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No. 42, Part I, 28 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 GRYZUNOV TO BE FIRED? State Press Committee Chairman Sergei Gryzunov, a liberal who has shut down several fascist newspapers during his five months in office, announced on 27 February that he would be dismissed because "not all officials" share his belief in a free press, Interfax reported. But a presidential source told Interfax on 27 February that President Boris Yeltsin supports Gryzunov, who is "widely known for his democratic and anti-fascist views." The mixed signals continued into the evening, when Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin confirmed that Gryzunov would be dismissed. The heads of nearly every major Russian newspaper, television, and radio company praised the outgoing chairman in a letter to Yeltsin calling Gryzunov's rumored dismissal "unfounded" and "unjustified." The letter suggests that Gryzunov's opponents intend to stir up resentment toward the president and divisions within the democratic camp in the early stages of this year's electoral campaign. Last autumn, Gryzunov was appointed coordinator of the Russian government's Temporary Information Center on the Chechen conflict, but he was soon removed, reportedly because of his "inability to cope" with discrepancies in the government's official version of events. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN TROOPS SEAL GROZNY. Russian troops have formed a second circle around Grozny, effectively sealing off the city, and are proceeding to hunt down those Chechen fighters still remaining there, Interfax and AFP reported on 27 February. Russian troops advancing south from Grozny were halted by intensive Chechen resistance in the village of Stary Atagi. Also on 27 February, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, Interior Minister Viktor Yerin, and other ranking Russian officials arrived in Mozdok for a conference on economic reconstruction in Chechnya. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CAMPAIGN HEATS UP IN THE REGIONS. Communist Party candidates won a majority of seats in elections to the Orel Oblast legislature on 26 February, Interfax reported. Additionally, preparations for the December parliamentary elections are rapidly moving ahead outside Moscow. Agrarian party leader Mikhail Lapshin just completed a visit to Rostov Oblast, while Russia's Choice leader Yegor Gaidar was seeking support in Smolensk, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 28 February. On 25 February, Nizhnii Novgorod hosted the founding conference of a new national organization, Spring Union. That organization, under the leadership of State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov, is seeking to strengthen the Russian state by fostering parliamentary democracy. In an earlier incarnation as a strictly regional organization, the Spring Union succeeded in electing 20 of its 24 candidates to the State Duma and the Nizhnii Novgorod Assembly. It is now actively seeking allies among the other political parties for the parliamentary elections. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ZHIRINOVSKY: DECEMBER 1995 ELECTIONS WILL BE DELAYED. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the ultra-nationalist leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, told Interfax on 24 February that the Russian government will refuse to call parliamentary elections in December of this year. He claimed that as the political climate in Russia worsens in the summer of 1996, the government will use the "civil war" as an excuse to further postpone legislative elections. Based on recent meetings with unnamed members of the Russian armed forces, Zhirinovsky asserted that "only the army can guarantee that the election takes place." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. ILLEGAL FLIGHT OF CAPITAL, CORRUPTION INCREASING. The illegal flight of capital from Russia totaled about $50 billion in 1994, according to an official of the Interior Ministry's Main Department for Economic Crimes, cited by Interfax on 26 February. He said the illegal capital outflow was rising at a rate of $1.5-2 billion a month, much of it stolen from the public. About 9,600 crimes were recorded in the financial sphere in 1994, 4,800 of them involving theft. A 24 February Interfax report, also citing an Interior Ministry official, said the state apparatus had been eroded by corruption. State officials figured in 2,700 law suits, more than half of them on bribery charges. In an article published in Izvestiya on 28 February, former Finance Minister Boris Fedorov poured scorn on the official bribery figures for 1994, arguing that there were more likely to have been 5 million than 5,000 cases. He blamed the scourge on high-level reluctance to address corruption, judicial shortcomings, unclear bureaucratic decision-making procedures, and the power of officials to issue credits, licenses, and quotas. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. PEASANTS' PARTY ACCUSES AGRO-INDUSTRIAL LEADERS OF CATTLE SLAUGHTER. The Russian Peasants' Party has accused "agrarian apparatchiks of large-scale cattle slaughter which is a crime against the Russian people," according to a report read by party leader Yuri Chernichenko at the Fourth Party Congress in Moscow on 27 February, Interfax reported. Chernichenko compared the huge cattle slaughters in state and collective farms to those under Stalin in 1929-1933. Commenting on federal allocations to the agro-industrial sector, he said farmers are being oppressed throughout the country by high taxes and government diktats. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DUMA SUB-COMMITTEE MEETS ON BANK BANKRUPTCY BILL. The sub-committee for banking legislation in the Duma met on 27 February to spell out the details for the bill "On Changes and Amendments to the Russian Law on Bankruptcy of Enterprises." The law is expected to address the bankruptcy peculiarities of banks and credit organizations, Interfax reported. The bill will change the procedure for declaring a bank insolvent. Arbitration courts will initiate the insolvency case before a bank is stripped of its license. The license annulment will be the final stage of a bank's bankruptcy and will only be admissible if the Central Bank approves the liquidation commission's report. The bill will also address how to sell insolvent banks. Temporary control over the insolvent bank will be exercised by authorized persons from highly reliable banks and auditing firms. The bill will also allow bank liquidation if reorganizational inefficiency can be proven. The liquidation commission must involve an authorized representative from the Bank of Russia. Under the bill, bank shareholders will have property accountability for bank obligations in case the bank goes bankrupt. The bill will be submitted to the State Duma this spring. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FIRST RUSSIAN COMPANY ENTERS U.S. STOCK MARKET. The U.S. securities and stock market commission has passed a resolution to allow the Toggliatti- based AvtoVAZbank of Russia access to the American stock market, the first company to do so, Interfax reported on 24 February. Several other Russian companies, including the leading LUKoil holding, also plan to break into the U.S. stock market. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV PUBLISHES NEW BOOK. Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev presented his book, Transformation, on the formation of Russian foreign policy, on 27 February in Moscow, Interfax reported. Describing Russia's place on the international stage as "more solid and dignified than that of the USSR," he said the latter may have been more feared but Russia has earned greater respect. Commenting on extracts published earlier, he said Japan was not offended by his revelation that the country had offered Russia $28 billion for the four Kuril islands. Boris Likhachev, director of International Relations Publishing House, said the book will be translated into English and published abroad. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. U.S. PRESSURE FAILS TO STOP RUSSIAN-IRANIAN NUCLEAR DEAL. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher continued to express concern about the Russian plan to supply Iran with nuclear reactors, international agencies reported. "We oppose any nuclear cooperation with Iran by Russia or other countries," he said on 27 February. Meanwhile, Sergei Karagonov, a member of the Russian Presidential Council, said, "We are negotiating (the sale) of a peaceful nuclear facility (for a) power plant. We aren't selling them anything which can be connected with arms." Russia's failure to drop the deal may threaten Clinton's proposed visit in May, a Foreign Ministry source told Interfax. A Nuclear Ministry source accused the U.S. of duplicity for intending to send the same kind of reactors to North Korea. He said the U.S. action may subvert the extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty when it comes up for review in April. Iran and other states may decide not to sign if they are prevented from pursuing peaceful nuclear programs. Contrary to U.S. beliefs, Russia maintains that the Iranian program is entirely peaceful. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov was in Iran over the weekend and secured yet another statement from Tehran that it would continue to adhere to the NPT. However, one Yeltsin adviser shares U.S. concerns. In a Deutsche Welle interview on 26 February, Aleksy Yablokov, head of the Security Council environment commission, said Iranian interest in the proposed nuclear power plant has only one purpose, "Tehran wants its own atomic bomb." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA SIGNS NUCLEAR SAFETY DEAL WITH EU. Russia has signed a nuclear safety deal with the European Union that will greatly facilitate Western aid in nuclear safety projects, Reuters reported on 27 February. EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov signed the document, which contains a controversial clause limiting the liability of Western suppliers in the event of a nuclear accident. The lack of a liability-limitation deal has stalled a number of EU-backed safety projects. The EU will continue to press Russia to sign the Vienna Convention which limits liability to the owner of the nuclear facility. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV WARNS AGAINST HASTY NATO EXPANSION; DANGER OF "COLD PEACE" REAL. Foreign Minister Kozyrev has warned once again against the "hasty expansion of NATO," ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February. The timing of his comments are particularly important as the U.S. has been actively pursuing efforts to secure Russian approval for NATO expansion. That was one of the topics Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov discussed last week on his visit to Washington. Kozyrev told Japanese journalists before his trip to China, "it is not with expanding the old NATO that one needs to hurry, but with the joint quest for ways to transform the alliance, to develop a genuine Russia-NATO partnership." He reminded them that Yeltsin had spoken of "a cold peace" at the CSCE summit in December. "In our view, this danger is an extremely real one," he said. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. UNEMPLOYED UP 75,000 IN FEBRUARY. The Federal Employment Service announced on 27 February that the number of officially registered unemployed increased by almost 75,000 in February to 1.71 million, Interfax reported. The actual number of unemployed is thought to be two to three times the official figure. A quarter of the unemployed had been working in state organizations. According to the Labor Ministry, 85% of vacancies are for blue-collar workers, while two-thirds of the unemployed have a higher or specialized secondary education. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK ELECTION UPDATE. Up to 85% of Tajikistan's 2,684,000 registered voters participated in the parliamentary elections of 26 February, a Central Electoral Commission spokesman told Interfax on 27 February. Candidates were elected in 161 of 181 constituencies. Repeat elections will be held in 13 constituencies where no single candidate obtained the necessary minimum number of votes, and results are still outstanding in the remaining seven. Among the candidates elected are Abdulmadzhid Dostiev and Shodi Shabdolov, leaders of the Tajik People's Party and the Tajik Communist Party respectively. A spokesman for the Tajik Foreign Ministry told Interfax that the government will continue to cooperate with the OSCE despite that organization's refusal to send observers to monitor the elections. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. As of 12.00 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. 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