|To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. - Gelett Burgess|
No. 170, Part I, 3 September 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, GULDIMANN SIGN AGREEMENT ENDING WAR IN CHECHNYA . . . Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, and OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann on 31 August signed a three-page agreement on ending the war in Chechnya after eight hours of talks in Khasavyurt, Dagestan, Western agencies reported. They also agreed on the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya and postponing any decision on Chechnya's independence until 31 December 2001. The agreement failed to define how Chechnya's future status would be decided, or who would govern the region until then, AFP reported. A joint commission will be created by 1 October to monitor the Russian troop withdrawal and coordinate measures to prevent criminal and terrorist activities, according to AFP. -- Liz Fuller . . . BUT WILL THE BLOODSHED REALLY STOP? The last remaining Russian troops withdrew from Grozny on 31 August, AFP reported. On 2 September, however, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov told NTV that only the federal forces that had been temporarily deployed in Chechnya will be withdrawn, while some units of the North Caucasus Military District will be permanently stationed in Chechnya. The commander of Russian Interior Ministry forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Anatolii Shkirko, told Russian TV (RTR) on 2 September that he has not seen the Lebed-Maskhadov peace agreement, and very much doubts that it marks a definitive end to the war. Shkirko also claimed that not all Chechen forces had withdrawn from Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported. A spokesman for pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, described the agreement as "a large-scale provocation." -- Liz Fuller KREMLIN REVEALS LITTLE ON YELTSIN'S HEALTH. President Boris Yeltsin has just completed a full physical examination and finished a "course of preventive procedures," ITAR-TASS reported on 2 September, citing a source in the Kremlin who did not provide any further details. Yeltsin feels good, the source claimed, and will continue resting without seeing any visitors. Meanwhile, Russia has asked South African President Nelson Mandela to postpone his planned 18-22 September visit indefinitely without giving any reason. Mandela postponed a visit in late 1995 when the fighting in Chechnya intensified. A 7 September meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has not been canceled. -- Robert Orttung LEADERSHIP DIVIDED OVER LEBED'S PEACE. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 2 September to discuss the agreement on political principles that he signed with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov on 30 August, Russian media reported. Chernomyrdin subsequently met with President Yeltsin at his vacation home in Zavidovo 100 km outside Moscow. Lebed told NTV on 2 September that he was unable to reach Yeltsin by telephone. As of 2 September, Yeltsin had not made public his attitude toward the peace plan. After an initially cool response to the plan, Chernomyrdin came out in support of it. Defense Minister Rodionov also came out in support of the plan, NTV reported on 2 September. Yeltsin's chief of staff, Anatolii Chubais, said he is concerned that the peace may have been bought at too high a price, ORT reported. Chubais said that "the unity of Russia" cannot be violated "under any circumstances, at any price." -- Peter Rutland in Moscow LEADING OPPOSITION MOVEMENT CRITICIZES LEBED ON CHECHNYA. Security Council Secretary Lebed's negotiations with Chechen rebels "pose a direct threat to the national security, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of the Russian Federation," according to a statement released by the leadership of Gennadii Zyuganov's Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia. The statement, published in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 31 August, also attacked President Yeltsin's previous policy on Chechnya. Instead, it proposed establishing peace, law, and order in Chechnya "within the framework of the existing constitution," and then granting Chechnya special status within the Russian Federation. It did not specify how these tasks were to be accomplished; repeated military efforts to disarm Chechen rebels have failed. Some political parties otherwise opposed to the government, including Yabloko, have supported Lebed's efforts in Chechnya. Surprisingly, in recent weeks no opposition parties have called for a special session of parliament to discuss the Chechen crisis. -- Laura Belin SARATOV GOVERNOR DEFEATS COMMUNIST CHALLENGER. Dmitrii Ayatskov won 80% of the vote in the Saratov gubernatorial election on 1 September, convincingly defeating the Communist Party candidate, businessman Anatolii Gordeev, who won 16%, NTV reported on 2 September. Ayatskov, a 45-year-old agronomist, was appointed to his post by President Yeltsin in April 1996. He campaigned as a non-partisan economic professional who, in the style of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, is able to manage his region effectively. Ayatskov supported Yeltsin in the recent presidential election. Since his appointment, Ayatskov has fired the majority of the region's district administrators, and directly intervened in farm and factory management to ensure that the harvest was brought in and wages were paid. Speaking on NTV, Ayatskov said he won 85% of the rural vote and 77% of the urban vote. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow NTV LAUNCHES FIRST SATELLITE CHANNEL. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin took part in the opening of the first of five planned "NTV-plus" satellite channels in Nizhnii Novgorod, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 September. The channel, which will be available in most of European Russia, will show four Russian films every night beginning at 6:30 p.m. By the end of the year, NTV will launch additional satellite channels for foreign-made films, sports, news, and music, Kommersant-Daily reported on 31 August. Individual subscribers will have to pay $145 for the equipment to receive the special channels and then $10 per month for the transmissions. The capital needed to launch these channels was raised in June, when the gas monopoly Gazprom bought a 30% share in NTV (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 June 1996). -- Laura Belin RUSSIAN REACTION TO U.S. PUNITIVE STRIKE AGAINST IRAQ. Moscow has voiced "mounting concern" over the situation in Iraq following a U.S. cruise missile attack on military targets in and around Baghdad as well as in southern Iraq, AFP reported on 3 August. The agency, citing an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry official, said the attack could lead to "an uncontrollable situation," adding that "everything now depends on what the Americans do next." The day before, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it supports a negotiated settlement between Baghdad and the Kurds "based on ensuring the right of the Kurds to autonomy within a united state." -- Lowell Bezanis RUSSIAN ENVIRONMENTALIST DECLARED PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE. Amnesty International has designated Aleksandr Nikitin, a retired navy officer being held in prison for revealing Russian state secrets, a prisoner of conscience, Russian and Western media reported on 30 August. Nikitin was arrested in February while collecting information on the nuclear security of the Russian Northern Fleet for a report by the Norwegian environmental group Bellona. Nikitin, who has yet to be put on trial, says the information he was gathering was openly available. He could face the death penalty if convicted of treason. -- Anna Paretskaya COMMERCIAL CENTERS TO CLOSE. The Foreign Economic Relations Ministry has decided to close down 35 of its commercial centers in foreign capitals, Izvestiya reported on 31 August. That would bring the number of existing centers to 47, down from 130 five years ago. The move will save $20 million in annual operating costs and free up $500 million worth of property, but 500 staff will be fired or relocated. Eventually, commercial centers will only be kept in the "big seven" industrial powers, and in China, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, and Libya. Commercial functions will be taken over by the regular embassy. This step is part of a general campaign to strengthen the coordinating role of the Foreign Ministry. In other news, Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov announced that his ministry has taken over the functions of the Russian State Committee on Military-Technical Policy, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 August. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow and Doug Clarke PROBLEMS AT AVIASTAR. Several thousand employees of Aviastar, Russia's largest commercial aircraft producer, blocked streets in Ulyanovsk on 2 September to protest wage arrears and the lack of work, NTV reported. Aviastar has not paid its employees since April and the company put its workforce on administrative leave at the end of August. The plant, which makes the Tupolev 204 and the Antonov 124 military transport plane, is in a financial crisis. Demand for the An-124 has fallen sharply, and the plant lacks the necessary capital to increase the production of Tu-204s. The oblast's governor has appealed to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin for help, and workers are preparing to send a petition to President Yeltsin. In mid-September, the government is due to announce its decision on providing financial guarantees for a deal involving the sale of 30 Tu- 204s to an Egyptian firm, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August. -- Penny Morvant PENSION ARREARS RISE AGAIN. Despite President Yeltsin's pre-election efforts to clear the backlog in pensions, pension arrears rose from 3 trillion rubles on 1 June to 7.3 trillion rubles ($1.4 billion) on 1 August, according to the head of the Pension Fund, Vasilii Barchuk, writing in Izvestiya on 31 August. In most regions of Russia pensions are being paid with a 2-4 week delay. The Pension Fund in turn is owed 8 trillion rubles from the federal budget. The minimum pension for the second half of 1996 has been set at 220,000 rubles and the average pension will be 374,000 rubles ($70), compared with the current average wage of 790,000 rubles. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow INFLATION HITS ZERO. The State Statistical Committee has announced that the rate of inflation in August was close to zero, the lowest level since the beginning of economic reform, AFP reported on 3 September. In the last two weeks of August, Russia recorded the first incidence of deflation as consumer price inflation fell by 0.1% and 0.2%, respectively. This latest achievement should make it possible for the government to keep the annual inflation rate below 30%, down from 131% in 1995. At the same time, there is growing concern that the government is focusing too intensely on monetary stabilization and neglecting other areas of the economy. -- Natalia Gurushina IMF REVISES 1996 BUDGET DEFICIT FIGURE. After a review of Russia's economic performance last month, the IMF agreed to move up its target figure for Russia's 1996 budget deficit from 4% to 5.25%, Reuters reported on 29 August. The step is a reaction to the need to make an adjustment to the repayment of outstanding state short-term securities (T-bills) issued on the eve of the presidential election, when yields were soaring to as high as 155% annually. The IMF has delayed the disbursement of July's tranche of the $10.1 billion extended facility fund for one month, citing poor tax collection practices. The tranche was released in August after the Russian government adopted a package of 30 measures designed to boost revenue collection. Despite the IMF's decision to loosen the budget deficit target, the fund's conditions on Russia's revenue collection remain unchanged. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA IRREDENTIST CAMPAIGN AMONG AZERIS IN IRAN. Tens of thousands of ethnic Azeris in Iran have signed a petition calling on their deputies in the Iranian parliament to introduce legislation demanding the "return" to Iran of 17 cities in the Caucasus, including Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, AFP reported on 31 August, quoting the Iranian daily newspaper Abrar. The petition calls on the leadership of Azerbaijan to "be courageous and recognize historical facts" and accede to these demands. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER PROPOSES REPLACING OSSETIAN PEACEKEEPERS. Meeting in Tbilisi with the deputy head of the OSCE mission in Georgia, Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze proposed disbanding the joint Georgian-Russian-Osetian peacekeeping force deployed in Tskhinvali since 1992 and replacing it with a group of Russian and Georgian military observers, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August. -- Liz Fuller MORE SACKINGS IN TURKMENISTAN. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov has sacked Supreme Court Chairman Amanmurad Kakabayev and Deputy Interior Minister Amangeldy Geldykurbanov, Reuters reported on 29 August. The two were dismissed for "failing in his responsibilities" and "serious shortcomings," repectively, according to the agency. A 28 August Turkmen Radio report monitored by the BBC reported that Geldykurbanov, who was also the head of Turkmenistan's Higher Militia School, was demoted and expelled from all Interior Ministry bodies. He was replaced at the school by Gurbanmukhammet Kasymov. No replacement for Kakabayev has been announced. Niyazov deplored "an epidemic of corruption which has touched all levels in the justice authorities," Reuters reported, citing Neitralny Turkmenistan. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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