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No. 165, Part I, 26 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 TIKHOMIROV, MASKHADOV REACH AGREEMENT ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Meeting in Noviye Atagi, south of Grozny, on 23 August, Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov and the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, reached "unanimous" agreement on the withdrawal from Grozny of Chechen, Russian federal and Russian Interior Ministry forces, Russian and Western agencies reported. The Russian troop withdrawal began as planned on 24 August. -- Liz Fuller LEBED BREAKS OFF TALKS WITH MASKHADOV, RETURNS TO MOSCOW . . . Russian Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed flew back to Grozny on the morning of 24 August. After meeting with Russian commanders at Khankala airbase, he proceeded to Noviye Atagi to discuss with Maskhadov a political solution to the Chechen conflict which postpones a decision on Chechnya's status vis-a-vis Moscow pending completion of the Russian troop pullout, new parliamentary elections and the adoption of a new Chechen constitution, AFP reported on 24 August. Instead of continuing these talks on 25 August, however, Lebed flew back to Moscow because of "legal difficulties," in connection with which he planned to consult Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov. Speaking at a press conference prior to his departure, Lebed appealed to the Chechen population to refrain from any further attacks on Russian troops, according to ITAR-TASS. The agency attributed the suspension of the talks to Lebed's dissatisfaction over the seizure of weapons by Chechen fighters in Grozny on 24 August from Russian Interior Ministry troops, although Lebed himself dismissed the incident as "a misunderstanding." AFP quoted Chechen press spokesman Movladi Udugov as claiming that the Chechen fighters responsible were a renegade group who wished to disrupt the peace process, and that most of the arms had been returned. Tikhomirov also canceled a planned meeting with Maskhadov because of the weapons issue, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller . . . BUT LOWER-LEVEL TALKS CONTINUE. On 24 August acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev met with former Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov to discuss possible solutions to the conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Khasbulatov's trip to Chechnya was arranged by Chernomyrdin. On 25 August Russian and Chechen commanders met in Grozny to discuss the work of the joint Russian-Chechen patrols intended to maintain order and prevent looting in the city, AFP reported. The head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, told Russian Television (Channel 2) on 23 August that the OSCE would work together with Lebed to resolve the Chechen conflict as it had previously done with Chernomyrdin's now disbanded commission. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN BACKS LEBED NEGOTIATIONS. President Boris Yeltsin, in a telephone conversation with Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 23 August, approved Lebed's negotiations with the Chechen separatist fighters and backed his search for a political solution to the conflict, but insisted that any agreement must ensure that Chechnya remains within the Russian Federation, NTV reported. A day earlier, Yeltsin had said that he was not satisfied with Lebed's work since he had not achieved any clear results. The Yeltsin-Lebed conversation took place at 10 p.m., following a day of confusion over whether the two men would meet. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN PROPOSES REFERENDUM ON CHECHNYA'S STATUS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin suggested in an interview with Russian TV that the Chechens hold a referendum on independence in five years after normal living conditions had been restored in the republic, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. He said that the people's decision in the vote would be implemented, but reiterated his belief that "Chechnya should remain within Russia." He stressed that the issue of Chechnya's secession from Russia should not be part of the current peace negotiations. Secession is one of the rebel's main demands. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN EXPECTS CONSTRUCTIVE WORK FROM TULEEV, GLAZEV. Chernomyrdin said that former opposition leaders Aman Tuleev, newly appointed CIS minister, and Sergei Glazev, chief of the Security Council's Economic Security Directorate, are "now full members of the president's team" and that they should switch "from criticism to concrete suggestions and work," ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. Tuleev said that he does not intend to engage in confrontation with the government or the prime minister, NTV reported on 23 August. -- Robert Orttung TULEEV'S RELATIONS WITH OPPOSITION. It is not clear whether Tuleev will resign as one of five co-chairmen of Gennadii Zyuganov's Popular- Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR) following his cabinet appointment. In an interview with Rossiiiskaya gazeta published on 24 August, Tuleev said he might resign his post within the opposition movement, even though the NPSR leadership council advised him to join the government. Nezavisimaya gazeta reported the same day that while most opposition leaders had not criticized Tuleev's appointment, they had not praised it enthusiastically either. Two other NPSR co-chairmen, Aleksandr Rutskoi and Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, described Tuleev's move as proof of the constructive nature of the main opposition movement. Meanwhile, Anatolii Kryuchkov, whose Russian Party of Communists considers Zyuganov's organization too moderate, denounced Tuleev's appointment and said the government remains "inimical to the interests of Russian workers," Radio Rossii reported on 24 August. -- Laura Belin U.S. STUDY SAYS RUSSIAN MILITARY CAPACITY MUCH DIMINISHED . . . In a report submitted to the U.S. Congress, the Defense Intelligence Agency depicts the Russian military as a dilapidated force that will not be capable of mounting effective offensive operations against China or deep into Europe for at least 10 years, AFP reported on 23 August. The same day Reuters quoted Gen. Eugene Habiger, head of U.S. nuclear forces, as saying that budgetary cutbacks would bring Russia down to the START-2 level of less than 3,500 nuclear weapons by 2005 whether or not Russia ratified the treaty. He said Russia was making some progress towards developing a new single-warhead Topol ICBM, and slower progress with a new submarine-launched missile. -- Peter Rutland . . . WHILE RODIONOV PROTESTS DEFENSE BUDGET. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said the 1997 budget plan allows for defense spending of 101 trillion rubles ($20 billion), far short of the 260 trillion rubles requested by the defense ministry, AFP reported on 23 August. Lebed's ally, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, complained that "the defense ministry's budget request was virtually ignored." Defense spending for 1996 is estimated at around 80 trillion rubles ($17 billion), or 10% of the U.S. level. The Russian Army has about 1.5 million troops compared to 4.5 million in the former Soviet Army. -- Peter Rutland FOREIGN MINISTRY: RUSSIA READY TO RATIFY CHEMICAL BAN. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin said on 22 August that Russia plans to be among the first 65 nations to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, ITAR-TASS reported. The 1993 treaty goes into effect 180 days after it has been ratified by 65 signatories. So far, 61 nations have ratified it, but not Russia or the U.S., the countries with the largest declared chemical weapons stockpiles. Some Russian officials have complained in the past about the expenses that will be involved in complying with the convention. -- Doug Clarke MINERS AND AIR WORKERS CALL OFF STRIKE. Coal miners and civilian air workers have called off nationwide strikes they planed to hold on 26 and 27 August, respectively, Russian media reported. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, new Fuel and Energy minister Petr Rodionov, and Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Petrov met with miners' trade union representatives and agreed to pay all debts and wage arrears by the end of the month. According to Yurii Malyshev, general manager of the federal coal company Rosugol, wage debts to miners totaled 2 trillion rubles (about $390 million) by the end of July, while the total debt to the mining industry was about 7 trillion rubles. The air workers called off their strike after they reached an agreement on tariffs with the federal aviation service, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 24 August. However, Independent Trade Union Federation Secretary Galina Strela suggested that a new wave of strikes may be expected in the fall due to growing wage arrears that now total 34 trillion rubles in all industries. -- Anna Paretskaya PRIMORSKII KRAI GOVERNOR OPPOSES KREMLIN DECISION. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has sacked his deputy, Mikhail Savchenko, complying with President Yeltsin's orders although he says he did not agree with them, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August. Yeltsin ordered Savchenko's dismissal after the Main Oversight Administration (GKU) commission found he was responsible for the financial and energy crises in the krai in July. The same day, the manager of the energy company Dalenergo, Yurii Bashsarov, was fired. Meanwhile, the krai legislature decided to hold a referendum on public trust in Nazdratenko on 22 September, Russian Public TV reported. The krai duma decision was caused by a presidential decree warning Nazdratenko that he was not fully competent. -- Anna Paretskaya FORMER VICE-PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR. An initiative group in Kursk Oblast has notified the regional electoral commission that it has nominated former Russian vice president and leader of the Derzhava social-patriotic movement Aleksandr Rutskoi for the October gubernatorial election, ITAR-TASS and Radio Mayak reported on 24 August. Other candidates are the incumbent Vasilii Shuteev and an unemployed deputy of the 1990-1993 Supreme Soviet, Petr Zorin. -- Anna Paretskaya OLYMPIC CHAMPION STABBED. Aleksandr Popov, who won two Olympic gold medals in swimming last month in Atlanta, is hospitalized in serious condition following surgery to treat stab wounds in the stomach, lung and kidney, Russian and Western media reported on 25 August. A doctor told ITAR-TASS the next day that Popov's condition had improved slightly. On the evening of 24 August, Popov was attacked following an argument with fruit vendors who apparently did not know his identity. -- Laura Belin BOMB EXPLOSION AT MOSCOW SYNAGOGUE. A small bomb exploded in front of a synagogue in the center of Moscow late on 22 August, a Federal Security Service spokesman told ITAR-TASS. The device, with a charge equivalent to 300 grams of TNT, went off when the building was empty. No one was injured though the blast broke windows and knocked over Torah scrolls, causing $15,000 worth of damage, according to Reuters. Rabbi Berel Lazar said that the explosion was clearly an anti-semitic act. The synagogue, which burned down in 1993, was reopened in June. -- Anna Paretskaya NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS MAY FACE STOPPAGE. A shortage of cash may lead to the closure of some of Russia's nine nuclear power stations, Reuters and Radio Mayak reported on 25 August. Rosenergoatom is owed some 5 trillion rubles ($940 million) by the EES (Russia's United Power Grid), and is unable to finance repair works at nuclear plants. Low energy prices paid by consumers are often considered a major reason for the debt. Meanwhile, workers at the Leningrad nuclear power plant are going to resume protest action over wage arrears totaling 30 billion rubles ($5.6 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. The 5 billion rubles credit provided by the Nuclear Energy Ministry last week was used to pay May's wages. Another 10 billion rubles credit, earmarked for paying June salaries, will be disbursed in the next week. -- Natalia Gurushina NEW DECREE ON TAXATION STIRS CONTROVERSY. The publication on 22 August of a new presidential decree on taxation sent shock waves through financial circles. The decree stipulates, in particular, that income tax and insurance payments will be levied on all transfers to bank accounts of individuals or companies, including interest on deposits in banks, Russian media reported on 23-24 August. The decree, therefore, leaves a possibility for double taxation of people's wages, since such levies are usually already collected at work. It also contradicts the existing legislation which does not tax interest on banking deposits, pensions and yields on state savings bonds. Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits attempted to ease the tension by saying that in the near future there will be no changes in the taxation procedure. He pointed out that the new decree aims to reinforce tax discipline and reduce unaccounted cash transfers. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIKISTAN'S NEIGHBORS WORRIED ABOUT SITUATION. Although ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August that Tavil-Dara has been recaptured by Tajik government troops, officials from Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have met to discuss the Tajik conflict. The presidents of the three countries met in Almaty on 24 August to discuss economic cooperation and the creation of a common economic space by the end of 1997, according to ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL. Prior to the meeting, Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev met with his Tajik counterpart Imomali Rakhmonov to emphasize the need for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Nazarbayev also sent letters to United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri and Afghan President Burhanaddin Rabbani expressing the same. There is speculation Nazarbayev warned Nuri and Rabbani that Kazakstan will not remain idle should the situation in Tajikistan worsen. -- Bruce Pannier CABINET RESHUFFLE IN TURKMENISTAN. President Saparmurat Niyazov relieved Valery Otchertsov, Minister of Economy and Finance as well as deputy chairman of Turkmenistan's cabinet, of his duties on 22 August, RFE/RL reported the next day. He was appointed economic counselor to Turkmenistan's embassy in Moscow and granted what were termed emergency powers as an envoy to Russia. Otchertsov's replacement as Minister of Economy is Matkarim Rajapov. Russian agencies noted that Otchertsov was shifted "at his own request" due to matrimonial problems. -- 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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