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Part I, 3 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 DELEGATES MORE AUTHORITY TO CHERNOMYRDIN. President Boris Yeltsin granted Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin the authority to sign power-sharing agreements between federal and regional authorities, Russian media reported on 1 November, citing presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Yeltsin had previously granted Chernomyrdin some authority to oversee the "power ministries" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 and 11 September 1996), but aides have said he will only transfer his full powers to Chernomyrdin for a short period during and after his heart operation. Meanwhile, in an opinion poll published in Moskovskii komsomolets on 1 November, only 18% of respondents said they believed Yeltsin was governing the state, while 56% said "other people" were running state affairs, and 26% did not know. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN SURGERY UPDATE. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii declined to tell the press when President Yeltsin's multiple coronary artery bypass operation will take place, indicating that the exact date will remain a secret until after of the surgery, Russian and Western media reported on 1 November. American surgeon Michael DeBakey arrived in Moscow on 3 November, but, contrary to earlier reports, he will only be a consultant and not participate in Yeltsin's operation. Yastrzhembskii said that only Russian doctors will attend Yeltsin's surgery, which he said would last six to eight hours. Aides had initially estimated that the surgery would require no more than two hours. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski KOHL, CHERNOMYRDIN MEET. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl briefly met with Chernomyrdin on 2 November at Moscow's Vnukovo-2 airport, Russian and Western agencies reported. Although Chernomyrdin said the two men discussed "a wide range" of bilateral issues, NTV speculated that the meeting focused on Yeltsin's health. Chernomyrdin later told journalists that NATO's proposed eastward expansion was not discussed at the meeting, but Kohl declared that enlargement would not be "forced" until after Yeltsin fully recovers. On the same day, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel proposed that Russia be given an "equal rights" with current NATO members in a new "S-17" security consultation committee, rather than the current "16+1" format. -- Scott Parrish KORZHAKOV TO SUE YELTSIN. Former Presidential Security Service head Aleksandr Korzhakov filed a slander lawsuit against Yeltsin and the presidential administration over Yeltsin's recent decree on preparing documents for Korzhakov's removal from the army, Moscow's TV-6 reported on 2 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 October 1996). Korzhakov claims the decree, which accused him of slandering Yeltsin and divulging secret information, was based on disinformation fed to Yeltsin by Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and media mogul Boris Berezovskii, who has since been appointed to the Security Council. -- Laura Belin CHUBAIS MEETS WITH RUTSKOI. Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais met with the newly elected governor of Kursk Oblast, Aleksandr Rutskoi, in Moscow on 1 November, Russian Public TV (ORT) and Russian TV (RTR) reported. Chubais noted that Rutskoi supports the presidential decree on establishing the Emergency Tax Committee for strengthening tax discipline, and that Rutskoi, referring to the all-Russian action of protest planned for 5 November, has disapproved of strikes and demonstrations in Kursk. Chubais welcomed Rutskoi's stance of constructive cooperation with the federal government. -- Ritsuko Sasaki BEREZOVSKII TALKS WITH CHECHEN LEADERS. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii on 2 November flew to the Ingush capital Nazran for talks with Chechen government officials Akhmed Zakaev and Movladi Udugov on reconstruction in Chechnya, Russian media reported. Berezovskii told journalists that "there is no alternative" to continuing the peace process. Udugov said that "political issues" were not discussed. On 3 November, after further talks with Udugov and Zakaev, Berezovskii proceeded to Grozny where he toured the city and met with OSCE representative Tim Guldimann. Berezovskii also discussed with Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov arrangements for an upcoming meeting between Maskhadov and Chernomyrdin. -- Liz Fuller BASAEV, YANDARBIEV INTERVIEWS. In an interview published in the London- based Arab newspaper Al Hayat on 2 November, radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev claimed that 10 Arabs from Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia participated in the hostage takings at Budennovsk in June 1995 and Kizlyar in January 1996, ITAR-TASS reported. On 1 November, acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev told Al Hayat that he intends to run in the January 1997 Chechen presidential election, and that his leadership is conducting talks with unnamed Eastern and Western countries on extending international diplomatic recognition to Chechnya. On 1 November, the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Sukhoruchenkov, met with acting Chechen commander Mumadi Sadaev to discuss measures to neutralize renegade Chechen formations who have repeatedly attacked Russian forces deployed at the airport in Grozny, NTV reported. Also on 1 November, forces loyal to pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev issued an ultimatum to separatist troops to leave the town of Znamenskoe, according to AFP. -- Liz Fuller BLACK SEA FLEET TALKS STALLING? Prime Minister Chernomyrdin told journalists in Ryazan on 1 November that talks with Kyiv had not produced a final decision on the issues surrounding the Black Sea Fleet, Russian agencies reported. In a sign that the 24 October Yeltsin-Kuchma agreement on the fleet may be hitting some snags, Chernomyrdin said his scheduled mid-November visit to Kyiv to sign an agreement on the fleet will only take place if "constructive solutions" are found by then. Previous agreements have repeatedly foundered on disagreements over the terms under which Moscow will lease base facilities for its share of the fleet in Sevastopol. -- Scott Parrish PRIMAKOV ENDS MIDDLE EAST TOUR. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat on 1 November and King Hussein of Jordan the following day, Russian and Western agencies reported. After meeting Arafat, Primakov urged Israel to implement "earlier agreements" and withdraw Israeli troops from Palestinian autonomous territory. Departing for Moscow on 3 November, Primakov said Arab countries "insist on a more active role for Moscow" in the peace process, and said Moscow supports the creation of a Palestinian state, which Israel opposes. -- Scott Parrish ABM TALKS ADJOURN. A Geneva session of the standing consultative commission of the 1972 ABM treaty has adjourned without reaching agreement, Russian and Western agencies reported on 2 November. Russian, American, Belarusian, and Kazakstani negotiators had aimed to salvage a two-part proposed agreement outlining the technical parameters of tactical systems permitted under the treaty, which collapsed last week amid mutual recriminations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 October and 1 November 1996). The Russian Foreign Ministry said "dramatic differences" persist on the issue of high-velocity interceptor systems, to be addressed in the second stage of the talks. Russian officials have expressed concern that American development of tactical missile defenses might undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent. -- Scott Parrish NATIONALIST AND OPPOSITION CANDIDATES WIN IN PSKOV, MAGADAN. The governors of Pskov and Magadan oblasts, Vladislav Tumanov and Viktor Mikhailov, were ousted in the 3 November elections, according to preliminary results reported by Radio Rossii and Ekho Moskvy the next day. Tumanov, who led by an 8% margin in the first round on 20 October, lost the Pskov runoff by about 20% to Yevgenii Mikhailov, a State Duma deputy from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party. Mikhailov, who was supported by the communists in the runoff, gained more than 55% of the vote. The Magadan Oblast incumbent Mikhailov was defeated by Valentin Tsvetkov, the chairman of the Duma Committee on the North; he received about 46% of the vote and won by 5%. Tsvetkov, who was elected to the Duma as an independent candidate last December, was supported by most opposition groups in the governor's race, according to Ekho Moskvy. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN ASSASSINATED. Paul Tatum, a U.S. businessman, was shot dead in Moscow on 3 November, Reuters reported. Tatum's compay, Americom, had been locked in a legal battle with Moscow city authorities for ownership of the Radisson-Slavyanskaya hotel, which opened in 1991. Tatum, who was accompanied by two bodyguards, was shot five times as he left the hotel. -- Peter Rutland GOVERNMENT PLACATES LABOR UNIONS. Ahead of a national day of industrial action planned for 5 November, Viktor Chernomyrdin met with representatives of employers and unions on 2 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Chernomyrdin told the emergency meeting of the tripartite commission that he supported the unions' suggestion that they be given the right to monitor company accounts to ensure that wages are paid if cash is available. Chernomyrdin said he had taken steps to ensure that wage arrears for workers in the courts, education, and health care be paid within two weeks. By 28 October wage arrears totaled 43 trillion rubles, including 9 trillion in the state sector. -- Peter Rutland WORLD BANK COAL LOAN GOES AHEAD. The World Bank has agreed to release by the end of the year the second half of a $525 million loan to aid the restructuring of the Russian coal industry, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 November. The second installment was approved despite reports that the first tranche, paid in June, had not been spent according to the agreed program. The Bank has been criticized for channeling the loan through the centralized state-run monopoly Rosugol. Rosugol argues that preparations are well advanced for the creation of five independent coal companies. Since 1991 the World Bank has allotted a total of $6.4 billion to 28 projects in Russia, of which $2.2 billion has been disbursed. -- Peter Rutland CONCILIATION COMMISSION APPROVES NEW BUDGET TARGETS. The joint parliament and government budget commission has approved the new 1997 budget targets, ITAR-TASS and Segodnya reported on 1-2 November. The projected monthly inflation rate will be marginally increased from 0.8% to 0.93%, the budget deficit will widen from 3.3% to 3.5% of GDP, the annual average ruble-dollar exchange rate will go down from 5,560 to 5,750, and forecasted GDP will remain at 2,727 trillion rubles ($500 billion). According to First Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Petrov, the government intends to cover the wider deficit mainly by increasing foreign borrowing by some 4 trillion rubles ($732 million), which is considered unlikely by many experts. The new draft does not include spending on restoring the Chechen economy as an individual item, but envisages 1 trillion rubles on paying wages and social benefits there. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA FINNISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN TRANSCAUCASUS. Tarja Halonen on 3 November concluded visits to Armenia and Azerbaijan in connection with the end of Finland's almost two-year co-chairmanship of the OSCE-sponsored negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev told Halonen that his country is ready to grant Nagorno-Karabakh "the highest autonomy status," citing the examples of the Aland Islands in Finland and "some republics of Russia." Aliev reiterated that Azerbaijan's territorial integrity must be preserved and criticized the OSCE's Minsk group for its insufficient emphasis on the principle of inviolability of borders. The next round of Karabakh talks will begin on 18 November in Helsinki. -- Emil Danielyan OPPOSITION LEADER ON THE SITUATION IN ARMENIA. Former presidential national security adviser and leader of the opposition Scientific- Industrial and Civic Union Ashot Manucharyan claimed that Armenia may face a threat of "military aggression" from the Nakhichevan sector of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, Noyan Tapan reported on 1 November. Speaking about the country's political situation, Manucharyan said the authorities and opposition should start a "strictly confidential" dialogue to overcome the current stand-off. He suggested that the establishment of a consultative council and fresh elections might be among possible compromises. According to Manucharyan, the U.S. can use its "great influence" with the Armenian government to make the latter respect human rights and democratic principles. -- Emil Danielyan AZERBAIJANI-TURKISH MILITARY COOPERATION. A delegation from the Turkish armed forces general staff, headed by Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Cetin Dogan, met in Baku on 31 October with Azerbaijan's defense minister Safar Abiev, Turan reported on 1 November. The two men signed protocols on cooperation between the ministries of defense of the two countries. Azerbaijani politicians have condemned recent Turkish statements about the possible opening of a frontier crossing between Armenia and Turkey; Azerbaijan Popular Front Deputy Chairman Ali Kerimov argued that Azerbaijan's Milli Mejlis should appeal to the Turkish parliament not to do so, according to Turan of 2 November. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIAN-IRANIAN AGREEMENTS SIGNED. Iranian First Deputy President Hassan Habibi on 3 November ended a four-day official visit to Georgia, signing four bilateral agreements on economic cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. Habibi met with President Eduard Shevardnadze, parliament chairman Zurab Zhvania, and the chairman of the Adzhar Supreme Soviet, Aslan Abashidze. Issues discussed included the construction of a motorway from Georgia through Azerbaijan to Iran, and Iranian access to Georgian Black Sea port facilities. -- Liz Fuller TAJIK OPPOSITION RELEASES 10 HOSTAGES. Ten of 35 police officers taken prisoner by the Tajik opposition near Komsomolabad on 27 October were released unconditionally on 1 November, according to ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL. Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri said the remaining hostages would be freed when the government removed its checkpoints along roads in central Tajikistan, the opposition's original demand, but added a new demand that four opposition members be freed from government jails. -- Bruce Pannier and Abbas Djavadi [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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