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Newsline - January 9, 1995

Addressing a meeting of the Russian Security Council on 6 January, President Boris Yeltsin received no clear answer to his question of why the military had not complied with his order on 4 January to halt the bombing of Grozny; nor did the Security Council act on Yeltsin's proposal to set a firm date for the cessation of military activities, Western media reported. ITAR-TASS and Ekho Moskvy quoted human rights activist Sergei Kovalev, who met with Yeltsin on 6 January, as stating that Yeltsin had told him it was "too early" to stop the fighting in time for the Russian Orthodox Christmas festivities on 7 January. The Russian military bombardment of Grozny continued from 6-8 January; on 7 January, the Russian general commanding the Interior troops contingent, Major-General Viktor Vorobev, was killed by an exploding mortar shell as Russian forces tried to advance on the presidential palace. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

Russian military officials on 6 and 7 January released casualty figures from the fighting in Chechnya. As reported by Interfax, the military said 116 members of the ground forces, 100 paratroopers, and 41 Interior Ministry troops had been killed. Moscow News as cited by The Washington Post on 8 January gave a figure of 1,800 Russians killed. Groups opposing the military intervention suggested that the Russian losses were far heavier. Moreover, the official figures would not have included all the casualties from the heavy fighting on 7 and 8 January. Ekho Moskvy on 8 January carried a report from the Chechen defense headquarters claiming that 100 Russians had been killed on 7 January in an unsuccessful effort to storm the presidential palace in Grozny. A correspondent for Mayak Radio reported the next day that the Chechens had captured 113 Russian soldiers in Grozny over the weekend--many of them drunk--while Interfax reported that a unit of Russian paratroopers had been captured that day near a village 30 kilometers southwest of Grozny. In a 7 January ITAR-TASS report, the Russians claimed to have killed some 2,500 "militants" and to have destroyed 26 tanks, 40 other armored vehicles and more than 150 aircraft--most of them L-29 and L-39 jet trainers. -- Doug Clarke and Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

In a statement read on NTV on 7 January, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Yegorov said that air reconnaissance had located four missile silos near the Chechen village of Bamut. He said he doubted any missiles were still there but would give a definite answer once he had all the facts. In September 1994, Chechen military officials had claimed that there were 24 nuclear warheads at a secret base in Bamut to which they might gain access. The Russian Defense Ministry denied the claim at the time. On 8 January, Colonel General Viktor Yesin, the chief of staff of the Strategic Missile Forces, explained that there had been an R-12 (SS-4) intermediate-range nuclear missile base--consisting of four silos--near Bamut in the 1970s, part of a division based at Ordzhonikidze (now Vladikavkaz) in neighboring North Ossetia. As reported by ITAR-TASS, Yesin said the base had been abandoned in 1980, and its weapons and equipment destroyed under the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty. While Yesin's explanation is plausible, the INF treaty was not signed until December 1987, and it contains no reference to the units or locations he described. The only nuclear weapons known to have been in the region in recent years were at the strategic airbase at Mozdok, also in North Ossetia. In the START-1 treaty, the Russians said that 22 Bear-H bombers equipped with long-range nuclear missiles were based in Mozdok. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

In a letter sent to President Yeltsin on 6 January, US President Bill Clinton reaffirmed his concern over the high number of civilian casualties in Chechnya and again called on Yeltsin to resolve the crisis through dialogue, Reuters reported on 6 January. Speaking to a German radio station on 7 January, Chancellor Helmut Kohl described civilian sufferings in Chechnya as "sheer madness" but rejected as counterproductive the suggestion voiced on 6 January by French Defense Minister Francois Leotard and Danish Prime Minister Poul Rasmussen that economic sanctions be imposed on Russia in retaliation for human rights violations in Chechnya. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said Yeltsin needs to bring the military back under his control and begin negotiations on a peaceful solution of the conflict that would include an acceptable degree of autonomy for Chechnya. Danish Defense Minister Hans Haekkerup stated on 7 January that his country has suspended until further notice an agreement concluded in September 1994 on military cooperation with Russia, Western agencies reported. Russia has postponed indefinitely joint German-Russian military exercises scheduled to take place near St. Petersburg in summer 1995, according to German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe as quoted in Der Spiegel. The German news agency dpa noted that this would have been the first time Bundeswehr soldiers held exercises on Russian soil. Ruehe and Grachev signed a military cooperation agreement in Moscow in April 1993. Also on 7 January, AFP reported that on 2 January Libya had called for the convening of an emergency meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member states to discuss the Chechen crisis. -- Liz Fuller and Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Six members of the Russia's Choice faction called for the Duma to meet on 11 January to consider a report on human rights in Chechnya and legislative initiatives to amend the constitution, Interfax reported on 6 January. State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin said the amendments would deal with strengthening parliamentary control over the executive branch. The session will also discuss draft laws proposed by Russia's Choice forcing the government to publish a list of those killed and wounded in the combat zone and prohibiting the financing of military operations within Russia. Rybkin also said that Yeltsin will enlarge the Security Council to include the leaders of both houses of the parliament, who will have a "decisive vote." The Democratic Party of Russia also plans to raise the issue of a no-confidence vote in the government at the session. Sergei Glazyev, leader of the party and chairman of the State Duma Committee on Economic Policy, said that events in Chechnya confirm that "the government cannot resolve a single key problem." According to Interfax, Glazyev claimed that if the Duma had supported the party's October no-confidence proposal, the Chechen conflict would have been resolved differently. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev met with Yeltsin on 6 January but failed to persuade him to stop the fighting. Kovalev told a news conference later that day that Yeltsin denied having poor knowledge of the real situation in Chechnya but then contradicted himself, trying to persuade Kovalev that there were no bombings in Grozny after Yeltsin's address to the nation on 27 December. Kovalev, who was monitoring human rights inside Grozny from 14 December to 5 January, told Yeltsin that he witnessed the bombings himself. Later on 6 January, Kovalev met behind close doors with the ambassadors of ten democracies to discuss with them the Chechen situation. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.

In an interview with Russian Television on 7 January, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai confirmed that the "problem" of the RTV chairman, Oleg Poptsov, was indeed raised at the session of the Russian Security Council the day before. According to Shakhrai, participants persuaded Yeltsin to refrain from firing Poptsov because, as Shakhrai put it, it would be counterproductive to punish the media for the poor performance of the military. At a news conference held later on 6 January, Sergei Kovalev quoted Yeltsin as saying at their meeting earlier that day that he (Yeltsin) had signed a decree, relieving Poptsov from his duties as RTV chairman because, in his view, "Vesti's" coverage of the Chechen crisis "distorted the positions of both sides in the conflict." Kovalev's news conference was followed by a meeting of all RTV employees, who unanimously voted for a resolution reaffirming their confidence in Poptsov. RTV was founded in 1990. After Yeltsin was elected speaker of the Russian parliament, the RTV played a key role in his rise to president, serving as Yeltsin's mouthpiece during his power struggle against former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and during his later conflict with the parliament. Poptsov, its first chairman, was elected rather than appointed to the office. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.

The founding congress of a new political party based on the Yabloko faction in the Russian parliament opened on 6 January in the village of Golitsino near Moscow, an RFE/RL corespondent reported later that day. The leader of the new party, economist Grigorii Yavlinsky, is widely regarded to be a front-running democratic candidate in the next presidential election, scheduled for June 1996. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.

In an attempt to defend the ruble and calm inflation, Russia's Central Bank raised its key refinancing rate from 180% to 200% on 6 January, according to Russian and Western agencies on 6-8 January. The ruble lost another 44 points in the 6 January trading session on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICEX), closing at 3,667 rubles to $1. Tatiana Paramonova, the Central Bank's acting head, ordered the rate increase and considered the move crucial in order for rates to remain above inflation and prevent extensive borrowing that would result in even higher prices. Aleksander Pochinok, deputy chairman of the Budget Committee in the State Duma, reported that the Central Bank was "reacting to a rise in money supply . . . which might have been caused by the excess volume of the Central Bank's loans, massive growth of speculative incomes of commercial banks, or unexpected growth in budget expenditures." Many experts have said that inflation has also spiraled as a result of the Chechnya military campaign, which is placing a heavy burden on the economy. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

On 6 January Turkmen President Sapurmurad Niyazov appointed Deputy Prime Minister Boris Shikhmuradov as foreign minister, Interfax reported on 7 January. Shikhmuradov, who is 42 years old, studied journalism at Moscow State University; from 1971-92 he worked at the Novosti press agency and then in the USSR Foreign Ministry. He returned to Turkmenistan in May 1992 as deputy foreign minister; in January 1993, he was appointed deputy premier responsible for foreign, defense, national security, and internal affairs. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

The deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council, Ramazan Abdulatipov, met in Sukhumi on 6 January with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba and with the commander of the Russian peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, Lieutenant-General Vassilii Yakushev, Interfax reported on 6 January. Abdulatipov said that on 16-17 January, the Federation Council would debate the renewal, for an unspecified period, of the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping forces sent to Abkhazia last June for an initial period of six months. While conceding that they had played a positive role in stabilizing the situation, Abdulatipov said that Russia "had undertaken a burden that was too heavy" and that no country or international organization could simultaneously wage an internal conflict and conduct five or six peacekeeping operations. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.


Vice Admiral Vladimir Bezkorovainy, the commander of the Ukrainian Navy, has expressed concern over what he believes might be a Russian effort to circumvent agreed provisions of the joint talks on the division of the Black Sea Fleet. As reported by ITAR-TASS on 6 January, the two sides agreed that a naval base at Balaklava would be used by the Ukrainian Navy. This base was once the main submarine base of the Black Sea Fleet. However, rather than dealing with the Ukrainians, the Russian commander of the fleet--Admiral Eduard Baltin--has sent all documents concerning the turnover of this base to the Sevastopol city council. In letters to the chairmen of the Sevastopol and Balaklava councils, Bezkorovainy charged that Baltin's action was unlawful and a provocation. He reportedly warned the Balaklava authorities against taking any ill-considered steps. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

At an extraordinary meeting on 5 January, the Latvian government decided to issue temporary residence permits, valid until 1 May, to Russian servicemen who were discharged in Latvia after 28 January 1992, Interfax reported on 6 January. They were required to leave the country before 31 August 1994 but were allowed to stay until 1 January due to the housing shortage in Russia. The government's decision requires these servicemen to register with the citizenship office before 15 February. If Russia does not give the Latvian Foreign Ministry a full list of these people by that date and a schedule for their departure, Latvia is threatening to expel them. Latvian officials are calculating the costs of the servicemen's extended stay and the Foreign Ministry is likely to demand compensation from Russia. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Viktor Niitsoo, the head of the Estonian National Independence Party parliamentary faction, said that Transport and Communications Minister Andi Meister should resign because he quit the ENIP on 20 December and decided to run in the May parliamentary elections as a candidate in the rightist coalition, BNS reported on 6 January. Niitsoo noted that the transport minister's portfolio belongs to the ENIP and thus it would be unethical of Meister to keep it after leaving the party. Meister said that his position as minister should be decided by the government and Prime Minister Andres Tarand. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Aleksander Kwasniewski, leader of the Democratic Alliance of the Left, told private Radio Zet on 6 January that some changes in the cabinet were perhaps needed to make the current government more effective and to replace "weaker elements," international agencies report. Kwasniewski heads the senior partner in the governing coalition. While throwing his support behind Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak, Kwasniewski noted that the premier had not consulted the Democratic Alliance of the Left before stating publicly that Foreign Minister Andrzej Olechowski was doing a poor job (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 January 1995). He also commented that such charges were unjust. "The case of the foreign minister shows that we are being surprised by some decisions and, what is more, by misguided decisions," Kwasniewski told Radio Zet. President Lech Walesa made it clear last week that he wanted Pawlak replaced as prime minister, possibly by Kwasniewski. Walesa and Pawlak have recently been trading swipes over such issues as ministers, taxes, and the extent of their powers under Poland's interim constitution. -- Jan Cleave, OMRI, Inc.

Poland's Roman Catholic bishops on 6 January refused to issue a joint statement with their German counterparts marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz, Polish and international agencies report. Bishop Stanislaw Gadecki said the decision not to issue the statement was taken after "stormy debate." He added "there was a desire to avoid the impression that Poles and Germans were jointly responsible for Auschwitz," noting that in the past Western media have suggested that Polish anti-Semitism played an important role in the Nazis' decision to build concentration camps in Poland. Gadecki also commented that a joint statement by the Polish and German bishops would have led to the conclusion that the Churches were "primarily responsible for the misfortune met by Jews." Gazeta Wyborcza on 6 January regretted the decision and commented that a joint statement would have helped clear up any misunderstandings about the Churches' wartime role. Polish President Lech Walesa will preside over a ceremony at Auschwitz on 27 January commemorating the camp's liberation. -- Jan Cleave, OMRI, Inc.

Aleksei Bolshakov arrived in Minsk on 6 January to finish drafting a memorandum on expanding Russian-Belarusian cooperation and developing economic, political and military links, Belarusian media reported. Eleven documents are ready for signing, but problems remain in resolving a customs union and in organizing financial bodies for trade. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

Following a meeting of "Ukraina," the democratic union which includes the Christian Democratic Party and the Green Party, parliamentary deputy Dmytro Pavlychko issued a statement regarding its stand on the Russian-Ukrainian friendship treaty, Ukrainian television reported on 8 January. According to Pavlychko, "Ukrainia" is opposed to the signing of the treaty, saying it threatens Ukraine's sovereignty. He also said that he was informed that the Russians wanted to include a clause on dual citizenship, to which Ukraine is opposed, and that the Russian side is not respecting Ukraine's territorial integrity. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

Vitalii Masol, citing preliminary statistics, said Ukraine's monthly inflation dropped to around 28% in December from last year's high, 72.3% in November, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 6 January. Inflation jumped drastically in late 1994, from 2.6% in August and 7.3% in September, after parliament ordered the government to print 70 trillion unbacked Ukrainian karbovantsi in cheap credits for the agricultural sector, Viktor Yushchenko, chairman of Ukraine's National Bank, said in an interview with UNIAR News on 8 January. While the premier expressed hopes that monthly inflation will not rise above 20% in the first quarter of 1995, Yushchenko believed tight fiscal policy measures and planned market reforms in the farm sector can reduce inflation further. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

A recent public opinion poll by the Crimean Center for Humanitarian Studies found that 58% of Crimea's residents believe the peninsula is run by the mafia, Interfax reported on 4 January. Of the 1,500 or so respondents, 21% found it difficult to give an opinion on the issue, 10% think Crimea is controlled by the local parliament, 5% said the Ukrainian central government is in charge, while 2% thought Crimean President Yurii Meshkov and Prime Minister Anatoli Franchuk are in control. Only 1% think political power in the autonomous republic resides with the people, while the same number believe it lies with the Crimean security service. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

The Slovak cabinet met with representatives of the Confederation of Slovak Trade Unions on 6 January in an effort to gain support for its program manifesto. According to a Narodna obroda report the following day, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said one of the main controversies concerned wages. Noting that inflation will occur if wage increases are not matched by increases in labor productivity, Meciar said his government favors wages regulated by GDP growth rather than by increases in the cost of living. In an interview with Pravda on 5 January, Confederation President Alojz Englis expressed disappointment that the provisional budget was passed without first being discussed with the government's social partners and said his group disagreed with changes in several laws which would affect the lives of citizens. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

The Slovak cabinet met in Trencianske Teplice on 8 January to discuss the proposal for its manifesto. Deputy Premier Sergej Kozlik later announced on Slovak Television that the government was expected to work out the final version that day, approve it on 10 January, and submit it to the parliament on 11 January. Still, Premier Vladimir Meciar said the parliament would not discuss the manifesto until 19 January. According to the constitution, "within 30 days of its appointment, the cabinet is obliged to appear before the parliament, present its program, and request a vote of confidence." The cabinet was installed on 13 December, and several opposition parties have protested the fact that the manifesto will not be passed by 13 January. The cabinet plans for GDP growth of 4-5% in 1995 and 8% by 1998. The unemployment rate is expected to remain below 15% in 1995, falling to 10% by 1998. In other political news, Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota, who serves as both mayor of Zilina and as a parliamentary deputy, announced on 6 Janiuary that he will donate his 1995 parliamentary earnings to social groups in Zilina, TASR reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

During a meeting of the Slovak cabinet with representatives of the Employers Association on 7 January, Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar held a press conference to discuss his cabinet's plans for privatization, Sme reports. The start of the second wave of coupon privatization will depend on several factors, Meciar said. A review of the property to be offered is expected to be completed by 15 January. Ministers will then meet with representatives of trade unions and employers to decide on the privatization concept for each industrial branch and for each firm. Meciar also mentioned that "between the government and employers there are no serious controversies" concerning the cabinet's manifesto. According to Lidove noviny, Meciar said that in the near future criminal proceedings will be launched against some participants in privatization, although he did not give details. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Radio Bucharest on 7 January quoted a spokesman for the Hungarian Ministry of Defense as denying a report in the independent Romanian daily Ziua that his country intends to purchase military equipment from Romania. The spokesman also denied a report by the Hungarian news agency MTI that, during talks held in December with a Romanian military delegation in Budapest, the immediate and long-range needs of the Hungarian military were reviewed and that the Romanian side made an offer to which Budapest did not react. Radio Bucharest's correspondent in Budapest quoted unidentified "Western diplomatic sources," who said the Pentagon would view favorably the prospect of military cooperation between Romania and Hungary. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

International media report on 9 January that Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic introduced new conditions when he spoke to the UN's General Sir Michael Rose the previous day. Until then, the Serbs were insisting only that the government forces' withdrawal from Mt. Igman's demilitarized zone near Sarajevo be confirmed; now they want the mainly Muslim troops to leave some areas adjacent to the DMZ as well. Rose is slated to meet with government commander General Rasim Delic on 9 January. The Muslims insist that the Serbs reopen roads into Sarajevo as soon as the government's withdrawal from the DMZ is confirmed and that attacks by Bosnian and Krajina Serbs against Bihac stop. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

The Los Angeles Times on 9 January writes that Bosnian Serb forces may be overplaying their hand and ignoring the possibility that time is working against them and for the Muslims. Reuters and The New York Times on 7 January, however, suggest that the Serbs are to be rewarded for their intransigence by the five-nation Contact Group. According to this view, the Serbs may have rejected the take-it-or-leave-it peace plan last summer, but they will soon be offered territorial concessions anyway. This has provoked bitterness from the government. Reuters on 9 January quotes Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic as saying that his side "has accepted the plan. But if it's just a basis for further negotiations, then there is no plan." Silajdzic had been meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Richard Holbrooke, who is visiting several Balkan countries and publicly criticized suggestions by Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole that the US lift the arms embargo against the Bosnian government. Bosnian Serb parliamentary leader Momcilo Krajisnik told Borba on 6 January that his side regards "only 10-15%" of Bosnian territory as disputed. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Vjesnik on 9 January quotes Bosnian Croat leader and Croat-Muslim federation President Kresimir Zubak on some problems between the Bosnian Croats and the mainly Muslim Sarajevo government. Zubak suggests that the differences stem from contrasting interpretations of the nature of the Bosnian state: the Muslims want a unitary polity while the Croats want a looser federation. The daily writes that the congress of the Islamic Community of Croatia met on 7 January. The group is reconstituting itself following the effective dissolution of the former Yugoslav-wide Islamic organization and establishment of an Islamic Community of Slovenia separate from the Croatian body. Meanwhile, on the international front, Prime Minister Nikica Valentic is visiting China at the head of a high-powered economic delegation. Finally, one of Croatia's key earners of hard currency, tourism, has had a good year, with $1.3 billion coming in during 1994. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Romania will soon begin representing French interests in Baghdad, Radio Bucharest announced on 6 January. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe announced the move after talks in Paris with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz-the first time France has officially received a high Iraqi official since the Gulf War. The French decision was criticized by the US State Department, whose spokeswoman Christine Shelly said the US did not think the move was helpful or constructive. Britain had similar criticism. Juppe said the opening of an Iraqi interest section at the Romanian Embassy was a technical measure needed to solve practical questions, because France and Iraq had no diplomatic relations. For its part, Romania said it was delighted to represent France's interests. A Foreign Ministry official said the move was proof of the "privileged" relations between Romania and France. He added that Romania did not withdraw the personnel of its embassy from Baghdad during the Gulf Crisis, with the exception of its ambassador. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Radio Bucharest on 6 January quoted the head of rescue operations in Constanta as saying there is no chance that any of the 54 seamen still missing after two freighters sank in the Black Sea port on 4 January will be found alive. Nine bodies were recovered by the evening of 8 January. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

The parliamentary group of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and its allies have elected its deputy leaders, Pari reported on 9 January. Rosen Hubenov will be responsible for the legislative program, while Krasimir Premyanov is in charge of contacts with the other parliamentary groups. At the same meeting, Blagovest Sendov was named candidate for chairman of the National Assembly, while Nora Ananieva will run for deputy chairman. She will be the only candidate for this post proposed by the BSP, regardless of whether there are three or five deputy chairmen in the new parliament. Standard on 9 January reported that the BSP wants the number to rise to five "in the name of national reconciliation." The Socialist deputies also decided to change the name of their faction to Parliamentary Group of the Democratic Left. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

According to specialists of the Economic Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Science, the monthly inflation for December 1994 will be about 5%, Demokratsiya reported on 9 January. This will bring annual inflation for 1994 to 121%, the second-highest figure since 1989. -- Stefan Krause

The self-proclaimed University Council of the Albanian-language university in Tetovo elected its officers on 8 January in the bureau of the ethnic Albanian Democratic People's Party, Flaka and Vecer reported the next day. Fadil Sulejmani was elected director of the university which, the Macedonian authorities claim, is illegal. The meeting of the University Council moved to another location after police broke it up. Sulejmani criticized the police raid as an "inhuman, vandalistic and undemocratic act." Police have intervened against the University in the past, but the Albanians say they will continue their work and the classes can begin on 20 January. So far about 400 students have registered. Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, visiting the country, said Washington is considering increased economic and military support for Macedonia, international agencies reported on 8 January. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Steve Kettle