|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 230, Part I, 27 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 SOME DUMA FACTIONS OPPOSE SPECIAL SESSION ON CHECHNYA. Russian Regions faction leader Vladimir Medvedev called for canceling the Duma's special session set for 29 November, citing the Justice Ministry's conclusion that the accord signed by Chernomyrdin and Maskhadov is constitutional, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 November. Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin said there was no need for the session since it was merely an attempt by the opposition to patch up divisions that have recently appeared in its ranks, RIA Novosti reported. Liberal Democratic Party of Russian Duma Deputy Chairman Mikhail Gutseriev believes that the reaction of the communists and their allies has been "too emotional" since neither the troop withdrawal decree nor the accord say Chechnya is not part of Russia. Duma Deputy Chairman Sergei Baburin, of the People's Power faction, however, called on President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to resign. -- Robert Orttung BASAEV TO RUN FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENT. Speaking on Chechen television on 26 November, field commander Shamil Basaev announced his candidacy for the 27 January 1997 Chechen presidential elections, Russian and Western agencies reported. Basaev, who commanded the Chechen militants who perpetrated the hostage taking in the southern Russian town of Budennovsk in June 1995, said that in running for president he wished to demonstrate his ability "not only to fight but to build a peaceful life." Also on 26 November, thousands of Chechens congregated in Grozny to commemorate the second anniversary of the abortive attempt to overthrow the Dudaev leadership. Speaking in Moscow on 26 November, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov warned that Russia will oppose the plans of the Chechen leadership, as outlined by premier Aslan Maskhadov in an interview with a Saudi newspaper, to open embassies in Turkey and a number of Asian states, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller LUZHKOV JOINING RULING TROIKA. Yeltsin may be boosting Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's power and prestige as a counterweight to Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 26 November. Traditionally, Yeltsin rules with a threesome or foursome of immediate subordinates, while reserving the role of arbiter for himself. With the removal of Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, only Chubais and Chernomyrdin are considered key players. Luzhkov's participation in the 21 November Consultative Council meeting is evidence of his rise. The mayor's strong political support base, aggressive tactics, and past differences with Chubais over privatization make him a logical balancer. -- Robert Orttung BEREZOVSKII SAID TO HAVE A GREEN CARD. Kuranty on 26 November published a photo of a document it claimed was a valid U.S. green card in the name of Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii. Berezovskii had an Israeli passport until recently, renouncing his citizenship after he was appointed to the Security Council. According to Komsomolskaya pravda on 27 November, documents purporting to show that Berezovskii has the right to reside in the U.S. have been distributed to various editorial offices. The paper noted that there is now a considerable market in kompromat, or compromising material. It claimed that the latest material on Berezovskii might be an attempt to divert attention away from the scandal over his Israeli citizenship rather than simply another attempt to discredit him. -- Penny Morvant CHERNOMYRDIN DENOUNCES NATO EXPANSION PLANS. On an official visit to Paris, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 26 November harshly criticized the "obstinacy" of "certain forces" in the West, which want to achieve the goal of NATO expansion "at whatever cost, without concern for the legitimate national security concerns of Russia," AFP reported. Harking back to Soviet diplomatic tactics, which often attempted to exploit divisions within NATO, Chernomyrdin praised Paris's stance on enlargement as close to that of Moscow. He also alluded to Franco- American disputes over European security, saying that Europeans "should be able to decide their destiny without outside interference." Earlier, Chernomyrdin and his French counterpart Alain Juppe signed three agreements covering taxes, space exploration, and agriculture. -- Scott Parrish RODIONOV REFUSES TO ACCEPT JOINT BASING OF BLACK SEA FLEET. Speaking after a 26 November Moscow meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksander Kuzmuk, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov reiterated that Russia will not accept joint basing of the Ukrainian and Russian portions of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Russian media reported. Rebuffing continuing claims to Sevastopol by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, however, Rodionov argued that Russia must "resign itself" to the "fact" that Crimea and Sevastopol belong to Ukraine. Kuzmuk insisted the Ukrainian navy would be based in Sevastopol, and predicted that further talks would resolve the dispute. Rodionov blamed the failure to achieve compromise on "third forces" in Russia, Ukraine and other countries which hope to torpedo Russo-Ukrainian cooperation. Despite the fleet disagreement, the two ministers signed a bilateral military cooperation plan for 1997, which includes measures strengthening joint air defense and communications. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA PROTESTS U.S. BAN ON SUPERCOMPUTER SALES. The Ministry of Atomic Energy on 26 November protested the decision by the U.S. Commerce Department blocking its plans to purchase American high-speed computers, NTV and ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 November 1996). Ministry spokesman Grigorii Kaurov dismissed as "groundless" American concerns that the proposed computer sales would pose a risk of nuclear proliferation, saying that the ministry had intended to use the computers to improve the safety and security of the existing Russian nuclear stockpile. He complained that the decision showed that "mutual trust" had not been established between Washington and Moscow. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA DENIES IT HAS BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS PROGRAM. Addressing a conference of 138 signatories of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, Russian delegation head Grigorii Berdennikov said that Russia adheres to all clauses of the convention, and has "never developed, produced, accumulated, or stored biological weapons," ITAR-TASS reported. He said Russia supports moves to strengthen enforcement of the treaty, but any new inspection regime must be inexpensive and non-discriminatory. Earlier, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency head John Holum said Washington suspects 12 countries, including Russia, Iraq, and China of having biological weapons programs. In 1992, President Yeltsin admitted that the Soviet Union had developed biological weapons in violation of the 1972 convention, but insisted that all such programs had been terminated. -- Scott Parrish SOLZHENITSYN ASSAILS RUSSIAN LEADERSHIP. Nobel prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn published an article in the French daily Le Monde in which he painted a grim picture of present-day Russia, AFP reported on 26 November. The article was timed to coincide with Chernomyrdin's visit to Paris. Solzhenitsyn argues that the new Russian leadership is no better than the communists and stresses that "nothing resembling democracy currently exists in Russia." He states that the country is ruled by an oligarchy of 150 to 200 people, drawn from former members of the communist elite or the "new rich" who amassed instant fortunes through illegal means. Solzhenitsyn argues that the state operates without any accountability to society, while the press is under tight control. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski YASIN WARNS OF ECONOMIC CRASH. In a letter to Chernomyrdin, Economy Minister Yevgenii Yasin warned that the government's economic policy "is dragging the country into the abyss of a long depression." The letter was published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 26 November; independent confirmation of its authenticity is not available. Yasin writes that the slide in tax collections "is not due to the evil refusal to pay taxes by people who have money, but the contraction of the tax base as a consequence of the fall in production and worsening financial situation of enterprises." He called for a radical change in the government's course, but did not come up with much in the way of concrete policy proposals. -- Peter Rutland INDUSTRIALISTS UNHAPPY. Arkadii Volskii, president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, told a national congress of the organization on 26 November that the money supply should be raised from 12% to 60% of GDP to stop the economic recession, ORT reported. He said that the emergency tax commission is not working because "it is avoiding the half-criminalized banks and fake financial companies, trading houses, and intermediaries," and cracking down on manufacturers while "protecting the field for the new Russians." Volskii said "the idea that there is a directors' bloc, or 'red directors' who want to drag the country into the past, has become a fairy tale." -- Peter Rutland RUBLE CORRIDOR SET FOR 1997. At a press conference on 26 November, Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits and Central Bank head Sergei Dubinin said the "inclined corridor" for the ruble will be continued through 1997 to ensure "stability and predictability" in the exchange rate, ITAR-TASS reported. The corridor will slide from 5,500-6,100 rubles per dollar on 1 January 1997 to 5,750-6,350 rubles on 31 December1997. The plan is to have the ruble slip against the dollar by no more than 1.1% per month, and hopefully at a rate below domestic price inflation. This would mean that the ruble will continue to slowly appreciate in real terms against the dollar, which is favorable to importers but not to exporters. On 27 November the official course was 5,503 rubles to the dollar. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA AND FRANCE SETTLE TSARIST DEBT. Russia's Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov and France's Finance Minister Jean Arthuis signed an agreement on repaying tsarist debts on 26 November, AFP reported. Russian state bonds in French hands will be redeemed over a four-year period by dividing $400 million by the number of claims. Over the last 10 years, Russia signed similar deals with the U.K., the U.S., Canada, and Switzerland. Arthuis said the deal should improve Russia's investment risk grade, lowering insurance premiums and boosting investment. Signing the deal means that French investors can now participate in Russia's eurobond trade. The agreement may also help Russia's application to join the Paris Club as a creditor (in light of debts owed to it by Third World nations). -- Natalia Gurushina AVTOVAZ BANKRUPTCY IMMINENT. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin has decided to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against the Togliatti auto manufacturer AvtoVAZ, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 26-27 November. Potanin said that company officials refused to cooperate with a government plan to sell 50% of the company's shares to a strategic investor. According to State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh, AvtoVAZ's debts amount to 11 trillion rubles ($2 billion), of which 2.8 trillion rubles are owed in federal taxes. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UN SECURITY COUNCIL SLAMS ABKHAZ ELECTIONS. The UN Security Council, following a briefing by UN special envoy for Georgia Edouard Brunner and his deputy Liviu Bota, on 26 November issued a statement deploring the holding of "so-called parliamentary elections" in Abkhazia on 23 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement, however, expressed satisfaction at last week's meeting between Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan. In the polls, 30 deputies were elected, including 19 Abkhaz, four Russians, three Armenians, two Georgians, one Kabardian, and one Greek; runoffs will be held in five constituencies where turnout was below the required 50%. In Abkhazia, celebrations were held on 26 November to mark the first anniversary of the adoption of a new constitution. -- Liz Fuller MORE REACTIONS TO NAGORNO-KARABAKH ELECTION. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on 26 November issued a statement reiterating its condemnation of the 24 November presidential election in the self-proclaimed Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said the election was an attempt "to annex a part of Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenian troops," and blamed Armenia for initiating the "illegal act." Meanwhile, reelected Nagorno-Karabakh President Robert Kocharyan assessed his landslide victory (more than 85% of the vote) as support for his administration's policies, Noyan Tapan reported on 26 November. -- Emil Danielyan RASI-ZADE CONFIRMED AS AZERBAIJAN'S PRIME MINISTER. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev on 26 November issued a decree naming Artur Rasi- Zade as Azerbaijan's new prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported. Rasi-Zade had been acting prime minister since the resignation, ostensibly on health grounds, of Fuad Kuliev on 19 July. Rasi-Zade was born in Gyanje in 1935, trained as an oil engineer, and worked from 1957-1978 in the oil sector. He then worked as deputy chairman of Gosplan and from 1981- 86 as head of the Machine-Building Department of the Azerbaijan CP Central Committee. He held the post of first deputy prime minister between 1988 and 1992, prior to the advent to power of the Azerbaijan Popular Front. -- Liz Fuller UNREST IN SOUTHERN KAZAKSTANI CITY. The Kazakstani city of Shymkent experienced three days of protests against the shortage of electricity, gas and telephones services, RFE/RL reported on 26 November. Despite an agreement signed earlier in November with Uzbekistan to increase power supplies to southern Kazakstan, no visible results were seen by 24 November. RFE/RL reported youths broke car windows, elderly people blocked traffic, and thousands of people took to the streets. Authorities in the region turned on the city's electricity and natural gas supplies and as of 27 November reports indicate order has been restored. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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