|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 7, Part I, 10 January 1997
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 YELTSIN'S CONDITION FAILS TO IMPROVE. President Boris Yeltsin has pneumonia of "medium gravity" in both lungs, Ekho Moskvy reported on 10 January, citing anonymous sources at the Central Clinical Hospital. A Kremlin spokesman refused to comment on the report, according to Reuters, but an official statement did concede that although the president is "breathing with more ease," and his "temperature remains normal," his doctors believe "it is too early to speak about a breakthrough." Reuters on 9 January cited international heart experts as saying that the pneumonia could complicate Yeltsin's recovery from his 5 November heart surgery. -- Laura Belin and Scott Parrish IZVESTIYA: RUSSIA FENDS FOR ITSELF WHILE YELTSIN IS ILL. While officials play down Yeltsin's illness, some journalists are expressing skepticism about the president's health. In an editorial on 10 January, Izvestiya said it is clear that Yeltsin is seriously ill, and expressed concern for the country's stability. Like many other papers, Izvestiya avoided covering Yeltsin's health problems during his re-election campaign. Vitalii Tretyakov, editor of Nezavisimaya gazeta, wrote in the paper's 10 January edition that "The country is much sicker than the president." Meanwhile, the weekly Obshchaya gazeta for 9-15 January wrote that a Kremlin censor vetted all television footage of Yeltsin's meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to delete everything that betrayed the true state of Yeltsin's health. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski YAVLINSKII: SICK OR WELL, YELTSIN UNABLE TO RUN RUSSIA. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told Ekho Mosvky on 9 January that President Yeltsin is incapable of ruling Russia -- not because of his illness, but because of "the way he sees the political situation, grasps it, selects people, makes decisions, assigns tasks, and his general abilities to resolve the problems our country is facing." He claimed that since nobody in the president's circle understands what policies are needed, it is irrelevant whether Yeltsin is in the Kremlin or the Central Clinical Hospital. However, Yavlinskii did not call for the president to resign, noting that citizens had elected Yeltsin and their choice must be respected. Commenting on repeated calls for Yeltsin's resignation by former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, Yavlinskii pointed out that Lebed helped Yeltsin get re-elected by joining his team after the first round of the presidential race. -- Laura Belin SPLITS IN CHECHEN GOVERNMENT. Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev on 8 January fired Ruslan Kutaev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for CIS Affairs, for being too active in support of rival presidential candidate Aslan Maskhadov, Ekho Moskvy reported. The next day, five ministers and 15 deputy ministers and department heads, all members of Maskhadov's Party for National Independence of Chechnya, resigned from the government in protest. NTV suggested that Maskhadov and Movladi Udugov are the front-runners in the 27 January race, while Ekho Moskvy and Russian TV (RTR) saw Yandarbiev and Maskhadov as the leading candidates. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIAN MINISTERS DISCUSS CHECHNYA. Russian ministers still show a reluctance to admit that Chechnya is well on the way to independence. Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev said on 9 January that "there are no prospects for Chechen separatists to gain independence with arms in hands," and urged negotiations to amend Chechnya's status by "constitutional" means, ITAR-TASS reported. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov was more realistic. The same day he told a government meeting that "there is a real danger that Chechnya will leave Russia de jure and de facto," ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov said Russia should "put the brake on this process" by exerting diplomatic pressure on foreign countries, particularly Russia's Islamic allies. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIAN CAPTIVES IN CHECHNYA. Sergei Osipov from the Russian Commission for Prisoners of War, Detainees, and Missing Persons has provided more precise figures for the number of Russian servicemen missing in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January. He said the whereabouts of a total of 700 soldiers are unknown. This number includes 300 unidentified bodies in a morgue in Rostov-on-Don. Osipov estimated 200 of the remainder are probably buried in unmarked graves, and 200 soldiers are being held captive. -- Peter Rutland DOUBTS OVER CHECHEN AMNESTY. Procurator General Yurii Skuratov told a press conference that the Duma should not grant an amnesty for the perpetrators of the kidnappings in Budennovsk (June 1995) and Kizlyar- Pervomaiskoe (January 1996), ORT reported on 9 January. The Budennovsk raid was led by presidential candidate Shamil Basaev. Skuratov's position was supported by deputy Duma speaker Mikhail Gutseriev, ITAR- TASS reported on 10 January. The Duma rejected an amnesty plan in December: it will probably discuss the issue again in February. The lack of an amnesty could delay the release of Russian captives. -- Peter Rutland PRIMAKOV THREATENS BALTICS WITH SANCTIONS. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told a meeting of the Russian government on 9 January that Moscow "should not be afraid to use economic sanctions" to defend the human rights of Russians living in the Baltic states, Russian and Western agencies reported. In order to pressure Estonia into halting what he claimed are discriminatory policies toward its Russian minority, for example, he said that Moscow will refuse to sign a border treaty with Tallinn until the issue was resolved. Since Estonia dropped its demands for the recognition of the 1920 Tartu treaty, a border agreement, which would bolster Estonia's bid to join the EU and NATO, is all but ready for signature. Segodnya on 31 December accused Moscow of deliberately dragging its feet over the border treaty in order to hamper Estonian integration into Western institutions, and said the policy "resembles crude blackmail." -- Scott Parrish INDIA TO PURCHASE RUSSIAN SUBMARINES. The Indian government has decided to purchase two Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarines from Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January. The new submarines, plus two others to be built at Indian shipyards under license, will replace six older Soviet-designed submarines which are slated to be scrapped. India already has eight Kilo-class boats in service, and Moscow hopes to sell New Delhi equipment ranging from helicopters to surface combatants for its naval modernization program. On 6 January ITAR-TASS reported the delivery of a third Russian-built Kilo-class submarine to Iran. -- Scott Parrish DIPLOMATIC SCANDAL UPDATE. The Russian and Belarusian UN missions complained to a UN panel on 9 January that New York police violated international law in the 29 December incident involving two allegedly drunk diplomats in a dispute over a parking ticket, Russian and Western agencies reported. Sergei Lavrov, Russian ambassador to the UN, reiterated Moscow's demands for an apology over the incident, adding that the U.S. should pay compensation to Russian diplomat Boris Obnossov, whose arm was injured by police during the scuffle. Lavrov refuted charges that Obnossov and his Belarusian colleague Yurii Oranzh had been intoxicated, pointing out that the two had not been asked to take a breathalyzer test and that police had allowed them to drive away. A New York official stuck by the police version of events, however, and the State Department is still investigating the incident. -- Scott Parrish COURT APPROVES ELECTION RESULTS IN KURGAN. The Supreme Court has confirmed the legitimacy of the 8 December runoff gubernatorial election in Kurgan Oblast, Sovetskaya Rossiya and ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January. Communist-backed candidate Oleg Bogomolov ran unopposed in the second round and received over 67% of the vote. Anatolii Koltashev and incumbent Governor Anatolii Sobolev, who finished second and third respectively in the first round, both withdrew on the eve of the runoff. An aide of the presidential representative in Kurgan filed an appeal, saying federal legislation prohibits candidates from running for office unopposed; his case was supported by the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK). When pro-Yeltsin candidates ran unopposed and won presidential elections in Kalmykiya in fall 1995 and Tatarstan in spring 1996, the TsIK announced its dissatisfaction with the single-candidate races, but those election results were not challenged in court. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow MOSCOW MILITARY SUE GOVERNMENT OVER WAGE ARREARS. Moscow military procurators have sued the government in a desperate attempt to secure the payment of servicemen's back wages, but the courts have been in no hurry to hear their case, Obshchaya gazeta reported in its first issue of 1997. The procurators filed suit against the Defense Ministry's Main Military Budget and Finance Administration and the Finance Ministry in a Moscow district court and then appealed to the Moscow City Court when the district court refused to accept the case. The city court, however, has taken no action on the matter since 20 August. The courts' hesitancy is not surprising, given that a verdict in favor of the military would set an expensive precedent and wreak havoc with the budget. According to Moskovskii komsomolets on 6 January, the government currently owes servicemen nationwide about 6 trillion rubles in back wages. -- Penny Morvant FORMER DISSIDENTS CRITICIZE INTELLIGENTSIA. Former dissidents Andrei Sinyavskii and Mariya Rozanova have sharply criticized Russia's "egotistical intellectual elite" for ignoring the plight of the poor and the hungry. In excerpts from a British radio broadcast published in the 9 January edition of Sovetskaya Rossiya, Sinyavskii and Rozanova claimed that private enterprise was beginning to flourish in 1990 and goods were widely available at reasonable prices . But they said the "shock therapy" reforms of the government of Yegor Gaidar in 1992 destroyed honest enterprise and impoverished millions. They assailed intellectuals, many of them former dissidents, for defending Gaidar's reforms rather than the people who suffered under them. Sinyavskii and Rozanova have lived in Paris since 1973, having emigrated after Sinyavskii served six years in a labor camp for publishing "anti-Soviet" literature abroad. They supported former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's presidential bid last year. -- Laura Belin TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA U.S. MAINTAINS PRESSURE ON GEORGIA OVER FATAL CAR ACCIDENT. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has asked Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to ensure that diplomat Georgi Makharadze, who reportedly caused a five-car accident in Washington in which an American girl was killed (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 January 1997), is not recalled home until the United States gets a formal response from Georgia to its waiver request, Western agencies reported on 9 January. Meanwhile, an unidentified U.S. official said Makharadze will "leave the country shortly." The report contradicts an earlier statement by Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarashvili that the diplomat will not be recalled until the investigation is complete. -- Emil Danielyan HIGH LEVEL GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS. The foreign ministers of Georgia and its breakaway republic of Abkhazia have met in the Abkhaz resort town of Gagra, Russian and Western media reported on 9 January. According to Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan, the fact of direct talks testifies to the two sides' readiness to reach a compromise on the Abkhaz conflict and is not a sign of Russia's decreased role in settling it. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarashvili warned the Abkhaz side that Georgia will ask CIS member countries to tighten the blockade of Abkhazia unless the latter provides for the return of more than 200,000 ethnic Georgian refugees. Menagarashvili said there was no progress on the issue of Abkhazia's future status. -- Emil Danielyan AMERICAN JOURNALIST MURDERED IN ALMATY. The body of the director of the Internews Network Agency in Kazakstan, 28-year-old Chris Gehring, was found in his apartment on 9 January, Western and Russian media reported. Chief detective Alibek Shapenov said Gehring was apparently murdered during a burglary that went wrong. As a foreigner in Kazakstan Gehring was likely to be considered wealthy. Gehring's computer was missing and boxes containing a stereo, VCR, and television were found near the doorway. However, many journalists doubt the validity of the burglary theory, noting Gehring was found with his hands and feet bound and his throat cut. Gehring had been working in Kazakstan since May 1995 as part of a US AID-funded project to aid independent media. The Committee to Protect Journalists has sent a strongly worded note to the Kazakstani government demanding an immediate investigation. -- Bruce Pannier FIRST BRIGADE TO LEAVE TURSUN ZADE. The commander of Tajikistan's First Brigade, Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, said on 9 January, he and his unit are ready to comply with a presidential order that they return to their base in Kurgan-Tyube, international media reported. Khudaberdiyev's unit managed to push the outlaw group of Kadyr Abdullayev outside the city limits, according to Russian television. Abdullayev says he will not surrender nor heed Khudaberdiyev's order that he permanently vacate Tursun Zade. Khudaberdiyev said he was satisfied with the recapture of military hardware Abdullayev's group stole from the First Brigade on 29 December and the departure of Abdullayev's criminal band from the city. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK GOVERNMENT SCOFFS AT OPPOSITION PROPOSAL. Peace negotiations between the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) taking place in Tehran became bogged down on 8 January, RFE/RL reported. UTO representatives had the impression the planned National Reconciliation Commission would consist of 40% representation from both the government and the UTO, with the remaining 20% being made up of regional and ethnic groups. However, government negotiators in Tehran now say they want an 80% share of the commission to be from the Tajik government and that all proposals for amendments to the constitution be approved by a two-thirds vote. The deputy leader for the UTO, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, said that is not what was agreed at the Moscow talks in December between Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri. -- Bruce Pannier [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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