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No. 220, Part I, 13 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 *********************************************************************** Available now -- The OMRI Annual Survey of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union -- "1995: Building Democracy." Published by M.E. Sharpe Inc., this 336-page yearbook provides a systematic and comprehensive review of the most pivotal events in the 27 countries of the former Communist bloc and former Soviet Union during 1995. Available to OMRI subscribers at a special price of $25 each (plus postage and handling). To order, please email your request to: email@example.com *********************************************************************** RUSSIA RODIONOV WARNS OF "CATASTROPHE" IN MILITARY . . . Addressing an annual gathering of military commanders on 12 November, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov warned that if "extreme measures" are not taken to reform the Russian military or if any further reduction is made in the combat readiness of the Russian armed forces, "the consequences could be tragic," Russian and Western agencies reported. He also declared that the current international situation could "broaden the zone of instability" and possibly provoke "conflicts that would threaten Russian security," although he gave no details. In a break with tradition, according to Krasnaya zvezda on 13 November, the meeting was also addressed by diplomats, policy analysts, Economics Ministry officials, and Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, who described Russia's overall strategic and economic situation to the officers. -- Scott Parrish . . . WHILE CHERNOMYRDIN ENDORSES FORCE REDUCTION. Addressing the same meeting, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that the principle "not numbers, but skill" should guide military reform, adding that "unpopular and harsh" measures are necessary to "save the country's defense capability," ITAR-TASS reported on 12 November. Chernomyrdin said that cuts would affect not only the Defense Ministry, but also other agencies with uniformed servicemen. Despite the objections of some military officers, reportedly including Rodionov, Chernomyrdin also endorsed the speedy development of a new military doctrine to guide reform, arguing that it cannot be postponed until the current financial crisis is resolved. Chernomyrdin supported another Rodionov proposal, however, saying the General Staff should be given increased authority over armed formations outside the Defense Ministry, like the Border Guards and the Interior Troops. He also pledged again to liquidate military wage arrears by mid-November. -- Scott Parrish CHERNOMYRDIN POSTPONES VISIT TO UKRAINE . . . Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin said on 12 November that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's planned mid-November visit to Kyiv would be postponed until "the documents that must be prepared for his visit are ready," ITAR-TASS reported. The announcement comes after Russian and Ukrainian negotiators failed to resolve differences over the terms under which the Russian portion of the Black Sea Fleet will lease facilities in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol (see related story in Central and Eastern Europe section). The postponement continues a well-established pattern in which Ukrainian and Russian leaders publicly announce the resolution of the fleet dispute, but disputed details block final agreement (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 October 1996). -- Scott Parrish . . . AND MEETS NEW GOVERNORS. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin met on 12 November with the 15 recently elected regional governors, saying later that he is in favor of signing more power-sharing treaties with the regions but only in places where the local authorities can cope with more power, Russian media reported. The same day, Chernomyrdin asked Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to solicit proposals from the regions for possible changes to the 1997 federal budget. President Yeltsin is satisfied with the results of regional races and believes that it is incorrect to characterize them as a red revanche, Segodnya reported on 13 November, citing presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Eight out of 15 regional executives have been re-elected. The governors who ousted incumbents in Leningrad, Kaliningrad, and Magadan oblasts are thought to be supporters of the president. Opposition members won in Kaluga, Kursk, Pskov, and Kirov oblasts, while the opposition's narrow victory in Amur is still being disputed. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow JOINT COMMISSION CONVENES IN GROZNY. The joint commission to coordinate the reconstruction process in Chechnya, which comprises 39 Russian ministers and deputies and 31 members of the interim Chechen coalition government, convened in Grozny on 12 November to discuss socio-economic issues and the restoration of communications between Grozny, Moscow, and Rostov-na-Donu, Russian media reported. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin said the reconstruction should be jointly financed by both sides with the help of private Russian investment and advocated inviting international observers to monitor the January 1997 parliamentary and presidential elections in Chechnya, according to Russian Public TV (ORT). Rybkin then traveled to Nazran where he held talks with the leaders of the North Caucasian republics on a political settlement of the Chechen conflict; the participants decided to prepare a temporary agreement defining relations between Chechnya and the Russian Federation before the Chechen elections take place, NTV reported. -- Liz Fuller ABOUT ONE-QUARTER OF RUSSIANS SUPPORT CHECHEN INDEPENDENCE. Twenty-six percent of Russians support granting Chechnya independence, according to a survey in which individuals were asked to indicate which ideas they supported from a list provided by VCIOM, Segodnya reported on 13 November. Twenty-four percent back a complete withdrawal of Russian troops and 23% want to close the Russian-Chechen border. On the other hand, 22% support the idea of maintaining Chechnya within the Russian Federation. -- Robert Orttung YAROV IMPLICATED IN CEMETERY BOMBING. Orenburg Oblast Fund for Invalids of the Afghan War Chairman Andrei Chepurnoi suggested that Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Yurii Yarov was involved in the 10 November Kotlyakovskoe cemetery bomb blast that has claimed 14 victims, Trud reported on 13 November. Chepurnoi claimed that the fund's problems began after he, Mikhail Likhodei, and Sergei Trakhirov had met with then Deputy Prime Minister Yarov and asked him what had happened to the large amounts of money earmarked for disabled veterans. Both Likhodei and Trakhirov are now dead. Trud's reporters could not contact Yarov, being told that he is in a meeting, but Radio Mayak reported on 12 November that Yarov claimed to have met the fund's leaders only once and denied that he was involved in its work. -- Robert Orttung DEPUTIES WALK OUT DURING LUKASHENKA SPEECH. About 70 deputies, including the entire Yabloko faction, several independents, and members of the Our Home Is Russia faction walked out of the Duma as Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka began to address the chamber on 12 November, ITAR- TASS reported. Deputies from the Communist faction and the LDPR stood to applaud him. Before Lukashenka's address, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii made an unsuccessful last-minute attempt to postpone his appearance until after the 24 November constitutional referendum in Belarus, arguing that Lukashenka would use his Duma speech to "pressure Belarusian public opinion." Communist and LDPR deputies insisted that Lukashenka be allowed to speak, saying he leads "a brother republic, the only one which is really friendly toward Russia." -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA DEMANDS RELEASE OF EX-INTELLIGENCE AGENT. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin demanded the immediate release "without any conditions" of former Russian intelligence agent Vladimir Galkin, ITAR- TASS reported on 12 November. He termed Galkin's 29 October arrest by the FBI (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 November 1996) a "deliberate provocation," and warned Washington that "irresponsible actions may have negative consequences for Russian-American relations." The same day, Galkin was arraigned in a Massachusetts federal court on espionage charges. On 13 November, ITAR-TASS reported that discussions with U.S. officials on Galkin's release were making little progress, as Moscow has rejected a U.S. offer to release him on bail pending his trial. -- Scott Parrish ONLY 16% OF RUSSIAN COMPANIES PAY TAXES REGULARLY. Speaking at a meeting on tax and financial policy, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev has announced that only 16% of Russian companies honor their tax obligations, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 12 November. Of 2.6 million firms, 436,000 companies pay taxes regularly and in full, whereas at least 882,000 firms publish no accounts and make no tax payments at all. As of 1 October, tax arrears in Russia reached 132 trillion rubles ($24.4 billion). The problem of tax collection will be crucial in the ongoing negotiations with the IMF monitoring mission on the disbursement of the next tranche of the $10.1 billion extended facility fund. -- Natalia Gurushina SITUATION IN THE AVIATION INDUSTRY DETERIORATES. At a meeting of the Committee for Operational Questions, Defense Industry Minister Zinovii Pak said that in 1995 the government was able to purchase only two war planes and five helicopters, compared with some 400 in 1991, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 November. Pak noted that although the aviation industry needed 3.5 trillion rubles of state financing in 1996, the budget earmarked only 562 billion rubles for this purpose, of which only 200 billion rubles was actually released. According to ORT, Russian civil aviation companies sold only eight airplanes in 1996, compared to more than 200 a year at the beginning of the 1990s. Pak said the 1997 budget should allocate 1.3 trillion rubles to the civil aviation technology program and another 2.5 trillion rubles to finance aircraft leasing. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TURKMENISTAN, RUSSIA, IRAN SIGN AGREEMENT. Russia, Turkmenistan, and Iran signed a memorandum on 13 November on cooperation in developing the Caspian Sea oil resources, Russian TV (RTR) and Reuters reported. Signed by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Velayati, and Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov, the memorandum establishes a joint company to further explore the Caspian's resources. The other two Caspian states, Azerbaijan and Kazakstan, are invited to join, but according to the RTR report, Azerbaijan is "unsatisfied" with this agreement. -- Bruce Pannier ARDZINBA ON ELECTIONS, PEACE PROCESS. In an interview published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 13 November, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba stated that there are no obstacles to the Georgian population of Abkhazia, which he estimated at 90,000, participating in the 23 November elections to a new Abkhaz parliament. Unlike its predecessor, the new parliament will not comprise specific quotas from different ethnic groups. Ardzinba further accused the Georgian leadership of preparing terrorist acts against members of the Abkhaz leadership and of pressuring the Abkhaz side to make "unacceptable" compromises regarding the region's future political status vis-a-vis Georgia. On 12 November, Abkhaz-Press carried a statement by Ardzinba, summarized by ITAR-TASS, in which he reiterated his readiness to continue negotiations under the aegis of the UN and with Russian mediation. -- Liz Fuller NAGORNO-KARABAKH ELECTION UPDATE. The leader of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Robert Kocharyan, called on residents of the region to take part in the 24 November presidential election, Noyan Tapan reported on 12 November. During one of his campaign speeches, Kocharyan said the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as an equal side to the conflict by the OSCE and creation of a strong army are among the biggest achievements of his government. According to Kocharyan, the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and tax privileges for agriculture will remedy Karabakh's economic hardships. -- Emil Danielyan KAZAKSTANI AIRLINE CRASHES IN INDIA. An IL-76 cargo plane from the troubled Kazakstani airline company KazAir collided with a Saudi Arabian passenger plane in mid-air on 12 November, killing everyone on both aircraft, international press reported. The plane from Kazakstan was descending to land at Delhi Airport in India when it struck the Saudi plane while the latter was climbing. The KazAir plane had 38 people on board, including the crew, the Saudi plane had 312 people. KazAir had been shut down after it incurred a debt of $149 million by August 1996 and was alleged to be using substandard aircraft. The crash is being called the worst mid-air collision in aviation history. -- Bruce Pannier CHOICE OF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT SPEAKER "INVALID." The Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan on 12 November found that the selection of Mukar Cholponbayev as parliamentary speaker was not valid, RFE/RL and ITAR- TASS reported. When Cholponbayev was chosen by the Legislative Assembly in March 1995 only 29 of the 35 deputies were present (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 November 1996). Cholponbayev received 17 votes, a majority of those present but not a majority of the entire upper house. His re- election process can begin when the house meets on 13 November. The decision has deeper implications as it opens the way for opposition deputies to raise the question of the validity of the December 1995 presidential election. The Legislative Assembly voted to move that election forward by one year at a session that also did not have a quorum. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov UZBEKISTAN GETS MORE BLACK MARKS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS. According to an 11 November press release from Human Rights Watch (HRW), Hasan Mirsaidov, son of Uzbek dissident Shukhrullo Mirsaidov, was abducted by three armed men on 9 November, beaten, blindfolded, handcuffed, and held for 12 hours before being freed. According to Erika Dailey of HRW, this is only the latest event in a campaign to apply pressure on the Mirsaidov family. The Uzbek government has renewed attempts to legally deport the family from Uzbekistan although the original case was filed some time ago and remained "dormant" for 18 months, being brought up again shortly before the kidnapping. Although HRW is calling for a complete investigation into the case, the organization acknowledges that "there is little hope of an impartial investigation since the incident was undoubtedly carried out at the behest of the Uzbek government." -- 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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