|If you wish to live wisely, ignore sayings--including this one. - Heywood Broun|
No. 171, Part I, 4 September 1996
*********************************************************************** Available soon -- The OMRI Annual Survey of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union -- "1995: Building Democracy." Published by M.E. Sharpe Inc., this 336-page yearbook provides a systematic and comprehensive review of the most pivotal events in the 27 countries of the former Communist bloc and former Soviet Union during 1995. Available to OMRI subscribers at a special price of $25 each (plus postage and handling). To order, please email your request to: email@example.com *********************************************************************** 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 YELTSIN SUPPORT FOR LEBED PLAN UNCLEAR. President Boris Yeltsin has not publicly announced his opinion on Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's peace plan for Chechnya while his subordinates are giving conflicting accounts of his views. During his trip to the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkariya on 3 September, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced that Yeltsin supported the plan, ITAR-TASS reported. Chernomyrdin had said earlier that he supported the agreement as well. However, Lebed himself said that Yeltsin had been silent about the idea of deferring the question of Chechen independence for five years but that "silence meant approval," Izvestiya reported on 4 September. Lebed said that he is in constant touch with the president through notes or by telephone but added that "open support from the president would not hurt." -- Robert Orttung LEBED: 80,000 DEAD IN CHECHNYA, CURRENT PLAN IS SIMILAR TO BREST- LITOVSK. Security Council Secretary Lebed on 3 September said that 80,000 people, plus or minus 10,000, had been killed in Chechnya, NTV reported. He compared his deal with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov to the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty in which the Bolsheviks gave up considerable land to win peace from the Central Powers in 1918. Despite this comparison, however, Lebed said the integrity of Russia should be maintained, noting that his plan leaves five years to work out the "nuances" of the issue. Lebed avoided discussing the issue of how to disarm the separatist fighters and reconstruct the republic. He rejected speculation in the Russian media that the plan is part of his bid for the presidency, although he claimed that he and Chernomyrdin would play the main role in the peace process. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN ADMITS MISTAKES IN CHECHNYA. Speaking in Kabardino- Balkariya, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin admitted for the first time that Moscow had made mistakes in Chechnya, NTV reported on 3 September. He said that "we must speak of our shame for everything that has happened." Chernomyrdin supported the idea of a referendum, saying that the Chechen people could decide themselves whether they should be independent in five years. He noted that the Chechen separatists are not the only opponents of the government's peace plan but refused to name anyone. -- Robert Orttung ZYUGANOV CRITICIZES LEBED ACCORDS . . . Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has denounced the Lebed-Maskhadov peace agreement as unconstitutional and a threat to Russia's territorial integrity, Russian media reported on 3 September. At the same time, Zyuganov inexplicably said the Communists "welcomed" a peaceful resolution of the crisis. He also called on the parliament's upper house, the Federation Council, to hold a special debate on Lebed's authority on the Chechen issue, Radio Rossii reported. Zyuganov is not a member of the largely pro-government Federation Council, but his party and left-wing allies have a working majority in the lower house, the State Duma. The Duma seems unlikely to convene a special session to discuss Chechnya, and a Duma spokesman told ITAR-TASS that the deputies are not drafting an official statement on the Lebed-Maskhadov agreement. -- Laura Belin . . . AS DO "PATRIOTS." Also on 3 September, Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, leader of the nationalist Russian Public Union, hosted a press conference of politicians on the "patriotic" wing of the Russian spectrum to denounce the Lebed- Maskhadov agreement, Kommersant-Daily reported the next day. Baburin warned that the document threatened the Russian constitution by making its provisions "arguable." Chechen rebels, he added, would soon force Chechnya's total separation from Russia, increase their numbers and launch an attack deep into Russian territory. In addition, Baburin claimed that the shattered Chechen economy would become a "black hole" through which criminals will pump oil, narcotics, and ill-gotten capital. Doku Zavgaev, the pro-Moscow Chechen head of state, attended the press conference and said he agreed with Baburin's every word. -- Laura Belin MORE REACTION TO U.S. MISSILE ATTACKS AGAINST IRAQ. An official Russian government statement called the U.S. cruise missile attacks against Iraq an "inappropriate and unacceptable reaction" to recent events and called for halting military operations that threaten Iraq's "sovereignty and territorial integrity," Russian and Western agencies reported on 3 September. Speaking from Switzerland, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov linked the strikes to U.S. President Bill Clinton's re-election campaign, an interpretation shared by Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin, along with Izvestiya and the official newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta in their 4 September editions. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the Russians were "not surprised" by the strikes, and the U.S. embassy in Moscow said Washington is carrying out "intensive consultations" with the Russian government on the matter. -- Laura Belin CASE OF MURDERED JUDGE HIGHLIGHTS UNDERFUNDING OF JUDICIARY. A Moscow street vendor stabbed to death a judge at the Ostankino municipal court in Moscow after he was fined just 37,950 rubles ($7) for trading illegally, Kommersant-Daily reported on 31 August. On 30 August, the day after Judge Olga Lavrenteva had ordered that vendor Valerii Ivankov's goods be confiscated, the latter returned to the court building and stabbed Lavrenteva repeatedly. Court personnel, many of whom are women, are routinely threatened, and security is minimal owing to a lack of funding. They were dealt another blow by President Yeltsin's 18 August austerity decree, which among other provisions suspends implementation of a law on social protection for judges and court officials in an attempt to reduce the budget deficit. -- Penny Morvant PAYMENTS CRISIS PROVOKES MORE LABOR DISPUTES, POWER CUTS. About 70 workers at the troubled Primorskii power plant at Luchegorsk began a new hunger strike on 3 September to protest the Russian energy company's failure to adhere to the promised timetable for repaying wage arrears, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September. Following an 11-day hunger strike a month ago, workers were promised that arrears for May and June would be paid by 30 August. Also in Primore, continuing shortages of fuel oil because of the power plants' inability to pay suppliers are leading to new electricity cuts to consumers. ITAR-TASS reported that beginning on 2 September some areas were suffering cuts of up to 16 hours a day. Meanwhile, 500 building workers at the Severomuisk tunnel on the Trans- Siberian railway are continuing a 17-day strike to protest arrears totaling 14 billion rubles ($2.6 million). Only 695 meters of the 15 km tunnel remains to be built. -- Penny Morvant BANK CRISIS "IMPOSSIBLE." Petr Aven, president of Alfa Bank, told a seminar at the Carnegie Endowment on 3 September that a bank crisis of the sort experienced in August 1995 "cannot now happen." Banks are no longer heavily dependent on inter-bank overnight loans. Mikhail Dmitriev, from the Carnegie Endowment, said bad loans to clients are not likely to trigger a crisis either, since they amount to only 1% of total assets. This is partly because bank lending to clients is still very low. Dmitriev stressed that bank balance sheets are extremely unreliable and do not reflect their real asset structure. The main reason why a sudden crash of the banking system is unlikely is that the banking system per se is weakly developed. Most banks still depend on state business--and the state has made it clear that it will bail out the larger banks. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow TOP 200 RUSSIAN COMPANIES. Ekspert on 2 September carried a rating of the top 200 companies in Russia. The Unified Energy System topped the list, with sales of $36.5 billion in 1995 and pre-tax profits of $4.3 billion. Gazprom was next, with $27 billion sales and $3.2 billion profits. If these companies were included on the list of top U.S. firms, they would rank 15th and 25th respectively. The remaining companies in the top 20 were all raw material producers (oil, metal, and diamonds), except for two car producers--AvtoVAZ and GAZ. The top 20 firms alone account for 56% of Russia's industrial production and employ 3.4 million of its 17 million industrial workers. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow NEW CHAIRMAN OF VNESHEKONOMBANK APPOINTED. The Observation Council of Vneshekonombank has dismissed the bank's chairman, Yurii Poletaev, and appointed Russia's executive director of the IMF, Dmitrii Tulin, to replace him, Kommersant-Daily and Finansovye izvestiya reported on 3 September. Observation Council head Sergei Dubinin, who is also the chairman of the Central Bank, said Poletaev was dismissed because "new tasks require new people." Tulin, with a background in security and currency operations, is well suited to oversee the bank's new policy priorities, such as the development of depository operations and trade in precious metals. However, Poletaev's dismissal may be related to the scandal surrounding the theft of Finance Ministry currency bonds deposited in Vneshekonombank. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ELECTIONS SCHEDULED IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH . . . At a session marking the fifth anniversary of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh's (RNK) unilateral declaration of independence from Azerbaijan, the RNK parliament voted to hold a presidential election on 24 November 1996, according to a 30 August Armenian Radio report monitored by the BBC. The current RNK president, Robert Kocharyan, was elected in 1994; his term expires in December 1996. Under the terms of the Law on Presidential Elections passed by the RNK parliament in May 1996, the new president will be elected for five years; presidential candidates must collect a minimum of 1,500 signatures in their support from residents of at least four of the six raions of the RNK. -- Liz Fuller . . . AND ABKHAZIA. The president of Abkhazia, Vladislav Ardzinba, has scheduled a parliamentary election for 23 November 1996, according to a 31 August Republic of Abkhazia Radio report monitored by the BBC. The existing Abkhaz parliament, elected in early 1992, split during the civil war of 1992-1993; the Georgian deputies fled to Tbilisi where they set up an exile parliament. -- Liz Fuller PEACEFUL SOLUTION FOR KARABAKH SOON? Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Guluzade believes that a peaceful solution can be found to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem following a meeting in Frankfurt with his Armenian counterpart, Jirair Liparitian, Turan reported on 30 August. Guluzade said that Armenian authorities are eager to resolve the conflict due to economic difficulties in their country and because they have realized that Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be annexed and that no country will recognize the enclave's independence. In Ankara, Liparitian said that a new draft agreement proposed by the Armenian side should satisfy Azerbaijan. -- Elin Suleymanov ARMENIAN PRESIDENT UNVEILS PRE-ELECTION PLATFORM. Levon Ter-Petrossyan has unveiled his election platform for Armenia's 22 September presidential vote, Noyan Tapan reported on 3 September. The president's priorities include the further development of democratic institutions, a continuation of the fight against crime and corruption in government and law enforcement agencies, and a strengthening of the army and intelligence services. He also pledged to continue free-market reforms while improving living conditions through the permanent growth of wages and the creation of a system of social security. He said a balanced foreign policy will be directed at increasing cooperation with Russia, Georgia, and Iran and at looking for ways to settle problems with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Ter-Petrossyan said he will seek a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and would like to improve relations with Armenia's diaspora. -- Elin Suleymanov GEORGIA REITERATES CLAIM TO PART OF BLACK SEA FLEET. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili on 3 September said that during his recent visit to Kyiv he presented the Ukrainian leadership with an official Georgian claim on part of the Black Sea Fleet, and that a similar claim had been passed to the Russian government by Georgia's ambassador in Moscow, Vazha Lordkipanidze, ITAR-TASS reported. In 1992, Georgia was allocated the naval port infrastructure at Poti and Ochamchire (in Abkhazia) plus a number of coastal patrol boats and minesweepers; it is now demanding an unspecified number of additional vessels to protect its naval borders. At a press conference in Tbilisi on 21 August, Ukraine's ambassador to Georgia, Anatolii Kosyanenko, said he saw no obstacles to Ukraine and Georgia reaching agreement on this issue, BGI reported. -- Liz Fuller EU PLEDGES TO HELP CENTRAL ASIAN STATES. The EU has pledged to help Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan secure membership in the World Trade Organization and to provide these countries with additional financial and expert assistance, according to Russian and Kazakstani media. According to a 1 September ITAR-TASS report monitored by the BBC, the EU will provide Kyrgyzstan with an estimated $30 million up to the year 2000 under the TACIS technical aid program, $15 million in humanitarian aid, and $600,000 to buy medical supplies. Details on the EU aid pledged to Kazakstan and Uzbekistan were not publicized. Kyrgyz and Kazakstani officials discussed the aid with visiting EU external affairs commissioner, Hans van den Broek, earlier this week. -- 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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