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No. 237, Part I, 10 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 CHECHEN LEADERSHIP SPLIT OVER ELECTIONS? The chairman of Chechnya's Central Electoral Commission, Mumadi Saidaev, told ITAR-TASS on 9 December that the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 27 January might have to be postponed unless all Russian troops are withdrawn from Chechen territory by that date. Also on 9 December, Chechen parliament speaker Amin Osmaev said in Grozny that it free and fair elections are impossible in Chechnya at the moment. Osmaev characterized the present Chechen coalition government as "a coalition of separatist field commanders who will manipulate elections to support their policy of secession from Russia," and claimed that the majority of the Chechen population is against secession and "does not have the slightest idea of what sovereignty is and where it can lead Chechnya." Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 9 December, Aleksandr Kazakov, deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, said that the elections could be postponed "without detriment to the Chechen people," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller ADMINISTRATION CLAIMS VICTORY IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS . . . The presidential administration continued to explain away its losses in the gubernatorial elections, following the defeat of several more incumbents on 8 December. First Deputy Chief of Staff Aleksandr Kazakov said that only newly-elected Bryansk Governor Yurii Lodkin was an actual representative of the opposition, while the other five elected governors are "normal, sensible people with solid managerial experience." He claimed that there has always been some dissatisfaction with the federal government but that more "emotion" might be added to the relationship now. Izvestiya claimed that the score is now 22-8 in favor of the administration since 1 September. All-Russia Coordinating Council leader Sergei Filatov blamed the administration losses on the poor economic conditions. -- Robert Orttung . . . AND SO DOES OPPOSITION. The pro-Communist Sovetskaya Rossiya on 10 December scoffed at Kazakov's claims, asking why the administration changes its attitude toward the opposition candidates as soon as they are elected. According to the paper's (incomplete) count, the score is 14-13 in favor of the opposition. Spiritual Heritage leader Aleksei Podberezkin claimed that the elections would change the face of the Federation Council. -- Robert Orttung STOLICHNYI BANK HEAD TO BECOME "REAL BOSS" AT ORT? Since Russian Public TV (ORT) replaced Ostankino as Russia's Channel 1 broadcaster in April 1995, the chairman of the ORT board, Aleksandr Yakovlev, has been a mere figurehead. Boris Berezovskii, whose LogoVAZ empire owned 8% of ORT shares, wielded the most influence at the network, even though formally he was deputy chairman of the ORT board. Now that Berezovskii has resigned his ORT post (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 December 1996), it appears that Stolichnyi Bank Chairman Aleksandr Smolenskii will take his place as the network's unofficial "real boss," Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 10 December. Although he has not previously been active concerning ORT's affairs, Smolenskii was chosen to head a new consortium of commercial banks called ORT-KB. Those banks combined now hold 38% of the shares in the 51% state-owned network. -- Laura Belin INGUSH GOVERNMENT SACKED. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev dismissed his government on 9 December for bad economic management, ORT and Russian TV (RTR) reported. Additionally, Aushev claims to have information that several government members were involved in corruption, according to RTR. Valerii Fateev, the first deputy prime minister of Ingushetiya and former executive head of Smolensk Oblast, is reportedly behind the dismissal and is said to be the most probable candidate to head the new government, according to Segodnya on 10 December. The health, education, justice, and interior ministers are likely to retain their positions in the new government. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow RUTSKOI LOWERS BREAD PRICES IN KURSK. Bread prices in Kursk Oblast are now among the lowest in Russia after Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi brought down prices by about 70-100 rubles per loaf, RIA-Novosti and NTV reported on 9 December. A loaf of bread in Kursk will now cost between 1,500 and 1,800 rubles ($0.27 to $0.33); the national average is 3,222 rubles. A representative of the gubernatorial administration said bakeries had reduced their own production costs and some trade surcharges were lowered by 5%, making the oblast-wide price decrease possible. Bread prices in Kursk may be reduced further after 1 January 1997 if certain prerequisites are met, including decreased electricity tariffs and lower transportation costs for flour and bread. After his election in October, Rutskoi pledged to implement a social and economic program to improve living conditions in the oblast. -- Laura Belin MUSLIM UNION OF RUSSIA SEEKS BETTER RELATIONS WITH AUTHORITIES. The congress of the Muslim Union of Russia which concluded on 7 December called for an improvement in Muslim relations with the authorities and countering increasingly anti-Muslim feeling in Russian society, Kommersant-Daily reported on 10 December. The congress voted to seek greater unity among Russia's estimated 20 million Muslims. It will also seek state support for increasing public broadcasting about Islam and including mullahs in the military along with Orthodox priests. The Muslim Union has one deputy in the State Duma, Nadyrshakh Khachilaev. -- Robert Orttung SACKED POLICE OFFICER TO BECOME ADVISER TO FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN. Interior Ministry Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Rushailo is to become an adviser to Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December. Until recently, Rushailo headed the Moscow Regional Administration for Organized Crime (RUOP). In October, he was transferred to the post of deputy head of the Main Administration for Organized Crime (GUOP) but refused to accept the job and was fired (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 October 1996). In his new post, Rushailo is likely to be responsible for legal issues. -- Penny Morvant NATO FOREIGN MINISTERS REASSURE MOSCOW. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, in Brussels for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on 10 December, said that "NATO has no intention, no plan, and no need to station nuclear weapons on the territory of any new members," Reuters reported. In an 8 December interview with Welt am Sonntag, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said that to reassure Russia, NATO should propose creating a 17- member security consultative committee, on which Russia would sit as an equal with the 16 NATO members. It remains unclear exactly what powers the council would have, and whether Moscow would have a veto over certain issues. Kommersant-daily on 7 December criticized Russian Foreign Ministry officials for thus far rejecting such proposals as insufficient, arguing that they might be Moscow's last chance to bargain seriously over the enlargement issue. -- Scott Parrish SOLANA: "RUSSIA IS A PARTNER, NOT A THREAT TO US." That was the title of an interview with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana that ran in the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta on 10 December. Solana said that since 1991, "Russia has always been regarded by us as a partner rather than a threat," and stressed the importance of developing "global frameworks for relations between NATO and Russia in parallel" to NATO's "external adaptation," by which he meant the admission of new members. The accompanying newspaper commentary complained that Solana "avoided answering the question" of what concrete measures would be taken to allay Russia's concerns over NATO expansion. -- Peter Rutland MORE REACTIONS TO ALBRIGHT APPOINTMENT. Vladimir Lukin, head of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the new nominee for U.S. secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, will be "an active and energetic supporter" of NATO expansion and will strengthen U.S. ties with Ukraine and Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December. Lukin, a former Russian ambassador to Washington, conceded that Albright is an "energetic and persistent diplomat," while Pravda-5 on 7 December dubbed her the "Steel Lady," a successor to "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher. -- Peter Rutland POTANIN ARRIVES IN KEMEROVO. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin arrived in Kemerovo Oblast on 10 December at the start of a two- day visit to look into the problems of the region's coal industry, ITAR- TASS reported. In a jibe at Potanin, who used to head the powerful Oneksimbank, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Mikhail Kislyuk argued on 9 December that Russia is facing the threat of a "comprador bourgeois revolution" driven by commercial banking circles acting contrary to Russia's national interests, ORT reported. The number of Kuzbass miners taking part in the national strike that began on 3 December has reportedly fallen following the dispatch of 430 billion rubles to the area for social benefits. According to the miners' union Rosugleprofsoyuz, 300,000 miners from 129 underground mines and 15 strip mines across the country were on strike as of 9 December. The coal company Rosugol said 113,000 miners were on strike at 98 mines and 10 open-cast pits. -- Penny Morvant NEW FEES TO BE INTRODUCED ON RUSSIAN BORDER. President Yeltsin signed amendments on 29 November to the law "On the state border of the Russian Federation" that introduce a special fee for crossing the border, Izvestiya reported on 10 December. According to the new law, every person crossing the border in both directions, Russians and foreigners, will pay approximately $10 per person. Vehicles and cargo are also subject to a fee. The amendments, designed to provide the Federal Border Guard Service with additional sources of funding, allot it with a number of new duties, ranging from the right to prolong foreigners' visas to investigation functions. Since the Duma and the Federation Council already approved the amendments on 4 October and 14 November respectively, it will go into effect as soon as it is published. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski LAW TO COMBAT MONEY-LAUNDERING. The government and the Communist faction of the State Duma have prepared a draft law on preventing money- laundering, Kommersant-Daily reported on 10 December. The law stipulates that banks, real estate agencies, shops, and other such enterprises, will be required to report all transactions in excess of 500 minimum salaries (currently 38 million rubles, or about $7,000) to tax authorities. If a transaction exceeds 1,000 minimum salaries, customers will have to fill in a special form stating the source of their income. If organizations fail to report to tax authorities, their personnel could be punished by a two-year imprisonment. The draft drew criticism from the business community and the media, who complained that it violates human rights and will hamper the formation of the middle class. In fact, even in the U.S. all banks have to report cash deposits in excess of $10,000. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR COMPROMISE ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Yevgenii Primakov said after a meeting in Moscow with his Armenian counterpart, Aleksandr Arzumanyan, that Russia is interested in a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December. He added that a compromise solution should recognize "Nagorno-Karabakh's right to self-determination and self-government while preserving Azerbaijan's territorial integrity." Addressing the 24 November presidential election in the disputed enclave, Primakov reiterated the official Russian position that such votes should not be held until "a mechanism for settling the conflict is worked out," while Arzumanyan said the election did not hamper the peace process. The two ministers pledged to "develop fraternal and friendly relations," ITAR- TASS reported. -- Emil Danielyan THREE ABKHAZ SOLDIERS KILLED. Three Abkhaz troops were killed and two wounded on 8 December when their vehicles were fired on near the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December, quoting Abkhaz security chief Astamur Tarba. Tarba blamed the attack on the Georgian security services. Georgia has denied the charges. In a 2 December letter to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan accused the UN of "a one-sided approach" to resolving the Abkhaz conflict and the Georgian leadership of "subversion and terror," according to Iprinda on 3 December. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Abkhaz presidential representative Anri Djergenia recently and proposed that Abkhazia be incorporated into the Russian-Belarus sphere of integration, Pravda-5 reported on 10 December. -- Liz Fuller TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER ARRIVES IN KUNDUZ. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri flew to Kunduz on 9 December, arriving one day late for a scheduled meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, international press reported. Details on Nuri's delay are conflicting, with some reports claiming that Taliban aircraft forced the plane down at Shindan then transferred it to Kandahar, while others claiming that the plane had technical difficulties and requested a landing for repairs. One thing is certain, Nuri did meet with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKSTANI PRESIDENT IN INDIA. Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in New Delhi on 9 December to discuss bilateral relations and the situation in Afghanistan with his Indian counterpart, Shankar Dayal Sharma, Russian and Western agencies reported. Nazarbayev said he is seeking "the speediest resolution" to the Afghan conflict and welcomed "the active and constructive role played by India." Agreements on import taxes, investment protection, and cultural relations were signed and cooperation in non-military nuclear research was discussed. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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