|If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson|
No. 31, Part I, 13 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 CHECHEN MILITARY COMMANDER WANTS CEASE-FIRE. Chechen military commander Gen. Aslan Maskhadov said his forces are ready to negotiate a cease-fire with Russia, AFP reported on 13 February. Maskhadov said negotiations could also deal with an exchange of prisoners, as proposed by Ingush Vice President Boris Agapov. Meanwhile, Chechen leaders claimed their forces had blown up a former Soviet missile-launching site controlled by Russian troops, causing heavy casualties. On 11 February, Russian forces inflicted heavy artillery bombardment on the city of Argun, about 15 kilometers east of Grozny. There was further fighting the next day in parts of Grozny itself, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on 13 February, noting that the campaign is far from over. -- Victor Gomez and Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVER CHECHNYA. The Federation Council has asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of Yeltsin's decrees ordering the use of force in Chechnya. The request focuses on three specific presidential directives issued on 1, 9, and 17 December. Seventy-two deputies supported the motion, while according to the constitution, only 36 votes are required to get the court to review a presidential decree. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. PROTESTS AGAINST CHECHEN WAR CONTINUE. Another gathering was held on 11 February on Moscow's Pushkin Square to protest against the Chechen war, Russian TV and Interfax reported. The event, organized by the human- rights "Memorial" society, Democratic Russia party, and the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, was the first in a series of actions planned by signatories of the agreement, "For Peace and Freedom, Against Bloodshed in Chechnya." "Memorial" activist Aleksandr Daniel said as many as 102 organizations had signed the document by the day of the protest action. The signatories represent groups from across the political spectrum, including the radically anti-communist Democratic Union and the "internationalist" faction of the Russian Communist party. On the eve of the meeting, Russian TV's "Podrobnosti" reported that the Soldiers' Mothers Committee intended to prevent next spring's military service draft and planned to dismantle the North Caucasian railway line. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. JOURNALISTS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER FORTHCOMING ELECTIONS. A decree by President Yeltsin to computerize the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections could give the secret police control over the elections, according to a full front-page article in the 10 February issue of Izvestiya. The decree calls for the Central Election Commission in Moscow to collect data from all constituencies which will then destroy their ballots. The newspaper speculates the system will give control of the process to the Federal Agency on Government Communications and Information (formerly a KGB department). Other agencies that will be involved in the election are entirely dependent on the president, who appoints both administration heads and the electoral commission while representatives of the legislature or political parties will have no control over ballot casting, Izvestiya claimed. The daily implied that the December 1993 election and referendum were rigged, and the election commission is reluctant to publish a detailed report on the results. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. GAIDAR CALLS FOR UNIFIED DEMOCRATIC BLOC. Russia's Choice leader Egor Gaidar has called for the creation of an electoral bloc of all democratic factions, Interfax reported on 11 February. He indicated his willingness to form a coalition with Grigorii Yavlinsky's Yabloko party, warning that democrats must not repeat "the mistakes they made during the previous elections, when many hoped that they would be able to achieve much by working separately." The Yabloko faction has been opposed to the president's policies, while Gaidar had supported them until Chechnya. Gaidar said the democrats must unite now because the preservation of the free market and democracy in Russia is at stake. Yavlinsky told Moskovsky Komsomolets that a coalition cannot be created at once, but added that "Gaidar is a professional economist and it is always possible to find common ground with a professional economist." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ZHIRINOVSKY PROPOSES COOPERATION WITH COMMUNISTS. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, has proposed linking his party with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation in preparation for the upcoming legislative and presidential polls, AFP and Interfax reported on 12 February. A letter signed by Zhirinovsky instructed his regional party leaders "to work with communist trade unions and parties, and in particular, the Russian Communist Party led by Gennadii Zyuganov." Prospects for such a union seem dim, however, as both Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky are planning to run for president. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YASIN CALLS DOMESTIC FOOD SHORTAGES "ALARMING". Russian Economy Minister Yevgeni Yasin told parliament on 10 February that food shortages in grain, meat, butter, and vegetable oil were particularly alarming and urged the government to change its food policy, Interfax reported. Yasin called for an increase in customs duties on cheaper imported products and a ban on exports of certain farm goods in order to create a "favorable environment for Russian producers". Yasin said his ministry wants to ban wheat exports because it predicts shortages will be at least 3.5 to 4 million tons in 1995. Yasin emphasized that the country has a good overall supply of food, but resources are unequally distributed among different areas and certain regions will experience shortages as early as March. As of 1 January, only 101,000 tons of meat were available, in comparison to 316,000 tons a year ago, and 12,000 tons of butter were available, down from 88,000 tons. Only 800,000 tons of vegetable oil were available while Russia needs 1.7 million tons to satisfy consumers. More alarming, if oil producers sell 2.5 million tons of oil yielding seeds as planned for 1995, production will fall to as low as 30,000 tons, making the shortage even more severe, according to Yasin. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES RISE IN MINIMUM WAGE. The upper house of parliament voted on 10 February to raise the minimum wage from 20,500 rubles to 54,100 rubles ($13), agencies reported. The minimum wage is used as a basis for calculating benefits and pay for all public employees. Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan told ITAR-TASS the increase would cause major problems for the government, but he admitted in an interview with Trud that the minimum subsistence level was 240,000 rubles ($57) a month. The draft law is a major obstacle to a $6.4 billion standby loan from the IMF, which is included in the draft 1995 budget. The president is likely to veto the increase, just as he did a proposed hike in the minimum pension, but parliament can overrule him with a two-thirds majority. The deputy head of the reformist government commission on economic policy, Maksim Boyko said, "This wage increase would undermine the budget and destroy our prospects of an agreement with the IMF," the Financial Times reported on 11 February. -- Penny Morvant and Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. COMPROMISE LAW ON FOREIGN ADOPTIONS. The State Duma passed legislation on 10 February prohibiting commercial agencies from dealing in adoptions and increasing the categories of children eligible for adoption by foreigners, AFP reported. The law is a compromise worked out after President Yeltsin vetoed legislation in December that banned the use of intermediaries in the adoption process, in effect precluding adoptions by foreigners. Under the new law, families can be represented by non- profit agencies registered with the Russian government, but paying fees to obtain children is forbidden. The new legislation also makes any child for whom no Russian family can be found eligible for foreign adoption. At present, only children with medical problems, those with alcoholic or mentally ill parents, or non-Russian children who are older are eligible--a restriction that has led would-be parents to bribe middlemen or orphanage directors to reclassify healthy children. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DUMA PASSES LAW ON CIVIL SERVICE. The Duma passed the law on state service in its third reading, Interfax reported on 10 February. The draft legislation bars civil servants from simultaneously serving on federal or local legislative bodies, and holding other positions apart from teaching, research, and similar "creative" jobs. They are also forbidden from accepting payment for publications or speeches that are part of their duties and are required to submit a yearly declaration of income. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. NAVY CONFIRMS SUB SALE TO CHINA. Russia has signed a deal to deliver several Kilo-class diesel submarines to China, a Russian Navy spokesman said on 10 February. He denied, however, that the sale would alter the balance of power in the region, Interfax reported. The spokesman also said the first submarine had been built, but not yet delivered to China as claimed in Western media. He also charged that the Americans were dramatizing the sale because "they feel hurt about the sale of our diesel submarines, which are known for their noiselessness and are capable of neutralizing American submarines." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA DISOWNS ARMS SHIPMENT TO PERU. The Foreign Ministry denied that a Russian-made aircraft which landed in Brazil on 8 February had any connection with the government, according to a statement released on 11 February. The plane was suspected of carrying arms destined for Peru. The statement said, "competent Russian agencies responsible for trade in armaments have nothing to do with the cargo carried by the aircraft," Interfax reported. Moscow has provided Peru with many of its weapons, and several weeks ago a government spokesman confirmed trade would continue "depending how the situation in the region develops." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. CIS CIS SUMMIT PRODUCES LITTLE OF CONSEQUENCE. The CIS summit ended on 10 February with only a few pieces of paper to show for its efforts. Viritually every proposal was either rejected or watered down, international agencies reported. The pact on peace and stability became a non-binding memorandum which simply provides principles for signatories to apply in mutual relations. Before the summit, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said, "I am clearly and fully aware that a shapeless organization like the CIS has no future," Reuters reported. A peacekeeping operation for Tajikistan under UN aegis was agreed to by the summit participants. Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan also approved guidelines for a joint air defense system. Yeltsin failed to attend the post-summit news conference, and was seen stumbling and supported by aides. His speech was slurred and he appeared ill. The next CIS summit is expected to take place on 26 May in Minsk. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN AND UZBEKISTAN FURTHER ECONOMIC COOPERATION. Some bilateral and multilateral deals were concluded on the sidelines of the CIS summit, international agencies reported. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan agreed on 10 February to provide greater institutional substance to their "common economic space" agreement of1994. They intend to form an interstate council to coordinate governmental relations in the economic sphere and to provide seed capital for a Central Asian Bank to be based in Almaty. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said, "The task is to draw up, by 1996, a six-year integration plan, taking into account the potential of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN DEPUTY CRITICIZES RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY. Russian Duma Deputy Sergei Glotov has called upon the legislature to examine the treaty on Russian-Ukrainian friendship and cooperation initialed in Kiev on 8 February, Ukrainian radio reported on 11 February. Glotov believes several articles in the treaty contravene earlier resolutions of the Russian parliament. In particular, Glotov said this applies to items dealing with the Black Sea Fleet. The Duma has appointed two committees- -one dealing with CIS affairs and the other with foreign affairs--to analyze the text of the agreement and report their findings to the chamber. -- 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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