|Experience is in the fingers and head. The heart is inexperienced. - Henry David Thoreau|
No. 32, Part I, 14 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 CEASEFIRE AGREED. After several hours of "difficult, but business-like and calm" talks in Ingushetia on 13 February, Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov, and the commanders of the Russian army and interior ministry troops in Chechnya agreed on a ceasefire to take effect that evening, Interfax and Western agencies reported. The talks were proposed by Ingush Vice President Boris Agapov, who attended as an observer. No details were provided concerning the duration of the ceasefire nor how it is to be implemented. Meanwhile, a group of people including "residents of Daghestan and Azerbaijan" were apprehended in Gudermes on 12 February, Interfax reported. Chechen Presidential spokesman Movladi Udugov said they were planning to assassinate President Dzhokhar Dudaev on his arrival in Gudermes the same day to meet with local leaders. * Liz Fuller JUDICIAL CHAMBER TO CONDEMN FALSE INFORMATION ON CHECHEN WAR. The Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes, which opereates under presidential aegis, is set to condemn government press services for misinforming the public on the Chechen conflict, according to its chairman, Anatolii Vengerov. At a 13 February press conference broadcast on Russian TV, Vengerov said the federal government had lost "the information war" with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, whose propaganda was allegedly more effective. However, Vengerov rejected claims by Yeltsin and his "power" ministers, that Russian journalists had been bought with "Chechen money." In the early stages of the war, Vengerov recalled, Russian authorities had barred journalists from covering the Russian side, while official press services had supplied the public with inaccurate information. Later, journalists could communicate with Russian soldiers and police freely, but reports from military and government press agencies were still inaccurate, Vengerov said. He added that the chamber would open a special hearing on the fact that official information on the conflict lacked credibility. * Julia Wishnevsky CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ELECTS PRO-YELTSIN LEADERS. The Constitutional Court resumed its work on 13 February, by electing Vladimir Tumanov as chairman and Tamara Morshchakova as deputy chairwoman. Tumanov, 69, enjoys a reputation as one of the most distinguished legal experts in Russia. The Federation Council approved his nomination to the court in the first round of the eight-month-long process of appointing the new judges. In that time the council rejected eight out of 14 candidates nominated by Yeltsin. A member of the International Academy of Comparative Law, Tumanov is believed to be a co-author of the constitution, which is routinely criticized by former supporters for giving the president too much power. Unlike Tumanov, Morshchakova served as a judge on the court before Yeltsin suspended its activities on 7 October 1993. Morshchakova belonged to the minority of pro-reform judges who refused to condemn Yeltsin's decree to dissolve the parliament. * Julia Wishnevsky GENERAL GROMOV TO FOREIGN MINISTRY. President Boris Yeltsin has signed a decree naming Col.-Gen. Boris Gromov "a chief military expert at large" in the Foreign Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 February. Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said he was grateful for the new appointment, Interfax reported. He said he had visited many hot spots with Gromov in the past, and had agreed with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev that Gromov was the best man to ensure close relations between the defense and foreign ministries. Kozyrev said Gromov would handle relations with NATO, strategic stability in Europe, and military cooperation between CIS countries. While members of Gromov's staff stressed he had not been dismissed as a deputy defense minister, Kozyrev indicated that it would be decided later whether or not Gromov would retain that title. * Doug Clarke NEW DUMA FACTION BEING PLANNED. A new faction in the Duma that will be loyal to the president and supported by Moscow banks, such as National Credit and Menatep, is being planned, according to a "well-informed source" in the Duma, Interfax reported on 13 February. About 35 deputies held a conference in Desna, near Moscow, on 8-9 February to discuss the plans. Presidential aides Georgy Satarov and Alexander Lyvshytz attended the session. The new faction will bring together deputies who have left other factions such as the Party for Russian Unity and Concord, Democratic Party of Russia, Russia's Choice, Yabloko, New Regional Policy, and the 12 December Liberal Democratic Union. Interfax recently reported that 69 deputies in the Duma are currently unaffiliated. Satarov and Lyvshytz told Interfax they attended the conference to talk to the deputies about the president's upcoming annual address to parliament and did not know what conclusions the deputies reached on the proposed faction. A Menatep spokesman said he was aware of the meeting in Desna, but that no representative of his or any other bank took part. He said a movement preaching "stability, statehood, and commitment to reforms" could find "civilized and lawful support from financial circles." * Robert Orttung YELTSIN TO VETO INCREASE IN MINIMUM WAGE? Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said he is sure the president will block the minimum wage increase from 20,500 to 54,100 rubles recently approved by the Federation Council, Interfax reported on 13 February. Panskov said his ministry, the Labor Ministry, and the Central Bank were preparing a detailed letter to the president explaining why he should veto the bill. According to a paper given to the Financial Information Agency by the Finance Ministry's budget department, the wage hike would raise direct federal budget expenditures by 67.1 trillion rubles in 1995, although only 6.6 trillion could be financed from the budget as it stands now. The measure would also increase regional spending by 75 trillion rubles and reduce revenue to the government from profits tax by 22.5 trillion rubles. Economics Minister Evgenii Yasin said the bill would cause a jump in retail prices that would affect low income families the most. * Penny Morvant PARAMONOVA REPORTS RUBLE/INFLATION RATES TO STATE DUMA. The monthly pace at which the ruble loses value is far behind the rate of inflation, acting Central Bank Chairwoman Tatiana Paramonova said at a session with the State Duma on 10 February, Interfax reported. The fall in the ruble exchange rate was 10% in December while the inflation growth rate exceeded 16%. In January, the ruble index was 14% with inflation at 17.8%, Paramonova said. During the past three years, consumer prices on the domestic market have risen 778 times while the exchange rate of the ruble versus the dollar has fallen by less than 20 times. The central banker said she believes this is an indication that the real exchange rate of the ruble is stabilizing. Central bank experts said the purchasing power parity of the ruble against the dollar had risen by 14% in 1994. At the same time, Paramonova said the situation on the domestic currency market is "far from stable." She explained that the exchange rate of the ruble is falling due to an increase in money supply as well as non-economic factors such as inflationary expectations and a nebulous budget policy. Paramonova said recent unpopular measures taken by the bank, such as raising the refinancing rate to 200%, decreasing the currency position for commercial banks by 30%, and introducing compulsory hard currency reserves with the central bank, along with the government's wider use of non-inflationary sources for financing the budget would "pave the way" for stabilizing the ruble and preventing its accelerated devaluation. Paramanova said the introduction of a fixed- ruble exchange rate against the dollar can only be discussed in theory at the moment. She said the government had introduced a single floating currency exchange rate to the ruble in July 1992. Meanwhile, the ruble lost 21 points against the dollar in MICEX trading on 10 February, closing at 4,191 rubles to $1. * Thomas Sigel JANUARY ENERGY PRICES HIKED 27.7%. Russia's energy prices went up by 27.7% in January, according to Government Market Research Center (MRC) statistics which were reported to the Petroleum Information Agency on 13 February. Oil products were up 35.7% with raw energy sources increasing by 35% and electricity by 17.3%. With a 54.8% rise, the price of coal was the greatest. Coke and fuel coal prices rose to an average of 74,000 rubles ($17.62) and 39,000 rubles ($9.29) per ton respectively. Crude oil was up 34.2% but oil producers in the Urals and Northern Caucasus increased prices by 58.8% and 54.7% respectively, with an average price of 135,000 rubles ($32.14) per ton. A ton of crude in the Far East cost 206,000 rubles ($49.05) compared with 103,000 rubles ($24.52) in the Northern Caucasus. Natural gas went up by only 2.3%, but gas prices more than doubled in the north. Gas producers sold fuel at an average rate of 6,900 rubles ($1.64) per cubic meter though prices ranged from 50,000 rubles ($11.90) in the Volga region to 6,000 rubles ($1.43) in Western Siberia. Oil products rose by 35.7%, a record high since July 1993, when their price increased by 70.4%. Fuel, oil, diesel fuel, and A-76 grade gasoline were up 44.4%, 35.9%, and 34.9% respectively. Producer prices of gasoline were in excess of retail prices by 31.2% and 26.3%, respectively. Gasoline cost an average of 762 rubles (18 cents) per liter, three times higher than wholesalers' prices. Retail and wholesale gasoline prices in Moscow ran at 1,270 rubles (53 cents) and 282 rubles (.067 cents) per liter, the widest gap in the country. * Thomas Sigel TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA PROGRESS TOWARDS ABKHAZ SETTLEMENT? The Abkhaz delegation to the latest round of UN-mediated talks in Geneva has retracted its demand for total independence from Georgia and agreed to recognize the frontiers of Georgia as they existed in December, 1991, UN mediator Eduard Brunner said on 10 February. Brunner explained that international reaction to the Chechen conflict made the Abkhaz leadership realize they could expect only minimal support for their separatist policies. Georgia's chief negotiator, Dzhaba Ioseliani, told Interfax on 11 February that the Abkhaz had agreed to a federation with Georgia. But Abkhaz Parliament Chairman Sokrat Dzhindzholia said the next day that Abkhazia would insist on being an equal partner within a Georgian confederation. The talks made no progress on a schedule for the repatriation of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia. * Liz Fuller CIS BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN AGAINST RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN ACCORDS. The Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) opposition party has launched a campaign against the 6 January Russian-Belarusian agreements, Vek reported in its 10-16 February issue. The BNF shadow cabinet said the agreements go against the interests of the state and threaten Belarus' sovereignty. BNF members called one article of the agreement, which requires Belarus and Russia to coordinate foreign trade policy, an attempt to turn the country into a satellite. Party members also criticized articles on the establishment of joint working groups to deal with financial and industrial issues and on renting military installations to the Russian army. According to the BNF, the working groups will only serve to bureaucratize economic relations, while allowing Russian troops to remain in Belarus could drag the country into "military ventures." The party called for all of the agreements to be ratified by parliament and the prosecution of those who drafted and signed them. * Ustina Markus [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. Please direct inquiries to: Editor, Daily Digest, OMRI, Na Strzi 63, 14062 Prague 4, Czech Republic or send e-mail to: email@example.com Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396
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