|Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs. - Mark Twain|
No. 39, Part I, 23 February 1995
We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. The Digest is distributed 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 GRACHEV ON CHECHNYA. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said "several more years might be required for eliminating all bandits in Chechnya," Interfax reported on 22 February. He discounted the possibility that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev's forces are capable of carrying out a significant military operation on 23 February, the anniversary of the deportation of the Chechen people from their homeland by Josef Stalin. The National Congress of the Chechen People had earlier declared that 23 February would be a day of popular retribution. Grachev said all organized Chechen units had been defeated in the fight for Grozny. Only gangs of 10 to 15 men remain, with some of them under no one's command, he claimed. Artillery shelling of Grozny's southwest suburbs, which are controlled by Dudaev's supporters, has practically stopped, Interfax reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN REGIONS TO HELP RESTORE GROZNY. Deputy Nationalities Minister Andrei Chernenko announced that Grozny has been divided into 28 sectors, each of which will receive aid from an individual region in Russia, Interfax reported on 22 February. Additionally, the State Committee for Higher Education has set up a system to transfer students from Grozny's universities to other institutions around the country. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. OSCE HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP TO CHECHNYA. An OSCE human rights mission departed on 22 February for talks in Moscow and the Chechen region, according to an OSCE press release. The group will conduct talks on how to provide humanitarian assistance to the region and the possibility of setting up a commission to investigate human rights violations during the Chechen war. It is the second OSCE mission to the region. The group will hold talks with Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev and senior officials at the Foreign and Emergency ministries on 23 February, and move on to Chechnya two days later, Interfax reported. Recently, Russia denied visas to a human rights mission from the European parliament. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE: NO "THREATS AND ULTIMATUMS" FROM PARLIAMENT. The Russian Prosecutor-General's office has responded to demands for information from Stanislav Govorukhin, chairman of the State Duma's commission to investigate events in Chechnya. In a declaration published in Rossiiskaya gazeta, the office informed deputies that the "new tone of threats and ultimatums they have adopted in communications with state institutions will hardly add to their authority or promote fruitful cooperation." However, the prosecutor's office pledged to turn over all relevant materials to the Duma commission "in full accordance with legislation on criminal legal procedures." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CONFUSION OVER LEBED'S ALLEGED NOMINATION. Franz Klintsevich, chairman of the Union of Afghan War Veterans, dismissed as "a provocation" reports that the union had voted to nominate Gen. Aleksandr Lebed as its candidate in the next presidential election, Russian TV reported on 22 February. The reports had appeared a day earlier in various Russian and Western media, including Ostankino TV (see also OMRI Daily Digest of 22 February). Klintsevich said the issue was not even discussed at the union's recent congress. Meanwhile, Col. Matvei Bergman, the Tiraspol army garrison commander and Lebed's right-hand man in the 14th Army, said Lebed had agreed to run in the election as a candidate for the Afghan war veterans, Russian TV's "Vesti" reported. As usual, Lebed denied any intention of becoming Russia's second president. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. GORBACHEV, RUTSKOI START PRESIDENTIAL RACE? Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said his decision on whether to run for president in the upcoming election depends on the wording of an electoral law to be passed by parliament, Interfax reported on 22 February. Gorbachev was concluding a four-day visit to Novosibirsk in what Interfax described as the opening of his campaign. The agency reported that Gorbachev was invited to the city by the local branch of the Democratic Russia Movement, the same organization of radical anti-communists who had assisted President Boris Yeltsin in his struggle for power against Gorbachev in 1990-91. Meanwhile, the Derzhava (Great Power) movement nominated its leader, former Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi, as its presidential candidate. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. DUMA OVERRIDES YELTSIN VETO ON DEMONSTRATION LAW. The State Duma overrode a presidential veto of a new law on demonstrations, Interfax reported on 22 February. A total of 309 deputies -- nine more than the 300 required for a two-thirds majority -- voted to approve the law without the presidential amendments. The Duma rejected an attempt by Yeltsin to ban gatherings of people in the immediate vicinity of public buildings. Deputies Alevtina Aparina and Tatyana Gudima protested that the purpose of demonstrations is to make public opinion known to government officials and that in many Russian cities, the central and only square is right outside a government building. For the override to take effect, two-thirds of the upper house must also reject Yeltsin's amendments. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. FILATOV: DEMOCRATIC AUTHORITY REQUIRES DIALOGUE. Sergei Filatov, President Yeltsin's chief of staff, published an article in Rossiiskie vesti calling for "constructive dialogue" among democratic political forces in Russia. Filatov described the lack of unity in the democratic camp and the weakness on the leftist side of the democratic political spectrum as "alarming." He appealed to Russia's democratic forces not to respond to the crisis in Chechnya with "banal, and at times vulgar, sloganeering." Differences between the government and democratic political parties are "natural," wrote Filatov, but opposing views, "even on the most critical problems, are no reason to cut off dialogue and cooperation." Filatov praised the newly-formed Russian Social Democratic Party and its leaders, which suggests that Yeltsin hopes the RSDP will create a political base for him. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. STATE DUMA DELAYS CRUCIAL BUDGET APPROVAL. Russia's State Duma has delayed a crucial vote on the 1995 draft budget until 24 February, Russian and Western agencies reported on 22 February. Budget approval is one of the conditions Russia needs to secure a $6.25 billion IMF loan. The draft budget foresees a deficit of 73 trillion rubles ($17 billion), according to levels set on 25 January, or less than 8% of GDP. In a concession to the powerful Agrarian Party, deputies voted to reallocate one trillion rubles ($230 million) to fund the economically ailing farm sector and the coal mining industry which has been hit by strikes. The agrarians had threatened to withhold support unless more funds were allocated to the agro-industrial complex. The parliament budget committee chairman said revenues earlier calculated at 175 trillion rubles ($40 billion), would rise by 17.6 trillion rubles ($4 billion) and noted the money would come from various sources including 2.6 trillion rubles ($600 million), previously allocated to service government domestic debt, and a 1.5% value added tax proposed by the agrarians. Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin said time is running out for final approval of the budget. The Duma has so far only adopted a law covering state financing for the first quarter. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DAVYDOV PROJECTS 8% FOREIGN TRADE INCREASE IN '95. Russia will increase its trade turnover with foreign countries by at least 8% in 1995, Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov said in an Interfax interview on 22 February. He said Russia had already increased its foreign trade turnover with all countries in January to $6.7 billion, exceeding the 1994 level by 5.1%. Davidov noted that January exports from Russia grew 6.8% compared with December 1994 and reached $4 billion. Russia also increased its imports in January to $2.7 billion, exceeding last year's level by 6.8%. As much as $2.2 billion of this amount represents trade with non-CIS countries, he said. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. VORKUTA MINERS ANNOUNCE POLITICAL STRIKE. Miners in the northern republic of Komi announced on 21 February that they would begin a political strike on 1 March, Interfax reported. Yury Vishnevsky, the leader of the Vorkuta miners, said they were demanding early presidential elections, the government's resignation, and a new social policy. They are also calling for immediate payment of 28.7 billion rubles in wage arrears. Vitaly Budko, chairman of the Russian Coal Industry Workers' Union, described the Vorkuta miners' announcement as hasty. He said some progress had been made in negotiations with First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais on miners' demands. The union held a 24-hour national strike on 8 February. The Vorkuta miners held a separate warning strike two days earlier. On 23 February, the Coal Industry Workers' Union will decide whether to launch an indefinte strike on 1 March. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL WON'T STOP RUSSIAN AID. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Christine Shelly said the Clinton administration opposes halting aid to Russia, even if it followed through with supplying nuclear reactors to Iran, Reuters reported on 22 February. Although the U.S. is against the Russian-Iranian deal, Shelly said, "The main purpose of our aid to Russia is to support Russia's transition to a democratic government and to a market economy, which are the key foreign policy objectives of this administration . . . Conditioning U.S. aid to Russian actions would be counterproductive to accomplishing these objectives." The U.S. speaker of the lower house, Newt Gingrich, has said such aid should stop if Russia goes ahead with the deal. On 23 February, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov will conclude talks in Washington on Russia's role in European security and the Iranian deal. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA INTENDS TO SUPPLY NUCLEAR REACTOR TO INDIA. Russia has announced plans to supply another nuclear reactor to India, Interfax reported on 22 February. The Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry said a detailed contract would be signed in the near future. The ministry dismissed concerns expressed by the Nuclear Suppliers' Group that India does not adhere to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty saying the intended reactor's design does not permit the "industrial production of war plutonium." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CIS EU TO EXTEND AID PROGRAMS FOR FORMER SOVIET REPUBLICS. The EU Commission has announced plans to extend its technical aid program to the former Soviet Union beyond the end of this year when it is due to expire, Reuters reported on 22 February. Technical Assistance for the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) is the EU's main aid program for the region. Between 1991 and 1994, $2.2 billion was allocated to the program and $596 million has been budgeted for this year. Some new features have been attached to the aid, including provisions for "appropriate measures" to be taken should human rights or democratic principles be violated and encouragement for joint ventures between EU firms and small to medium-size businesses in the CIS. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA TO BUY UKRAINIAN BOMBERS. Russia has agreed in principle to buy Ukraine's 42 strategic bombers after having ascertained that the planes are in good condition, Kommersant reported on 22 February. Russia does not intend to pay for the 23 TU-95s and 19 TU-160s in cash, but is looking to write off part of Ukraine's energy debt in exchange for the aircraft. The Russian gas monopoly, Gazprom, which is owed over $1.5 billion by Ukraine, is reportedly opposed to the deal. The gas giant would prefer to be paid in cash or acquire Ukraine's gas facilities in lieu of the debt and gains nothing from Russia's acquisition of the bombers. -- 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. 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