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No. 214, Part I, 5 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 OPERATION SAID TO END SUCCESSFULLY. President Boris Yeltsin's cardiac bypass operation ended successfully seven hours after it began at 7 a.m. Moscow time on 5 November, Russian and Western agencies reported. After the operation, Yeltsin was moved to the intensive care section of the Moscow Cardiological Center. Citing a source at the hospital, AFP reported that American and German doctors, including Michael DeBakey, monitored the operation on closed-circuit television but did not enter the operating room. Before going under anesthetic, Yeltsin signed a decree transferring all presidential powers to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. He is expected to sign another decree taking some powers back soon after he regains consciousness. Doctors have estimated that he will need at least two months to recover from the operation. Should Yeltsin die from complications surrounding the surgery, a new presidential election must be called within three months. In the meantime, Chernomyrdin would perform all presidential duties. -- Laura Belin IZVESTIYA: CHUBAIS TO MONITOR FORCE MINISTRIES. Yeltsin's 1 November decree creating a Presidential State Military Inspectorate will permit presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais to supervise the power ministries, Izvestiya reported on 5 November. The decree charged the inspectorate with ensuring the implementation of the president's constitutional powers in the areas of defense and security, and established it as an independent department of the presidential administration. The paper said that although the 100-member inspectorate will be directly subordinate to Yeltsin, day-to-day "operational matters" not requiring Yeltsin's attention will be decided by Chubais. The inspectorate will monitor not only the defense ministry, but also the 24 other federal agencies with uniformed servicemen, the paper added. -- Scott Parrish SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES CHECHNYA. Chernomyrdin chaired a session of the Security Council on 4 November at which council chairman Ivan Rybkin and his deputy Boris Berezovskii reported on their recent talks with the Chechen separatist leadership, Russian media reported. Chernomyrdin endorsed the Chechen leadership's plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on 27 January 1997, on condition that the 300,000 people who fled Chechnya to avoid the fighting are permitted to vote, and that full security can be guaranteed. But he did not stipulate, as Rybkin did, that the elections should be contingent on complete demilitarization. Chernomyrdin also said "it is clear" that Chechnya should receive special economic status, but noted that "a special approach" is needed to formulate this status as an entire republic of the Russian Federation is involved. -- Liz Fuller CHECHNYA PRISONER EXCHANGE GOING SLOWLY. So far, federal authorities have released 35 militants and Chechens have released 100 civilians and 51 soldiers, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. The Russian government says the Chechens are holding 1,600 prisoners, while the Chechens are seeking the release of 1,350 persons from Russia. Under the Khasavyurt accords signed on 31 August, prisoners were supposed to be promptly exchanged on an "all for all" basis. Sergei Popov, head of a group dealing with the prisoner exchange, expressed frustration at the slow progress. He also stated that the Chechens are not asking for the release of convicted criminals, only those detained under suspicion of fighting in the separatist forces. -- Peter Rutland MOSCOW, GROZNY MAYORS MEET. Grozny Mayor Lechi Dudaev (Dzhokhar Dudaev's nephew) traveled to Moscow on 4 November to meet Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, ITAR-TASS reported. Luzhkov offered to build one million square meters of housing in Grozny in return for oil shipments from Chechnya. He also agreed to provide schools in Grozny with textbooks and to accommodate children from the region in summer camps near Moscow. Luzhkov has been an ardent advocate of Chechnya remaining within the Russian Federation. -- Natalia Gurushina PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION TO FOCUS ON PROBLEMS ABROAD... The presidential Commission for Human Rights met on 4 November and expressed concern about violations of the rights of ethnic Russians living abroad, ITAR- TASS reported, citing commission chairman Vladimir Kartashkin. He advocated forming a joint CIS human rights court to hear complaints brought by individuals living in CIS countries, as well as an interstate human rights commission of all CIS countries plus the Baltic states. The commission is a consultative body with no power to enact policy. He also suggested forming a special joint rapid reaction force to undertake hostage rescues and similar missions. -- Laura Belin ...WHILE WATCHDOG GROUPS CONCERNED ABOUT PROBLEMS AT HOME. Representatives from several human rights watchdog groups resolved at a 2 November Moscow meeting to focus their efforts on helping human rights defenders in Russia's regions, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR) reported, citing Moscow Helsinki Group leader Lyudmila Alekseeva. They claimed that the farther a region is located from Moscow, the worse the human rights situation is. Alekseeva argued that the most widespread violation of human rights in Russia is the delayed payment of wages and pensions. Such delays "violate fundamental human rights: the right to life, to health, and a normal family," she added. -- Laura Belin CONTROVERSY OVER BEREZOVSKII CITIZENSHIP. Controversy has flared over reports that Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii is a citizen of Israel as well as of Russia. While not explicitly denying that he has dual citizenship, Berezovskii has said articles published in Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda on 1 November questioning his citizenship were anti-Semitic. Appearing on NTV on 3 November, he threatened to sue the newspapers, saying, "I am a citizen of Russia, and for my entire life, all my actions have been connected only with Russia." On 5 November, both Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda held their ground. Citing the Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz, Komsomolskaya pravda reported that a Boris Abramovich Berezovskii obtained Israeli citizenship in 1993. The papers argued that while Berezovskii's ethnicity was of no concern, it was inappropriate for a person with dual citizenship--with any country--to hold a high office involving state security. -- Laura Belin RUSSIA PROTESTS FORMER INTELLIGENCE AGENT'S ARREST IN U.S. Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) spokeswoman Tatyana Samolis denounced the 24 October arrest of former agent Vladimir Galkin in New York as an "uncivilized" violation of accepted intelligence practice, Russian and Western agencies reported. Galkin, accompanying a Russian Interior Ministry delegation, was taken into FBI custody upon arrival at Kennedy International Airport, and will be indicted on charges of attempting to purchase classified information related to the "Star Wars" missile defense program in Cyprus in 1990 and 1991. According to Samolis, Galkin freely admitted on his U.S. visa application that he worked for the SVR until 1992, and she termed his arrest a "dirty trick," which broke informal norms on the treatment of retired agents. She threatened that Russia might retaliate against retired American operatives. -- Scott Parrish PRIMAKOV LAUDS NEUTRALITY. At a joint Moscow press conference with his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Schuessel, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov declared that neutral countries play a positive role in maintaining international stability, Russian agencies reported. Reiterating Moscow's opposition to NATO enlargement, he praised the position of Austrian politicians who do not want Austria to join the alliance. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA, SOUTH KOREA SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and his South Korean counterpart Kim Dong-Jin signed a bilateral defense cooperation agreement in Moscow on 4 November, Russian and Western agencies reported. It calls for military exchanges, naval port visits, and the training of South Korean personnel in Russia. Rodionov hailed the development of bilateral military cooperation over the last five years, while Kim said Korean experts are closely studying sample SU-37, SU-35, and SU-30 fighters. Moscow hopes South Korea, which usually buys its weapons from the U.S., will purchase some 120 of the planes. The South Korean military already has some Russian armored vehicles which it recently received under a debt-for-weapons barter deal. -- Scott Parrish MUSLIMS OPPOSE CHANGING REPUBLICAN LAWS. Khadzhi-Murat Ibragimbeili, deputy chairman of the Muslim movement Nur, told OMRI on 4 November that the movement opposes the federal government's intention to force republics to make their legislation conform to federal law. He said that republican authorities know better how to express local traditions in legislation, while federal laws, including the Constitution, fail to reflect those traditions. Last week, presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais called for regional and republican laws to be amended to make them comply with the federal legislation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 October 1996). The Central Electoral Commission has said that electoral laws of 27 regions violate federal statues. In addition, mass media laws of the republics of Bashkortostan and Kalmykiya contradict the federal Constitution and violate individuals' right to information, head of Glasnost Defense Foundation Aleksei Simonov told OMRI last week. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow PRIMORE ENERGY CRISIS CONTINUES. The head of the Primorskii Krai power company (Dalenergo), Vasilii Poleshchuk, told ITAR-TASS on 5 November that none of the commitments made in an agreement signed last month by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov were realized (see OMRI Daily Digest 7 October 1996). The use of middlemen companies to resell coal has not been eliminated, and local consumers still owe the company 286 billion rubles. Primore mine officials complain that they have shipped 120 billion rubles ($22 million) worth of coal to Dalenergo in the last two months, but have only been paid 9 billion rubles. The Bolshakov protocol promised to pay 27 billion rubles a month each to Dalenergo and the coal company, but they have received only 14 and 5.8 billion respectively, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. Wage arrears to the region's coal miners total 160 billion rubles. -- Peter Rutland SVERDLOVSK OBLAST TO INTRODUCE LOCAL CURRENCY. Governor of the Sverdlovsk Oblast Eduard Rossel has announced that the region will introduce its own currency, which has already been dubbed the "Ural Franc," ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. Rossel said that the currency, which will be accepted only locally, should ease problems associated with tight money supply. He also noted that the introduction of the "Ural Franc" was already planned when the oblast attempted to get the status of Ural republic in 1993, adding that the proposal has now been agreed with First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin. -- Ritsuko Sasaki TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS. Hrant Bagratyan announced his resignation on 4 November, Western media reported the same day. He was replaced by Armen Sarkisyan, Armenia's Ambassador to Britain. Bagratyan declined to give any reason for his decision. The move follows recent statements by several leaders of the ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement blaming Bagratyan for the poorer than expected showing of President Levon Ter-Petrossyan in the controversial 22 September elections. During his first post-election speech, Ter-Petrossyan promised a "serious reshuffle" in the government. A staunch supporter of market reforms and tough monetary policy, 38-year old Bagratyan headed the government since February 1993 and is credited by the West for Armenia's good macroeconomic indicators. Speaking at his last news conference, he called for a dialogue between the authorities and the opposition. -- Emil Danielyan GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ ELECTION ROW CONTINUES. In his regular Monday radio address, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze called on Russia's leaders to state more clearly their country's official position towards the parliamentary elections scheduled for 23 November in Georgia's breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS and Radio Mayak reported. Shevardnadze argued that this would dispel suspicions in Georgia that certain unnamed forces in Russia support the separatist regime in Sukhumi. The Georgian parliament has denounced the planned elections as illegal; the UN has called for their postponement pending the repatriation to Abkhazia of some 200,000 ethnic Georgian refugees who fled the fighting in 1992-3. On 2-3 November, Georgian terrorist groups attacked Russian peacekeeping forces on the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia and launched an artillery attack on the town of Gali, Ekho Moskvy reported, citing Abkhaz government statements. -- Liz Fuller TWO STRATEGIC TAJIK VILLAGES FALL TO OPPOSITION. Fighters of the Tajik opposition have seized two more villages along the road to Khorog, Russian and Western sources reported. They attacked Sagirdasht and Kalai-Hussein on 1 November, capturing both by 3 November. The villages lie along the only highway leading to the Eastern city of Khorog. More importantly, these are the last two villages of any size on the way south to Afghanistan. Russian and Kazakstani border guards at the Kalai- Khumb posts are now sandwiched between Tajik opposition forces based opposite their positions in Afghanistan and behind them in the Tavil- Dara region. The Tajik Ministry of Defense is moving about 3,000 soldiers into position to launch a counter-offensive. -- Bruce Pannier FRENCH COMPANY TO BUILD TURKMEN CONVENTION CENTER. The French construction company Bouygues has been awarded the contract to build a convention center in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, according to a 4 November AFP report. This latest contract is worth about $98 million but Bouygues is already building the presidential palace at a cost of about $80 million and a national park complex for an undisclosed figure. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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