Volume I Number 4 (December 18, 1996)
Bungled Semenov dismissal highlights Kremlin confusion
In a move to dismiss the commander-in-chief of the ground forces, Defense
Minister Igor Rodionov apparently attempted to circumvent Kremlin procedure,
which resulted in confusion over General Vladimir Semenov's status. According
to reports, Rodionov submitted a written request for Semenov's dismissal
to the president, who approved the document. Rodionov then fired Semenov,
showing him the request with the president's sanction. When the presidential
administration was asked about the dismissal, the response was that there
was no signed presidential decree on the General. What would appear to be
a technical matter of completing appropriate paper work became a public
embarassment as General Semenov appealed publicly for the justification
of his dismissal. Although Semenov was allegedly accused of conduct besmirching
the honor of a serviceman, rumors suggested that it was actually his wife's
commercial activities which prompted the action.
President Yel'tsin refused to back up his Defense Minister's action,
claiming that his approval of Rodionov's request to dismiss Semenov was
intended to prompt a review of Semenov's case before the Defense Council's
military commisions committee. Yel'tsin has now ordered a speedy resolution
of this matter.
Shakhrai returns to the Kremlin
Sergei Shakhrai, whose long service to President Yel'tsin includes drafting
the decrees that dissolved the Soviet Union and established the Commonwealth
of Independent States, returned to the Kremlin this month as presidential
liaison to the Constitutional Court and deputy head of the presidential
administration. While Shakhrai has not held a position in the executive
since December 1995, he was quite active in the campaign to re-elect President
Yel'tsin and had evidently been disappointed at not receiving an appointment
before this. A possible explanation of this oversight is suggested by Shakhrai's
characterization of his relations with Chubais as "not great."
His re-emergence now may signal Yel'tsin's resumption of greater involvement
in Kremlin affairs.
But Shumeiko still out in the cold
Another of the high-profile figures associated with the Yel'tsin administration,
Vladimir Shumeiko, was also apparently expecting an appointment to an important
state post. Shumeiko, former head of the Federation Council and active supporter
of Yel'tsin's re-election, has been concentrating on the regional elections
M.K. claims tape authenticated
Moskovsky Komsomolets published (11 December 96) a report claiming that
the tape of a conversation among Yel'tsin aides conspiring over campaign
funds (see previous digests) has been authenticated by an American lab.
What the lab has apparently confirmed is that the tape was not made through
a bugging device, but with a portable cassette recorder, and that it was
not edited, modified or fabricated.
by Susan J. Cavan
Communists demonstrations on Revolution anniversary About 6,000
people took part in a procession in St. Petersburg. The militia noted that
the demonstrators included considerably more young people than previously.
No more than 7,000, of the 20,000 expected, attended a rally in Novosibirsk.
About 3,000 demonstrators in Vladikavkaz called for the restoration of the
USSR. (Radio Rossii in Russian, 1600 GMT, 7 November 1996)
Social democratic parties meet in Moldova
Delegates from social-democratic parties of Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Azerbaijan,
Moldova, Poland, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, and other countries are taking
part in the work of this conference. Their agenda includes models of social
economy during the transitional period and prospects for further cooperation
between left-wing parties. (Itar Tass in Russian, 1438 GMT, 7 November 1996)
National-patriotic foces win in Kaluga
Valeriy Sudarenkov, a candidate representing the national-patriotic forces,
has emerged victorious from the runoff gubernatorial elections in Kaluga
region. According to preliminary reports he has won 63.51% of the votes.
His rival, current governor Oleg Savchenko, was supported by 30.48% of the
voters. The turnout stood at 41%, the local electoral commission reports.
In the first round, held on October 27, Sudarenkov won 45.76% of the votes
and Savchenko 39.63%. (Interfax, 0847 GMT, 10 November 1996)
Sudarenko wins in Kaluga Oblast
In the second round of the gubernatorial elections 9 November Oleg Savchenko,
head of the Kaluga Oblast administration, lost to Valeriy Sudarenkov, chairman
of the oblast legislative assembly, who was supported by the left-wing opposition
at the concluding stage of the election struggle. (Rossiyskiye Vesti, 12
November 1996, p.2)
Lebed's brother to run for Khakassia premier
The republic's Supreme Court has adopted a decision ordering the electoral
commission to register Aleksey Lebed -- Aleksandr Lebed's brother -- as
candidate for the post of chairman of Khakassia's government. (Rabochaya
Tribuna, 12 November 1996, p3)
Yeltsin's daughter invited to run for Tula seat
The Tula chapter of the Conversion and Women association has requested President
Boris Yeltsin's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, to run for the post of Tula
region governor. No response is as yet available. (Interfax, 1651 GMT, 13
Duma declares Dniester of strategic interest
The deputies proposed that the Russian President and the Federation Council
examine the issue of permanently deploying a limited contingent of Russian
armed forces on the territory of the Dniester region. (ITAR-TASS World Service
in Russian, 1610 GMT, 13 November 1996)
Duma proposes free economic zone for Chechnya
Once a free economic zone is in existence, economic operations on Chechnya's
territory will be placed under federal tax, customs, and banking control
and conditions will be created for solving the republic's urgent economic
problems. (Rabochaya Tribuna, 12 November 1996, p1)
Chernomyrdin visits with airborne troops
A continuing theme is the concern over the possible reorganization of the
Airborne Troops. For several weeks now concern has been obvious over the
status of these elite and highly trained forces. Not much detail is provided
beyond promises that "they have existed, exist, and will continue to
Building begins on new class of strategic nuclear submarine
For the first time in nearly ten years work has begun in Severodvinsk on
a fourth-generation strategic nuclear missile submarine. This event marks
the 300th anniversary of the Russian fleet. This issue leaves many questions.
With so little in terms of a military budget, why build now? However, looking
at the whole picture offers some possible answers. While the construction
on this sub class begins without promise of numbers to follow; it serves
as a highlight to a remarkable event, the 300th anniversary, where it reminds
patriotic Russians of their long maritime history and serves as an object
of hope for the future, for a continued and growing sea-presence and of
jobs and funds to come.
Extra troops being brought into Moscow to cover the holidays
This very brief message is indicative of the situation in Moscow. Additional
troops mean fear of trouble in the city during a holiday time. Now more
than any time in recent Russian history is there cause for alarm due to
inadequate military pay, poor availability of foodstuffs, high costs, etc.
However, this build-up does coincide with Yeltsin's surgery. This report
contradicts others which indicate no change in the duties of Interior Troops
during Yeltsin's surgery. It is obvious that tensions are running high.
Every effort is being made to ensure the smooth running of the country,
transfer of nuclear weapons control before and after surgery, visits with
US military officials, etc.
Yeltsin decree on troop withdrawal from Chechnya
Signing of this decree confirms Yeltsin's position that the Chechen issue
cannot be resolved through military methods. His decree is a "gesture
of goodwill made at Moscow's own initiative. Also stressed is the idea that
the withdrawal will occur before the elections on 27 Jan thereby "allowing
the Chechen people to have a chance to vote with their choices not made
Yeltsin decree to reform armed forces
Mr Yeltsin signed a decree " to bring reform of the armed forces in
line with the actual social, economic, military and political situation
in the country." Defense Council Secretary Yuriy Baturin is to monitor
implementation of this decree. The decree asks several things:
- guarantee a level of financing for defense, security and law enforcement
- transfer of social facilities from armed forces and other troops
- asked Defense Council to propose concept for army reform until 2005
- propose shape, structure, composition and cuts to state -funded agencies
dealing with security
- abolished the reserve of the Defense Ministry
- ordered personnel of military units outside armed forces be reduced
by 15% in 1997.
by Lt.Col. Cathy Dreher
The Russians and Indians cut a deal for 50 SU-30MK jet fighters worth $1.5
Russia won little support for it's proposals to make the OSCE (of which
Russia is a member) the paramount security organization in Europe. NATO,
which Russia sees as directly threatening, appears likely to remain the
centerpiece for European security.
Russian military woes
- The Russian Air Force is reported to be at less than 53 percent availability,
meaning some 3,000 aircraft and helicopters are unflyable. Funds allocated
for maintenance are said to be less than 10 percent of requirements, and
the service did not purchase any new aircraft in 1996.
- A major political flap erupted over the dismissal of Army ground force
commander, General Vladimir Semenov, apparently for ill-defined "misconduct."
- Pay shortfalls and endemic housing problems continue to haunt Russian
military. Reports say Russian troops finishing terms of conscription are
forced to sell their blood to earn enough money to return to their homes.
- Over 1,100 Russian troops are still missing from Chechnya war.
Black Sea Fleet
- Russia and the Ukraine are deadlocked on the Black Sea Fleet issue,
and the future of Sevastopol. Russia has been increasingly demanding with
regard to the status of the Black Sea port.
- Russian warships (stationed in Georgia) seized a Ukrainian merchant
vessel in the Black Sea. The Ukrainians have denounced the act as piracy.
Defense Minister becomes a civilian
President Yeltsin ordered Defense Minister Rodionov to retire from the military
and become a civilian. He will retain the position of Defense Minister however,
and this has been seen as an important symbolic step in establishing explicit
civilian control over the military. Rodionov is the first ever civilian
Russia/China Deal Signed
Russia and China signed a defense-technical cooperation agreement, details
of which were not released.
Russia launched a Kosmos 2335 photo-intelligence satellite, restoring to
some degree Russia's degraded high quality photo reconnaissance.
The Russian security services have released Alexandr Nikitin, and dropped
the treason charges against him.
by CDR John G.Steele
Aftermath of Referendum: One President, Two Parliaments, Scattered
Having won a referendum expanding his powers, President Alexander Lukashenka
has tightened his grip on all three branches of government. Lukashenka has
appointed the head of presidential security to lead the country's secret
service and has accepted the resignations of four more Constitutional Court
justices, reducing the number of pre-referendum judges on the 11-man court
to six. He has also thrown out the results of by-elections held alongside
the referendum, arguing that the new, smaller parliament endorsed in the
referendum needs no new deputies.
Lukashenka's opponents from the former legislature have attempted to
carry on as a deliberative body, meeting on their own at Minsk's House of
Writers. But their campaign to continue in office has gathered only the
support of a few thousand protesters. It is a measure of Lukashenka's confidence
that he felt free to arrest Social Democrat leader Nikalai Statkevich and
ten other protesters for "disturbing public order" following a
December 8 rally (see Omri Daily Digest No. 237, Part II, 10 December 1996).
The Belarusian populace appears to have concluded that the enemy of my enemy
is not necessarily my friend. Masses willing to protest President Lukashenka
have not rallied to the defense of his rivals in the rump parliament. Given
the predominance in the old legislature of former communists and its unfailing
support for Lukashenka's plans to integrate Belarus into the Russian Federation,
this is understandable. "The failure of a popular opposition to emerge
in Belarus is the real, big story of the present crisis," writes Oxford's
don Mark Almond in National Review (December 23, 1996).
Arms to Libya?
Top officials in Kiev reacted angrily to reports in The Washington Times
that Ukraine had sold Libya SS-21 short-range ballistic missiles and had
agreed to service its Russian-made submarines.
Deputy Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko called on the U.S. government
to "state clearly that Ukraine is in no way guilty of such accusations."
The Times claimed its reports were based on leaked CIA documents.
Russian journalists were quick to pick up on the story, which calls into
question Kiev's reliability just as Ukraine is seeking its own agreement
with NATO on expansion and is seeking closer ties to the European Union.
Ukrainian officials in turn pointed an accusing finger at Moscow. "It
is very strange that such accusations have been picked up so quickly by
Moscow,'' Hryshchenko said (Reuters, Tue, 10 Dec 1996).
Ukraine will have to do better than spin conspiracy theories about Moscow's
role in leaking stories that are damaging to Kiev. If Ukraine hopes to have
any separate role in shaping NATO expansion or wants U.S. support in its
continuing struggle with Russia over the Black Sea Fleet, President Leonoid
Kuchma will have to put his house in order. The firing of his longtime chief
of staff Dmytro Tabachnyk, famous both for his influence and dubious business
contacts (see Omri Daily Digest, No. 238, Part II, 11 December 1996), may
be the beginning of such efforts.
Bipartisan calls for Russian troop withdrawals; partisan lines drawn
Both recently-defeated Moldovan president Mircea Snegur and newly-elected
president Petru Lucinschi have demanded quick withdrawal of Russian troops
from the separatist region of Trans-Dniestria. Snegur made his comments
at a meeting of the OSCE in Lisbon on December 3; back home in Chisinau,
Lucinschi echoed Snegur the next day.
Despite their apparent agreement on Russia, the presidential candidates
continue to divide Moldovan politics between them. Snegur welcomed the founding
of the Democratic Convention of Moldova, an umbrella organization of parties
and organizations belonging to the Civic Movement, which had backed Snegur
during the electoral campaign. Lucinschi on the other hand can now count
on the support of "For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova," which
brings together the Party of Social Progress, the Social Democratic Party,
the Party of Economic Rebirth, the Socialist Action Party, and a series
of youth and students' organizations.
Partisan politics in Moldova apparently ends at the Dniester's edge. On
the west bank, however, tactics are as crude as ever. The pro-Snegur Civic
Movement claims that its members have been fired from their jobs or received
threats of physical violence since their side lost the December 1st presidential
campaign (see Omri Daily Digest No. 239, Part II, 12 December 1996). The
left in Moldova has used thugs against its opponents in every election since
independence. While Moldova's new president may have convinced Reuters that
he is a "moderate," he will need to bring his minions to heel
before he can hope to earn Western approval.
CHECHNYA AND THE CAUCASUS
Presidential commission believes 1,300 servicemen missing in Chechnya
The commission based its findings on reports from commanders and families.
As a result the list it has compiled is by far longer than those supplied
by the power ministries. The Defense Ministry which is looking for 336 men,
reportedly has 857 of its servicemen missing. Much of the same is true for
missing civilians, whereas 112 people, sent to Chechnya by various companies,
are missing according to the commission, only 50 are being sought. (Rossiyskiye
Vesti, 21 November 1996)
Troop withdrawal complete, but Rybkin wants joint border control
In accordance with Yeltsin's November 23 decree the remaining two brigades
began leaving Chechnya on December 1. Sergei Yastrzhembskiy, the presidential
spokesman told Mayak Radio on November 24 that they would be stationed in
"close proximity to the administrative borders of Chechnya." On
December 3 the 205th detached brigade of Armed Forces left Chechnya for
Buddenovsk.(TASS 3 December 1996) Ivan Rybkin, chairman of the Russian Security
Council said that the Chechen-Georgian border,(Chechnya's only border external
to the Russian Federation) should be patrolled jointly and asked the director
of the Federal Border Service to negotiate this arrangement with the Chechen
leadership.(Contact Information Agency, 26 November 1996)
Nineteen candidates registered for January elections
President Yanderbayev has come out in favor of postponing the elections
and Sergei Kovalev renewed his call for taking a few weeks more to prepare
for them, however despite many outstanding issues the electoral commission
is proceeding with the registration process. Matters still under discussion
include who will be eligible to vote and whether voting will take place
only in Chechnya or also in those parts of Russia accommodating large refugee
populations. Thus far nineteen candidates have been nominated and must now
produce 10,000 signatures by midnight of 27 December.
Armenia dissents from OSCE document on Nagorno-Karabakh
An annex to the document produced at the Lisbon summit contained the provision
that the status of Nagorno-Karabakh would be defined by a future agreement
and would confer the highest level of self-rule within Azerbaijan. Armenia
and Azerbaijan were unable to come to an agreement on a set of principles
despite several meetings on the eve of the summit and the principles declared
at the summit were hardly different from ones Armenia has turned down in
Constitutional Court rules treaty with Russia constitutional
Russian and Armenian legislatures have not yet ratified the March 1995 treaty
which provides for the continued presence of Russian military bases in Armenia.
The Armenian Constitutional Court found the treaty to be in accordance with
the constitution. The term of the treaty is 25 years.
New working group on border defense
Russian Border Service Director Gen. Andrei Nikolayev held talks with President
Shevardnadze and Gen Valeriy Chkhaidze. It was decided that a working group
would be formed to settle the disputes around the border guards. Among the
issues discussed were the funding of the border guards and Georgian claims
to its share of the property of the border guards.(Interfax, 25 November
1996) The legal status of the Russian border guards is questionable since
in recent weeks the parliament passed a law on the Georgian border which
excluded the provision legalizing the presence of Russian border guards
but also concluded that the President can authorize their stay.(Editorial
Digest No 1) Nikolayev said that 40% of the Russian border guards in Georgia
are Georgian nationals (Interfax 26 November 1996)