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No. 164, Part I, 23 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, MASKHADOV SIGN NEW CHECHEN CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT. In eight hours of talks in the Chechen village of Novye Atagi on 22 August, Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov drafted and then signed a nine-point agreement on the technical aspects of demilitarization, including the withdrawal of both sides' forces from Grozny and the creation of a joint military headquarters to maintain order and preclude looting, Russian and Western agencies reported. The agreement also includes a ceasefire scheduled to take effect at noon on 23 August. Lebed expressed confidence that the agreement would be implemented, noting that "all the commanders whom I brought together accepted this agreement as binding," according to ITAR- TASS. Lebed flew back to Moscow overnight, but will return to Chechnya in two days to sign a political agreement on future bilateral relations between Moscow and Grozny. -- Liz Fuller CHECHEN CASUALTY, REFUGEE TOLL. Over 400 Russian troops have been killed and 1,264 wounded since the beginning of the Chechen offensive in Grozny on 6 August, according to Russian Public Television (ORT). Some 150,000 residents have fled Grozny; the International Red Cross estimated on 22 August that 50,000 people remain in the city, AFP reported. The head of the OSCE mission to Chechnya, Tim Guldimann, told a press conference in Vienna on 22 August that water, food and medical supplies are in short supply in Grozny, according to Reuters. ITAR-TASS quoted Guldimann, whose role in mediating an earlier peace agreement between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev was sharply criticized by the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership, as saying that the OSCE would continue to seek a political solution to the Chechen conflict. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN DISSATISFIED WITH LEBED. President Boris Yeltsin criticized Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 22 August, ORT reported. Yeltsin said that Lebed promised during the presidential election campaign that if he held power, he would resolve the Chechen conflict, but "now that he has power, unfortunately, there are no apparent results." The president added that he would not "despair" and would continue seeking a negotiated solution to the war. He labeled the Chechen conflict a "bleeding wound" since it was claiming the lives of so many Russian Federation citizens, Radio Mayak reported. -- Robert Orttung PULIKOVSKII ULTIMATUM NOT CLEARED IN THE DEFENSE MINISTRY. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov announced that Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii acted alone when he issued his 19 August ultimatum warning civilians to evacuate Grozny within 48 hours, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 23 August. The Defense Ministry did not prepare the ultimatum, nor did its leadership approve it, Rodionov said. Pulikovskii exceeded his authority in issuing the ultimatum and committed a serious mistake in doing so, the defense minister said. He stressed that the military would not be allowed to act independently of government policy. Pulikovskii's actions demonstrate a breakdown in the Russian chain of command and continue a trend of Russian commanders in ethnic hotspots, like Moldova and Abkhazia, acting independently. -- Robert Orttung IZVESTIYA COMPARES CHECHNYA TO VIETNAM. The main difference between the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and the ongoing war in Chechnya is that the U.S. learned lessons from Vietnam, while Russia has not yet learned anything from the Chechen conflict, according to a commentary in the 23 August Izvestiya. The author, who reported from New York and Washington during the Vietnam era, noted that Aleksandr Lebed's recent activities have been viewed favorably in the West but with suspicion in Moscow, and concluded that senior Russian officials sent Lebed to Chechnya hoping not to solve the crisis, but to discredit Lebed. The author also found many similarities between Chechnya and Vietnam. For instance, he said Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii's ultimatum to Grozny residents recalled a famous remark once attributed to an American colonel: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." -- Laura Belin YELTSIN GIVES TV INTERVIEW. In his first TV interview since beginning his second term, Yeltsin looked hale and confident as he sought to demonstrate that he had a firm grasp on power, NTV reported on 22 August. Yeltsin denied rumors that he would be going to Switzerland for medical treatment, noting that there were many problems left for him to address in Russia. Yeltsin has not yet decided when and where he will vacation, Izvestiya reported on 23 August. He spent the last two days investigating resort sites, according to his press service. -- Robert Orttung AMAN TULEEV PROFILE. Aman Tuleev, the chairman of the Kemerovo Oblast legislative assembly and an opposition leader, has joined the new government to head the CIS Affairs Ministry. He had expected a higher position, such as first deputy prime minister. Half-Kazak and half- Tatar, Tuleev was born in Turkmenistan in 1944. A railroad worker and, later, engineer, he became a Communist Party functionary in 1985. He has been chairman of the Kemerovo Oblast legislature since 1990. A a long- time opponent of Boris Yeltsin, Tuleev ran in both Russian presidential races: in 1991, he finished fourth with about 7% of the vote; in 1996, he withdrew his bid several days before the first round and threw his support behind Gennadii Zyuganov. He is one of the five co-chairman of the Popular Patriotic Union of Russia, an opposition movement created earlier this month. Some observers suggest that Tuleev's appointment was aimed to push him aside from the Kemerovo Oblast gubernatorial race, where he had a good chance of defeating the incumbent. -- Anna Paretskaya PRESIDENTIAL AIDE THREATENS BALTICS. Presidential Aide Dmitrii Ryurikov said that "policy with regard to ethnic Russians living in CIS states will become much more active than it was previously," in an interview with Moskovskii komsomolets of 21 August. He accused the Estonian authorities of practicing "apartheid" and of not fulfilling agreements on the pensions and other social rights of Russian residents. He threatened that "specific steps will soon be taken which will make the Estonian authorities consider the justice of their actions" and claimed that "Lithuania, Latvia, and especially Estonia have no chance of joining NATO until the Russian problem is resolved." -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA STILL BACKS COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN. The 61-nation talks in Geneva seeking a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty ended without agreement on 22 August, after nearly three years of negotiations. The chief Russian delegate to the Conference on Disarmament, Grigorii Berdennikov, confirmed Russia's support for the comprehensive test ban, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August. Speaking at the conference, he criticized India's refusal to sign the treaty, which is the sole remaining barrier to its adoption. India is insisting that the declared nuclear powers provide a timetable for complete disarmament, and Russia seems to have been unable to dislodge its traditional ally from this position. -- Peter Rutland STRIKES OVER WAGE ARREARS CONTINUE. Employees of a local hospital picketed the building of the Magadan Oblast administration demanding payment of back wages, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 22 August. The doctors were last paid in May. The hospital administration canceled all operations except for emergency cases. No reaction from the oblast administration was reported. Meanwhile, transport workers went on a one- day warning strike in Kyzyl, the capital of Tyva. The strike was also prompted by overdue wages, which the workers have not received since January, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August. -- Anna Paretskaya PRIMORSKII KRAI TO BOYCOTT HIGHER ENERGY TARIFFS. The Primorskii Krai's regional duma will refuse to implement the State Energy Commission's decree on raising energy prices in the region, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August. To close the gap between costs and prices and restore the profitability of electricity producers, the decree triples electricity prices in the Far Eastern region, bringing them to 325 rubles ($0.06) per kilowatt-hour for residents, 573 rubles for industrial companies, and 1,410 rubles for commercial organizations. The duma complained that local customers will not be able to pay the new tariffs, and called upon Moscow to send 450 billion rubles to buy fuel supplies for next winter. They also suggested that the region's 1.8 trillion ruble tax obligation to the federal budget be canceled, given that Moscow owes the region roughly that amount in payments and subsidies. -- Natalia Gurushina DRAFT 1997 BUDGET APPROVED. The newly appointed government hurriedly approved the draft federal budget for 1997 at its meeting on 22 August, ITAR-TASS and Segodnya reported. The government is legally required to submit the draft to parliament by 1 September. The draft assumes that GDP will not decline next year but will stay at around 1,620 trillion rubles ($300 billion), in contrast to the 3% fall expected this year. It expects annual inflation of 9.5% and a budget deficit of 3.3% of GDP (89 trillion rubles), down from the 3.9% target for 1996. Spending will be 512 trillion rubles and revenues 423 trillion. This is largely a hypothetical exercise. Even leaving aside the optimistic assumptions factored into the 1997 budget, experience this year indicates that the budget only imperfectly describes the actual pattern of government spending. On 21 August President Yeltsin finally signed into law a bill specifying the spending and revenue categories in the budget. The Duma has been trying to pass such a law since December 1994: Yeltsin vetoed two previous versions. -- Peter Rutland PROFILE OF NEW FUEL AND ENERGY MINISTER. Petr Rodionov, a 45-year-old member of the board of the gas industry giant Gazprom, has been appointed Russia's new Fuel and Energy Minister. Rodionov was also the director of Gazprom's subsidiary in St. Petersburg, where he earned a "tough man" reputation for cutting gas supplies to defaulting customers, Reuters reported on 22 August. In an interview with Russian Public Television (ORT), Rodionov said he will push for a revision of the energy sector's pricing policy. However, the capacity of his ministry to influence such decisions has been much reduced by the privatization program, which has created a number of autonomous corporations, and by the fact that responsibility has to be shared with other governmental agencies, such as the Federal Energy Commission, which sets transport tariffs. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIANS PROTEST NEW ENGLISH TEXTBOOK. Georgian scholars have criticized what they regard as "insulting and unethical" comments in a new Georgian-language textbook published in England, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August. A meeting of scholars at the Samshoblo publishing house in Tbilisi accused author George Hewitt of anti-Georgian bias, which they connected to the alleged fact of his marriage to an Abkhazian. Some participants even called for criminal proceedings against Hewitt. ITAR- TASS reported that an Indiana University professor, Dodona Kiziria, agreed with some of the criticism of the book. -- Peter Rutland FOREIGN DIPLOMATIC ACTIVITY AROUND TAJIKISTAN. With a new outbreak of fighting reportedly in progress in the Tavil-Dara region, representatives of other interested countries have stepped up their efforts to achieve some resolution to the problems in Tajikistan. Officials of the Russian and Afghan border commands met on 22 August in the Tajik village of Tem, close to Khorog, to discuss means of stabilizing the area along the Tajik-Afghan border, ITAR-TASS reported. Representatives of the two countries agreed on sharing information on border violations and on the creation of a border security zone stretching 2-5 kilometers south into Afghanistan. UN envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem was in Iran, where several United Tajik Opposition leaders live, on 22 August to enlist the aid of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, according to RFE/RL. Iran has played a constructive role in bringing the Tajik government and opposition to the peace table since the conflict began in 1992. -- Bruce Pannier CASH WITHDRAWALS HALTED IN TASHKENT. The Uzbek government has ordered Tashkent commercial banks to suspend all operations involving cash withdrawals unless specific permission has been given, Finansovye Izvestiya reported on 22 August. The paper reported that Uzbekistan's treasury is facing a $700 million tax shortfall. -- Lowell Bezanis NIYAZOV HOSTS UZBEK DEFENSE CHIEF. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov held talks with visiting Uzbek Defense Minister Rustam Ahmedov on 20 August, Turkmen Press news agency reported the following day. According to the BBC monitored report, the two sides discussed cooperation between the Turkmen and Uzbek armed forces. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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