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Part II, 2 November 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 CANCELS HIS REGULAR ADDRESS. On the advice of his doctors, President Boris Yeltsin will skip his regular Friday morning radio address because of his preparations for heart surgery, Reuters reported on 31 October. Meanwhile, American heart surgeon Michael DeBakey is planning to arrive in Moscow on 4 November for consultations with his Russian colleagues and Yeltsin. DeBakey noted that if everything goes well the operation may be carried out any day after 4 November. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski DISCORD WITHIN OUR HOME IS RUSSIA. Conflict continues to fester within the pro-government movement Our Home Is Russia (NDR), according to the 1 November Izvestiya. Although publicly all hints of a schism have been denied, the paper said sources indicate privately that the government is increasingly dissatisfied with the NDR State Duma faction and its leader, Sergei Belyaev (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 October). Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Babichev, who heads the NDR's executive committee, has reportedly restricted Belyaev's contact with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Belyaev's critics note that he has failed to create an effective anti-communist coalition within the Duma, even though deputies not allied with the Communists make up nearly half of the lower house (only 67 deputies are members of the NDR faction). The NDR Duma faction has occasionally displayed an independent streak, for instance, by opposing the government's own draft 1997 budget. -- Laura Belin CHERNOMYRDIN WARNS AGAINST LEAKS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told cabinet members that they should be open with journalists, but warned that it was not acceptable for ministers to communicate with each other through the press, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR) reported on 31 October. He criticized newspaper reports citing unnamed "well-informed sources" in the government and said a leaked report on the economy by Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits, which was published in Moskovskii komsomolets on 30 October, was only Livshits's personal opinion. -- Laura Belin ZYUGANOV PUBLISHES IDEOLOGY OF PATRIOTISM. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov presented his new book, Russia Is My Motherland: The Ideology of State Patriotism, ITAR-TASS and Radio Mayak reported on 31 October. The book identifies three aspects of the current crisis in Russia: the collapse of the industrial base; "the awakening of the masses," which could lead either to "constructive actions or chaos;" and conflict within the executive branch. Zyuganov said the state should respect civil liberties and the rule of law; he added that certain aspects of Marxist ideology should be "clarified and corrected." Radical communists have repeatedly attacked Zyuganov for rejecting the theory of the class struggle and emphasizing patriotism, state-building, and the importance of traditional institutions such as the Orthodox Church. -- Laura Belin RUSSIA, U.S. TRADE CHARGES OVER FAILED ABM AGREEMENT. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin on 31 October expressed "surprise and regret" over the collapse of a Russo-American agreement on tactical ballistic-missile defenses, ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 October 1996). Implictly blaming Washington for the collapse of a Geneva signing ceremony, Demurin argued that a September bilateral agreement on the issue had called for a review of progress on a second- stage agreement covering higher-speed interceptors at the same time as the first agreement was signed. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns, however, insisted that Moscow had torpedoed the signing by backing away from the earlier agreement and attempting to link the first and second-stage talks. -- Scott Parrish PRIMAKOV IN ISRAEL. Although Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov had criticized Israeli policy on previous stops in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, he received a cordial welcome from his Israeli counterpart David Levy on 31 October, Russian and Western agencies reported. After their meeting, Levy reaffirmed the importance of Moscow's role in the Middle East peace process, and said that Primakov had brought "very important information" from Damascus, Beirut, and Cairo. Playing up the meeting's significance, Primakov said it showed that "contrary to the past," Israel now accorded "Russia the importance it is due" as a co-sponsor of the peace process. -- Scott Parrish BATURIN: RUSSIA WANTS BASE IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin told Ekho Moskvy on 31 October that he would like to see a continued Russian military presence in former Yugoslavia even after the withdrawal of UN and NATO-led peacekeeping forces. He said "it would not seem strange," if Moscow raised the question of having a military base in the area, since he claimed the U.S. is already planning to establish military bases there. He added that the idea of Russian bases "has become particularly topical in view of the proposed NATO expansion eastward." -- Scott Parrish INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER THREATENED IN BASHKORTOSTAN. The independent newspaper Otechestvo was confiscated twice in October and anonymous death threats have been made to its staff, State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Arinin (from Bashkortostan) told OMRI on 31 October. Sergei Kuznetsov and Vitalii Brykin, editor-in-chief and general manager of the paper, respectively, were told on 30 October that they would be killed if they continued publishing the paper. Arinin said he believes the threats came from republican law enforcement agencies, which disaproves of the paper's outspoken defense of the interests of the Russian population. The entire circulation of the newspaper, 10,000 copies, was confiscated twice when it published articles attacking republican authorities and criticizing Bashkortostan's six-year-old declaration of sovereignty. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow PRO-NIKITIN DEMONSTRATORS ARRESTED. Police broke up an unauthorized demonstration of 30 people protesting the detention of environmental activist Aleksandr Nikitin in front of the Federal Security Service headquarters in St. Petersburg on 31 October, RFE/RL reported. Several people were detained for many hours, including the deputy chairman of Democratic Russia's Choice, Igor Solshnikov, and the vice president of the human rights organization Citizen's Watch, Yurii Vdovin. Nikitin was arrested last February for having written a report for the Norwegian Bellona group on the environmental threat posed by nuclear debris from naval vessels in and around the Kola peninsula: he was accused of using classified information in preparing the study. -- Peter Rutland KULIKOV MEETS CHECHEN INTERIOR MINISTER. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov met in Moscow on 30-31 October with his counterpart from the Chechen interim government, Kazbek Makhashev, to discuss the transfer of functions from the present joint commandant's office to new law enforcement bodies that are to function "in accordance with laws of the Russian Federation which do not contravene Chechnya's interests," ITAR-TASS and RTR reported on 31 October. -- Liz Fuller CHERNOMYRDIN TOURS MILITARY BASES. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, accompanied by Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, arrived in Ryazan on 1 November for a tour of local military facilities, including the locally- based airborne regiment, ITAR-TASS reported. At a Ryazan airfield, Chernomyrdin met with Col.-Gen. Igor Kalugin, commander of long-range aviation, and inspected Russian strategic bombers. -- Scott Parrish MILITARY WORKERS PROTEST IN MOSCOW ... About 300 members of trade unions representing military workers demonstrated at Pushkin Square in Moscow on 31 October, RTR reported. Union representatives claimed the action was simultaneously held in other Russian cities. Demonstrators, both military and civilian, demanded that the government pay back wages and revise next year's military budget. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski. . . . AND DEFENSE PERSONNEL IN THE FAR EAST. Civilians working for defense ministry installations in the Pacific fleet staged a strike on 31 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Vasilii Grechko, the head of the region's defense workers' trade union, said the financial situation had deteriorated sharply since the presidential election and most of his members have not been paid for five months. Twelve shipyards in the Murmansk region also joined the strike. The action was a follow-up to a similar day of protest on 19 September. -- Peter Rutland WAGE ARREARS OF MOSCOW, PETERSBURG CITIZENS TOTAL 3 TRILLION RUBLES. Wage arrears for Moscow and St. Petersburg citizens total almost 3 trillion rubles ($550 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 31 October. According to a poll conducted in St. Petersburg, more than half of the respondents noted that either their pensions, scholarships, or wages were unpaid, while in Moscow 39% said that they face arrears. The majority of poll respondents blamed the federal government for arrears. -- Ritsuko Sasaki FIRST MEETING OF BUDGET CONCILIATION COMMISSION. The commission of government and parliamentary representatives set up to rework the 1997 draft budget (rejected by the State Duma on 11 October) began meeting on 30 October, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported. The head of the Duma's Budget Committee, Mikhail Zadornov, suggested that both revenues and expenditures would have to be cut, as they could not be achieved under the10% annual inflation forecast for 1997. However, Federation Council representatives supported the government position, Segodnya reported. Zadornov also complained that the govenment's April decision to remove oil and gas export duties cost the 1996 budget 17 trillion rubles. The commission agreed to the government's suggestion to introduce a 15% tax on state securities transactions--while noting that this will make it more expensive to float treasury bills. But it rejected the state's proposal to remove tax credits for investment. -- Natalia Gurushina and Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NOTHING NEW IN THE LATEST ROUND OF NAGORNO-KARABAKH TALKS. No progress was made at the negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict sponsored by the OSCE's Minsk group that ended on 30 October in Moscow, RFE/RL and Russian media reported. The OSCE urged all parties to agree on a "declaration of principles" of the conflict's settlement before the December summit in Lisbon. The Minsk group released a statement criticizing the plans of the Nagorno-Karabakh leadership to hold presidential elections on 24 November, Noyan Tapan reported on 31 October. Despite similar criticism from Azerbaijan, Russia, and the U.S., Karabakh authorities said on 30 October that the elections will take place. -- Emil Danielyan GEORGIA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON ABKHAZ ELECTIONS. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has issued a decree on conducting a referendum on 23 November in which ethnic Georgian refugees who fled Abkhazia will declare whether or not they approve of the Abkhaz parliament elections to be held on the same day, AFP reported on 31 October quoting ITAR- TASS. On 2 October the Georgian parliament condemned the proposed Abkhaz parliamentary elections as invalid given that the former Georgian population of Abkhazia is unable to participate. The UN has called for their postponement, but on 29 October Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba reaffirmed that they would take place, Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIAN OPPOSITION CREATES COMMITTEE TO LOBBY FOR RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Seventeen Georgian opposition parties have created a committee to lobby "by peaceful means" for the withdrawal from Georgian territory of all Russian troops stationed there, AFP reported on 31 October. Russia currently leases four military bases in Georgia, but the Georgain parliament has threatened to annul this agreement as it is conditional on Russian assistance in reasserting Georgian control over Abkhazia. -- Liz Fuller MONEY FROM OIL SALES MISSING. Sarybai Kalmurzaev, the head of the Kazakstani State Property Committee, said that over $500 million from oil sales over the past few years was never received. During a press conference on the privatization of the oil and gas industry, he said that a corrupted system of trade rather than nonpayments between enterprises is to blame. The sum is equal to 3 million tons of crude oil. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty MORE CHANGES IN KAZAKSTANI GOVERNMENT. A reshuffling of the government continued on 31 October when Gen. Mukhtar Altynbayev was appointed defense minister, replacing Alibek Kasymov, who reportedly left this post due to "health problems." Altynbayev, 51, was a deputy minister and had commanded the Kazakstani Air Force since 1993. President Nursultan Nazarbayev also appointed Abish Kekilbayev as state secretary of the republic, Hayrolla Ospanov as industry and trade minister, and Qirimbek Kosherbayev as Nazarbayev's press secretary. These appointments have been made in the absence of Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who is currently in Japan. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty JAPANESE GIVE MONEY TO UPGRADE UZBEK AIRPORTS. The Japanese government announced on 30 October that a credit of 15.5 billion yen (more than $140 million) will be given to Uzbekistan to upgrade airports in Samarkand, Bukhara and Urgench, ITAR-TASS reported. The three cities date back to the days of the Silk Route and are the sites of many historical monuments. The Uzbek government hopes that improvement in the airports will aid the tourism industry, with profits then channeled into industry. -- Bruce Pannier CENTRAL ASIANS AT DONOR CONFERENCE IN JAPAN. The prime ministers of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are in Japan for a three-day conference for countries that give aid to Central Asian states, ITAR- TASS and NTV reported. Japan was the only country to go on record with new funding schemes for the three countries. Kazakstan was pledged $200 million for projects ranging from building new bridges to constructing medical centers, according to Kazak Television monitored by the BBC. ITAR-TASS reported Tajikistan will receive about $2.25 million in credits for construction of international airports at Dushanbe, Khojent, and Kulyab. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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