|Experience is in the fingers and head. The heart is inexperienced. - Henry David Thoreau|
No. 223, Part I, 18 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 POWERFUL EXPLOSION WRECKS MILITARY APARTMENT BLOCK IN DAGESTAN. A powerful explosion killed at least 42 people and wrecked a nine-storey military apartment block with 82 units in the Dagestani city Kaspiisk on 16 November, ITAR-TASS, Reuters, and AFP reported on 16-18 November. At least 14 people are still missing. The explosive device, thought to equal 50 kg of TNT, blew up in a building inhabited by officers of the Russian Border Guards and their families. Observers believe that a specially trained terrorist group detonated the bomb. Possible suspects include opponents of the Chechen peace process, black marketeers in caviar, or local drug dealers. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin visited the site of the explosion, while the Chechen government condemned the terrorist attack and sent condolences to the families of victims. -- Natalia Gurushina PROCURATOR ORDERS INQUIRY INTO TRANSCRIPT. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov on 15 November ordered an investigation into a Moskovskii komsomolets article that contained a transcript of an alleged conversation among Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin, and presidential aide Sergei Krasavchenko, Russian and Western media reported. In the transcript, Chubais, Ilyushin, and Krasavchenko discussed their involvement in the events of 19-20 June, when two Yeltsin campaign aides were detained carrying more than $500,000 out of a government building (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 November 1996). Chubais and Ilyushin also discussed ways to prevent Skuratov from bringing criminal charges against the two campaign aides and how to retrieve documents connected to the case from Skuratov. Skuratov did not comment on whether a telephone conversation between him and Ilyushin ever took place on 22 June; the transcript contained Ilyushin's side of the conversation. -- Laura Belin OFFICIALS CHARGE TRANSCRIPT IS FAKE. Presidential Chief of Staff Chubais, First Deputy Prime Minister Ilyushin, and presidential aide Krasavchenko all categorically denied that they met on 22 June and charged that the transcript published in Moskovskii komsomolets was fabricated, Russian media reported on 15 November. Chubais characterized the publication as an attempt to discredit the institution of the presidency following President Yeltsin's successful heart operation. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Krasavchenko suggested that the Communists manufactured the tape, which he said could have been spliced together from different conversations. Chubais and Ilyushin indicated that they will not sue Moskovskii komsomolets ; Chubais said additional publicity would merely help the newspaper's circulation. Ilyushin said one cannot sue the special services, which he argued were behind the publication, Segodnya reported on 16 November. -- Laura Belin DUMA REACTION TO THE AFFAIR . . . The State Duma on 15 November passed several resolutions in connection with the Moskovskii komsomolets publication, Russian media reported. The Duma asked President Yeltsin to instruct Procurator-General Skuratov to speed up his investigation of the 19-20 June events and whether Yeltsin's campaign was financed illegally, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma also asked the Audit Chamber to investigate the use of budget funds in Yeltsin's re-election campaign, Russian TV (RTR) reported. Another resolution, proposed by the Yabloko faction, asked Yeltsin to "immediately and unambiguously" state his own position on the taping of conversations among state officials, corruption among top state officials, and "the criminalization of the state as a whole." Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a strong opponent of Chubais, said he doubted the transcript was faked and told Ekho Moskvy that "the entire clique" should be sacked if "even one-hundredth" of the transcript is proven true. -- Laura Belin . . . BUT NO COMMENT FROM YELTSIN. President Yeltsin did not release any official comment on the Moskovskii komsomolets publication, although presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii described the transcript as another salvo in "the war of pseudo-compromising materials," ITAR-TASS reported on 15 November. Yeltsin is expected to give his first public address following his heart operation on radio or television on 19 November. According to Kommersant-Daily on 16 November, Yeltsin had prepared a radio address to be broadcast on 15 November, but in the wake of the Moskovskii komsomolets article, the radio address did not go on the air. -- Laura Belin KORZHAKOV DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN PUBLICATION OF TRANSCRIPT. Many commentators and Chubais himself have argued that Aleksandr Korzhakov, former chief of the Presidential Security Service, was the source of the transcript published in Moskovskii komsomolets on 15 November. However, on 16 November Korzhakov denied any involvement in the taping of the alleged conversation between Chubais, Ilyushin, and Krasavchenko, or in the publication of the transcript, Russian media reported. Korzhakov noted that he was sacked on 20 June, two days before the alleged conversation took place. Meanwhile, on 15 November Korzhakov was registered as a candidate for a Duma seat in Tula Oblast. As a registered candidate, Korzhakov is now protected by immunity from criminal prosecution. A special decision would have to be made by the procurator general to strip him of immunity. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski CHECHEN-RUSSIAN AGREEMENT FINALIZED. Chechen presidential security adviser Ahmed Zakaev met in Moscow with Russian government officials, including Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, on 15-16 November to discuss the final text of the agreement on the economic reconstruction of Chechnya, Russian and Western agencies reported. The draft agreement is to be signed at an upcoming meeting between Chernomyrdin and interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov. Also on 16 November, pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev issued a decree on the resignation of Nikolai Koshman's government. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin described the resignation as a step toward reaching national reconciliation, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller CHECHEN ISLAMIC PARTY CALLS FOR ONE CANDIDATE IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. At a 16 November congress in Urus Martan, delegates of the Chechen Islamic Path Party called for the nomination of a single candidate for the Chechen presidential election. Yurii Soslambekov, the chairman of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, told ITAR-TASS on 17 November that he would stand as a presidential candidate only if there is at least one other candidate. -- Liz Fuller REGIONAL INCUMBENTS SUFFER DEFEAT . . . Only nine governors have managed to hang on to their seats with 20 races complete following voting on 17 November (counting Amur Oblast where the opposition's victory has yet to be validated). Communist Duma member Aleksandr Chernogorov defeated incumbent Petr Marchenko in Stavropol Krai by 55% to 40%, ITAR-TASS reported. The former chairwoman of the okrug ispolkom, Valentina Bronievich, won 46% of the vote to defeat incumbent Sergei Leushkin in the Koryak Autonomous Okrug. She becomes Russia's first woman governor. State Farm Director Valerii Maleev defeated the incumbent Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksei Batagaev 39%-23%. The incumbent governor of the Komi-Permyatsk Autonomous Okrug Nikolai Polyanov won a second term with 70% of the votes and 57% turnout. -- Robert Orttung . . . WHILE OTHERS FACE RUNOFFS. In Murmansk, there will be a runoff between the incumbent Yevgenii Komarov and the former chairman of the oblast soviet, Yurii Yevdokimov, backed by former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's Honor and Motherland, who respectively took 32% and 20% of the vote in a field of eight with 40% turnout. In Altai Krai, the Communist-backed chairman of the Krai legislature, Aleksandr Surikov, is leading incumbent Lev Korshunov, 47% to 43%, with 48% turnout. A runoff is set for 1 December. Additionally, Altai voters rejected the free buying and selling of agricultural land by a margin of 81% to 16% in a non-binding referendum. In Kamchatka, even though Governor Vladimir Biryukov leads his closest opponent, Boris Oleinikov, 48% to 11%, he also faces a runoff. -- Robert Orttung MILITARY WAGE ARREARS FOR AUGUST PAID. Maj.-Gen. Georgii Oleinik, head of the Defense Ministry's Main Directorate of Budget and Finance, told Radio Rossii on 15 November that the ministry has now paid all wage arrears for August. He also promised to liquidate arrears for September by the end of the month, and for October and November by 1 January 1997, although he added that repayment of overdue social benefits to servicemen remains in the "planning phase." -- Scott Parrish JAPAN TO RELEASE $500 MILLION LOAN TO RUSSIA. In a sign of warming bilateral ties, Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda told his visiting Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, that Tokyo will free $500 million in credits frozen since 1991, Russian and Western agencies reported on 15 November. The credits, originally intended as humanitarian aid, will now be used by the Japanese Import-Export bank to invest in Russian industrial and commercial projects. Russian commentators optimistically said the decision indicated Japan is becoming more flexible and not focusing exclusively on the intractable territorial dispute over the southern Kurile Islands. However, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto warned Primakov that a related dispute over fishing rights in the waters around the islands could have a negative effect on bilateral ties if not resolved soon. -- Scott Parrish BLAST IN COAL MINE NEAR CHELYABINSK. A methane gas explosion killed nine miners and injured six others on 17 November in a Chelyabinsk Oblast coal mine. The mining company opened an investigation, since its methane gas detectors had not detected any dangerous concentration of the gas before the blast, according to NTV. In other news, six people died on 15 November in an explosion at a mine in Magadan Oblast, Radio Rossii reported. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski RUSSIA'S MARTIAN PROBE FAILS. Russia's attempt to send a space mission to Mars has ended in failure, dealing another blow to the Russian space program, ITAR-TASS, Reuters, and AFP reported on 17-18 November. The $64 million probe, carrying scientific equipment from the U.S. and 20 European countries, was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakstan on 16 November and was expected to reach the planet in September 1997. However, due to problems with the booster (the Russian rocket Proton) it was unable to leave its orbit of the Earth and crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the Chilean coast. -- Natalia Gurushina FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES BILLS ON SOCIAL ISSUES. The Federation Council has approved 10 new bills on social policy, including the introduction of a 10% increase in the minimum pension as of 1 November. It also insisted that by 1 December the government undertake measures (which may include no-interest credits from the Central Bank) in order to repay wage arrears to budgetary organizations, as well as pension and social benefits arrears, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Izvestiya, and Radio Mayak reported on 15-16 November. The Central Bank and the Finance Ministry both criticized the idea of printing money, however, arguing that it will not solve the problem, as the additional money is likely to go to the currency and state securities markets. The idea was also rejected by First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION IN KAZAKSTAN. Some 500 people gathered near the Academy of Sciences in Almaty to protest government policies on 17 November, Kazakstani TV reported. The rally, organized by the Azamat People's Movement, a confederation of independent trade unions, and pro- communist groups, did not receive official authorization as the government argued that organizers would not be able to "guarantee public order." Instead of holding an official rally, the organizers put on a "silent protest" and symbolically bound their mouths. Former Almaty Mayor Zamanbek Nurkadilov, a parliament deputy who has accused the government of corruption, also attended the rally. Police closely watched the rally; no violence was reported. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty NEW SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT CHOSEN IN KYRGYZSTAN. Following the Kyrgyz Constitutional Court's 12 November decision invalidating Mukar Cholponbayev's election as parliament speaker, the Legislative Assembly of Kyrgyzstan convened on 15 November to select Usup Mukambayev to be the new speaker, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. Cholponbayev had resigned on 13 November when the court found that he had not received the required majority of votes when elected in March 1995. At that time, only 29 of the 35 deputies were present, 17 of whom voted for Cholponbayev. In this latest vote, only 28 deputies were present, but 18 voted in favor of the 55-year-old Mukambayev. Cholponbayev was nominated again but refused the nomination. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov KOMSOMOLABAD FALLS TO TAJIK OPPOSITION. Tajik opposition forces took over the strategic city of Komsomolabad, 150 km east of the capital, Dushanbe, by 15 November without a fight, Russian media reported. Russia's NTV reported that the city is calm and the opposition has already replaced local officials. The opposition also controls a long stretch of highway leading west toward Dushanbe. Only 60 km separate government checkpoints on the outskirts of Dushanbe from opposition checkpoints on the same road, according to NTV. Opposition fighters are in positions only 12 km away from Dushanbe leaving the capital and the Khatlon region to the south as the only territory in Tajikistan under full government control. -- 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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