|A disagreement may be the shortest cut between two minds. - Kahlil Gibran|
No. 183, Part I, 20 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 ISSUES DECREE ON POWER TRANSFER. President Boris Yeltsin on 19 September signed a decree outlining the procedure for transferring power to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin while he undergoes heart surgery, ITAR-TASS reported. Chernomyrdin will control Russia's nuclear weapons during Yeltsin's incapacitation. Yeltsin must sign another decree defining when the handover will actually take place. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the decree sought to remove all questions about the power transfer. Yeltsin's doctors, including American Michael DeBakey, will determine the details of the operation on 25 September. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN CHANGES COMPOSITION OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL. Yeltsin replaced former Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits and removed Valerii Manilov from the position of deputy secretary of the Security Council on 19 September. Panskov lost his position in the government more than a month ago and the delay in removing him from the Security Council shows that the president is paying little attention to the body, Kommersant-Daily noted on 20 September. Although the council should convene once a month, it has not met in the last three months. Manilov had prepared all the Security Council meetings for the last 2-1/2 years and had extensive contacts with all the key players. Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, whose power draws from his popularity rather than from inside connections, decided that he no longer needs Manilov. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN APPOINTS PAIN AS ADVISOR. Yeltsin named Presidential Council member Emil Pain as his advisor on Chechnya, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 19 September. Pain told Ekho Moskvy that he did not know what he was supposed to do in his new position. Pain had worked in Chernomyrdin's commission for resolving the Chechen conflict which was disbanded after Lebed criticized it as ineffective. Pain's 19 September Rossiiskie vesti article was much less laudatory of Lebed's treaties than the rest of the media has been (see OMRI Daily Digest 19 September 1996). -- Robert Orttung CHECHEN DEVELOPMENTS. Chechen rebels killed the head of Shelkovskii Raion, Anatolii Storozhenko, who had opposed the separatists, Ekho Moskvy reported on 19 September. While the situation in Grozny remains relatively calm, the Russian military continued to warn of possible "large-scale provocations." Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev may visit Moscow on 23 September for talks with Lebed and Chernomyrdin, NTV reported. The federal authorities announced in Moscow that the warrant for the arrest of Lebed's negotiating partner, Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Mashkadov, is still valid, Radio Rossii reported. The warrant would presumably prevent Maskhadov from traveling to France to address the Council of Europe. Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov said that a continuing investigation is ridiculous since Maskhadov is on TV every day. -- Robert Orttung ABDULATIPOV: DUMA SHOULD PASS LAW ON CHECHNYA. State Duma deputy Ramazan Abdulatipov, who heads the Russian Regions faction, said the Duma should pass a law on the transition period and deferred status of the Chechen Republic, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported on 19 September. Abdulatipov said he supported the agreement recently signed by Lebed and Maskhadov, under which discussion of Chechnya's status was deferred for five years, but worried about the absence of "political mechanisms that could ensure the implementation of this procedure." The Duma is unlikely to approve such a law, since leading figures in the Communist Party (which, with its allies, has a working majority in the lower house) have spoken out against the Lebed-Maskhadov agreement. -- Laura Belin JOURNALISTS TO BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR FALSE INFORMATION. The President's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes ruled that journalists and editors are responsible for disseminating false information, even if an article contains disclaimers such as "it is rumored," "it is said," or "according to unverified information," ITAR- TASS reported on 18 September. The case was brought by a journalist in Vladimir who was sued for libel, even though her article had been published with a disclaimer saying that the writer "bore no responsibility for the authenticity of the report." The judges ruled that journalists are obliged to check the authenticity of facts reported, and said persons are entitled to sue for libel even in the case of a journalist's "honest mistake." However, journalists are protected from libel suits brought on the basis of direct quotations or reports by official state bodies cited in their articles. -- Laura Belin DEMOCRATS CAN'T AGREE ON CANDIDATE IN STAVROPOL. With gubernatorial elections in Stavropol Krai set for 27 October, local activists in the "democratic" camp cannot agree on a common candidate, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 September. In late August the All-Russian Coordinating Council on the regional elections endorsed the incumbent governor, Petr Marchenko, who is supported by the pro-government Our Home Is Russia movement. However, local branches of some parties represented on the council refused to back Marchenko and instead support Aleksandr Korobeinikov, head of the Stavropol Center for Innovations and Economic Technologies. Pro-reform parties currently face similar dilemmas in other regions, such as Krasnodar and Altai Krai; local democrats object to the style of rule of unpopular incumbents, yet cannot agree on whether more palatable candidates would be able to defeat strong Communist-backed challengers. -- Laura Belin COMMUNISTS PUSHING LAW ON MEDICAL COMMISSION. With Yeltsin still hospitalized for heart problems, Duma Legislation Committee Chairman and Communist Party member Anatolii Lukyanov announced on 19 September that a draft law on creating a medical commission to evaluate the health of high officials has been fully completed and should be passed by the Duma "no matter what," Kommersant-Daily reported the next day. A similar law failed to clear the lower house last year, but it is now likely to be approved given the new balance of forces in the Duma since the December 1995 parliamentary elections. Article 92 of the Constitution stipulates that the president must cede power to the prime minister if he becomes "persistently unable" to fulfill his duties, but there is currently no procedure for evaluating the president's abilities. The Duma is still on summer recess; sessions are scheduled to resume on 2 October. -- Laura Belin MORE COMMUNIST ARCHIVES DECLASSIFIED. A special commission for the declassification of documents of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and its post-Stalin successor the CPSU announced on 19 September its decision to allow access to a variety of documents, including those related to censorship and the development of nuclear weapons and strategic forces. According to ITAR-TASS, 1,300 transcripts of Central Committee meetings from 1920 to 1991 will be declassified. A small portion of the documents on weapons will remain secret as will several documents related to Soviet-German relations and the 1961 Berlin crisis. The commission is to decide on the declassification of 6,000 more documents by the end of the year, including about 3,000 Central Committee and Politburo files, 1,000 from the Comintern, and 1,500 personal files of Soviet leaders. -- Penny Morvant MILITARY PROTESTS LACK OF FUNDING. About 500 defense workers picketed the government building in Moscow on 19 September to demand 6.1 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion) in overdue wages, RTR reported. Krasnaya zvezda put the number of demonstrators as high as 1,500. Rallies were also held in the Far East (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 September), and nuclear submarine repair workers attached to the Northern Fleet held a one-day strike. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 19 September noted that the army has fared particularly badly in the disbursal of government funds recently. It estimated the total government debt to the military at about 30 trillion rubles. The paper warned that morale is deteriorating rapidly, and opposition to the president and government is growing. -- Penny Morvant NEW JOB FOR SOSKOVETS. Oleg Soskovets, who was fired from his post as first deputy prime minister on 20 June, will take up the job of president of the Association of Financial Industrial Groups (AFPG), Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 September. Soskovets was formally appointed president of the AFPG when it was formed at the beginning of 1996. It claims to represent 30 industrial holding companies and 60 banks, with a total of 450,000 employees. Vladimir Potanin, who replaced Soskovets in the government, was formerly the head of Oneksimbank and of the financial-industrial group Interros. -- Peter Rutland LUKOIL AND ARCO FORM JOINT VENTURE. Russia's oil giant LUKoil and the U.S. Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) signed on 19 September a document finalizing their March agreement to set up a joint venture, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported. LUKoil and ARCO's stakes in the Lukarco venture will be 54% and 46%, respectively. Lukarco plans to invest $5 billion in Russia over the next 10 years. Some $4.5 billion will be provided by ARCO, which holds a 8% stake in LUKoil, as a low-interest loan. The loan will not be guaranteed by the government or secured against LUKoil's assets. Projects will include the construction of a pipeline from the Tengiz oil field in Kazakstan to Russia's Novorossiisk, and the development of off-shore fields in the Caspian. -- Natalia Gurushina GOVERNMENT WILL REDEEM CONSUMER GOODS CREDITS. The government reiterated its intention to repay the consumer goods bonds issued in 1990-1991 worth some 20 trillion rubles ($3.7 billion), ORT and Kommersant-Daily reported on 19-20 September. The 1997 budget earmarks 5.3 trillion rubles for this purpose. In the Soviet era workers were given (or purchased) chits guaranteeing them the right to buy a certain product (such as a car) in a number of years. After 1991 manufacturers stopped honoring the chits. The repayment program will not only please bond holders: it will also allow the government to subsidize certain industrial firms (such as the Moskvich auto plant) by paying cash advances for the goods. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE. According to a poll published on 19 September in Express-Khronika, 57.3% of respondents said they will vote in the 22 September presidential election for united opposition candidate Vazgen Manukyan. Incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrossyan would take 33.7% of the vote, Communist Party candidate Sergei Badalyan 8.2%, and Scientific-Industrial Civic Union leader Ashot Manucharyan 0.7%. Ter-Petrossyan 's campaign fund had raised 168 million drams ($ 410,450) by 17 September, according to a representative of the fund, Noyan Tapan reported on 18 September. Some 44 million drams ($107,500) have already been spent. -- Elin Suleymanov JOINT RUSSO-ARMENIAN MILITARY EXERCISE UNDER WAY. Russian and Armenian forces began joint tactical exercises on 19 September, Russian and Western media reported. The exercises involve troops, warplanes and armored vehicles and are taking place near the Turkish border in Armavir. The exercises were originally to be held from 23-27 September but were pulled forward to effectively coincide with the Armenian presidential election. Last March the two sides undertook similar exercises for the first time. -- Lowell Bezanis KAZAKSTAN ROUNDUP. Kazakstan has a newly established main intelligence directorate within the country's Ministry of Defense, Karavan-Blitz reported on 19 September. The department was established by a special decree of Defense Minister Alibek Kasymov and will be manned by five of the country's 45 generals. In other news, some 200 businessmen attended a conference in Almaty sponsored by the Islamic Development Bank, RFE/RL reported on 19 September. It was announced that the IDB will open an office in Kazakstan and provide the country with special credits for railroad construction. -- Lowell Bezanis and Merhat Sharipzhan DETAINED KAZAKSTANI JOURNALIST WINS COMPENSATION. A suit brought by Batyrkhan Darimbet, RFE/RL stringer in Kazakstan, against the city of Almaty police department ended on 18 September, RFE/RL reported the same day. The court agreed that Darimbet's human rights and professional dignity were violated when he was detained in early July en route to a press conference for visiting Chinese President Jiang Zemin. The presiding judge awarded 10,000 tenge (around $150) to Darimbet, far less than the 6 million tenge he demanded. Two activists associated respectively with the Azat and Jeltoksan nationalist parties were also detained at the same police station where Darimbet was held, evidently to prevent them too from attending the press conference. -- Lowell Bezanis and Merhat Sharipzhan STABILITY RETURNS TO EASTERN TAJIKISTAN. Secretary of the Tajik Security Council Amirkul Azimov told a press conference on 19 September that the ceasefire in the Karetegin Valley is holding, ITAR-TASS reported. A protocol signed by representatives from the Tajik government and opposition on 15-16 September ended fighting in the area which began in late August. Both sides agreed to take down their check points in the Jirgatal and Tajikabad areas and allow interior and security agencies to renew their work there and to reopen the Dushanbe-Jirgatal highway. Further south, an accord was signed on 18 September in the border town of Ishkashim between the commander of the Russian border troops, Lt.- Gen. Pavel Tarasenko, and the commander of Afghanistan's 6th Army Corps., Col.-Gen. Najmuddin, to establish a 25-kilometer buffer zone in Afghanistan's Shungan province, a move aimed at stemming Tajik opposition infiltration from Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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