|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
,title>OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 232, Part I, 3 December 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 RUSSIA BLASTS NATO ENLARGEMENT AT OSCE SUMMIT . . . Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin admitted at the OSCE summit in Lisbon on 2 December that Russia could not "veto" NATO enlargement, but urged his fellow European leaders to consider "what the expansion of NATO might lead to," Russian and Western agencies reported. He rhetorically asked if the expansion of a military alliance was the best way to achieve the goal of a peaceful and united Europe, and called for giving the OSCE a "coordinating" role in European security. According to AFP, the dispute over the NATO issue will lead to its exclusion from the summit's final communique, which is to outline plans for a new European security architecture. Also meeting in Lisbon, the 30 signatories of the 1990 CFE treaty agreed to begin talks this January on revising the cold war-era treaty, a long-time Russian demand. -- Scott Parrish . . . BUT U.S. STANDS FIRM. In his address to the OSCE summit, U.S. Vice President Al Gore underlined the gap dividing Moscow and Washington on the NATO enlargement issue, insisting that NATO expansion will increase stability in Europe, and that NATO "poses no threat to any other state," AFP reported on 2 December. Chernomyrdin and Gore sought to put a positive spin on their subsequent meeting, however, which the Russian prime minister said "went off excellently." He added that "I cannot say that the American side did not listen to our arguments." Chernomyrdin said that Russia regards itself as part of Europe and does not want to be isolated from the rest of the continent. The two leaders also discussed a possible Clinton-Yeltsin summit, which is tentatively scheduled for the first half of 1997. -- Scott Parrish CONFUSION OVER DISMISSAL OF GROUND FORCES COMMANDER. Contradicting the Defense Ministry, the presidential press service on 2 December denied that President Boris Yeltsin had signed an order dismissing Army General Vladimir Semenov as Ground Forces commander, ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 December 1996). It said Yeltsin and Defense Minister Igor Rodionov had agreed in principle to sack Semenov, but a final decision would be made only after a review by the presidential commission on top military ranks. According to Izvestiya on 3 December, Rodionov told Semenov that the "commercial activities" of his wife, an engineer at the helicopter concern Rosvertol, had prompted his dismissal on charges of misconduct. But NTV reported that the Military Procurator's office has no pending investigation of Semenov, and Segodnya military commentator Pavel Felgengauer said it was Semenov's opposition to Rodionov's plans to downsize the ground forces that triggered efforts to remove him. -- Scott Parrish CHECHEN ELECTIONS MAY BE DELAYED. In an address read to the Chechen parliament on 2 December by speaker Akhyad Idigov, acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev proposed postponing for one or two months the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 27 January, AFP reported. Yandarbiev referred to his recent meeting with Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalev, who argued that there was not enough time to draw up voter lists or organize absentee voting among refugees from Chechnya. ITAR-TASS on 2 December quoted the chairman of the Chechen Central Electoral Commission, Mumadi Saidaev, as rejecting the proposed postponement. Also on 2 December, the head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, stated that he was confident of the Chechen leadership's determination to hold democratic, free, and fair elections, but that this could prove difficult given the shortage of funds available. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION (ORT) CHARGED WITH BIASED CAMPAIGN COVERAGE. The Juridical Chamber on Information Disputes ruled on 2 December that ORT's coverage of the Rostov Oblast gubernatorial elections violated the federal law governing citizens' voting rights, ITAR-TASS reported. ORT broadcast a report favoring incumbent Governor Vladimir Chub just a few hours before the beginning of the 29 September balloting. According to federal law, campaigning must stop 24 hours before the polls open. Chub's competitor, Communist Party Duma Deputy Leonid Ivanchenko, who trailed by a large margin (61%-32%) (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 September and 3 October 1996), appealed to the Chamber that ORT's coverage played a major role in shaping public opinion. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski ADMINISTRATION SEES GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN AS 19-5 IN ITS FAVOR. The administration has won 19 of the 24 gubernatorial elections completed since 1 September according to First Deputy Chief of Staff Aleksandr Kazakov, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 December. He arrived at this figure by counting the incumbents and "strong managers" who have won. Only 12 incumbents have won to date, while the administration hopes that at least seven of the new governors will support its policies. Kazakov argued that the gubernatorial elections will not have any particular impact on the alignment of political forces in Moscow. In contrast, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov claimed on 3 December that only five candidates from the "party of power" had won so far and that changes in the Federation Council would significantly affect the Russian budget, the government's economic policy, and the fight against crime and corruption, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung LEBED'S BROTHER LEADS IN KHAKASIYA. Aleksei Lebed, the younger brother of former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, won 45% of the vote in the first round of voting on 1 December in the executive branch elections in the republic of Khakasiya, Kommersant-Daily reported on 3 December. He will face businessman Yevgenii Reznik, who won 19%, in the second round. The incumbent Yevgenii Smirnov won only 8% and was eliminated. Lebed formerly led an airborne regiment based in the republic and was elected to the Duma from there in 1995. His victory can be attributed to his brother's celebrity, backing from the Sayansk aluminum factory, and the scandal surrounding an attempt to prevent him from registering because he had not lived in the republic for seven years. Presidential aide Aleksandr Kazakov has already declared that the younger Lebed is not a member of the opposition and that if he wins they will be prepared to work with him. -- Robert Orttung NATIONWIDE MINERS STRIKE. An estimated 400,000 of Russia's 560,000 coalminers launched an indefinite nationwide strike called by the the Russian Coal-Industry Workers' Union on 3 December, protesting wage arrears totalling 1.5 trillion rubles ($270 million), ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Workers from more than 100 mines in Kuzbass, the coal basin in Kemerovo Oblast, joined the strike: wage arrears in that region are estimated at 700 billion rubles. In Tula Oblast, workers from 11 coal mining companies on 2 December joined the hunger strike started by miners of the joint stock company Tulaugol on 22 October. Meanwhile, in Vorkuta, in the northern part of Komi Republic, the local branch of the Independent Coal Miners' Union denounced the strike as premature. -- Ritsuko Sasaki CHILE COMPLAINS ABOUT MARS PROBE SECRECY. Chilean Defense Minister Edmundo Perez criticized Russia on 2 December for failing to share technical information on the failed Mars-96 probe, which crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Chile on 17 November, Reuters reported. Chile is concerned about possible radioactive contamination from the probe, which carried 200 grams of plutonium as part of its power supplies. Perez said Moscow had assured Santiago that there is no risk of contamination, but complained that Russia "has been tremendously unwilling to give precise information" which would support this conclusion. Chilean air force and navy patrols have so far found no trace of radiation in the area where the probe fell into the ocean. -- Scott Parrish ENERGY SECTOR TRAPPED IN CIRCLE OF DEBT. Fuel and energy enterprises are owed 320 trillion rubles ($58 billion) by their customers--80% up on the debts at the end of 1995, according to State Tax Service department head Dmitrii Popov, cited by ITAR-TASS on 2 December. This sum is equal to two thirds of the energy sector's annual output. Popov claimed that non- cash forms of exchange account for an astonishing 80% of transactions in the energy sector. These money surrogates include barter, bills of exchange, mutual debt clearing, and tax credits. Popov also noted that energy firms reported losses of 7.6 trillion rubles in the first 10 months of the year, 56% of which were incurred by coal mines. Energy firms contributed 61.3 trillion rubles in federal taxes in the first 10 months of the year, but their tax debts totaled 30.6 trillion rubles at the end of October, up from 11.4 trillion in January. Despite the problems with non-paying customers, energy output only fell 0.8% this year. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIAN-FRENCH DEBT UPDATE. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and his French counterpart Alain Juppe have signed an agreement on restructuring Russia's $5 billion debt to France, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 3 December. The debt will be repaid over 25 years. Meanwhile, Vneshekonombank has been granted a $300 million loan by a consortium of French banks (including Societe Generale, BNP, and Credit Lyonnais), Trud reported on 30 November. The bulk of the loan, which is guaranteed by the Russian government, will be used for the purchase of French goods. These deals follow Russia's agreeing to pay $400 million to French holders of tsarist state bonds (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November 1996). -- Natalia Gurushina STATE PENSION FUND TO GET 3 TRILLION RUBLES LOAN. President Yeltsin has instructed the government to lend 3 trillion rubles ($545 million) to the State Pension Fund, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 December. At present, the fund is owed nearly 50 trillion rubles in mandatory contributions from the federal budget and enterprises. As a result, its own debt to pensioners tops 10 trillion rubles and pension payments in many regions are delayed for up to three months. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS CLASH AT OSCE SUMMIT. Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev, speaking at the OSCE summit in Lisbon on 2 December, accused Armenia of refusing to recognize his country's territorial integrity and of pursuing "non-legitimate claims for the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh," Reuters reported. Aliev said a high degree of autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan, along with security guarantees for the region's population, should be the key principles for settling the conflict. Aliev added that "we cannot allow the creation on the territory of Azerbaijan of a second Armenian state." Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan said the people of Nagorno- Karabakh should be given the right to self-determination because Azerbaijan is "unable" to guarantee their safety. Ter-Petrossyan warned that the region's population would face "genocide or forced deportation" if Azerbaijan's proposals were accepted. Observers note that Azerbaijan may block a final declaration by the OSCE on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict if it fails to affirm the region's territorial integrity. -- Emil Danielyan RED CROSS CALLS FOR MORE AID TO CENTRAL ASIA. The International Red Cross representative in Central Asia, Bob McKerrow, said $21 million will be needed in 1997 to provide adequate aid to the Central Asian states, according to a 2 December Reuters report. Speaking at a news conference in Almaty, McKerrow noted that Kazakstan already has cases of malnutrition, particularly in the western regions where drought ruined almost the entire harvest. The aggravated situations in Afghanistan and Tajikistan are also expected to increase the number of refugees in Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan there are presently 30,000 refugees, and people fleeing from the fighting in Afghanistan have appeared in Turkmenistan. -- Bruce Pannier PROBLEMS OF INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN KAZAKSTAN. Recent decisions by the Kazakstani government to suspend the broadcasting of several independent radio and television stations are drawing criticism from the Russian media. On 29 November AFP quoted Ekho Moskvy as saying the shutdown of nine stations on 4 November was an attempt by the Kazakstani government to limit information concerning a demonstration the following day. The government claimed the stations were broadcasting on frequencies which interfered with air traffic control. Radio Rossii reported on 30 November that the shutdown was an attempt to put non-government stations out of business for airing opposition views. It also noted that nearly 100% of TV and radio broadcasts are in Russian, and suggested that a tender for frequencies, coming after the New Year, will likely favor companies which will broadcast in Kazak, the state language. Members of the independent media and opposition are planning a demonstration in Almaty on 8 December. -- Bruce Pannier UZBEK HISTORIOGRAPHY. Academics working under President Islam Karimov's Academy for State and Societal Construction plan to issue a three-volume "Modern History of Uzbekistan," Khalq Sozi reported on 27 November as monitored by the BBC. The book will cover Tsarist colonialism, "Soviet Colonialism," and Uzbekistan's modern history of independence. The academics, led by historian Hamdam Sodiqov, are battling against "false conceptions about the history of independence" and "former Kremlin and Communist Party sycophants," the report said. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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