|It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is. - Erasmus|
No. 162, Part I, 21 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 CIVILIANS FLEE GROZNY, ULTIMATUM REMAINS IN FORCE. Citizens of Grozny on 20 August continued to flee the city following the ultimatum issued the previous day by the interim commander of the Russian federal forces, Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, though an estimated 150,000 people remain, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov told Reuters that some 100 civilians died when Russian troops blew up a bridge in Alkhan- Yurt, southwest of Grozny; AFP reported that Russian troops later blocked the only remaining route out of the city to the northeast. Pro-Moscow Chechen Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman told ITAR-TASS that the ultimatum to leave Grozny within 48 hours was "unrealistic." Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, who resumed command of the Russian forces in Chechnya on 20 August after a vacation, affirmed that he would "use all means, political and military" to expel the Chechen fighters from Grozny, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller MOSCOW GROUPS DENOUNCE PULIKOVSKII ULTIMATUM. Russia's Democratic Choice called on President Boris Yeltsin to fire Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii and speed up the peace settlement in the separatist republic. The Chechen representative to the president denounced Pulikovskii's ultimatum as a "death sentence" for the "hundreds" of thousands of people unable to escape from Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August. Meanwhile, the little-known Assembly of Russian National Democratic and Patriotic Forces called Lebed's negotiations "criminal" and argued that they would lead to the disintegration of Russia and civil war throughout the Caucasus region, Russian TV reported. -- Robert Orttung LEBED CHARGES THAT YELTSIN IS NOT SIGNING HIS OWN ORDERS . . . Aleksandr Lebed's Security Council released a statement on 20 June expressing doubts whether President Boris Yeltsin had actually signed his instruction to "restore the order that prevailed" in Grozny before 5 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August 1996), Kommersant-Daily reported. Lebed argued that carrying out these instructions would lead to widescale military activities, heavy losses among federal troops, massive civilian deaths, and would disrupt his negotiations. Lebed insisted that no one be allowed to manipulate the president and demanded an explanation of the order's origin. The paper suggested that Lebed would only make such a statement if he were sure that Yeltsin had not signed the order, a likely scenario given Yeltsin's poor health. Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, a Lebed rival, is in charge of preparing all documents for the president's signature. -- Robert Orttung . . . KREMLIN DENIES CHARGES. The Kremlin responded to Lebed's charges in a vaguely worded statement from the presidential press service on 20 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said that the federal government would not fulfill the separatists' demands while they continued shooting but that it was prepared to continue negotiations. The statement also asked Lebed not to talk about the issue with the media until he had met with Yeltsin. Lebed's charges and the nebulous response suggest that Yeltsin is no longer in direct control. -- Robert Orttung MEDIA COVERAGE OF HEALTH ISSUE INCREASES. As President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman continues to insist that the president is merely resting in the lake region of Valdai, intense speculation on Yeltsin's health has reappeared in the press. Russian journalists sympathetic to Yeltsin avoided the health issue in late June and July, even as Yeltsin's absence from public view dominated Western news coverage of Russia. Yeltsin has not been seen in public since the 9 August inauguration. Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 21 August that the president clearly needs heart surgery. On the same day, Kommersant-Daily dismissed official statements on Yeltsin's health and whereabouts as unconvincing. The latest issue of Novaya gazeta claimed that recent television footage of Yeltsin has been broadcast with no soundtrack. Meanwhile, the official newspaper Rossiiskie vesti continued to deny the rumors on Yeltsin's health, reporting on 21 August that a recent story in Time (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 August 1996) was based on "nonexistent" sources. -- Laura Belin IZVESTIYA: LEBED HAS LAUNCHED PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. Izvestiya argued on 21 August that Lebed has launched his campaign to succeed Yeltsin. The general's chances for success depend on whether he can resolve the Chechen war. Lebed figured out that Yeltsin himself is responsible for the conflict, not his hard-line advisors, often dubbed the "party of war." Therefore, guessing that the president will not live much longer, Lebed has forsaken internal Kremlin struggles for public attacks on the other members of Yeltsin's inner circle who are trying to get rid of him, the paper said. Lebed believes that public appeals for peace in Chechnya are the best way to mobilize his main resource--the more than 10 million voters who supported him in the first round of the presidential election on 16 June, Izvestiya argued. -- Robert Orttung ANOTHER BOMB EXPLOSION IN DAGESTAN. The bomb attack on Dagestani Finance Minister Gamid Gamidov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August 1996) followed an assassination attempt on Union of Muslims of Russia leader Nadir Khachilaev, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR) reported. A hand grenade was thrown into the courtyard of Khachilaev's house in the Dagestani capital Makhachkala at about 3 a.m. on 20 August, causing a powerful explosion but no injuries. Khachilaev has recently been conducting an active campaign to stop the war in Chechnya. -- Anna Paretskaya RALLY HELD IN NAZDRATENKO'S SUPPORT. About 500 people rallied in support of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko in the krai's main city Vladivostok on 20 August, Radio Rossii and Kommersant-Daily reported. They called on the regional legislative assembly to hold a referendum on confidence in the governor, who was criticized by the federal commission investigating the region's financial crisis. They also protested the decision of a Moscow court which reinstated dismissed Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 August 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya METRO CONSTRUCTION WORKERS GO ON STRIKE. Moscow metro construction workers began an indefinite strike on 19 August to demand payment of wages due since May, RTR reported. Meanwhile, the workers' committee of the Leningrad atomic power plan (LAES) decided to resume protest actions on 26 August, Radio Rossii reported on 20 August. The LAES employees are demanding full payment of wage arrears, which total 8 billion rubles ($1.5 million), and an investigation of LAES management's financial activities. Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov claims that 5 billion rubles have been transferred to LAES' account. The LAES workers also plan to picket the Russian government building in Moscow from 30 August until 2 September. -- Anna Paretskaya REGIONAL PROPERTY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN DETAINED. Sergei Kozlov, the former chairman of the Bryansk Oblast state property committee, has been arrested on charges of abuse of power. He is also likely to be charged with embezzlement of state funds, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August, citing oblast Deputy Procurator Aleksandr Stupak. Kozlov, who was fired several months ago, had been issuing permits to transfer state property into private ownership, including the vast field of the old airport in the center of Bryansk. Procurator General's Office detective Petr Kuznetsov, who heads the investigation, said the case may expose other related crimes both within and outside the oblast. -- Anna Paretskaya SLIGHT DECREASE IN MORTALITY RATE. Russia's mortality rate declined slightly in the first five months of 1996, to 15.1 deaths per 1,000 residents, compared to 15.5 per thousand in 1995 and 15.8 per thousand in 1994, Izvestiya reported on 21 August. The incidence of cancer, heart and lung diseases was practically unchanged. However, deaths from so-called "unnatural causes" declined significantly; between January and May 1996, about 128,000 accidental deaths were recorded (down 14,000 from the same period in 1995). In particular, deaths attributed to alcohol poisoning were down by 18% compared to the first five months of 1995, murders by 12%, and suicides by 6%. Izvestiya pointed out that Russia's overall demographic picture has not improved, because the birth rate has continued to decline and the population is falling by 6 per thousand. -- Laura Belin GLAZEV TO HEAD SECURITY COUNCIL ECONOMIC DIRECTORATE. Sergei Glazev, longtime political ally of Aleksandr Lebed and head of the Democratic Party of Russia, has been appointed chief of the Russian Security Council's Economic Security Directorate, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported on 20 August. Glazev, a former minister of foreign trade, told a press conference that his team will conduct an "expert analysis" of government proposals (such as the budget or privatization plans) to assess their impact on Russia's economic dependence on other states. Glazev said steps will be taken to reverse oil contracts being signed under the production sharing law. Earlier reports suggested that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin barred Glazev from a ministerial post because of his fierce attacks on the government's economic policy. Lebed has now found Glazev a niche in his own apparatus, and Glazev's replies to journalists made it clear that he intends to continue criticizing government policy even from his new position inside the administration. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARDZINBA REITERATES READINESS TO MEET WITH SHEVARDNADZE. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, responding on 20 August to his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze's call for a resumption of talks on resolving Abkhazia's future status, reiterated his readiness for a face-to-face meeting if there is a real chance of reaching a settlement, but insisted that there could be no revision of the principles outlined in the UN-mediated statement of April 1994 on repatriation, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The most recent round of talks on a political settlement of the Abkhaz conflict, held in Moscow in late July, failed to make any progress. -- Liz Fuller ARMENIAN DEMOGRAPHIC UPDATE. The total number of Armenians in the world exceeds 10 million, Noyan Tapan reported on 20 August. Of these, 3.5 million live in Armenia, 2.5 million in the Russian Federation, and almost 1.5 million in the U.S. At the time of the 1989 Soviet census, the total population of the Armenian SSR was 3,304,800, of whom approximately 90% were Armenians. The figure cited for the number of Armenians currently living in Armenia is difficult to reconcile with reports that some 800,000 people, or 17% of the total population, have left Armenia since 1991, and that the sterility rate in Armenia is 20-25%, which is 10% higher than the world average. -- Liz Fuller CORRECTION: Vahan Hovanessyan, one of the leading members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsyutyun) arrested on 29 July 1995 on charges of terrorism and planning a coup, was erroneously referred to in the OMRI Daily Digest of 16 August as the ARFD candidate for next month's Armenian presidential elections. The ARFD has not in fact nominated a candidate. TAJIKISTAN SAID TO BE ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE. The Russian newspaper Segodnya on 16 August reported Tajikistan as being on the verge of collapse. The article claimed the Tajik economy is in ruins due to corruption and the emigration of both the Russian and local population, which has drained Tajikistan of qualified specialists. It also said that the Tajik government is not interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict with religious and political opponents, and that despite trade agreements with Russia only 6% of Tajikistan's goods go there, the bulk of the rest going to Western countries. The article also charged that paramilitary formations from the Popular Front, which helped the present government come to power in 1992, have formed criminal bands which virtually occupy Dushanbe, and that half of the Tajik militia are former criminals, the paper said. -- Bruce Pannier KAMILOV IN NEW DELHI. Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov held talks with Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in New Delhi on 21 August, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The report emphasized that New Delhi and Tashkent's positions coincide on key regional issues, particularly the need to find a peaceful resolution of the civil war in Afghanistan. Both also stressed their commitment to fighting all forms of international terrorism, including what was termed religious extremism, and to further enhance bilateral ties. Trade between India and Uzbekistan reportedly reached $20 million in 1995. -- Lowell Bezanis FBI IN TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation plans to double it overseas offices from 23 to 46 over a four-year period, AFP reported on 20 August. Among other countries, the agency plans to establish a presence in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia in 1998. This is part of the FBI's effort to create a "first line of defense" or early warning system to cope with what it considers to be the growing internationalization of crime and crime threats to the U.S. The report detailing these plans stressed that the agency, whose mission has been confined to domestic law enforcement and counter-intelligence, would not be engaged in espionage but would liaise with its foreign counterparts. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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