|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
No. 168, Part I, 29 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 RUSSIAN, CHECHEN FORCES PULL OUT OF GROZNY. The demilitarization of Chechnya got underway in earnest on 28 August, with 2,000 Chechen fighters and 3,900 Russian army and Interior Ministry troops withdrawing from Grozny and a further 4,200 Russian troops from southern Chechnya, Reuters and AFP reported. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov ordered his men to locate and return to the Russian federal command a truckload of 40 Grad missiles hijacked near the village of Vedeno on 27 August, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 28 August, meeting in the village of Noviye Atagi, Maskhadov and the commander of the Russian federal forces, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, reached agreement on the unconditional release by both sides of all detained persons, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Liz Fuller IS A NEW POWER STRUGGLE IN THE MAKING? Tikhomirov expressed concern, however, over what he termed attempts by the Chechen opposition to establish alternative organs of executive power in various regions, including Grozny, where a nephew of deceased President Dzhokhar Dudaev has reportedly been installed as city mayor, according to Reuters and ITAR-TASS. Aleksandr Barkhatov, spokesman for Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, similarly told ITAR-TASS on 28 August that the agreement between Lebed and Maskhadov excludes the creation of parallel organs of power in Grozny. Speaking in Moscow, a spokesman for pro-Moscow head of state Doku Zavgaev fueled the latter's argument that the Russian troop withdrawal from Chechnya will lead to civil war by claiming that 2,000 of Zavgaev's supporters are preparing for armed resistance, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller LEBED WAITING FOR YELTSIN REACTION TO CHECHNYA PLAN. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed is waiting for President Boris Yeltsin's approval so that he can return to Chechnya at the end of the week to continue his talks with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov. Lebed spokesman Aleksandr Barkhatov indicated Lebed's impatience by noting that "a dangerous situation is emerging, when military accords are being made, but the cor-responding political basis for their successful implementation is lacking," ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. Yeltsin is studying Lebed's peace proposals, but currently has no plans to meet with him, according to presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii. The media have expressed growing concern that Yeltsin's failure to meet with Lebed is hindering the peace process. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl spoke with Yeltsin by phone on 28 August and arranged to visit him at his vacation home on 7 September. -- Robert Orttung KREMLIN INFIGHTING HINDERS YELTSIN DECISION. The uncertain balance of forces in the Kremlin and attempts to remove Lebed from power are the main reasons Yeltsin has not responded to Lebed's plan, Izvestiya reported on 29 August. Pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev's charge that Yeltsin shares his hatred of Lebed has not been denied by the presidential press service, the paper noted. If Lebed is able to end the war he will clearly be the favorite in the next presidential election, making Kremlin insiders nervous. If he fails, he will lose much of his credibility with voters. Of Lebed's main competitors for Kremlin influence, no one has stepped into open confrontation with him. Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, now on vacation, recommended that Yeltsin sign the decree giving Lebed wide powers, while Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has cautiously praised his efforts, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: DISINFORMATION CIRCULATED TO MEDIA. "Certain political forces" in Moscow who oppose Lebed's peace plan for Chechnya are circulating false statements to the media in the name of the Security Council's press service, according to council spokesman Aleksandr Barkhatov. By way of example, he characterized as "distorted" reports about why a planned meeting between Lebed and President Yeltsin has been delayed, Kommersant-Daily reported on 29 August. Barkhatov said those behind the false reports were trying to "drive a wedge" between Lebed and the country's top leadership. -- Laura Belin TROOPS CHARGED AFTER ABANDONING GROZNY BUILDING. Criminal proceedings have been launched against a unit of Interior Troops which abandoned the guarding of an important military center in Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. Military sources were quoted as saying the building, site of the Chief Directorate of Allied Staffs, containing 20 billion rubles- worth of equipment including computers, mobile and satellite communications, and "a huge store of munitions." They said that the building was a "real fortress" which could not have been seized by the rebels. -- Doug Clarke POLL SHOWS ONE-THIRD OF YELTSIN VOTERS INDIFFERENT TO HIS VICTORY. According to a recent survey by the Public Opinion Foundation, 32% of those who voted for Boris Yeltsin in the presidential election described themselves as "indifferent" to his victory, while 67% were pleased and 1% were unhappy with the election result, Kommersant-Daily reported on 29 August. The poll indicates that many Russians voted for Yeltsin solely not to allow a Communist back into power, and could also reflect discontent with broken campaign promises, such as the pledge to end the fighting in Chechnya. On the other side of the divide, 25% of those who voted for Gennadii Zyuganov said they were indifferent to his loss, while 73% were unhappy and 2% were pleased with the election result. Among all respondents, 35% expected their lives to improve after the election and roughly the same number expected no change. -- Laura Belin DAGESTANIS CALL FOR GOVERNMENT RESIGNATION. Leaders of the Public Headquarters, a civic organization set up to investigate the Dagestani finance minister's murder, have called on the republican government to resign, Kommersant-Daily reported on 29 August. They claimed that the government condones criminals and demanded that all of the more than 20 terrorist acts carried out in recent years be investigated. The Headquarters' leadership announced that signatures are being collected to convene an emergency session of the republican legislature to consider a vote of no-confidence in the government. Finance Minister Gamid Gamidov was killed on 20 August when a bomb exploded in front of the government building. The Headquarters' leaders suggested that Gamidov was murdered because he was investigating embezzlement of public funds in the republic. -- Anna Paretskaya GREENPEACE PROTEST AT LAKE BAIKAL. Activists of the international environmental organization Greenpeace climbed two 80-meter high chimneys at the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill to fly banners declaring "Stop" and "Save Lake Baikal," Russian and Western media reported on 28 August. The environmentalists are demanding that the mill stop processing cellulose and pay its large pollution fines. The mill, built 30 years ago, produces 440 tons of cellulose a day and dumps 210,000 cubic meters of waste water into the world's biggest and deepest lake. The mill failed to comply with a government order to redirect its activity by the end of 1995 since, as its management claims, the mill provides employment for the majority of the population of the city of Baikalsk. Earlier this year, U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin discussed protecting the lake from industrial pollution. -- Anna Paretskaya HUMAN ERROR RESPONSIBLE FOR KAMCHATKA PLANE CRASH. An investigation has concluded that mistakes made both by pilots and air traffic controllers caused a Krasnoyarsk Airline plane to crash in Kamchatka on 5 April, killing 19 people. Incorrect coordinates entered into the plane's computer caused it to veer off course, so that the pilots began their descent too early, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. In addition, the pilots, who were not experienced in flying over mountainous Kamchatka, ignored three warning signals that they had descended below a safe altitude. ORT noted that plane crashes in Russia caused 245 deaths in 1995 and 68 deaths during the first half of 1996. -- Laura Belin LAES WORKERS SUSPEND PROTESTS. Workers at the Leningrad nuclear power plant (LAES) have suspended protests over wage arrears after the Atomic Energy Ministry allotted 10 billion rubles (about $2 million) for the plant, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. LAES workers started the protest on 26 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 August 1996). According to the agreement between the Atomic Energy Ministry and plant employees, the ministry has to earmark a further 5 billion rubles to finish paying off workers' four-month wage arrears. LAES trade union leader Aleksandr Barantsov said that the protests will be suspended until 3 September, when employees will consider an anti-crisis plan drawn up by the LAES administration and decide on further action. -- Anna Paretskaya NEW BOOK ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. A collection of articles on the hitherto taboo topic of domestic violence and rape was launched at a press conference in Moscow on 28 August. The book, "Who Defends Women," was compiled by members of the Association of Women Journalists and funded by the group Rule of Law in Russia. Editor Nadezhda Azhgikhina said that it is the first book of its kind. There are some 14,000 rapes registered in Russia each year, but sociologists estimate that more than 9 out of 10 cases of sexual assault go unreported. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow DEBATE ABOUT PRODUCTION-SHARING AGREEMENTS INTENSIFY. A suggestion by Sergei Glazev, deputy secretary of the Security Council in charge of economic affairs, to cut the number of mineral deposits eligible for development on the basis of production-sharing agreements from 250 to 10-15, has intensified debate on this issue. Industry officials and regional authorities argue that production-sharing agreements will stimulate the development of domestic industry (some 70% of equipment and spare parts are expected to be produced locally) and bring additional revenue to local budgets, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 29 August. According to Natural Resources Minister Viktor Orlov, such agreements do not threaten Russia's national interests. Until now, of 10,500 licenses for the development of mineral deposits, only 200 were given to joint ventures and four to foreign firms, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. Still, Orlov noted that there will be further cuts in the list of potential production-sharing projects, and only 10-30 production-sharing licenses will be granted annually. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA DIVERGING VIEWS ON REPATRIATION TO ABKHAZIA. On 28 August Russia's representative to the UN, Sergei Lavrov, reported to the Security Council on last week's tour of Abkhazia by UN, Abkhaz, Georgian and Russian representatives, including Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov, ITAR-TASS reported. Lavrov echoed Pastukhov's positive assessment, given to Georgian and Russian media on 24 August, of the situation in Gali raion, the predominantly Georgian population of which was forced to flee in 1992-93. Pastukhov estimated that over 50% of the ethnic Georgian residents of Gali have returned home; the Abkhaz government puts the figure at 60%, while the Georgian government in Tbilisi claims no more than 33% have returned, according to the Iprinda news agency. Georgian First Deputy Minister of State Security Avtandil Ioseliani told ITAR-TASS that there are no mechanisms either to guarantee the repatriants' safety or to enable them to earn a livelihood. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIA TO EXTEND NEW LOAN TO ARMENIA. Under the terms of an agreement signed last week in Moscow by Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov and Armenia's Minister for Relations with the CIS, Gagik Shahbazyan, Russia will provide Armenia with a 100 billion ruble ($20 million) loan to finance safety procedures at the Medzamor nuclear power station and the purchase of nuclear fuel, according to Noyan Tapan on 27 August and Nezavisimaya gazeta on 28 August. In 1994, Russia provided Armenia with a 60 billion ruble credit towards the cost of restarting the power station, which was closed in 1989. It was successfully reopened a year ago, but maintenance work scheduled for July 1996 was postponed because of lack of funds. -- Liz Fuller WHO CONTROLS WHAT IN TAJIKISTAN? Military sources in Dushanbe claim government troops in central Tajikistan have consolidated and expanded their positions, freeing a stretch of road northwest of the town of Tavil-Dara, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. Government forces retook Tavil-Dara on 23 August but sources in Dushanbe say the town is deserted after three months of fighting in the area. The opposition's Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan reported on 28 August that opposition fighters hold the northern road from Faizabad, 70 kilometers east of Dushanbe, to Jirgatal, 80 kilometers from the Kyrgyz border. The report admitted that opposition fighters held the road only "partially" during the daytime but "completely at night." The report also claimed government forces could only reach the Tavil-Dara area via a southern route through Kulyab and the Karnak Pass. -- Bruce Pannier UZBEK DISSIDENT RETURNS TO TASHKENT. Human rights campaigner Abdulmanop Pulatov returned to Tashkent last week, AFP reported on 28 August. Pulatov, who has been living in Washington, D.C., since 1993, returned following the visit of Uzbek President Islam Karimov to the United States in June. According to Pulatov, Karimov "personally guaranteed" his safety and assured him he could continue his political activities in Uzbekistan. The softening of Karimov's line comes at a time when Uzbekistan is trying to improve relations with the U.S. -- 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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