|You see things and you say 'Why?' But I dream thing that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'. - Geroge Bernard Shaw|
No. 12, Part I, 17 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 DUMA CANCELS IMPEACHMENT ATTEMPT. The Duma Council on 16 January did not consider placing an attempt to impeach President Boris Yeltsin on its agenda, NTV reported. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, however, suggested the possibility of passing a law defining who would exercise the president's powers when he is sick or creating a special medical commission to examine the president, according to AFP. Meanwhile, Yeltsin's doctors said that his condition has "stabilized significantly" and that he did paperwork for two hours, focusing on his annual address to the Federal Assembly. -- Robert Orttung LAW REQUIRED FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. A law defining the details of the amendment procedure must be adopted before the constitution can be amended, the chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and Legal Issues, Vladimir Platonov, said on 16 January, ITAR-TASS reported. On 29 November, Yeltsin vetoed a bill that would have made amending the constitution easier (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 December 1996). Platonov noted that one of the most pressing issues for change is the status of Russia's component parts. Following the elections in Tyumen Oblast, boycotted by the Yamal-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi autonomous okrugs even though they are subordinate to the oblast, there is increasing pressure to give equal status to all 89 members of the federation. The current constitution has contradictory passages on this issue. The Communists have also been pushing to transfer some of the president's power to the parliament. -- Robert Orttung LEBED SEEKS ALLIANCE WITH LUZHKOV. Stressing that he was going for the gold medal in the next presidential elections, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said in Germany that his allies in the next campaign might be "in some circumstances" Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fedorov, chess champion Garri Kasparov, and possibly the whole bloc of democratic parties, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 16 January. He also predicted that the communist party would split into three factions, with one group working with other left- radical parties, one joining Vladimir Zhirinovsky's party, and the largest group backing him. In his numerous interviews in Germany, Lebed emphasized the need for a strong state that would regulate the price of essential consumer goods and take temporary control of some sectors of foreign trade to boost state revenues, Reuters reported. -- Robert Orttung LEBED IS RUSSIA'S MOST POPULAR POLITICIAN. Aleksandr Lebed is Russia's most popular politician, according to a poll conducted by the Russian Independent Institute for Social and National Issues at the end of December. More than 58% of the 2,200 people interviewed across Russia expressed confidence in Lebed, while only 23% trusted Yeltsin, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 16 January. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov had the trust of 43% of respondents; Gennadii Zyuganov was in fifth place with 30%, behind Grigorii Yavlinskii (35%) and Nizhnii Novgorod leader Boris Nemtsov (35%). The peace deal brokered by Lebed in Chechnya was named the most positive development of 1996 by 80% of the interviewees. Most were pessimistic about Russia's prospects for 1997. More than 73% thought it would be a hard or extremely difficult year. A majority believed crime, corruption, and unemployment would continue to grow, industrial output would fall, and the army grow weaker. -- Penny Morvant OSCE WILL SEND OBSERVERS TO CHECHNYA. The OSCE, meeting in Vienna on 16 January, decided to send 60-70 observers to monitor Chechnya's elections, and has raised $500,000 in funding, AFP reported. Tim Guldimann, OSCE representative in Chechnya, has stated that the OSCE involvement has been cleared with the Russian authorities, but no formal approval has yet been voiced by any Russian official, ORT and NTV reported on 16 January. Refugees in neighboring regions will be taken in buses to the Chechen border on election day, with costs covered by the OSCE, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 16 January. The same day Vladimir Kartashkin, the head of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Commission, said he doubted the election will be democratic because of continuing violence, and because of the refugees' inability to vote in their place of residence, Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Peter Rutland TRAIN ATTACK IN CHECHNYA. In the wake of a recent attack it has been decided to halt all trains from Dagestan through Chechnya for the duration of the election campaign, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 January. A group of armed men attacked the Makhachkala-Moscow train on 14 January, killing one of the four Dagestani police guards. The Russian transport ministry will build 80 km of new track to allow trains from Dagestan to bypass Chechnya. Trains from Moscow to Grozny will continue to run. -- Peter Rutland RODIONOV DENIES DIFFERENCES WITH DEFENSE COUNCIL . . . Speaking at a joint news conference with Chief of the General Staff Army Gen. Viktor Samsonov, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov denied reports of differences between his ministry and the Defense Council Staff over military reform, Russian media reported on 16 January (See OMRI Daily Digest, 7 January 1997). Rodionov complained that the government still owes the Defense Ministry 1 trillion rubles ($178 million) in wage arrears for 1996. He also insisted that military reform could not be reduced to simply slashing uniformed Defense Ministry personnel, but argued that building a smaller but more effective military would require increased funding for restructuring and new advanced equipment. He said disbanding a motorized rifle regiment costs 3.5 times its annual operating costs, and estimated that cutting the armed forces by 200,000 to 1.5 million would cost about 10 trillion rubles. -- Scott Parrish . . . SAYS RUSSIA PLANS NO COUNTER-NATO BLOC. Rodionov also declared that although Russia remains "categorically opposed" to NATO enlargement, Moscow does not plan to set up a new military bloc if the alliance expands despite Russian objections. Asked about the possibility of a military alliance with Belarus, Rodionov said he "is against any military alliances for the time being," but added that "this is up to the supreme political leadership to decide." Without elaborating, Rodionov said his ministry was preparing a set of proposed countermeasures to NATO expansion, in accordance with President Yeltsin's 6 January directive. He also said that although Russia currently has no enemies, it faces "potential threats" from the "West, South and East." -- Scott Parrish CIS FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Opening a session of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said the development of ties with CIS partners remains a "priority" for Russian foreign policy, ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov admitted that the coordination of foreign policies among CIS members was a difficult process, but insisted that the council of foreign ministers had helped CIS members better understand each other's interests. Primakov also met with his Ukrainian counterpart Henadii Udovenko to discuss the strained relations between Moscow and Kyiv. Primakov insisted that an alleged Russian document discussing plans to discredit Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, recently published by a Kyiv newspaper, is a "crude falsification" which "has nothing in common with Russian policy." Udovenko said he hoped the incident would not poison bilateral ties. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA DEFENDS BELARUS, PANS COUNCIL OF EUROPE. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Andreev condemned the recent decision by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to suspend Belarus's special guest status as "hasty and inadequate," Russian and Western agencies reported on 16 January (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 January 1997). According to ITAR-TASS, Russia, Ukraine, and Finland voted against the 13 January resolution to suspend Belarus. Andreev said that rather than ostracizing the new Belarusian parliament, the council should instead make a "balanced analysis" of Belarusian developments and use "constructive dialogue and real assistance" to foster democracy there. The Yeltsin administration continues to support Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka despite harsh criticism of his authoritarian policies by Russian liberals and the international community. -- Scott Parrish GOVERNMENT REVIEWS TEACHERS' CLAIMS. First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Petrov pledged on 16 January to pay teachers the money they are owed from the 1996 budget by the end of the month, RTR reported. Education workers in many regions of Russia have been on strike all week to protest wage arrears. However, the elimination of the federal budget debt will not resolve the payments crisis as most of the money is owed by local authorities. At a cabinet session devoted to the teachers' dispute, Education Minister Vladimir Kinelev said teachers and students are now owed about 7 trillion rubles from local budgets. The state's indebtedness is largely due to the fact that the 1996 budget did not include funds to raise teachers' pay scales in line with legislation passed in August 1995. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin put the shortfall at about 1.2 trillion rubles a month. -- Penny Morvant DUBIOUS DEALINGS WITH GAZPROM SHARES. A Western investment company was able to buy 0.83% of Gazprom shares for $16 million at a time when foreigners were barred from acquiring Gazprom stock, The Wall Street Journal Europe reported on 16 January. The shares are now worth $300 million, as since October 1996 foreigners have been allowed to buy a portion of Gazprom shares. A Prague-based company, Europa Capital Management, bought 3.3% of Gazprom's shares from Russian owners in 1994 through a Russian intermediary. They then struck a deal with Gazprom directors, giving back 600 million shares in return for being allowed to keep 200 million, which they can sell to other foreign buyers. The transactions are clouded in secrecy: Gazprom's list of shareholders is not open for public scrutiny. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TRIAL OF POLICE ENDS IN BAKU. The trial of some 30 former members of Azerbaijan's OPON special police force, accused of taking part in a coup attempt in March 1995, ended on 16 January, Radio Rossii reported. The accused were given jail sentences of up to 13 years. The trial began in October 1996: 60 other ex-OPON members were sentenced in earlier trials in March and April 1996, and some 300 have been jailed. The OPON force was disbanded after the coup attempt, which was allegedly led by Deputy Interior Minister Rovshan Djavadov. -- Peter Rutland LUKOIL GAINS SHARE IN KAZAKSTANI OIL FIELD. Chevron announced on 16 January that it will bring Russian company Lukoil into the Tengiz oilfield project by selling 5% of its shares to Lukoil, ITAR-TASS reported. The two U.S. companies Chevron and Mobil will then hold 45% and 25% of the project's shares respectively, and the Kazakstani company Tengizmunaigaz the remaining 25%. In December Russia persuaded the Caspian Sea Consortium, which will build a pipeline to export the Tengiz oil, to increase Russia's share in that project to 44% while reducing Kazakstan's stake to 21% and Chevron's to 15% (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 December 1996). -- Peter Rutland TROUBLE AGAIN IN TURSUN ZADE . . . Russian media reports that the situation in the western Tajik city of Tursun Zade is once again tense. Following the violence last week when Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev and his unit, the First Brigade, forced a criminal group from the city, President Imomali Rakhmonov ordered the presidential guard to take up positions in the city and guard the aluminum plant located there. However, on 16 January, residents of Tursun Zade, mainly women, gathered on a bridge 15 kilometers east of the city and are refusing to allow the presidential guard to pass. The guard commander, Gen.-Maj. Gafur Mirzoyev, said he will comply with his orders to take control of the aluminum plant. Khudaberdiyev says he will not sit idly and allow the guard to enter the city. RFE/RL reports the city is currently under the control of warlord Sadullo Mirzoev, installed there by Khudaberdiyev. -- Bruce Pannier . . . AND DEMONSTRATION IN KHOJENT. Demonstrators gathered in 15 different places in the northern Tajik city of Khojent on 16 January, demanding the participation of National Revival Movement leader Abdumalik Abdullajonov in the peace talks now underway in Tehran, RFE/RL reported. Abdullajonov told RFE/RL that the government and United Tajik Opposition can not ignore him or his movement in the formation of a national reconciliation council. He said that excluding certain regions or leaders from the talks would lead to a deterioration of the already catastrophic situation in Tajikistan. Abdullajonov, a former prime minister and ambassador to Russia, in 1996 formed the National Revival Movement with two other ex-prime ministers, Jamshed Karimov and Abdujalil Samadov. -- Bruce Pannier KARIMOV ON TAJIK GOVERNMENT, RUSSIAN MEDIA. Just prior to undertaking his first state visit to Prague and Bratislava, Uzbek President Islam Karimov accused the Tajik government of being unable "to cope with leadership" and the Russian media of pitting Uzbeks and Tajiks against each other, Uzbek Television reported on 14 January. Karimov described the recent events in Tursun Zade as a game between "thieves and convicts," some of whom hold "high positions in the Interior Ministry," for control over the city's aluminum plant. He added that some Russian media are "taking advantage" of the situation to stir up trouble between Uzbeks and Tajiks. He termed this futile and called on the Tajik government "to come to its senses and establish peace on our border and agree with the opposition forces quickly." -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to firstname.lastname@example.org 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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