|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 184, Part I, 23 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 OPERATION MAY BE CANCELED. President Boris Yeltsin's operation will be delayed at least six to eight weeks, and it may have to be canceled, according to Renat Akchurin, the surgeon who will operate on Yeltsin, NTV's Itogi reported on 22 September. Akchurin said that it is "the most serious operation" to face the president and that the earlier it is carried out, the greater the risk. Yeltsin wants the operation as soon as possible. Akchurin, whose comment to ABC in English that Yeltsin had a third heart attack before the second round of the presidential elections caused a sensation in the Western press, clarified his statement. He said Yeltsin had heart trouble (pristup), not a heart attack (infarkt). On the NTV broadcast, he did not repeat his earlier statement that the episode had damaged Yeltsin's heart and might complicate surgery, the Los Angeles Times noted. Akchurin said that there was an 85-90% chance of saving Yeltsin. The Kremlin and the official news agency ITAR-TASS have been silent on the revelations. -- Robert Orttung CHECHNYA PULLOUT RESUMES, YANDERBIEV TRIP DELAYED. A troop train carrying some of the 30,000 Russian soldiers in Chechnya left on 21 September, resuming the process that the commander of federal troops in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, halted on 12 September, Russian TV reported. The pullout is expected to be completed by the middle of December. Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's trip to Moscow, originally set for 23 September, has been postponed to the end of the month, NTV reported. The Chechens blamed the delay on the failure of Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to make the necessary preparations for the visit. In response, a source close to the prime minister said that Chernomyrdin had no plans to meet with Yanderbiev, but might do so depending on the outcome of his talks with Lebed, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 September. The Moscow visit is expected to finalize Chechnya's new coalition government, AFP reported on 21 September. -- Robert Orttung POW EXCHANGES CONTINUE. The trickle of POW exchanges continued on 22 September, with the Russians swapping three fighters and two Chechen journalists for 11 of their soldiers, most of whom had been held for more than a year, NTV reported. An additional two Russian prisoners did not want to return because they converted to Islam in captivity and refused to leave Chechnya. The Russians claim 1,383 people are missing in action, including 118 civilians, Russian TV reported. The Chechens believe about 1,350 from their side are being held, but the Russians could only confirm 59. -- Robert Orttung LEBED, MASKHADOV ABSENT FROM CE ASSEMBLY. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly gathered on 23 September, but neither Lebed nor rebel Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov will address the meeting about the situation in Chechnya, according to Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 September. Both Lebed and Maskhadov had been invited to Strasbourg two weeks ago, but Gian-Paolo Castanetto, the Parliamentary Assembly's deputy clerk, told RFE/RL on 20 September that Maskhadov had been "disinvited" due to criticism from the head of the Russian Duma foreign affairs committee, Vladimir Lukin. AFP reported on 21 September that Maskhadov had obtained a French visa in anticipation of the visit. Lebed did not attend because he believed that doing so would give legitimacy to Chechnya's claims of independence. -- Peter Rutland and Robert Orttung YAVLINSKII BLASTS YELTSIN. Grigorii Yavlinskii, addressing a conference in Washington on 19 September sponsored by RFE/RL, condemned Yeltsin for the Chechen war, which he claimed has cost 100,000 lives. Yavlinskii, a Duma deputy and failed presidential candidate, said that Western lending to Moscow while the war continues is akin to the sending of athletes to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He was dismissive of Lebed's peace efforts, saying that the Security Council secretary lacks the authority to end the conflict. -- Peter Rutland ZYUGANOV: NEW CAMPAIGN UNDERWAY. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said Russia must prepare for a new presidential election and described his candidacy as the most "legitimate," since he gained 30 million votes on 3 July, Russian and Western agencies reported on 20 September. He alleged that Chernomyrdin, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, and Lebed are actively preparing for early elections. Meanwhile, appearing at the fifth congress of Yegor Gaidar's party Russia's Democratic Choice, presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais expressed confidence that Yeltsin will make a swift and full recovery. Chubais warned that politicians who are already preparing for the next presidential campaign will quickly discover that "this start is a false start," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 September. -- Laura Belin COMMUNISTS REMEMBER OCTOBER '93 EVENTS. About 10 pro-Communist parties and organizations rallied on Moscow's Smolenskaya Square on 21 September to mark the third anniversary of the bloody stand-off between President Yeltsin and the old Russian parliament, the Supreme Soviet. About 2,000 people attended the rally, organized by a "committee in memory of the victims of the tragic events of September-October 1993," according to ITAR-TASS. Neither communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov nor former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi addressed the gathering, although their presence had been expected, NTV reported. -- Penny Morvant NTV GAINS RIGHT TO BROADCAST AROUND THE CLOCK. Yeltsin signed a decree giving NTV the right to broadcast 24 hours a day on Russia's eighth television channel, NTV and ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September. The network had previously only been able to broadcast for eight hours a day, beginning at 6 p.m., on the fourth channel. The move is the latest sign of friendlier relations between the authorities and NTV, which has long sought full-time broadcasting privileges. The network drew sharp criticism from some officials in 1994 and 1995, particularly for its bold coverage of the Chechnya conflict. This year NTV's president joined Yeltsin's campaign committee, and the network strongly supported Yeltsin's re-election effort, although since July its news coverage has become somewhat more independent. In June the gas monopoly Gazprom, which has close ties to the government, purchased a 30% share in the network. -- Laura Belin RUSSIA TO HAVE A VOICE BUT NOT A VOTE IN NATO . . . En route to Helsinki on 21 September, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry expressed support for a formal charter between NATO and Russia to give the latter a voice but not a vote on sensitive issues, particularly concerning nuclear weapons, AFP reported. ITAR-TASS on the following day quoted German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe as saying, "We would like ... a joint NATO-Russian committee where political consultations would be held." Ruehe added: "We shall record a truly strategic partnership between Russia and NATO in a new charter." The charter idea was launched by Perry in a speech at Stuttgart on 6 September. Perry said NATO has no plans at present to base nuclear weapons in former Soviet-bloc countries but it would not guarantee that such deployments would never be made. He expressed concern that Russia has not substantially reduced its arsenal of tactical nuclear missiles. -- Peter Rutland and Penny Morvant . . . BUT PRIMAKOV INTRANSIGENT. Two hours of talks in Vienna between NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Yevgenii Primakov on 20 September failed to dislodge the Russian foreign minister from his opposition to NATO expansion, Reuters reported. Primakov earlier told OSCE delegates in Vienna that "it is absolutely unacceptable to Russia if NATO moves its military infrastructure nearer to our territory" and urged Austria not to join NATO, AFP reported. U.S. Defense Secretary Perry asserted on 22 September that an enlarged NATO alliance posed no threat to Moscow. Meanwhile, several dozen military leaders from Russia and the U.S. gathered in St. Petersburg on 21 September for a conference analyzing the results of the IFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and military cooperation between NATO and Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Peter Rutland MORE AID FOR NORTHERN REGIONS NEEDED. Chernomyrdin met with ministers on 21 September to discuss the plight of the northern regions as they prepare for winter, ITAR-TASS reported. The Far North received 8.5 trillion rubles worth of credits from the federal budget in 1994-95 to stock up with winter supplies and allow the regions to finance the transportation of goods themselves in 1996. Now, however, an additional 2 to 3 trillion rubles is urgently needed before the end of October, when navigation becomes impossible. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Livshits said the government will investigate how the 8.5 trillion was spent, but Chernomyrdin said that the government would not leave northern residents without food and fuel, ORT and NTV reported. Meanwhile, coalminers in Vorkuta threatened to strike from 1 October because of unpaid wages and electricity cuts. -- Peter Rutland and Penny Morvant PRIMORE TO RECEIVE FEDERAL FUNDS. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko said on 21 September that the federal government has agreed to transfer 190 billion rubles ($35 million) to the regional power company Dalenergo and that the money should start to arrive on 24 September, Russian media reported. Nazdratenko had just returned from Moscow, where he had a series of meetings with federal government officials to discuss the region's energy crisis. Despite Nazdratenko's remarks, regional power workers vowed to continue their strike, begun on 16 September, until the payment of back wages begins and a timetable for full reimbursement is worked out. Communist leader Zyuganov, meanwhile, blamed the economic crisis in the Far East on the federal government. Local trade unions, which back Nazdratenko, also attacked the government and renewed calls for a regional strike on 10 October. -- Penny Morvant LIVSHITS ON ECONOMIC SITUATION. Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits told a press conference that Russia has never been so close to both successful economic reform and totally reversing the economic course, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September. Although the rate of inflation and interest rates on credits are falling (the latter went down from 170- 180% in the spring of1996 to 50-60% in the fall), the budget received only 78% of expected revenues in January through August. Moreover, the volume of the government's wage and pension debt equals the volume of tax arrears by Russia's 66 largest industrial enterprises. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA, ADZHARIA ELECTIONS. An estimated 2.4 million voters cast their ballots on 22 September in Armenia's second presidential election, international agencies reported. Incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan's principal challenger, National Democratic Union leader Vazgen Manukyan, alleged that serious irregularities took place during the vote. There has been no independent confirmation of these allegations. Russia openly threw its weight behind Ter-Petrossyan, with President Yeltsin sending greetings to mark the fifth anniversary of Armenia's independence the day before the vote. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin went further the same day, telling Armenian Television viewers Ter-Petrossyan was a brave, reliable, selfless, and thoughtful man he liked to work with. Joint Russo-Armenian military exercises and a subsequent military parade in Yerevan were also intended to support the incumbent. Meanwhile, parliamentary elections were held in Adzharia on 22 September, ITAR-TASS reported. Some 225,000 voters cast ballots without incident to elect 80 deputies. -- Lowell Bezanis HOT LINE TO KAZAKSTANI PRESIDENT. Citizens of Kazakstan have an opportunity to voice their grievances to President Nursultan Nazarbayev through one of four telephone lines, NTV reported on 21 September. The idea is Nazarbayev's and is intended to help the president get in touch with the problems of the population. According to the report most callers so far have complained about their "wretched lifestyle" and about the regional and oblast Akims, the Kazak equivalent of councilors. The leadership of the Pokolenie (Generation) movement said their three- hour attempt to reach an operator on the hot line was unsuccessful, and the NTV report noted that four phone lines are clearly not enough to serve a country of 16 million. -- Bruce Pannier DRAFT LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES PUBLISHED IN UZBEKISTAN. Narodno slovo on 19 September published a draft law on political parties for public discussion. It prohibits the establishment of parties based on ethnic or religious lines, and those advocating war or the subversion of the constitutional order, according to the BBC-monitored report. Military and law-enforcement personnel, foreigners, and stateless people will not be able to join parties. In a bid to prevent regionally based parties, the law stipulates that prospective parties must divulge details of 3,000 members distributed over at least eight of the country's regional- level administrative territories. Parties may not accept donations from state, foreign, religious, or anonymous sources. -- Lowell Bezanis KAZAK-KYRGYZ-UZBEK TRINITY? Kazakstani President Nazarbayev has sent a letter to his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov suggesting Almaty is disappointed with the unimplemented customs union agreement signed with Russia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported on 19 September. Nazarbayev proposed closer ties with Bishkek and Tashkent, including the establishment of a unified parliament of the three countries. Delovaya nedelya., carrying the RFE/RL report on 20 September, noted that Nazarbayev initially expressed his concerns during unofficial talks with Karimov and Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev in Jambul in August. The report also alleged that Almaty's plans to become Moscow's principal ally have failed to bear fruit as Belarus is successfully playing this role, and that Tashkent is cool to Nazarbayev's newfound interest in his fellow Central Asians. -- Lowell Bezanis and Merhat Sharipzhan [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message BACK ISSUES Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through the World Wide Web, by FTP and by E-mail. 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