|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 28, Part I, 8 February 1995
We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. The Digest is distriubed in two sections. This part focuses on Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and the CIS. Part II, distributed simultaneously as a second document, covers East-Central and Southeastern Europe. The Daily Digest picks up where the RFE/RL Daily Report, which recently ceased publication, left off. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting. RUSSIA MORE REVELATIONS ABOUT BEGINNING OF CHECHEN WAR. On 7 February Interfax continued to publish excerpts from the 27-page report on the Chechen war by presidential advisers Emil Pain and Arkady Popov. The survey says Dudaev was able to arm his forces by giving large payoffs to "smart traders clad in military uniform." The authors reject the theses that weapons were plundered by Dudaev's militants or extorted from Russian servicemen under duress. The survey calls for further research into the question of who supplied the Dudaev regime with sophisticated weapons, such as anti-aircraft weapons and rocket launchers. Investigators must also examine how Dudaev was able to export oil through Russian pipelines and use the money to buy weapons, and why the federal authorities allowed special flights into and out of Grozny for suspicious cargoes when international agencies warned that illicit drugs were being shipped through Chechnya. Many in Moscow may have received kickbacks, the authors conclude. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. NEARLY 5,000 MILITARY CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA. Russian federal troops have suffered nearly 5,000 casualties in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 6 and 7 February, quoting "power" ministry sources. Some 907 have been killed in action, while more than 3,400 troops have been wounded and another 456 are either missing in action or unidentified dead. The Ground Forces have suffered the heaviest losses, with 537 servicemen killed and around 2,000 wounded. At the same time, a group of experts headed by Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev estimated that 25,000 civilians have been killed in Grozny. Ostankino's "Vremya" estimated that about 195,000 people have fled their homes as a result of the fighting. -- Doug Clarke and Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. BOROVOI PEACE PROPOSAL. Economic Freedom Party Chairman Konstantin Borovoi told a news conference in Moscow on 7 February that he had sent President Boris Yeltsin a proposal for a new Chechen peace plan comprising a ceasefire, a Russian troop withdrawal, and the establishment of a demilitarized zone, but had received no response. Borovoi, who reportedly met with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev near Grozny on 2 February, predicted that Russian troops in Chechnya would soon be defeated, and that Chechnya would gain international recognition "within a few months," Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN CONTENDS COUNCIL OF EUROPE OVERREACTED. The Council of Europe overreacted to the Chechnya events when it voted to defer Russia's application, Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin told Interfax on 7 February. He said Russia's candidacy should be considered in a broader perspective. In that context, he mentioned Russia's cooperation with the OSCE mission to Chechnya. Expressing a contrary view, Irina Khakamada, leader of the 12 December Liberal Democratic Union faction in parliament, said, "The Russian parliamentary delegation did an incredible thing in achieving adoption in Strasbourg of a 'softened' resolution by the Council of Europe on the situation around Chechnya." She said the speech by Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev was instrumental in "changing the sentiments of European MPs," who "were shocked by the position taken by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who spoke like an open adherent of government actions in Chechnya." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN TO ADDRESS PARLIAMENT. Yeltsin's annual address to parliament, which was originally scheduled for January, will take place on 16 February. A "presidential source" told Interfax Yeltsin will discuss military reform and may return to the idea of giving the Russian Army General Staff new functions and detaching it from the Defense Ministry. The Security Council discussed this issue in January. The president will also criticize those who failed to enact the proposals he advanced in the previous year's address. In that speech, he stressed the need to reform local government by fall 1994. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS STATE OF EMERGENCY. For the second time, the Federation Council failed to ratify a state of emergency decree for Ingushetia and North Ossetia issued by Yeltsin, Interfax reported on 7 February. Only 76 of the necessary 90 deputies supported the motion. The Council failed to ratify Yeltsin's first decree on 3 February. Without the Federation Council's approval, the decree becomes invalid in three days. The prospects for a compromise between the president and the Federation Council are uncertain, Piotr Shyshov, head of the Council's Defense Committee, told AFP. "We are asking for an in-depth revision of the text, as the war situation [in neighboring Chechnya] demands strict and concrete measures." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YAVLINSKY VOICES DOUBTS ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Grigorii Yavlinsky, a liberal economist who is the front-runner in most opinion polls on the presidential elections, suggested that the results may be rigged in favor of President Boris Yeltsin, RFE/RL reported on 7 February. Yavlinsky noted that, under the electoral draft law, votes will be cast by the Central Election Commission appointed by the president, leaving no room for independent control over its activities. Asked whether he is going to appeal to European human rights agencies, Yavlinsky replied that such bodies should hire at least one translator to enable them to read Russian laws and evaluate them on their own. Meanwhile, a growing number of Russian public figures have voiced doubts that the next presidential elections will even take place in June 1996, as scheduled. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. VORKUTA MINERS STAGE ONE-DAY WARNING STRIKE. As the Komi Republic's new parliament held its first session on 7 February, miners in Vorkuta staged a 24-hour warning strike in protest against nonpayment of wages and poor working conditions, Russian media reported. The privatized Vorgashurskaya mine, the largest pit in the area, did not participate. Miners in Rostov have been on strike since 1 February, and the Russian Coal Industry Workers' Union, which has about 1 million members, scheduled a nationwide one-day strike for 8 February. Miners' leaders say if the government does not heed their demands, they will begin an indefinite strike on 1 March and press for early presidential elections and the resignation of the government, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 7 February. Following a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais on 7 February, the general director of the state coal association "Rosugol" said the prime minister had promised to find extra funds for the industry. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. IMF FAILS TO REACH AGREEMENT ON LOAN WITH RUSSIA. The IMF failed to reach an agreement with Russia in the latest round of talks on a $6.4 billion standby loan, but both Russian and IMF officials remain optimistic, international agencies reported. IMF head Michel Camdessus stressed that Russia badly needs a "strong, coherent, and credible" economic program, but gave no schedule for a possible completion of the talks. Russia hopes to close an important gap in its proposed 1995 budget with over $10 billion in funds from international agencies. The State Duma's decision to raise the minimum wage from $5 to $13 a month erected a major roadblock to the talks, according to Russian presidential aide Aleksandr Livshits. However, the Federation Council is expected to reject the increase. The Duma would then need a three- quarter majority to pass the bill again. Other obstacles include the failure of Russia to liberalize oil exports, expenses associated with the Chechnya war, a threatened miners' strike, flawed macroeconomic assumptions for the budget bill, and the fact that budget decisions sometimes emanate from the president's private office and catch the government unawares. The IMF talks are scheduled to resume again within two weeks. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. COMMITTEE FINALIZES KEY INDICES OF DRAFT BUDGET. The budget committee of the Russian State Duma has finalized the key numbers of the 1995 draft budget which was approved in the second reading on 25 January, Interfax reported on 7 February. Committee chairman Mikhail Zadornov told Interfax that with the approval of the 1.5% special tax for supporting agriculture and coal mining, the key indices are: revenue--248.3 trillion rubles (4,133 rubles/$1), spending--175.2 trillion, deficit-- 73.2 trillion rubles or 29.5% of expenditures. Zadornov said an additional 5.3 trillion rubles collected in the form of a special tax, will be directed to "needy branches of the economy," which the committee will discuss in more concrete terms on 13-14 February. Zadornov expects the third reading of the draft budget on 17 or 22 February. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TALKS OF FIXED RUBLE RATE MAKE BANKERS UNEASY. International Industrial Bank Chairman Sergei Pugachov said a fixed ruble rate would promote the creation of a black currency market, an increase in illegal transactions by non-banking structures, and would result in a federal tax revenue decline. The comments came during a 7 February Financial Information Agency interview with top bank managers. Avtobank Chairwoman Natalya Raievskaya said a fixed rate would first affect industrial enterprises and then the banking system. Banks would also suffer losses on hard currency operations, she added. Most Bank Chairman Boris Khait said the government must publish and justify the financial reasons for such a move before implementing a fixed rate. Neftyanoi Bank Deputy Chairman Stanislav Balakin commented that the introduction of a fixed ruble rate is a "totally unrealistic task" due to high inflation and economic instability. At the same time, the Russian bankers said they intended to "support any governmental decision in order to not rock the economy." Meanwhile, MICEX trading held steady on 7 February as the market closed at 4,133 rubles to $1. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CIS UNIFIED AIR DEFENSE ON CIS AGENDA. A unified CIS air defense system will be one of two items on the agenda of the CIS Defense Ministers' Council meeting in Almaty on 10 February, Interfax reported. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev is to chair the meeting. At present, only Russia and Armenia have formally combined their air defense efforts. The second topic was said to be an agreement on CIS external borders. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TALKS. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets arrived in Kiev on 7 February for another round of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, Ukrainian radio reported. Soskovets held talks with Ukraine's First Deputy Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk. Issues under discussion included: the treaty on friendship and cooperation; implementation of bilateral agreements; the Black Sea Fleet; and problems in economic relations. Nearly all disputes over the broad treaty on friendship and cooperation have been resolved, and President Yeltsin should visit Ukraine no later than March to sign the agreement, Interfax reported. Marchuk said the biggest problem has been settling Ukraine's energy arrears to Russia. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The Daily Digest is distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. To subscribe, send "SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L YourFirstName YourLastName" (without the quotation marks and inserting your name where shown) to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU No subject line or other text should be included. The publication can also be obtained for a fee in printed form by fax and postal mail. 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