|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 177, Part I, 12 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 REACTION TO CHECHEN CONGRESS. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said that nothing was accomplished at the 10 September congress of Chechen parties in Grozny, Kommersant-Daily reported on 12 September. The congress merely approved the idea of forming a coalition government without deciding who would rule the republic or control the money set aside for reconstruction. Lebed will not return to Chechnya until the government is named. Lebed said the main problem is deciding who will handle the federal funds allotted for reconstruction work in the republic since Chechen acting President Zelimkhan Yandar-biev's government does not recognize pro-Moscow leader Doku Zavgaev while Moscow does not recognize Yandarbiev. Lebed said he hopes to find someone else, but there is no obvious candidate. -- Robert Orttung CHECHENS CONTINUE TO CONCENTRATE THEIR FORCES. Che-chen separatist forces are continuing to concentrate their forces near Grozny, NTV reported on 11 September, citing federal forces. The sources cited two groups of Chechens gathering near the city, one of 800 men and another of 500. Mines remain one of the most dangerous problems in the city; one federal soldier was injured by a mine overnight, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Robert Orttung ZAVGAEV, KULIKOV DENOUNCE ATROCITIES IN CHECHNYA. After meeting with Security Council Secretary Lebed on 11 September, Chechen head of state Zavgaev described the situation in Chechnya in bloody terms, NTV reported. He claimed that separatist Chechen forces are interning anyone who fought against them in two concentration camps, public executions are taking place, and few apartments have not been robbed. At the same time, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov warned of civil war in Chechnya, pointing out that 10 Chechens were executed on 5 September by other Chechens "on suspicion of marauding and banditry, Moskovskie novosti reported in its issue of 8-15 September. He also denounced the separatists' imposition of Islamic law on the areas they control. Kulikov warned that if Russian troops are completely withdrawn, a campaign of terror will be unleashed against all Chechens who cooperated with Moscow and that armed Chechens will start making incursions into neighboring territories. -- Robert Orttung DUMA MEMBERS REFUSE TO ATTEND COUNCIL OF EUROPE HEARINGS ON CHECHNYA. In a joint letter to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin said a Russian delegation will not attend the scheduled 23 September hearings on Chechnya in Strasbourg because of the council's decision to invite Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov but not the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership, Russian and Western agencies reported on 11 September. Lukin described the invitation of Maskhadov as "flagrant, brazen, and unprecedented interference by the Council of Europe in Russian internal affairs," Ekho Moskvy reported. The radio noted the "strange coalition" of politicians who have recently spoken out in defense of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Zavgaev, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Communist Party member Seleznev, and Lukin, a leading figure in Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party. -- Laura Belin LEBED DENIES CALLING FOR YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION. Security Council Secretary Lebed denied that he told the German journal Stern that President Yeltsin should resign, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 11 September. Lebed's press secretary, Aleksandr Barkhatov, blamed the problem on a bad translation of the retired general's comments. According to AFP, Stern's journalists say they asked Lebed about statements he had made claiming it was time for Yeltsin to step down, and Lebed replied "Am I not right?" In another part of the interview, Lebed used a joke from the Brezhnev era to describe the current Kremlin administration: "Today, following a long illness and without regaining consciousness, the secretary general resumed his functions." Lebed also said he would run in the next presidential election. He said that Russia needs democracy but admitted that he is "not cut out to be a democrat...We must, first of all, restore order, and for that you cannot always act with kid gloves." -- Robert Orttung INCUMBENT LEADS IN LENIN-GRAD OBLAST. According to a recent opinion poll, pro-Yeltsin Leningrad Oblast Governor Aleksandr Belyakov has the support of 47% of oblast residents, while his closest rival, Vadim Gustov--the chairman of the oblast soviet President Yeltsin disbanded in 1993--is polling only 15% before the 29 September election, Kommersant- Daily reported on 12 September. Although Gustov is not a Communist, the local branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation decided to support him since it does not have its own candidate. Gustov has formed an alliance with four other candidates to oppose Belyakov, Radio Rossii reported on 10 September, citing Nikolai Smirnov, a member of the coalition, who is running at about 10% in the polls. The group hopes to name a single candidate by next week. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIA OFFERS AID TO IRAQI VICTIMS OF U.S. STRIKES. A spokesman for the Ministry for Emergency Situations said Russia will offer humanitarian aid to victims of the recent U.S. missile strikes against Iraq this month, AFP reported on 11 September. The official said the aid should be delivered by the Geneva-based International Civil Defense Organization, to which Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu has just been elected president, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk again criticized the U.S.'s unilateral action against Iraq, calling it a violation of international law. However, he added that Russia's disagreement with the U.S. over Iraq "has not undermined our cooperation as co-sponsors of the Middle East Peace process," AFP reported, citing an interview with Posuvalyuk published in the latest edition of Argumenty i fakty. -- Laura Belin RUSSIA WELCOMES UN PASSAGE OF NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY. The Foreign Ministry released a statement welcoming UN approval of a treaty to impose a worldwide ban on nuclear tests, AFP and Reuters reported on 11 September. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said he hoped all UN member states would sign the treaty, which was adopted by a vote of 158-3 (Bhutan, India, and Libya voted against), with five abstentions. Russia and the world's other four declared nuclear powers--the U.S., Great Britain, France, and China--have already agreed to unilaterally end nuclear tests. -- Laura Belin NATO COUNCIL APPROVES LIAISON OFFICE EXCHANGE WITH RUSSIA. Meeting in Brussels, the NATO Council approved in principle a Russian suggestion that mutual liaison bureaus be opened in Belgium, the U.S., and Russia, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 11 September. A 26 September meeting of NATO defense ministers, to be attended by Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov as well, will consider a specific proposal on the matter, which would allow Russia to open liaison offices at the U.S. Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Virginia, at the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe in Mons, Belgium, and possibly also at NATO headquarters in Brussels. At the same time, NATO would open a liaison office in Moscow. -- Laura Belin NAZDRATENKO ON RELATIONS WITH MOSCOW. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko contended in an 11 September interview with NTV that he has fulfilled President Yeltsin's August orders giving him until 15 September to take steps to deal with the krai's energy crisis (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 and 15 August 1996). Nazdratenko said that, as requested, he has fired his deputy and transferred funds to the krai's miners. He admitted that there are problems with wage arrears but contended that the situation in the energy sector has been misrepresented by the mass media. He also stressed that the federal government still owes money to the local defense industry. In a reference to local press reports on the possible establishment of an autonomous far eastern republic, he ruled out any talk of separatism while he is governor. Commenting on speculation that Yeltsin will fire Nazdratenko, Kommersant-Daily on 12 September quoted Constitutional Court judge Vladimir Strekozov as saying he believes Yeltsin does not have the power to dismiss a popularly elected governor. -- Penny Morvant MILITARY INDUSTRIAL WORKERS REJECT REFERENDUM IN PRI-MORE; ENERGY SECTOR PRO-BLEMS CONTINUE. Workers at the nuclear submarine repair plant Zvezda have demanded that the regional referendum on confidence in Governor Nazdratenko be called off, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 September. They oppose the referendum, set by the krai Duma for 22 September, on financial grounds, arguing that the 6 billion rubles needed to pay for it should be used to repay debts. The workers have also threatened to take protest actions on 16 September. Meanwhile, about 200 workers are still on hunger strike at the Primorskii and Artem power plants, ITAR- TASS reported, citing a union official at the Primorskii plant. A Dalenergo official warned that stocks of coal and fuel oil at power stations are again so low that operations could "stop at any moment." -- Ritsuko Sasaki and Penny Morvant CONFLICT OVER AEROFLOT'S INTENTIONS TO BUY BOEINGS. Tatar Prime Minister Farid Mukhmedshin has expressed concern over Aeroflot's intention to replace 13 TU-134 passenger airplanes with 10 U.S. Boeing 737-400s, RTR reported on 10 August. Mukhamedshin accused Aero-flot, Russia's largest airline, and its general director, Yevgenii Sha-poshnikov, of betraying Russia's national interests and said the company's decision is likely to push the domestic aircraft manufacturing industry into a crisis. Shaposhnikov, however, responded by saying that as a commercial enterprise, Aeroflot cannot afford to spend money on refurbishing and modernizing newly purchased aircraft. In 1995 alone, Aeroflot had to replace 31 engines on five Aerobus IL-96s. Furthermore, Aeroflot has to meet international standards, especially environmental regulations, which is often impossible with Russian-manufactured airplanes. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GULIEV RESIGNS FOR "HEALTH REASONS." Azerbaijani parliament chairman Rasul Guliev resigned from office on 11 September, Russian and Western media reported the same day. His resignation had been expected to be the locus of a stormy extraordinary session of the parliament, the Milli Mejlis, but the matter was wrapped up in 15 minutes when Guliev asked to resign due to ill health, ITAR-TASS reported. Parliament accepted his resignation in a vote of 98-8, with four abstentions. During his speech, Guliev pledged his full support to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, who was in attendance. It has been rumored that Guliev is to serve as Azerbaijan's ambassador to Norway. A Norwegian company, Statoil, is part of the international consortium involved in exploiting three oil fields off Azerbaijan in the Caspian Sea. -- Lowell Bezanis KAZAKSTAN ROUNDUP. Almaty's city authorities on 9 September refused to allow the Center of Russian Culture of Almaty to stage a demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy, RFE/RL reported. The demonstrators intended to protest the recent U.S. airstrikes on Iraq. In other news, Rakhmankul Berdibay has been elected president of the recently founded Baba Turkti Shashti Aziz Foundation, RFE/RL reported on 12 September. Baba Turkti Shashti, whose mausoleum is in Chimkent along with a foundation of the same name, is revered as the common ancestor of the Karakalpak, Nogay, Tatar, Kazak, Kyrgyz, and Bashkort peoples. Meanwhile, a training school for sergeants, manned by instructors from the U.S. and Turkey, is to open in Kazakstan, the Turkish Daily News reported on 12 September. The 100-student school is to form the backbone of the Kazakstani army's non-commissioned officer corps. -- Lowell Bezanis and Merhat Sharipzhan HUMAN RIGHTS CONFERENCE IN TASHKENT. A three-day OSCE-sponsored conference on human rights--bringing together non-governmental organizations operating in Central Asia, government officials, and government-selected media representatives--opened in Tashkent on 11 September, Western agencies reported. Human rights are far from respected in Central Asia with print and broadcast media carefully censored or directly controlled by the government and minimal tolerance shown for political opposition. Among a litany of other human rights violations, AFP noted that 40 journalists have been killed in Tajikistan since 1992, some 30 prisoners of conscience are presently in Uzbek jails, and 600 prisoners died in Kazakstani jails of tuberculosis last year and another 101 were executed. The venue of the conference is considered a further signal of Uzbekistan's desire to soften the regime's image abroad. -- Lowell Bezanis UNESCO PLEDGES HELP FOR TURKMENISTAN. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov and UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor signed a memorandum of cooperation in Paris on 11 September, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. According to the agency, UNESCO is to help Turkmenistan reform its education system, train journalists, create a management information network, support national radio programming, establish various cultural programs aimed at the protection of historical sites, and analyze the environmental problems of the Caspian Sea. -- 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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