|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. 202, Part I, 17 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 KULIKOV ACCUSES LEBED OF PLOTTING COUP. Minister of Internal Affairs Anatolii Kulikov held a press conference on 16 October at which he accused Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed of plotting to seize power by force, NTV reported. Kulikov charged that in August Lebed had called on the power ministers to create a Russian Legion of up to 50,000 men, whose ostensible purpose was to suppress political and military conflict and eliminate terrorist and separatist leaders who threatened Russia's security. However, the Legion's main goal, Kulikov charged, was to subordinate all Russia's security agencies directly to Lebed and give him the power to eliminate Russia's leadership. He also asserted that the Chechens promised Lebed 1,500 fighters if he needed to use force. Kulikov said he had sent documents proving his allegations to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Moskovskie novosti in its 13-20 October issue claimed that Lebed had planned to bring troops into Moscow on the night of 2-3 October to pressure the government and parliament into declaring President Boris Yeltsin incapable of fulfilling his duties and calling early presidential elections. -- Robert Orttung LEBED DENIES CHARGES. Lebed denied that he planned an insurrection and said he intends to sue Kulikov for libel, NTV reported. He repeated a 16 August demand that Yeltsin remove either Kulikov or him. He confirmed that he had proposed setting up a Russian Legion to strengthen the power of the state, but stressed that it was still a draft document that was openly proposed for discussion to Kulikov and Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, among others. He claimed that Kulikov was making these charges to prevent the resolution of the Chechen war. Lebed also denied preparing a coup on the night of 2 October and claimed that he was under surveillance, ITAR-TASS reported. On October 17, Lebed's bodyguard seized and disarmed a group of interior ministry officials who were shadowing the Security Council secretary, Reuters reported. Earlier in the day, ITAR-TASS reported that Lebed had applied for a two-week vacation, but that Yeltsin had yet to respond. Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov denied that Chechen fighters were prepared to help Lebed, claiming Chechens never interfere in the "internal affairs of other states." -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN EQUIVOCATES. Following a 17 October meeting with the power ministers that was attended by Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and Lebed, Chernomyrdin said that he found that much of what Kulikov said about the Russian Legion "corresponded to reality" and "alarming," ITAR-TASS reported. However, Chernomyrdin said he was far from believing that Lebed was involved in "rebellions and putsches." He warned that "homegrown Bonapartism in the country is getting out of hand." The prime minister demanded that Lebed provide an answer to Kulikov's charges. Chernomyrdin will report to Yeltsin on 17 October. -- Robert Orttung SECURITY TIGHTENED IN RUSSIAN CITIES. In the wake of his allegations against Lebed, Kulikov said tighter security measures were being taken in Moscow and other major cities after information was received about possible attacks by criminal and terrorist groups, primarily of Chechen origin, NTV reported. The measures reportedly include the establishment of roadblocks and the reinforcement of street patrols and involve the Federal Security Service (FSB) as well as Interior Ministry (MVD) forces. ITAR-TASS on 17 October said the Moscow police had yet to go to a higher state of alert but quoted sources in Primorskii Krai as saying the MVD and FSB there had received telegrams from Kulikov and FSB Director Nikolai Kovalev ordering tighter measures. Chernomyrdin said on 17 October he had given an order to step up security but gave no details. -- Penny Morvant DEFENSE MINISTER HITS BACK AT LEBED. Rodionov defended his plan to reduce the airborne forces from 63,000 to 48,500 troops as part of the broader plan to cut the armed forces and put them on a more sound financial footing, NTV reported on 16 October. Security Council Secretary Lebed had denounced the directive as a "criminal document" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 October 1996), but Rodionov countered that Lebed was only objecting because he himself had been a paratrooper. Rodionov complained, "Everybody says [military] reform is needed, but don't reform my troops," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Laura Belin DUMA SEEKS TO OUTLINE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROCEDURE. The State Duma passed in the second reading a draft law on the procedure for amending the constitution, Kommersant-Daily reported on 17 October. Under the constitution, amendments must be passed by a two-thirds majority in the Duma, a three-fourths majority in the Federation Council, and two-thirds of the legislatures in Russia's 89 regions. The draft law spells out how this procedure would be followed; for instance, it stipulates that if a regional legislature does not vote on a proposed amendment within six months, it will be considered to have approved that amendment. According to Kommersant-Daily, the draft law is designed to prevent the upper house from rejecting constitutional amendments on the grounds that no law on adopting them existed. Opposition deputies in the Duma have long advocated amending the constitution to reduce the president's powers. -- Laura Belin DUMA DELEGATION RETURNS FROM NORTH CAUCASUS. The Russian State Duma delegation headed by deputy speaker Mikhail Gutseriev returned on 15 October from its tour of North Ossetiya, Ingushetiya and Chechnya with proposals submitted by the Chechen separatist leadership for Russian- Chechen cooperation in the military, economic and political spheres, ITAR-TASS reported. These do not, according to Gutseriev, touch on Chechnya's status vis-a-vis the Russian Federation. Under a compromise reached on 16 October between supporters of acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, the constitution of the self-proclaimed Republic of Ichkeria will be extended to Zavgaev's home base of Urus Martan, although the local administrator appointed by Zavgaev will remain in power, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen separatist Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov has confirmed that he will be nominated as prime minister in the provisional coalition government, RFE/RL reported on 17 October. -- Liz Fuller SUPREME COURT REGISTERS RUTSKOI IN KURSK. After losing appeals to a Kursk Oblast court and the Supreme Court, former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi finally won the right to contest the 20 October gubernatorial election in his native region of Kursk when the presidium of the Supreme Court overruled the Kursk Electoral Commission's refusal to register him, Ekho Moskvy reported on 16 October. Rutskoi was denied registration because he did not meet a residency requirement, but the presidium found that such requirements violated federal legislation. Rutskoi immediately flew from Moscow to Kursk to begin his campaign. -- Laura Belin PERRY MEETS RODIONOV. On 16 October, at the start of his three-day visit to Moscow, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry met with Defense Minister Gen. Igor Rodionov for more than two hours, NTV reported. The two men discussed NATO expansion, the Partnership for Peace program, and START 2 ratification. Rodionov said after the meeting "I not only favor it [START 2], I favor the next treaty, the START III treaty, that would continue the reduction of atomic weapons," AFP reported. On 17 October, Perry will address the Duma on this topic. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIAN DUMA VOTES TO HALT BLACK SEA FLEET DIVISION. The Russian State Duma overwhelmingly passed a law suspending the division of the Black Sea Fleet and having Russia take over sole financing of the fleet and Sevastopol, Ukrainian radio reported on 16 October. Yeltsin's representative, Aleksandr Kotenkov, berated the Duma for interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs, and said Yeltsin would veto the law. The former speaker of Russia's upper house, Vladimir Shumeiko, said the law would not amount to anything tangible because the Russian state budget, which is currently under debate, did not have a "single line devoted to the financing of the fleet." Extremist Duma Deputy Albert Makashov proposed imposing a gas and oil embargo on Ukraine and said the eastern Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Dnipropetrovsk, as well as Crimea, were prepared to join the Russian Federation. -- Ustina Markus GOSKOMSTAT RELEASES DATA ON LIVING STANDARDS. The average monthly wage from January through September 1996 was 773,000 rubles (about $150), ITAR-TASS reported on 15 October, citing official data from the State Statistics Committee. Real monetary income, adjusted for inflation, was 0.8% down on the first nine months of 1995. The subsistence minimum in September 1996 was 363,000 rubles, down from 369,000 rubles. The number of people living in households with average per capita income below the poverty line fell from 39 million (26%) in the first three-quarters of 1995 to 33 million (22%) from January through September this year. The difference in the incomes of the 10% best off and 10% worst off also fell, from 13.4 times to 12.9 times. The average monthly pension was 311,200 rubles in September 1996, up from 310,700 in August. -- Penny Morvant FEDERATION COUNCIL VETO ON PENALIZING LATE PAYMENTS OVERTURNED. The Duma on 16 October mustered the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the Federation Council veto on a bill introducing financial penalties for the late payment of wages, pensions, grants, and other social allowances, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the bill, the state would be obliged to pay a fine equal to 0.3% of the sum owed for every day that the benefit was late. Officials ignoring written appeals about late payments would be liable to administrative sanctions. The draft law will now be forwarded to Yeltsin, who rejected an earlier version of the bill in 1995. The total wage debt to Russian workers equaled 40.2 trillion rubles on 23 September, almost 12% up on 26 August, according to Goskomstat. About 7 trillion rubles was owed by the state. -- Penny Morvant IMF HAILS CREATION OF SPECIAL TAX COMMISSION. The head of the IMF's Moscow office, Thomas Wolf, said that the IMF approves the creation of a special emergency commission to boost tax collection (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 October 1996), ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 16- 17 October. Wolf noted that the problem of tax collection will be the focus of the IMF's working group monitoring the Russian economy, which arrives in Moscow on 17 October. Poor tax collection in the first half of the year caused a delay in the disbursement of the July tranche of the IMF $10.1 billion extended facility fund. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GAMSAKHURDIA'S SUPPORTERS DEMONSTRATE IN TBILISI. Georgian police on 16 October dispersed three separate demonstrations in Tbilisi by supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. Some 30 demonstrators were arrested. One demonstration took place outside the Russian embassy to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya; a second was held outside the Georgian Supreme Court, where the trial of four Gamsakhurdia associates is about to conclude, including the commander of his private army, Loti Kobalia. The prosecutor has demanded the death sentence for Kobalia on charges of high treason, banditry, and murder. -- Liz Fuller ARMENIAN OPPOSITION NEWS CONFERENCE. Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan on 16 October, unnamed representatives of the opposition coalition National Accord that backed presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan reiterated that the results of the 22 September elections were rigged and that the country faces a serious political crisis as a result, ITAR-TASS reported. The opposition plans to appeal the election results a second time with the Armenian Constitutional Court; a first appeal by Manukyan was rejected as incorrectly phrased. Manukyan said he anticipated reprisals against his National Democratic Union, according to Noyan Tapan. The last two of the six opposition deputies arrested on 26 September were released on 16 October. Also on that day, an OSCE representative told RFE/RL that the OSCE has asked the Armenian authorities to investigate the disappearance of tens of thousands of ballot papers. -- Liz Fuller AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW SPEAKER. The Milli Mejlis on 16 October elected the rector of Baku State University, 68-year-old Murtuz Nadjaf ogly Alesqerov, as its new speaker, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. A lawyer by training, Alesqerov taught for decades in Moscow before returning to Baku. He was a leading member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front in the late 1980s, but left that organization in 1991. In 1992, Alesqerov helped organize the campaign for the return to Baku of Heidar Aliev, at that time chairman of the Nakhichevan parliament, who was elected president in1993; he is one of the founders and deputy chairman, of the Yeni Azerbaycan party created by Aliev and which holds the majority of seats in the present Milli Mejlis. Alesqerov replaces Rasul Guliev, who was forced to resign last month (ostensibly for health reasons) after expressing harsh criticism of the Azerbaijani leadership's failure to implement reforms. -- Liz Fuller KAZAKSTAN PLANS NEW CAPITAL. Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev is looking for foreign investors to help cover the cost of moving the capital from Almaty to Akmola, according to a 17 October article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Nazarbayev announced the move two years ago, but according to the deputy director of the state committee for moving the capital, Bair Dosmagmbetov, only $50 million has been raised so far, barely enough to build the presidential residence. Some foreign investors are contributing to the costs of the move in order to win the government's favor. The Japan Chromium Corp., for example, has given $1 million. Total cost of the move is estimated to be $400 million. -- 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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