|The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. - Shirley MacLaine|
No. 185, Part I, 24 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 SELEZNEV: YELTSIN SHOULD STEP DOWN IF OPERATION IS CANCELED. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that President Boris Yeltsin should step down if doctors refuse to perform bypass surgery, since Russia cannot afford to have its president adopt an "easy work schedule," Russian and Western agencies reported on 23 September. Article 92 of the Constitution stipulates that the president must step down if he becomes persistently unable to fulfill his duties but outlines no procedure for evaluating the president's abilities. Also on 23 September, while visiting the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Reuters that the Kremlin had committed "falsification" by not informing voters before the second round of the presidential election that Yeltsin was having serious heart trouble. -- Laura Belin KREMLIN DENOUNCES ARTICLE ON YELTSIN'S HEALTH. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii denounced an article which appeared in the Financial Times that claimed Yeltsin is so sick that he can work only 15 minutes a day and is unable to sign documents, Russian Public TV reported on 23 September. Yastrzhembskii said that the article was full of incorrect information and wondered why the paper would print a report that caused the price of Russian debt to drop on the London exchange. The Russian press widely reported the arrival of American surgeon Michael DeBakey, who will participate in the 25 September meeting to determine when Yeltsin's operation will take place. DeBakey said that the doctors would not operate if there was a great risk to Yeltsin or if surgery would not improve his condition. -- Robert Orttung CHAOS IN GROZNY. An NTV correspondent in Grozny described the current situation there as "destruction and chaos." The former fear of aerial attack has been replaced by a fear of marauders and thieves. Although Deputy Minister for Internal Affairs Valerii Fedorov announced that Russian law rather than Islamic law would prevail, there are no police, courts, or prisons. The united law enforcement agencies set up following the Lebed-Maskhadov accords have about 500 members, ITAR-TASS reported. These men are operating check points, removing explosive devices, and escorting troop columns. -- Robert Orttung YANDARBIEV ADDRESSES CHECHENS. Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev was hospitalized at an undisclosed location early on 23 September for food poisoning. In an evening broadcast, however, he looked healthy, ITAR-TASS reported. He called on the residents of his republic to seek national agreement, since "it will be practically impossible to build an independent state in Chechnya without mutual forgiveness and understanding." He said it was acceptable to form an unarmed opposition to the authorities, but not an unarmed or armed opposition to one's own people. He stressed that the new criminal code he introduced on 12 September remained in effect throughout the republic, except in the parts of Grozny under joint Russian-Chechen patrols. School children will study Arabic and the basics of Islam, but the state languages will remain Chechen and Russian. -- Robert Orttung COUNCIL OF EUROPE POSTPONES CHECHNYA HEARING. In the absence of Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on 23 September postponed its hearing on the Chechen conflict until at least November. Russia had objected to the session, arguing that Chechnya was an internal problem. However, members warned that the assembly should not be intimidated by Russia and argued that Chechnya is "Europe's problem," RFE/RL reported. The chairwoman of the assembly, Leni Fisher, expressed dismay at the political games in Moscow surrounding the session, NTV reported. A lower ranking Chechen group, including the rebels' designated foreign minister Ruslan Chimaev, attended the Strasbourg session, as did Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin, and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Reuters and NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung GAIDAR CALLS FOR LIBERAL COALITION. Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR) leader Yegor Gaidar said that his party resolved at its 21 September congress to make "presenting a liberal alternative to the status quo" its new primary objective, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported on 23 September. In the past, Gaidar noted, the DVR's main task had been "preventing a Communist revanche," but now the party would focus on changing the "corrupt" form of capitalism developing in Russia. Gaidar said Democratic Russia, Irina Khakamada's Common Cause movement, and Yurii Chernichenko's Peasants' Party might join a new alliance of liberal groups. However, he said Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko would not be included, since it was more a "social-democratic" than a liberal party. -- Laura Belin LEBED: SANCTIONS FOR WESTERN FIRMS IF NATO EXPANDS. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph published on 24 September, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed threatened to impose economic sanctions against American and German firms operating in Russia if NATO expands eastwards. He told the British paper that "we will find ways to hit the proponents of this policy where it hurts," warning that "German and American interests in Russia will suffer directly as a result of enlargement plans." Lebed, who has expressed contradictory opinions about NATO enlargement in the past, argued that NATO expansion could be seen as an attempt by Germany to establish a "Fourth Reich," contending that German policy on the issue appears "sinister" to "foreign observers." Lebed, who has never visited the West, is slated to visit NATO headquarters to discuss the issue on 7-8 October. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA, U.S. ISSUE JOINT DECLARATION ON ABM TREATY. Meeting in New York, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and his American counterpart Warren Christopher issued a joint declaration partially clarifying the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty, Western and Russian agencies reported on 23 September. Ongoing talks seek agreement on the technical parameters defining which missile systems are prohibited by the treaty and which permitted. The declaration confirms a June agreement by Russian and American negotiators, under which missile defense systems with interceptor velocities under 3 km/second will be regarded as "tactical" and hence permitted under the treaty. A second phase of the talks, scheduled to open on 7 October will discuss how to treat systems with higher interceptor velocities. The two diplomats also discussed NATO expansion, the former Yugoslovia, and the situation in Iraq, but failed to resolve outstanding differences on these subjects. -- Scott Parrish ROKHLIN AGAINST START-II RATIFICATION. The State Duma is unlikely to ratify the START-II nuclear arms reduction treaty, according to Lev Rokhlin, the chairman of the Duma's defense committee. He told ITAR-TASS on 23 September that signing the treaty was "a serious unilateral concession to the West" on Russia's part and implementing it would mean "betraying the national interests of Russia." Under Russian law, a majority of the members of both houses of the Federal Assembly must vote for ratification if the treaty is to be approved. -- Doug Clarke ST. PETERSBURG-LENINGRAD OBLAST MAY MERGE. St. Petersburg Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev and Leningrad Oblast Governor Aleksandr Belyakov initialed an agreement on 22 September on the gradual unification of the city and oblast into a single administrative unit, Radio Rossii reported. The agreement will be discussed by the city and oblast legislatures, and the final decision on the projected merger will be made by a popular referendum. -- Penny Morvant STRIKES SPREAD IN ENERGY SECTOR... As a strike and hunger strike by energy workers in Primorskii Krai continued on 23 September, a strike committee representative threatened acts of civil disobedience if wages are not soon paid, ORT reported. Seven hunger strikers who have been without food for three weeks are said to be in a serious condition. Blaming the energy crisis on the coal company Rosugol and Russia's Joint Energy System, Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko contended that many regions have similar problems but their leaders conceal their difficulties for fear of the central authorities. In Sakha (Yakutiya), 6,000 power workers went on strike over wage arrears; one of Yakutenergo's largest debtors is Diamonds of Russia-Sakha, which owes 400 billion rubles. In Kamchatka, the local power company has asked the oblast governor to declare a state of emergency in the sector because of payments problems. -- Penny Morvant ...AND DEFENSE INDUSTRY. Workers at the Zvezda nuclear submarine maintenance plant in Bolshoi Kamen in Primore staged a one-day strike on 23 September to protest wage arrears, ORT reported. A similar stoppage took place the same day at a nuclear submarine plant at Severodvinsk near Arkhangelsk. The enterprise is owed about 1 trillion rubles for state orders and is unable to pay wages or taxes, ITAR-TASS reported. The tax shortfall means that social services for the city's 250,000 residents have also been badly affected. -- Penny Morvant IMF SATISFIED WITH RUSSIA'S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE. IMF experts visiting Moscow on a working mission to monitor Russia's adherence to the conditions of a $10.1 billion extended facility fund were satisfied with the country's economic performance, Segodnya reported on 21 September. The budget deficit was only 2.2% of GDP (according to Russian calculating procedures) and the rate of inflation almost hit zero in August. The IMF hailed the government's efforts to boost tax revenue, which peaked at 20 trillion rubles ($3.7 billion) in August. The disbursement of July's tranche of the loan was delayed due to insufficient tax collection in the first half of the year. The IMF group was also satisfied with the state of Russia's net domestic assets and net foreign exchange reserves, which did not overshoot the target levels. -- Natalia Gurushina LEBED SEEKS ROLE IN LOANS-FOR-SHARES AUCTIONS. President Yeltsin has instructed Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to work together on the issue of loans-for-shares auctions and to report on a draft decision by 1 October, Kommersant- Daily reported on 21 September. Yeltsin's instruction is in response to a request by Lebed and Sergei Glazev, the head of the Security Council's administration of economic security, to put off the deadline for such sales. Lebed also suggested that the shares be sold in 10-15% packages, following international tender rules. Lebed's proposals concern not only the sale of shares but the whole loans-for-share system and related investigation of banking activities. The government, criticizing the draft resolution of the Security Council, is preparing its own version, which does not change the sales deadline. -- Ritsuko Sasaki TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN ELECTION RESULTS IN DISPUTE. The outcome of Armenia's presidential election appears unclear in the face of contradictory figures emanating from the Central Election Commission, claims and counter-claims of victory made by rival sides, and charges of ballot rigging, international media reported on 23 September. Incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrossyan claimed victory on the basis of incomplete results which gave him 56.9% of the vote to 35.6% for his chief rival, Vazgen Manukyan. Manukyan and his supporters claim that these figures are the reverse of the truth. Between 25,000 and 100,000 people, according to varying estimates, joined an opposition rally in Yerevan on 23 September and marched on the Central Election Commission building to demand Ter-Petrossyan's resignation. The New York Times, citing an unnamed "senior election monitor," reported on 24 September that "a lot of clear and blatant fraud" occurred during the balloting. -- Lowell Bezanis IDA LOAN TO AZERBAIJAN. The World Bank's International Development Association has approved a credit of some $20 million to rehabilitate and improve Azerbaijan's gas delivery system, RFE/RL reported on 23 September. The credit will be given to the government of Azerbaijan which, in turn, will lend it to Azerigas to upgrade the gas system's analytical equipment and improve its corporate management. The bank had identified Azerbaijan as the country most dependent upon natural gas in the world. The present distribution system loses or is unable to account for an estimated 20% of its inputs. -- Lowell Bezanis RUSSIAN JOURNALIST IN TROUBLE OVER SECRET LETTER. The publication of a letter allegedly sent by Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev to his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 September 1996) has been traced back to a Russian journalist working for Izvestiya, NTV reported on 23 September. The report quoted Kazakstani media as saying Nazarbayev has promised to expel the journalist, Vladimir Ardiev. The letter reportedly referred to Kazakstan's disenchantment with the customs union of Russia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus. Nazarbayev denies any such letter was ever sent and called reports of it "provocation." NTV noted the letter was first reported by RFE/RL and later obtained by at least four other agencies, but that only the Izvestiya reporter was facing trouble on account of it. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan TAJIK DIPLOMAT EXPELLED FROM IRAN. The Iranian government on 23 September told the Tajik Charge d'Affaires in Tehran, Tashmet Nazirov, to leave the country within 24 hours, AFP reported. The reason given for the expulsion was "activities incompatible" with Nazirov's diplomatic status. The move by the Iranians is seen as retaliation for the 20 September arrest and expulsion of an unnamed Iranian diplomat in Dushanbe, who was accused of committing unspecified "hostile acts." -- Bruce Pannier [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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