|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 225, Part I, 20 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 OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html RUSSIA YELTSIN MEETS WITH CHERNOMYRDIN. President Boris Yeltsin met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for more than one hour, Russian media reported on 19 November. According to presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, Yeltsin instructed Chernomyrdin to arrange the first meeting of the Consultative Council before the president returns to the Kremlin. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has said he will boycott all meetings of the Consultative Council until Yeltsin attends personally and is not represented by his chief of staff, Anatolii Chubais. It was the first lengthy meeting between the two men since Yeltsin's 5 November heart operation, but contrary to expectations, no footage of the meeting was broadcast on television. Surgeon Renat Akchurin said Yeltsin has regained all his powers of speech and could move to the Barvikha sanitorium within a few days. However, Naina Yeltsin said her husband continues to suffer from chest pains, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN TO HOLD SUBORDINATES ACCOUNTABLE FOR DECISIONS MADE DURING ILLNESS. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii said President Yeltsin will hold all representatives of the federal authorities accountable for decisions made during his lengthy illness and convalescence, Russian media reported on 19 November. Asked for Yeltsin's reaction to the transcript published in Moskovskii komsomolets on 15 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 and 18 November), Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin is well- informed about the publication but had not expressed an opinion on it. The transcript, whose authenticity has been questioned, suggested that current Chief of Staff Chubais and First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin authorized the use of illegaly procured funds to finance Yeltsin's re-election campaign and tried to obstruct a criminal investigation into campaign funding. -- Laura Belin PROCURATOR ALREADY HAD TAPE OF CONTROVERSIAL CONVERSATION. Procurator- General Yurii Skuratov told ITAR-TASS on 19 November that his office had a copy of the tape containing an alleged 22 June conversation among Anatolii Chubais, Viktor Ilyushin, and Sergei Krasavchenko before the transcript of that conversation was published in Moskovskii komsomolets on 15 November. The procuracy obtained the recording while investigating the events that occurred on 19-20 June, when two Yeltsin campaign aides were detained carrying $500,000 out of a government building. Skuratov said the recording will soon be sent for expert analysis, and he has instructed the newspaper to hand over its tape for comparison. Chubais, Ilyushin, and Krasavchenko have all said the alleged conversation never took place and the transcript was fabricated. -- Nikolai Iakouboski JOURNALIST WINS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST IZVESTIYA. A Moscow court awarded Russian Public TV (ORT) journalist Aleksandr Lyubimov 8 million rubles ($1,500) and ordered Izvestiya to print a retraction of an article that alleged Lyubimov had demanded a bribe from then-presidential candidate Vladimir Bryntsalov in exchange for a television appearance, ORT reported on 19 November. Claiming that the 21 May article harmed his reputation, Lyubimov originally sought nearly $3 million in damages (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 May 1996). -- Laura Belin REACTION TO SEPARATISM IN KABARDINO-BALKARIYA. The Procurator's Office of Kabardino-Balkariya has opened a criminal case against leaders of the National Council of Balkar People, and the republican parliament voted to ban the council, Russian media reported on 19 November. The council recently led a Congress of Balkar People that declared the formation of an independent Republic of Balkariya (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 November 1996). In Moscow, Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev described the separatist declaration as unconstitutional, and the State Duma voted to send a delegation to the republic, to be led by Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin. In 1991-1992, representatives of the Balkar and Karachai minorities in Kabardino-Balkariya repeatedly voiced secessionist intentions. However, in a 1994 referendum, about 90% of Balkars, who make about 10% of the republican population, voted to stay in a united republic, ORT reported. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow DEFEATED KORYAK GOVERNOR CALLS FOR STATE OF EMERGENCY. After losing his 17 November gubernatorial race to Valentina Bronevich, Koryak Autonous Okrug Governor Sergei Leushkin asked President Yeltsin to cancel the election results and impose a state of emergency because of an energy shortage and wage arrears in the region, Segodnya reported on 20 November. Leushkin said the election was invalid since it was conducted on the basis of a presidential decree rather than local legislation. Bronevich, who was backed by Vladimir Shumeiko's Reforms-New Course bloc, won a resounding 46%-25% victory after Communist-backed Nina Solodyakovaya withdrew in her favor the day before the balloting. Central Electoral Commission Secretary Aleksandr Veshnyakov described Leushkin's actions as illegal and warned that "governors will not be allowed to appoint themselves" to second terms, the paper reported. Bronevich will be Russia's first female governor. -- Robert Orttung U.S. PROTESTS RUSSIAN ESPIONAGE. U.S. State Department spokesman Glyn Davies termed Russian espionage activities like the recruitment of CIA officer Harold Nicholson "unacceptable" and "inconsistent with the pattern of bilateral relations in recent years," Reuters reported on 19 November. Davies said Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott had delivered a formal protest to Russian Ambassador Yulii Vorontsov in which Washington had "demanded an explanation" and threatened retaliatory action. -- Scott Parrish RODIONOV SAYS NATO DOESN'T THREATEN RUSSIA . . . Speaking after a 19 November meeting with his visiting British counterpart, Michael Portillo, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov said that he is convinced that NATO is not a threat to Russia but added that "millions of people, especially in Russia," remain to be convinced, Russian and Western media reported. In an interview published on 20 November in Komsomolskaya pravda, Rodionov expressed doubt about Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin's suggestions that Russia join NATO's political structures, saying the alliance is "a product of the Cold War" and cannot serve as the basis of a new European security system, even if Russia were to be admitted. -- Scott Parrish . . . AND THAT RUSSIAN MILITARY IS NO LONGER IN "CRISIS." Backtracking from his recent statement that the military is on the verge of a "catastrophe," (see OMRI Daily Digest , 13 November 1996), Rodionov told journalists, "I wouldn't term the situation in the Russian armed forces a 'crisis.'" He admitted that "certain difficulties and problems remain" but said that the overall situation, including funding, has improved in the past month. Meanwhile, in response to media reports of starving soldiers and rampant corruption in military procurement, First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov told a Moscow meeting of government and military officials that military food supplies will now be centralized under the Federal Food Corporation. It will purchase only domestic food products, he added. -- Scott Parrish LEBED VISITS U.S. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed is visiting the U.S. at the invitation of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Nixon Center, Western and Russian media reported on 19 November. Lebed addressed a closed-door session of the council in New York. RFE/RL reported that Lebed urged the U.S. to increase aid to Russia to help it improve the security of its nuclear stockpile. Komsomolskaya pravda said the trip, only Lebed's second to the West, is part of his preparation for the 2000 presidential election. While Russian TV (RTR) and several Moscow papers covered the visit, ORT and NTV, which spearheaded a media offensive against Lebed before his sacking, did not. -- Scott Parrish RESEARCHER KILLS FIVE, COMMITS SUICIDE. Karen Zhamogortyan, the director of the Kazan branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences's Institute of Information Science, committed suicide after killing his wife and four co-workers, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 November. Police have yet to find a motive for the killings. -- Penny Morvant STRIKE ROUND-UP. Workers at the Pribaltiiskii military shipbuilding plant in Kaliningrad Oblast have been on strike for a week in protest against a five-month delay in wage payments, ORT reported on 19 November. A number of the plant's employees have also gone on hunger strike. The Defense Ministry owes the shipyard 30 billion rubles ($5.5 million). The yard is the biggest enterprise in the oblast. Meanwhile, medical workers in Chernogorsk, Khakassiya, ended a three-week hunger strike despite the failure of the local administration to pay wage arrears, ITAR-TASS reported. The city authorities have, however, resolved to allocate 40% of local tax receipts to the health care system. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIANS STILL PREFER FOREIGN CURRENCY. Although the monthly depreciation of the ruble-dollar exchange rate was lower than the monthly rate of consumer price inflation for most of the year (the ruble fell from 4,034/$1 at end-January to 5,455 at end-October), Russians still prefer to hold savings in foreign currency. According to the Central Bank and the State Statistical Committee, in the first nine months of 1996 the population spent 169 trillion rubles ($31 billion) on purchasing foreign currency, and the authorities recorded an inflow to the country of $21 billion, according to Rossiiskaya gazeta on 19 November and Interfaks-AiF (no.47). -- Natalia Gurushina DUMA CHALLENGES LEGALITY OF TAX COMMISSION. The State Duma on 18 November appealed President Yeltsin's 11 October decree establishing the Temporary Extraordinary Commission for Tax and Budget Discipline (VChK) to the Constitutional Court, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported the next day. The Duma argues that it is unconstitutional to grant judicial and investigative functions to a presidential body. The VChK held its third meeting behind closed doors on 19 November, NTV reported. It discussed ways to tax the shadow economy, thought to account for 40% of all economic activity, and to crack down on illicit alcohol imports. It is estimated that 80% of all vodka sold avoids excise duties. On 19 November, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that the Deputy Minister for CIS Affairs, Vadim Kisin, would be fired for tax evasion, ITAR-TASS reported. On 20 November, AFP reported that tax police raided the Moscow offices of the U.K. advertising firm Saatchi and Saatchi, claiming unpaid taxes of 33 billion rubles ($5.4 million). -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GAMSAKHURDIA LIEUTENANT SENTENCED TO DEATH. The Georgian Supreme Court in Tbilisi on 19 November handed down a death sentence on Vakhtang "Loti" Kobalia, a commander of informal military formations and ally of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Western agencies reported. After a trial lasting one year, Kobalia was found guilty of treason, banditry, and the 1993 murders of five soldiers and a TV journalist. Three other Gamsakhurdia associates, including his former chief bodyguard, Djambul Bokuchava, received prison sentences of between eight and 15 years. Some 1,500 Gamsakhurdia supporters gathered outside the court to protest the sentences. Speaking on Georgian Radio on 18 November, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze hinted that he would decide before the end of this year whether to abolish the death penalty. -- Liz Fuller NAGORNO-KARABAKH NEGOTIATION UPDATE. Acting Armenian presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan said that Azerbaijan has refused to participate further in drafting a joint declaration of principles on a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL reported on 19 November. The declaration was due to be presented at the OSCE's December summit in Lisbon. Zurabyan said Armenia will not sign any documents at the summit unless all sides agree on them in advance. Meanwhile, another round of Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks sponsored by the OSCE Minsk group began in Helsinki on 18 November, Noyan Tapan and Turan reported. -- Emil Danielyan ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HEARINGS INTERRUPTED. The Armenian Constitutional Court on 19 November interrupted its hearings on the opposition's appeal of the recent presidential polls after the proxies of defeated candidate Vazgen Manukyan staged a walk-out, RFE/RL reported. Shavarsh Kocharyan, Manukyan's representative to the court, said the proxies were protesting the court's refusal to demand access to all of the precinct-level voting protocols from the Central Electoral Commission and to listen to complaints of alleged voting irregularities from opposition witnesses. Kocharyan said the opposition will not attend the hearings unless its demands are satisfied. -- Emil Danielyan PROTESTS OVER BEATING OF AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST. Reporters sans frontieres and the independent Azerbaijani journalists' organization Yeni Nesil have both protested the 17 November beating of journalist Taptig Farkhadoglu by a group of plainclothes police officers, Turan reported on 19 November. The incident took place shortly after Farkhadoglu interviewed Party of National Statehood Chairman Nemat Panahov, who had himself been detained by security officials on 15 November and warned against holding a planned demonstration in Baku on 17 November. -- Liz Fuller KAZAKSTANI FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS OIC OFFICIAL. Kazakstani Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev discussed the situation in Afghanistan with Ibrahim Saleh Bakr, the deputy secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in Almaty on 17 November, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported on 18 November. The OIC, which has been trying to arrange peace negotiations involving all opposing forces in Afghanistan, is currently looking for the support from various Asian states. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty KYRGYZSTAN OFFERS TO HOST AFGHAN CONFERENCE. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev forwarded a letter to the UN on 18 November offering Bishkek as a venue for Afghan peace talks that would involve representatives of the UN Security Council, RFE/RL reported. On the same day, 18 countries, including Russia and the CIS Central Asian states, met at the UN behind closed doors to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Kabul Radio, controlled by the Taliban rebel group, commented that the UN meeting "runs counter to the interests of the Afghan people," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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