|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 172, Part I, 5 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 CHECHEN POLITICAL PARTIES DISCUSS PREPARATIONS FOR NEW ELECTIONS. Meeting on 4 September in the village of Noviye Atagi south of Grozny, representatives of various Chechen political parties and OSCE representative Tim Guldimann discussed preparations for a January parliamentary election in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, speaking from Moscow, said that no parallel government may be formed in Chechnya before that election takes place. Many members of Zavgaev's government have already resigned in order to avoid impeding the peace process. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov appealed to the population of Chechnya to refrain from ostentatious demonstrations on 6 September to mark the fifth anniversary of the advent to power of late President Dzhokhar Dudaev. On 3 September, Chechen separatist spokesman Movladi Udugov denied claims by Russian military sources that acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's supporters are planning to hold a military parade in Grozny on 6 September. -- Liz Fuller CHUBAIS CAUTIOUS ON LEBED PEACE PLAN . . . While President Boris Yeltsin has not publicly commented on Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's Chechen peace plan, presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais said that the plan needs serious analysis, NTV reported on 4 September. Chubais praised the current lull in the fighting but said that the plan should be treated with caution. He said that it is neither a capitulation--as Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has charged--nor grounds for calling Lebed a "national hero," Russian TV reported. He noted, however, that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's positive appraisal of the plan was "just." Chubais reiterated his commitment to "preserving the integrity of the Russian state" and stressed that Chechnya is not a country. Chubais implicitly criticized Lebed, who has been dismissive of Doku Zavgaev's pro-Moscow Chechen government, by saying that "we cannot pretend that Zavgaev's government doesn't exist. -- Robert Orttung . . . SAYS MORE INFORMATION FORTHCOMING ON YELTSIN'S HEALTH. Chubais admitted that the lack of information on Yeltsin's health has created conditions for speculation and rumors. He said that the administration would begin to release more information about the president's condition, and hinted that there would be important announcements soon, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. He claimed that Yeltsin would emerge from his vacation "as energetic as [he was] during the campaign," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung NEW BLOC TO BACK LEBED. The "centrist" political bloc "For Truth and Order," will be established on 5 September to support Security Council Secretary Lebed, maintain constitutional order in the country, fight crime and corruption, and ensure the country's economic security, ITAR- TASS reported. Lebed's political allies, the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) and the Democratic Party of Russia (DPR), will join the bloc and their leaders Dmitrii Rogozin and Sergei Glazev will serve as its co-chairmen. Lebed's role in the bloc is unclear, although his Honor and Motherland group will join, Ekho Moskvy reported. Although the KRO did not cross the 5% threshhold in the December State Duma election and the DPR has suffered several splits, "For Truth and Order" intends to participate actively in the local elections scheduled for this autumn. -- Ritsuko Sasaki COMMUNISTS PESSIMISTIC ON CHECHNYA PROSPECTS. . . Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov repeated his call for parliament's upper house, the Federation Council, to convene an emergency session on the Chechnya crisis, saying it should not "remain on the sidelines concerning questions affecting Russian territorial integrity," Russian media reported on 4 September. The State Duma, where deputies sympathetic to Zyuganov enjoy a majority, has not moved to call a special session on the matter. A KPRF statement noted that when fighting first escalated in Chechnya in December 1994, the government said it aimed to restore constitutional order and disarm "bandits." Instead, the Lebed-Maskhadov agreement was "a political and moral defeat," tantamount to handing over Chechen territory to "bandit formations." The KPRF also questioned Lebed's authority to sign the document, ORT reported. -- Laura Belin ...BUT UPBEAT ON GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS. Zyuganov and Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, the number two figure in the KPRF, predicted that left-wing opposition candidates from the Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia would win the 22 September gubernatorial election in Amur Oblast, as well as races in Rostov and Leningrad oblasts set for 29 September, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September. Commenting on the 1 September gubernatorial election in Saratov Oblast, where Communist challenger Anatolii Gordeev gained just 16% of the vote against 82% for the incumbent Dmitrii Ayatskov, Zyuganov praised Ayatskov's professionalism, Kommersant-Daily reported. According to Izvestiya on 5 September, some disappointed KPRF activists blame the Saratov result on the party leadership's "passivity" in recent weeks concerning the Chechen crisis. Zyuganov did not outline his stance on the peace talks until 3 September, days after the Lebed-Maskhadov agreement was signed. -- Laura Belin $2.5 BILLION SPENT ON RENOVATION IN MOSCOW. Moscow Deputy Mayor Aleksandr Muzykantskii has announced that some $2.5 billion is spent on renovations in the city every year, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September. He said the bulk of that money comes from private investors. About 600 buildings in the city have been renovated in recent years and local officials are hoping to have the downtown core completed by next September, when Moscow will celebrate its 850th anniversary. -- Anna Paretskaya PRIMAKOV MEETS KINKEL IN BONN. On his first trip to the West since being appointed in January, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel on 4 September. While neither side changed its stance on NATO expansion, they agreed to hold talks on defining Russia's relationship with the alliance, Reuters reported. Additionally, the two sides will work to strengthen the OSCE at that organization's summit scheduled for December. -- Robert Orttung MORE DENUNCIATIONS OF U.S. ATTACKS AGAINST IRAQ. The Russian government issued a second official statement condemning the U.S. missile strikes against southern Iraq, accusing the U.S. of trying to "replace the Security Council, which under the UN Charter holds the exclusive right to authorize the use of force," Russian and Western agencies reported on 4 September. Presidential Chief of Staff Chubais said President Yeltsin fully concurred with the government statement, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking from Liechtenstein and later from Germany, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov warned that the U.S. missile strikes against southern Iraq were a "dangerous precedent" and could lead to "anarchy in international relations," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov agreed with Primakov's remarks and criticized the U.S. for attempting to be "the world's policeman," while the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee denounced U.S. attempts to "settle the score" with Iraqi leaders. -- Laura Belin CRISIS IN IRAQ SEEN HURTING RUSSIAN ECONOMIC INTERESTS. Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk noted that the U.S. missile strikes against Iraq will significantly damage Russian economic interests, ORT reported on 4 September. He said Iraq owes the Russian government more than $7 billion, which it will not be able to repay until the UN embargo against Iraq is lifted. In addition, the crisis will delay Russian companies' plans to help rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure once normal trade resumed. The press service of the oil giant Lukoil, which stands to gain from such projects, told Kommersant-Daily on 5 September that it fully agrees with government statements condemning the U.S. attacks against Iraq. -- Laura Belin SWEDES ACCUSED OF SPYING. NTV on 4 September showed a videotape of the arrest of a Swedish man, Hans Peter Nordstrem, who met a Russian contact in the Naval Museum in St. Petersburg in February and handed over $2,000 in return for a matrioshka doll containing a microfilm with sensitive defense information. Sergei Gorlenko, a Federal Security Service official, said that as a sign of goodwill, Nordstrem was expelled from the country rather than prosecuted. Gorlenko claimed that the Swedish secret service has been very active, using businessmen to gather information about security issues, particularly connected to the navy. According to Reuters, another Swede, a senior diplomat in Moscow, was also expelled for spying. The Swedish Foreign Ministry has refused to comment. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow and Penny Morvant CONSUMER PRICES FALL FOR FIRST TIME. Consumer prices fell by 0.2% in August in comparison with July, the first drop since economic reforms began, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September citing Goskomstat. Food prices fell by 1.7% while consumer goods prices were up 1.1% and the price of consumer services up 2.7%. Some observers believe that the fall in prices is due to the increase in wage arrears, which is dampening demand. Since the beginning of the year, consumer prices have risen by 16.1%, with food prices up 13.1%, prices for non-food goods up 13.2%, and the price of consumer services up 35.7%. Inflation in July was 0.7%. -- Penny Morvant CRISIS CONTINUES IN PRIMORE. Energy workers in Primore, who are protesting continuing wage arrears, called on 4 September for the resignation of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko and his administration and the introduction of direct presidential rule, NTV and ORT reported. The workers did not, however, support the call of the krai's Duma for a regional referendum on 22 September on confidence in Nazdratenko, who was elected in December 1995 with 90% of the vote (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 August 1996). The governor himself blamed the crisis in the fuel and energy sector, which has resulted in new labor disputes and power cuts to customers, on the introduction of higher energy prices in Primore following the July crisis there. On local television he contended also that the power workers' call was motivated by his decision to conduct an independent audit of their employer, Dalenergo. -- Penny Morvant and Anna Paretskaya SPENDING CUTS WERE KEY TO STABILIZATION. Maksim Boiko, deputy chief of staff in the presidential administration, said at a 4 September seminar in the New Economic School that economic stabilization has been a success and that he expects economic growth "very soon." Boiko, formerly chief aide to Anatolii Chubais when the latter was first deputy prime minister in charge of economic reform, attributed the success of stabilization to the tight monetary and fiscal policies introduced in 1995. He conceded that revenue from taxes and from the sale of treasury bonds (GKOs) was lower than expected, which meant that the stabilization was achieved thanks mainly to a reduction in federal government spending, which was only 17% of GDP in 1995, against a planned level of 27%. A similar pattern is unfolding in 1996. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow GOVERNMENT MEMBERS ON CONTROVERSIAL TAX DECREE. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's press secretary, Viktor Konnov, told ITAR-TASS on 4 September that the government intends to amend a controversial 18 August presidential decree on personal income tax. The decree caused an outcry because it appears to subject all bank deposits held by individuals to income tax (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 August 1996). Presidential Chief of Staff Chubais on 4 September also suggested that the decree will be amended, ORT reported. Chubais said that if the "justified criticism" the decree has received in the press and the concern it has aroused among the general public leads to a massive outflow of savings from commercial banks, then it will be clear that the decree was a mistake. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA IMPOSES RESTRICTIONS ON EMIGRATION OF DRAFT AGE MEN. The Armenian Defense Ministry has called for closer monitoring of all men aged 18-30 who wish to leave the country in order to prevent them from avoiding the draft, Ekho Moskvy reported on 2 September. The call comes after a 22 August Armenian government decree on drafting first category reserve officers in September 1996. Armenian officers who graduate from military academies in Russia are increasingly seeking postings at the two Russian military bases in Armenia in order to avoid service in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turan reported on 28 August. Russian-Armenian joint military maneuvers have been scheduled for 23-27 September, immediately after the Armenian presidential election, according to Noyan Tapan. -- Liz Fuller BOMB ATTACK IN GORNO-BADAKHSHAN. A bomb exploded in front of the regional administration building of Gorno-Badakhshan on 4 September, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian border guards claimed that local drug rings planted the bomb as a reaction to an official crackdown on narcotics trafficking, a curfew in force in some border areas, the tightening of passport controls, and Russian efforts to cooperate with Afghan border troops to prevent Tajik opposition from making an incursion from Afghanistan into Tajikistan. The explosion reportedly occurred minutes after regional officials and police chiefs had concluded a meeting in the building. It may have been intended to dynamite Russian efforts to pacify the Pamir region. -- Lowell Bezanis RUSSIAN TROOPS OUT OF KAZAKSTAN. Russia is currently withdrawing two divisions of Strategic Rocket Troops from Kazakstan that had been stationed in the Turgaisk and Semipalatinsk regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September. The last Russian strategic missile nuclear warheads were pulled out of Kazakstan in April 1995. The joint Russian-Kazakstani commission dealing with the withdrawal met in Almaty on 4 September. In future meetings, they plan to discuss the work of destroying the SS-18 missile silos and the transfer of military infrastructure and equipment to Kazakstan. -- Doug Clarke [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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