in Chechnya in Moscow in
September. Obshchaya gazeta is also planning to publish a broadsheet
containing the opinions of ordinary people about the war. The newspaper
first appeared during the days of the 1991 coup when it united the
efforts of several publications banned by the coup makers. It also
united the efforts of numerous journalists to put together a special
edition on the day Dmitrii Kholodov, a Moskovskii komsomolets reporter
murdered while investigating corruption in the military, was buried. --
Robert Orttung

MUTED CELEBRATION ON COUP ANNIVERSARY. No more than 50 people, carrying
banners saying "Communism is dead," gathered outside the Russian White
House to mark the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the failed
putsch attempt, AFP reported on 19 August. Due to the lack of state
finance, organizers gave up plans for pompous celebrations and had to be
content with a modest march by defenders of the White House, the bastion
of resistance to the Communist coup plotters, and sporting competitions.
Likewise, a concert initially planned to take place on Red Square was
moved behind St. Basil's Cathedral, a decision that led to most artists
scheduled to perform pulling out. -- Anna Paretskaya

conference, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin said that
deteriorating living conditions in the military had created an
"explosive situation" in which more and more servicemen are openly
expressing discontent, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the military is
now owed 15 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion) by the federal budget, and
warned that military strike committees were forming. Rokhlin added that
392 military personnel had died from various non-combat related causes
in 1995, noting that over one-third of them had committed suicide,
presumably because of atrocious working and living conditions.
Meanwhile, 30 soldiers from an internal troops unit in Perm Oblast
deserted on 19 August, complaining of vicious hazing. A mother of one of
the deserters told Russian TV that the soldiers had fled the
"unbearable, prison-like" atmosphere of their unit, and would rather
live in the woods than return. -- Scott Parrish

Congressional Research Service has calculated that Russian arms sales to
the developing world grew by an impressive 62% in 1995 and reached $6
billion, outpacing the United States, which sold $3.8 billion in weapons
to the same countries, The New York Times reported on 20 August. Russia
has thus become the largest seller of arms to the developing world, the
report said, with China its biggest customer. Russian arms sales are
difficult to calculate, however, due to government secrecy, weak export
controls, and a blurring between signed contracts and actual deliveries.
Also, Russia does not report its conventional arms sales to the UN, as
do many Western countries. All sources agree that Russian arms exports
surged in 1995, but the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
(SIPRI) has estimated that Russian arms exports totaled $3.9 billion in
1995, while Russian officials have placed the figure at about $2.5
billion. -- Scott Parrish

STRIKES OVER OVERDUE WAGES CONTINUE. Four thousand employees of the
Sokol joint stock company went on strike on 19 August, demanding
immediate payment of wages they have not received since January, ITAR-
TASS reported. The enterprise in Belgorod is a leading military
communication systems factory. Meanwhile, miners of the Primorskii Krai
Tsentralnaya pit continue their strike to demand payment of wage arrears
and the reversal of a decision to close down the pit. According to the
miners' trade union, wage debts to miners total about 3 trillion rubles
($550 million), while workers in all industries are owed a total of 34
trillion rubles in back wages. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN ORDERS SPENDING CUTS . . . President Yeltsin signed a package of
eight decrees on 19 August aimed at increasing taxes and cutting
spending, ITAR-TASS reported. The decrees abolished all presidential
privileges and tax breaks granted since the adoption of the 1996 federal
budget, including most of Yeltsin's pre-election promises. Finance
Minister Aleksandr Livshits said the measures were worth 50 trillion
rubles ($9.4 billion). However, some extra spending plans were exempted
from the freeze, including payment of pension arrears, savings
compensation for pensioners, funding for the Children of Russia program,
subsidies for the Nakhodka free economic zone, "and a few others." The
revenue-raising measures, including the imposition of VAT on imports
from Ukraine, had been widely discussed in recent weeks. -- Peter

. . . IMF TO APPROVE GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE. According to Livshits, an
IMF team has completed its visit to Moscow and the IMF is expected to
approve the release of the delayed $340 million loan tranche from July,
ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August. Reuters quoted the IMF representative
in Moscow, Thomas Wolf, as saying that the mission "was reassured about
the performance in July and that the necessary revenue measures are
being taken." IMF approval probably has more to do with the promotion of
sympathetic figures in the new government than with the actual
implementation of budget-balancing measures. -- Peter Rutland


PENSIONERS IN KAZAKHSTAN CHEATED. The Kazakhstani Prosecutor General's
office discovered that pensioners and invalids have not been receiving
all the money allocated for them, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree years ago, calculated on
rising monthly wages, which raised the pensions of persons who retired
prior to 1 January 1992. However, the Ministry of Social Maintenance was
short of funds and slashed payments to pensioners and invalids to make
up the difference. Instead of receiving 700 tenge ($10) per month,
people were getting 307 tenge. Back payments owed to pensioners and
invalids currently amount to more than 7 billion tenge. -- Bruce Pannier

TAVIL-DARA IN OPPOSITION HANDS. Opposition forces occupied the central
Tajikistan town of Tavil-Dara on 17 August, Reuters reported. This was
admitted by a Tajik government representative to the group, Zafar
Ikromov, who is monitoring the ceasefire agreement. The Tajik Defense
Ministry claims its forces withdrew in order to prevent losses among the
civilian population of the town. -- Bruce Pannier

government has asked Tajik authorities to speed up the repatriation of
Tajik refugees in Kyrgyzstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August. Kyrgyz
Minister of Labor and Social Security Zafar Khakimov stated there are
15,000 Tajik refugees registered in Kyrgyzstan, mainly in the Osh and
Jalalabad areas. Khakimov said the concentration of Tajik refugees in
Kyrgyzstan's southern regions was creating tensions, specifically in the
Betken district, an area already possessing a Tajik majority and still
claimed by Dushanbe as belonging to Tajikistan. -- Bruce Pannier

VELAYATI IN ASHGABAT. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati held
talks with his Turkmen counterpart Boris Shikhmuradov in Ashgabat on 19
August, IRNA reported the same day. The two discussed the intensified
conflict in Tajikistan and ways to boost bilateral and regional
cooperation. Velayati also announced Tehran's plans to host a regional,
foreign minister-level, peace conference on Afghanistan tentatively
scheduled for 28-29 October. Earlier this week the beleaguered
government in Kabul rejected a proposal submitted to the UN Security
Council by Pakistan and Uzbekistan to embargo the sale of arms to any of
the factions fighting in Afghanistan. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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