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No. 173, Part I, 6 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 YELTSIN WILL UNDERGO HEART SURGERY. President Boris Yeltsin 5 September announced in a televised interview that he will undergo heart surgery in Moscow's Cardiological Center at the end of the month. Yeltsin said that the doctors had offered him two options: either perform only non- strenuous work or have an operation that would allow him to play a more active role, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Yeltsin did not specify his exact illness or the procedure required to correct it, but doctors believe he is suffering from myocardial ischemia and faces coronary bypass surgery, the Los Angeles Times reported. Ekho Moskvy commented that it was the first time in the history of the country that a leader had made such a straightforward announcement about his health. -- Robert Orttung LEBED, CHECHENS AGREE ON COALITION GOVERNMENT. Meeting in Noviye Atagi on 5 September, Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen opposition representatives agreed on the creation of a new Chechen coalition government that would include two ministers from the present pro-Moscow government, Russian and Western agencies reported. Pro-Moscow head of state Doku Zavgaev consented to this during talks with Lebed and the head of the presidential staff Anatolii Chubais on 4 September, according to Radio Rossii. However, Zavgaev declined to accept Chubais's proposal that he voluntarily resign. Zavgaev is also suing Izvestiya for slander, according to Ekho Moskvy. Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov subsequently addressed a public meeting in the town of Shali at which Lebed called on the population to support the peace process and Maskhadov pledged that no Zavgaev supporters would be harassed or killed, according to ITAR-TASS. Lebed also announced that Russian forces would begin pulling out of Chechnya on 8 September following an exchange of prisoners of war. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN BACKS LEBED EXCEPT ON QUESTION OF TROOP PULLOUT. In his first public comments on Lebed's activities, Yeltsin said that he supports the actions of his Security Council secretary, except for the quick withdrawal of troops from Chechnya. Yeltsin gave his approval for Lebed to continue his efforts, AFP reported. The 31 August accords call on the Russian troops to make a partial withdrawal from the republic. The Chechen rebels insist that all Russian troops must leave their territory before there can be peace. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN DISCOUNTS LEBED AGREEMENTS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that the agreements Security Council Secretary Lebed signed with the Chechen separatists are "political documents" and do not have "juridical standing," ITAR-TASS reported 5 September. He noted that the federal authorities had not yet prepared a complete statement on the political issues in Chechnya and had not decided who should sign it from the Chechen side. Chernomyrdin claimed that there is no cause for "euphoria" since this is the third cease-fire since the war began. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN, LEBED CONDEMN U.S. STRIKES AGAINST IRAQ . . . President Yeltsin confirmed in a 5 September interview on Russian TV (RTR) that he fully agrees with official statements released by the Russian government condemning the U.S. missile strikes against targets in southern Iraq. The same day, Security Council Secretary Lebed joined the chorus of Russian voices denouncing the U.S. action, saying the U.S. is acting like a "bull in a china shop," Reuters reported. However, the crisis appears unlikely to have long-term consequences for U.S.-Russian relations. First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia will oppose a British-sponsored UN resolution supporting the strikes against Iraq but stressed that Moscow does not want the crisis to "mar bilateral relations" between Russia and the U.S., ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin . . . AS ZHIRINOVSKY CALLS CLINTON WORLD'S "WORST POLITICAL HOOLIGAN". . . Denouncing the U.S. unilateral action against Iraq, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky called U.S. President Bill Clinton the "worst political hooligan on the planet" and "worse than Hitler," Russian media reported on 5 September. Zhirinovsky has had a longstanding friendly relationship with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and most recently visited Baghdad in August. On the same day, Zhirinovsky praised Lebed's efforts to make peace in Chechnya, which he said has "helped save the lives of many Russian soldiers," but he also questioned the legality of the peace accords signed with the Chechen forces, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin . . . BUT KURDISH GROUP PRAISES U.S. ACTION. While nearly all Russian politicians have denounced the U.S. action, representatives of the International Union of Kurdish Organizations held a Moscow press conference to praise the U.S. for defending the Kurds, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 September. A member of the Kurdish parliament in exile, Broi Rostam, said the military strikes on Iraq were justified but added that the Kurdish problem should be solved within the region by peaceful means. -- Laura Belin PRIMORE UPDATE. In response to the latest hunger strike by power workers at Luchegorsk and the mounting energy crisis in Primore, the krai's administration has instructed the local power company Dalenergo to sell securities, cars, and property worth 102 billion rubles ($19 million) within a week, NTV reported on 5 September. The proceeds are to be used to pay workers' wages and prepare the power sector for winter. According to Dalenergo, some homes in Vladivostok have been without power for as long as 20 hours a day, a situation that prompted some of the city's residents to block a major thoroughfare in protest. About 100 workers at the Primorskii power station are now on hunger strike, and nine workers at the Artem power station have announced their intention to join their colleagues. Following July's energy crisis in Primore, President Yeltsin gave krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko until 15 September to restore order in the region's fuel and energy sector. -- Penny Morvant NUCLEAR POWER WORKERS PROTEST. More than 100 workers from nine of Russia's 11 atomic power stations picketed the headquarters of Rosenergoatom and the Integrated Energy System company on 5 September to demand the payment of back wages, ITAR-TASS reported. As is the case with other power producers in Russia, the atomic power stations are owed considerable sums by customers. As a temporary measure in response to the payments crisis, the power plants have been accepting payment in kind although they need money to pay taxes to the federal and regional budgets. The Leningrad nuclear power station at Sosnovy Bor, in particular, has been dogged by workers' protests this year because of wage arrears and worker dissatisfaction with management. -- Penny Morvant SOLZHENITSYN: RUSSIA LOST WAR IN CHECHNYA. Nobel prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said that Russia has lost the 20-month war to crush an independence uprising in Chechnya, AFP reported on 5 September. He suggested that Russia failed to restore its rule in the tiny republic because it is "corrupt, incapable, stupid, and indifferent." Solzhenitsyn approved Security Council Secretary Lebed's peace plan as "the right decision, given the total defeat [of federal forces]." He said Chechnya should be granted independence but added that the northern part of the republic should remain in Russia since it is largely inhabited by ethnic Russians and Cossacks. -- Anna Paretskaya RODIONOV TO REFUSE SALARY UNTIL HIS TROOPS ARE PAID. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov has decided to refuse to draw his salary until the other members of the armed forces receive their back pay, Reuters reported on 5 September. Rodionov told the daily Komsomolskaya pravda that he would suffer alongside his men. In response to his wife's daily question about his pay, the general said he tells her, "When the army gets paid, then I'll get paid." In July, Russian media revealed that even the officers of the Defense Ministry had not been paid for two months. -- Doug Clarke TWO AIR FORCE GENERALS DIE IN CRASH. The commander of the 23rd Air Force and his chief of staff were killed on 4 September when their Mi-8 helicopter crashed in Siberia, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. The helicopter carrying Lt.-Gen. Dmitrii Kutsekon and Maj.-Gen. Boris Batur was said to be "carrying out an operational task" when it went down 117 km north of Chita. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov has appointed a special commission to investigate the accident. -- Doug Clarke CENTRAL BANK RELEASES DATA ON RUSSIAN INVESTMENTS ABROAD. The Central Bank granted 165 licenses to Russian residents for direct and portfolio hard currency investments abroad from March 1993 to March 1996, ITAR- TASS reported on 5 September. Actual licensed investment over this period totaled $416 million. The cumulative volume of hard-currency investments increased from $63 million in 1993 to $278 million in 1994 and $365 million in 1995. The largest projects cleared for exporting capital were carried out by LUKoil ($126 million), Gazprom ($108.2 million), and Surgutneftegaz ($86.6 million). The main countries hosting Russian capital are Germany (accounting for 21 of the licenses issued by the Central Bank for a total of $295 million), the U.S. ($166 million), and the U.K. ($77 million). It should be noted, however, that there is a considerable amount of Russian investment abroad that is not recorded officially. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MUTALIBOV SUPPORTERS SENTENCED. The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan has sentenced Adyl Gadzhiev, a close associate of former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov, and Kenan Gyurel, an Austrian citizen of Turkish origin, to 14- and 15-year prison sentences for taking part in the alleged March 1995 coup attempt, as a result of which at least 50 people were killed, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 September. President Heidar Aliev has often accused Mutalibov, who fled to Moscow in 1992, of trying to assassinate him. -- Elin Suleymanov HEAD OF ARMENIAN STATE RADIO DISMISSED. The head of Armenian State Radio, Stepan Zakaryan, was dismissed on 2 September following a controversial court case brought against him by Mikael Martirossyan, the head of Yerevan Bread-Baking Plant No. 3, Noyan Tapan reported on 4 September. Armenian Radio had aired programs earlier this year accusing Yerevan bakeries of selling loaves that were below the standard weight. Martirossyan successfully sued Zakaryan and two of his editors for slander, and Armenian Radio was forced to broadcast a retraction. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan recently commented that he considered that both Zakaryan and Martirossyan were in the wrong and that both should be dismissed. Martirossyan is a member of the ruling Armenian National Movement (HHSh); Zakaryan is not. Several other radio editors, including the two sued with Zakaryan, have tendered their resignations. Noyan Tapan reported that "because of the tense situation all radio programs are now being subject to pre-broadcast censorship." -- Liz Fuller TURKMEN-AFGHAN TALKS ON PIPELINE TO PAKISTAN. Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Abdurahim Ghafurzai held talks with Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov in Ashgabat on the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 September. Ghafurzai was quoted as saying that officials from his country, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and major European and Russian companies would meet in the near future to set a date for the construction to begin. He also noted that Turkmenistan plans to open an embassy in Kabul and establish regular flights between Ashgabat and the Afghan capital. -- Lowell Bezanis HEROIN SEIZED IN TURKMENISTAN. Russian border guards killed two suspected drug smugglers in the process of seizing a large amount of drugs, including 24 kg of heroin, RFE/RL reported. It is the first reported seizure of refined heroin on the Turkmen-Afghan border. The first seizure of heroin in Central Asia occurred in Kyrgyzstan in October 1995. In other news, Kazakstani authorities reported that about 70% of the 4.5 metric tons of drugs that they have confiscated since the beginning of 1996 had been prepared from domestic cannabis grown in the Chu Valley, which straddles the Kazak-Kyrgyz border, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 September. According to local law enforcement officials, cannabis is grown on 140 hectares of land in the Chu Valley and about 5-6 metric tons of marijuana and hashish can be produced there every year. -- Lowell Bezanis TURKISH-KAZAKSTANI MILITARY COOPERATION. Kazakstani Defense Minister Alibek Kasymov signed a memorandum of understanding on a military cooperation agreement with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara on 4 September, RFE/RL reported the next day. Details have not been released. -- Lowell Bezanis CHINESE OFFICIAL: UIGHURS BACKED BY "FOREIGN FORCES." The chairman of China's State Committee for Economic Reform, Li Tieying, on 5 September said from Almaty that Uighur separatists active in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Province are "breaking our laws at the instigation of foreign forces," AFP reported the next day. He also noted that a "small number of people" are involved in the rebellion which Uighur exiles in Kazakstan claim has resulted in the incarceration of an estimated 18,000 Uighur "separatists" in the last five months. At the invitation of Kazakstan's Supreme Economic Council, Li has been discussing China's experience with market reform in Almaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 September. AFP reported that journalists were asked by an unnamed Kazak official to refrain from asking Li about Uighur separatism. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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