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No. 224, Part I, 19 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 RUSSIA, CHINA HAIL "BREAKTHROUGH" IN BORDER TALKS. Speaking at a Beijing press conference with his visiting Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen announced a "breakthrough" in talks on reducing troop levels along the 4,300 km Russian-Chinese border, Russian and Western agencies reported on 18 November. Primakov said the troop reduction agreement, which would complement a frontier confidence-building agreement signed this past April, could be finished as early as next April, when Chinese President Jiang Zemin is scheduled to visit Moscow. Primakov hailed the development of a "strategic partnership" with China but denied that Russian-Chinese ties were directed at any third country. Qian said China is very satisfied with the development of bilateral ties but hopes to further boost bilateral trade, which totalled $5.4 billion in 1995, and is expected to exceed $6 billion this year. -- Scott Parrish . . . BUT OTHER BILATERAL PROBLEMS PERSIST. Meanwhile, an official from the Russian Border Service complained to ITAR-TASS about what he termed the "silent expansion" of illegal Chinese immigration into the Russian Far East. He said that during 1996, some 9,500 Chinese had been deported from Primorskii Krai for overstaying their visas. Although joint border control measures had helped somewhat reduce the flow of illegal migrants, he argued that lax visa regulations for Chinese tourists continued to make illegal immigration too easy. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported that complaints of unfair competition from local traders in Birobidzhan had led the local authorities to establish a separate market for Chinese traders. -- Scott Parrish ACCUSED RUSSIAN SPY ARRESTED. Harold Nicholson, a former CIA station chief in Romania currently serving in the agency's counter-terrorism center, has been arrested on charges of spying for Russia, Western agencies reported on 18 November. CIA Director John Deutch and FBI Director Louis Freeh told a joint press conference that Nicholson had been delivering classified data to Moscow since June 1994, in exchange for more than $120,000. Freeh and Deutch said Nicholson, 46, had not done as much damage as the notorious Russian mole Aldrich Ames but had told Moscow the identities of agents he taught during a 1995-1996 stint as a CIA training instructor. Possibly reflecting official unease in Moscow, only NTV covered the story, while ORT and Russian TV (RTR) ignored it. After pulling one report, ITAR-TASS quoted Russian Foreign Intelligence Service spokeswoman Tatyana Samolis as refusing comment on the arrest. -- Scott Parrish DAGESTAN EXPLOSION DEATH TOLL RISES TO 64. The death toll from the 16 November explosion at the military apartment block in the city of Kaspiisk has risen to 64, including 20 children, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 November. So far, 39 people have been rescued from the rumble. President Boris Yeltsin has declared 19 November a day of national mourning. ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November that Federal Security Service head Nikolai Kovalev informed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin that investigators had detained one suspect, but that information was later denied. Officials investigating the case rule out the possibility of an accidental gas explosion, since the house was not hooked up to gas supplies. -- Natalia Gurushina NEITHER SIDE SHOWS UP FOR KORZHAKOV LAWSUIT. Neither side turned up for a court hearing in former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov's lawsuit against President Boris Yeltsin and the presidential administration, NTV and Reuters reported on 18 November. Korzhakov is demanding a public apology for a presidential decree that accused him of slandering the president and divulging secret information (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 November and 29 October 1996). He is not seeking financial compensation or reinstatement in his former job. It was the second time the case was postponed because neither side showed up, and Judge Lidiya Sorokina said she would subpoena both sides for the next court hearing. NTV reported that Korzhakov is in the hospital but did not say for how long. He was taken to hospital on 8 November for treatment of a sports-related knee injury. -- Laura Belin SEPARATISM THREATENS KABARDINO-BALKARIYA. A congress of Balkar people voted on 17 November to establish the sovereign Republic of Balkariya, separate from the current North Caucasian Republic of Kabardino- Balkariya, Russian media reported the next day. The congress appealed to President Yeltsin to introduce direct presidential rule in Balkariya until an independent State Council and law enforcement authorities are formed. It also elected Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Sufeyan Beppaev, a former high- ranking Soviet officer in the Transcaucasus military district, to chair the new Balkariyan State Council. Kabardino-Balkariya's president, Valerii Kokov, an ethnic Kabardiyan, on 18 November accused the congress of "nationalist extremism" and pledged to take all legal means against "acts aimed at destabilizing peace and accord" in the republic. Russian Public TV (ORT) reported that in 1995 Kokov cut off calls for separatism among Kabardiyans. The 1989 census estimated the number of Balkars at 71,000, making up about 9% of the population of Kabardino-Balkariya. -- Laura Belin CHERNOMYRDIN, RYBKIN DISCUSS CHECHNYA. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin on 18 November announced that the interim draft agreement on relations between Russia and Chechnya is "practically ready" for signing by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov, Radio Rossii reported. His comments came after a meeting with Chernomyrdin and Chechen national security adviser Akhmed Zakaev. Also on 18 November, Chechen parliament chairman Akhyad Idigov argued that the two Russian brigades still stationed in Chechnya constitute "a destabilizing factor" and should be withdrawn before the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 27 January 1997, Reuters reported, citing Interfax. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ruslan Kutaev similarly told RTR that all Russian troops must be withdrawn from Chechnya prior to the elections. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov argued that Russia should keep up to 5,000 troops in Chechnya permanently. -- Liz Fuller VOLGOGRAD MAYOR SUES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Volgograd Mayor Yurii Chekhov has asked the Procurator General's Office to open a lawsuit against the federal government in Russia's Supreme Arbitration Court, RTR reported on 18 November. Chekhov is seeking approximately 200 billion rubles ($37 million) that he says federal authorities owe his city; the funds are needed to pay wages, pensions, and social programs. Chekhov is contesting the 22 December gubernatorial election in Volgograd Oblast, and like many candidates for regional office, he is seeking to build a reputation as a defender of local interests against Moscow. Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev, who is seeking re-election in December, recently threatened tough measures to force the federal government to meet its financial obligations to his region (see the Russian Regional Report, 13 November 1996). -- Laura Belin REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMEN APPEAL TO YELTSIN. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and several other Republican members of Congress have sent a letter to President Yeltsin asking him to do "everything in his power" to solve the Moscow murder of U.S. entrepreneur Paul Tatum, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. The letter said that U.S. assistance programs for Russia will be influenced by the success of Russian authorities in combating crime and corruption, and warned that the current atmosphere of unrestrained crime undermines the willingness of U.S. businesses to operate in Russia. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA ACCUSED OF VIOLATING OF CHILDRENS' RIGHTS. The International Commitee for the Dignity of the Child, a human rights organization based in Switzerland, has accused Russia of violating international conventions on the rights of the child which it signed upon joining the Council of Europe earlier this year, AFP reported on 18 November. After a survey of four St. Petersburg prisons, the commitee pointed out that imprisoned adolescents are often held in very poor conditions and suffer from various abuses meted by the prison administration, including rape and other violence. The commitee said adolescents are subjected to the same penal code as adults from the age of 14 and undergo severe punishment ranging from a few months for a simple theft to seven years for burglary. In some cases, youths who were incarcerated for petty crimes suffer from tuberculosis. There are some 80 youth prisons in the CIS. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski MARTIAN PROBE FOLLOW-UP. Russia's financial losses from the unsuccessful launch of the Martian probe, Mars-96, may top $122 million, since neither the booster nor the probe were insured, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. Although the failure dealt a serious blow to the Russian space program, foreign space experts say that occasional disasters like this are inevitable. Environmentalists are concerned over the presence of some 200 grams of plutonium in four of the probe's batteries, which they say may cause radioactive contamination. Russian officials, however, said the plutonium presents no danger as it is stored securely and sealed in a double casing, AFP reported on 18 November. -- Natalia Gurushina GAZPROM CONTEMPLATES RESTRUCTURING AND CUTTING GAS TRANSIT THROUGH UKRAINE. Speaking at a conference in London, the head of Russia's gas giant Gazprom, Rem Vyakhirev, said that the company will restructure its operations in the near future, AFP reported on 19 November. Gazprom's management will impose stricter market discipline and discontinue certain activities that are not directly connected with its gas operations. Fuel and Energy Minister Petr Rodionov rejected rumors that the company will be split into several smaller units. Gazprom's new strategy may involve cutting the volume of gas moved through Ukraine, since, according to Vyakhirev, a substantial part of it is stolen en route. Gazprom is now working on an insurance deal that would require the Ukrainian side to pay compensation for stolen gas, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA SECRET GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze met on 14 November in Tbilisi with Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan to discuss "the full range of questions regarding the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict" including a possible meeting between Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, Reuters reported on 18 November, quoting Georgian presidential press spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze. Also on 18 November, Shevardnadze again condemned the Abkhaz parliamentary elections scheduled for 23 November as "illegal" and "a masquerade." -- Liz Fuller UZBEKISTAN, KAZAKSTAN SIGN GAS DEAL. An agreement signed in Tashkent on 18 November will open the way for Uzbekistan to ship $150 million worth of gas to southern Kazakstan, the BBC reported on 19 November. The agreement resulted from a one-day meeting that focused attention on the fact that Kazakstan currently owes its southern neighbor $26 million for 1995 gas shipments. Kazakstan had no alternative but to sign the agreement after it failed to take advantage of its own untapped resources and finalize gas shipment arrangements with Turkmenistan. The deal is seen as a major step for Uzbekistan, which hopes to capitalize on its growing capacity to export raw materials and energy resources and, in the process, settle its own economic problems. -- Roger Kangas CLINTON PRAISES AZERBAIJAN'S STANCE ON CFE. U.S. President Bill Clinton on 18 November dispatched a message to his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev emphasizing the importance of reaching a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a basis for stability and prosperity in the Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported. Clinton also praised Azerbaijan's "firm stand" on compliance with the CFE (in contrast, Georgia has ceded to Russia part of its CFE allowance). Clinton further affirmed the U.S.'s intention to broaden its dialogue with Azerbaijan on issues of regional stability. -- Liz Fuller OPPOSITION RALLY IN YEREVAN. Speaking at their traditional weekly rally on 15 November, Armenian opposition leaders said they do not trust the Constitutional Court because it is "not independent," Noyan Tapan reported on 18 November. The Constitutional Court is to rule on the opposition's appeal of the recent presidential election results. Representatives of student organizations at the rally demanded the release of Mikael Surenyants and Vahe Varsamyan, two activists arrested during the violent 25 September protests against the election results. Meanwhile, some 300 protesters gathered in front of the Constitutional Court building in Yerevan on 18 November to demand a live TV broadcast of the court's hearings on the appeal. -- Emil Danielyan FOUR RADIO STATIONS SUSPENDED IN ALMATY. The Almaty-based independent radio stations Totem, RIK, NS, and Radio M have not been able to broadcast for the past several days, Kazakstani TV reported on 18 November, citing the radios' presidents. The stations were shut down because their frequencies allegedly interfere with the local airport's communications system, an official explanation dismissed by all four stations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 November 1996) Sergei Duvanov, director of Radio M, said the stations were shut down for "political reasons." Aidar Zhumabayev, president of the International Center of Journalism Akbar, said there are also possible commercial reasons for shutting down the stations, referring to an upcoming tender for frequencies to be held in 1997. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty TURKMENISTAN, TURKEY SIGN AGREEMENTS. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov met his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, on 18 November in Ankara and the two signed agreements covering environmental, educational, and economic cooperation, according to ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL. Demirel said the two countries enjoy "perfect relations" and Niyazov mentioned that Turkish investors had already sunk $1.5 billion into Turkmen projects. Niyazov arrived in Turkey on 14 November for medical check-ups, but none of the reports carried any detailed information on the results. TRT TV in Ankara, monitored by the BBC, reported that Niyazov's examination had a "cardiac emphasis." Niyazov suffers from respiratory problems and had an operation on his leg to remove a blood clot in 1994. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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