|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 34, Part I, 16 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 YELTSIN: CURBING INFLATION AND SPENDING ARE KEY PRIORITIES. In his annual state of the nation address to a joint session of parliament on 16 February, President Boris Yeltsin said controlling government spending and curbing inflation were key priorities for 1995. "No one is entitled to make decisions which undermine the budget and boost inflation," he warned. He said the main condition for financial stability is strengthening the ruble. He also stressed the need to facilitate investment and modernize the economy, arguing that Russia's reliance on the raw material sector of the economy must be reduced. On social policy, Yeltsin spoke of the need to "fill economic reform with social substance" and said measures must be taken to ensure the timely payment of wages and allowances, and to restore the population's savings. He also said the government would have to support agriculture. While acknowledging that the media have become a powerful mechanism for democracy, the president was critical of some of their coverage, warning that criticism should not be turned into mockery of the state. He urged the parliament to strengthen Russia's judiciary, which he said was still "in deep crisis," and conceded that crime-fighting measures had not been fully implemented. He stressed the need to improve the professionalism of state officials, calling for strict limitations on their commercial activities, and described corruption in law enforcement agencies as "an ever bigger obstacle to normal work." He also expressed concern about the rise of fascism in the country. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN CALLS MILITARY INEFFICIENT; STRESSES NEED FOR REFORM. President Yeltsin called the Russian military "inefficient" and blamed its poor handling of the Chechnya operation for "big losses" and extensive "human rights violations," in his address to parliament on 16 February. He said the government had "underestimated" the situation in Chechnya. In a harsh criticism of the military's initial operation in Chechnya, he said, "Our state turned out to be unprepared for efficient power actions. At the initial stage, the hackneyed system of planning military operations was of such a scope that the uncoordinated activities of ministries made themselves felt. That is the reason for the big losses. That is the root of the human rights violations in the course of combat." He said, "The Armed Forces are not well prepared for settling conflicts of local character." He added that the military reform to date had been "unsatisfactory" and said that in 1995, he would work to raise its technical equipment and combat readiness to modern levels. A number of reasons made Russia put off the Chechnya operation, he said, among them, "a syndrome of the guilt of a society for the imperial past, the Afghan syndrome, and a protracted standoff between the legislature and executive." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. YABLOKO TO BOYCOTT YELTSIN'S ADDRESS. The liberal Yabloko faction, led by the front-runner candidate for the next presidential election, Grigorii Yavlinsky, declared its intention not to attend the joint session of parliament to be addressed by President Boris Yeltsin, Russian TV's "Vesti" reported on 15 February. Earlier reports indicated that the Yabloko faction had made a joint request with the Communist Party asking that the legislature be provided with time to discuss the speech with Yeltsin in the second part of the session. All the Duma's factions signed the request, except Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Choice, Sovetskaya Rossiya reported on 11 February. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. DUMA ADOPTS RADIO AND TV LAW. The State Duma passed a controversial bill on radio and television which bans preliminary censorship in broadcasting, but also tightens state control over the national airwaves, Russian TV and news agencies reported on 15 February. The law, adopted in the third reading, provides for the establishment of the Federal Commission for Television and Radio which will distribute frequencies between various TV and radio companies, issue broadcasting licenses, and prepare a state register of license holders. The commission will consist of 25 members and a chairman. The latter and 15 members will be appointed by the president, while parliament will name the remaining 10. Under the new law, domestic productions must make up at least two-thirds of the films broadcast on Russian TV. That is a slight increase from the current 60% requirement. Meanwhile, the Moscow mayor's office has nationalized all cable TV stations in the capital, Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 9 February. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. CHECHEN CEASE-FIRE EXTENDED. Chechen and Russian military commanders reached agreement on a two-day cease-fire for all categories of weapons beginning at midnight on 15 February, Interfax and AFP reported. During the talks in Ingushetia, they also agreed on an exchange of dead and wounded. The deal extends a 13 February ban on the use of heavy weapons. Russian military commander General Anatoly Kulikov said the Chechens had rejected a Russian proposal on the exchange of prisoners, but would consider a second proposal to make Grozny a demilitarized zone. Also on 15 February, a group of influential Chechen clergymen asked Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to prolong the truce until the end of Ramadan on 3-5 March. Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev expressed doubt that the talks would lead to a lasting truce, Interfax reported. Yusup Soslambekov, chairman of the Chechen parliament dissolved by Dudaev in 1993, argued that the former legislature could help resolve the crisis by mediating between Dudaev and the Chechen opposition. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. COMMUNIST PARTY PUTS FORWARD PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. The Communist Party of Russia (CPR) "has the right and is obliged to put forward its candidate" for the next presidential election in Russia, announced CPR Chairman Gennadii Zyuganov at a news conference in Moscow on 15 February, Interfax reported. Zyuganov said the CPR has joined an electoral coalition which includes the Agrarian Party, the Socialist Party of Workers, the Federation of Producers of Goods, and national patriotic forces. Zyuganov said such a bloc of national patriotic forces, if elected, would act "strictly within the limits of the law" and would prevent dangerous "Zhirinovsky-like" forces from gaining the upper hand in Russia. He also said the Russian president should not be elected by popular vote, but rather by an assembly of electors which would include "the whole national elite and people elected by corresponding institutions and bodies." Zyuganov spoke of the danger of the whole country turning into a large Chechnya if the current Russian leadership continued its "anti-popular course." -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. ZHIRINOVSKY PARTY PROPOSES "OPTIMISTIC OPTION". The ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) is trying to "reach the heart of every elector" in its election campaign, a source in the party's leadership told Interfax on 15 February. The LDPR, led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, has issued a leaflet entitled, "An Address to the Working People" which has been distributed throughout Russia. The leaflet called the party "the only political organization representing the interests of the entire nation" and accused the government of indifference to the interests of the working person. It rejects "development schemes" that the party claims are forced on Russia by the West, but, at the same time, does not call for the country to "revert to the past." In an interview with Interfax, Zhirinovsky said if Russians listen to reason and vote for the only honest party, the LDPR, they will have "a great Russia which belongs to all of them". -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DUMA BUDGET COMMITTEE FINDS MONEY BY CUTTING EXPENDITURES. The State Duma committee for budget, taxes, banks, and finances found another 12.4 trillion rubles (4,224 rubles to $1) to finance budget expenditures by cutting allocations to the military and Interior Ministry, the Financial Information Agency reported on 14 February. The committee decided to reduce the armed forces by 400,000 troops in order to slash expenditures on maintaining servicemen by 1 trillion rubles. The money will be used to purchase weapons and combat equipment. The committee also cut allocations to the Interior Ministry by 500 billion rubles, which will instead be used to maintain border guards, intelligence, and counterintelligence. The committee proposed to cut expenditures on state machinery by nearly 700 billion rubles by abolishing government structures such as the Economics Reform Center, the Center for Economic Trends, and the government press office. The committee said subsidies to the Moscow government could be reduced by nearly 1 trillion rubles. According to committee chairman Mikhail Zadornov, the group will have to discuss more than 500 amendments in the next few days in order to submit a modified draft budget for a third reading on 17 or 22 February. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA WARNS AGAINST "HASTY" NATO EXPANSION. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev warned against a "hasty" NATO expansion, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 February. Nevertheless, he spoke of a need to repair relations with NATO which had deteriorated since Russia refused to initial its individual Partnership for Peace work program in December. He said he is still waiting for an explanation of why NATO changed its plans from partnership to expansion. He added, "In the existing situation it is necessary to find a new, expanded formula of developing the partnership with NATO which will take into consideration the Russian role in international affairs and the interest of Moscow to create such a system of European security which would not isolate it from the rest of the continent." President Yeltsin spoke out against the expansion of NATO to the east in his speech to parliament on 16 February, ITAR-TASS reported. A well-informed source told the agency, "The president believes that such an expansion would be detrimental to joint efforts in creating a new model of genuine pan-European security." He added, "Boris Yeltsin does not want Europe and the world to return to old or new lines of division, and believes NATO has no grounds to build on Russian western frontiers a structure allegedly aimed to defend East European countries because Moscow has no 'black thoughts'" about them. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. KOZRYEV SEEKS EARLY IMPLEMENTATION OF EU PARTNERSHIP ACCORD. Foreign Minister Kozyrev argued for an early implementation of the EU partnership accord with Russia, during a trip to Stockholm where he met with Swedish ministers and the British foreign minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 February. He was particularly critical of what he called discrimination against Russian exports to the EU. "The existence of such barriers impedes the promotion of new relations, creates a bad background for Russia, and contradicts the talk about Western assistance to Russian reforms," he said. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA ACCUSES U.S. OF COMMERCIAL INTERESTS IN ATTEMPTING TO BLOCK IRANIAN NUCLEAR DEAL. A Russian foreign ministry diplomat said commercial and political interests lie behind U.S. efforts to block Russia from building a nuclear power plant in Iran, Interfax reported on 15 February. He said the U.S. is ignoring repeated confirmations from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran does not have a military nuclear program. He said the U.S. was particularly irritated by close Russia-Iran contacts and needed to provoke world political opinion against them every six months or so. "Such tricks by Washington have two pragmatic goals. First, the Americans are using the 'Iranian threat' to preserve their own military presence in the Persian Gulf. Second, Washington is perfectly aware of the fact that the Iranian market, including the arms one, is extremely promising. Naturally, the Americans would like to gain the market back in the future and, at the same time, force competitors, primarily Russia, from Iran," said the diplomat. Meanwhile, a Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry spokesman said on 15 February that the deal would go ahead. -- Michael Mihalka, 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. 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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