|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 8, Part I, 13 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 HEALTH UPDATE. President Boris Yeltsin remains at the Central Clinical Hospital, being treated for pneumonia. The head of the Kremlin medical center Dr. Sergei Mironov said that a fairly large area of both lungs is affected, NTV reported on 12 January. Mironov believes Yeltsin will stay at the hospital for the next 4 to 5 days, while his recovery period will last at least through the end of January. On the same day, the presidential press service asserted that President Yeltsin's "activity level has increased markedly" and that he has begun working on documents. No visitors are being allowed to see Yeltsin, Ekho Moskvy reported on 11 January. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski LEBED ON EARLY ELECTIONS, KORZHAKOV. In an interview with the commercial network TV-6 on 12 January, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed again expressed his presidential ambitions and asserted that Yeltsin's poor health will force an early election. Lebed said the country had been "without a government" since Yeltsin fell ill last summer and warned of a possible "social explosion." Asked about his relations with former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, Lebed said he meets with Korzhakov occasionally, adding, "the enemies of my enemies are my friends." -- Laura Belin STROEV CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE . . . Warning that the country cannot live on the basis of presidential decrees, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev called for increasing the constitutional powers of the parliament in determining economic and social policy, NTV reported on 10 January. Stroev also called for giving both houses of the parliament a say in the nomination of deputy prime ministers and power ministers, currently the prerogative of the president. Stroev has usually been careful to support the president and these statements may signal an increasingly aggressive upper house. The Federation Council is made up of the regional elite, almost all of whom were popularly elected following the gubernatorial elections in the second half of last year. -- Robert Orttung . . . POLITICIANS, MEDIA REACT. Presidential representative to the Constitutional Court Sergei Shakhrai spoke out sharply against changing the constitution, reminding Russian Public TV (ORT) viewers on 11 January of the constitutional battles that led to bloodshed in October 1993. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov also spoke against changing the constitution, according to Radio Mayak. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 11 January suggested that Stroev's statement reflected his efforts to block a possible attempt to remove him as speaker by showing that he is aggressively pursuing the parliament's cause against the executive. -- Robert Orttung PRIEST KIDNAPPED IN CHECHNYA. Father Yefim, the head of the Orthodox Church in Grozny, and fellow-priest Aleksei Vavilov were kidnapped on 9 January as they drove to the town of Urus-Martan, NTV reported the next day. On 11 January Russian Patriarch Aleksii II appealed for their release: the Chechen Mufti Haji Akhmad Kadyrov pledged his assistance. Yefim was reportedly driving in search of another priest who was kidnapped a year ago. An estimated 300 persons have been kidnapped in Chechnya, including the brother of former Supreme Soviet chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov, a professor at Grozny university, for whom the kidnappers are reportedly demanding $1.5 million. -- Peter Rutland POLL: MASKHADOV AHEAD IN RACE FOR PRESIDENT. According to a poll of Chechen residents cited by ITAR-TASS on 12 January, former chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov leads the presidential race with 65% support, trailed by ex-press spokesman Movladi Udugov with 17%, while current President Zelimkan Yandarbiev and field commander Shamil Basaev have 8% each. The remaining 12 presidential candidates attracted 2% or less. Moscow is hoping for a Maskhadov victory, since he is regarded as the most reasonable of the Chechen leaders. On 10 January the National Patriotic Party of Ichkeria announced they were backing Udugov, Radio Mayak reported. -- Peter Rutland CIS SUMMIT POSTPONED. CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya announced on 10 January that the scheduled 17 January CIS summit will be postponed until the end of the month, Russian media reported. Korotchenya attributed the postponement to a scheduling conflict involving Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who plans to be in Slovakia on 16-17 January, although the real reason is presumably President Yeltsin's health. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA CONDEMNS TURKISH THREATS AGAINST CYPRUS. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 11 January denounced threats by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller that Ankara "will do what is necessary, even if that means strikes," to prevent the deployment of Russian S-300 air defense missile in Greek-controlled Cyprus, Russian and Western media reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said Ciller's remarks were "a direct threat to the security of sovereign Cyprus." He reiterated the Russian view that the S-300 missiles which Russia recently agreed to sell Cyprus are "purely defensive," and will not upset the regional military balance. Tarasov urged Turkey to consider Moscow's idea of full demilitarization of Cyprus. Western governments, while critical of the missile sale, have also called on Ankara to show restraint. -- Scott Parrish INCUMBENTS REELECTED IN THREE REGIONS. The governor of Tyumen Oblast and presidents of the republics of Adygeya and Kabardino-Balkariya were reelected on 12 January, according to preliminary results, Radio Rossii reported the next day. Leonid Roketskii, who received about 59% of the vote, outpolled businessman Sergei Atroshenko by over 25% in the Tyumen gubernatorial run-off. The turnout in the oblast was slightly over 25%. The incumbent president of Kabardino-Balkariya, Valerii Kokov, ran unopposed and was reelected with 97% turnout. Aslan Dzharimov, the president of Adygeya, received about 58% of the vote; his two Communist- backed rivals, Aslanbii Sovmiz and Kazbek Tsiku, won 20% and 16% respectively. The results of all three regional races may be challenged in court, as the elections were accompanied by irregularities and legal violations. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow TEACHERS GO ON STRIKE. Thousands of teachers across Russia are taking part in protest actions on 13 January, ITAR-TASS reported. As in numerous similar protests in previous years, the teachers' main grievances are lengthy delays in the payment of wages and the low level of state funding for the education sector. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 11 January said that more than 400,000 workers from 10,000 educational establishments in 55 of the country's 89 regions intended to take part in strikes and demonstrations. According to the paper, wage arrears grew by almost 1.5 trillion rubles over the past month and currently exceed 6 trillion. A senior trade union official was quoted by the BBC as saying that the situation was particularly serious in parts of Chita, Novosibirsk, Arkhangelsk, Amur, and Bryansk oblasts, where teachers have not been paid for six to nine months. -- Penny Morvant NAKHODKA FOLLOW-UP. The Russian government is sending two ships to help tackle the oil spill that followed the sinking of a Russian tanker in the Sea of Japan on 2 January, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 January. An estimated 4,000 metric tons of oil leaked when the Nakhokda broke apart, polluting the Japanese coastline and fouling fishing grounds. On 11 January, Russia allocated 1.5 billion rubles ($270,000) to the clean-up operation. The tanker's captain is still missing: the rest of the crew have refused to talk to the press under pressure from Prisco Traffic, the company that owns the tanker. Nezavisimaya gazeta alleged on 11 January that the wreck might be part of an insurance scam: the Nakhodka was reportedly insured for $500 million with a London-based group. -- Penny Morvant TOP U.S. OFFICIAL WARNS RUSSIA ON ECONOMIC POLICY. Larry Summers, Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary, has warned that market reform in Russia "has lost momentum [and] key structural measures [have] dropped off the reform agenda." Summers, the top U.S. official dealing with Russian economic issues, was speaking to a conference of U.S. and Russian businessmen at Harvard University on 9 January. The Russian delegation was led by controversial businessman Boris Berezovskii, currently Deputy Secretary of the Security Council. Summers said "1996 was a year consumed less by policy than by politics and cardiology," and urged Russia to tackle the problems of rampant crime and ineffective taxation. Summers' comments seemed to signal a departure from the previous U.S. administration line, that the market transition in Russia is basically on track. -- Peter Rutland SOSKOVETS' AMEX CARD. The three-part expose of criminal activities in Russia's aluminum industry run by NTV's Itogi concluded on 12 January and revealed the main piece of evidence - a copy of Oleg Soskovets' American Express statement. Earlier episodes had alluded to Soskovets's links with the aluminum industry (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 January 1997). The latest program detailed the killings of three bankers in 1995 who were involved in an attempt to win control over the Krasnoyarsk aluminum works. The program then revealed that Soskovets, formerly First Deputy Prime Minister, and his son have held an American Express Corporate Account card, out of a Swiss bank, since 1994. The 20-year-old Aleksei allegedly spent $103,532 with his card in six months in 1994, including $25,000 in a Swiss jewelry shop and $724 for a dinner at Moscow's Metropole Hotel. Soskovets senior was more modest, buying $5,000 worth of groceries over the past two months. The program complained that no-one from the Interior Ministry's department of economic crime had contacted them after the two previous broadcasts. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIA READY TO ACCEPT URANIUM FROM GEORGIA. Ministry of Atomic Energy spokesman Grigorii Kaurov told ITAR-TASS on 11 January that "there is no problem as such" with Russia accepting approximately 10 kg (22 lbs) of highly-enriched uranium stored at an insecure Georgian research facility. Kaurov said "it will take time to go through several judicial formalities" to transfer the radioactive materials to Russia as a special agreement with Georgia needs to be signed; other Russian officials said the timing of the uranium's removal depends on resolving "technical" issues. Repeated American offers of financial and technical aid have failed to speed up the removal. The officials added that before the uranium is removed, Tbilisi must agree to accept the radioactive waste left after it is reprocessed. Georgian officials have balked, because Georgia does not have a suitable storage facility. Kaurov criticized the "unjustified furor" raised by media reports about the uranium (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 January 1997), which he argued poses no proliferation threat. -- Scott Parrish and Emil Danielyan U.S. TO PUSH FOR FRESH ELECTIONS IN ARMENIA? The United States will press Armenian Prime Minister Armen Sarkisyan, currently visiting Washington, to hold fresh parliamentary elections, an unidentified U.S. official told AFP on 10 January. The official said early elections would be "one way to give the opposition a constructive role and have a more representative and democratic structure." AFP also quoted U.S. officials as saying they hope that the elections could be held in March, and Sarkisyan could foster the country's "political reform" in the wake of the 22 September presidential vote that has caused doubts about the legitimacy of President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. Opposition leader Vazgen Manukyan has repeatedly said that fresh presidential and parliamentary elections are the only issues the opposition is ready to discuss with the authorities. -- Emil Danielyan BISHKEK SUMMIT PRODUCES TREATY ON ETERNAL FRIENDSHIP. The presidents of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan met in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on 10 January, Western and Russian media reported. Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakstan, Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, and summit host Askar Akayev signed a treaty declaring "eternal friendship" between their states. They also agreed to form a Central Asian peacekeeping battalion which will be based at Jibek-Jolu on the Kazak-Kyrgyz border. The three states promised to cooperate militarily, agreeing to a mutual defense arrangement. "If the territorial integrity and independence of one of our states is threatened...the leaders of the three states may take measures, including military ones, to defend our states," Nazarbayev said. Also discussed was a means to make the Uzbek currency, the sum, convertible into Kyrgyz som or Kazak tenge. A proposal to extend the term of peacekeepers now serving in Tajikistan from the current three countries was postponed until the forthcoming CIS summit. -- Bruce Pannier TALKS BETWEEN TASHKENT, DUSHANBE. Tajik Prime Minister Yahya Azimov held two days of talks in Tashkent with his Uzbek counterpart Utkir Sultanov, RFE/RL reported on 11 January. Discussion focused on Dushanbe's debt to Uzbekistan for natural gas and electricity, as well as gas supplies for 1997 and transport-related problems. The sides failed to reach agreement on these issues, but did sign an agreement on education. The magnitude of the problems (last year Tajikistan acknowledged it owed Uzbekistan $200 million) and Dushanbe's hopes to purchase gas at a subsidized rate are likely to have made it difficult for the sides to agree. Last week as a result of the conflict in Tursun Zade, Tajikistan, several shells fell on Uzbek territory, wounding four. On 10 January Tashkent officially protested the incident and called on Dushanbe to prevent its repetition. -- Lowell Bezanis [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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