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No. 179, Part I, 16 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 HOSPITALIZED FOR TESTS. President Boris Yeltsin was hospitalized on 14 September for tests before his heart operation, setting off speculation that his condition may be worsening. He accepted the offer of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to use the advice of two top German surgeons, Russian TV reported on 15 September. Yeltsin will hand over control of Russia's nuclear weapons only during the time that he is unconscious for the operation, NTV reported the same day. Also on 15 September, U.S. President Bill Clinton phoned Yeltsin to wish him well. Nezavisimaya gazeta noted on 14 September that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is already de facto running the country. -- Robert Orttung FIGHTING BREAKS OUT IN GROZNY . . . Fighting involving automatic weapons, grenade launchers, and mortars broke out near Grozny airport around 9 p.m. local time on 15 September, AFP reported, citing Chechen rebel spokesman Movladi Udugov. The fighting might be an attempt to seize the airport where Russian troops and pro-Russian Chechens are stationed. The rebels had earlier warned the Russians to leave the area within two days. Chechen rebels and Russian soldiers from a joint force later quelled the fighting. The identity of the assailants remained unknown, but ITAR-TASS speculated that they belonged to extremist groups that want to upset the peace process. No one was killed. -- Robert Orttung . . . LEBED TO RETURN TO CHECHNYA. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed will return to Chechnya on 17 September to address the problems preventing the implementation of the 31 August peace treaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. With the attack in Grozny and rumors of more fighting, the situation in Chechnya is becoming increasingly unstable. Federal troops claimed that about 200 Chechen separatist fighters are concentrating to the east of Grozny and are preparing to attack Argun, NTV reported on 15 September. Udugov denied this claim, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov claimed that pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev was preparing to launch an assault to retake Grozny. Zavgaev has 7,000-8,000 troops but denied that they were preparing for further fighting in the republic, Radio Rossii reported on 15 September. Maskhadov told NTV's Itogi that he was ready to fight again if the peace process collapsed. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIAN POLICY MAKERS MEET ON CHECHNYA, REDUCE LEBED'S ROLE . . . All the major players involved in defining Moscow's Chechen policy, including Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, met on 14 September behind closed doors. The group will meet under Chernomyrdin's chairmanship every Saturday, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. The meeting supported the Lebed-Maskhadov agreements as the basis for resolving the conflict and appointed Lebed the head of a united commission, formed apparently by representatives from the federal government and the separatist fighters. The commission's membership has not yet been announced, but it will define the Kremlin's "general political strategy in the negotiations." Lebed's responsibilities in Chechnya will be reduced so that he can concentrate on other issues, such as military aspects of Russia's relationship with Ukraine and Belarus. The move to reduce Lebed's control over the resolution of the Chechen conflict addresses the fears of Kremlin insiders that he was playing too visible a role, giving him a platform for a future presidential campaign. -- Robert Orttung . . . AND EXPRESS CONCERN OVER CHECHEN GOVERNMENT FORMATION. Participants in the 14 September meeting expressed concern that the Chechen separatists were acting unilaterally to form the Grozny government. They called for letting both Chernomyrdin and Chechen opposition leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev approve the membership of the government. Zavgaev moderated his demands regarding the government's formation on 15 September as he continues to lose influence in Moscow (he was not invited to the meeting). Sources in the White House said that Moscow would not recognize a government formed mostly of Yandarbiev's fighters. -- Robert Orttung SEPARATISTS HOPE TO ATTEND COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S HEARINGS ON CHECHNYA. Ruslan Chimaev, foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Republic of Ichkeriya, said a Chechen delegation including Chief of Staff Maskhadov plans to attend hearings scheduled for 23 September at the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg, Ekho Moskvy reported on 14 September. The council's decision to invite Maskhadov but not pro- Moscow Chechen head of state Zavgaev has met with sharp criticism in Russia, and State Duma deputies have threatened to boycott the hearings. The Chechen delegation may be blocked if, as is expected, the Russian Foreign Ministry refuses to grant Maskhadov an exit visa. Maskhadov could travel on a Chechen passport, but France would be unlikely to grant him an entry visa, since it does not recognize Chechnya as an independent state. -- Laura Belin TURKEY BARS RUSSIAN WARSHIP FROM EXERCISE. The Turkish government barred a Russian warship from the Black Sea Fleet from participating in a NATO- led exercise in Turkish waters because the ship was flying the old Soviet naval ensign, NTV reported on 14 September. On 10 September, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov had said that the fleet would not take part in exercise Black Sea Partnership-96 because the status of the fleet remained "undecided" and its ships still fly the flag of a "nonexistent state, the USSR" while the fleet is being divided between Russia and Ukraine. Admiral Petr Svyatashov, the deputy commander of the fleet, said that the ships were ready to "raise the [Russian St. Andrew's naval] flag at any time to ensure that Russia, Russia's navy, is not disgraced like that again in future." -- Doug Clarke PRIMAKOV STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF RUSSO-JAPANESE RELATIONS. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said on 13 September that Russia attaches great importance to ties with Japan and gave an "on the whole positive" appraisal of the state of relations between the two countries, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. Speaking at a Moscow symposium marking the 40th anniversary of the normalization of the two countries' diplomatic relations, Primakov suggested that increased Japanese-Russian cooperation could help stabilize the situation on the Korean peninsula and aid the economic development of the Russian Far East. He also sought Tokyo's support for efforts to counter "trends toward a unipolar world" -- a reference to what Russia views as U.S. efforts at domination. Primakov added that Russia is still committed to settling the dispute with Japan over the Kuril Islands, despite the recent lack of progress on the issue. -- Penny Morvant RUTSKOI LOSES COURT APPEAL IN KURSK. The Kursk Oblast Court refused to overturn the decision by the Kursk electoral commission not to register former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi as a gubernatorial candidate, Radio Rossii reported on 14 September. Rutskoi was denied registration because of a regional law requiring all candidates to have lived in Kursk for the past year. However, he argued that under federal law he is entitled to run for governor, and NTV reported that the Central Electoral Commission has asked the Kursk authorities to repeal the residency requirement, which it said violated the rights of voters. Rutskoi, considered the favorite to win the election if he is registered, will now appeal to the Supreme Court. -- Laura Belin ENERGY WORKERS STRIKE BEGINS IN PRIMORE . . . The 16,000-strong workforce of the Far Eastern power company Dalenergo began an indefinite strike on 16 September to protest wage arrears and the continuing crisis in Primorskii Krai's fuel and energy sector, ITAR-TASS reported, citing a representative of the strike committee. About 500 workers attended a demonstration in Vladivostok in support of the strike, but the rally was disrupted by a market organized on the same square at the last minute. Workers from a number of other sectors, including some defense industry enterprises, said earlier that they would also strike. Transport workers, however, agreed to postpone protest actions following a promise by the krai administration to eliminate wage arrears totaling 13 billion rubles ($2.4 million) within two months. -- Penny Morvant . . . PRIMORSKII GOVERNOR MEETS FUEL MINISTER, CALLS FOR MORE POWERS. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko and newly appointed Fuel and Energy Minister Petr Rodionov have worked out a series of measures to deal with the energy crisis in Primore, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September, citing the krai administration's press service. In mid-August President Yeltsin gave Nazdratenko a month to resolve the problems facing the krai's energy sector. The agreement has been presented to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin for approval. Speaking on Russian TV on 13 September, Nazdratenko argued that the powers of regional governors should be extended, saying that one of the problems he encountered was being responsible for what goes on in the krai without having the authority to intervene in the financial transactions of local state companies. He also rejected media reports that he supports the Primorskii Krai Duma's initiative to hold a referendum on confidence in his policies on 22 September. -- Penny Morvant DUBININ ON CURRENCY REFORM, EXCHANGE RATE. Central Bank (TsB) Chairman Sergei Dubinin has rejected rumors that there will be a currency reform in Russia in the near future, ITAR-TASS and Izvestiya reported on 13-14 September. He said that carrying out a currency reform will be possible only when economic reforms have attained a critical mass and economic growth begins. Dubinin also noted that there will be no immediate changes in the exchange rate mechanism, and the sliding ruble corridor will remain in place until the end of 1996. The choice of next year's exchange rate mechanism will depend on the priorities in fiscal and monetary policy. It is likely to be a compromise between the need to keep inflation low and protecting the interests of exporters. -- Natalia Gurushina NEW HEAD OF STATE PROPERTY COMMITTEE. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has appointed 35-year-old Alfred Kokh as chairman of the State Property Committee, Reuters, ITAR-TASS and Segodnya reported on 13-14 September. As a deputy chairman of the committee, Kokh played a pivotal role in holding the controversial loans-for-shares auctions at the end of 1995. He is considered to be a member of the so-called Chubais team and describes his economic beliefs as radical. Hitherto, the committee has been headed by Yeltsin's Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and the first deputy head of the presidential administration, Aleksandr Kazakov. Meanwhile, Yeltsin has appointed Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Ignatev, another member of the Chubais team, as presidential economic aide. -- Natalia Gurushina MOSCOW BECOMES OWNER OF ZIL. The Moscow government has acquired a controlling interest in Zil, thus becoming the owner of one of the largest automobile manufacturers in Russia, Russian TV reported on 14 September. Zil's production fell last year from 200,000 vehicles to only 17,000. Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov said that mistakes made during the privatization of Zil should be corrected, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 September. The mayor appealed to Moscow citizens to buy Zil products and support the development of the automobile giant. -- Ritsuko Sasaki TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA DATE SET FOR PRESIDENTIAL VOTE IN SOUTH OSSETIA. The South Ossetian parliament on 13 September decided to hold a presidential election on 10 November, Russian and Western agencies reported. The Georgian government earlier stated its opposition to a presidency being established in South Ossetia, and Russian presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais also expressed concern over South Ossetia's decision. -- Elin Suleymanov DUMA COMMITTEE ON SIDOROVA CASE. The Russian State Duma's Council of Compatriots issued a statement on the continued detention of Nina Sidorova, president of the Russian Center in Kazakstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. The statement claimed she was detained without due cause and has been battered in prison. It also charged the Kazak authorities with willful and intentional harassment of the leaders of Kazakstan's Russian communities, and called on Moscow to link loans to Kazakstan and the writing off of its debts to Almaty's human rights record. -- Lowell Bezanis THREAT OF FAMINE IN KAZAKSTAN? Leonid Solomin, head of the confederation of independent trade unions in Kazakstan, said more than 400,000 residents of industrial towns are facing famine, AFP reported on 13 September. Solomin, like some Kazak papers recently, pointed to early signs of famine such as the consumption of animal feed and even fertilizer by desperate people. He identified those most stricken with hunger as residents of Karaganda in northern Kazakstan, and the towns of Janatas, Kentau and Tekeli in the country's south. -- Lowell Bezanis SACKINGS FOR CORRUPTION IN KYRGYZSTAN. President Askar Akaev dismissed the head of the state customs inspectorate and the governors of Naryn and Issyk-Kul provinces on 12 September, Reuters reported the next day. The three were sacked for what was termed "serious violations of financial discipline." At the same time, Akaev dismissed the heads of three regional administrations and severely reprimanded First Deputy Prime Minister Abdyjapar Tagaev and Deputy Prime Minister Bekbolat Talgarbekov. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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