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No. 218, Part I, 11 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 EXPLOSION AT CEMETERY KILLS 13 . . . Thirteen people were killed and several more seriously injured in an explosion during a memorial service at the Kotlyakovskoe cemetery in Moscow on 10 November, Russian TV (RTR) reported. The service was in honor of Mikhail Likhodei, head of the Fund for Invalids of the Afghan War, who was murdered exactly two years earlier. The victims of the bomb attack included the current head of the fund, Sergei Trakhirov. Valerii Radchikov, head of a rival group of Afghan veterans within the fund, survived an assassination attempt last year. The blast at the cemetery and the attacks on Likhodei and Radchikov are thought to have been linked to lucrative tax exemptions the fund was granted in 1994 on the import and export of alcohol and tobacco, with an estimated value of $800 million, which attracted the interest of criminal groups. The fund split into two rival groups in 1993, one headed by Radchikov and the other by Likhodei. -- Penny Morvant in Moscow . . . CHERNOMYRDIN, KULIKOV RESPOND. In a national televised address following the explosion, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin called on the Interior Ministry to take immediate steps to respond to the challenge thrown down by the bombers. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, in turn, said everything would be done to find and punish the "scum" behind the explosion. The blast cast a shadow over the "day of the police," celebrated on 10 November, and Chernomyrdin canceled a concert to be broadcast on Russian TV (RTR) and Russian Public TV (ORT) marking the holiday. Speaking at a memorial service earlier in the day, Kulikov said that 430 police officers and 561 members of the Interior Ministry's Internal Troops have been killed while performing their duties this year. That figure presumably excludes casualties in Chechnya. Last year, about 350 police officers were killed, according to Moskovskii komsomolets. -- Penny Morvant in Moscow YELTSIN'S SURGEON REVEALS RISK WAS 50/50. The surgeon Renat Akchurin, who performed the 5 November bypass operation on President Boris Yeltsin, told ORT on 9 November said that the patient's physical condition in July was so poor that there was a 50/50 chance that he would not survive surgery. This bleak prognosis was not revealed at the time. Yeltsin's condition subsequently improved, and by the time of the operation Yeltsin's doctors were saying that the procedure had a greater than 90% chance of success. Akchurin's comments continue a well- established tradition whereby official statements downplay the seriousness of Yeltsin's health problems, only admitting them after a crisis has passed. -- Laura Belin ZAVGAEV MAY RUN FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENCY. Pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev told Interfax on 8 November that he may run as a candidate in the republic's presidential election scheduled for 27 January but that unless Chechnya is demilitarized before that date there is no chance of holding a free and democratic election, Radio Rossii reported. Zavgaev also told Ekho Moskvy that a council has been created to implement the peace agreements signed in August-September, the legality of which he does not dispute, according to RTR. Addressing several thousand participants of a meeting in Grozny on 9 November to commemorate the fourth anniversary of Dzhokhar Dudaev's election as Chechen president, his successor Zelimkhan Yandarbiev criticized the heads of Muslim states for their "lack of solidarity" with Chechnya. -- Liz Fuller SUNDAY TIMES: NUCLEAR MATERIAL MISSING IN CHECHNYA. Citing leaked Russian government documents, The Sunday Times reported on 10 November that radioactive material stored at a facility in Chechnya, including Cesium-137 and Strontium-90, as well as weapons-grade Plutonium-239 and Uranium-235, had disappeared. The paper said that half of the 900 cubic meters of materials with radioactivity levels of 1, 500 Curies once stored at the Radon factory in Tolstoi-Yurt is now missing, but did not specify how much was weapons-grade. It added that a Russian government commission has concluded that at least 21 sites storing radioactive materials were unguarded during the Chechen conflict, and some are now contaminated. Last November, Chechen rebel commander Shamil Basaev buried a container with Cesium-137 in a Moscow park (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November 1995). -- Scott Parrish BANDITRY IN NORTH CAUCASUS. An attempted car-hijacking by armed Ingush near the village of Chermen on 9 November led to a battle with guns and grenades in which four people died, ITAR-TASS reported. The attack took place in the disputed Prigorodnyi Raion of North Osetiya. Also on 9 November, a group Chechens crossed the border into Dagestan and hijacked two cars near Khasavyurt. Dagestani police pursued and caught the robbers, killing one in the process. The civil defense minister in the Ingush Republic, Yurii Gorev, was shot dead outside his home, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 November. -- Peter Rutland ACTING GOVERNOR OF TYUMEN KILLS HIMSELF. Sergei Martynushkin, the 39- year-old first deputy governor of Tyumen Oblast in western Siberia, reportedly killed himself in his office with a pistol late on 7 November, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported the next day. The economist and lawyer, a father of three, was serving as acting head of the Tyumen administration while Governor Leonid Roketskii was on a work trip abroad. No reasons have yet been suggested for the suicide. Tyumen is home to 90% of Russia's oil and gas deposits, and is thus the focus of intense political and business rivalry. -- Peter Rutland INCUMBENT GOVERNOR DEFEATED IN KALUGA. Valerii Sudarenkov, chairman of the Kaluga Oblast Legislative Assembly, defeated incumbent Governor Oleg Savchenko in a 63%-31% landslide with 41% turnout in the oblast's 9 November runoff election, Kommersant-Daily reported. Yeltsin appointed Savchenko to his position in March. Although Sudarenkov had the support of the local communists, First Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Kazakov claimed to be satisfied with his election since he views Sudarenkov as a reasonable and experienced politician. Eight incumbents have been defeated in the 16 gubernatorial races held since 1 September. -- Robert Orttung HUNGER STRIKES SPREAD. Thirteen leading members of the Vorkuta branch of the Russian Coal-Industry Workers' Union began an open-ended hunger strike on 10 November to protest wage arrears totaling more than 140 billion rubles ($25.6 million), RTR reported. The union is also calling for an increase in government subsidies to mines in the Pechora coal basin. From 1 to 5 November, representatives of the Vorkuta branch of the Independent Miners' Union (NPG), a smaller, free trade union, picketed the Russian government building in Moscow to protest wage and subsidy arrears. Meanwhile, a hunger strike by 112 doctors in Chernogorsk, Khakassiya, entered its 12th day on 9 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The doctors have not been paid for six months. Meteorologists at Moscow's Sheremetovo airport called off a strike scheduled for 10 November to protest wage arrears after their demands were met, Vechernyaya Moskva reported. Also -- Penny Morvant in Moscow IRAQI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. After meeting with his "old comrade" Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov blasted "artificial delays" in implementing UN Resolution 986, which would allow Iraq to sell $2 billion worth of oil in order to purchase food and medicine under UN supervision, Russian and Western agencies reported on 10 November. The oil-for-food deal was postponed after Iraqi troops intervened in October fighting between rival Kurdish groups in northern Iraq. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA PUSHING CASPIAN SEA "COMPROMISE." Russia is using a new compromise proposal to make progress toward asserting control over the oil resources of the Caspian Sea, The Journal of Commerce reported on 8 November. The paper said Russia has proposed granting each of the five littoral states an exclusive economic zone reaching 40 miles offshore, rather than insisting on a 12-mile limit. Kazakstan, whose offshore deposits lie within 40 miles of the coastline, may accept the proposal, which would bring Almaty into line with Iran, Turkmenistan and Russia. But the proposed offshore line would cut through the heart of major oil deposits further offshore which are currently claimed by Azerbaijan. Under the Russian proposal, they would be jointly owned by all littoral states. -- Scott Parrish DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES REDUCTION PLANS. A Defense Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 10 November that there are no plans to cut 500 positions for general officers or to reduce drastically the number of divisions in the ground forces (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 November 1996). He described media reports of such plans as "politically motivated," and attributed them to journalists "susceptible to sensations of shady origin." -- Scott Parrish OIL, GAS EXPORTS INCREASE. In the first nine months of 1996, Russia exported 95 million metric tons of crude oil and 142 billion cubic meters of natural gas, 4% and 3% increases over the same period a year earlier, earning $22.7 billion from these operations, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 November. Oil and gas exports to the non-CIS countries (77 million tons and 104 billion cubic meters) continued the previous years' trend, going up by 8% and 17%, respectively. Those to CIS states, however, plunged by 11% and 22% due to payments arrears. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA SOUTH OSSETIYA'S SUPREME SOVIET CHAIRMAN ELECTED PRESIDENT. Lyudvig Chibirov was elected president of South Ossetiya, a former autonomous oblast of Georgia, on 10 November, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 November. The Georgian Supreme Soviet abolished the region's formal autonomous status in 1990. Of the six candidates, Chibirov received 65% of the vote and former Prime Minister Vladislav Gabaraev, who advocates South Ossetiya's secession from Georgia and its unification with North Ossetiya within the Russian Federation, won about 20%. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said the election was "unlawful." Chibirov has rejected Georgian arguments that the vote could jeopardize a political agreement on the region's future status in Georgia. -- Liz Fuller BEREZOVSKII IN TBILISI. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii discussed the Chechen conflict and Russian-Georgian relations with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze during a visit to Tbilisi on 8 November, Russian media reported. Berezovskii dubbed Shevardnadze "the patriarch of the Caucasus" and termed his experience "unique," and called for the creation of a new infrastructure that would permit an integrated approach to structuring relations between the various Caucasian states taking into account their disparate interests, according to ORT. -- Liz Fuller NEW CABINET FORMED IN ARMENIA. Newly appointed Prime Minister Armen Sarkisyan received formal endorsement from President Levon Ter- Petrossyan for his new cabinet on 8 November, international media reported the same day. The interior and national security ministries have been merged into a single ministry headed by Serzh Sarkisyan. The influential defense minister, Vazgen Sarkisyan, retained his post. Ter- Petrossyan signed a decree appointing former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghyan to the post of Yerevan mayor. New to the cabinet are Armenia's former representative to the UN, Alexander Arzumanyan (foreign minister), former Communist Party leader Vladimir Movsisyan (agriculture minister), former Armenian Komsomol First Secretary Hranush Hakobyan (social welfare minister). -- Emil Danielyan ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ENDS HUNGER STRIKE. Vahan Hovannesyan, a leader of the banned Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun party (HHD), ended the hunger strike that he began on 29 October to protest the continuous delays in his trial, AFP reported on 8 November. Several of Hovannesyan's supporters joined the hunger strike in solidarity with him in Yerevan's Freedom Square. Hovannesyan and 31 other members and supporters of the HHD were arrested in July 1995 on charges of plotting a coup Hovannesyan and the HHD have repeatedly accused the Armenian authorities of staging a political trial in order to outlaw one of the strongest opposition parties. -- Emil Danielyan NAZARBAYEV CRITICIZES UNIONS, MEDIA, NATIONAL BANK. Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev told leaders of trade unions and public movements on 5 November not to make trouble during this difficult stage of Kazakstan's economic transformation, according to a 6 November report on Kazak TV monitored by the BBC. Nazarbayev was referring to the "Day of Poverty" demonstrations held in mid-October to protest unpaid wages and pensions. Nazarbayev was also critical of the media for joining the protests, and thereby "violating the constitution and all laws of the state." He went on to criticize the National Bank for not fulfilling orders to pay back wages and pensions and not working with other state bodies to solve the issue. -- Bruce Pannier FIRST FOREIGN-OWNED BANK TO OPEN IN KYRGYZSTAN. A new bank called DemirKyrgyz International Bank (DIB) will soon open in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported on 7 November. The bank's principal shareholder is the Demirbank of Turkey which has a 60% stake in the new bank. However, the EBRD is providing $300,000 for the bank and will provide a $2 million credit line for short- and medium-term financing in Kyrgyzstan's private sector once DIB begins operating. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK OPPOSITION RELEASES PRISONERS. Tajik opposition forces have freed the last of 37 police hostages they captured on 24 October near Komsomolabad, AFP reported on 8 November. The release of the remaining hostages comes after the government freed four members of the opposition held in government jails. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message BACK ISSUES Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through the World Wide Web, by FTP and by E-mail. 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