|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 188, Part I, 27 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 LEBED RENEWS WARNINGS OF MUTINY. At a press conference marking his 100th day as Security Council secretary, Aleksandr Lebed again warned that the Russian military "is practically on the brink of mutiny" because of severe financial problems, Russian and Western media reported on 26 September. He declared that "it requires a huge effort for [the army] to restrain itself." He ruled out a military coup attempt, however, adding that "we are not Argentina, thank God." This comment provoked the Argentine Foreign Ministry to call in a Russian diplomat in Buenos Aires and express its "displeasure." Meanwhile, the executive committee of the Federation of Trade Unions of Employees and Servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces issued a strike warning effective from 1 October. Spartak Arzhavkin, the union's chairman, said the Defense Ministry now owes some 10 trillion rubles ($1.9 billion) in back wages to servicemen and employees. In an interview published in Krasnaya zvezda on 27 September, Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said that as an emergency measure one trillion rubles is being released to the Defense Ministry. -- Scott Parrish CABINET DISCUSSES BUDGET, ARMY FINANCING. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told a cabinet meeting on 26 September that ministers should not lobby in the Duma for extra funds, but should present a united front in support of the 1997 budget draft, Russian Television (RTR) reported. He said a special government commission will be created to deal with financing the Defense Ministry and other power ministries in 1996 and 1997, chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin. The commission will negotiate the level of financing for the armed forces in the 1997 budget and address the problems of indebtedness and non-payments. Chernomyrdin accused some regional authorities of charging defense ministry installations energy and transport fees higher than the Russian average, according to Kommersant-Daily. On the other hand, the Defense Ministry itself owes some 5 trillion rubles to companies from which they ordered equipment. -- Natalia Gurushina and Peter Rutland MASKHADOV, BASAEV AIM TO MAINTAIN ORDER IN CHECHNYA. Addressing Chechen field commanders during the night of 25-26 September, Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov identified as his most important tasks the disarmament of all clan formations in order to preclude intra-Chechen clashes, the neutralization of armed robbers posing as resistance fighters who discredit the Chechen side, and assisting the smooth withdrawal from Chechnya of Russian federal troops, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported. Speaking on Grozny TV on 26 September, field commander Shamil Basaev accused the Russian security services of trying to sow dissent among the various Chechen factions. Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 27 September flew from Moscow to the Ingush capital, Nazran, where he will meet with the leaders of the North Caucasus republics. According to NTV, Maskhadov and acting Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev will represent Chechnya at this meeting; pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev is not invited. -- Liz Fuller SUPREME COURT DENIES RUTSKOI REGISTRATION APPEAL. The Supreme Court on 26 September rejected former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi's appeal to allow him to register as a candidate for the 20 October Kursk Oblast gubernatorial elections, NTV reported. Rutskoi plans to appeal to the Supreme Court's presidium. The local electoral commission rejected his registration on the grounds that he has not been a resident of the oblast for the past year. Rutskoi, who has the support of the Communist Party, blamed his failure on the incumbent governor's efforts to keep him out of the race and his belief that the "law does not function" in Russia today. -- Robert Orttung KHANTY-MANSI WITHDRAWS FROM TYUMEN OBLAST. The Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug Duma voted on 25 September to ignore a presidential decree ordering it to hold elections for the Tyumen Oblast governor simultaneously with the election of the Khanty-Mansi governor, RIA- Novosti, as monitored by the BBC, reported. The problem arises from the fact that both the Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrugs are within the territory of Tyumen Oblast even though they all have equal status as units of the Russian Federation (See OMRI Russian Regional Report, 25 September 1996). All three units should vote for the Tyumen Oblast governor, but the Khanty-Mansi decision, combined with a similar action by Yamal-Nenets on 19 September, means that the two areas, rich in oil and gas, have effectively withdrawn from Tyumen Oblast and declared themselves independent. The Tyumen elections are set for 27 October. -- Robert Orttung NAZDRATENKO REINSTATES OUSTED VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko on 26 September removed Vladivostok Mayor Konstantin Tolstoshein from office, in accordance with a presidential decree reinstating his predecessor Viktor Cherepkov, ORT and ITAR-TASS reported. Tolstoshein accused presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR) leader Yegor Gaidar of using the conflict in Vladivostok to further their own political aims. Chubais and Nazdratenko have long been at odds, and Cherepkov is a high- ranking member of Gaidar's party. The presidential representative in Primore, Vladimir Ignatenko, said he also did not agree with the decision to reinstate Cherepkov, Kommersant-Daily reported on 27 September. Meanwhile, workers at the Primorskii power plant at Luchegorsk were expected to end their 24-day-old hunger strike on 27 September after 180 billion rubles ($33 million) arrived in the krai to pay back wages to workers in the Dalenergo power company, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin KUZBASS FORMS PUBLIC SALVATION COMMITTEES. Public Salvation Committees are being set up on a voluntary basis to deal with the economic emergency caused by payments arrears in mining towns of Kemerovo Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 September. The first committee appeared in Prokopevsk, whose 300,000 residents are mainly dependent on the coal industry. The debts of the coal company Rosugol have devastated the local budget, which cannot afford to pay public employees such as doctors and teachers. The city's Salvation Committee has sent a telegram to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin asking him to resolve the situation. Earlier this week, Kemerovo Oblast officials and union leaders said the area had yet to receive its share of the first half of a $500 million World Bank loan to the coal industry, contending that the Finance Ministry had spent it on other needs. -- Penny Morvant and Ritsuko Sasaki NOVODVORSKAYA TRIAL BEGINS. Valeriya Novodvorskaya, leader of the radical Democratic Union, went on trial in Moscow for allegedly spreading hatred towards people of Russian nationality, Russian media reported on 26 September. The case against Novodvorskaya (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 April 1996) consists of an interview with Estonian television, in which she ascribed "laziness, poverty, spinelessness, and slavery" to the Russian mentality, and articles she wrote in Novyi vzglyad in 1993 and 1994, which suggested that a "manic-depressive psychosis" is a typical Russian trait. Her defenders claim the articles were merely political satire and that her accusers, including a 20-year veteran of the KGB, have a score to settle with the longtime dissident. The Russian PEN center issued a statement comparing the "fabricated" case against Novodvorskaya to political trials of the Soviet period, Ekspress-khronika reported. -- Laura Belin RODIONOV: NO STRATEGIC NECESSITY FOR NATO EXPANSION. Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov met with his NATO counterparts in Bergen, Norway on 26 September to discuss the alliance's proposed enlargement and the future of the Bosnian peace implementation force (IFOR), Russian and Western media reported. While NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana described the talks as "very positive," little apparent progress was made on the NATO expansion issue. Rodionov argued that, since the West acknowledges that Russia now presents no military threat, there is no "strategic necessity" for the alliance to expand. He reiterated that "despite all attempts to justify NATO expansion, our public opposes this idea." Departing from some earlier Russian statements, however, Rodionov said Moscow would continue to cooperate with NATO, even if it expanded. He added that Russia will participate in a follow-on force to IFOR if the UN Security Council extends its mandate. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA, U.S., NORWAY SIGN ARCTIC ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENT. While in Bergen, Rodionov and his American and Norwegian counterparts, William Perry and Jorgen Kosmo, signed an agreement creating a $2 million Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation program to deal with radioactive waste from decommissioned Russian naval nuclear reactors, Russian and Western agencies reported on 26 September. Norway and Russian environmentalists have long expressed concern about the safety of decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines based in Murmansk Oblast. On the same day, Lebed said two-thirds of these submarines were in "dangerous condition," and that three of them were leaking radioactivity. -- Scott Parrish ZAVERYUKHA SUGGESTS NEW MEASURES TO SUPPORT AGRICULTURE. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha has suggested the creation of a new fund to support the agro-industrial complex, RTR reported on 25 September. To raise money for farm credits, Zaveryukha proposed increasing customs duties on all imported foodstuffs by 20%, introducing a tax on operations with foreign currency, and increasing excise taxes on domestic consumer goods. He also supported the government's 21 September decision to introduce quotas on vodka imports in 1997. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA CONFUSION, CRACKDOWN IN YEREVAN. The situation in Yerevan on 26-27 September remained tense and confused: tanks were deployed in the city center and troops dispersed groups of bystanders, according to The New York Times of 27 September. RFE/RL reported that main roads into Yerevan are blocked and that some classes at Yerevan State University have been suspended. It is not clear whether criminal charges have been formally filed against the eight opposition deputies whose immunity was lifted by an almost unanimous parliamentary vote on 26 September. Also unclear is the fate of opposition presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan: reports of his arrest on 26 September were based on a case of mistaken identity, according to RFE/RL, and an Interior Ministry spokesman claimed that he is in hiding. Reuters quoted Central Electoral Commission Chairman Khachatour Bezirjian as stating that Manukyan, as a presidential candidate, has immunity from arrest until 29 September. The CEC is investigating claims of malpractice during the vote count at 20 precincts, according to RFE/RL. The presidents of Russia, Georgia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan have all congratulated President Levon Ter-Petrossyan on his reelection, RTR reported. -- Liz Fuller SHEVARDNADZE CANCELS TRIP TO UN. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze will not after all travel to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, his press spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze told ITAR-TASS on 26 September. Abashidze attributed Shevardnadze's decision to internal tensions arising from the decisions of the South Ossetiyan and Abkhaz parliaments to hold presidential and parliamentary elections respectively. Also on 26 September, the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament- in-exile voted for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from Abkhazia and against any further Georgian participation in Russian-mediated negotiations on solving the Abkhaz problem unless a breakthrough is achieved in the near future, Radio Mayak reported. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN DUMA DELEGATION IN BAKU. Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev told a Russian State Duma delegation on 26 September that he favors closer cooperation in all spheres on a mutually favorable basis, Turan reported. Aliev accused the Russian leadership of double standards in insisting that Chechnya is a constituent part of the Russian Federation but allegedly not adhering to the same argument with regard to Nagorno- Karabakh; he said that Russia is uniquely placed to effect a solution of the Karabakh conflict but is not yet using all the means at its disposal to do so. -- Liz Fuller DEMONSTRATION IN ALMATY. Between 60 and 70 scholars, writers and members of political movements staged a peaceful demonstration in front of the Kazakstani parliament building on 26 September, RFE/RL reported. The rally was organized by the Azamat and Kazak Tili (Kazak language) movements and demonstrators demanded that a draft law giving the Russian language equal status to Kazak not be adopted. Karavan Blitz reported on 24 September that Russian nationalists claim that adopting the law still does not go far enough to prevent discrimination against the Russian population, while Kazak national movements say the law goes too far. Under the present constitution, Kazak is the only official language. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan MOSCOW, DUSHANBE ON FALL OF KABUL. Taliban fighters took control of Kabul on 26 September, causing immediate anxiety in Moscow and Dushanbe. Moscow registered its serious concern and called for a cessation of hostilities, Russian media reported. Dushanbe and the Russian border guards in Tajikistan made it clear they still support the government of Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, RTR reported the same day. Moscow has widely been viewed as a supporter of Rabbani and the forces allied to him -- who were Moscow's staunchest opponents during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The latest developments represent a blow to Moscow and Dushanbe's efforts to neutralize the Tajik opposition based in Afghanistan. -- Lowell Bezanis and 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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