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No. 175, Part I, 10 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 DISCUSSES HEALTH ISSUE. In an interview with Itogi magazine, President Boris Yeltsin said that he broke the Kremlin tradition of secrecy to announce his upcoming operation because "the duty of the president is to make sure that every voter lives with the firm belief that the country is in reliable and strong hands." Yeltsin said he is suffering from ischemia, as many had speculated, and that the campaign traveling took a heavy toll on him. Kommersant-Daily on 10 September commented that the Russian media has reversed its past policy of hiding details about the leader's health and is now full of medical minutiae about the president's condition and the procedures he faces. The paper pointed out that the main risk is not the operation itself but that Yeltsin's general state of health (his liver, for example) may be too poor to ensure safe recovery. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN TO OVERSEE POWER MINISTRIES DURING YELTSIN ABSENCE. President Yeltsin informed the power ministers that they will be subordinate to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin during the president's vacation, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September. Yeltsin, however, will maintain control of the "nuclear button," press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced. This is separate from the question of who will rule the country after Yeltsin's operation at the end of this month. Additionally, Yeltsin asked Cherno-myrdin to examine all expenditures made by the power ministries and suggest ways to improve the structure of the Defense Ministry and other ministries that control military units. Yeltsin plans to restructure the ministries and their spending on the basis of Cherno-myrdin's findings. -- Robert Orttung LEBED, CHERNOMYRDIN EXAMINE ACCORDS' STATUS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 9 September examined a Justice Ministry study on the legal standing of Lebed's agreements with the Chechen forces, NTV reported. The vice president of the National Association of International Law, Oleg Khlestov, and a group of independent experts conducted the study. There was no information available on the report or the discussion between Chernomyrdin and Lebed. After their last meeting, the two men's press services produced contradictory accounts of the discussion, Russian TV (RTR) reported. Chernomyrdin had earlier said that the documents were political and lacked "juridical standing." -- Robert Orttung SHAKY PEACE STILL HOLDS IN CHECHNYA. Over the night of 8-9 September, federal troops came under fire in several locations, and one Interior Ministry soldier was killed on Monday, Russian Public TV (ORT) and NTV reported. A federal column en route to the Russian headquarters at Khankala was halted on 9 September by a Chechen checkpoint at Petro- pavlovskoe. The Chechens wanted to search the trucks for stolen property, while the Russians argued that the convoy had been approved in advance by the unified command. The column was eventually allowed to proceed. Ekho Moskvy on 9 September reported tension on the border with Dagestan following a raid by Chechens, who seized hostages and property. -- Peter Rutland LEBED TO ADDRESS COUNCIL OF EUROPE. The Council of Europe announced on 9 September that Security Council Secretary Lebed will travel to Strasbourg on 23 September with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Mas-khadov to discuss their peace agreement, Reuters reported. When Russia joined the Council of Europe in February of this year it promised to seek a political solution to the Chechen crisis. Lebed's peace is still regarded skeptically by most members of the Russian political elite. By entering the international political arena, Lebed could boost his political prestige, but may also provide more ammunition to those who accuse him of betraying Russia to advance his career. Several commentators had already cynically remarked that Lebed was angling for the Nobel Peace Prize. -- Peter Rutland CHERNOMYRDIN CONSOLIDATES POWER OVER ECONOMIC DECISION-MAKING. The Russian press has generally remained silent about Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's announcement that his government will no longer hold weekly meetings, according to Vek on 6-12 September. From now on, the Operational Headquarters for Urgent Measures to Stabilize the Economic Situation, headed by Chernomyrdin and subordinate exclusively to him, will resolve all urgent economic management issues. Thus, the article argues, Chernomyrdin has assumed complete responsibility for the country's economic development and excluded many cabinet members from taking part in the decision-making process. At the same time, presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais has consolidated his control over the presidential administration and Security Council Secretary Lebed is trying to exercise greater control over economic policy. -- Robert Orttung TULEEV ON HIS NEW POST. Aman Tuleev, the new minister for cooperation with CIS states and the only communist supporter in the government, said on 9 September that he had agreed to accept the post because of the essential similarity between the attitudes of President Yeltsin and Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov on CIS integration, NTV reported. He added that he maintains good relations with Zyuganov and is backed by the leftist opposition. Tuleev said that the CIS republics owe Russia $5.8 billion and that his ministry is working on possible ways of securing payment through nonmonetary means such as property and securities, ORT reported. Ko-mmersant-Daily noted that Tuleev has agreed to coordinate actions against drug trafficking and other crime within the CIS with Lebed's deputy at the Security Council, Sergei Glazev, and suggested that a Lebed-Tuleev axis could be forming within the Moscow power structure. -- Penny Morvant ORENBURG ELECTS MAYOR WITH NO CHALLENGERS. Orenburg Mayor Gennadii Domkovtsev, the sole candidate in the regional election, was re-elected on 8 September with a turnout of 26%, Radio Rossii reported. His two opponents withdrew before the election, complaining about malicious attacks against them in the press and the fact that they had not been paid money owed them for campaign expenses. Although Russian law states that more than one candidate must contend an election for it to be considered valid, the local electoral commission ruled that the condition must only be filled at the registration stage. The commission's ruling could set an undemocratic precedent for future local elections. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov declared Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's unopposed re-election invalid in October 1995 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 October 1995). However, Ilyumzhinov remains in office. -- Robert Orttung KEMEROVO GOVERNOR DECLARES STATE OF ECONOMIC EMERGENCY. Mikhail Kislyuk has suspended all payments to the federal budget and declared a state of economic emergency in the Kemorovo oblast, which includes the Kuzbass coal mining basin, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 September. He said the move was necessitated by the failure of industrial enterprises to pay their debts and delays in the payment of wages, pensions, and other social benefits in the region. Almost 90% of the region's industrial enterprises rely on barter operations, while monetary transactions are conducted outside the oblast, thereby depriving revenue from the local budget. Kislyuk said he wanted to avoid a repeat of the Primorskii Krai crisis. He asked for more financial help from the government to ease the social strain in the region. -- Ritsuko Sasaki LEBED TO HANDLE BLACK SEA FLEET NEGOTIATIONS. Russia's Security Council announced it will handle the Black Sea Fleet issue because "Kyiv has shown a tendency to go back on its commitments," UNIAN and ITAR-TASS reported on 9 September. The remark was in reference to the impasse over the status of Sevastopol. Russia has interpreted last year's Sochi agreement allowing Russia's share of the fleet to be based in the port as giving it sole basing rights, while Ukraine interprets the provision as allowing Russia to use some bays for its ships but not precluding Ukraine's use of the port. The council's press service noted that Russia regards the Sochi accord as part of a single program of defense for its legitimate interests in the Caspian-Black seas region. -- Ustina Markus PRIMORSKII INDUSTRY HEADS APPEAL TO CHERNOMYRDIN. The directors of more than 20 industrial firms in Primore appealed to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 9 September to provide financial aid to the region's fuel and energy sector, ITAR-TASS reported. They called on the government to pay all federal debts to the krai and energy subsidies and urged caution in the matter of raising the price of electricity to consumers. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko is strongly opposed to the federal government's decision to increase electricity prices from 1 October; on 10 September local trade unions also protested the decision to raise tariffs. The Primorskii branch of the Russian Coal-Workers' Union, meanwhile, issued a statement supporting the decision of Dalenergo workers to begin an indefinite strike on 16 September. The latter are demanding back wages totaling some 125 billion rubles (about $23.4 million) and have called for direct presidential rule in the krai and the firing of Nazdratenko. -- Penny Morvant MISSILE EXPLODES IN FAR EAST. Two Russian soldiers were killed on 8 September when the warhead of a short-range missile they were tampering with exploded near Komsomolsk-na Amure, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September. According to unconfirmed reports, the soldiers were attempting to dismantle it in order to steal precious metals. -- Penny Morvant CONSOLIDATED BUDGET IN THE FIRST HALF OF 1996. In the first half of 1996, the revenue for federal and regional budgets combined totaled 237 trillion rubles ($44 billion) and expenditures 293 trillion rubles, leaving a deficit of 59 trillion rubles, or 5.5% of GDP, Ekonomika i zhizn (No. 36) reported. Regional budget revenue was 134 trillion rubles or 57% of total government income, and their contribution to the deficit was 1.5% of GDP. VAT, profit, income, and excise taxes accounted for 23%, 20%, 11%, and 6% of the consolidated budget's revenue, respectively. The rate of tax collection is deteriorating: in the first three weeks of August, the government managed to collect only 57% of the expected revenue. In late August, the IMF agreed to loosen the budget deficit target from 4% to 5.25%. -- Natalia Gurushina COMPANY ARREARS INCREASE IN THE FIRST HALF OF 1996. Firm debts reached 400 trillion rubles ($75 billion) by the end of June, rising by 9% in June compared to an 8% monthly increase in March through May, Ekonomika i zhizn (No. 36) reported. Of this figure, some 86 trillion rubles are owed to the budget, 62 trillion rubles to non-budgetary funds (such as the Pension Fund), and 18 trillion rubles to banks. Russian companies also owe 1.8 trillion rubles to firms in other CIS countries and the Baltic states, while firms in those countries owe Russian enterprises 4.4 trillion rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA IRAN DEMANDS EXTRADITION. Iran has demanded the extradition of Piruz Dilenji, chairman of the South Azerbaijan National Liberation Committee (SANCL), and a number of other Iranian emigrants living in Azerbaijan, Segodnya reported on 4 September. Iran has been pressuring Azerbaijan to back up its declared neutrality towards the nationalist movement in Azeri-populated northern Iran with concrete steps. Dilenji, who said Azerbaijani officials have warned him that he may be extradited to Iran, may have to choose between leaving Azerbaijan and halting his activities. -- Elin Suleymanov ARMENIANS ABROAD TO VOTE IN ELECTION. In response to opposition pressure it has been announced that Armenians living abroad will be allowed to vote. However, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said the decision to allow Armenian citizens living abroad to vote in the 22 September presidential election is of political rather than practical significance, Noyan Tapan reported on 9 September. According to Khachatour Bezrijian, the chairman of the Central Electoral Committee, about 10,000 Armenians living abroad are expected to vote, although an estimated 800,000 Armenians are thought to be living abroad. According to Ekspress-Khronikha on 10 September, the number is so low because only those who registered with Armenian diplomatic missions can vote. In Russia, for instance, there are only 172 registered voters. Bezirijian noted that Armenian citizens residing in Nagorno-Karabakh will have to vote in Armenia. -- Elin Suleymanov NIYAZOV IN FRANCE. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov arrived in Paris for a three days of meetings with government officials and executives of companies interested in investing in Turkmenistan's oil and gas sector, Western agencies reported on 9 September. French President Jacques Chirac told Niyazov he appreciates Turkmenistan's "will to independence and regional cooperation." The day before Niyazov's arrival, the French Foreign Ministry announced that Paris would establish an embassy in Ash- gabat. Several French firms--including Elf oil, Dassault aerospace, Bouygues construction, and others--are presently operating in Turk- menistan. -- Lowell Bezanis DRUG SEIZURES IN GORNO-BADAKHSHAN INCREASE. About 3 metric tons of narcotic substances, including raw opium and heroin, have been seized in the district of Gorno-Badakhshan since early 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 September. The agency, citing a top federal border guard officer in Tajikistan, also reported that two drug processing plants (likely for converting raw opium into morphine base) are operating in Afghan Badakhshan at present. If true, the figures cited would represent a significant increase on the seizures made in 1995, which totaled 1,749 kg according to a 14 August Segodnya report. -- 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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