|A disagreement may be the shortest cut between two minds. - Kahlil Gibran|
No. 22, Part I, 31 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 MASKHADOV TO BE INAUGURATED ON 10 FEBRUARY. Ruslan Kutaev, one of the officials organizing the inauguration of Aslan Maskhadov, said the new president would be sworn in on 10 February, after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, AFP reported on 30 January. Kutaev said that in addition to top Russian officials and regional leaders, representatives from Middle Eastern and Islamic countries, the Baltic States, South Korea, and Japan would be invited to attend. He claimed Grozny has "serious contacts" with those states. Chechen leaders view Maskahdov's inauguration as a symbol of their republic's independence, which Moscow denies, and their claims would be bolstered by an international presence. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry again warned that Russia would take "harsh measures," including breaking off diplomatic relations, against any country which recognized Chechnya, although none have shown signs of doing so. -- Scott Parrish MASKHADOV WARNS RADUEV. A spokesman for the presumed Chechen president- elect Maskhadov said that the Chechen armed forces and Interior Ministry would take "tough steps" to suppress any illegal terrorist actions by renegade field commander Salman Raduev, Russian and Western agencies reported on 30 January. Raduev had threatened the day before to launch a terrorist campaign against Russia if Moscow refuses to recognize Chechen independence. Vakha Arsanov, Maskhadov's vice-presidential running mate, derided Raduev's threat as "not even worth commenting on." Meanwhile, beginning talks with other Chechen leaders about forming a government, Maskhadov met with former field commander Shamil Basaev on 30 January. Basaev, who finished second in the presidential polls, and acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, who finished third, have both complained about minor election irregularities, although neither disputes the results. OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann said on 30 January that the polls were "exemplary and free." -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN MEETS WITH RETIRING JUDGE. President Boris Yeltsin met with retiring Chairman of the Constitutional Court Vladimir Tumanov on 30 January on his third visit to the Kremlin since being released from the hospital. According to the law on the Constitutional Court, Tumanov had to step down because he turned 70 on 20 October 1996. Rossiiskie vesti named Justices Tamara Morshchakova, Vladimir Strekozov, and Marat Baglai as possible successors to Tumanov. The president will fill the vacancy in the court by choosing a nominee from a list prepared by a congress of judges, the Justice Ministry, and the Academy of Sciences. The Federation Council must approve his choice. Tumanov said that the president, who turns 66 on 1 February, looked "better in real life than on television, but it is obvious that his illness is still taking its toll," NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIAN LEADERS FEAR LEBED. With his dominance of recent public opinion polls and unpredictable actions if he came to office, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed evokes fear among Russian politicians who support the status quo. Former Presidential Press Secretary Vyacheslav Kostikov warned that "people striving to run the state out of personal ambition" pose a greater threat to the current elite than the Communist Party," RIA Novosti reported on 30 January. Kostikov noted that "the political elite is panicking, partly because their destiny is completely tied up with that of the president," AFP reported. Meanwhile, Izvestiya on 31 March published an analysis claiming that the "party of power" and the communists will join forces against Lebed by recreating the post of the vice presidency and naming Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov to the position. The article argues that the policy positions of Yeltsin and the communists have become nearly identical and that a Yeltsin-Zyuganov hand-off would ensure a "peaceful transition of power." -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN: RUSSIA WANTS TO JOIN NATO COUNCIL. Speaking in Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, who addressed the economic forum earlier, "is wrong" to contend that enlarging NATO will bolster European security. NATO expansion "will overburden our continent with new suspicions and contradictions," he added, saying that Russia would prefer to concentrate on "business cooperation" rather than wasting time on "unproductive military and political plans." Chernomyrdin later said that Russia wants to join the NATO political council as its "full and equal" 17th member, saying Moscow is not satisfied with consultations under the current "16 +1" formula. While stressing that Moscow wants to cooperate with the alliance, he added that "Russia will never sign a formal document that would determine its attitude toward NATO," although Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Solana are scheduled to continue talks on a proposed Russia-NATO agreement on 23 February. -- Scott Parrish JAPAN DENIES U.S. TROOP BUILD-UP ON HOKKAIDO. Speaking during a tour of Sakhalin Island, Japanese Ambassador to Russia Takeshiro Togo denied on 31 January that Tokyo was redeploying U.S. troops to Hokkaido, the northernmost of the Japanese home islands, AFP reported. Russian Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin on 29 January had charged that the U.S. and Japan were "bolstering their military potential" in the region even "as we are withdrawing troops from the Kuril islands." Togo said that U.S. troops, based in Japan since 1945, had merely been recently granted a base on Hokkaido to "ease pressure on the local population" during naval exercises. Meanwhile, Russian Transport Minister Nikolai Sakh accepted a Japanese proposal for a joint investigation into the 2 January sinking of the Russian tanker Nakhodka, which caused oil slicks that contaminated the Japanese coastline and fishing grounds. -- Scott Parrish U.S. REPORT: LITTLE PROGRESS ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN RUSSIA. The U.S. State Department's annual review of human rights in 194 countries gave Russia a mixed review, AFP and Reuters reported on 30 January. The survey described the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya in late 1996 as a "bright spot," but it blamed President Yeltsin and Russia's military leadership for the war's heavy casualties, noting that "violations committed by Russian forces continued to occur on a much larger scale than those of the Chechen rebels." It also faulted the country for torture in prisons, the practice of hazing new recruits in the army, and high rates of crime and corruption, among other things. It concluded that there had been "little progress" on human rights, calling democratic gains "fragile" and elections "subject to manipulation." -- Penny Morvant CHERNOMYRDIN ON DEATH PENALTY. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said on 30 January that Russia will adhere to its pledge to introduce a moratorium on capital punishment, but he added that "in some recent cases it was impossible not to execute," international agencies reported. Chernomyrdin was responding to a resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe the previous day warning Russia that if it continues to execute prisoners, the Council will next year consider suspending the powers of the assembly's Russian delegation. Delegation head Vladimir Lukin described the resolution as "correct" but not "timely," according to ITAR-TASS. He argued that it could prove "counterproductive," creating problems during the Duma debate on the abolition of the death penalty scheduled for 12 February. Duma international affairs deputy chairman Aleksei Podberzkin, a Communist, described the resolution as "pressure on Russia." -- Penny Morvant FEWER RUSSIANS WANT TO EMIGRATE. Russians today are noticeably less interested in emigrating or living abroad temporarily than they were in 1992, according to the results of a Public Opinion Foundation poll released on 30 January. Of the 1,500 people interviewed across Russia, only 6% said they wanted to emigrate, down from 11% in a similar 1992 survey. The share of respondents saying they would like to go abroad for a limited period to earn money fell from 17% to 11%, while those interested in studying abroad fell from 6% to 3%. The percentage of people saying they would not want to leave under any circumstances rose from 49% five years ago to 64%, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The findings suggest that Russians may be less pessimistic about their country's prospects and their own situation than is often believed. -- Penny Morvant FOREIGN CURRENCY TRANSACTIONS LIBERALIZED. The Russian Central Bank announced on 30 January that is has eased rules for individual Russians wishing to take foreign currency across the country's borders, international agencies reported. Vladimir Smirnov, head of the bank's department for foreign currency supervision, said individuals are no longer required to have a special foreign-currency bank account or to obtain special permission to carry out cross-border cash transfers for non-commercial purposes. Russians can transfer up to $2,000 a day provided that they present either a foreign exchange transaction receipt or a customs declaration. Additional documentation is still required for larger transfers. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UN EXTENDS MANDATE OF OBSERVER MISSION IN GEORGIA. The Security Council has approved another six-month extension of the 125-member UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) which, with some 1,500 Russian peacekeepers, is stationed along the border with the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia, Western agencies reported. The council reaffirmed its support for Georgia's territorial integrity in the Abkhaz conflict and condemned the Abkhaz leadership for holding "illegitimate and self-styled" parliamentary elections in November 1996. -- Emil Danielyan OIL AND GAS SURVEYS TO START IN ARMENIA. The Armenian government on 30 January approved an agreement on surveys for oil and natural gas in a large area around Yerevan that was signed between the Energy Ministry and the Armenian-American oil company in October 1996, Noyan Tapan and ITAR-TASS reported. Geological exploration works will begin in February and Energy Minister Gagik Martirosyan said that by next summer it will be clear whether Armenia will extract its own oil and gas. He said that the American side will invest some $100 million in the project. Martirosyan added that an unnamed "American oil company operating in Baku" will get a concession to develop the prospective oil fields. Martirosyan did not deny that the company might be the U.S. Amoco corporation, according to RFE/RL. -- Emil Danielyan TRIALS UPDATE IN AZERBAIJAN. The former Deputy Chairman of the Popular Front of Azerbaijan, Faraj Guliev, was sentenced to 1.5 years imprisonment for his involvement in an attempt on the life of President Heidar Aliev in 1993, Turan reported on 30 January. Three other defendants, Sahib Huseinov, Fazil Kerimov, and Bayram Ahmedov received between 11 and 12 years each. -- Lowell Bezanis U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN CENTRAL ASIA. The U.S. State Department's annual global human rights report, issued on 30 January, said the human rights situation deteriorated in Central Asia in 1996, RFE/RL reported. The report noted that abuses in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan were the worst in the region. Uzbekistan was not much better, despite steps to improve its human rights record. The growth of presidential power in Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan caused them to lag in the development of democracy and human rights. -- Lowell Bezanis MORE PRISONERS EXCHANGED IN TAJIKISTAN. The Tajik government, in accordance with a ceasefire agreement signed in Moscow in December, released another seven opposition prisoners on 29 January, Reuters reported. This brings the number of opposition fighters freed by the government to 13. However, the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) noted that they had set free 111 government soldiers during the same period and that, while the release of opposition prisoners was encouraging, the UTO estimates there are still about 600 more held by the government. The government says there are still 300 of its prisoners held in central Tajikistan though the opposition claims it captured many more during 1996. -- Bruce Pannier TAJIKISTAN REPORTS TRADE SURPLUS. According to Tajikistan's National Custom's Committee and Statistics Services, the country had a foreign trade volume of $1.4 billion in 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January. Exports amounted to $768 million and imports $657 million, a surplus of $111 million. Prime Minister Yakhye Azimov, in an interview in the 31 January edition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, claimed the country had not yet reached even half its economic potential. Azimov said that the "internal conflict" had held the country back but also noted successes in the privatization of agriculture and small businesses as an encouraging sign. The Prime Minister said the establishment of peace following an agreement signed between the government and United Tajik Opposition in December would hopefully create the stability needed to attract foreign investment and raise wages, currently among the lowest in the CIS. -- Bruce Pannier CHANGES TO TURKMENISTAN'S FLAG. An olive branch motif is to be added to Turkmenistan's national flag, RFE/RL reported on 30 January. According to a presidential decree issued the day before, the branch, which is similar to the olive branch on the UN flag, is to appear below the five motifs situated on the flag's left corner. The decree noted the olive branch is to symbolize the peace-loving nature of the Turkmen people as well as the country's "neutral" status. Changes to the Turkmen national anthem and alphabet have also been made by presidential decree. -- 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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