|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 33, Part I, 15 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 FIGHTING CONTINUES DESPITE CHECHEN CEASE-FIRE. Sporadic exchanges of gunfire continued in Grozny on 14 February, despite a heavy weapons cease-fire agreement signed the day before by Chechen and Russian commanders, Interfax reported. A Chechen commander in Shali, a town southeast of Grozny where many forces loyal to Chechen President Dudaev have regrouped, expressed skepticism over the Russian commanders' motives in agreeing to a cease-fire. Federal Counterintelligence Service chief Sergei Stepashin likewise told Interfax he doubted the cease-fire would lead to a full-scale truce. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, speaking in Stockholm, said he was confident that a political solution to the Chechen conflict could now be reached provided that "criminal structures" are disarmed and that "free and fair" elections could be held in Chechnya before the end of the year. Arkady Volsky, in his capacity as a member of the committe for reconstruction of Chechnya, said agreement had been reached in talks with the Chechen Council of Elders on a provisional coalition government in the republic. Russian presidential adviser Emil Pain likewise argued that the Chechen population should now decide on the composition of local government bodies. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. PUBLIC URGE THAT INITIATORS OF CHECHEN WAR BE PUT ON TRIAL. A growing number of Russians are urging that those responsible for unleashing the Chechen war be brought to justice, recent reports indicate. Anti-war activist Maria Kirbasova told Interfax on 14 February that the Soldiers' Mothers Committee intended to sue the organizers of the Chechen operation in the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Also, some top Russian legal professionals have reportedly agreed to cooperate with the public tribunal set up in Moscow earlier this year to put the initiators of the war on trial, Russian TV reported on 10 February, (see OMRI Daily Digest , 26 January 1995). At least two distinguished lawyers who allegedly have demonstrated an interest in the public tribunal are on record as having belonged to the close circle of Yeltsin's legal advisers. They are Sergei Alekseev, former chairman of the Soviet Committee for Constitutional Surveillance and a principle supporter of the new constitution, and Valerii Savitsky, Russia's leading expert on criminal law. Yeltsin nominated Savitsky to the Constitutional Court twice, only to have him rejected by the Federation Council as a liberal. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. SOBYANIN PROPOSES SINGLE PRO-REFORM ELECTORAL COALITION. Aleksandr Sobyanin, an expert for the Russia's Choice group in parliament, has proposed the establishment of a single pro-reform electoral coalition, Interfax reported on 14 February. The coalition would have a single list of candidates for the next State Duma elections that would consist of one name for each of the chamber's 450 seats. Sobyanin said the reformist groups in today's Duma (Russia's Choice, Yabloko, and the unregistered December 12 Liberal Democratic Union) should form the nucleus of the list, which could also include house members who were elected in single-seat constituencies and have "proved their loyalty to the course of democratic, political, and economic reforms." He also gave Russia's Choice members proposals for legislation to prevent rigging in the next Duma election, scheduled for December this year. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. YAVLINSKY BEGINS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. Grigorii Yavlinsky, head of the All-Russia Democratic Alternative Party, has embarked on the presidential election campaign trail, according to a 14 February article in Segodnya. Addressing the party's founding congress, held 11-12 February, Yavlinsky spoke of food shortages, inflation woes, and the West's dissatisfaction with Yeltsin's handling of the Chechnya situation. Delegates from 46 regions around Russia warmly supported Yavlinsky's platform, which stresses the "de-bureaucratization" of Russia, the creation of a rule-of-law democratic state with a market economy, and a sufficient defense system. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GAIDAR ON DOMESTIC POLITICS. Russia's Choice leader Yegor Gaidar said he believes a policy of economic and political pressure combined with negotiations would have been enough to gradually reintegrate Chechnya into the Russian fold, according to an interview with Interfax on 14 February. He said the regime of Dzhokhar Dudaev had been coming under increasing pressure due to the republic's economic isolation. Unfortunately, he added, Dudaev's weakness was provocative, and the temptation to send in troops to resolve the problem too great for some Russian politicians. Gaidar said the Chechen operation had demonstrated the incompetence of several top military commanders, and he stressed the need for a military reform program that would reduce the size of the army while making it more effective and guaranteeing the social welfare of its personnel. He also said the Chechen operation had shattered hopes for an improvement in the economy in 1995. On regional policy, he said true federalism and the effective operation of a free market is the only way to guarantee the country's territorial integrity. At present, he noted, Russia is a unitary state in which the budget of a region "is shaped for a few months during talks between the local leader and a deputy finance minister. The well-being of the regions depends on the corridors of power in Moscow rather than on common sense in economic policies." In his opinion, the sources of federal and regional revenues, spheres of responsibility, and financial support mechanisms need to be more clearly defined. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. SOLZHENITSYN SIDES WITH POLEVANOV AGAINST CHUBAIS. In the 13 February installment of his weekly program on Ostankino, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn condemned the Russian privatization program and its author, Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais. He claimed that only 3% of the country's property had been distributed equally among the population. He went on to voice concern that the property would be auctioned and, as a result, bought at cheap prices by "new Russian" millionaires or foreigners who, he said, have no moral right to possess it. Solzhenitsyn also attacked the decision to dismiss the former chairman of the State Committee on Property, Vladimir Polevanov, who had attempted to renationalize some key industries. "The moment the honest minister Polevanov started to improve the ills of privatization, he was immediately fired," he said. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT RUNS DEBT TO CENTRAL BANK OF RUSSIA IN 1994. The government ran a further 53-trillion-ruble debt (4,224 rubles to $1) on Central Bank of Russia credits in 1994, which brings the total debt to 66 trillion rubles, Interfax reported on 14 February. In a presentation to parliament, the bank's acting chairwoman Tatiana Paramonova said its gross credit to commercial banks increased from 4 trillion rubles to 14 trillion rubles in the past year. She described central bank credits as "the main channel of money into the Russian economy." Paramonova stressed the bank was working in every way to stimulate investment into the industrial sector through commercial banks. On 1 February, the central bank introduced a new regulation for different rates for commercial banks' mandatory reserves. A maximum of 22% interest is charged on short money, 15% on a 90-day credit, and 10% on any credit for more than 90 days. Paramonova said the bank may consider a lower rate for credits over 90 days. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RYBKIN SUGGESTS FRENCH SOLUTION FOR RUSSIA'S PLACE IN NATO. State Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin said he believes Russia should have a special place in NATO, international agencies reported on 14 February. One idea would be to give Russia a position similar to France, which shares in the political decisionmaking but is not part of the integrated military structure. Recounting his discussion with NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes, Rybkin told ITAR-TASS a special arrangement for Russia could be set up by NATO as "a gesture of goodwill." Rybkin called for greater international understanding of Russia's position in the Chechen war, which he said might not have happened if Russia had become a member of the European Community in the early 1990s. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. IRAN AND RUSSIA OPPOSE "DOUBLE STANDARDS' WITHIN NPT. In reaction to Western criticism of Russia's nuclear cooperation deal with Iran, both countries oppose the use of "double standards" in implementing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin told ITAR-TASS on 14 February. Karasin said the treaty is an important building block for the global security system and said that Russia supports its unlimited extension when it comes up for review at a conference in April-May 1995. "Eternal and unconditional prolongation would help increase efficiency of the treaty, expand its universal character, boost the reduction and elimination of nuclear arsenals, and consolidate international stability," he said. Under the deal, announced on 8 January and worth an estimated $800 million, Russia is to complete the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southeastern Iran, which the German company Siemens started building in the 1970s. Iran insists the plant is purely for civilian use, but the U.S. is concerned about the possibility of Iran's developing nuclear weapons. A CIA report in September 1994 warned that Russia was a key source of nuclear technology in Iran's drive to become a nuclear power. -- Michael Mihalka and Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. INFANT MORTALITY RATES FALL SLIGHTLY. The Russian Health Ministry announced that infant mortality rates had declined from 193 per 10,000 live births in 1993 to 187 per 10,000 in 1994, Interfax reported on 14 February. The ministry said there were far fewer deaths from respiratory diseases, injuries, and food poisoning and argued that the figures were evidence of an improvement in mother and child care services. In 1994, 1.1 trillion rubles were spent on mother and child care from the federal budget and another 1 trillion rubles from regional budgets. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIANS WORRIED ABOUT INFLATION. In a poll conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion in February, 83% of respondents said inflation was their greatest concern. Next on the list was the increase in crime--58%, followed by the economic crisis and fall in output--50%. The proportion concerned about ethnic disputes increased to 32% from 16% in July 1994. Thirty-three percent were concerned about armed conflicts on Russia's borders, as opposed to 15% last July. Few were worried about disputes in the country's leadership--12%, the danger of Fascism--6%, and the danger of a military dictatorship--5%. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CIS FOUR SECURITY ZONES PLANNED. CIS military integration will start with the formation of a chiefs of staff committee and four regional collective security zones, according to Lt.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, secretary of the CIS Defense Ministers Council. The Western Zone would have Belarus "as the key element" and include the Kaliningrad and Smolensk regions of Russia. "Ukraine and Moldova will be in touch . . . if needed," Ivashov told Interfax on 14 February. The Caucasus Zone would include Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and the North Caucasus republics of Russia. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and part of Kyrgyzstan would form the Central Asian Zone, with Turkmenistan cooperating "on some elements."Finally, the Eastern Zone would be made up of Kazakhstan and those parts of Russia and Kyrgyzstan not in other zones. Ivashov said that it was assumed that if one state in a zone were attacked the rest would help it repulse the aggression. He talked of "Coalition Defense Forces" which would train jointly and have common standards. The proposals are to be submitted to the CIS heads of states at the end of this year. -- 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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