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No. 203, Part I, 18 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 SACKS LEBED. In a televised address on Russian Public TV (ORT) on 17 October, President Boris Yeltsin fired Aleksandr Lebed from his positions as secretary of the Security Council and national security aide. Yeltsin accused Lebed of taking a series of actions that were harmful to Russia, acting without the president's approval, launching a presidential election campaign even though the next elections are not scheduled until 2000, constantly arguing with the other members of the executive branch, and trying to get former Chief of the Presidential Security Service Aleksandr Korzhakov elected to the Duma from the seat Lebed had to resign in Tula. The previous day Lebed had demanded that Yeltsin fire either him or Minister of Internal Affairs Anatolii Kulikov, who Lebed blamed for losing control of Grozny to the Chechen separatists. -- Robert Orttung TV APPEARANCE DESIGNED TO SHOW YELTSIN IS STILL IN CHARGE. By signing the decree firing Lebed during his televised speech to the country, Yeltsin sought to signal that he was still in charge and that he personally approved the dismissal. On 20 August, Lebed had accused Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais of signing decrees without Yeltsin's knowledge. Recently, Yeltsin has started addressing the country over the radio, presumably to hide the true state of his health, and Western news agencies claimed that he looked unwell in the 17 October broadcast. Lebed later complained that he had not been sacked by Yeltsin face to face, but had been handed a paper by a "bureaucrat" informing him of his dismissal. -- Robert Orttung LEBED BLAMES CHUBAIS, APPEALS FOR CALM. Although it was accusations from Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov that immediately precipitated his dismissal, Lebed blamed his ouster on Chubais. Lebed was not able to meet with Yeltsin on 17 October, and he said he was "convinced" that documents he recently sent to Yeltsin naming those responsible for events in Chechnya never reached the president, Radio Rossii reported. Lebed refrained from attacking Yeltsin, whom he called an "elderly, sick man," according to NTV. Lebed indicated that he will remain active politically but has no interest in regaining his seat in the Duma. Commenting on an open protest letter from military officers demanding that the Defense Ministry pay military salaries by 25 October, Lebed warned that it could be a "hot autumn." However, he appealed to his supporters to remain calm: "We will act only by legitimate, constitutional and lawful means." -- Laura Belin CHERNOMYRDIN ON LEBED'S EXIT. In comments carried by the BBC, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had some kind words for Lebed, describing him as a "strong individual" who had his own way of doing things, but who had overstepped the mark. Chernomyrdin noted that Lebed had played a role in ending the fighting in Chechnya, but said that he was merely carrying out the policy of the president and government, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 October. The prime minister claimed that the federal government still seeks peace, and Lebed's dismissal does not signal any changes. However, Lebed was almost alone in the government in his support for the Khasavyurt treaty he signed on 31 August, calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya while postponing a decision on Chechen independence for five years, and his removal further reduces the likelihood of its implementation. Chubais, who attended the 17 October meeting between Chernomyrdin, Lebed, and the power ministers and who clearly sought Lebed's ouster, did not make any statements to the media on that day. -- Robert Orttung IMPLICATIONS OF LEBED'S DISMISSAL FOR CHECHNYA. Lebed told Ekho Moskvy on 17 October that the situation in Chechnya "will most likely go the worst possible way" following his dismissal, while Chechen Foreign Minister Ruslan Chimaev said that it "would have tragic consequences for Russia," according to Reuters. The joint Russian-Chechen commission set up under the Khasavyurt agreement to coordinate reconstruction in Chechnya pending new elections discussed procedural issues at its first session in Grozny on 17 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Sergei Kharlamov, who accompanied the Russian members of the commission to Grozny, expressed concern at the clashes in Urus Martan between supporters of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev and acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, and accused the latter of violating an agreement not to replace Zavgaev's appointees, AFP reported. Having failed on 17 October to name a date for new elections, on 18 October the Chechen parliament scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections for 27 January 1997. -- Liz Fuller INTERIOR MINISTRY DENIES SURVEILLANCE OF LEBED. The Interior Ministry (MVD) denied on 17 October that four MVD officers detained by Lebed's security guards that morning had been keeping the then Security Council secretary under surveillance. Lebed earlier told a news conference that he was being watched by the MVD. An MVD spokesman said that the officers were working as part of another special anti-terrorist operation and that Kulikov had requested Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov to instigate criminal proceedings over their detention, Ekho Moskvy reported. MVD officer Aleksandr Ovchinnikov was quoted extensively by all three national TV stations as saying that the police officers had been forced by Security Council officials to sign a statement saying they had been ordered to watch Lebed--a charge rejected by Lebed. -- Penny Morvant TV REPORTS PLAY UP PRO-LEBED MILITARY FORMATIONS. Although Yeltsin did not accuse Lebed of planning to seize power by force and Chernomyrdin expressed skepticism about the coup allegations, television reports on 17 October continued to hint that Lebed might instigate military unrest. ORT suggested that Lebed was involved in preparing an open letter from military officers, published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 17 October, which the network claimed threatened "radical actions" if officers' salaries are not paid by 25 October. NTV, which on 16 October devoted substantial coverage to Kulikov's coup allegations, the next day reported that extreme nationalists in St. Petersburg have already set up a "Russian Legion" with support from "officers from General Lebed's circle." The network interviewed Yurii Belyaev of the National-Republican Party of Russia, who said the legion was prepared to come to Lebed's aid if he gave the order. -- Laura Belin COMMUNIST REACTION TO LEBED'S OUSTER. Leading members of the Communist Party (KPRF) generally blamed Lebed for his own ouster. KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who earlier called for the Security Council secretary to be subordinated to the prime minister, suggested that Kulikov was justified in accusing Lebed of plotting a coup, NTV reported on 17 October. Zyuganov added that NTV and other media outlets helped lay the ground for Lebed's dismissal. Appearing on ORT, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev referred to Lebed as a "Bonaparte" and suggested that he had been using Yeltsin's illness to further his own ambitions. Earlier in the day, Seleznev had suggested that both Lebed and Kulikov should resign. Meanwhile, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, who on 16 October suggested that Kulikov's coup allegations were credible, described Yeltsin's decision as the "logical conclusion" to events set into play by Lebed himself, Russian TV (RTR) reported. -- Laura Belin REGIONAL REACTION TO LEBED'S FIRING. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov supported Lebed's dismissal, claiming that Lebed's recent moves to consolidate his power in the army threatened stability, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 October. Luzhkov also said Lebed's Khasavyurt accord postponing the resolution of Chechnya's status was unconstitutional. Likewise, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev supported Lebed's sacking, saying that the conflict between Kulikov and Lebed threatened stability in the regions. However, Boris Nemtsov, the liberal governor of Nizhnii Novgorod, said "Aleksandr Lebed is a very popular man with the people. And, speaking openly, I think he is like the Boris Yeltsin of 1987," Reuters reported on 18 October. In Tula Oblast leaders of the Civil Solidarity movement expressed their support for Lebed and said he should run for governor in Tula in the election this December. Lebed was formerly a Duma member from Tula and commander of the 106th airborne division there. -- Ritsuko Sasaki INTERNATIONAL MARKETS' REACTION TO LEBED'S DISMISSAL. The German mark fell against the dollar following the news of Lebed's dismissal, sliding from 1.5373/$ to 1.5447/$ on 17 October, AFP reported. The mark fell because of Germany's close economic relations with Russia and the perception of the dollar as a safe currency. The political crisis may also spoil foreign investors' appetite for Russia's first Eurobond issue at the end of this month. Earlier in October Russia became the first CIS country to get a favorable investment grade from leading international credit-rating agencies (See OMRI Daily Digest, 8 October 1996). Under these circumstances, net receipts from the issue were expected to reach $1.3 billion in 1997. However, many market analysts now believe that the window of opportunity has closed. -- Natalia Gurushina DUMA HOSTILE TO START 2. Duma deputies subjected U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry to harsh questioning after he addressed them on 17 October on the advantages of ratifying the START 2 nuclear disarmament treaty, AFP reported. Perry argued that the treaty is fair to both sides and would save the U.S. and Russia $5 billion each. He said that the 3,000- 3,500 warheads left in each country would be "enough to destroy the world. That is more than enough deterrent." Duma deputies cited worries over NATO expansion as the main factor influencing their attitude towards START 2. Senator Richard Lugar, who is accompanying Perry, said earlier this week that the $330 million in U.S. disarmament aid which Russia was slated to receive in 1997 will not be forthcoming if the treaty is not ratified, AFP reported. On 18 October Perry travelled to Severodvinsk to view the dismantling of a Typhoon class submarine under START 1. -- Peter Rutland JEWISH AGENCY LICENSED. Local offices of the Israeli-based Jewish Agency can operate legally in Russia once again, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 October. The agency is a quasi-governmental body that promotes Jewish immigration to Israel and international Jewish educational and cultural activities. Russia canceled its registration in April in line with new legislation on the activity of foreign organizations and subsequently restricted its operations, prompting an international outcry. The Justice Ministry has now issued a license for the Jewish Agency in Russia, a Russian public organization that will receive financial and organizational support from the Jewish Agency for Israel. Jewish Agency President Avraham Burg thanked U.S. officials for their assistance in finding a solution to the registration problem as well as the Russian authorities for their cooperation. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN OPPOSITION RALLY BANNED. The Yerevan city authorities reversed themselves and withdrew permission for opposition rallies slated for 18 October, citing errors in the application, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL reported the same day. The opposition said that they will apply for the demonstration to be held next week. The move follows President Levon Ter-Petrossyan's 11 October decree lifting the ban on public gatherings that was imposed after the 25 September violence in the capital. In other news, chief presidential aide Gerard Libaridian charged that the OSCE used the 22 September presidential elections to force Armenia to make concessions in the negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan reported. Libaridian accused the OSCE observer mission monitoring the vote of "playing political games," and said the latter misinterpreted Armenian electoral laws. The mission questioned the official election results according to which Ter-Petrossyan won a second term. -- Emil Danielyan GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY DENIES GAMSAKHURDIA SUPPORTERS ARRESTED. Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Valerian Gogolashvili on 17 October denied Russian media reports that some 30 supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia had been arrested in protest demonstrations in Tbilisi on 16 October, ITAR-TASS reported. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 17 October, 1996) -- Liz Fuller NEW TWIST IN GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN WAR OF WORDS. The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 16 October categorically rejecting the Russian Foreign Ministry's accusation six days earlier that the Georgian parliament is trying "to revise the whole complex of Russian-Georgian relations" by threatening to annul an (unratified) agreement on Russian military bases in Georgia and by calling for the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping troops currently deployed along Georgia's internal border with Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement reiterated Georgia's commitment to the bilateral treaty on friendship and cooperation signed in February 1994, and Georgia's desire for a peaceful resolution of the Abkhaz conflict. -- Liz Fuller DEMONSTRATION IN KAZAKSTANI CAPITAL. About 4,000 people rallied in Almaty on 17 October to demand that the government do something about unpaid wages and pensions, which now total some $8.5 million, and the poor standard of living, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. No political leaders were given the opportunity to speak: the trade unions, which called the demonstration, wanted to avoid any insinuation that it was politically motivated. Those assembled requested in vain a meeting with a government representative. Though the unions called for demonstrations throughout Kazakstan, officials in other regions, notably Pavlodar and Ust-Kamenogorsk, managed to obtain injunctions against the meetings. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan CORRECTION: An item in the OMRI Daily Digest of 16 October incorrectly stated that Iran was thought to share Kazakstan's views on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. In fact Iran is thought to favor the Russian position. [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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