|The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human, and therefore, brothers. - Martin Luther King, Jr.|
No. 166, Part I, 27 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 CHECHENS RETURN SOME RUSSIAN ARMS. Chechen militants on 26 August handed over to the Russian federal command up to 50 firearms said to be among approximately 60 seized from a Russian unit in Grozny on 24 August; but a Russian military spokesman said that the identification markings on half the weapons did not correspond to those seized, Russian and Western agencies reported. The withdrawal of six Interior Ministry units from Grozny was halted pending the return of the remaining weapons, according to ITAR-TASS. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 26 August, pro-Moscow Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Alkhazur Tsokayev termed the talks between Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov and Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed "a blatant coup d'etat" given the existence of "the legitimate leadership" of head of state Doku Zavgaev, Radio Rossii reported. Also on 26 August, Reuters reported that Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, who deputized for Tikhomirov while the latter was on vacation, is to be questioned by the Russian procuracy and the military procuracy concerning the circumstances surrounding the occupation of Grozny by Chechen forces on 6 August. -- Liz Fuller HEAVY FEDERAL TOLL IN RECENT CHECHNYA FIGHTING. The bodies of 451 Russian troops killed in Grozny since 6 August have been recovered and 1,264 wounded soldiers have been evacuated, Reuters reported on 26 August. The federal command told ITAR-TASS that 163 Interior Ministry troops had been killed and 876 wounded. An officer of the 58th Army serving in Chechnya told RIA that many men considered missing had actually deserted. -- Doug Clarke POTANIN TO OVERSEE FINANCIAL ASPECTS OF RESOLVING CHECHEN CONFLICT. At a 26 August meeting, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed named First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin to head the Security Council committee overseeing the financing of the peace process in Chechnya, Radio Rossii reported. The decision gives Lebed the power to oversee the financial terms of the peace-making process and the reconstruction of the republic, the radio noted. Pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev's government has come in for considerable criticism for abusing these funds and, in turn, complained that it does not have the resources to do what is necessary. Lebed had hoped to meet with Yeltsin on 26 and 27 August, but the president postponed both meetings, suggesting continued dissatisfaction with the retired general's activities. Yeltsin has stressed that Chechnya must remain a part of Russia. -- Robert Orttung COMMUNISTS PREPARING TO QUESTION LEBED'S POWERS. Communist Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin is preparing to question whether Yeltsin's delegation to Lebed of presidential authority to sign agreements with the Chechen separatists is constitutional, NTV reported on 26 August. Communist Duma Member Vladimir Semago argued that Yeltsin had given up some of his powers to Lebed, while the constitution makes clear that Chernomyrdin should take on these responsibilities if the president cannot carry them out on his own. An additional problem is that there is no law regulating the actions of the Security Council and its secretary, although the constitution requires one. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN BEGINS VACATION. President Boris Yeltsin began his vacation on 26 August in his suburban residence Rus, about 50 miles northeast of Moscow, NTV reported. The report included no further details about the length of the president's holiday or if he would visit any other sites. The president is not planning any meetings, his press service announced. Yeltsin's wife Naina had a kidney operation on 24 August and is recovering well in the hospital, AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung FOREIGN MINISTRY BLASTS LATVIAN PARLIAMENT VOTE. The Foreign Ministry released a statement denouncing the 22 August Latvian parliament declaration that the USSR's incorporation of Latvia amounted to an "occupation," ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest , 26 August 1996). The Russian side called the declaration "unprecedented in its cynicism" and said that it provided a legal framework for expelling ethnic Russians from Latvia. One consequence of the vote is that Latvian Prime Minister Andres Skele will not visit Moscow in the first half of September as had been planned, Kommersant-Daily reported on 27 August. -- Robert Orttung BORDER GUARDS FIRE ON JAPANESE FISHING BOATS. Russian maritime border troops over the weekend fired warning shots to stop three Japanese fishing boats from entering Russian territorial waters near the disputed Kuril islands, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. The agency said that the Pacific Border District headquarters noted that this was the eighth attempt in August by Japanese "poachers" to intrude into Russian waters. Several other such incidents took place earlier in the summer. -- Doug Clarke FIRST REGIONAL ELECTIONS MARKED BY LOW TURNOUT. Only 29% of the electorate turned out to vote in the 25 August elections to the regional legislature in Kaluga Oblast, Radio Rossii reported the next day. Due to the low turnout, the election results are valid in less than half of the electoral districts. The Agrarian Party of Russia won 6 of the 40 seats in the legislature; another four were won by a regional association of physicians. All candidates from the Liberal Democratic Party and the Communist Party lost. Valerii Sudarenkov, who has chaired the legislature since April 1990, was defeated by local hospital surgeon Yurii Volkov. -- Anna Paretskaya PRIMORSKII KRAI LEGISLATURE PROTESTS "BIASED" TV COVERAGE. Deputies in the Primorskii Krai Duma requested that Russian Public TV (ORT) recall two of its Far East correspondents, whom they accused of biased reporting on the socioeconomic and political situation in Primore, ORT reported on 24 August. An ORT news anchor suggested that the deputies "reconsider their attitude to our colleagues." Financial and energy crises in Primore in recent weeks have attracted the attention of both federal officials and the Moscow-based media, who have generally pinned the blame on the regional authorities. Primorskii Krai leaders are accustomed to consistently favorable coverage in the local print and electronic media, which are under the tight control of Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. -- Laura Belin NUCLEAR, MEDICAL WORKERS RESUME PROTESTS. Workers at the Leningrad nuclear power plant (LAES) resumed protest actions on 26 August, ITAR- TASS reported. After finishing their shift, LAES employees refused to leave the plant's building and gathered in a conference hall to demand full payments of wage arrears which total about 30 billion rubles (over $5.5 million). Earlier this month, the LAES workers and Atomic Energy Ministry worked out a schedule for payment of overdue wages; however, the ministry broke the agreement. The same day, over 1,000 medical workers went on indefinite strike in Kyzyl, the capital of the Siberian republic of Tyva, ITAR-TASS reported. They are demanding payment of more that 90 billion rubles of overdue wages and an increase in state support for their sector. Patients will only be given emergency treatment while the strike continues. -- Anna Paretskaya STABBED OLYMPIC CHAMPION RECOVERING, SUSPECT ARRESTED. Double Olympic swimming champion Aleksandr Popov is in "fairly serious" condition in the Moscow hospital where he is recovering from stab wounds to the stomach, lungs and kidney, but a doctor said that he is "conscious and smiling," ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 26 August. It was too early to tell whether the injury would affect his swimming career permanently. Popov was stabbed during a fight that broke out between his friends and a watermelon vendor on 24 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 August 1996). Police sources said an Azerbaijani man in his early twenties had been arrested as a suspect in the case. -- Laura Belin SHAFRANIK ELECTED HEAD OF OIL COMPANY. Former Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors of Tyumenskaya Neftyanaya Kompaniya (TNK), ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 26-27 August. The company was set up at the initiative of the Tyumen Oblast's local authorities to develop oil and gas reserves in western Siberia. Shafranik succeeds Viktor Palii, head of the TNK's core firm Nizhnevartovskneftegaz (NVNG). Possible reasons for Palii's removal include his inability to improve the financial situation at NVNG and his conflicts with the Tyumen Oblast's local administration. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has announced that Shafranik will also be appointed his advisor. -- Natalia Gurushina NEW MEASURE TO IMPROVE TAX COLLECTION. The government intends to adopt a decree imposing tax and audit inspections on the largest debtors to the federal budget, Segodnya reported on 24 August. This measure is envisaged in the government's agreement with the IMF. The State Tax Agency has already prepared a list of such debtors in which companies are split into three groups according to the size of their debt -- 20 billion rubles ($3.8 million at the current exchange rate) to 50 billion rubles, 50 billion to 100 billion, and over 100 billion. The largest debtors are fuel, energy and transport companies. Many are located either in regions extracting mineral resources, or in regions with powerful local authorities, such as Moscow, and the Nizhnii Novgorod, Samara and Sverdlovsk Oblasts. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN GETS UNDERWAY. Campaigning for the 22 September Armenian presidential election got underway on 23 August, Western agencies reported. While hitherto observers have unanimously predicted that incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan will be reelected, a recent poll of 1,000 residents of Yerevan revealed that 23.9% of respondents intended to vote for former Prime Minister and chairman of the National Democratic Union Vazgen Manukyan, 16.5% for Ter-Petrossyan and 8.2% for Communist Party leader Sergei Badalyan, according to Noyan Tapan on 26 August. Seven candidates are contesting the election. -- Liz Fuller TWO IRANIANS SHOT DEAD IN YEREVAN. Armenian police are investigating the shooting deaths in Yerevan's central Republic Square on 24 August of two Iranian businessmen, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. The killer, a young man in combat fatigues, escaped by car. Armenian-Iranian relations deteriorated last year after the murder of an Iranian lorry driver in southern Armenia. -- Liz Fuller CONGRESS OF UZBEK PATRIOTIC SOCIETY. The first congress of the Vatanparvar [patriot] organization was held in Tashkent on 23 August, Uzbek Television (first channel) reported the same day. According to the BBC-monitored report, the organization is the successor to the Voluntary Society for Cooperation with the Army, Air Force and Navy (DOSAAF). The organization's principal mission, to train youth for service in the armed forces, remains unchanged. A report read at the congress noted the organization lacked a clear understanding of its task now that Uzbekistan is independent. -- Lowell Bezanis ATTACK REPORTED 100 KM FROM DUSHANBE. A convoy of Tajik government soldiers was ambushed on the road leading to the Tavil-Dara area on 24 August, ITAR-TASS reported. One soldier was killed and four wounded when elements of the Tajik opposition opened fire on the convoy near the town of Chorsada, 100 kilometers northeast of the capital Dushanbe. The Russian newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda speculated in its 23 August issue that the opposition is attempting to gain control over the mountainous regions of Tajikistan and split the country. Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, the opposition's Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan dismissed an offer last week by Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov to include members of the opposition in the government. "Such statements by the leaders of the regime are made on the advice of Moscow," the radio said. -- Bruce Pannier NAZARBAYEV AND KAZAKSTAN'S FUTURE. In an interview on Kazak TV on 21 August monitored by the BBC, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said he would like to see more ethnic Kazaks return to Kazakstan and called upon the government and the people to help "to return our brothers living abroad." He said some 200,000 people had returned to Kazakstan in the last 2 to 3 years. The issue of resettlement of Kazaks was being discussed with Mongolia and Karakalpakistan and the Kazakstani president said he had also broached the question with Chinese President Jiang Zemin during the latter's visit to Almaty in July. -- 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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