|When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves. - Katherine Mansfield|
No. 196, Part I, 9 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 CHERNOMYRDIN, FEDERATION COUNCIL BACK PEACE IN CHECHNYA BUT NOT INDEPENDENCE. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 8 October effectively undermined the 31 August Khasavyurt agreement on Chechnya by telling the Federation Council that he supported negotiations that would keep the republic inside the Russian Federation, NTV reported. The agreement postpones a decision on Chechen independence for five years. Chernomyrdin said that he did not share Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov's criticism of Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's activities in Chechnya, but said he viewed the Khasavyurt agreement that Lebed signed as having no legal force. The Federation Council also adopted a statement that backed the Khasavyurt agreement for ending the fighting but also stressed that Chechnya must remain a part of Russia, Kommersant-Daily reported on 9 October. Chechen fighters seeking independence may see these moves as further evidence of Moscow's double- dealing with them. -- Robert Orttung YAVLINSKII ON CLANS, LEBED. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said Russia currently has three governments, led by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, and Security Council Secretary Lebed, Russian media reported on 8 October. He said the infighting in the executive branch was not a "political battle" so much as a "battle among clans for influence and access to budget funds." The Yabloko leader noted that his party supports Lebed on Chechnya policy but not necessarily on other matters. (Yavlinskii tried unsuccessfully to negotiate an electoral alliance with Lebed last spring.) Meanwhile, Democratic Russia co-leader Galina Starovoitova called on Russia's democrats to support Lebed's peacemaking efforts in Chechnya, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin ELECTORAL COMMISSION CALLS FOR NEW LAW ON CAMPAIGN FINANCING. Members of the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK), including chairman Nikolai Ryabov, called on parliament to pass a special law to improve compliance with Russia's campaign financing regulations, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 October. TsIK member Viktor Karpunov noted that all 11 presidential candidates violated at least one of the regulations. According to official TsIK figures, President Yeltsin spent about 14.4 billion rubles ($2.8 million) during the campaign, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Aleksandr Lebed about 14 billion rubles each, and Gennadii Zyuganov about 11.3 billion rubles. However, observers agree that these figures are unreliable; in particular, Yeltsin's campaign is believed to have spent many times the amount officially declared. Ryabov confirmed that he will soon take a new job as ambassador to the Czech Republic, Kommersant- Daily reported on 9 October. -- Laura Belin LEBED SEES THREAT FROM SOUTH, NOT WEST. While continuing his visit to NATO headquarters, Security Council Secretary Lebed said that the real threat to Russia's security comes from the country's unstable south, not from the West, ITAR-TASS reported. Lebed declared that Russia would play a role in any continuation of the NATO-led peace mission in Bosnia, which is set to end in December, Reuters reported. Additionally, Lebed called for greater cooperation between Russia and NATO within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program, noting that Russia has not taken advantage of all of the program's opportunities. Reuters described NATO officials as "bordering on euphoric" since, as one source said, Lebed was "thoughtful," and not the "bluff, desk-thumping character" they had expected. -- Robert Orttung PACKAGE OF RUSSIA-MOLDOVA AGREEMENTS SIGNED. Moldovan Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli wrapped up a two-day visit to Moscow by signing 11 accords with his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, ITAR-TASS and Moldovan agencies reported on 8 October. Most of the agreements concerned economic issues, such as electric energy deliveries to Moldova, currency controls, and joint action against financial crime. Deputy prime ministers of the two countries signed an agreement on broadcasting Russian television and radio programs on Moldovan territory. Igor Smirnov, president of the self-styled Transdniester Republic, took part in the talks as a member of the Moldovan delegation. Russia favors a special status for Transdniester within Moldova but not full independence for the region. -- Laura Belin and Michael Shafir MEDIA ATTACKS ON LEBED. The mass media, especially Russian Public TV (ORT) and NTV, have begun a "defamation" campaign against Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, according to Pravda-5 on 9 October. On 6 October, NTV reported that Lebed intervened in August to prevent the sacking of the director of the arms exporter Rosvooruzhenie, who was a protege of former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov. The network suggested that Rosvooruzhenie could be a source of campaign funding for Lebed if an early presidential election becomes necessary. Logovaz head Boris Berezovskii, the most powerful figure at ORT, and NTV President Igor Malashenko are considered allies of presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, one of Lebed's Kremlin rivals. Both networks gave Lebed substantial, favorable exposure shortly before the presidential election, which was consistent with President Yeltsin's campaign strategy. News coverage on ORT and NTV in particular contributed to Korzhakov's 20 June ouster. -- Laura Belin ILLEGAL ARMS TRADE. "Soldiers, officers, and traders are stealing weapons," Deputy Military Procurator Lt.-Gen. Stanislav Gaveto told Rossiiskie vesti on 9 October, adding "The country is awash with arms, nobody knows how many." The problem is exacerbated by the fact that units returning from Chechnya are not being searched for surplus weapons at holding camps, as during the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Officially recorded cases of arms theft from military bases rose from 151 in 1988 to 5,814 in 1992 but fell to 375 in 1994. In the first half of 1996, there were 339 cases. Meanwhile, Interior Ministry official Nikolai Borovskii on 8 October said more than 31,000 weapons were reported stolen from all sources in the first nine months of 1996, ITAR-TASS reported. He linked the rise in serious crimes to the increased number of weapons in circulation and criticized a Duma bill that would make it easier for Russians to own guns. -- Penny Morvant CHERNOMYRDIN PROPOSES ENERGY PRICE FREEZE . . . Addressing the Federation Council on 8 September, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin outlined the government's economic program for 1997, ORT reported. He said he expects inflation this year to be no more than 19% and promised to keep the money supply under tight control. He talked vaguely about introducing a new tax to finance the army, and said that a decree is being prepared to freeze energy and possibly transport tariffs in view of the debt crisis facing many electricity stations. Such a step would violate the government's commitment to gradually increase energy prices in line with IMF recommendations. -- Peter Rutland . . . AMID EMERGENCY MEASURES TO HELP ARMY. Finance Minister Livshits said that steps have been taken to ensure that food and fuel supplies reach military bases, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 October. He was speaking after a closed session of the Federation Council on the topic. Livshits said "All the required budgetary payments for the army have been released. However, for various reasons not all the money has reached the military units. Rather than argue with [Defense Minister] Gen. [Igor] Rodionov over why this happened, we came up with a way to solve the situation." Regions that make food deliveries to military units will be compensated by the government--presumably by waiving tax arrears. This policy contradicts the government's efforts to cut back tax waivers and non-cash tax payments. -- Peter Rutland GOVERNMENT COMMISSION ON ENERGY, TRANSPORT TARIFFS. Also on 8 October, the government's Commission for Operational Questions, chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, met to discuss the energy situation, ORT reported. The commission was told that many local authorities are refusing to raise electricity prices in light of the upcoming regional elections. After a two-hour discussion on rail-freight tariffs, the commission decided to postpone for one month a decision on whether to increase them. -- Peter Rutland KADANNIKOV TO RETURN TO AVTO VAZ. Former Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov on 11 October will return to his former post of chairman of the board of directors of Avto VAZ, the automobile giant which is now on the brink of bankruptcy, Kommersant-Daily reported on 9 October. The government's InterAgency Bankruptcy Committee has asked Avto VAZ to submit documents on its current financial situation and its debt repayment schedule at the planned 11 October special meeting. Presidential Chief of Staff Chubais criticized Avto VAZ for not paying its federal taxes since January 1996, NTV reported on 5 October. Meanwhile, Kadannikov has announced that the government will freeze budget debts worth 10 trillion rubles ($1.9 billion) until 2001. -- Ritsuko Sasaki TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. Ruben Hakobyan, the only parliamentary deputy for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation- Dashnaktsutyun party, was beaten and seriously injured after his arrest on 26 September by a group of men that included Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan, Noyan Tapan and Groong reported on 8 October, citing Hakobyan's defense attorney, Tigran Janoyan. Janoyan also said he has not been allowed to meet with his client since 30 September. He described the official charges against Hakobyan and other opposition members arrested following the 25 September attack on the parliament building in Yerevan as "absurd" and "politically motivated." -- Emil Danielyan AZERBAIJAN "COUP" TRIALS POSTPONED. Azerbaijan's Supreme Court has again postponed the trial of some 37 members of the OPON special police charged with treason in connection with the March 1995 standoff between the OPON and the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, because the defense lawyers of some of those accused are not yet familiar with the case, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported on 8 October. The Supreme Court will, however, proceed with the trial of two former Azerbaijani generals charged with plotting to shoot down President Heidar Aliev's plane in the summer of 1995. -- Liz Fuller KITOVANI SENTENCED. Former Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani was sentenced on 8 October to eight years in prison on charges of organizing an illegal armed formation and of unlawful possession of weapons, Reuters and Russian TV (RTR) reported. Kitovani was arrested in January 1995, when he and former Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua attempted to launch a military campaign to bring the breakaway region of Abkhazia back under Tbilisi's jurisdiction. Valerii Fisyun and former Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Irakli Surguladze, charged together with Kitovani, were sentenced to six and two years in prison, respectively. Kitovani denounced the court proceedings as a show trial staged by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in order to neutralize a political opponent. -- Liz Fuller NAZARBAYEV SEES LIGHT AT END OF TUNNEL. Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev told a national television audience on 7 October that the country is emerging from its economic crisis, according to a Kazakstani TV report monitored by the BBC. In the address, which was published in Kazakhstanskaya pravda the next day, Nazarbayev said that privatization and financial and industrial reforms would be completed by early 1998. He also said he wanted annual inflation cut in half by the end of the decade. Inflation has dropped from 2,200% in 1993 to a predicted 30% for 1996, Reuters reported on 8 October. Nazarbayev promised to press the government to pay overdue wages and pensions. The Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakstan and the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakstan still plan to hold demonstrations over that issue next week. -- Bruce Pannier MAYLI-SUU CLEANUP PLANNED. Kyrgyz and Uzbek environmental agencies have agreed to cooperate to reduce the danger at more than 20 radioactive waste sites near the Kyrgyz town of Mayli-Suu, according to a report in Aziya- Ekonomika i zhizn [No. 40] monitored by the BBC. Successive heavy rains and mudslides have meant that the dump sites may be contaminating the Mayli-Suu River and through it various canals that irrigate the Ferghana Valley. -- Lowell Bezanis PAKISTANI ENVOY IN TURKMENISTAN. Following talks between a special envoy from Pakistan, Ijlal Haider Zaidi, and Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov on 7 October both sides agreed on the preservation of Afghanistan's territorial integrity and noninterference in its internal affairs, Turkmen and Russian media reported. Zaidi's visit to Ashgabat was presumably intended to reassure Turkmenistan about Pakistan's intentions and to suggest that Taliban does not pose a security threat to Afghanistan's neighbors. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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