|Experience is in the fingers and head. The heart is inexperienced. - Henry David Thoreau|
No. 180, Part I, 17 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 TO REMAIN IN HOSPITAL. President Boris Yeltsin will stay in the hospital for the next two days to undergo tests before his heart operation, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 17 September. The same day Moskovskii komsomolets considered a variety of possible scenarios if Yeltsin cannot finish his term. The paper considers Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Communist party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed the most likely candidates to succeed Yeltsin, with Minister for CIS Affairs Aman Tuleev, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, and Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais also possible contenders. -- Robert Orttung KRASNAYA ZVEZDA CALLS FOR ACTION . . . The military newspaper Krasnaya zvezda on 17 September blasted the federal authorities for doing nothing to advance the Chechnya peace process while the separatist rebels are forming "parallel power structures," setting up their own coalition government, regrouping, and positioning themselves to influence events in the republic. The paper accused the separatists of ignoring many of the provisions laid out in the treaties they have signed, including the release of POWs. Only the decision made by the commander of federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, to halt the exit of Russian troops made the rebels turn over 27 prisoners on 16 September, the paper claimed. -- Robert Orttung . . . MASKHADOV SEES POSSIBILITY OF RENEWED FIGHTING. Chechen separatist Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov told NTV on 16 September that he had already signed four agreements with the federal authorities and that as soon as he started to believe peace was possible, the policy of the Russian government sharply changed. He said that he believed that Moscow was using the dispute over POWs to restart military activities. Maskhadov said that he trusted Lebed, but believed that he alone on the Russian side was working for peace. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN, LEBED DISCUSS CHECHEN COALITION GOVERNMENT. Moscow is trying to take control of the coalition government formation process in Chechnya while the rebels are unilaterally filling it with their supporters. Lebed and Chernomyrdin apparently decided on 16 September that Lebed, rather than the prime minister, could approve the members of the new coalition government set up to rule Chechnya, NTV reported. Reports from the previous day said that Chernomyrdin would have the final word. Pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev said that it was premature to begin speaking of a coalition government in the republic. Chernomyrdin canceled their meeting scheduled for the 16th, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung CONSTITUTIONAL COURT APPEAL ON LEBED-MASKHADOV AGREEMENT STALLED. Duma deputies from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia have collected only about one-third of the 90 signatures they would need to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the Lebed-Maskhadov agreement, Izvestiya reported on 17 September. They had protested that Lebed exceeded his authority in signing the document and that the agreement left key questions concerning Chechnya's status unanswered (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 September 1996). A few deputies from the Communist Party, the left-wing Popular Power faction, and Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko have signed the appeal, but Izvestiya noted that Zhirinovsky himself has ignored his subordinates' initiative. -- Laura Belin LUKIN REJECTS SECOND REQUEST TO ATTEND CHECHNYA HEARINGS IN STRASBOURG. Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin rejected a request from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly that the Russian delegation reconsider its decision to boycott planned hearings on Chechnya in Strasbourg, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported on 16 September. Lukin stood by his earlier statements that the hearings would represent interference in Russia's internal affairs and could undermine the peace process in Chechnya. The council has invited Chechen Chief of Staff Maskhadov and Security Council Secretary Lebed to the hearings, but not pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev. -- Laura Belin ZYUGANOV ON LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES. The Communist Party (KPRF) faction in the State Duma will take steps to ensure that laws are better enforced and that lawbreakers--for instance, those responsible for not paying wages or pensions--are held criminally accountable, KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Sovetskaya Rossiya in an interview published on 14 September. He added that opposition deputies will form a shadow cabinet. Zyuganov charged that the mass media "has turned into a means of psychological war and destruction" seeking to further its own interests, "far from the interests of the state and its citizens," and said the Duma will ask major television networks to give the opposition time to air its views. Zyuganov's statements reflect his party's strategy to gain a reputation as a "constructive" rather than an "irreconcilable" opposition. Rhetoric depicting the KPRF as dangerous and extremist proved a potent weapon against Zyuganov in the recent presidential election. -- Laura Belin LEBED ACCEPTS INVITATION TO VISIT NATO. Security Council Secretary Lebed confirmed that he will accept an invitation to visit NATO headquarters in Brussels this October, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 September. "Why not talk with NATO representatives about the organization's plans?" he observed. He said he planned to "caution" NATO representatives against eastward expansion, although he characterized Russia as too weak to prevent the alliance from accepting new members. Lebed has never traveled outside the former Soviet Union, except during his military service in Afghanistan during the 1980s. -- Laura Belin RUSSIA WELCOMES BOSNIA ELECTIONS. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov issued a statement calling the first post-war elections in Bosnia- Herzegovina a "very important step" toward "normalizing the lives of all peoples" in the region, advancing the peace process, and promoting social and economic revival, Russian and Western agencies reported on 16 September. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov, who traveled to Bosnia as an election observer, told ITAR-TASS on 17 September that he believed the elections to be generally "democratic and free" despite violations reported in certain areas. -- Laura Belin HIJACKING IN DAGESTAN. A lone hijacker held dozens of people hostage on a bus in Dagestan on 16 September before releasing them unharmed and fleeing, Russian and Western agencies reported. The man seized the bus in the early evening; about an hour later he fled with three hostages and a Dagestan Duma deputy who had offered himself as a substitute. According to some reports, the man released the remaining hostages near Khasavyurt and crossed into Chechnya with about $10,000. Others said he might be in hiding in Dagestan. The hijacking was the latest in a series of such incidents in the north Caucasus in recent years. -- Penny Morvant PENSIONERS PROTEST IN KOSTROMA. A group of pensioners rallied in Kostroma on 16 September to protest the failure to pay their pensions on time, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public Television (ORT) reported. Headed by members of the local communist party organization, about 1,500 pensioners, who have still not received their August money, gathered at the local administration building to present a petition to Governor Valerii Arbuzov demanding their due. A group of demonstrators then blocked traffic on a bridge across the Volga, paralyzing the only road link across the river from Yaroslavl to Nizhnii Novgorod. The indebtedness of Russia's Pension Fund has prompted several similar protests by pensioners in oblasts along the Volga. -- Penny Morvant PRIMORSKII KRAI GOVERNOR CALLS FOR CANCELLATION OF REFERENDUM. Yevgenii Nazdratenko sent an open letter on 16 September to the Primorskii Krai Duma asking it to cancel plans for a regional referendum on 22 September on confidence in the governor, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 September. Nazdratenko said he felt the referendum was unnecessary as solutions have been worked out with the federal government to improve the situation in the region's fuel and energy sector. Radio Rossii reported on 16 September that the krai Duma is scheduled to meet on 18 September to discuss the projected plebiscite and is expected to cancel it. Also on 18 September Nazdratenko will present a final report to the presidential administration on the situation in the energy sector. A decree issued by President Yeltsin on 14 August expressed doubt about Nazdratenko's competence and gave him a month to stabilize the situation. ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September that Nazdratenko has agreed emergency measures with Fuel and Energy Minister Petr Rodionov. The strike of some 10,000 Dalenergo workers, however, is continuing. -- Penny Morvant STATE TAX AGENCY PLANS INSPECTION OF BANKS. The State Tax Agency will carry out a large-scale inspection of Russian commercial banks over the next month in order to unearth concealed profits and boost tax collection, Kommersant-Daily reported on 17 September. According to a report in Kommersant-Daily on 14 September, one-quarter of Russian banks have broken existing tax legislation. One-third of banks carried out payments from clients' accounts with delays stretching from 10 to 60 days. The volume of delayed payments to the federal budget now totals 1.2 trillion rubles ($223 million). -- Natalia Gurushina GDP AND INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT CONTINUE TO FALL. Russia's GDP and industrial output fell by 6% and 5%, respectively, in the first eight months of 1996 compared with the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. A substantial reduction in output was recorded in light industry, the production of construction materials, car manufacture, metallurgy, the fuel and energy industry, and the production of meat and vodka. At the same time, there were increases in gas extraction and the production of some foodstuffs. Meanwhile, an IMF working group is currently in Moscow to assess the performance of the Russian economy and give its recommendations on the disbursement of the sixth tranche of a $10.1 billion extended fund facility. Russia has just received the August tranche of the loan ($350 million). -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA VAZGEN MANUKYAN'S CAMPAIGN PROGRAM. Armenian presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan, during a 15 September interview in Yerevan, characterized the 22 September presidential election as a choice between alternative approaches to building democracy and the transition to a market economy, and dismissed the Armenian communists as a "spent force." While admitting Armenia's economic collapse was connected to the collapse of the USSR, the blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan, and the war in Karabakh, Manukyan harshly criticized the economic policies of the present leadership, slamming in particular its "illiterate" privatization policy. Manukyan's campaign program focuses on the reconstruction of the industrial sector, reform of the tax system, eradicating corruption and introducing social benefits for the most vulnerable sectors of the population. The first point of Manukyan's program is a pledge to achieve international recognition of the independent status of Nagorno-Karabakh by means of peaceful negotiations, although he conceded that this will be a protracted process. Manukyan is increasingly viewed as a serious threat to incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan. -- Liz Fuller in Yerevan (monitoring the presidential election for the European Institute for Media) BOTAS GETS WORLD BANK LOAN FOR BAKU-CEYHAN STUDY. The World Bank on 12 September announced in a news release it will loan $5 million to Turkey's oil and gas transmission company Botas to undertake a feasibility study and environmental audit of several route options for exporting up to 45 million metric tons of crude oil per year from Azerbaijan and Central Asia. It appears routing options beginning in Baku and transiting Armenia or Georgia to Ceyhan will be evaluated. According to the news release, World Bank assistance for the study does not imply a commitment to further finance the pipeline as it is expected to be built and financed by the private sector. -- Lowell Bezanis NEW APPOINTMENTS IN KAZAKSTAN. A rash of new appointments was made in the Kazakstani government and presidential apparatus on 17 September, RFE/RL reported the same day. Former Finance Minister Aleksander Pavlov was named Deputy Prime Minister, Nurtay Abykhayev is now senior aide to President Nursultan Nazarbayev, while Alikhan Baymenov has been made deputy director of the presidential administration. -- Lowell Bezanis and Merhat Sharipzhan NAZARBAYEV IN BAKU. Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev signed a treaty outlining the basic principles governing relations between their countries, a joint statement on the Caspian Sea, and 10 inter-governmental agreements in Baku on 16 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. The statement on the Caspian Sea calls for its demilitarization and the need to intensify negotiations between littoral states to determine the sea's legal status, ITAR-TASS reported. While in Baku, Nazarbayev expressed an interest in Kazakstan's participating in a prospective Transcaucasian railway line which Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia have agreed to build. -- Lowell Bezanis RAHKMONOV IN CHINA. The presidents of Tajikistan and China, Immomali Rakhmonov and Jiang Zemin, signed a series of bilateral cooperation agreements in Beijing on 16 September, AFP reported. The accords appear to be mainly symbolic and include one on environmental protection and academic exchanges, and another on judicial cooperation. -- 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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