|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
No. 30, Part II, 12 February 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 ************************************************************************ In the 21 February issue of OMRI's journal TRANSITION: DISSIDENTS -- THEN AND NOW - Reshaping Dissident Ideals for Post-Communist Times - How Rude pravo 'Helped' Get Charter 77 off the Ground - In Poland, A Long-Standing Tradition of Resistance PLUS... - CENTRAL ASIA: The Gordian Knot of Energy - BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Janusz Bugajski on Stabilizing Partition with SFOR - VIEWPOINT: Vladimir Shlapentokh on Creating 'The Russian Dream' After Chechnya For subscription information about OMRI's new monthly, send an e-mail message to email@example.com ************************************************************************ RUSSIA RYBKIN ON RUSSIA'S FIRST STRIKE POLICY. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin said in an interview with Rossiiskaya gazeta on 11 February that Russia should reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional weapons attack, particularly in view of the current weakness of Russia's armed forces. Although Rybkin's remarks are in line with the Russian military doctrine adopted in 1993, which did not include the Soviet-era "no first strike" pledge, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii sought to distance the administration from them. According to Russian TV (RTR), Yastrzhembskii stressed that only the president, prime minister, and foreign minister can make official statements on foreign policy. Russian Public Television (ORT) speculated that Rybkin's remarks, which provoked a mixed reception in Russia, were intended as a trial balloon to test NATO's reaction to one possible Russian response to NATO's projected eastward expansion. -- Penny Morvant SPOKESMAN: YELTSIN RECOVERING SLOWLY. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii said President Boris Yeltsin's period of recuperation from heart surgery is progressing "rather slowly," having been hampered by a recent bout of pneumonia, NTV and RTR reported on 11 February. Although Yeltsin's health is improving and his schedule is becoming more active, Yastrzhembskii added, reporters should not expect the president to make an "accelerated return" to the Kremlin. Yeltsin is scheduled to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on 18 February, and in March he will travel to Helsinki for a summit with U.S. President Bill Clinton. Yeltsin fell ill with pneumonia just two weeks after his return to the Kremlin on 23 December. Also on 11 February, Yeltsin met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for more than an hour in the Gorki-9 sanitarium. -- Laura Belin MASKHADOV INAUGURATED. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov took the oath of office on 12 February in the former palace of culture for chemical industry workers. He swore on the Koran to reinforce the independence of the Chechen state, AFP reported. Among those present were former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed; OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann, who had been expelled by former interim President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev; and Budennovsk raid leader Shamil Basaev. After meeting with Maskhadov, Yandarbiev told Grozny TV on 11 February that he would remain active in politics and continue to work for Chechen independence. His last decree bestowed Chechnya's highest military honors on his predecessor, Dzhokhar Dudaev. On the eve of the inauguration, Russian Prime Minster Chernomyrdin urged Maskhadov to help secure the release of two ORT journalists still being held in Chechnya. -- Robert Orttung RUSSIAN JUSTICE MINISTER SEES NO PROBLEM IN DEFINING CHECHEN STATUS. Valentin Kovalev on 11 February said that there are no insurmountable obstacles to reaching an agreement with Chechnya on the republic's status. Kovalev noted that the Chechens want "sovereignty," and pointed out that Tatarstan's constitution defines it as a "sovereign state within the Russian Federation," ORT reported. Kovalev also noted that Ukraine and Belarus had been members of the UN in the Soviet era, according to Russian media reports monitored by the BBC. -- Robert Orttung REACTION TO ATTEMPTS TO FORM INDUSTRIAL DUMA FACTION. State Duma deputy Nikolai Ryzhkov, leader of the Popular Power faction, argued that if the Russian Industrial Union faction acquires the 35 deputies needed for registration, the work of the lower house of parliament will be destabilized, NTV and Radio Rossii reported on 11 February. A new faction would force the Duma Council to reapportion committees, distracting deputies from important legislative work, Ryzhkov argued. Currently, there are seven Duma factions; two of the organizers of the industrial group are from Popular Power, which along with the Communist and Agrarian factions has enjoyed a working majority (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 February 1997). Segodnya and Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 11 February, however, that Communist Party leaders will bail out Ryzhkov's faction; several Communist deputies will join Popular Power to ensure that it has at least 35 members. -- Laura Belin COMMUNISTS CRITICIZE SVANIDZE APPOINTMENT. Opposition leaders are not pleased with Nikolai Svanidze's appointment as chairman of RTR. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov described Svanidze as an "entirely inappropriate figure," and State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev charged that Svanidze is far too partisan to lead a state-run network, Segodnya and Kommersant-Daily reported on 11 February. Svanidze has not shied away from expressing his anti-communist views, both on his current program "Zerkalo" and on his previous show "Podrobnosti" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 and 15 December 1995). In an interview published in the 12 February Izvestiya, he denied that he discusses upcoming coverage on his programs with Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. Meanwhile, Svanidze indicated that journalists who signed an open letter last week denouncing the leadership of then RTR chairman Eduard Sagalaev will soon be asked to leave the network, ORT reported. -- Laura Belin MORE ON NATO EXPANSION. President Yeltsin's foreign affairs adviser, Dmitrii Ryurikov, said on 11 February that it is "unfair and wrong" for NATO to deny Russia a veto on European security issues, international agencies reported. He said NATO's drive to expand eastward is excluding Russia from joint decision-making on European security issues. The same day, presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii said Moscow would be particularly alarmed if the Baltic states joined NATO. The remarks coincided with a tour of post-Soviet republics by NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. Meanwhile, a group of democratic parties castigated the "current anti-NATO hysteria" in Russia, saying it is often used for propaganda purposes "to return to the times of the Cold War." They argued that Russia and NATO must find a "reasonable compromise" on expansion. In an interview with RTR, liberal Duma Deputy Irina Khakamada supported Moscow's call for a legally binding document on Russia's relations with NATO. -- Penny Morvant RUMORS ABOUT RODIONOV'S RESIGNATION. Kommersant-Daily on 11 February speculated that Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's recent remarks about underfunding of the military and the possibility of Russia losing control of its nuclear forces could lead to his replacement by Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin. Presidential press secretary Yastrzhembskii, however, dismissed as "totally unfounded" rumors of Rodionov's resignation, RIA Novosti reported. Rodionov has recently been very outspoken on the parlous state of Russia's armed forces, telling a press conference on 6 February that the reliability of Russia's nuclear command-and-control system could not be guaranteed (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February 1996). Asked about Russia's defense capability in an interview with Trud on 11 February, he likened the current situation to that in the 1920s after the Civil War. Rodionov has reportedly also clashed with Baturin over the direction of military reform, although both professed their unity on the issue at a 7 February joint press conference. -- Penny Morvant LYSENKO CHARGED WITH BOMBING HIS OWN OFFICE. Former Duma member Nikolai Lysenko has been charged with ordering the detonation of a bomb in his own office on 5 December 1995, NTV reported 11 February. Investigators concluded that Lysenko hoped that the incident would boost his chances in the 17 December Duma elections. Witnesses saw Lysenko's assistant, Mikhail Rogozin, leave the office just before the explosion. The investigators also found a $3,000 Duma computer in Lysenko's St. Petersburg apartment even though Lysenko earlier reported that the computer had been destroyed. Lysenko had charged that the attack's perpetrators were people from the Caucasus seeking revenge for his anti- Chechen statements and demands that Moscow be "cleansed" of people of Caucasian descent. Lysenko was arrested on 13 May and remains in custody, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung FEDERATION COUNCIL DISCUSSES 1997 BUDGET. The Federation Council has started to debate the 1997 budget, passed by the Duma on 24 January, ITAR-TASS reported on 11-12 February. It is widely believed that the upper house will also approve the budget, although its budget committee is calling for several amendments, such as placing the regional support fund in the budget's list of guaranteed items. A heated debate is expected over the volume and mechanism of financial transfers to the regions, since donor-regions and recipient-regions are likely to take different stands on the issue. -- Natalia Gurushina SAKHALIN REFUSES TO PAY TAXES. The Sakhalin Oblast Duma has decided to discontinue payments to the federal budget, claiming that the government is systematically failing to meet its financial obligations to the region, Segodnya reported on 11 February. The local authorities blame the center for a severe crisis in the payment of wages and social benefits in the region. A representative of the federal government called the Sakhalin Duma's decision illegitimate and unconstitutional and promised a "tough response," ITAR-TASS reported on 11 February. Several large-scale international oil projects are under way in Sakhalin Oblast. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN GEORGIA. Javier Solana began his Transcaucasian tour on 11 February by visiting Tbilisi and meeting with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss issues of regional and European security, Russian media reported. Shevardnadze said he does not exclude a "political" role for NATO in the search for a resolution of the Abkhaz conflict. Asked at a news conference about the possibility of a NATO-led, Bosnia-type peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia, Solana warned against a "thoughtless" duplication of the Bosnian experience in other regions. Shevardnadze said he is confident that Russia and the West will eventually reach a compromise on NATO enlargement. He also said that integration into a new European security system is "very important" for Georgia and that NATO as a "political organization" could help his country achieve that goal. -- Emil Danielyan MORE DEVELOPMENTS IN GEORGIAN DIPLOMAT CASE. Following a request by the U.S. Attorney's Office, the U.S. State Department has formally asked Georgia to waive diplomatic immunity for its diplomat, Georgi Makharadze, who reportedly triggered a five-car accident on 4 January in which a 16-year-old American girl died (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 January 1997), Reuters reported on 11 February. The U.S. ambassador in Tbilisi informed the Georgian government that Makharadze will be charged with involuntary murder. According to State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns, Georgian authorities have reiterated their readiness to allow the diplomat to be prosecuted but added that a formal decision will be ready in "a few days." -- Emil Danielyan AZERBAIJANI UPDATE. Former Azerbaijani Environmental Committee Chairman Arif Mansurov, who was detained in mid-January in connection with the October 1994 coup attempt, has been released from prison on bail due to poor health, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 February. In other news, Iran resumed a rail link to Nakhichevan on 9 February, AFP reported. According to the agency, the link between Tabriz and Nakhichevan City has been suspended since the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute erupted in 1988. Meanwhile, one of Azerbaijan's main opposition parties, Musavat, has established a pro-NATO association, according to an 8 February report monitored by the BBC. Headed by Sulhaddin Akper, the Azerbaijani Association for Atlantic Cooperation supports NATO enlargement, aims to strengthen ties between Azerbaijan and NATO within the Partnership for Peace program, and favors a "more modern" national security system for Azerbaijan. -- Lowell Bezanis UIGHUR-HAN VIOLENCE ON CHINESE BORDER WITH KAZAKSTAN. Chinese authorities have summarily executed an estimated 100 Uighurs for their alleged involvement in bloody anti-Han riots that took place in the frontier town of Yining last week, Western media reported on 12 February. The authorities have sealed off Yining and imposed a curfew on the heavily militarized town, which is the capital of the Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang. Exiled Uighurs in Kazakstan say the riot was sparked by executions, while the Chinese authorities claim that about 1,000 young Uighurs, screaming pro-independence and anti-Han slogans, rampaged in Yining on 5-6 February, causing 10 deaths and injuring almost 150 people. They also claim to have detained the leader of the riots, identified only as a 29-year-old Uighur named Heilili. -- Lowell Bezanis ONE HOSTAGE RELEASED IN TAJIKISTAN . . . One of the hostages taken by Bahrom Sadirov and his brother Rezvon Sadirov was freed on 11 February because of ill health, Western and Russian media reported. Maj. Gottfried Hoenig was sick when he was captured along with four other UN employees on 4 February, and his condition had apparently worsened to the extent that his captors agreed to have him sent to Dushanbe along with a rebel fighter. Initially, it seemed that Bahrom Sadirov, who took the hostages, was demanding free passage for his brother from Afghanistan to Tajikistan, but it is now apparent that the two Sadirovs are working together to secure the return of 40 supporters from Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier . . . BUT REMAINING HOSTAGES FACE EXECUTION. The Sadirov brothers said that if their supporters in Afghanistan, are not granted free passage to Tajikistan by the evening of 12 February, they will begin executing the remaining 14 hostages, according to Russian media. The 40 fighters in question were brought by helicopter to the southern Tajik town of Kulyab on the morning of 12 February and the government plans to hand them over to the Sadirovs on a stage-by-stage basis in exchange for the hostages. One of the captives, ITAR-TASS journalist Galina Gridneva, said in a phone conversation on the night of 11 February that the situation had greatly deteriorated and that the captives' lives "are in real danger." Bahrom Sadirov said government troops have surrounded hiM. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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