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No. 243, Part I, 18 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 RADUEV BACKTRACKS ON HOSTAGES. Chechen field commander Salman Raduev said on 17 December that he would not release any of the 21 Russian Interior Ministry troops taken hostage by his men on 14 December, ITAR- TASS reported. Dagestan Security Council Secretary Magomet Tolboev described talks with Raduev on the hostages' release as "difficult." Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov said that Chechen police were undertaking unspecified special measures to release the hostages, but Raduev warned that he would respond to any attempt to free the men by force by shooting them, according to Russian Public TV (ORT). Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, who met in Grozny on 17 December with Udugov and field commander Shamil Basaev, said he would remain in Chechnya until the hostages were released. -- Liz Fuller RED CROSS KILLINGS CONDEMNED. The UNHCR and the French organization Medicins du Monde formally announced the suspension of relief operations in Chechnya and neighboring North Caucasus republics following the murder of six Red Cross workers on the night of 16-17 December, Western agencies reported. Speaking to journalists in Moscow on his return from Grozny, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin condemned the killings, as did Presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii, who described them as a "provocation" and expressed the hope that they would not derail the ongoing peace process, according to ITAR-TASS. AFP quoted Chechen security chief Abu Movsaev as stating that "there are suspects" and that his men are currently trying to apprehend them. The murders have also been widely condemned by Western governments. -- Liz Fuller LEBED WINS CASE AGAINST KULIKOV. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed won a libel suit against Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov on 17 December, international agencies reported. A Moscow district court judge ruled that Kulikov had defamed Lebed's character at a press conference on 16 October when he accused him of plotting an armed mutiny. Lebed was fired soon after. The court awarded Lebed the symbolic damages of 1 ruble he sought and ordered Kulikov to take back the allegations at a news conference within 15 days. Kulikov, who is himself suing Lebed over remarks he made to Argumenty i fakty, plans to appeal. Lebed and Kulikov have been bitter foes since the summer, when Lebed called for the interior minister's resignation over Chechnya. Moscow is currently awash with rumors that Kulikov will be promoted to the post of deputy prime minister, although on 18 December he checked into hospital for a week-long "check up." -- Penny Morvant FSB CHIEF ON ESPIONAGE AGAINST RUSSIA. Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Col.-Gen. Nikolai Kovalev told reporters on 17 December that combating foreign espionage remains the principal activity of his agency, Russian and Western media reported. He argued that Western interest in spying on Russia has increased because of "Russia's place and role in the international community" and complained in particular about the activity of British, Turkish, and Baltic intelligence agents. Kovalev, who was appointed in July, said that over the last two years the FSB has exposed 400 foreign agents, arrested 39 Russian citizens on espionage charges, and blocked more than 100 attempts to transfer classified information to foreign intelligence services. On the other hand, he said the FSB is cooperating with foreign colleagues in the fight against terrorism, organized crime, corruption, and drug trafficking but admitted to less success in these areas. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN WITHDRAWS COURT CHALLENGE TO FOREIGN TRADE LAW. Sergei Shakhrai, President Yeltsin's recently appointed representative to the Russian Constitutional Court, withdrew a presidential request that the court review the constitutionality of the law on "state regulation of foreign economic activity," ITAR-TASS reported on 17 December. The presidential appeal, which was lodged last year, contended that the law grants unconstitutionally broad foreign trade authority to regional officials and infringes on the president's constitutional mandate to direct foreign policy. Shakhrai told Kommersant-Daily on 18 December that the original appeal had been poorly argued and said he planned to resubmit it after revisions. But the paper speculated that the decision reflected Shakhrai's "cautious" attitude toward building Russian federalism, which requires a new approach now that all regional executives will soon be elected rather than appointed by the president. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN VETOES PENSION INCREASE. President Boris Yeltsin on 17 December vetoed a bill raising the minimum pension by 10% on the grounds that the country could not afford it, Russian TV (RTR) reported. In a letter to Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, the president said that the increases envisaged by the law would cost an additional 815 billion rubles a month and push the Pension Fund further into debt. Delays in the payment of pensions have sparked protests in some areas and prompted local officials to devise schemes for paying pension arrears in kind. -- Penny Morvant MOSCOW MAYOR INJURES LEG PRACTICING CIRCUS NUMBER. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov injured his leg while rehearsing a parachute jump from the top of the Moscow Circus tent, AFP reported on 17 December. Luzhkov, 60, planned to perform the number at the special celebrations this week marking the 75th birthday of the circus director and famous clown Yurii Nikulin. Despite the accident, Luzhkov intends to attend the celebrations on 18 December. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski FOREIGN MINISTRY REJECTS CLAIM ON SEVASTOPOL. Belatedly rejecting the 5 December Federation Council resolution claiming Sevastopol, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov reiterated that the Russian government accepts that "Sevastopol and all of Crimea belongs to Ukraine," Russian media reported on 17 December. Tarasov expressed "bewilderment" at the Ukrainian parliament's 6 December protest against Russian territorial claims (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 and 7 December 1996). He stressed that under the 1993 Russian constitution, it is the executive and not the Federal Assembly that directs foreign policy. He also harshly criticized Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko for his continuing opposition to the demarcation of the Russo-Chinese border under a 1991 bilateral agreement. Tarasov said the agreement would be "unconditionally fulfilled," adding that Nazdratenko's "crude" and "demagogic" attacks on it were "unacceptable." -- Scott Parrish YAMAL-NENETS DUMA RETURNS TO HARD-LINE POSITION. The Yamal-Nenets Duma has restated its opposition to holding the Tyumen Oblast gubernatorial elections on its territory despite earlier indications that it was ready to compromise on some points. During a morning session on 17 December, the Duma agreed to allow citizens of Tyumen Oblast and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug currently in Yamal-Nenets to vote for the Tyumen govenor at special polling stations. In the afternoon, however, the Duma reversed its decision. First Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Kazakov called the Duma's opposition to holding the Tyumen elections "a serious challenge to Russia's sociopolitical structure." Tyumen Oblast Governor Leonid Roketskii and four other candidates have asked Yeltsin to intervene to enable all Yamal-Nenets voters to participate in the elections, RIA Novosti reported. -- Robert Orttung RADIO AND TV BROADCASTS RESUME IN MURMANSK. Communications workers in Murmansk on 17 September called off a week-long strike that prevented more than 1 million residents of the region from receiving central television and radio broadcasts, ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 December 1996). The workers warned that they will take further strike action in the new year if the central broadcasters do not pay off their debts. -- Robert Orttung LENINGRAD MILITARY DISTRICT COMMANDER KILLED IN PLANE CRASH. Seventeen people were killed on 17 December when an AN-12 transport plane crashed shortly after takeoff from the Andreapol military airbase in Tver Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. The casualties included Col.-Gen. Sergei Seleznev, commander of the Leningrad Military District. -- Scott Parrish WESTERN OIL COMPANIES URGE RUSSIA TO BE MORE OPEN TO FOREIGN INVESTMENT. The Petroleum Advisory Forum, which unites 30 Western corporations, released a plan prepared jointly with the Russian Academy of Sciences on 17 December detailing the possible benefits for Russia of six major oil and gas projects, Reuters reported. The projects would require $100 billion of Western investment over the next 50 years but could boost annual oil output by 90 million metric tons, create 550,000 new jobs, and generate $590 billion in revenue, 87% of which would go to Russia. Progress on these projects has been blocked by ambiguous tax legislation and the Duma's failure to pass a list of approved sites covered by the 1995 production-sharing law. Russia's oil production fell from 570 million metric tons in 1987 to 305 million tons in 1995, largely because of lack of investment in new fields. It dropped another 2% in the first 10 months of 1996. -- Peter Rutland CAPITAL OUTFLOW STILL STRONG. Deputy Procurator General Vladimir Davydov told a press conference that capital flight from Russia tops $12 billion a year, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 December. Russian individuals and companies hold a total of $40-50 billion abroad and operate an estimated 60,000 off-shore companies. Davydov said the situation is exacerbated by discrepancies in customs practices between Russia and other CIS countries. He estimated that the absence of customs duties on foreign- currency transfers between Russia and Belarus cost the Russian budget $2 billion in 1996. -- Natalia Gurushina FARM SUPPORT SYSTEM STRUGGLES TO SURVIVE. The share of federal budget spending allocated to agriculture (as estimated by the Duma's Agrarian faction) declined from 12% in 1991 to 6% in 1994 and 3.8% in 1996, Kommersant-Daily reported on 18 December. On 17 December the Duma passed on first reading a new law creating a network of federal and regional funds to subsidize farms, with funds to be raised from customs duties on food and alcohol imports and from taxes on food production. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA FREEDOM HOUSE REPORT NOTES LACK OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CENTRAL ASIA. In its annual survey of freedom and democracy worldwide, the U.S.-based Freedom House identified Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as among the 17 most repressive regimes in the world, RFE-RL reported on 18 December. Uzbekistan, which last year also appeared in the worst category, improved its record in 1996. Among the CIS countries, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine are rated "partly free;" and Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are listed as "not free." Freedom House ratings are based on a check- list of political rights and civil liberties, including the degree of autonomy for minorities, the status of the opposition, the nature of electoral laws, and the degree of freedom of assembly and freedom of the media. -- Lowell Bezanis CHECHNYA DEMANDS SHARE OF TRANSIT TARIFFS FOR CASPIAN OIL. Chechen government representative Eduard Khachukaev met recently in Baku with the chairman of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), Terry Adams, to discuss the transportation of Azerbaijani oil through Chechnya, Turan reported on 17 December. Khachukaev said that Chechnya should receive a share of the transit tariffs from the transportation of Caspian oil via the Baku-Chechnya-Tikhoretsk-Novorossiisk pipeline and that it wants a share in the AIOC. Adams assured Khachukaev that he would raise the issue with the Azerbaijani leadership. Under the terms of an agreement signed by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov on 23 November, the Russian and Chechen authorities were supposed to conclude an agreement by 1 December on the unimpeded transportation of oil through Chechnya. -- Liz Fuller DEMONSTRATION IN KYRGYZSTAN. About 300 people, mostly pensioners, gathered in front of the government building in Bishkek on 17 December to demand compensation for savings lost when several state banks collapsed, RFE/RL reported. The leaders of the demonstration met with Kyrgyz Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov, but no agreement was reached. One of the protesters, Topchubek Turgunaliyev of the Erkin Kyrgyzstan Party, was detained by police as he left the government building. Turgunaliyev was accused of embezzling state property, but Jumagazy Usupov, leader of the Ashar movement, argued that Turgunaliyev's detention was linked to his role in the recent formation of the "For Deliverance from Poverty" movement. Usupov speculated that the detention is aimed at stopping Turgunaliyev from organizing further protests and preventing the new movement from holding a congress scheduled for 21 December. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov UN OBSERVERS IN TAJIKISTAN VICTIMS OF "MOCK EXECUTION." Two teams of UN observers in Tajikistan were stopped at a government checkpoint, verbally and physically abused, and subject to forced to stand in a line for a mock execution, according to an 18 December UN press release. The teams were traveling to Garm to verify reports of cease-fire violations in the area when they were stopped at the Saripul post. Their communications equipment was confiscated and members of the teams were ordered to line up in a field for execution. Government soldiers then fired above and around the men. The UN team was able to escape when the appearance of a car on the road diverted the soldiers' attention. This is the second time this month that government forces have mistreated UN observers. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Penny Morvant ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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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