THE ORTHODOX CHURCH REWARDS MILITARY AND POLITICAL LEADERS

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THE ORTHODOX CHURCH REWARDS MILITARY AND POLITICAL LEADERS

NTV, Segodnya, January 30, 2000, 12:00

On January 30 the Russian Orthodox Church intends to make its contribution to the cause of rewarding military and political leaders “for services to Russia and the Church”. At the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Patriarch Alexei II will celebrate a service dedicated to Russian soldiers who have died in Chechnya, and will decorate commanders who have distinguished themselves in the North Caucasus. Commander of the General Staff Kvashnin and his senior deputy Manilov should receive church awards. Officers now in Chechnya will receive their awards later.

Patriarch Alexei II intends to present a copy of a jubilee book celebrating the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s birth, and an icon with miraculous relics, to acting President Vladimir Putin. It is also reported that the patriarch will present the same gifts to speakers of both houses of parliament and all former Russian prime ministers.

HEAVY WEEKEND FOR POLITICIANS IN ST. PETERSBURG

NTV, Segodnya, January 30, 2000, 12:00

Duma leaders will meet in St. Petersburg to discuss the resolved parliamentary crisis and the upcoming presidential election.

This weekend in St. Petersburg is very eventful for politicians. At Smolny, Vladimir Yakovlev has met with Duma deputies from St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. The issue of the open session of Russian parliament scheduled for February 9 provoked the hottest discussion. Boris Gryzlov thinks that on this day the boycott will end and constructive law-making activities will begin. The leader of the pro-government faction denies any suggestion that the majority of Duma committees have been usurped by the Communists and Unity.

Gryzlov: “If we examine the experience of other countries which are parliamentary republics, presidential republics, etc., usually those parties which win the parliamentary elections do take the committees and any other structures.”

Sergei Stepashin, who announced his intention to support Vladimir Putin in the upcoming presidential election, is a focus of attention. The former prime minister even visited a university, the dean of which, Vladimir Litvinenko, heads an initiative group for nominating him as a presidential candidate. Stepashin’s motivation is as follows.

Sergei Stepashin, a Duma deputy from Yabloko faction: “We worked here in St. Petersburg in the hardest times in 1991-92, when the USSR had disintegrated and new economic and other programs had been formed. When anyone says, especially those in the West, that Putin’s economic and other views are not clear, just examine and analyze his activities here while he was first deputy mayor in the government of Anatoly Alexandrovich Sobchak. With all my respect for Sobchak, it was Putin who dealt with the economy and developed foreign economic relations.”

Stepashin has also stressed that he had respect for Grigory Yavlinsky’s nomination for the presidency. However, he said that he himself is a member of the Yabloko faction, but is not a member of the party bearing the same name. Therefore, he may have his own point of view on the presidential election.

Returning to the theme of the Duma, Stepashin noted that the conflict has partially been settled.

Stepashin: “A parliamentary session and work on law-making begins on February 9. Believe me, in a couple of months the work will be united, especially after the presidential elections, although some offences and a sort of misunderstanding may remain.”

Having finished the official part of the visit, Stepashin set off to view the university’s collection of minerals, and even held in his hands a beryl crystal worth tens of millions of dollars.

GUERRILLAS IN CHECHNYA CONTINUE TO SURRENDER

NTV, Segodnya, January 30, 2000, 16:00

On January 30 another 70 separatist guerrillas who had been defending the eastern part of Grozny gave up the struggle. They surrendered to detachments of the Chechen militia under the command of Bislan Gantamirov. Gantamirov said that the guerrillas had appeared from the third and fourth districts of Grozny, having cleared them of mines beforehand. According to Gantamirov, negotiations with the guerrillas about surrendering would be continued, both in Grozny and mountain Chechen settlements.

This is the second day that some guerrillas have surrendered in Grozny. Among those 70 people who laid down their weapons there are many wounded, including seriously wounded, who have already been taken to hospital. Gantamirov stated that the amnesty proclaimed by the Duma was in force until February 1, after which those guerrillas who had not surrendered would be prosecuted in accordance with the law.

However, said Gantamirov, negotiations with the guerrillas about surrendering, including in the mountain settlements, would be continued.

Nevertheless, the Russian command admits that the resistance of the guerrillas in central Grozny is increasing. The headquarters of the united military grouping reports that fierce fighting has taken place in Leninsky and Oktyabrsky districts of the city. The official communiques report the distance which the federal forces had managed to move toward the center, and which buildings they managed to seize. Every tall building here is of strategic significance. It seems that soldiers have becomed so accustomed to shelling that they no longer pay any attention to the noise and smoke.

Fighting is already taking place in the immediate vicinity of Minutka Square.

It is reported that the guerillas in the vicinity of the square are already blocked from the southern direction. However, the notion of a “front line” is very conditional in the center of the city.

Assault units are suffering losses. The figures of killed and wounded federal soldiers are usually understated around ten-fold. The military says that professional guerrillas are fighting in the second line, while the less valuable soldiers are sent to the front line. It is possible that these are the soldiers who are now surrendering to the federal forces and detachments of the Chechen militia under the command of Bislan Gantamirov in the northeast and east of Grozny. According to the latest reports, 70 guerrillas surrendered within the last 24 hours. Gantamirov states that before surrendering they had even cleared the third and fourth districts of Grozny from mines. Now the federal forces control these districts. Gantamirov announces that negotiations about surrendering will be conducted over the next few days. He believes that all these events indicate that a turning point has been reached in the battles for Grozny.

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