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No. 176, Part I, 11 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 POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVES MEET IN GROZNY . . . A congress of 20 Chechen political groups, chaired by Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, met in Grozny on 10 September, Reuters reported. They called for the formation of an interim coalition government under international monitoring. The leader of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, Doku Zavgaev, said that none of his ministers would participate in such a government. Forces loyal to Zavgaev control the Nadterechnyi region in northern Chechnya. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed did not attend the Grozny gathering. On 11 September, Lebed met with Zavgaev in Moscow, AFP reported. The content of their discussion was not released. -- Peter Rutland . . . AS NEW AUTHORITIES CLAMP DOWN ON ALCOHOL. The Chechen authorities who make up the joint command in Grozny are taking stern measures to halt the consumption of alcohol, ITAR TASS reported on 11 September. Traders' stocks of alcohol are being destroyed, and drunks are subject to 40 strokes with a cane, under Islamic law (Sharia). Chechen commander Khadid Dadaev said that in his district of Grozny up to 30 people are punished per day. They are also trying to prevent unauthorized persons from carrying their weapons in public, ITAR TASS reported on 10 September. The deputy commander of Grozny, Aslambek Abdul-khadzhiev, told Chechens "to keep at home the arms which may prove of use yet." Ilyas Sigauri, Zavgaev's culture minister who was kidnapped by rebels on 24 August, was released unharmed on 10 September. -- Peter Rutland ZAVGAEV NOT INCLUDED IN FEDERATION COUNCIL COMMISSION ON CHECHNYA. A closed session of the newly-created commission on Chechnya in the Federation Council favorably assessed Security Council Secretary Lebed's recent activities in the republic, Izvestiya reported on 11 September, citing Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev. Pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, who has denounced the agreement Lebed signed with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, did not join the commission "by mutual consent," according to the Federation Council press service. The commission includes leaders of regions in the North Caucasus, the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and representatives from standing Council committees on constitutional law, regional policy, defense, and international affairs. -- Laura Belin DETAILS ON TRANSFER OF POWER REMAIN UNCLEAR. President Boris Yeltsin's decree on transferring control of the power ministries to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin does not specify when the latter is to actually assume that control, NTV reported 10 September. The presidential press service statement also failed to explain why the decree was released to the public days after it was signed. Publicly, Publicly, Chernomyrdin is downplaying the transfer of powers, saying that Yeltsin will remain president during his heart operation and recovery, and that discussions of the issue are "artificial and tactless," ITAR-TASS reported. However he has discussed the issue with Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, indicating that it is moving ahead quickly -- Robert Orttung KREMLIN: YELTSIN IS SIGNING HIS OWN DECREES. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii denied Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's accusations that President Yeltsin is not signing all of his decrees, ITAR-TASS reported 10 September. Lebed earlier charged that Yeltsin had not signed a decree ordering him to drive the Chechen rebels from Grozny in August (see OMRI Daily Digest , 21 August 1996). There has been speculation in the Russian media that Chubais might have released the decree behind Yeltsin's back in order to thwart Lebed, but Yastrzhembskii claimed that "in most cases, the [media] do not have reliable information on the matter." -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN ORDERS IMPROVEMENT IN SOCIOECONOMIC SITUATION. President Yeltsin ordered the government on 10 September to take urgent measures to improve Russia's socioeconomic situation, Russian Public Television (ORT) reported. He gave the cabinet and Pension Fund two weeks to draft proposals on eliminating pension arrears, ordered the Finance Ministry to pay off all its debts to organizations funded from the federal budget by mid-1997, and instructed the government to improve the efficiency of tax collection. Yeltsin handed out many social benefits before the election but subsequently suspended many of them for lack of funds. -- Penny Morvant JOURNALIST CRITICIZES MEDIA COVERAGE OF CHECHNYA. Although the Russian public badly needs a thorough discussion of the Chechen conflict, the mass media is engaged in "stifling alternative opinions," according to a commentary by Gleb Pavlovskii in the 10 September Nezavisimaya gazeta. The author, who views the Lebed-Maskhadov peace agreement as a dangerous "capitulation," complained that Russian correspondents routinely ignored the opinions of military officials opposed to the agreement in order to build public consensus behind it. He noted that Russian journalists refer to Chechens who do not back the rebels as "puppets" of Moscow or "collaborators." Throughout the conflict, he charged, journalists have claimed that official secrecy on the Russian side gave them no choice but to relay Chechen propaganda as the "unem-bellished truth about the war." Unfortunately, the same journalists are now "kicking" the Russian army and federal authorities, the author concluded. -- Laura Belin RUTSKOI DENIED REGISTRATION IN KURSK. The Kursk Electoral Commission has rejected former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi's application to participate in the local gubernatorial election because he has not lived in the oblast for the past year, Radio Rossii reported on 10 September. Rutskoi is now taking the matter to court. Former Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Nazarchuk was denied registration in Altai Krai for the same reason. In St. Petersburg, however, a court overturned a similar ruling on the candidacy of Yurii Boldyrev in that city's May gubernatorial election. Rutskoi is the candidate of the united opposition parties and is heavily favored to win. -- Robert Orttung LUZHKOV DECLARES SEVASTO-POL A RUSSIAN CITY. Following Lebed's announcement that the Security Council would take charge of Black Sea Fleet negotiations, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced that Sevastopol is a Russian city that should "not be lost or given up to anybody," Ekho Moskvy reported on 10 September. Luzhkov had earlier described Lebed's peace plans for Chechnya as "capitulation" and his statements now put Lebed in a difficult position since the Ukrainians are unlikely to allow the city to fall under exclusive Russian control. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vadim Dolhanov criticized Luzhkov's statement, saying it could only harm relations between Russia and Ukraine. He said that such views do not reflect Moscow's official position. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko said Russian officials had made no claims on Ukrainian territory during recent talks. -- Ustina Markus and Robert Orttung RUSSIA REACTS WITH CAUTION TO CHRISTOPHER PROPOSALS ON NATO . . . While Russian officials welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's recent announcement that a list of East European countries that will be invited to join NATO will not be released before next year, they remain implacably opposed to NATO expansion and believe discussions on the subject should be postponed further, according to a commentary in Segodnya on 10 September by military analyst Pavel Felgengauer. As for Christopher's suggestion that NATO formalize its relationship to Russia in a new charter, Russian officials could only accept such a charter if it would give Russia a voice equal to that of NATO members on matters of European security. But Moscow will reject the charter if it turns out to be only a prescription for "consultations" with Russia. -- Laura Belin . . . BUT EXPRESSES INTEREST IN ATTENDING NATO MEETINGS. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov has agreed to attend an informal meeting of NATO defense chiefs later this month in Norway, where NATO's plans for eastward expansion will be discussed, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September. On the same day, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said French President Jacques Chirac's suggestion that Russia attend a NATO summit in spring or summer 1997 has been met with "interest" in Moscow. -- Laura Belin CHECHEN REPRESENTATION IN TURKEY. The Chechen Foreign Ministry is operating out of a "prime location" on the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul, the Suddeutsche Zeitung reported on 11 September. The officially unrecognized office, described as the "General Representation of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria," has a staff of 20 people and is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Hosh-Ahmed Nukhayev. He is in charge of some 16 other representations located in other countries, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Latvia, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. -- Lowell Bezanis ANOTHER STRIKE THREATENED IN PRIMORSKII KRAI. The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Primore has announced its intention to stage a regional warning strike on 10 October, Radio Rossii and ORT reported on 10 October. The strike, in protest at the federal government's imposition of higher energy tariffs, could disrupt the Trans-Siberian railroad and stop work in the krai's ports. A regional power workers' strike has already been set for 16 September, but unlike the union federation, the Dalenergo workers want higher tariffs and the introduction of direct rule from Moscow in the krai. -- Penny Morvant GOVERNMENT SEEKS MORE MONEY FOR PENSION FUND. The government on 10 September submitted draft legislation to the Duma envisaging a 1% increase in most employer contributions to the Pension Fund and a larger increase in the agricultural sector, ITAR-TASS reported. Industrial employers currently pay 8% of their wage bill to the fund, and employees 1%. Under the draft, employees earning more than 1 million rubles ($187) a month would also pay a higher percentage of their earnings to the fund (up from 1% to 2-5%). The proposed changes would give the cash-strapped fund another 9 trillion rubles in 1997. The draft Pension Fund budget for 1997, submitted to the Duma on 31 August, envisages a 12% increase in pensions during the year. The Duma is likely to press for a larger rise. -- Penny Morvant HEALTH MINISTRY OFFICIAL LAMENTS LACK OF FINANCING. Russia may soon lose many of its clinics and medical research centers as a result of poor financing, Health Ministry spokesman Mikhail Klimkin warned on 10 September. Klimkin said that in the first half of 1996 the 167 scientific institutions under the ministry, including 79 research institutes and 46 central research laboratories, had only received enough money to pay modest salaries but could not afford to purchase equipment, ITAR-TASS reported. Klimkin said the Finance Ministry wants to increase the number of fee-based medical services but that the majority of the population cannot afford them. A simple operation in a top Moscow clinic costs up to 12 million rubles ($2,200). -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA EMERGENCY SESSION OF AZER-BAIJANI PARLIAMENT. The Azer-baijani parliament, the Milli Mejlis, is expected to open an extraordinary session on 11 September amid increasing speculation that parliament chairman Rasul Guliev is set to resign, according to international media. RFE/RL reported on 10 September that troop movements were being conducted in the capital, Baku. President Heidar Aliev's New Azerbaijan Party issued a statement accusing Guliev of placing his "ambitions above national interests and attempting to keep the economy under the control of a small group of people." The media has been predicting the resignation of Guliev, who is closely associated with the oil industry, for some time. -- Elin Suleymanov GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ NEGOTIATIONS. The Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations that resumed in Moscow on 9 September will focus on the return of refugees, a lifting of the economic blockade of Abkhazia, and the region's political status within Georgia, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 11 September. Pravda- 5 quoted Georgian President Eduard Shevar-dnadze on 7 September as saying that if Georgian refugees are not allowed to return to the Gali region of Abkhazia before the end of 1996, he will insist on the immediate withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping force from the area. In Ajaria, the Central Electoral Commission, citing a Soviet-era law, has decided to prohibit international observers from monitoring the Ajarian parliamentary election scheduled for the end of September, BGI reported on 10 September. -- Elin Suleymanov GEORGIAN-UZBEK MILITARY COOPERATION. Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze and his Uzbek counterpart, Rustam Akhme-dov, signed a package of bilateral military agreements in Tbilisi on 10 September, Georgian and Russian media reported the same day. The package includes an interstate treaty on military cooperation, an intergovernmental agreement on military and technical cooperation, another on cooperation between the two countries' Defense ministries, and a protocol on providing airfield and technical support and protection for aircraft from their respective airforces, according to a 10 September Iprinda report monitored by the BBC. The same day Akhmedov said the Uzbek government opposes the creation of a coalition of CIS armed forces, ITAR-TASS reported. Akhmedov suggested that such a grouping could lead to another Cold War. -- Lowell Bezanis CORRECTION: A sentence in an item on Azerbaijan in the 10 September edition of OMRI Daily Digest (Vol. 2, no. 175), should have read: "Dilenji, who said Azerbaijani officials have assured him that he would not be extradited to Iran, may have to choose between leaving Azerbaijan and halting his activities." [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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