|If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson|
No. 163, Part I, 22 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 e-mail your request to: email@example.com *********************************************************************** RUSSIA LEBED MEETS CHECHEN MILITARY LEADER. The commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, rejected a telephone request by pro-Moscow head of state Doku Zavgaev on 21 August to rescind the ultimatum issued on 19 August to all residents of Grozny to leave the city within 48 hours, NTV reported. However, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov told Russian Television (RTR) that Lt.- Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii had acted "incorrectly" in issuing the ultimatum and implied he had done so on orders from someone outside the military high command. Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed arrived in Grozny on 21 August and met with Tikhomirov, then traveled to the village of Novye Atagi south of Grozny for talks with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov. Lebed subsequently canceled Pulikovskii's ultimatum, which he told journalists was "a bad joke" and an attempt to undermine the accords he had reached earlier with Maskhadov, according to ITAR-TASS and Radio Mayak. The Russian military high command then ordered a cessation of hostilities in Grozny; the city was quiet on the morning of 22 August, Reuters reported. Lebed and Maskhadov met again in Novye Atagi during the morning of 22 August. -- Liz Fuller INTERNATIONAL CONCERN OVER SITUATION IN GROZNY. Late on 20 August U.S. President Bill Clinton sent a letter to President Boris Yeltsin expressing concern about the fate of the some 120,000 civilians remaining in Grozny, Russian and Western agencies reported. AFP said that this was the first direct appeal from Clinton concerning the Chechen conflict, which the U.S. officially regards as Russia's internal affair. The U.S. had apparently not received a reply from Moscow as of 12:00 Moscow time on 22 August. The 19 August ultimatum by Lt.-Gen. Pulikovskii caused a variety of foreign governments to warn Russia that the Chechen situation should be resolved through dialogue, not by force, although Clinton appears to have been the only head of state to react officially. Council of Europe speaker Leni Fischer reminded Moscow that when it joined that organization it promised to "find a political solution to the (Chechen) conflict," AFP reported on 21 August. Reuters reported on the same day that the UN World Food Program has asked the U.S. to fly in 140,000 emergency meals for refugees from Grozny: last month the U.S. sent 35,000 meals. Meanwhile, the Russian government complains that some 1,000 foreign mercenaries are fighting alongside the separatists, according to Rossiiskaya gazeta of 22 August. -- Peter Rutland MORE PROTESTS AGAINST WAR. Several prominent human rights campaigners and State Duma deputies, including Sergei Kovalev and Sergei Yushenkov of Russia's Democratic Choice and Viktor Sheinis of Yabloko, called for massive political protests if the bloodshed in Chechnya is not ended, Russian media reported on 21 August. On the same day, a group of Russian Muslim clerics appealed to President Yeltsin to end the fighting, while the leaders of the Union of Muslims said they hoped Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed will find a solution for the crisis, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported. Meanwhile, a protest march organized by Obshchaya gazeta and supported by editors of several other Russian newspapers (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August 1996) has been set for 5 September, pending approval by the Moscow city government, ITAR-TASS reported. The Soldiers' Mothers Committee, Moscow Helsinki Group and watchdog group Memorial have supported the march. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN RETURNS TO KREMLIN. President Yeltsin returned from the lake region of Valdai to Moscow on the evening of 21 June and went to work at the Kremlin on 22 June, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported, citing Presidential Press Secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Yeltsin was shown briefly on Russian Television, and met with five of the six newly appointed ministers. -- Laura Belin TULEEV AMONG SIX NEW MINISTERS. On 22 August President Boris Yeltsin appointed six additional ministers to his new government: Anatolii Zaitsev (Railroads), Yurii Bespalov (Industry), Petr Rodionov (Fuel and Energy), Viktor Orlov (Natural Resources), Tatyana Dmitrieva (Health), and Aman Tuleev (CIS Affairs). This signifies the departure from government of the long-standing fuel and energy minister, Yurii Shafranik. Also noteworthy is the appointment of Aman Tuleev to manage relations with the CIS. Tuleev, the head of the legislature in Kemerovo oblast, was a supporter of Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov. The post of minister of culture is still vacant. -- Peter Rutland KORZHAKOV ON CORRUPTION. Aleksandr Korzhakov, President Yeltsin's former top bodyguard, told Argumenty i fakty that he was fired because he tried to limit rampant corruption in the Kremlin and complained: "One gets the impression that nearly all top officials are working to loot state property," Reuters reported on 21 August. Korzhakov was sacked on 20 June, the morning after his men detained and interrogated two Yeltsin campaign officials who were found carrying more than $500,000 in cash. The campaign workers had links to Korzhakov's longtime enemy Anatolii Chubais, who became Yeltsin's chief of staff shortly after Korzhakov's ouster. Moskovskie novosti (No. 33) reported that Korzhakov, along with former Security Service head Mikhail Barsukov, possesses many documents incriminating top officials. In the near future, he will use the media both to attack his main opponents in the Yeltsin camp and to protect himself, the paper said. -- Laura Belin SOLDIERS WHO FLED HAZING RETURN. The 30 soldiers who deserted from an internal troops unit in Perm on 18 August returned after a senior commander guaranteed their safety, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 August. The troops ran away and camped in the woods in order to escape what they described as "unbearable" hazing (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August 1996). ITAR-TASS reported that the soldiers who "terrorized" the deserters have been transferred and that the unit's commanders are being investigated to find who is guilty of allowing the "critical situation" to develop. According to Radio Rossii, six soldiers suspected of instigating the hazing have been sent to a military prison and a criminal case has been opened against them. -- Laura Belin KIDNAPPING OVER IN MOSCOW; EIGHT KILLED IN NOVGOROD. Moscow police have detained three people who demanded a $5,000 ransom for a 19-year-old girl kidnapped 10 days earlier, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 August. Meanwhile, eight young people, including two Vietnamese, were shot dead in the town of Borovichi in Novgorod Oblast. The killers opened fire with submachine-guns in a local cafe, named "Banzai!" around midnight on 19 August. No motive was reported. -- Anna Paretskaya CUSTOMS AND POLICE CRACKDOWN. The Moscow customs department confiscated smuggled goods worth 89 billion rubles ($17 million) between 22 July and 15 August, the department's spokesmen Sergei Milokostov said. Tobacco products accounted for 48 billion rubles and alcohol 14 billion of the seized goods, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 August. Small amount of narcotics and three handguns were also seized. Meanwhile, Amur Oblast police detained 53 local drug dealers and 23 dealers from Central Russia, Sakhalin, and Central Asia, Radio Rossii reported. About 130 kilograms of marijuana was confiscated. Krasnodar Krai Governor Nikolai Yegorov signed a decree allowing krai law enforcement agencies to keep for themselves one-quarter of goods or money confiscated from criminals, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August. According to experts, the decree will provide these agencies with a financial stimulus to work more effectively. -- Anna Paretskaya BUSINESSMEN PROTEST VODKA RESTRICTIONS. Local businessmen held a spontaneous demonstration in the city of Pskov on 21 August to protest the city council's decision to restrict the alcohol trade, ITAR-TASS reported. According to a new instruction, hard liquor may be sold only in shops with special storage premises and alarm systems. If the decision comes into affect, many stalls which now sell drinks will be shut down and hundreds of stallholders will lose their jobs. Last month, restrictions on trade in spirits were introduced in Moscow (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 July 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya METRO CONSTRUCTION WORKERS SUSPEND STRIKE . . . Moscow metro construction (Metrostroi) workers returned to work after two days of striking over unpaid back wages, NTV reported on 21 August. Metrostroi trade unions reached agreement with the government that within 10 days the workers will be paid 130 billion rubles ($25 million) of overdue wages. If the money is not paid, Metrostroi workers will go on strike again. -- Anna Paretskaya . . . WHILE MINERS READY TO WALK OUT AGAIN. Primorskii Krai miners will resume their strike on 26 August if they are not paid their June salaries, which Yurii Malyshev, general manager of the federal coal company Rosugol, has promised them, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August, quoting regional trade union leader Petr Kiryasov. The krai energy workers also plan to start an indefinite strike in September if they fail to get 108 billion rubles ($21 million) of back wages. They also may stop supplying all regional enterprises and individual consumers with electricity. Meanwhile, the crew of a Russian cargo ship announced that it will block the major Black Sea port of Sochi until the ship owner pays wages owed for six months, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Anna Paretskaya IMF LOAN BACK ON TRACK. As expected, the IMF Executive Board declared on 21 August that it will approve the release of the $330 million July tranche of the $10.1 billion Extended Fund Facility granted to Russia in February this year, ITAR-TASS reported. The July payment was suspended because of concern over the 40% shortfall in tax collection in the first half of the year. The IMF has apparently satisfied itself that the Russian government is taking steps to address the problem. -- Peter Rutland DUBININ SAYS BANK CRISIS UNLIKELY. Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said in an interview with Delovoi Mir of 21 August that there is little chance of a sudden financial crisis. He argued that banks are more cautious, experienced, and cooperative in their lending policies, so another domino crisis of failed payments of the sort experienced last August is most unlikely. Dubinin said the position has also been stabilized by the slowdown in inflation -- which was only 0.7% in July and 16.3% since January, Reuters reported on 22 August. However, Pravda- 5 argued on 21 August that the financial position of many of Russia's 2,100 banks is precarious and that even large banks are vulnerable. Rumors about Inkombank, Russia's fifth largest, in mid-July caused depositors to withdraw about 160 billion rubles ($30 million), or 15% of its assets. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NOTE TO READERS: In accordance with the preferences of the Kazakstani government and several international media sources, OMRI has decided to change the spelling of Kazakhstan, a Russian-derived transliteration, to Kazakstan. MKHEDRIONI ACTIVIST EXTRADITED TO GEORGIA. Temur Kurdiani, a member of the Mkhedrioni informal paramilitary formation, has been detained in Moscow and handed over to the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 August. He has been charged in connection with a series of political assassinations in Georgia in 1994-95. -- Liz Fuller KAZAKSTANI NATIONAL AIRLINE BANKRUPT. The Kazakstani government declared the national airline Aue Zholy bankrupt on 20 August, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. As of mid-August the airline's debt was 19 billion tenge ($180 million), and it has already been denied access to airports in Western Europe, Israel, and Turkey because of failure to finance new insurance agreements. The most valuable assets of the company are to be handed over to a new company, still being formed, Air Kazakstan. The remaining assets are to be sold off to government agencies and local authorities at auctions or assigned to them for management. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKSTAN RESPONDS TO RUSSIAN ELECTRICITY CUTS. Taking an "analogous measure," Kazakstan cut off shipments of coal to the Omsk Oblast, RTR reported on 22 August. Russia had stopped supplying northern Kazakstan with electricity on 15 August, citing nonpayment of $420 million (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 August 1996). All the cities of Omsk Oblast are dependent on coal from Kazakstan's Ekibazstuz mine. Officials of the Omsk Oblast administration are trying to enlist aid from the private company Moskenergo, but supplying the 14 power stations in the region will require time. Industry in the area is reported to be at a standstill. -- Bruce Pannier NO EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS BETWEEN TAJIK FACTIONS. The International Committee of the Red Cross has expressed regret that neither the Tajik government nor the Tajik opposition has fulfilled its promise to trade prisoners, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 August. Under the terms of the Ashgabat agreement, signed on 20 July, exchanges of those held by the two sides should have been completed by 20 August, but as of 21 August neither side had even presented a list of detained persons to the ICRC. Meanwhile, Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov met with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov on 21 August in Moscow and repeated the Tajik government's willingness to settle the Tajik conflict by peaceful means. According to the ITAR-TASS report, Nazarov said the Tajik government would "agree to give the opposition seats in the apparatus of the president, the government, and all structures of management from rural regions to the center." -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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