|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 182, Part I, 19 September 1996
RUSSIA YELTSIN APPROVES WORK ON CHECHNYA. In a meeting with Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, President Boris Yeltsin said that he approved of the work being carried out by the government, the Security Council, and his administration in resolving the Chechen conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September. He stressed that Moscow had to take a differentiated approach for each regional election and ordered Chubais and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to visit regions where elections are to be held soon. The two men also discussed the procedure for handling the "nuclear button" during Yeltsin's medical treatment: it will probably be transferred for several days to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. The Kremlin also denied reports that Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko had been hospitalized, AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN TO PARTICIPATE IN TALKS "IF NECESSARY." The prime minister was not nearly as upbeat about Lebed's 17 September trip to Chechnya as Lebed himself. Chernomyrdin said that he would participate in the negotiations with the Chechen separatists "if necessary," since it was his job to do so, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September. However, Chernomyrdin will not meet with acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev to discuss the formation of a coalition government, a source close to the prime minister told ITAR-TASS. Earlier on 18 September, Lebed met with Chernomyrdin for 40 minutes to explain the results of his trip to Chechnya. -- Robert Orttung CONFLICT OVER CHECHNYA'S STATUS REMAINS. The Russians and Chechens remain divided over whether Chechnya can become an independent country. While official Moscow says no, Chechen Minister of Information and Press Movladi Udugov warned that Russia would not disintegrate if Chechnya becomes independent, but that it would fall apart from the "tension of keeping Chechnya on its knees in a position of slavery," NTV reported on 18 September. After his talks with Lebed, Yandarbiev said that "we are compromising in order to win our independence." The leaders of the coordinating council of Chechen parties and movements made clear that Moscow would have difficulty setting up a moderate coalition government since it would be impossible to find any politicians in the republic who did not support Chechen independence, Kommersant-Daily reported on 19 September. The names of the cabinet members are expected on 24 September. -- Robert Orttung PAIN COMPARES CHECHNYA TO OTHER HOT SPOTS. Chechnya has reached the same stage as the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Transdniestr region, and Abkhazia, Presidential Council member Emil Pain wrote in Rossiiskie vesti on 19 September. In these places there is a relatively peaceful balance in which the "center" has suffered a military defeat and cannot restart military activities, while the separatists, feeling victorious, do not want further fighting. This situation can hold for a relatively long time. Pain argued that those who advocate forceful methods of resolving the conflict no longer can convince Russia's leaders that one last campaign will remove the resistance. He claimed that the political situation on the ground is responsible for the relatively peaceful status quo, not the treaties signed by Lebed and Maskhadov. Since his arguments appear in the presidential administration's newspaper, they may be an attempt to show that Lebed has accomplished less than he claims. -- Robert Orttung PRIMAKOV: ISLAM IS NOT "THE ENEMY OF WORLD CIVILIZATION." In an article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta of 18 September, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov distinguished between "Islamic extremism" and "Islamic fundamentalism." Primakov argues that fundamentalism is a natural response to historical developments, such as the former persecution of Islam. "Islamic extremism," which he defines as the use of force to change state borders, he regards as unacceptable. Primakov, formerly a scholar of the Middle East, is thus trying to justify Moscow's role in Tajikistan and Chechnya, while signaling that it wants friendly relations with the Islamic world and with the 17 million Muslims who live inside Russia. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA AND U.S. AGREE ON STEPS TO MONITOR NUCLEAR STOCKPILE. U.S. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov have agreed on additional practical steps for the inspection of Russia's stockpile of nuclear weapons, Reuters reported on 18 September. The two are attending the annual conference in Vienna of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). An IAEA spokesman said that Russia had also agreed to place an unspecified amount of fissile material under IAEA inspection. A Russian team will visit three nuclear stockpile sites in the U.S. to study American safeguard techniques with a view toward applying these in Russia. -- Doug Clarke DEFENSE WORKERS PROTEST IN FAR EAST. About 1,500 workers at Russian navy installations in the Far East held a rally in Vladivostok on 19 September to pressurize the Defense Ministry into paying more than 140 billion rubles ($26 million) in back wages, ITAR-TASS reported. An official of the Pacific Fleet trade union said workers have not received wages for four to six months. The demonstrators also demanded the timely transfer of federal payments for defense orders. The government debt to military facilities in the Far East is one reason for the severe payments crisis there. The Vladivostok protest is a follow-up to a rally outside the government building in Moscow six months ago involving representatives from all Russia's military trade unions. Another rally is to be held in Moscow later today. On 18 September workers attached to the Northern Fleet rallied in Murmansk. Shipyards there are owed 230 billion rubles by the fleet, which is in turn owed 1.4 trillion by the government, Krasnaya zvezda reported. -- Penny Morvant DAGESTAN PAYS HIGH PRICE FOR CHECHNYA WAR. The war in Chechnya has cost Dagestan about 6.2 trillion rubles ($1.15 billion), ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September, citing Dagestani Emergencies Minister Yunus Abdullaev. He blamed the losses primarily on terrorist acts and severe disruption to the republic's communications links and economic activity in regions bordering on Chechnya. He also said 50 Dagestani residents were killed and more than 100 injured in fighting spilling over from Chechnya. The head of the administration of Kizlyar, the scene of fighting between Chechen and Russian forces nine months ago, said the town suffered 150 billion rubles worth of damage but has received only 40 billion rubles for reconstruction and 36 billion in compensation for victims of the tragedy. In addition, Dagestan's health minister said many of the estimated 150,000-220,000 refugees from Chechnya in his republic are suffering from serious infectious diseases. -- Penny Morvant PRIMORSKII GOVERNOR HANDS IN REPORT. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko submitted a report to the presidential administration on 18 September detailing the measures he has taken to resolve the energy crisis in Primore, NTV reported. A decree issued by President Yeltsin on 14 August gave Nazdratenko a month to stabilize the situation. The measures were approved by First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, and the report will now be considered by presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. Both sides now appear to be backing away from a confrontation over the issue. Meanwhile, workers participating in the 16-day hunger strike at the Primorskii power plant in Luchegorsk pledged to continue their action until wage arrears are paid despite warnings from doctors about the health risks, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 September. -- Penny Morvant U.S. TO INVEST $4.5 BILLION IN TATARSTAN. American companies are willing to invest $1.5 billion a year over the next three years in Tatarstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September, citing First Deputy Prime Minister Ravil Muratov. Muratov has just returned from the U.S., where he had talks with Vice President Al Gore, business people and bankers. He believes this money is likely to be invested in the oil industry, petrochemicals, fertilizers, food processing, and the planned Yelabuga auto plant, a joint venture with General Motors. -- Natalia Gurushina SPECULATION ABOUT CURRENCY REFORM. During a recent visit to Nizhnii Novgorod, Economy Minister Yevgenii Yasin said that the Russian government is considering introducing a new "hard" ruble, which will be equal to 10,000 current rubles, Segodnya reported on 14 September. (Currently, there are 5,382 rubles to the dollar.) The Chairman of the Duma's Subcommittee on Banking Legislation Pavel Medvedev supported the idea of currency reform, adding that low inflation creates favorable conditions for such move, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September. However, the agency also reported that Sergei Dubinin, Chairman of the Central Bank, said that there will be no currency reform in Russia in the near future. There was considerable panic in July 1993, when the government abruptly canceled old ruble bills and insisted on the use of new bills - even though in that case they were of the same denomination. -- Natalia Gurushina NEW SCHEME TO DEAL WITH TAX ARREARS. Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits on 17 September announced a new procedure to off-set federal tax arrears of firms (and regions) against money owed to them by federal agencies, Segodnya reported. Commercial banks will issue credits to firms or regions which are owed money from the budget, and the firms will use these loans to pay the taxes they owe. The finance ministry will use the money to pay federal arrears, enabling the firms to repay the bank loans. The scheme appears to be a substitute for the existing tax waivers, which have attracted criticism from the IMF. It assumes that the banks are willing and able to help plug the holes in tax collection. On 18 September Duma deputies, ministry officials, and representatives from 53 republics and regions met in Voronezh to discuss the 1997 draft regional budget, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported. Livshits told the gathering that nonpayments to the federal budget amounted to 32 trillion rubles ($5.9 billion) by the end of August. -- Ritsuko Sasaki and Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ZHANIA'S RESERVATIONS ABOUT RUSSIA. The chairman of Georgia's parliament, Zurab Zhania, has claimed that Russia's policy toward Abkhazia and South Ossetia seeks "to legalize the separatists' position" by turning a blind eye to elections the two breakaway regions are planning in November, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September. Zhania said the elections would condone "the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Georgian population carried out by Abkhaz separatists," and argued that the Russian peacekeepers in those regions have a responsibility to prevent the elections from taking place. Zhania once again stressed that Tbilisi was prepared for a "strategic partnership" with Moscow on condition of Georgia's territorial integrity. -- Lowell Bezanis ARMENIAN ELECTION UPDATE. Three candidates have withdrawn from the 22 September presidential election and thrown their support behind National Democratic Union leader Vazgen Manukyan, Western and Russian agencies reported on 17 September. The now four-way presidential race pits Communist leader Sergei Badalyan and Scientific-Industrial Civic Union leader Ashot Manucharyan against Manukyan and incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan. Long the clear favorite, Ter-Petrossyan is now widely perceived to be facing a serious challenge from Manukyan. -- Lowell Bezanis RUSSIAN DUMA ON COSSACKS IN KAZAKSTAN. A sub-committee of the Russian State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs has issued a protest against what it termed "unceasing persecution of the Russian population, especially Cossacks, in Kazakstan", ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September. The sub-committee is chaired by Aleksei Lebed, the brother of Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed. The statement referred to a series of "preventative arrests" in Kazakstan, including the arrest of three men on 11 September for wearing Cossack uniform in a public meeting in Kaskelen. The letter argued that Cossacks are being badgered "primarily for adherence to their primordial habits and ways." This is the second such statement emanating from the Russian State Duma on this subject in a week. -- Lowell Bezanis CIS MINISTERS MEET IN BISHKEK. Ministers for CIS affairs from 10 CIS states (excluding Azerbaijan and Ukraine) met in the Kyrgyz capital to discuss ways to promote economic integration between CIS member states, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 September. Russian CIS Minister Aman Tuleev said that "the repayment of the debts by state-owned packages of shares of industrial enterprises of CIS republics may become the main mechanism in this respect." Such debt-equity swaps have already been concluded with Moldova, but are being resisted by Ukraine. -- Peter Rutland NIYAZOV AND THE TURKMEN MEDIA. Turkmen authorities have circulated an official statement declaring that President Saparmurad Niyazov is the founder of all local newspapers published in the country, according to a 17 September Pravda-5 report. Noting that Niyazov was earlier officially declared the founder of all the republic's central press, the report suggested the mass media in Turkmenistan have been "essentially monopolized." In other news, Turkmenistan's first Islamic theological school, established by Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate, has opened in Ashgabat, Zaman reported on 18 September. -- Lowell Bezanis RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE OMRI DAILY DIGEST The full text of the OMRI Daily Digest is translated into Russian and distributed the following day. 1) Compose a message to: MAJORDOMO@ISF.RU 2) In the body of the message, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI YourName Fill in your own name where shown 3) Send the message
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