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No. 217, Part I, 8 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 HEALTH UPDATE. President Boris Yeltsin was transferred from the Moscow Cardiological Center, where he underwent surgery, to the Kremlin's Central Clinical Hospital near Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 November, quoting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Renat Akchurin, the surgeon who performed the operation, said Yeltsin is ahead of schedule in his recuperation and will be able to resume a large part of his duties in 10 to 12 days, AFP reported the same day. Chernomyrdin announced that Akchurin will be declared "presidential surgeon," AFP reported on 7 November. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski YELTSIN CALLS FOR RECONCILIATION. After he signed a decree declaring 7 November a Day of Accord and Reconciliation, Yeltsin issued a statement calling for unity, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 November. "We are one nation. We have one fate, a common future. And we are all from the same past," the statement said. Under the decree, a new state commission will oversee a competition to design monuments commemorating the victims of the 1917 revolution, the civil war, and political repressions. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Radio Rossii that in calling for Russians not to be divided into reds and whites, Yeltsin was continuing the message of unity he expressed during his presidential campaign. In fact, Yeltsin's re-election campaign was almost entirely built on anti-communist rhetoric that suggested that a Gennadii Zyuganov presidency would return Russia to mass repression, famine, and civil war. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN ISSUES ANOTHER DECREE ON ENFORCING HIS DECREES. Yeltsin signed a decree on 6 November ordering stricter enforcement of presidential decrees "to promote a sense of responsibility" among officials, ITAR- TASS reported the next day. Under the decree, all federal and regional executive organs must take concrete measures within one month toward the strict and timely implementation of decrees. Heads of agencies will be required to submit reports to the presidential administration's Main Control Department, and progress toward implementing presidential instructions will be discussed at government meetings. Like a similar decree in June, which specified penalties for bureaucrats who failed to carry out presidential decrees (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 June 1996), the current measure is likely to have little effect. Yeltsin met with presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais for about 15 minutes on 7 November, according to Yastrzhembskii. -- Laura Belin and Ritsuko Sasaki COMMUNISTS CALL FOR ANTI-GOVERNMENT COALITION. Supporters of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), Russian Communist Workers Party (RKRP), and Workers' Russia held a demonstration to mark the 79th anniversary of the October Revolution in Moscow on 7 November. Although in the past the KPRF and RKRP have been at odds over both goals and strategy, speakers at the rally called for all communists and other opposition movements to form one strong anti-government coalition. The most popular slogan, besides the traditional "All power to the Soviets!" was "Chubais in jail!" Speakers, including KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov, called for peaceful actions against the ruling regime, but Workers' Russia leader Viktor Anpilov advocated an "assault on Moscow" to overthrow the "anti-popular regime." According to Interior Ministry estimates, about 25,000 people attended the Moscow rally; similar rallies in other Russian cities drew thousands more. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS AIR DISPATCHERS . . . While communists rallied in downtown Moscow, Chernomyrdin on 7 November visited the air-traffic controllers at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, Radio Mayak reported. In recent years Russia's airport workers have repeatedly threatened strike action: in fact, on 7 November the Tyumen air dispatchers went on strike, Radio Rossii reported. Chernomyrdin noted that the dispatchers have 60 paid days' vacation per year, and their wages were doubled in October to 5 million rubles ($915) a month--way above the average national wage of 848,000 rubles in September, as reported by Ekho Moskvy on 5 November. The report was transparently designed to make other workers jealous of the dispatchers' favorable position. -- Peter Rutland . . . OFFERS VIEWS ON HISTORY. During his Domodedovo visit Chernomyrdin also commented on Yeltsin's decree declaring 7 November a Day of Accord and Reconciliation, which he said was " a great step forward for our society," Radio Mayak reported. Chernomyrdin observed "this is our history. We had the October revolution, 1905, the February revolution. History must be valued and loved, it must be approached calmly, respectfully... the recent events of 1993, it is all our life, our history. The people who made this history must be remembered." He continued: "Russians today have been scattered throughout the world [for example] in the Baltics, Caucasus, Kazakstan. We must love all Russians, they are all our people." -- Peter Rutland CRACKDOWN ON CRIME IN CHECHNYA. The Chechen Interior Ministry launched a new crackdown on crime on 7 November, the primary objective of which is to neutralize armed groups in Grozny and evict people from abandoned apartments they have taken over, Radio Rossii reported. Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makashev told a meeting of the Chechen general staff on 7 November that the Chechen law enforcement organs are capable of establishing order in Grozny and throughout Chechnya, according to Russian Television (RTR). Also on 7 November, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's spokesman, Vakhtang Abashidze, said in response to acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's proposal for a "strategic alliance" between Georgia and Chechnya that the two countries should structure relations exclusively within the framework of the constitutions of the Republic of Georgia and the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller PLANS TO REORGANIZE DEFENSE, POWER MINISTRIES? Military reform plans under consideration by the Defense Ministry will reduce the number of authorized positions for generals from 1,700 to 500, and cut some 50,000 lower-ranking officer positions as well, the Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on 7 November. As many officer posts are vacant, however, far fewer officers would actually be discharged. The plans also call for a 50% reduction in the some 60 divisions of the Ground Forces, which are currently severely undermanned. Under the plan, at least two fully manned divisions would be based in each of Russia's eight military districts. Meanwhile, Interfax-AiF reported on 4 November that the government is considering combining the FSB, the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information, and some other agencies into a new Ministry of State Security to be headed by former FSB head Sergei Stepashin. -- Scott Parrish IAEA, RUSSIA, U.S. TO MONITOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS DISMANTLING. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Hans Blix, announced in New York on 7 November that his agency will begin talks soon with Russian and American negotiators on establishing a monitoring system to ensure that fissile materials removed from dismantled nuclear weapons are not recycled into new warheads, AFP reported. He described the talks as the first steps toward verifying nuclear disarmament. Currently, enriched uranium and plutonium removed from dismantled Russian and American nuclear warheads is not under international control. Meanwhile, Nikolai Khlebnikov, a Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry official visiting an American nuclear storage facility in Rocky Flats, Colorado, said Russia needs more U.S. assistance to complete a similar facility at the Mayak plant in Chelyabinsk Oblast. Khlebnikov revealed Russia has already removed 500 metric tons of enriched uranium from dismantled warheads. -- Scott Parrish PRESIDENTIAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CRITICIZED. The first meeting of the reconstituted presidential Commission on Human Rights, chaired by Vladimir Kartashkin, which took place on 4 November, was sharply criticized in Obshchaya gazeta of 6-13 November. The paper contended that the committee's members are more concerned with carrying out government orders than with safeguarding the rights of ordinary citizens. The meeting focused on five general points, including the creation of a special reaction force to defend the lives of Russian citizens, and a mechanism for submitting complaints to the European Court of Human Rights. The commission all but collapsed at the beginning of this year following the resignation of Chairman Sergei Kovalev and a number of other members. -- Penny Morvant in Moscow GAIDAR ON YELTSIN. Excerpts from a new book of memoirs by Yegor Gaidar, entitled Days of Victories and Defeats, were published in Itogi on 5 November. Gaidar describes the formation of the "reform cabinet" in the fall of 1991 and offers insights into Yeltsin's character as a leader. He says that Yeltsin tends to be too emotional, prone to slump into depression, and excessively influenced by personal friendship. Sometimes this came at the expense of national interests, Gaidar suggests--as in some of the early dealings with the heads of CIS states. -- Peter Rutland NEW HIV DATA. AIDS center representative Irina Savchenko said that 800 new cases of HIV infection have been registered so far in 1996, four times more than for the whole of 1995, AFP reported on 8 November. Drug addicts account for 70% of this year's new cases. Since the first case was registered in 1987, officials estimate that a total of 1,925 people in Russia have contracted HIV; 163 have died. The publisher of the gay newspaper 1/10, Dmitrii Lychev, told OMRI that he estimates at least 20,000 Russians have contracted HIV, a significant portion being drug addicts. According to data from the Health Ministry, only 50,000 of an estimated 2 million drug addicts in Russia are being treated, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 25 October. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski SOCIAL SUPPORT FOR KARELIYAN POOR. The city of Petropavlovsk in Kareliya, bordering Finland, has introduced special measures to assist the indigent, Radio Rossii reported on 7 November. An 80-bed shelter for the homeless has been opened, and pensioners with an income of less than half the subsistence minimum are entitled to free meals and packages of goods worth 30,000 rubles ($5) in certain cafes and shops. The national subsistence minimum in September 1996 was 363,000 rubles ($66), ITAR- TASS reported on 15 October. -- Peter Rutland SPACE PROBLEMS. Sending a Russian-German space mission to replace the Russian-American crew aboard the international space station Mir has been postponed by two months, until February, due to financial problems, Reuters and AFP reported on 7 November. As a result of poor financing (which has been cut tenfold since the 1980s), the company manufacturing boosters was unable to assemble the rocket in time. This is yet another in a series of postponements of space flights this year, most of which were caused by cash shortages. Meanwhile, the Mir station crew is facing a problem with waste disposal, following the breakdown of the recycling pump. Most of the reserve containers are full, and the launch of the supply ship has been postponed until 20 November. -- Natalia Gurushina LUKOIL SIGNS COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH NIZHNII NOVGOROD. The administration of the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast has signed a cooperation agreement with Russia's largest oil company LUKoil, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 November. LUKoil will supply the region with oil products, while the local government will provide the company with plots of land for the construction of storage facilities and gasoline stations. It will also participate in supplying food to LUKoil subsidiaries in other regions. LUKoil will also participate in the renovation of the Norsi oil refinery, located in the oblast. The deal is part of LUKoil's strategy to strengthen its position in the regions; earlier it signed similar agreements with Tatarstan, Marii-El, and the Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Astrakhan, and Perm oblasts. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MORE ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT RESIGNATIONS. Interior Minister Vano Siradeghyan and Foreign Minister Vahan Papazyan have resigned, Armenian and Russian media reported on 7 November. The two men are prominent members of the ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) and are among the closest figures to President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. Siradeghyan said he will "soon" be appointed the mayor of Yerevan. Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan, another HHSh leader, said he will retain his post, RFE/RL reported on 7 November. According to ITAR-TASS, several ambassadors to foreign countries are among the candidates to become ministers in the government of newly appointed Prime Minister Armen Sarkisyan. -- Emil Danielyan TAJIK GOVERNMENT FORCES LAUNCH OFFENSIVE. Government forces in the Tavil-Dara area have begun a counterattack to dislodge the opposition from positions they captured earlier this month, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 7 November. The current objective of the government forces is the village of Sagirdasht located about 200 km from the Tajik capital Dushanbe. The village overlooks the main highway from Dushanbe to Khorog and has landing areas for helicopters, which prior to its capture, government forces had used to ferry troops and supplies to combat areas in the mountainous east. There have been no reports yet on casualties from either side. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKSTANI TV STATION WRECKED BY VANDALS. Aray TV, an independent TV station in Taldy Kurgan, was vandalized by two masked men on 6 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The two gained entry to the station, tied up the operator and proceeded to smash equipment, including a transmitter, tape recorders and other machinery. Nothing was stolen but the station is unable to broadcast. The attack came immediately after the station had aired a program on rising crime in Kazakstan. -- 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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