Give Peace A Chance. - John Lennon and Paul McCartney
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

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
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