Только тогда станешь человеком, когда научишься видеть человека в другом. - А. Н. Радищев
OMRI DAILY DIGEST</head>

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

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