|If you wish to live wisely, ignore sayings--including this one. - Heywood Broun|
No. 201, Part I, 16 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 *********************************************************************** Available now -- The OMRI Annual Survey of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union -- "1995: Building Democracy." Published by M.E. Sharpe Inc., this 336-page yearbook provides a systematic and comprehensive review of the most pivotal events in the 27 countries of the former Communist bloc and former Soviet Union during 1995. Available to OMRI subscribers at a special price of $25 each (plus postage and handling). To order, please email your request to: firstname.lastname@example.org *********************************************************************** RUSSIA LEBED SLAMS RODIONOV. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov has apparently released a plan which calls for the ranks of the airborne forces to be reduced from 63,000 to 48,000. Senior commanders of the parachute forces met in closed session on 15 October and condemned the proposal. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, himself a former parachute general, described Rodionov's directive as a "criminal document," which "actually means the elimination of the airborne forces," NTV reported on 15 October. Lebed complained that military financing was the victim of political fighting between unidentified groups and "politicians with strong jaws," according to Radio Rossii. Lebed had recommended Rodionov be appointed defense minister this summer. Last week, reports surfaced suggesting that Rodionov had cast his lot with Chernomyrdin, forsaking his alliance with Lebed. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski DUMA REJECTS BUDGET. The State Duma formally rejected the 1997 draft federal budget on 16 October by a vote of 273-83, with 12 abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma decided to send the budget back to the government for reworking, rather than immediately creating a reconciliation commission as the government hoped. The budget was sharply criticized for failing to promote economic recovery when the Duma debated the draft on 11 October. -- Peter Rutland YELTSIN OPERATION WILL TAKE PLACE ON SCHEDULE. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, speaking on NTV on 15 October, denied reports by Ekho Moskvy that President Boris Yeltsin's operation would be delayed because of a low hemoglobin count in his blood. One of Yeltsin's doctors, Sergei Mironov, said on 16 October that the operation will take place in mid-November, AFP reported. Yeltsin's surgeon Renat Akchurin is in Houston buying equipment for the operation, ITAR-TASS reported. Yastrzhembskii said on 15 October that Yeltsin is "seriously concerned" about the infighting among his aides over how to resolve the Chechen crisis and called on Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, and Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin to develop a unified policy, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung DUMA HOLDS CLOSED SESSION ON CHECHNYA. In a closed session of the State Duma on 15 October, Security Council Secretary Lebed blamed five officials for the August loss of Grozny, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Lebed named Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, , former Interior Ministry Coordinating Center official Pavel Golubets, Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev, and Zavgaev's government head Nikolai Koshman. Despite Kulikov's objections, Lebed requested that journalists be prevented from attending the session, NTV reported. Many deputies, including Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, said the speeches by Lebed and Kulikov were relatively restrained. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii claimed that the only thing he gained from the session was a sense that the administration is not making progress in understanding the situation, working out a unified position, or developing a program of action. -- Robert Orttung RIVAL CHECHENS CLASH. A Chechen separatist spokesman told ITAR-TASS that on 14 October supporters of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev had taken a rebel field commander hostage in Urus Martan, and that a successful operation had been launched to free him. Urus Martan is the base of armed units loyal to Zavgaev, who was born there. Russian media reported that the Chechen separatists had agreed to nominate Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov as their candidate in the Chechen presidential election to be held in January are incorrect, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported, adding that the most likely opposition candidate is acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. -- Liz Fuller OUR HOME IS RUSSIA SUED OVER CAMPAIGN DEBTS. Cascade International is suing Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, for the $1 million it is owed for organizing the bloc's 1995 Duma election campaign which included rock concerts and appearances by top international models, AFP reported on 16 October, citing Moskovskii komsomolets.. The Moscow Arbitration Court will hear the case on 23 October. Kommersant- Daily reported on 10 October that the party is on the verge of splitting because of disagreements between its executive committee, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Babichev, and its Duma faction, led by Sergei Belyaev. The executive committee accuses the Duma faction of not keeping track of its finances, while the deputies complain that the executive committee does not involve them in its work on the budget, the gubernatorial elections, and the process of transforming the bloc into a political party. -- Robert Orttung U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY VISITS MOSCOW. William Perry arrived in Moscow on 16 October for a three-day visit in a bid to persuade the Russian parliament to ratify the START 2 treaty, which was approved by the U.S. Senate in January of this year. Perry told reporters on his arrival that implementation of the treaty, which will halve the two sides' strategic arsenals, would save money for both countries, Reuters reported. Perry advised the Duma not to try to link START 2 ratification to NATO expansion. The day before Perry's arrival, Russian Defense Ministry officials were leaking reports that Russia would seek amendments to the treaty, while Duma Foreign Affairs Committee member Vladimir Averchev said a lack of funds would prevent the dismantling of missiles within the established deadlines, Reuters reported. Duma Defense Committee members fear that the treaty could push Russia's nuclear forces below the level needed to provide a credible deterrent, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 October. -- Peter Rutland TURKMEN PRESIDENT MEETS YELTSIN. Saparmurat Niyazov on 15 October visited President Yeltsin at the Barvikha sanitarium, international media reported. The conversation focused on economic issues, particularly supplies of Turkmen gas to Russia and the development of the Caspian Sea area. In a later meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Niyazov once again emphasized that Turkmenistan would coordinate any action on the situation in Afghanistan with Russia but would not stray from its policy of neutrality. -- Bruce Pannier YELTSIN SETS UP ARTS, RELIGION COUNCILS. President Yeltsin issued a decree on 15 October establishing a Council on Culture and the Arts under his chairmanship, ITAR-TASS reported. The 40-member advisory council was set up in line with a 1 July decree on increasing state support for culture and the arts. Cultural figures have warned that Russia's national culture is in danger because of a lack of funding and the influx of Western popular culture. The same day, Yeltsin approved the composition of a 32-member presidential Council on Cooperation with Religious Associations, ITAR-TASS reported. The council will be headed by Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. -- Penny Morvant CRIMES INCREASING IN MILITARY. Chief Military Procurator Valentin Panichev said that embezzlement is a now a common occurrence in the armed forces, with losses amounting to more than 60 billion rubles in the first half of 1996 ($13.7 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 16 October. Criminal proceedings have begun against about 100 officers with the rank of colonel or higher, included fifteen generals or admirals. Panichev said 1,914 servicemen died in accidents and crimes in 1996, and more than 4,000 were injured. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIA SEEKS ENTRY TO WTO. Russia renewed its bid to join the World Trade Organization in Geneva on 15 October, ITAR-TASS reported. This is the fourth round of talks since June 1993, when Russia applied to join GATT, the WTO's predecessor. The WTO was formed in January 1995 and now has 123 members, accounting for 90% of world trade. Russian entry has been delayed because of non-tariff trade barriers, distorted domestic energy prices, and concerns over the custom service's ability to register trade activity. China is also not a member of the WTO. -- Peter Rutland GOVERNMENT THREATENS LARGE DEBTORS WITH BANKRUPTCY. The head of the State Bankruptcy Committee, Petr Mostovoi, said that bankruptcy procedures will begin against six large firms unless they pay 1.3 trillion rubles ($240 million) of tax arrears within a week, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 15 October. The companies are the oil firms Tatneft and Purneftegaz, the Krasnodar oil refinery, aluminum producer Achinskii Glinozemnyi Zavod, and car manufacturers Moskvich and KamAZ (located in Tatarstan). Mostovoi said that in the first half of 1996 these firms paid less than 10% of their annual tax obligations. Mostovoi noted that Russia's 185 largest firms owe 12 trillion rubles to the federal budget and more than 25 trillion rubles to local budgets. Total budgetary arrears reached 72 trillion rubles in October. -- Natalia Gurushina ECONOMIC DECLINE CONTINUES. The Russian economy continued to slide in September. In the first nine months of the year, the volume of GDP dropped by 6%, agricultural production by 8%, and industrial output by 5% over the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 October. The largest fall was recorded in light industry (27%), construction materials (25%), and machine building (14%). None of the extractive industries reported an increase in output. The volume of domestic investment plunged to 218 trillion rubles ($40 billion), a 17% decline compared with the same period in 1995. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS CRITICIZE ARMENIAN ELECTION. The U.S.-based International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), an international election observer group, issued a report on Armenia's 22 September presidential election, citing numerous irregularities and describing the ballot as "flawed," Reuters reported on 15 October. IFES urged the Armenian government to investigate the irregularities. IFES is the second international organization after the OSCE to question the election results. Meanwhile, Armenian presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan acknowledged "numerous shortcomings" in the election process and said the authorities will "punish the guilty," Noyan Tapan reported on 15 October. Paruyr Hayrikyan, one of the leaders of the opposition National Accord bloc, said the opposition plans to resume its protest rallies on 18 October, RFE/RL reported. -- Emil Danielyan SHEVARDNADZE MEETS WITH DIRECTOR OF WORLD BANK. Meeting in Tbilisi on 15 October with the managing director of the World Bank, Peter Steck, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that the World Bank's backing for reforms in his country "guarantees political and economic stability," ITAR-TASS reported. Steck praised the Georgian leadership's "correct and constructive economic policy." -- Liz Fuller NEW AZERBAIJANI OIL CONSORTIUM CREATED. Representatives of the British company Ramco, Mobil, and Total have formed a consortium to carry out exploratory work in the southern Caspian Sea, Turan reported on 15 October. Representatives of the three constituent companies have held talks in Baku with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev and the head of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR. -- Liz Fuller MIXED RETURNS ON UZBEK HARVESTS. The Uzbek government announced that grain harvests are well below expectations for the second year in a row, according to an 8 October Uzbek Radio report monitored by the BBC. The 1996 harvest currently stands at 2,669,000 metric tons, well below the target figure of 4.5 million tons. Only seven regions were able to meet their quotas, with the rest blaming poor irrigation, bad weather, and a lack of fertilizer for the shortfalls. At the same time, the Central Council of the People's Democratic Party called on Uzbek citizens to participate in the cotton harvest, which is expected to be higher than last year (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 October 1996). Regional party leaders are even offering prizes for the most "active" volunteer--a practice reminiscent of the Soviet era--Golos Uzbekistana reported on 11 October. -- Roger Kangas IRAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS ALMATY. Ali Akbar Velayati went to Kazakstan on 15 October where he discussed the situation in Afghanistan with his Kazakstani counterpart, Kasyzhomart Tokaev, Kazakstani media reported. The two ministers issued a call for a special emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the Afghan situation, AFP reported. Analysts suggest that an additional hidden motive for the meeting was to coordinate positions on the status of the Caspian Sea, in view of an upcoming international meeting on the issue. The Caspian littoral states disagree over how to divide access to the sea and its resources: Iran and Kazakstan disagree with Russia's wish to define it as an lake, whose resources must be shared. Velayati also met Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev in Bishkek on 15 October and traveled on to the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 16 October. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty PROTESTERS SURROUND KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT BUILDING. A crowd of about 1,500 people demonstrated in front of the Kyrgyz government building in Bishkek on 15 October, RFE/RL reported. The demonstrators were protesting rising costs and declining living standards. Some in the crowd claimed their monthly wage was 150-200 som ($12-18) and their monthly gas bill alone was 500-700 som. Officials from the government met briefly with leaders of the demonstration, organized by the unregistered Citizen's Council, and were handed a letter of demands signed by more than 4,000 people. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov [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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