|To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. - Gelett Burgess|
No. 21, Part I, 30 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 ELECTION OFFICIAL CONFIRMS MASKHADOV VICTORY. Although results have not yet been received from three of Chechnya's 63 electoral districts, Chechen Electoral Commission spokesman Mumadi Saidaev told ITAR-TASS late on 29 January that there was no doubt former Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov would emerge victorious in the 27 January presidential election. Earlier, Saidaev had said that with votes counted in 56 districts, Maskhadov had 64.8%, with former field commander Shamil Basaev second on 27.7%, followed by acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev with 10.2%. Final results will be announced no earlier than 2 February, and officials said Maskhadov could be sworn in by 10 February. In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 29 January, Maskhadov insisted that even though the August 1996 Khasavyurt agreement calls for postponing talks on Chechnya's status until 2001, he would like to begin talks on the issue "as soon as possible." -- Scott Parrish RADUEV THREATENS TERROR CAMPAIGN AGAINST RUSSIA. Illustrating the obstacles Maskhadov will face in restoring order in Chechnya, renegade field commander Salman Raduev told Reuters on 29 January that he does not recognize the results of the 27 January election. Raduev, who has a history of undertaking unauthorized operations, insisted that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, killed in a missile attack last April, remains alive. He said only Dudaev could order him to cease fighting against Russia, and threatened that if Russia does not recognize Chechen independence, he would "burn to cinders" at least three Russian cities. Meanwhile, Maskhadov's former rivals for the presidency, Basaev and Yandarbiev, reiterated that they would not join the new president's administration. Basaev said he plans to return to his pre-war career as a computer salesman, while Yandarbiev, a well-known writer, announced that he would resume his literary activity. -- Scott Parrish LEBED LEADS PRESIDENTIAL POLLS. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed would defeat any opponent in the second round of presidential elections if they were held now, according to a mid-January Public Opinion Foundation poll, AFP reported on 29 January. He would beat Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov 42%-31%, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov 46%-30%, and Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin 44%-19%. Meanwhile, Lebed's Press Secretary Aleksandr Barkhatov claimed that "high-level bureaucrats" are engaged in "provocative activities designed to discredit" the retired general, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 30 January. The authorities' investigation into a 17 October 1996 incident in which Lebed's guards arrested a team from the Ministry of Internal Affairs that was trailing him provoked Barkhatov's statement. -- Robert Orttung PRESIDENT WITHDRAWS SUIT AGAINST UNOPPOSED ELECTION IN KALMYKIYA. Presidential Representative to the Constitutional Court Sergei Shakhrai withdrew a presidential appeal to the court questioning whether the unopposed election of Kalmykiya President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov on 15 October 1995 was valid, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 30 January. Although Ilyumzhinov was elected on the basis of a republican electoral law that contains numerous violations of the Russian constitution, Shakhrai withdrew the case on the grounds that the republican legislature has since amended the law. The new law, however, will only be used in future elections. The presidents of Kabardino-Balkariya and Tatarstan were also elected unopposed, and their victories are now even less likely to be challenged. Since assuming his current position on 7 December, Shakhrai has worked to increase the power of the regions vis- a-vis the center (See OMRI Daily Digest, 12 December 1996). -- Robert Orttung EX-PRESIDENT OF MARII-EL CHARGED WITH OBSTRUCTING ELECTION. The Russian Procurator-General's Office has opened a criminal case against Vladislav Zotin, the former president of the Marii-El Republic, for obstructing the rights of voters, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. Two days before the Marii-El presidential election set for 22 December, Zotin issued a decree canceling the balloting. The decree was condemned by the Central Electoral Commission and overruled by the Marii-El Supreme Court, but Zotin's supporters did not broadcast the court ruling on local media. Nevertheless, the election was held on schedule, and in a high turnout of about 67%, Zotin gained only 9% of the vote, failing to advance to the second round. Communist-backed candidate Vyacheslav Kislitsyn eventually won the election. -- Laura Belin DUMA "ANTINATO" ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR TACTICAL MISSILE DEPLOYMENTS. Sergei Glotov, head of the recently formed "AntiNATO" association of Duma deputies, told ITAR-TASS on 29 January that Russia should "put into production" a new generation of tactical ballistic missiles "to restrain the unprovoked extension" of NATO. Glotov, a former Strategic Rocket Forces officer and member of the radical National Salvation Front, serves on the Duma's international affairs committee and belongs to the Popular Power faction. He announced the formation of the "AntiNATO" association on 22 January, which he says unites 120 deputies of various factions. The association's declared goal is to discuss ways of hampering NATO enlargement, and urge the government to take firm action on the issue. Izvestiya on 29 January criticized the group as a lobby for the defense industry, warning its actions could "backfire" against Russia. -- Scott Parrish SKURATOV, CHERNOMYRDIN, IN SWITZERLAND. Winding up a visit to Switzerland, Russian Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov said on 29 January that Moscow and Bern had agreed to closely coordinate their efforts against organized crime and money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported. Skuratov said that Switzerland is concerned about the influx of criminal money and is expected soon to inform the Russian security services of suspiciously large deposits in Swiss banks. The Tribune de Geneve cited Swiss justice and police officials as estimating last year that Russian deposits in 125 Swiss banks totaled about $3.2 billion. Also on 29 January Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin arrived in Switzerland to take part in the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. Russian Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Fedorov will also address the gathering. -- Penny Morvant COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONDEMNS RUSSIA OVER DEATH PENALTY. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly threatened on 29 January to lock out delegates from Russia unless it quickly imposed a moratorium on capital punishment, Reuters reported. A resolution called on Russia to honor the obligations it undertook to end executions when it acceded to the Council on 28 February 1996. According to ORT, Russian delegates argued that a moratorium has been in place since last August. Russian government figures released in September put the number of executions in 1996 at 53. But Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, in a letter to the Council, said Amnesty International believes the total for the year was 140. Former Justice Minister and Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov commented in an interview with ITAR-TASS that the incomplete and contradictory information Russia has released on the issue had irritated Council members. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIAN "GODFATHER" SENTENCED. A U.S. judge on 29 January sentenced Vyacheslav Ivankov, nicknamed Yaponchik, to 115 months in prison for extortion and marriage fraud, Reuters reported. Ivankov, believed to be the "godfather" of Russian organized crime in the U.S., and three other Russians were convicted in July of conspiracy and attempting to extort $3.5 million from a Russian emigre investment firm. Ivankov was also convicted in a separate trial of marrying an American woman to obtain a green card. Ivankov has repeatedly protested his innocence, accusing the FBI of spreading gossip and lies about him. -- Penny Morvant LUZHKOV: STATE DUMA DISCRIMINATES AGAINST MOSCOW. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov claimed that the 1997 federal budget adopted by the State Duma are reflects "anti-Moscow" bias, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. Luzhkov complained that the budget cuts federal subsidies to Moscow by 300 billion rubles ($ 55 million)compared to 1996, while budget transfers to the other federation subjects remained unchanged. He also protested that the Duma-backed budget diverted all road taxes gathered in Moscow to federal coffers, depriving Moscow of another 3.5 trillion rubles ($ 630 million). -- Nikolai Iakoubovski NEW GOVERNMENT GRANTS FOR MEDIA. The government has set aside 140 billion rubles ($25 million) to fund media that are judged to be "the most relevant to the public," RIA-Novosti reported on 29 January, citing Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko. He said 80 billion rubles will go to electronic media, and 60 billion to print media. The names of the grant recipients will be released on 1 April. Izvestiya reported on 30 January that state support for the media in 1996 amounted to only one- quarter of what had originally been budgeted for the purpose; as a result, media outlets were often forced to seek alliances with banks and companies, the paper said. -- Laura Belin FOREIGN TRADE FIGURES RELEASED. Russia's foreign trade turnover totaled $147.7 billion in current prices, 4% up on the 1995 figure, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January citing preliminary data from the State Statistics Committee. Exports are estimated at $87.7 billion and imports at $59.7 billion, giving Russia a positive trade balance of $28 billion dollars, $7.8 billion higher than last year. Trade with the Commonwealth of Independent States accounted for $34.2 billion, up 6% on last year's figures. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA BAKU PROTESTS U.S. CONGRESSMAN'S VISIT TO NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), co-chair of the 54-member Armenian Caucus in the U.S. Congress, addressed the parliament of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh on 28 January, international media reported. Pallone, whose caucus opposes lifting the 1992 congressional ban on direct U.S. aid to Azerbaijan said Nagorno-Karabakh's population would be under the constant threat of "genocide, deportation, or annihilation" if the region remains part of Azerbaijan. He added that Azerbaijani oil should not affect the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict "at the expense of its population." The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry protested to the U.S. Embassy in Baku that Pallone's visit will "infringe on Azerbaijan's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Turan reported on 28 January. -- Emil Danielyan MANDATE OF RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN ABKHAZIA TO BE EXTENDED? Vladislav Ardzinba, the president of the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia, called for the extension of the Russian-led CIS peacekeepers' mandate beyond 31 January, Sakinform news agency reported on 27 January as monitored by the BBC. The mandate's extension, which has been recommended by the CIS Council of Defense Ministers, will be discussed at the scheduled March CIS summit. Georgian State Minister Niko Lekishvili said Georgia will take a "tough stance" on the issue but did not specify whether his country will block any decision to extend the mandate, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January. Meanwhile, the leadership of the Tbilisi-based pro-Georgian government of Abkhazia opposed any further presence of the peacekeepers, accusing them of "taking the Abkhaz side," according to a BGI agency report monitored by the BBC. -- Emil Danielyan GENERALS SENTENCED IN AZERBAIJAN. Azerbaijan's Supreme Court sentenced two former high-ranking security officials to lengthy prison terms for treason on 29 January, Russian and Western media reported the same day. Former Deputy Defense Minister Vakhid Musaev and Interior Ministry Troops Commander Rafik Agaev received sentences of 15 and 11 years, respectively. They were convicted of plotting to shoot down the plane of President Heidar Aliev. More than a dozen others involved in the plot were sentenced to terms ranging from five to 13 years. -- Lowell Bezanis KAZAKSTAN RESIDENCY POLL. ITAR-TASS on 29 January cited statistics from an article in Kazakstanskaya pravda from the same day showing that 88% of ethnic Kazaks, 57% of Russians, and 54% of other ethnic groups in Kazakstan regard themselves as permanent residents of the country. The Institute for the Development of Kazakstan conducted the survey, which also showed that 4% of Kazaks, 25% of Russians, and nearly 33% of other ethnic groups consider themselves to be potential emigrants. Further, 3% of the population deem themselves citizens of Russia, 39% citizens of the CIS, and 22% citizens of the former Soviet Union. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKSTAN NOT ADHERING TO CUSTOMS AGREEMENTS? Russian Minister for Cooperation with CIS States Aman Tuleyev claims Kazakstan has unilaterally broken agreements made with Russia on import duties, according to a 29 January ITAR-TASS report. The two countries, members of a customs union with Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, set the import tariff on Russian goods entering Kazakstan at 0.2%, but customs services in Kazakstan are charging up to 30%. Additionally, Kazakstani customs services are sometimes charging as much as $300 as an escort service fee for passenger cargo, though the Russian ministry says a customs worker will "immediately recede into unobtrusiveness if he is bribed." Tuleyev has sent a letter to Kazakstani Customs Service head Nigmatzhan Isingarin regarding these practices, noting that they could damage economic contacts between the two states. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIK-UZBEK AGREEMENTS. During the 27 January visit of Tajik Prime Minister Yahya Azimov to Tashkent, agreements were reached on gas and freight transportation and the development of communication ties in 1997, Uzbek Television reported the same day. Earlier this month, talks on the same issues broke down. Tajikistan purchases all its gas, an estimated 1.1 billion cubic meters a year, from Uzbekistan. It appears Dushanbe appears to have persuaded Uzbekistan to sell it gas at a concessionary price of $50 per 1,000 cubic meters. -- 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 email@example.com 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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