|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 189, Part I, 30 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 ************************************************************************ Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region. The latest edition includes stories on the new quotas for vodka imports to Russia, the level of foreign investment in Eastern Europe, and how Polish banks are moving closer to privatization. For subscription and rate information, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org *********************************************************************** RUSSIA LEBED: YELTSIN SHOULD TRANSFER POWER UNTIL RECOVERY COMPLETE. In an interview published in the 28 September issue of Moskovskii komsomolets, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said that until President Boris Yeltsin makes a full recovery from his heart problems, he should hand over his authority to an acting president. Lebed argued that it was a "dangerous precedent" for Yeltsin to remain in power nominally while others run the country for him. Presidential aides have indicated that Yeltsin will formally transfer power to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for a brief period during his heart operation. Unlike Communist Party leaders, who recently called for the creation of a state medical commission that could force the president to step down, Lebed stressed that the decision should be entirely up to Yeltsin. -- Laura Belin LEBED MEETS WITH NORTH CAUCASUS LEADERS. Russian Security Council Secretary Lebed met in Nazran on 27 September with leaders of the North Caucasus republics who unanimously expressed their support for the Chechen peace process, Russian and Western agencies reported. Lebed subsequently announced that acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev (who did not attend the Nazran meeting because of health problems) will travel to Moscow on 1 October for talks with Russian leaders, AFP reported. Sergei Glazev, head of the Security Council's Economic Department, accompanied Lebed to Nazran and met with Yandarbiev in Novye Atagi to discuss Russian-Chechen economic relations, according to Radio Mayak. Also on 27 September, representatives of the Chechen separatists and Russian federal forces met in Grozny to discuss an exchange of prisoners, ITAR-TASS reported. On 29 September, AFP reported that three Italian medical aid workers have disappeared in Chechnya. -- Liz Fuller "NUCLEAR SUITCASE" SECRETS DISCUSSED. As President Yeltsin prepares to temporarily sign over his powers to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, an article in Ogonek no. 39 lays out the history of the "suitcase" through which the Russian president can authorize the launch of nuclear weapons. Three officials carry "suitcases": the president, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, and Chief of the General Staff Mikhail Kolesnikov. It is not clear how many of the three "suitcases" are needed to authorize a launch. The article points out that the suitcase has more political than military significance. Information about its existence is periodically leaked for political effect--as in January 1995, when President Yeltsin said he was monitoring the launch of a weather rocket from Norway. Discussing whose finger is on the button is a way of reminding the West that Russia is still a nuclear power. The current "Kazbek" suitcase system was introduced in 1983, and is reportedly in need of a technical overhaul. -- Peter Rutland DAY OF MOURNING FOR VICTIMS OF BUS/TRAIN COLLISION. President Yeltsin declared 28 September a national day of mourning for the 21 children killed in Rostov Oblast when a train crashed into a school bus on 26 September, Russian media reported. Another 16 children and three adults were injured in the collision. Since both the president and his wife Naina remain hospitalized (she is recovering from a recent kidney operation), Yeltsin's younger daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, traveled to Rostov to attend the 28 September funeral. -- Laura Belin INCUMBENT RE-ELECTED EASILY IN ROSTOV . . . Preliminary results for the 29 September Rostov Oblast gubernatorial election indicate that Governor Vladimir Chub easily defeated his main challenger, Communist-backed candidate Leonid Ivanchenko, by a margin of 62% to 32%, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 September. Despite the recent traffic tragedy in the oblast and heavy rains on election day, turnout was about 42%, which is higher than in other regions that have recently held gubernatorial elections. -- Laura Belin . . . BUT OPPOSITION WINS IN LENINGRAD OBLAST. Governor Aleksandr Belyakov, the incumbent, lost out to Communist-backed challenger Vadim Gustov in the 29 September Leningrad Oblast gubernatorial election, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. Belyakov, appointed by President Yeltsin in 1991, had been expected to win. According to preliminary data, Gustov took about 53% of the vote to Belyakov's 32%. Turnout was a low 34%, a factor that likely aided the challenger. Gustov headed the Leningrad Oblast Soviet until that body was dissolved in 1993 in the wake of the standoff between Yeltsin and the Russian Supreme Soviet. Though backed by the Communists, Gustov insists that he is an independent who favors the free market. He campaigned vigorously in rural areas, while Belyakov dominated local television screens, RFE/RL reported. -- Penny Morvant COMMUNIST WINS AMUR OBLAST GOVERNORSHIP. Confirming earlier unofficial reports, the Amur Oblast Electoral Commission announced on 27 September that Communist candidate Anatolii Belonogov won the region's 22 September gubernatorial election, according to an Interfax report monitored by the BBC. It said that 102,684 votes (41.77%) went to Belonogov and 102,495 (41.69%) to incumbent governor Yurii Lyashko. But it appears the result may be challenged. The regional procurator claimed that there were many irregularities during the voting, while Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) head Nikolai Ryabov earlier urged the local commission to defer any official announcement of the result until such irregularities were examined. -- Penny Morvant POWER WORKERS' STRIKE ENDS IN PRIMORE. Following the transfer of 180 billion rubles ($33 million) to Primore to pay overdue wages to power workers, employees of the Dalenergo electricity company on 27 September suspended a regional strike begun on 16 September, ITAR-TASS reported. The head of the strike committee, Gennadii Tkachuk, said the decision had been made after the arrival of a payment order and detailed instructions to Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko from First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov stipulating how the money should be spent. The 25-day hunger strike at the Primorskii power plant was also suspended, but subsequent reports said that 16 power workers were continuing their fast. Meanwhile, Nazdratenko signed a resolution on 27 September appointing Konstantin Tolstoshein, the mayor of Vladivostok until Viktor Cherepkov was reinstated to that post, first deputy governor of Primorskii Krai. Cherepkov returned to Vladivostok on 29 September. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN: NATO-RUSSIA PACT MUST PRECEDE EXPANSION. President Yeltsin has demanded that a NATO-Russia partnership agreement be concluded before the alliance "decides the issue of restructuring and expansion," Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin, who made the demand at a 28 September meeting with Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, said "it would not do" for the alliance to expand first, and then work out the details of its relationship with Moscow. Building on a recent proposal by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher for a NATO-Russia pact, Yeltsin's comments are the latest sign that Moscow views NATO expansion as inevitable but still hopes to influence the terms under which it occurs. The next day, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov reiterated his long- standing threats to revise "a whole series" of arms control agreements if NATO expands. Such threats may now aim at influencing the proposed NATO-Russia pact, rather than blocking expansion altogether. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON MIDDLE EAST CRISIS. Arriving in Morocco for a two-day official visit on 29 September, Primakov implicitly blamed Israel for the recent fighting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Russian and Western agencies reported. Primakov said "Israel should put an end to actions against Palestinians," and hailed the passage of a UN Security Council resolution urging the immediate resumption of the Middle East peace process and indirectly calling on Israel to close the disputed tunnel in Jerusalem. While Russia supported the resolution, the U.S. took Israeli objections into account and abstained. -- Scott Parrish SHARE-LOAN AUCTION FOLLOW-UP. The government has reached agreement with the Security Council over the rules under which shares won in last year's loan auctions will be sold off, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 September. Banks that gained blocks of shares in return for loans to the government will now be allowed to sell them. However, foreigners will not be permitted to acquire more than 15% of the shares of the oil companies involved, and will be entirely barred from purchasing shares in Norilsk Nickel and the North West River Steamer company. The government will have the right to participate in the sales (and thus repurchase the shares). The fact that First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin felt obliged to sign an agreement on this subject with Aleksandr Lebed indicates that the Security Council is an organization that cannot be ignored. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA GETS NEW WORLD BANK LOANS. The World Bank has agreed to provide Russia two more loans worth $159 million, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 September. The first credit ($89 million) is for the development of the securities market, and the remaining $70 million is for energy conservation. Russia will also receive a $80 million loan to finance environmental protection. In negotiations with World Bank officials in Washington on 28-29 September, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin argued for more loans programs aimed at stimulating Russia's exports and hence foreign exchange earnings, since over the next three years it will have to repay $900 million of its debt to the bank. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA COMMISSION UPHOLDS TER-PETROSSYAN'S ELECTION VICTORY . . . Armenia's Central Electoral Commission on 29 September released the final results of the 22 September presidential election in which incumbent Levon Ter- Petrossyan received 51.75% of the 2,210,189 votes cast and his rival, National Democratic Union (NDU) chairman Vazgen Manukyan, only 41.29%, Western agencies reported. Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 27 September, Manukyan's wife, Vardouhi Ishkhanyan, said that the NDU would hand over evidence that the vote count had been falsified to international observers within two days. Manukyan is currently in hiding. Also on 27 September, Communist presidential candidate Sergei Badalyan, who received 6.34% of the vote, announced that his faction of eight deputies would no longer participate in the work of the "undemocratic" National Assembly, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller . . . AND MORE ARRESTS IN YEREVAN. Three NDU deputies and the sole Dashnak parliamentary deputy were arrested in Yerevan on 27 September, Noyan Tapan reported. Western diplomats estimate that in all some 200 people have been detained since the election, including the chairman of the Artsakh-Hayastan party, Lenser Aghalovyan, who withdrew his presidential candidacy to support Manukyan, according to Western agencies. Police are still searching for Democratic Party Chairman Aram Sarkisyan, who also withdrew his candidacy in Manukyan's favor. The third candidate who withdrew, Paruir Hairikyan, is under house arrest. Most of the troops and tanks deployed in Yerevan on 26 September following an attack on the parliament building by Manukyan's supporters were pulled back on 29 September. The city was reported to be calm. -- Liz Fuller THIRD CONGRESS OF OSSETIANS CONVENES IN VLADIKAVKAZ. Meeting in Vladikavkaz on 27-28 September, representatives of the Republic of North Ossetiya-Alaniya and the disputed Georgian region of South Ossetia discussed how to improve the social-economic situation in North Ossetiya and to overcome the aftermath of the North Ossetiyan-Ingush and Georgian-South Ossetian conflicts, Radio Rossii reported. Galazov expressed his support for the normalization of relations with Georgia and for any initiatives aimed at substantiating the peace process in the North Caucasus. On 24 September, the South Ossetiyan Supreme Council dismissed Prime Minister Vladislav Gabaraev for failing to resolve the region's social and political problems, according to a Kontakt News Agency report monitored by the BBC. Gabaraev may stand in next month's South Ossetian presidential election. -- Liz Fuller VIOLENCE IN ABKHAZIA. There are conflicting reports of violence that erupted on 27 September in Abkhazia. It seems that several administrative buildings in Gali city were attacked and artillery shells were lobbed at the town of Ochamchira. Georgian television attributed these events to infighting among Abkhaz military units angry at personnel changes; the Abkhaz side, for its part, put the blame for the violence squarely on Georgian "bandits," and demanded that the Russian peacekeeping command take action to prevent further acts of "terrorism." The date 27 September is considered to be the third anniversary of victory for Sukhumi in its fight with Georgia. Meanwhile, hundreds of ethnic Georgian refugees from Abkhazia have begun a sit-in near the Inguri River to protest talks between Tbilisi and Sukhumi and Abkhazia's scheduled November election. -- Lowell Bezanis NIYAZOV TURNS DOWN LIFE-LONG PRESIDENCY. Turkmenistan's socio-economic development through the year 2001 was the main subject at a joint session of the Turkmen Peoples' Council, the Council of Elders, and the Movement for National Revival in Bayram-Ali, RFE/RL reported on 27 September. At the session, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov said he would not accept the title "president for life" as had been suggested late last year, saying such a move would violate the country's constitution. He was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying "we will decide together" who should be Turkmenistan's next president when his term expires in 2002. -- Lowell Bezanis FIGHTING ERUPTS ALONG TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER. Russian border guards have repelled an attempt by 300 opposition fighters to cross over from Afghanistan into Tajikistan, Russian and Western media reported. The fighting began on 27 September when opposition groups south of the Kalai-Khumb border posts tried to infiltrate Tajikistan. The opposition forces were largely unsuccessful in their attempts to penetrate the border, but ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported that some managed to enter Tajikistan. As of 29 September, the border guards had pushed them some 10 km back into Afghanistan. One opposition leader, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, denied that his side had started the trouble, saying "in view of the uncertain situation in Afghanistan, it's not in our interests to provoke the enemy." -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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