|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 48, Part I, 8 March 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 LUZHKOV THREATENS TO RESIGN. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has threatened to resign unless President Boris Yeltsin reinstates Moscow Prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev and Moscow police chief Vladimir Pankratov, news agencies reported. Yeltsin fired the city's top law-enforcement officials on 2 March in response to the assassination of television journalist Vladislav Listev, and the Security Council endorsed the dismissals unanimously on 7 March. In a televised interview the same day, Luzhkov claimed the purge was in fact aimed at him personally, leaving him no choice but to resign. Luzhkov is far more popular than Yeltsin in Moscow. However, Yeltsin has made the dismissals a centerpiece of his plan to restore order in the city. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. SECURITY COUNCIL WANTS MORE MONEY TO FIGHT CRIME. Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov told reporters on 7 March that funding the fight against crime was the main topic discussed at the council's session the previous day, agencies reported. He said the country needs 1 trillion rubles to combat organized crime and corruption rather than the 500 billion rubles allocated in the draft 1995 budget, passed on its third reading on 24 February. Lobov also said Yeltsin had urged prompt consideration of a law to protect judges and that the president would soon sign a decree increasing the role of the Federal Counterintelligence Service in uncovering crimes and restoring its investigative organs. According to Lobov, 2.6 million crimes were committed in Russia in 1994, nearly 1 million of which have not been solved. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CONFERENCE TO DISCUSS CHECHEN SETTLEMENT. A conference to discuss terms for a cease-fire in Chechnya, new elections, and the republic's future status will be held in Moscow on 14 March, Yeltsin's chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, told Interfax on 7 March. Representatives from Chechnya, the North Caucasus, and the Chechen diaspora in Russia will participate. It is unclear whether Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev will send a delegation. Also on 7 March, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets told Interfax that restoring the Chechen economy is contingent on a political settlement of the conflict. So far, seven potential candidates to head the Russian government department to coordinate the Chechen reconstruction have refused the position. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. AIR FORCE DROPPING MINES IN CHECHNYA. The Russian Air Force has been dropping mines on various "strategically important" Chechen regions controlled by Dudaev supporters over the last several days, Interfax reported on 7 March, quoting a representative of the joint command of federal forces. Last December, President Yeltsin signed a decree placing a three-year moratorium on the export of anti-personnel mines after U.S. President Bill Clinton's UN appeal for the eventual global elimination of anti-personnel landmines. The export ban, however, applies only to mines not equipped with a self-destruction device, and the mines dropped in Chechnya apparently do not fall into that category. Aircraft- delivered mines are considered particularly dangerous because no accurate record can be kept of their location. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. OSCE WILLING TO MEDIATE CHECHNYA CONFLICT. The OSCE is willing to help mediate the conflict in Chechnya and set up a permanent mission in the republic, international agencies reported. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn made the announcement on 7 March after talks with President Yeltsin. Hungary currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE. Yeltsin said, "We have made considerable progress in tackling many of the problems discussed in Budapest during the OSCE summit in December of 1994," Interfax reported. Horn stressed the positive results of the Budapest summit and hoped further progress could be made toward a comprehensive security regime in Europe. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. WORLD BANK APPROVES $400 MILLION LOAN TO RUSSIA. The World Bank approved a $400 million loan to Russia on 7 March, international agencies reported. The loan is intended to help create a private market in land and home sales. It will assist local governments in selling land to private individuals. Housing projects in six cities--St. Petersburg, Tver, Novgorod, Nizhny Novgorod, Barnaul, and Moscow--will initially receive assistance. A World Bank statement said the project was "designed to demonstrate practical ways that markets can produce housing and help revive the Russian economy." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. MOST BANK TO SUE GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER. The board of Most Bank plans to sue Rossiiskaya gazeta, a state-subsidized organ of the Russian executive branch, Interfax reported on 7 March. The Most Bank statement denounces "brazenly distorted facts" in the newspaper's account of "business relations" between Moscow Mayor Luzhkov and Most Bank President Vladimir Gusinsky. Since the newspaper is financed from the federal budget, the statement continues, its editor-in-chief and director-general should be charged with "embezzlement of state capital" as well as libel. The bank and the government have been at odds over alleged corruption for several months. On 2 December 1994, masked men from Yeltsin's presidential guard raided the bank without a search warrant, confiscated documents, and arrested several bank employees. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. GAIDAR WILL NOT SUPPORT A YELTSIN BID FOR REELECTION. Russia's Choice leader Yegor Gaidar told Izvestiya on 7 March it is "very unlikely that our party will support President Yeltsin if he decides to run" for a second term. While Gaidar said he does not support the idea of impeaching the president, he reiterated his opposition to Yeltsin's policies in Chechnya. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. BURBULIS CENTER PROPOSES REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTION. The Strategiya center, headed by former State Secretary Gennady Burbulis, issued a study that proposed holding a nationwide referendum on several articles of the constitution along with the December elections, Interfax reported on 7 March. The document cited problems with the president's excessive powers and the division of the executive branch into two parts (president and government). It also said the constitution does not clearly define the division of responsibility between the federal and local levels. The constitution failed to define the duties of the prosecutor's office, the study asserted, and the provisions for adopting a constitutional amendment are too strict. The result is that the provisions of the constitution are often ignored for the sake of political expediency. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ELECTIONS HELD IN TATARSTAN AND BASHKORTOSTAN. Interfax reported that 59.7% of registered voters took part in the elections to the Tatarstan State Council on 5 March. Final results have not been tabulated. Overall, 468 candidates competed for 130 seats in the new parliament. On the same day, a total of 57.7% of registered voters participated in the elections to the Bashkir State Council. The new Bashkir legislature will be bicameral, with 351 candidates competing for 154 seats in the House of Representatives and 131 candidates seeking one of the 40 seats in Legislative Chamber. In both republics, turnout was much stronger in rural areas than in urban centers. The mayor of Ufa, Mikhail Zaitsev, appeared three times during the day on local television to exhort citizens to vote. The old communist elites are likely to win both races because independent candidates had difficulty collecting the large number of signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot, Segodnya reported on 7 March. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. PRIME MINISTER HEADS MILITARY STUDY COMMISSION. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will head a special commission to study the problem of military reform, according to Security Council Secretary Lobov, RIA reported on 7 March. The commission will first study a Defense Ministry report submitted to the council the previous day. He suggested that a conference would be convened within the next few weeks to hear the ideas of the military district commanders, the heads of the services, and military scientists. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW SUPPORTS NUCLEAR TEST BAN BUT. Lobov also told journalists that Russia supports the principle of a total ban on nuclear testing, RIA reported. He added, however, that Russia would set unspecified conditions so that such a ban would not lead to a weakening of the country's security. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev initiated a testing moratorium for the USSR in October 1991, and Yeltsin has continued it. All other declared nuclear powers, except China, have also stopped testing. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN INSPECTORS AT U.S. MISSILE BASE. A team of Russian inspectors arrived at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana on 5 March, after having specified that location for their first surprise inspection under the terms of the START-1 treaty, which entered into force last December, Western agencies reported. As many as 200 Minuteman ICBMs were once stationed at Malmstrom. The leader of the 10-member Russian team said the event was "a very momentous occasion." The Russians will visit 36 U.S. strategic nuclear sites over a four-month period in order to verify the accuracy of the data the Americans have provided, while American inspectors will look at 65 former Soviet nuclear weapons facilities in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE TO BAN CUSTOMS EXEMPTIONS. In an effort to help finance the budget deficit, President Yeltsin signed a decree on 6 March to abolish customs exemptions, Russian and Western agencies reported. The law revokes special privileges by which certain groups, including sports organizations and veterans' associations, avoided paying Russia's huge import duties on cars, alcohol, and other goods. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais said the decree applies to all Russian enterprises and organizations, whether they belong to the Kremlin office or anywhere else. The decree, along with other trade liberalization measures, comes as Russia tries to close a $6 billion standby loan with the IMF. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER ALEXASHENKO RESIGNS. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed an order on 7 March dismissing Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Alexashenko. However, in an interview with the Financial Information Agency, Alexashenko said he resigned of his own free will because he could no longer work with the new people hired at the ministry and abide by "other game rules." -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SIGNS COMPROMISE LAW ON FOREIGN ADOPTIONS. President Yeltsin signed a law banning commercial adoption agencies and liberalizing the categories of children eligible for foreign adoption, Western agencies reported on 7 March. The legislation, which goes into effect on 1 May, is a compromise worked out after Yeltsin vetoed a draft law in December that barred all intermediaries from the foreign adoption process, in effect preventing foreigners from adopting Russian children. The new law allows non-profit agencies registered with both the Russian and foreign government in question to represent families and makes all children for whom no Russian family can be found eligible for foreign adoption. At present, only children with medical problems or alcoholic or mentally ill parents, as well as older or ethnically non-Russian children, are eligible. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. VORKUTA MINERS BEGIN INDEFINITE POLITICAL STRIKE. Miners at the Yuzhnaya pit in Vorkuta began an all-out strike on 6 March, the chairman of the pit's independent trade union told Interfax. The miners are demanding the resignation of the president and government to protest the fact that they have not been paid since December 1994. The same day, a week-long strike by 600 mine construction workers in Vorkuta was suspended after the Vorkutaugol association paid the workers' employer, Poloz, debts from November and December 1994. In an interview with Interfax on 7 March, the chairman of the Coal Industry Workers' Union, Vitaly Budko, said social tension remains high in mining areas across the country although debts are starting to be paid. He expressed concern at the amount of time it is taking the state to channel funds to the coal industry. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA EXPLOSION AT MKHEDRIONI HQ. One man was killed and three injured by an explosion at the Rustavi headquarters of the Georgian paramilitary organization Mkhedrioni during the night of 7 March, Interfax reported. While a Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman said the explosion resulted from careless handling of ammunition, Mkhedrioni's press center said sabotage could not be excluded. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. NEW KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT TO MEET SOON. The newly-elected parliament will soon be called into session by President Askar Akayev, according to presidential spokesman Kamil Bayalinov, Interfax reported on 7 March. The Central Election Commission reported that 76 deputies have been registered already. Twenty-two deputies have been confirmed in the 35- seat Legislative Assembly (upper house) and 54 in the 70-seat Chamber of People's Representatives (lower house). Previously, the commission reported that 89 deputies had been registered, but that figure was revised after some unsuccessful candidates filed disputes over electoral irregularities. The commission stated that most complaints were unfounded and expects the remaining members to be confirmed by 9 March, in time to open the first session of parliament. -- Bruce Pannier, 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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