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No. 227, Part I, 22 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 LEAVES HOSPITAL; ZYUGANOV DOUBTS HIS STRENGTH. President Boris Yeltsin left the Central Clinical Hospital for the Barvikha sanitarium on 22 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, however, charged that the president has not made enough progress. "Anyone who knows anything about medicine knows that after three heart attacks, five bypasses, and with concerns about a number of other organs, a person cannot work at full strength," Reuters quoted him as saying. Zyuganov noted that in a crisis, Yeltsin might have to work around the clock. -- Robert Orttung CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL HOLDS FIRST MEETING. The Consultative Council, which is supposed to bring together the president, prime minister, and the speakers of both houses, met for the first time on 21 November to discuss Belarus and Chechnya, Russian TV (RTR) reported. Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais sat in for President Yeltsin, and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev attended even though on 30 October he had announced he would not attend any council meetings in which Chubais replaced Yeltsin. He said the importance of the Belarusian situation made him change his mind. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Our Home Is Russia Duma faction leader Sergei Belyaev, and Liberal Democratic Party representative Stanislav Zhebrovskii attended as well. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Zyuganov did not participate, although they were invited. After the meeting, Chernomyrdin, Seleznev, and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev flew to Minsk. -- Robert Orttung IZVESTIYA ACCUSES YELTSIN OF VIOLATING LAW WITH BEREZOVSKII APPOINTMENT. Izvestiya on 22 November continued its campaign against Deputy Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii, charging that the president and other executive branch officials violated Russian legislation prohibiting the appointment of foreign citizens to Russian state bodies. Berezovskii held Israeli citizenship for the first three weeks of his appointment the paper charged, asking why the law did not apply to Russia's top officials. Meanwhile, Moskovskii komsomolets asked if there would be any investigation into numerous illegal operations which Berezovskii allegedly conducted as the general director of the auto trading company LogoVAZ. -- Robert Orttung TOP POLITICIANS TO BE QUESTIONED OVER LISOVSKII-YEVSTAFEV CASE. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov on 21 November ordered his office to begin a criminal investigation into the 19 June incident in which Yeltsin campaign aides Sergei Lisovskii and Arkadii Yevstafev were stopped by the Presidential Security Service as they were carrying $538,000 in cash out of government headquarters, ITAR-TASS reported. The case was previously under the purview of the Moscow Procurator's Office. The agency quoted "reliable sources" as saying the investigators plan to question a number of senior figures linked to the scandal, including Chubais, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin, presidential aide Sergei Krasavchenko, and former Presidential Security Service chiefs Aleksandr Korzhakov and Valerii Streletskii. Krasavchenko featured along with Chubais and Ilyushin in a transcript of an alleged conversation of plans to cover up the incident published by Moskovskii komsomolets, but Nezavisimaya gazeta speculated on 20 November that the third speaker was actually Sergei Shakhrai. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIA DENIES HIRING CIA AGENT. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin denied that Russia had hired CIA officer Harold Nicholson to conduct espionage, Russian and Western agencies reported on 21 November. Demurin said "We have no information to confirm the report" that Nicholson had worked as Moscow's paid agent. Referring to U.S. threats of retaliation, Demurin warned against "any attempt to artificially complicate Russian-U.S. relations under any pretext." The same day, however, a federal grand jury in Virginia found the evidence against Nicholson convincing enough to return an indictment against him on charges of conspiring to spy for Russia. -- Scott Parrish OMON SOLDIERS STILL CAPTIVE. The two OMON soldiers who were taken hostage by Chechen gunmen on 20 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 November 1996) remain captive, NTV reported on 21 November. The field commander holding them will free them only after three of his men are released from federal custody. Chechen officials, including acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, however, did convince the same field commander to release two International Red Cross workers whom he had also been holding hostage. A Chechen member of the Grozny joint command said such incidents would likely recur, since many Chechen field commanders want their men who were captured by federal forces to be released, but federal authorities regard these prisoners as criminals. Meanwhile, bad weather delayed Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin's arrival in Nazran, Ingushetiya, where he is scheduled to discuss the planned Russian-Chechen treaty with Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov -- Scott Parrish MORE MIXED SIGNALS ON NATO. Speaking after a Versailles session of the North Atlantic Assembly, Duma Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin said Moscow "must become accustomed" to the idea that the eastward enlargement of NATO "is inevitable," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November. In order to avoid the emergence of "new dividing lines" in Europe, Shokhin also said NATO enlargement should be accompanied by a restructuring of other European security organizations, like the OSCE, and said that arms control agreements like START II and CFE would need revision as well. He also said that a NATO guarantee not to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members would help Moscow accept enlargement. Meanwhile, in Moscow, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told visiting British Defense Minister Michael Portillo that NATO enlargement would divide Europe, and insisted that the OSCE play the leading role in European security. -- Scott Parrish LEBED CONCERNED ABOUT "UNSATISFACTORY" NUCLEAR SAFETY. In Washington on his first visit to the U.S., former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed warned that the insufficient security measures at Russian nuclear installations make them vulnerable to terrorist attack and theft. After a meeting with Senator Richard Lugar, who co-authored legislation aimed at assisting Russia to upgrade the security and safety of its nuclear facilities, Lebed said that "any cost is justified" to rectify the situation. The Clinton administration and the Russian government have officially insisted that the current safeguards are adequate. Lebed later held a "warm and friendly" meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Russian press coverage of Lebed's visit remained derisive. NTV pointedly omitted Lebed's substantive comments, while ridiculing his statement that he would be willing to re-enter the government if invited. -- Scott Parrish AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ON TORTURE IN RUSSIA. In a new report, "Torture and ill-treatment in Russia," Amnesty International says that decrees issued by President Yeltsin have made it easier for police to torture and ill-treat suspects and that ethnic minorities are particularly at risk. According to an RFE/RL correspondent, Amnesty says it has received numerous reports of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police custody and prisons, and within the context of the Chechen conflict. It specifically criticized Yeltsin's June 1994 decree against organized crime, which allows the detention of suspects for up to 30 days without charge, and the July 1996 decree on combating crime in Moscow that authorizes law enforcement organs to detain vagrants and homeless people for 30 days. -- Penny Morvant NEW FUEL CRISIS IN PRIMORE. The mayor of a city in the Far East warned his fellow residents on 21 November that they are likely to be evacuated because of a shortage of fuel for local heating plants, RTR reported. The mayor of Bolshoi Kamen, a city of 30,000, said supplies would run out on 25 November. He sent a telegram to Moscow asking for help and appealed to other city administrations to house Bolshoi Kamen's residents temporarily. According to ITAR-TASS, stocks of fuel oil at power stations elsewhere in Primore are once again extremely low. Vladivostok has received 600 metric tons of fuel oil from the Pacific Fleet, enough to keep one of the two boilers at the city's heat and power plant in operation, but apartment blocks will receive only enough warm water to prevent pipes from freezing. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIA ISSUES EUROBONDS. Russia has successfully launched its first $1 billion issue of eurobonds in major international financial markets, AFP reported on 21 November. Five-year bonds will bear a coupon income of 9.25%. The success of the issue is ascribed to progress in negotiations with the Paris Club of official creditors and the London Club of commercial creditors over the rescheduling of Russia's external debt; and the decision last month of major international credit rating agencies to give Russia its first credit grades. Also encouraging was the favorable outcome of President Yeltsin's heart operation and the government's resumption earlier this week of payments on stolen state foreign currency bonds (OVVZ) that were frozen in June. Russian authorities plan a series of similar issues in 1997 expecting to raise $1.3 billion for the federal budget. The eurobond issue may now pave the way to the international financial markets for Russian companies and local authorities. -- Natalia Gurushina NET FOREIGN EXCHANGE RESERVES DECLINING. Russia's net foreign exchange reserves (NFER) dropped by nearly 30% during the period from the presidential election until October, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 21 November. In October, NFER stood at $3.2 billion. During the presidential campaign, Russia sold $4.4 billion of the reserves, which led to the reduction of the NFER from $8.7 billion to $4.3 billion. According to the report, Russia's NFER may shrink to $1.9 billion by the beginning of next year. Meanwhile, Russia's gold output continue to decline. In the first 10 months of 1996, it reached 100 metric tons, 7 tons less than the same period a year earlier, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November. As a result, the 1996 federal budget will not receive some $400-$450 million in tax revenue from the gold mining industry. -- Natalia Gurushina GOVERNMENT TO MAINTAIN REFORM COURSE. The government on 21 November approved an economic program for the 1997-2000 period, Kommersant Daily reported. It plans to hold inflation below 8% while stimulating a 5% annual growth in GDP and cutting all budget subsidies (estimated to amount to 8% of GDP, according to Segodnya on 21 November). Meanwhile, a new IMF team was in Moscow, following up the inconclusive visit of a team in October. Due to worries over tax collection, the IMF delayed the release of the October tranche, worth $340 million, of the $10.1 billion Extended Fund Facility approved in April, and will probably delay the November tranche. Reuters reported on 22 November that tax revenues rose from 13.5 trillion rubles in September to 17 trillion in October, and are running at a rate of 25 trillion (12% of GDP) in November. The reliability of these figures--for example, the extent to which they reflect actual cash payments rather than "tax credits"--is unclear. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS OPPOSITION APPEAL. The Consti- tutional Court on 22 November rejected the opposition's appeal to annul the results of the 22 September controversial presidential election, Reuters reported, citing ITAR-TASS. Observers note that the decision, which is not subject to appeal, may trigger a new wave of mass protests by opposition supporters. Also, commenting on the resolution of the European Parliament condemning the ballot (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 November 1996), acting presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan said "it was based on inaccurate and unverified data," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November. -- Emil Danielyan EU CALLS FOR CANCELLATION OF ABKHAZ ELECTIONS. The EU has called on the leadership of Abkhazia to cancel the parliamentary election slated for 23 November, arguing that it could fuel tensions and violence in the region, Reuters reported on 22 November. It said the election should take place only after a final decision on Abkhazia's status within Georgia. According to ITAR-TASS, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba said the multiethnic composition of the candidates legitimizes the vote. Ardzinba said he hopes Abkhazia's ethnic Georgian population will participate in the election. -- Emil Danielyan IRANIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN VISITS KAZAKSTAN. The head of the Iranian Mezhlis, Ali Akbar Notik Nuri, met with Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Almaty on 22 November, Khabar TV reported. Nazarbayev emphasized Iran's "strategic importance" for Kazakstan and increasing bilateral trade, especially in view of the recent oil swap agreements signed earlier this year. Nuri also shared the achievements of the Islamic revolution in Iran, especially in fighting "pseudo-Western culture." -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty CABLE TV IN ALMATY. The joint U.S.-Kazakstani company Alma TV has announced the launch of the first cable TV station in Almaty, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported on 21 November. About 2,000 cable TV sets will be installed during the first trial, able to broadcast more than 30 channels. The company, established by the U.S. International Telcell company and its Kazakstani partner in 1994, has already been offering satellite TV retranslating service in Almaty. The first attempt to introduce a cable system in Almaty in 1992 failed due to low market demand. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty TAJIK GOVERNMENT FORCES HOLD BACK REBEL ADVANCE. Tajik Defense Ministry forces repelled opposition attacks on military posts in the Khaburabad Pass on 21 November, according to Reuters and ITAR-TASS. The pass, located 300 km east of Dushanbe, overlooks the main highway running east from the capital. The Defense Ministry sent a protest to the UN observer mission, stating that this and similar attacks on Komsomolabad and in the Tavil-Dara area are a clear violation of the Tehran ceasefire agreement signed in 1994. -- Bruce Pannier RUSSIAN COMMANDER IN TAJIKISTAN DEMANDS ACTION ON TERRORISM. Lt.-Gen. Viktor Zavarzin, the commander of the CIS peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan, sent a note to Tajik law enforcement agencies expressing his dissatisfaction at their efforts to combat attacks on the CIS force troops, according to ITAR-TASS on 21 November. Zavarzin's protest comes after the 19 November murder of a Tajik Defense Ministry officer, who was Russian, the abduction on the same day of the wife of a Russian serviceman, and the shooting of two soldiers from the 201st Motorized Rifle Division on 20 November. All the crimes occurred in the Tajik capital Dushanbe. -- Bruce Pannier AFGHAN REFUGEES SHOW UP IN TURKMENISTAN. The Red Cross announced that 800 people fleeing the fighting in western Afghanistan have crossed into Turkmenistan, RFE/RL reported on 21 November. Red Cross spokesman Thorir Gudmundsson said the number could climb to as high as 18,000 if fighting continues near Herat. At least 50,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the fighting in the Badghis province of Afghanistan. -- 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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