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No. 174, Part I, 9 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 RUSSIAN TROOPS BEGIN LEAVING CHECHNYA. Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev on 6 September declared an amnesty for all Chechens who collaborated either with the Russian federal forces or with the pro- Moscow government of Doku Zavgaev, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Zavgaev again stated that he does not intend to resign as head of state. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov denied reports that his men had shot 10 of Zavgaev's supporters in the town of Shatoi on 6 September, Radio Mayak reported on 7 September. Representatives of the Russian Security Council Commission on Chechnya and Russian and Chechen Interior Ministry officials met in Novye Atagi on 7-8 September to discuss implementation of the 30 August Lebed-Maskhadov peace agreement. Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev rejected a Russian proposal to create a joint Russian-Chechen police force, according to Radio Rossii. The scheduled Russian troop withdrawal from Chechnya began on 8 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. -- Liz Fuller KOHL MEETS YELTSIN AT VACATION HOME. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited President Yeltsin at his vacation home outside of Moscow on 7 September. Yeltsin expressed "complete satisfaction" with the talks. The leaders agreed to "intensive negotiations at various levels" on NATO expansion and said they hope to find a solution by the end of 1997, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin did not agree with Germany's support for the recent U.S. bombing of Iraq. The Russian leader told Kohl that he supported Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's efforts to bring peace to Chechnya, while Kohl described the conflict as an internal issue for Russia. On the former Yugoslavia, the leaders agreed that the world community should exert pressure on all sides to ensure that they fulfill their obligations. They also discussed who will control Russia's nuclear weapons while Yeltsin is in hospital for heart surgery but agreed not to discuss the details with the press. -- Robert Orttung POLITICIANS WORRIED OVER WHO WILL RULE WHILE YELTSIN IS IN HOSPITAL. Security Council Secretary Lebed on 6 September said President Yeltsin should sign a special document allowing Prime Minister Chernomyrdin to take charge of his office while Yeltsin is in the hospital. Article 92 of the constitution mandates that the prime minister takes charge if the president is incapacitated, but does not specify the exact procedure. It is unclear how long Yeltsin would be incapacitated; Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais said it could be "hours, days, or just a couple of days." First Deputy Duma Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin argued that Yeltsin should explicitly hand power to Chernomyrdin to avoid giving "annoying people" a chance to push through their own programs during his absence. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called for a meeting of ministers and parliamentary party representatives to discuss Yeltsin's health. -- Robert Orttung KORZHAKOV'S POLITICAL ACTIVITIES. Former top presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov may run for parliament in the Tula Oblast district where Aleksandr Lebed was elected in December 1995, Radio Rossii reported on 6 September. Lebed cannot serve both in parliament and as Security Council secretary, and a by-election to fill his seat should be held by the end of this year. Meanwhile, NTV reported on 8 September that Korzhakov unexpectedly visited Primorskii Krai recently and urged locals to support Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko in an upcoming referendum on his rule. Some Moscow officials--in particular presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, a longtime enemy of Korzhakov--have blamed Nazdratenko for the ongoing energy crisis in the krai. Citing anonymous sources in the administration, NTV suggested that Korzhakov had refused various posts offered to him after the election and might be trying to connect his own political future with Lebed rather than Yeltsin. -- Laura Belin MOSCOW PROCURATOR TAKES ACTION OVER $500,000 IN BOX INCIDENT. The Moscow City Procurator's Office has initiated criminal proceedings against Sergei Lisovskii and Arkadii Yevstafev on charges of "attempted violation of hard-currency regulations involving especially large sums," Obshchaya gazeta reported on 5-11 September. Lisovskii and Yevstafev, both top Yeltsin campaign aides, were detained at the Russian White House by the Presidential Security Service (SBP) on 19 June as they left the building with a box reportedly containing $500,000 in cash. Chubais and other opponents of former SBP head Aleksandr Korzhakov accused the special services of staging a provocation aimed at derailing the election, and Korzhakov and his allies Mikhail Barsukov and Oleg Soskovets were fired. In the furor over the dismissals, relatively little attention was paid to the $500,000. The 2 September issue of the magazine Litsa printed what they claim is a transcript of the videotaped interrogation of the two men on 19 June, with photos. -- Penny Morvant LDPR TO APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ON CHECHNYA AGREEMENT. Duma deputies from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) plan to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the agreement signed on 31 August between Security Council Secretary Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Maskhadov, Russian media reported on 6 September. According to Russian TV (RTR), the deputies say the agreement leaves three questions unanswered: on what basis was Chechnya recognized a subject of international law, how should Russia deal with the pro-Moscow Chechen government from now on, and whether Lebed exceeded his authority by signing the document. On the same day, the Federation Council formed a special commission on Chechnya, which will include all leaders of the North Caucasus regions, the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and representatives from standing Council committees on constitutional law, regional policy, defense, and international affairs. -- Laura Belin CREW WHO FIRED ON JAPANESE FISHING BOATS NAMED FOR MEDALS. The Pacific Border District command has recommended that medals "for protecting the state border" be awarded to the crew of a coast guard ship that fired on two Japanese fishing boats on 26 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 August 1996). The captains of both Japanese boats were wounded in the incident, although ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September that their health is now "satisfactory." On previous occasions this year, Russian coast guards fired warning shots on boats fishing in Russian waters near the disputed Kuril Islands but did not shoot to kill. In a similar incident on 6 September, only warning shots were fired at the Japanese boats. -- Laura Belin ANTI-U.S. DEMONSTRATION IN MOSCOW. About 100 people on 8 September took part in a noisy demonstration organized by hardline opposition groups to protest the U.S. missile attacks on Iraq, Russian and Western agencies reported. ITAR-TASS said two demonstrators were briefly detained, including Stanislav Terekhov, the head of the right-wing Officers' Union. Police said they took action because the rally, held outside the U.S. Embassy, had not been sanctioned by the authorities. Russia has condemned the U.S. airstrikes (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3-6 September) and expressed "deep concern" over Turkish plans to set up a "security zone" in northern Iraq. Izvestiya on 7 September focused on the concerns of Russian oil companies preparing to operate in Iraq and Russia's potential economic losses resulting from the UN trade embargo. -- Penny Morvant LABOR DISPUTES CONTINUE AT POWER PLANTS. More than 140 workers at the Primorskii power plant at Luchegorsk are now taking part in a hunger strike that began a week ago in protest against delays in wage payments, ITAR-TASS reported. Wage arrears at the power plant exceed 13 billion rubles. In Khakassiya, 15 workers at the Sayano-Shushensk hydroelectric power station have been on hunger strike since 3 September in an attempt to draw attention to the desperate situation in the energy sector and at their plant in particular. Workers at the station, which is deeply in debt to the state and suppliers, have not received wages for five months. Meanwhile, Yurii Vishnevskii, head of the Federal Committee for Nuclear and Radiation Safety, warned that more accidents could occur at nuclear power plants because of delays in wage payments, which damage worker morale. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN RESCINDS NEW DECREE ON TAXATION. Following government recommendations, President Yeltsin has rescinded his 18 August decree on changes in personal income tax and insurance payments, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 September. The decree was strongly criticized by lawyers, businessmen, and journalists for contradicting the constitution and existing tax legislation, for causing the double taxation of people's wages, and for triggering a massive outflow of personal savings from banks. Meanwhile, Radio Rossii reported that the government is planning to introduce a 15% tax on interest accrued from personal bank deposits. The government as also likely to increase taxes on profits from with corporate and state securities. -- Natalia Gurushina CHUBAIS CONCERNED ABOUT NONPAYMENT PROBLEM. Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais on 7 September described nonpay-ments as the most serious problem in the Russian economy and asserted that tax revenues are extremely low, ITAR-TASS reported. Nonpayments in the energy sector are the most serious, accounting for 51% of all tax and other budget nonpayments in 1995-96, according to Finansovye izvestiya. Federal budget revenue for the first half of 1996 is 9.5% of GDP, while it was 13% in 1995, Segodnya reported. Chubais stressed the importance of measures to increase tax collection and cited "ineffective work" and ignorant leadership as one of the reasons for the problem. -- Ritsuko Sasaki TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA THREE ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WITHDRAW. Three of the seven registered candidates for the 22 September Armenian presidential election withdrew on 7 September and pledged their support for former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukyan, the main challenger to incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Reuters reported on 8 September. A further opposition candidate, Ashot Manucharyan of the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union, may also withdraw, but Communist Party leader Sergei Badalyan has said he will not. Manukyan is reportedly gathering considerable support for his pledges to crack down on corruption and the shadow economy, to introduce more equitable social and economic policies, and to revise the constitution in order to curtail the powers of the president. -- Liz Fuller SOUTH OSSETIA TO HAVE PRESIDENT? The Georgian National Security Council views the South Ossetian parliament's 6 September resolution to create a presidency in South Ossetia as a serious threat to the peace process in the region, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. The Georgian presidential service stated that the resolution undermines agreements reached by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and South Ossetian parliament chairman Ludwig Chibirov at their 27 August meeting. According to Chibirov, the final decision by South Ossetian parliament is expected by 13 September. On 7 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the South Ossetian parliament's resolution as well. -- Elin Suleymanov ONE MORE VOTE PLANNED IN ABKHAZIA. Abkhazian President Vladislav Ardzinba plans to hold a referendum in October in which residents of the region will be asked whether they "want to live in an independent Abkhazia or in an Abkhazia that is part of Georgia or some other country," BGI reported. The Georgian government has already expressed its opposition to holding a new parliamentary election (scheduled for 23 November) in Abkhazia before ethnic Georgian refugees are allowed to return to Abkhazia. -- Elin Suleymanov UZBEKISTAN'S HUMAN RIGHT SOCIETY HOLDS CONGRESS. Delegates to a congress of Uzbekistan's Human Rights Society (HRS) in Tashkent on 7 September noted that the human rights situation in Uzbekistan is "beginning to improve," RFE/RL reported. Until virtually the last minute it was unclear if the Uzbek authorities would permit the gathering to take place. The fact that it did take place may be attributed to Tashkent's efforts to burnish its tarnished human rights image and improve relations with the U.S.. The HRS was founded in 1992 but is still not officially registered in the country. HRS Chairman Abdulmanop Pulatov returned recently to Tashkent after the activities of his group were given an unofficial green light from Uzbek President Islam Karimov. -- Lowell Bezanis TAJIK OPPOSITION SEIZES DJIR-GATAL. Rebel units led by a commander identified only as Akhmadbek on 7 September seized the town of Djirgatal, 280 km northeast of Dushanbe, and killed two Tajik militia members, Russian and Western agencies reported. The operation appears to have been staged to coincide with the republic's fifth anniversary of independence on 9 September. The 300-400 rebels disarmed and expelled 46 Tajik militiamen to Kyrgyzstan across the border. The UN envoy in Tajikistan, Gerd Merrem, issued a letter of protest on 8 September urging an immediate cessation of hostilities in accordance with the existing ceasefire agreement. -- Lowell Bezanis TAJIK PRESIDENT SPEAKS ON ISLAM AT DIASPORA CONGRESS. Imomali Rakhmonov told some 250 delegates from 19 countries at a congress of Tajik diaspora that the country's opposition forces are trying to establish an Islamic regime in Tajikistan, Russian and Western agencies reported on 7 September. At the same time, he declare that "we respect" Islam as a "base of moral and spiritual cleanliness and source of culture," Reuters reported. The first Tajik diaspora congress was held in 1992. -- 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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