|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
No. 29, Part I, 9 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. RUSSIA RUSSIAN FORCES CONSOLIDATE HOLD OVER GROZNY. Russian forces gained ground in Grozny on 8 February, advancing toward the city's southern fringe as artillery and warplanes continued to bomb Chechen positions, AFP reported. Chechen military spokesman Aslan Maskhadov insisted that his men have no plans to abandon Grozny. A Chechen presidential spokesman told Interfax on 8 February that Dzhokhar Dudaev's forces still possess "substantial amounts" of heavy military equipment. He reiterated that Dudaev is ready to conduct negotiations with the Russian leadership "at the corresponding level." -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. DUMA FAILS TO PASS AMENDMENTS TO MEDIA LAW. The State Duma failed to garner the two-thirds majority vote necessary to overcome President Boris Yeltsin's veto on amendments to the media law, Russian TV reported on 8 February. The amendments would have barred state bodies from setting up their own newspapers and journals. The Duma lacked the votes because Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party boycotted the session. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. ZHIRINOVSKY BOYCOTTS DUMA SESSIONS. Vladimir Zhirinovsky's faction staged a walkout at the Duma's 8 February session to protest the legislature's disapproval of proposals put forward in connection with the death of LDP Deputy Sergei Skorochkin. Zhirinovsky had urged that Minister of Internal Affairs Viktor Erin and Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin be removed from their posts for failing to protect Skorochkin and two other deputies who have suffered violent deaths in the past nine months. The Duma did accept a motion to discuss Erin's performance, but only in the minister's presence. Erin has gone to Chechnya. The LDP chairman said his party would boycott only plenary sessions, while continuing to participate in committees and commissions. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. SENATORS TURN DOWN BILL ON COURTS OF ARBITRATION. The Federation Council voted down a courts of arbitration bill on 8 February, Russian TV reported. While many observers consider the legislation essential for Russia's transition to a market economy, it was rejected by the council which is composed of Russian republic leaders. The courts settle economic disputes. Isa Kostoev, chairman of the chamber's legislation committee, told "Vesti" the vote reflected a conflict of interest between republican leaders, who want the power to appoint judges on their own, and the federal executive powers. According to the constitution, the naming of judges is a presidential prerogative. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN APPOINTS KRASNOV AS LEGAL AIDE. President Yeltsin appointed Professor Mikhail Krasnov as an aide to provide legal backing to the president's legislative initiatives and other legal acts worked out by the administration, Interfax reported on 8 February. Krasnov, a well- known 45-year-old lawyer, had worked for Yeltsin's National Security Adviser Yury Baturin and was a department head at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of State and Law. Yeltsin had nominated him for a seat on the Constitutional Court, but the Federation Council refused to confirm him. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN CONVENES CONFERENCE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT. President Yeltsin signed orders to convene a conference on local government to take place in Moscow on 17 February, Interfax reported on 7 February. Yeltsin did not specify if he would attend, but parliament, government, various regions, public groups, and research institutions will be represented, AFP reported. According to Sergei Filatov, the president's chief of staff, the Duma is now considering a variety of bills on local government. One bill proposes the restoration of the Soviet system abolished by Yeltsin in October 1993. Yeltsin's bill guarantees the local bodies control over property and revenue. Filatov also claimed federal bodies will not be allowed to interfere in local affairs without the consent of local bodies. However, he reiterated his warning that "local leaders are still trying to grab more powers from federal authorities." He did not elaborate. Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko strongly believes parliament should leave behind a package of laws on power sharing before its term expires. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA'S CHOICE PUSHES FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Russia's Choice is pushing for an amendment that will increase the legislature's control over the executive branch, Boris Zolotukhin, vice-chairman of the parliamentary faction, told Interfax on 8 February. The amendment would change article 101 to include a provision giving parliament the right to set up commissions "for investigating issues of special interest." It also proposes that officials in question be required to attend sessions of parliamentary commissions and present any documents requested. The motion has 40 deputies' signatures and needs a total of 90 to get on the Duma agenda. Zolotukhin is a member of the Duma commission investigating the causes of the Chechen conflict whose work Yeltsin has declared unconstitutional. The parliament has also had trouble inducing government officials to testify at its hearings. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. NATIONWIDE MINERS STRIKE. Half a million miners at about 200 pits throughout Russia staged a 24-hour warning strike on 8 February to demand payment of wage arrears and a 10-trillion-ruble subsidy for the coal industry, agencies reported. Union officials estimated the stoppage would cost Russia 1 million tons in lost coal production. Yeltsin's economic adviser, Aleksandr Livshitz, said the debt to the miners will be paid back shortly and "the miners' fair demands will be met," Interfax reported. However, he said the debt is 1.5 trillion rubles, a trillion less than the miners calculate, and cautioned that promising privileges to the industry when virtually every branch of the economy is underfunded "would be tantamount to cutting other vitally important branches and putting up with a dangerous growth in the budget deficit." If their demands are not met, the miners plan to picket government buildings in Moscow for three days at the end of February, prior to launching an indefinite strike on 1 March. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. NEW OSCE DELEGATION TO RUSSIA? A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said a new Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe fact-finding delegation should be sent to Chechnya, AFP reported. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev has been very supportive of the organization. "We understand that the Chechen conflict casts a shadow on Russia's foreign policy. Nevertheless, Russia is seeking closer interaction with international organizations, including the OSCE. This organization is gaining momentum and we intend to expand our cooperation with it," he told ITAR-TASS on 8 February. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. GAIDAR CALLS FOR MILITARY REFORM. Former acting Prime Minister Egor Gaidar said his Russia's Choice party supports the creation of a smaller but more efficient military. He said the operations in Chechnya highlighted the "amazing incompetence" of Russia's senior military officers, Interfax reported on 7 February. Gaidar charged that real reform of the armed forces had yet to begin and said, "building an army adequate for our current objectives and capabilities is not just the problem of the military. It is Russia's strategic task." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. KOKOSHIN SAYS STATE MUST PAY DEFENSE DEBTS. The state should pay the debts it owes the armed forces and defense enterprises, First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin told the Duma on 7 February. According to Interfax, the Duma's Defense Committee estimates the government owes 3.2 trillion rubles for arms purchases and research alone. The report said the government was allowing the Defense Ministry to sign contracts for up to 80% of the money allotted to it in the draft budget, so as to not disrupt 1995 procurements. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW PRIVATIZATION CHIEF. In a move to speed up Russia's privatization process, President Yeltsin appointed Sergei Belayev, previously head of the Federal Bankruptcy Agency, as chairman of the State Property Committee, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 February. Belayev replaces acting chairman Pyotr Mostovoi, who himself replaced Vladimir Polevanov, who was fired last month for suggesting that key industries, such as oil and aluminum, be renationalized. Polevanov had also barred Western advisers and their Russian employees from entering the State Property Committee. Belayev, an ally of reformist First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, has already been involved in carrying out Russia's privatization agenda. He aided Chubais in devising and implementing the ambitious voucher sell-off campaign which transferred more than 15,000 medium and large state firms, representing 60% of the work force, into private hands. In his new job, Belayev will have to deal with a parliament that is largely hostile to Chubais' privatization program. The legislature has yet to approve the government's plans for the program. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. EXPORT REVENUES UP IN 1994. Russia's foreign exchange revenues from exports to countries outside the former Soviet Union increased from $22.1 billion in 1993 to $36.8 billion last year, Vice-Premier and Foreign Trade Minister Oleg Davidov said on 8 February, Interfax reported. The positive trend follows a substantial cut in barter trade and more effective currency and export controls, Davidov said. Last year's volume of exports ran at $48 billion, an 8.4% increase over 1993, and was attributed to growing exports of unfinished products and raw materials. Exports of crude oil and oil products were up 11.3% and 10.6% respectively. Last year's imports rose only 5.4%, reaching $28.2 billion, according to the minister. Davidov said any further increase was "constrained by higher import tariffs and taxes, as well as the ruble rate which started to plummet in the second half of 1994." -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CIS RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN FRIENDSHIP TREATY AGREEMENT INITIALED. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets and his Ukrainian counterpart Yevhen Marchuk initialed a comprehensive agreement on friendship and cooperation in Kiev on 8 February, international agencies reported. The sticking points of dual citizenship and the Black Sea Fleet had held up the agreement for months. The accord was initially meant to be ready for signing by President Yeltsin in October 1994, but was delayed. Reports indicate the touchy issues were not actually dealt with in the initialed text. The problem of dual citizenship will be addressed within a separate agreement and the fleet issue was not definitively resolved. In addition, the problem of Ukraine's $4.3 billion energy debt was left out of the treaty. A number of other agreements concerning the easing of trade restrictions, cooperation in rocket and space technology, the simplification of border crossings, and a common taxation pact were agreed upon. Soskovets said Yeltsin should visit Ukraine in March to sign the treaty. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UNRESOLVED FLEET ISSUES. While it was agreed that Russia would lease Sevastopol as the main naval base for its share of the Black Sea Fleet, it did not specify a timetable for the division of the fleet and did not say whether Sevastopol would also be the Ukrainian navy's headquarters. Previously, Russia had been opposed to both countries sharing the base. In April 1994 it had been generally accepted that Ukraine would take only 20% of the fleet and sell the rest of its share to Russia to pay off energy arrears. Comments by the Ukrainian defense minister, Valerii Shmarov, indicate the issue has not been fully resolved. Shmarov was quoted as saying he hoped for a resolution by the end of 1995. In contrast, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said the two sides had "made considerable progress in bringing our positions closer together," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Ustina Markus and Doug Clarke, 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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