|It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is. - Erasmus|
No. 236, Part I, 9 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 DUMA POSTPONES BUDGET VOTE UNTIL 15 DECEMBER. The Duma decided on 6 December to postpone voting on the revised 1997 budget until 15 December, ITAR-TASS reported. The draft budget prepared by the government-parliament conciliatory commission is opposed by all parliamentary factions except Our Home is Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, whose leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky changed his position at the last moment, urging postponement rather than outright rejection. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov slammed the budget, saying that "the state is bankrupt, the president is ill, the government is helpless, and the Duma is powerless." Observers suggest that some factions may be willing to vote for the budget in exchange for the dismissal of Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais or other government changes. -- Natalia Gurushina YELTSIN NAMES SHAKHRAI TO KEY POSTS. President Boris Yeltsin on 7 December appointed Duma member Sergei Shakhrai as deputy chief of staff and his representative to the Constitutional Court. Since Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and Shakrai are known to have bad relations, NTV characterized Shakhrai's appointment as Yeltsin's first post-operation move to establish checks on Chubais's power. Until now, Chubais had named the leaders of the administration staff independently. Shakhrai is not very popular in Russia, viewed by the public as being partly responsible for the administration's failed policies in Chechnya, and hated by the opposition for its role in the Belavezha meeting which ended the Soviet Union and the Constitutional Court case banning the Communist Party. Since 1991 he has held, and been fired from, a large number of high government posts under Yeltsin, covering nationalities issues, regional policy, and the media. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN, STROEV MEET. Yeltsin addressed some of Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev's concerns in a 6 December meeting by saying that he would personally oversee the timely payment of pensions and salaries once he returns to the Kremlin on 25 December, Russian TV (RTR) reported. Following Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's failure to appear in the Federation Council on 4 December, the upper house invited him to speak at a special 10 December session, but it is not clear if he will appear this time either, Kommersant-Daily reported on 6 December. NTV argued that government Chief of Staff Vladimir Babichev made a serious tactical error in telling Stroev that the constitution did not require Chernomyrdin to appear when the Federation Council summoned him. Chernomyrdin did address the State Duma on 6 December, promising action on wage and pension arrears. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN TO MEET KOHL, CHIRAC. Presidential Press Secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 6 December that Yeltsin and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl have agreed to meet on 4 January, Russian and Western media reported. The one-day meeting will take place at Yeltsin's country residence in Zavidovo, about 100 km north of Moscow. Kohl will be the first Western leader to meet Yeltsin since his heart surgery. On 8 December, the presidential press service told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin and French President Jacques Chirac have also agreed to hold a brief meeting in Moscow in early January, although no exact date has been set. Like the recent announcement of a Yeltsin-Clinton summit in March, these visits aim to show that Yeltsin is reassuming the leadership of Russian foreign policy. -- Scott Parrish CHECHEN ELECTION UPDATE. Nineteen candidates announced their intention to contest the Chechen presidential election by the 7 December deadline, AFP reported. That day, former Russian parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov announced that he will not run, Ekho Moskvy reported. Presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held on 27 January. It is not yet clear whether Vakha Arsanov will agree to acting premier Aslan Maskhadov's proposal to become his running mate; both men have already collected the 10,000 signatures in their support which must be submitted to the Central Electoral Commission by 27 December. Shamil Beno, leader of the Daimokhk (Motherland) party, called on Chechen voters to register as early as possible; Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin had told journalists on 6 December after visiting Grozny the previous day that lists of voters would be ready by the end of this week. Polling stations will be established in Stavropol, Ingushetiya, and Dagestan for refugees from Chechnya. Also on 7 December, Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalev again called for the postponement of the elections on the grounds that preparations had run into "major difficulties," Reuters reported, quoting NTV. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN COMMENTATORS WARY OF ALBRIGHT APPOINTMENT. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov reacted positively to the 5 December appointment of Madeleine Albright as U.S. Secretary of State, calling her a "professional" and a "good partner for dialogue," Russian and Western media reported on 6 December. But many Russian commentators were less diplomatic, and expressed worry that her appointment signals that Washington will take a harsher line with Moscow during Clinton's second term. Segodnya on 7 December said the appointment of the Czech-born diplomat "creates colossal problems" for the Russian Foreign Ministry, citing her firm backing of NATO enlargement and her reputation for tough bargaining. On the same day, Izvestiya speculated that Albright's background makes her "inclined toward confrontation" with Moscow, while NTV said her appointment signals the strengthening of "anti-Russian forces" in Washington. -- Scott Parrish BEREZOVSKII, CHUBAIS RESIGN FROM RUSSIAN PUBLIC TV (ORT) BOARD. Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and Deputy Secretary of the Security Council Boris Berezovskii gave up their positions on the ORT Board of Directors at the 7 December shareholders' meeting, ITAR-TASS reported. In their place, the board appointed four new members: State Privatization Committee head Alfred Kokh, Presidential Business Manager Pavel Borodin, First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksander Vavilov, and Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Maksim Boiko. The state holds a 51% stake in ORT, and the largest private shareholders are Gazprom, Stolichnyi Bank, and Berezovskii's LogoVAZ company. Berezovskii is considered by many as the key person in defining the TV channel's content and policies. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski MORE INCUMBENTS LOSE . . . Following the 8 December voting, incumbents have won only 14 of 30 gubernatorial elections completed since 1 September. Opposition-backed candidates defeated incumbent governors in Bryansk, Voronezh, and Vladimir oblasts on 8 December, RTR reported the next day. Duma Deputy Yurii Lodkin received 54% of the vote, twice as much as the Bryansk incumbent Aleksandr Semernev. Voronezh Oblast legislature chairman Ivan Shabanov outpolled Governor Aleksandr Tsapin by about 8%, receiving slightly less than 50% of the vote. Vladimir Oblast legislature chairman Nikolai Vinogradov won more than 60% of the vote, three times more than the incumbent governor, Yurii Vlasov. Additionally, 67% of the voters backed Oleg Bogomolov, the chairman of the Kurgan Oblast legislature, in the second round of elections there, while 33% voted against him. He was the only candidate in the run-off since the others withdrew. The courts have yet to rule on whether the vote was valid. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow . . . BUT SOME WIN, AND OTHERS FACE TOUGH RUN-OFFS. Viktor Ishaev of Khabarovsk Krai secured reelection, sweeping 77% of the vote, while his main rival, businessman and Duma deputy Valentin Tsoi, supported by the opposition, received 7%. Anatolii Guvhvin, Astrakhan Oblast governor, was reelected with 52% support, while his competitor, Duma deputy Vyacheslav Zvolinskii, obtained 40% of the vote. A second round will be held in Arkhangelsk, Kostroma, Perm, and Ryazan oblasts on 22 December, where the incumbents will be challenged by opposition candidates. The incumbents are trailing in Kostroma and Ryazan, and have done poorly in previous runoffs. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow KOSTROMA VOTERS REJECT NUCLEAR POWER STATION. In a referendum on 8 December, Kostroma voters rejected by 87% to 10% a proposal to complete the construction of a nuclear power station in the province, ITAR-TASS reported. The local anti-nuclear group "In the Name of Life" collected 36,000 signatures to call the referendum -- well above the 10,000 legal requirement. This was the activists' second try: a 1993 petition, with 16,000 signatures, was declared invalid. The Ministry of Nuclear Energy campaigned in favor of completion, saying the station would create 20,000 jobs. Work began on the station in 1981, was suspended in 1990 in light of the 1986 Chornobyl accident, but was restarted in 1992. The referendum, the first of its kind in Russia, is legally binding since turnout was 59% - above the required 50%, Reuters reported. -- Peter Rutland MINERS' STRIKE CONTINUES. The nationwide strike by coalminers entered its seventh day on 9 December, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. On 7 December the miners' union presidium voted to continue the strike. The miners are protesting wage arrears of 400 billion rubles ($70 million). Despite earlier reports of an impending visit, neither Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin nor First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin have yet traveled to the Kuzbass, the major coal region, to placate the miners. On 7 December 90,000 teachers in 27 regions also began a strike over unpaid wages. Teachers' union spokesman Vladimir Yakovlev told ITAR-TASS on 9 December that the nation's teachers are owed 6.5 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion) in back pay. A hunger strike by 13 workers at the Sosnovyi Bor nuclear station near St. Petersburg that began on 30 November ended on 8 December, ITAR-TASS reported. The government has promised to send 27 billion rubles to the plant by 28 December to clear wage arrears. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN-GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS. Russian, Georgian, and Abkhaz representatives agreed at talks in Moscow on 4-7 December to continue work on a draft document on the foundations for regulating the conflict, confidence-building, and the repatriation of ethnic Georgian refugees, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili met in Moscow on 6 December with his Russian counterpart Yevgenii Primakov to discuss various aspects of bilateral relations, including the division of the Black Sea fleet, Russia's military bases in Georgia, joint patrolling of the Georgian-Turkish frontier, and the Abkhaz conflict, Russian media reported. At a subsequent press conference Primakov announced that ethnic Georgian refugees from Abkhazia will begin returning to their homes in January. During several days of simultaneous talks in Moscow, Georgian Interior Minister Shota Kviraya solicited the assistance of his Russian counterpart Anatolii Kulikov in preventing the creation of an Islamic Republic in the Caucasus that would include Abkhazia, according to NTV. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN BORDER TROOP COMMANDER IN ARMENIA. Gen. Andrei Nikolaev completed a one-day visit to Armenia after holding a long private meeting with President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported on 8 December. Nikolaev said that the Armenian leadership supports the presence of Russian troops on its borders with Turkey and Iran, and that he is satisfied with the results of the visit. According to Nikolaev, Ter-Petrossyan called for "additional measures" to strengthen the CIS's external borders. Nikolaev ruled out the possibility of a withdrawal of the Russian border troops from Georgia, arguing that all the problems with the latter "have been settled" during his recent visit to that country, Noyan Tapan reported on 6 December. -- Emil Danielyan TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER'S PLANE FORCED DOWN. A plane taking United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri to his scheduled 9 December meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in northern Afghanistan was forced down by aircraft of the Taliban movement, Russian and Western sources reported. Taliban sources say Nuri is a "guest" and they will allow him to continue on to the meeting point in Kunduz. Rakhmonov, in Dushanbe, is waiting for word of Nuri's arrival at Kunduz before leaving for the meeting. Fighting inside Tajikistan is at its worst since the civil war of 1992. Government forces are reported to be assaulting Komsomolabad (135 km east of Dushanbe), which fell to the opposition in October. Fighting is also reported in the Tavil-Dara area (200 km east of Dushanbe) and in the village of Chinor (60 km east of Dushanbe) near the Nurek hydro-electric plant. -- Bruce Pannier DEMONSTRATION IN KAZAKSTAN. Over 3,000 people gathered in front of the Academy of Sciences in Almaty on 8 December to protest living conditions, international media reported. Signs with the words "Salaries," "Pensions," "Free Press," and " Democracy" were burned and symbolically placed in small caskets. People shouted slogans such as "Nazarbayev (the Kazakstani president), you are our Hitler," "President Nazarbayev's credit with the people is finished" and most alarmingly, "Remember what happened to Najibullah" alluding to the former Afghan leader who was dragged from the UN compound in Kabul, killed, and hung in public. There are chronic energy shortages in the country and wage and pension arrears, by some accounts, stand at $500 million. -- Bruce Pannier TENGIZ PIPELINE DEAL FINALIZED. Meeting in Moscow on 6 December, participants in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium signed an agreement finalizing their respective stakes in the project, AFP reported. Fifty per cent of the project will be divided between the governments of Russia (24%), Kazakstan (19%), and Oman (7%); the remaining 50% will be divided between Lukoil (12.5%), Rosneft (7.5%), Chevron (15%), Mobil (7.5%), Italy's Agip (2%) British Gas (2%), Kazakstan's Munaigas (1.75%) and the U.S. firm Oryx (1.75%). Construction of the pipeline, which will initially transport 28 million tons of oil annually from Kazakstan's Tengiz field to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, will begin in 1997 and take an estimated two years at a cost of $1,500 million, according to Russia's deputy minister for oil and energy, Anatolii Shatalov. The pipeline will be operated by Russia's Transneft. -- Liz Fuller [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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