|The last of the human freedoms- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way. - Victor Frankl|
No. 186, Part I, 25 September 1996
Note to OMRI Russian Regional Report readers: The OMRI Russian Regional Report is no longer being distributed via the OMRI-L listserv. If you would like to receive a copy, please follow the subscription instructions at the end of this message. As always, if you have any questions, please contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Ken Varnum Internet Services Manager OMRI 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 SPECULATION CONTINUES THAT YELTSIN IS TOO WEAK FOR OPERATION. President Boris Yeltsin is doing paper work for 30 minutes to two-and-a-half hours a day and meeting regularly with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 24 September, NTV reported. The statement, "damning Yeltsin's condition with faint praise," suggested the president may indeed be too weak to undergo an operation, the Los Angeles Times noted. Chernomyrdin denounced Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev's suggestion that Yeltsin step down if the doctors declare him too weak for surgery, saying that "now is not the time to talk about this," Russian Public TV reported. Dr. Renat Akchurin denied on 24 September that the surgery would be called off, although he had said it was a possibility in an NTV interview two days earlier. Seleznev said that the Duma was thinking about passing a law on Chubais' administration "to put it in its place," Izvestiya reported. He believes that Chubais is taking too much power while Yeltsin is incapacitated. -- Robert Orttung LEBED DENIES GIVING INTERVIEW ON NATO. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's press secretary, Aleksandr Barkhatov, denied on 24 September that his boss had given any recent interviews to The Daily Telegraph, ITAR-TASS reported. The British daily had published the same day an interview with Lebed in which the Security Council secretary had threatened economic retaliation if NATO expands eastward (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 September 1996). Barkhatov termed the interview a "falsification," designed to provoke "tension between Russia and NATO." He said Lebed had never met Carey Schofield, the correspondent who wrote the interview. The foreign editor of The Daily Telegraph defended the interview, however, calling Barkhatov's denial "absurd" and adding that Schofield had met twice with Lebed on 20 and 21 September. Lebed's staff frequently clashes with the media, which they allege often misrepresents the blunt former general's statements. -- Scott Parrish LEBED WARNS OF "ARMED MUTINY." In an interview published in the 25 September issue of Vechernyaya Moskva, Lebed, alluding to widespread wage arrears in the military, warned that "an armed mutiny may take place this Autumn." Lebed blasted the government, headed by his political rival Chernomyrdin, for failing to fund the military adequately in its 1997 draft budget, saying, "they have decided to conclusively undermine the armed forces." He termed the dire financial situation of the military a "national disgrace," and accused the Chernomyrdin government of "hiding its head in the sand." Suggesting that his remarks are linked to the ongoing struggle to succeed the seriously ill Yeltsin, Lebed claimed that he had a "plan" to remedy the situation, but that only "the head of state" could implement it. -- Scott Parrish POLL SHOWS PUBLIC TRUSTS LEBED MOST. Far more Russians trust Lebed than any other politician, according to the latest poll by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VCIOM). Asked to name the five or six politicians they trusted most, 34% of respondents named Lebed, 15% Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and just 12% Yeltsin, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 24 September. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, Chernomyrdin, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov were all named by 9% of respondents, while 25% said they did not trust any politicians. -- Laura Belin LUKIN OUTRAGED AS CHECHENS MEET WITH CE COMMITTEE. One day after the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly canceled planned hearings on the Chechnya conflict, the controversy over the presence of Chechen separatists in Strasbourg dominated the opening day of the assembly's fall session, RFE/RL reported on 24 September. Chechen representatives, including separatist Foreign Minister Ruslan Chimaev, met behind closed doors with the assembly's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. Committee chairman Birger Hagard said only human rights matters were discussed. But Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin blasted the assembly for allegedly interfering in Russia's internal affairs and said the Russian delegation would now "re-evaluate its relations and cooperation" with the committee. The official newspaper Rossiiskie vesti on 25 September regretted that separatists had been allowed to visit Strasbourg to spread "propaganda." -- Laura Belin POW EXCHANGE FACES DIFFICULTIES. There will be numerous problems completing a POW exchange in Chechnya, according to Rossiiskie vesti on 25 September. Of the 1,300 federal troops in custody, Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov only claims to hold 250. About 200 are apparently held by Chechen groups not subordinate to Maskhadov; others are working as forced labor in Chechen villages in the mountains, or have deserted the Russian military. Additionally, an unknown number have died. Of the 1,400 men the Chechens claim are held by Russia, some are in Russian prisons for criminal offenses not necessarily connected to the war, some are hiding from all governments and are not in Russian custody, while many others have been killed in the fighting, the paper said. Thus, Russia can only return a few individuals now, and it remains to be seen if the Chechens will give up their prisoners without getting anyone in exchange. -- Robert Orttung NTV'S PLANS FOR EXTENDED BROADCASTING. NTV president Igor Malashenko told Izvestiya that news will remain a priority when his network begins broadcasting around the clock in November or December, the paper reported on 25 September. NTV will run news updates several times a day and will extend the length of its current 10 p.m. news program from 30 minutes to one hour. Malashenko said NTV will retain some cultural and educational programming produced by the state-run Russian TV company, with which it has up to now shared broadcasting privileges on the fourth channel. Meanwhile, NTV has dropped plans to launch an all-news satellite channel later this year, Kommersant-Daily reported on 24 September. Four other satellite channels will go ahead, devoted to sports, Russian films, foreign films, and children's programming (plans for an all-music channel were also dropped). -- Laura Belin PRIMAKOV ADDRESSES UN, MEETS CLINTON. Addressing the 51st session of the UN General Assembly on 24 September, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov criticized plans to expand NATO, called for a continued international peacekeeping presence in the former Yugoslavia, and condemned what he termed the "illusion" that some countries had emerged "victorious" from the Cold War while others were "defeated," Russian and Western agencies reported. While the advance text of Primakov's speech admitted that NATO would play a major role in assuring European security, Primakov skipped that passage when delivering the speech, instead emphasizing the importance of the OSCE. Primakov also met with U.S. President Bill Clinton. Although ITAR-TASS said both men stressed the importance of developing an "equal partnership," they apparently made no progress toward resolving outstanding disputes such as selecting the next UN secretary-general or fully lifting UN economic sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA SIGNS NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY. Primakov joined his counterparts from Britain, China, and France, and President Clinton in signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in New York on 24 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. Primakov termed the treaty a "huge step" toward achieving "disarmament, security, and stability." He urged "all countries capable of producing nuclear arms" to sign it, a statement aimed at India, which has refused to endorse the agreement unless it is accompanied by a timetable for global nuclear disarmament The treaty, which bans all test explosions of nuclear weapons, will enter into force only after all 44 nations with known nuclear programs, including India, have ratified it. By the end of the day, 71 states had signed the treaty. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN REINSTATES VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 24 September canceling an earlier order removing Viktor Cherepkov from the post of Vladivostok mayor, ITAR-TASS reported. Cherepkov became Russia's first democratically elected mayor in July 1993, but in March 1994 he was accused of accepting bribes and was ousted from office by Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. Although the Procurator- General's office cleared Cherepkov of wrongdoing, Yeltsin signed a decree on 23 December 1994 sacking the mayor. Cherepkov challenged the edict in court, winning his case in August, but Nazdratenko ignored the ruling and pressed ahead with plans to hold new mayoral elections on 8 October. In a pointed rebuff to Nazdratenko, Yeltsin's press secretary said that the projected elections were senseless as Cherepkov's term does not run out until 1998. But the battle looks set to continue. According to a 25 September ITAR-TASS report, the Vladivostok government has announced plans to hold a referendum on 27 October on confidence in Cherepkov. -- Penny Morvant BUNICH SUGGESTS SELLING GOLD TO PAY WAGES. The head of the Duma's Committee on Property and Privatization, Pavel Bunich, suggested that part of Russia's gold reserves should be sold to resolve the crisis over the non-payment of wages, which he described as a "burning social problem," ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. Bunich also proposed floating an additional 15 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion) issue of state securities in 1997 and using the proceeds to pay wage arrears. He pointed out that the government could also increase revenues by raising the currently low rents on federal property. The government could also allow some increase in the rate of inflation, which currently is far below the IMF target level, Bunich said. -- Natalia Gurushina REGIONS CRITICIZE BUDGET. At a conference of representatives of the Urals, Siberian, and Far Eastern regions in Yekaterinburg to discuss the 1997 budget, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel argued that the draft budget discriminates against the regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. Rossel claimed that his oblast is in 12th place in tax contributions, but only 67th in terms of per capita budget spending. Governor of Perm Oblast Gennadii Igumnov asserted that the tax policy neglects the financing of industry, while Anatolii Solovev, governor of Kurgan Oblast, criticized the budget for failing to address the question of repaying debts, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 25 September. The chairman of the Duma budget committee, Mikhail Zadornov, described the estimate in the draft budget on the increase in tax receipts as optimistic and illusory. -- Ritsuko Sasaki TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TER-PETROSSYAN LEADS IN ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION . . . According to data released at midday on 24 September by the Central Electoral Commission, incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan received 52.32% of the votes cast in the 22 September presidential election, while his principal challenger Vazgen Manukyan gained 40.73%, Noyan Tapan reported. Voter turnout was given at 58.25%. In Yerevan, with returns from one district still outstanding, Manukyan's share of the vote was 53% compared with 41% for Ter-Petrossyan. Simon Osborn, who coordinated the OSCE/ODIHR election monitoring mission, told a news conference on 24 September that the 89 foreign observers had noted several flagrant violations, including the theft of ballot boxes in one Yerevan precinct, but that these were not of a magnitude to cast doubt on the overall results, Western agencies reported. -- Liz Fuller . . . BUT OPPOSITION CHALLENGES RESULTS. Representatives of the National Accord opposition bloc supporting Manukyan staged demonstrations outside the parliament and Central Electoral Commission buildings in Yerevan on 24 September to protest the alleged falsification of the election results, Western agencies reported. At an evening rally in Manukyan's support attended by some 120,000 people, the bloc issued a statement calling on the international community to give an honest assessment of the results, which were described as an attempted coup d'etat, Noyan Tapan reported. In an interview with RFE/RL on 24 September, Manukyan, whose proxies were present at the vote count in many electoral precincts, said he would accept any election returns put out by the CEC that tallied with those compiled by his own team. -- Liz Fuller MENAGHARISHVILI, SHEVARDNADZE ON ABKHAZIA. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told the UN General Assembly that "aggressive separatism" should be punished by sanctions, in particular an arms embargo, Reuters reported on 23 September. He claimed that despite concessions from the Georgian government, it has been impossible for Tbilisi to reach a political settlement with Sukhumi, and he called on the UN Security Council to work out new measures to resolve the Abkhaz conflict. Meanwhile, in Georgia itself, President Eduard Shevardnadze called on Moscow to sever its ties with Abkhazia, except mediation contacts, and likened Sukhumi's plans to hold elections in November while some 250,000-300,000 inhabitants of Abkhazia are exiles to "political sadism." -- Lowell Bezanis DEPUTY MINISTER SLAIN IN UZBEKISTAN. Deputy Communications Minister Vladimir Kravchenko was killed at his home on 24 September, ITAR-TASS reported. No motive or suspects have been identified. Kravchenko died after being stabbed six times. -- Lowell Bezanis KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WINS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE. The Legislative Assembly of the Kyrgyz parliament on 24 September narrowly approved a vote of confidence in its speaker, Mukar Cholponbayev, RFE/RL reported. Cholponbayev was accused of corruption in connection with the 1995 transfer of 1.5 million som (about $125,000) to Ak-Shoumkar, a firm owned by his wife. Cholponbayev barely received the necessary votes; only 28 of the 35 deputies attended, 15 voted for the confidence motion, 11 against, and two abstained. The chairman of the committee investigating the charges against Cholponbayev, Oktyabr Musulmakulov, said that 3,202,000 som were transferred to Ak-Shoumkar and so far only 140,000 som had been returned. Cholponbayev promised all the funds would be returned by 1 December this year. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov [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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