|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 194, Part I, 7 October 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 CONFUSION OVER CHECHNYA. Russian Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov said that the August agreements signed in Khasavyurt by Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov have no legal force, and that a formal treaty should be signed on the division of powers between the Russian Federation and Chechnya, ITAR- TASS reported on 4 October. On 6 October, Maskhadov told Russian Public TV (ORT) that Chechnya would not agree to be a constituent part of Russia; the head of the Russian government's administrative department, Sergei Shakhrai, told NTV that Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov had warned several ambassadors in Moscow, including those from the Baltic states, against granting Chechnya official diplomatic recognition, Reuters reported. Seven people were killed and 24 injured when a Russian military helicopter crashed near Grozny on 4 October, according to ITAR- TASS. -- Liz Fuller LIVSHITS THREATENS TO CUT CHECHEN FINANCING. Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said that financing for reconstruction work in Chechnya should be started in five years once the republic's political status becomes clear, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 October. many opponents of the Khasavyurt accord have expressed their unwillingness to incude Chechnya in the Russian Federation budget and pay for its reconstruction if the country intends to become independent. In the meantime, Duma deputy Sergei Shakhrai said that the parliament is working on legislation to ensure that the money sent to Chechnya is spent on projects for which it was intended. -- Ritsuko Sasaki and Robert Orttung LEBED SNUBS DEFENSE COUNCIL MEETING . . . Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed did not attend the inaugural 4 October session of the Defense Council, Russian media reported. Officially, Lebed's press service explained his absence as the result of his ongoing "intensive" work on the Chechen conflict. Segodnya military commentator Pavel Felgengauer speculated that Lebed boycotted the meeting to protest President Yeltsin's decision to replace him as head of a presidential commission overseeing military promotions with Yurii Baturin, secretary of the Defense Council. Lebed may also have refused to sit at the same table with Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, who accused him of "treason" in a 3 October speech in the Duma. -- Scott Parrish . . . DEFENSE COUNCIL CALLS FOR MILITARY REFORM. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told the first meeting of the Defense Council on 4 October that Russia's armed forces should be downsized but professionalized, complaining that the current manpower levels, which are 20-30% in excess of those funded by the budget, have caused chronic financial problems. According to Segodnya on 5 October, the council agreed to reduce military personnel, but Defense Minister Igor Rodionov insisted that the other "power ministries," such as the Interior Ministry and the Federal Border Service, should share in the cuts. -- Scott Parrish RODIONOV PROMOTED. President Yeltsin promoted Defense Minister Col.-Gen. Igor Rodionov to the rank of army general on 4 October, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. The promotion puts an end to speculation that Rodionov would be forced to retire in December when he turns 60, the retirement age under current Russian law for a colonel-general. Army generals, however, can serve until age 65. -- Scott Parrish TARPISCHEV SACKED . . . President Yeltsin has dismissed Shamil Tarpischev from the posts of chairman of the State Committee on Sport and Tourism and chairman of the Presidential Coordinating Committee for Sport and Tourism, ORT reported on 5 October. Tarpischev was Yeltsin's tennis coach and a close friend of the president's former chief bodyguard, Aleksandr Korzhakov, who was ousted after the first round of the Russian presidential election. An article published in Novaya gazeta in July, citing information from former National Sports Fund head Boris Fedorov, accused Tarpischev of embezzlement and involvement in organized crime. Fedorov charged Korzhakov and former Federal Security Service Director Mikhail Barsukov with covering up Tarpischev's crimes. -- Penny Morvant . . . CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS AGAINST KORZHAKOV RENEWED. The day after Tarpischev was sacked, Fedorov renewed his attacks on Korzhakov, Reuters and AFP reported, citing NTV. Fedorov claimed that Korzhakov had accused him of embezzling $300 million belonging to the Sports Fund and that Korzhakov's deputy, Col. Valerii Streletskii, the new head of the fund, had subsequently told him to pay $40 million to avoid prosecution. He quoted Streletskii, who resigned in August, as saying: "This is a state racket. You must understand that the steam roller is moving." Fedorov denied stealing from the fund and said he had not paid the bribe. Several days after the conversation with Streletskii, Fedorov was seriously injured in an assassination attempt. The allegations coincide with speculation by Pavel Felgengauer and others that Korzhakov may form an alliance with Security Council Secretary Lebed, using information acquired while he was head of the Presidential Security Service to further his political ambitions. -- Penny Morvant DUMA TAKES AIM AT ORT, JOURNALISTS RETURN FIRE. The State Duma passed by a vote of 233 to 54 a non-binding resolution calling for the renationalization of 51% state-owned Russian Public TV (ORT), Russian media reported on 4 October. The resolution charged that news coverage on both ORT and the state-owned Russian TV (RTR) network is biased and unfairly portrays Duma deputies as irresponsible. The resolution is the latest in a series of failed efforts by parliament to nationalize ORT, informally known as "the president's television" because of its slanted coverage. -- Laura Belin PPOSITION MARCHES TO WHITE HOUSE TO COMMEMORATE 1993 EVENTS. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov led a peaceful march of more than a thousand people to commemorate the anniversary of the shelling of the White House on 4 October 1993, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 October. The march ended at the White House, which in 1993 housed the Supreme Soviet but is currently the headquarters of the government. The most prominent opposition leaders from 1993, including then-Supreme Soviet chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov, did not take part in the march. -- Laura Belin LEBED FLIPS-FLOPS AGAIN ON NATO. On the eve of his scheduled 7-8 October visit to NATO headquarters, Security Council Secretary Lebed continued to issue contradictory statements on NATO expansion. In a interview with Der Spiegel published on 7 October, Lebed denounced NATO expansion as "unacceptable," adding that if the alliance "pushed up to the Russian border," Moscow would be forced to alter its military stance. Arriving in Belgium on 6 October, however, Lebed declared that he intended to establish a "constructive" and "civilized" dialogue with NATO (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 October 1996). -- Scott Parrish RUNOFF FORECAST FOR KALININGRAD. Preliminary returns from the 6 October Kaliningrad Oblast election show that there will be a runoff between Governor Yurii Matochkin and Leonid Gorbenko, the head of the Kaliningrad port, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 October. Matochkin won about 31% of the vote to Gorbenko's 22%, while the Communist candidate, Yurii Semenov, won only negligible support. Turnout was reported at around 44%. On the eve of the election, Defense Minister Rodionov visited the oblast, which has a heavy military presence, but claimed that he was not involved in the campaign, ORT reported on 5 October. Kommersant-Daily suggested, however, that his visit could help the incumbent. -- Robert Orttung INCUMBENT LOSES IN KIROV, WINS IN VOLOGDA. Duma deputy Vladimir Sergeenkov, backed by the Communist-led Popular-Patriotic Union, won about 40% of the vote in Kirov Oblast on 6 October, ITAR-TASS reported, citing preliminary results. He will face Gennadii Shtin, the chairman of the oblast Council of Economic Managers, in the runoff. The incumbent Vasilii Desyatnikov, appointed to the post on 11 December 1991, won only 17.5% even though the oblast supported President Yeltsin in the 1996 presidential election. Turnout was 50.13%. Vologda Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev won more than 80% of the vote in his race. Yeltsin appointed him governor on 23 March, after his predecessor, Nikolai Podgornov, was removed on corruption charges. -- Robert Orttung DUMA DENOUNCES LATVIA. The Duma passed a resolution on 4 October urging the Russian government to impose economic sanctions on Latvia in retaliation for what the chamber sees as the country's discriminatory practices against its Russian minority, ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution also asserted that "certain circles" in the Latvian government are deliberately trying to aggravate Russian-Latvian relations and stir up hatred between the Russian and Latvian peoples, citing the 22 August resolution of the Latvian parliament on Latvia's occupation by Soviet troops in 1940 as an example. -- Scott Parrish ENERGY SECTOR STABILIZATION PROGRAM SIGNED IN PRIMORE. First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, head of a government commission looking into the energy crisis in Primore, has approved a program to stabilize the situation in the region, ORT reported on 5 November. It orders Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko to ensure that at least 54 billion rubles ($10 million) is available each month to pay miners' and power workers' wages. The federal government will transfer 43.4 billion rubles a month to pay wages as compensation for the Defense Ministry's debts to power suppliers and arrange for the emergency delivery of coal and fuel oil. Several federal bodies have been ordered to pay their debts to the region's defense enterprises. The agreement is a compromise between Nazdratenko and the central government, which have accused each other of causing the crisis. -- Penny Morvant BUDGET UNDER ATTACK IN DUMA. Mikhail Zadornov, the head of the Duma Budget Committee, said that the government's draft budget for 1997 will almost certainly be rejected in the first reading, ORT reported on 5 October. The Duma started discussing the draft on 3 October. Many deputies questioned the value of debating the 1997 budget when the government is failing to make payments in accordance with the 1996 budget, and called for procedural changes to increase the Duma's role in budget implementation. There were also calls from many sides for an expansionary budget that would stimulate economic growth. Deputies were disturbed that the budget envisioned only 1% growth in GDP in 1997. In an address to the president's Political Consultative Council on 5 October, Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits defended the draft budget. Yurii Skokov, a council member, called for a nationwide referendum on the government's economic policy. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA EU DELEGATION CANCELS ARMENIA VISIT. An EU delegation has canceled its scheduled trip to Armenia due to "security concerns" following last month's Armenian presidential election, the head of the EU Transcaucasus and Central Asia Department, Fokion Fotiadis, told Reuters on 5 October. Meanwhile, former presidential candidate Lenser Aghalovyan and Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union leader Aghasi Arshakyan have been released from custody, according to Noyan Tapan. They were detained in Yerevan after the 25 September attack on the parliament building. Ayzhm, the newspaper of defeated presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan's National Democratic Union, resumed publication on 4 October, presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan told OMRI the same day. -- Liz Fuller AZERBAIJAN'S PARLIAMENT RATIFIES SHAH DENIZ CONTRACT. Azerbaijan's Milli Mejlis on 4 October finally ratified the contract signed in early June between the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) and a consortium consisting of Russia's LUKoil, BP, Norway's Statoil, Turkey's TPAO, Elf Aquitaine, and the National Iranian Oil Company, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Shah Deniz contains an estimated 500 billion cubic meters of gas, 190 million metric tons of oil, and 200 million metric tons of gas condensate. Seven opposition deputies from the Azerbaijani Popular Front and Azerbaijani Party of National Independence argued unsuccessfully against ratifying the deal until a more detailed discussion can be held on the contract. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIA, EU SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and the head of a 15-person EU delegation signed an interim trade agreement on 4 October, Reuters reported. Delegation head Francois Lamoureux said that talks with the Georgian government had also focused on a $2.5 million assistance package aimed at helping Georgia prepare for WTO membership. -- Liz Fuller UZBEKISTAN GIVES RUSSIA SANITARIUM. Uzbekistan is to hand over a sanitarium on the Black Sea to Russia as payment for part of its debts to that country, ORT reported on 4 October. The 500-bed sanitarium in Sochi is worth an estimated 16.6 billion rubles ($3 million) and will be used by the Russian Interior Ministry. -- Lowell Bezanis CIS MEETING ON AFGHANISTAN. Strong words were used at a 4 October meeting in Almaty of the presidents of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in discussion of the situation in Afghanistan. However, the participants seemed to adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the Afghan conflict. Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev expressed concern that the conflict is approaching the CIS border, and condemned the human rights violations that followed the Taliban ascension to power, ORT reported. But Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev claimed it would be a mistake to repeat the Soviet experience by interfering directly in Afghan internal affairs. Uzbek President Islam Karimov's motion calling for open support of General Abdurrashid Dostum forces in northern Afghanistan was voted down. -- 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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