|Vozmozhnye goresti prevratit' v radosti - znachit umet' zhit'. - Grasian|
No. 195, Part I, 8 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 YELTSIN LEAVES HOSPITAL, MEETS STROEV. President Boris Yeltsin left the Central Clinical Hospital on 7 October for the Barvikha sanitarium, where he is to increase his work load, Rossiiskie vesti reported. In a meeting with Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, Yeltsin said that the interests of all the residents of Chechnya, including Russians, should be taken into account during the peace negotiations. Stroev backed a peaceful resolution of the conflict but warned that Russia's territorial integrity must be preserved. On the eve of the Federation Council's 11th session, Yeltsin stressed the need to create a legal basis for the country's economic and social reforms. -- Robert Orttung INTERIOR MINISTER RENEWS ATTACKS ON LEBED . . . Anatolii Kulikov hit out at Security Council Secretary Lebed on 7 October, accusing him of associating with criminals. Kulikov said that Sergei Drobush, a Security Council representative in Chechnya, was implicated in the embezzlement of 200 million rubles in 1992. A Security Council spokesman denied that Drobush had been an employee of the council, but admitted that he used on one occasion as a mediator in the Chechen negotiations, Kommersant- Daily reported. Kulikov and Lebed have been bitter foes since Lebed called for the interior minister's resignation over Chechnya. In the Duma last week, Kulikov argued that the Khasavurt agreements were based on lies and could lead only to further armed conflicts, while Lebed said the attempt to resolve the Chechen problem forcibly had led to a blood bath, Russian Television (RTR) reported on 5 October. On 7 October, Kulikov refuted Lebed's estimate of the Chechen death toll, saying civilian deaths amounted to 18,500 not 80,000. He argued that "the myth of Russia's military defeat" was aimed at destabilizing the political situation. -- Penny Morvant . . . DISCUSSES CRIME SITUATION. Kulikov said that the number of crimes recorded during the first nine months of the year dropped by 4.5% compared with the same period last year and that the police's rate of solved crimes has improved, ITAR-TASS reported. Concerning problems within the law enforcement agencies, he said more than 72,000 Interior Ministry employees have been dismissed for "unacceptable behavior" and that 600 police officers have been charged with corruption. Returning to the theme of Chechnya, Kulikov claimed that leaders of rebel factions had decided to send armed groups to Moscow to establish control over commercial banks and businesses that had earlier been under the "protection" of Chechen mobs. He warned that bloody turf wars could result between Russian and Chechen gangs. -- Penny Morvant LUZHKOV GOES ON THE OFFENSIVE. In an interview with Komsomolskaya pravda published on 8 October, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov had sharp words for leading government officials, ITAR-TASS reported. He described presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais as "dangerous" because he is "striving to concentrate in his hands powers which have never been the prerogative of the chief of staff, and is trying to influence the situation in the regions on the eve of local elections." Luzhkov also criticized Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, saying that he lacks strategic vision and is pandering to the energy sector, while failing to impose tax discipline. Luzhkov supported Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, in the December 1995 election. He now seems to be trying to establish himself as a candidate for the presidency. -- Peter Rutland WORKERS' RUSSIA SPLITS IN TWO. Several speakers at the fifth congress of the Workers' Russia movement on 5-6 October called for creating a united communist party in Russia, but such efforts seem destined to fail, judging from events at the congress. Supporters and opponents of the movement's longtime leader, Viktor Anpilov, came to blows as some delegates demanded Anpilov's expulsion, Russian media reported. Anpilov's opponents on 6 October broke off and elected their own Workers' Russia executive committee, while loyalists unanimously re- elected Anpilov and confirmed his role as editor-in-chief of the newspaper Molniya. One of the most prominent figures on Russia's far left wing, Anpilov drew criticism for supporting the presidential bid of Gennadii Zyuganov, whom many radical communists viewed as too moderate. The Russian Communist Workers' Party sacked Anpilov as head of its Moscow branch in July and expelled him altogether in September. -- Laura Belin KEMEROVO ELECTION POSTPONED. The gubernatorial election in Kemerovo Oblast will be postponed until next year, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 October, citing First Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Kazakov. Kazakov argued that the oblast cannot elect a governor because there is no regional legislature to adopt an electoral law. The legislature could not muster a quorum to extend its term, which expired in March, or call an election. President Yeltsin issued a decree in July setting a new legislature election for December. Kazakov said that the gubernatorial election, which was also to be held in December, will take place once the new legislature adopts a law. Incumbent Governor Mikhail Kislyuk will probably face two opponents who are currently Duma members: Teimuraz Avaliani, the leader of the local Communists, and Viktor Medikov, a "democrat" popular in the southern part of the oblast, RTR reported. Observers expect a tight race. -- Robert Orttung PENSIONERS PROTEST IN NORTH OSSETIYA. Pensioners in the North Ossetiyan capital of Vladikavkaz rallied on 6 October to protest a four-month delay in the payment of their pensions, Radio Rossii reported. They also called for the resignation of the government and the re-establishment of the USSR. Demonstrations by pensioners have become a relatively common occurrence in many areas of Russia because of the indebtedness of the Russian Pension Fund. According to ITAR-TASS on 7 October, the fund now owes pensioners 13.3 trillion rubles ($2.5 billion), including 300 billion owed since July and 4 trillion since August. The debt is now higher than the fund's monthly outgoings, which totaled 12.4 trillion in September. The fund is owed 40 trillion rubles by enterprises and 12.8 trillion by the Finance Ministry, according to fund official Andrei Tyshko. -- Penny Morvant TEACHERS PROTESTS CONTINUE. Teachers in many Russian regions staged protests on 7 October to demand the payment of wage arrears, reliable state funding for education, and constitutional recognition of the government's responsibility for education, ITAR-TASS reported. Similar protests occurred on 4 October. According to the teachers' union, wage arrears topped 3.4 trillion rubles ($630 million) on 1 October. Many teachers in Arkhangelsk, Irkutsk, Pskov, and Chita Oblasts have not been paid for seven months. Strikes have been held at 3,300 educational establishments over the past six months, and 578 schools failed to begin the new school year on 2 September. -- Penny Morvant LEBED: RUSSIA OPPOSES NATO EXPANSION, BUT WITHOUT "HYSTERICS." Emerging from talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana in Brussels on 7 October, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed declared that Russia continues to oppose NATO expansion but added that Moscow will "not go into hysterics" if the alliance accepts new members. Lebed said Russia acknowledges the "legal" right of East European countries to join NATO but warned against conflating "juridical legitimacy with political expediency," and repeated President Yeltsin's proposal that a Russia- NATO agreement detailing the alliance's relationship with Moscow be signed prior to any decision on expansion, a position NATO officials reject. Lebed added that NATO expansion should be left to "the next generation," which would be free of the Cold War's "confrontation mentality." Although refusing to give details of the "new proposals" on Russia-NATO cooperation which he discussed with Solana, Lebed said they involved creating a framework for joint decision-making. -- Scott Parrish MOSCOW POSTURES OVER BALTIC TIES WITH CHECHNYA. In recent meetings with the Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian ambassadors, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov threatened that Moscow will sever diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes Chechnya as an independent state, RTR reported on 7 October. The report, based on remarks made by Sergei Stepashin, head of the Russian government's administrative department (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 October 1996), noted that the Foreign Ministry refused to either confirm or deny the story but claimed that Baltic diplomats had confirmed it. Estonian and Latvian diplomats told BNS, however, that their ambassadors have not discussed Chechnya with Russian officials for nearly a month, although they acknowledged being cautioned earlier against recognizing Chechnya. Both officials denied any plans to recognize Chechnya. The public support for Chechen independence expressed by some Latvian and Estonian politicians is a source of irritation for Moscow. -- Scott Parrish GOVERNMENT TO RESTRUCTURE MONOPOLIES. Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin announced that the government plans to present a restructuring program for the gas industry by the end of this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 October. The ministry is setting up a special committee to draw up plans for a reorganization of the monopolistic industries, which include the gas, energy, railway, and communication sectors. Yasin said the energy industry should not continue to raise prices and tariffs, but must cut production and administration costs. Yasin said that the government does not intend to forcibly break up Gazprom, but will devise a restructuring plan that will guarantee competition and more effective administration. -- Ritsuko Sasaki RUSSIAN BONDS RATED INVESTMENT GRADE. Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits told a Moscow briefing on 7 October that Russian government bonds have been awarded a 2B grade by the three leading international credit rating agencies, NTV reported. Livshits said that the 2B group includes India, Mexico, and Hungary, and places Russian state bonds ahead of those from Turkey, Venezuela, or Brazil. Livshits said, "It is true that we have a bad reputation as a persistent debtor, but a 2B rating in our pocket will reduce the harm this causes." This clears the way for Russia to issue long-term Eurobonds later this year, presumably at interest rates lower than the 55-70% required on the domestic treasury bill (GKO) market. Russia's international debts total some $130 billion, including old Soviet debts plus another $19 billion acquired since 1991. Russia is late in paying interest, let alone principal repayments, on this debt, so the favorable bond rating is surprising. -- Peter Rutland CORRECTION. An item titled "Confusion over Chechnya" in the OMRI Daily Digest, Vol. 2, No. 194, 7 October 1996 incorrectly attributed a comment to Sergei Shakhrai. In fact, Sergei Stepashin, who heads the Russian government's administrative department, made the comment. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA "NO ALTERNATIVE" TO WAR IN ABKHAZIA? The chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, Tamaz Nadareishvili, said in Tbilisi on 4 October that Georgia should suspend further negotiations on ratifying the agreement on Russian military bases in Georgia, BGI reported. He said the suspension would expedite the withdrawal from the Georgian-Abkhaz border of Russian peacekeeping troops and their replacement with an international force. He further called on Interpol to issue warrants for the arrest of Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba and his associates. Nadareishvili claimed that there is a faction within the Georgian parliament that shares his view that Tbilisi would have to go to war to restore its hegemony over Abkhazia. The director of Russia's Institute of Migration and Diaspora Affairs, former State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin, has advocated the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia if both Tbilisi and Sukhumi agree to this, according to BGI. -- Liz Fuller NEW ROUND OF KARABAKH DIPLOMACY. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev on 3 October criticized the OSCE Minsk group for having accomplished nothing beyond declarations in the two years since the 1994 OSCE Budapest summit, Turan reported the following day. Aliev, who was meeting with representatives of the group, condemned the organization's "failure to explain to Armenia that the Armenian community of Karabakh will not receive the status of an independent state." He also reiterated his criticism of Russia's "one-sided" approach to the conflict. On 4 October, the OSCE delegation traveled to Stepanakert for talks with the president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Noyan Tapan reported on 7 October. The Minsk conference co-chairmen, Heikki Talvitie and Valentin Lozinskii, called for a quick settlement of political negotiations on the conflict before the December OSCE summit in Lisbon. -- Liz Fuller TALIBAN EXTENDING OLIVE BRANCH? A spokesman for the Taliban movement claims that Central Asia has nothing to fear from the group that now controls most of Afghanistan, Rusian Public TV (ORT) reported on 7 October. The acting foreign minister of the Taliban, Muhammed Ghous, called upon the UN "to convince Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakstan, and Kyrgyzstan not to meddle in Afghanistan's internal affairs and the Taliban for their part will not interfere in the affairs of other countries." A radio broadcast originating in Pakistan on 6 October announced that the Taliban would soon send representatives to the Central Asian states as a demonstration of the group's "brotherly love" for the region, Radio Rossii reported on 6 October. However, Ghous reportedly said "we do not want Russia to forget the lesson they were taught here," referring to the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan in the 1980s. -- 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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