|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 49, Part I, 9 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: RESIGNATION A LAST RESORT. Backtracking on his threat to resign if Moscow Prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev and police chief Viktor Pankratov do not retain their positions, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said he would first challenge the dismissals in court, then consult the Moscow City Duma before giving up his job, AFP reported on 8 March. President Boris Yeltsin sacked Ponomarev and Pankratov in the wake of the killing of TV journalist Vladislav Listev. The Moscow Duma protested their firing on 7 March, but added that Luzhkov's resignation would make matters worse and play into the hands of his enemies. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said the dispute between Luzhkov and Yeltsin boils down to a struggle over the spoils from the privatization of state property. He asserted that a fierce battle was being waged by rivals for property and power in postcommunist Russia and "competitors are being eliminated" in the course of that struggle. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY MARKED WITH NOSTALGIA . . . About 300 people demonstrated on October Square, the site of Moscow's largest remaining statue of Vladimir Lenin, Russian television reported on 8 March. The speakers, including Viktor Anpilov of the hard-line Russian Communist Workers' Party, denounced President Yeltsin, the Russian government, Mikhail Gorbachev, the police, Moscow city authorities, and Mayor Luzhkov. Natalya Belokopytova, president of the Congress of Soviet Women, expressed her regret that Lenin and Stalin are not alive today. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. . . . AND ANTI-WAR PROTESTS. The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers gathered at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow to denounce the continuing violence in Chechnya, Russian television reported on 8 March. Committee president Maria Kirbasova demanded the government allow alternative service for young men, as provided for in the constitution, and complete the transition to a professional army in the next five years. Kirbasova said the anti-war activists will travel by bus from Moscow to Mineralnye Vody in the northern Caucasus, holding protests in large cities along the way. In the last week of March, Kirbasova added, Soldiers' Mothers activists from all parts of Russia will march together on foot to Grozny and take their sons back from the front if necessary. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. WOMEN IN THE RUSSIAN MILITARY. On the eve of International Women's Day, Col.-Gen. Vladimir Zhurbenko, deputy chief of the General Staff, discussed the role of women in the Russian army, Interfax reported on 7 March. Zhurbenko said Russia has more than 161,000 women in uniform, comprising 8.5% of the armed forces, and that women's involvement is necessary because the army is understaffed. No women currently hold the rank of general, Zhurbenko noted, and only four (0.002%) have reached the level of colonel. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL CALLS FOR TIGHTER GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBILITY. The Federation Council passed a resolution permitting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to reprimand the cabinet members who failed to comply with February's government resolution on aiding the farming sector with the 1995 sowing campaign, Interfax reported. The council also called on the government to comply with a resolution on financial aid and credits to the agriculture sector for this year. That resolution gives the government ten days to allocate 12 trillion rubles' worth of centralized credits to the agrarian sector in the first half of 1995. Six trillion rubles are needed to purchase supplies for the sowing campaign in the first quarter. The resolution describes the agriculture sector's financial standing as "catastrophic." The government fulfilled only 5% of its funding obligations for 12 federal programs aimed at increasing farm production and only 53% of day-to-day needs in 1994. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. AGRICULTURE SECTOR LEADERS TO MEET WITH YELTSIN. Six Federation Council members, who are also administration heads of the Stavropol and Krasnodar Territories and the Rostov, Saratov, Penza, and Volgograd Regions, will meet with President Yeltsin early next week to discuss legislation concerning farm product purchasing and the status of agriculture in general, Interfax reported on 8 March. Yevgeny Kuznetsov, a member of the council's agroindustrial policy committee, said the agricultural situation is "disastrous." He said the government should stabilize fuel prices, reduce the gap between the prices of industrial and farming goods, and make advance payments to agricultural producers. Kuznetsov said state structures should implement the state purchasing program, which could offer domestic agricultural producers some protection. "Russia has turned into a dumping ground for substandard foreign foodstuffs," Kuznetsov said. He noted that neglecting a political issue such as the food supply would trigger social unrest. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN LANDOWNERS CALL FOR IMMEDIATE LAND LEGISLATION. The Association of Private Farmers and Landowners (AKKOR) congress, which ended on 3 March in Moscow, called on parliament to enact Article 17 of the 1994 Civil Code for legal regulation of private land ownership, AKKOR president Vladimir Bashmachnikov told Interfax on 3 March. Bashmachnikov said the enforcement of Article 17 is subject to parliamentary approval of a new land code, which has been "unjustifiably delayed" by the Duma. As a result, the president said many private farmers are unable to buy new land plots. The code should lift any restrictions on the land as provided for in the new constitution which endorses private land ownership. According to AKKOR, by early this year there were about 280,000 private farms in the country, which owned a combined total of 12 million hectares of farmland. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA WILL IMPLEMENT SINGLE SYSTEM FOR TREASURY BONDS. Russia will establish a uniform national system for the issuance of treasury bonds beginning in mid-April, according to Alexander Smirnov from the Federal Treasury office, Interfax reported on 3 March. The uniform system will enable the Finance Ministry to save the money it currently pays as commission to commercial banks authorized to distribute bonds. Smirnov said 17 banks are now distributing 7 trillion rubles (4,558 rubles/$1) worth of bonds that have already been issued and receive commissions of up to 3%. Smirnov said the treasury will not confiscate those bonds from the banks, but bonds issued once the new policy is set in place must go through the single system. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. LACK OF MONEY HINDERS INTERIOR TROOPS. Lt.-Gen. Arkady Baskayev, in charge of the interior troops in Chechnya, told Interfax on 8 March that financial problems were hindering efforts to relieve his contingent. "The Finance Ministry has failed to pay . . . the funds that are needed to train personnel and I can't send cannon fodder to Chechnya," he said. Baskayev said the ministry owed his group 3 billion rubles for food alone, and there are chronic shortages of gasoline. He complained that his forces has only 5-7% of the armored vehicles they need. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. EU FOREIGN MINISTERS IN MOSCOW. A delegation of EU foreign ministers will meet with President Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev on 9 March, AFP and Reuters reported. The group includes foreign ministers Alain Juppe of France, which holds the current EU presidency, Klaus Kinkel of Germany, and Javier Solana of Spain. The visit was originally scheduled to endorse the interim trade accord between the EU and Russia, which was delayed on 6 March. The EU delegation will tell Moscow that the accord will be endorsed only after a cease-fire is confirmed in Chechnya. Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said, "If Chechnya hadn't happened, they would have found another reason for not signing [the trade accord]." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. FORMATION OF ELECTORAL COMMISSION EFFECTIVELY COMPLETED. President Yeltsin named his five members to the Central Electoral Commission, Russian TV reported on 8 March. The new members are: Nikolai Ryabov, named as commission chairman, Andrei Beloborodov, Yury Vedeneev, Olga Volkova, and Larisa Tkachenko. The State Duma has already named its five members and the Federation Council has confirmed four of its five candidates from Russia's regions and republics. With 14 of 15 total members, the commission now has the necessary quorum to begin working. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. BABURIN BEGINS CAMPAIGN. The leader of the Russian National Union (ROS), Sergey Baburin, announced that his party has begun preparations for the parliamentary and presidential elections, Segodnya reported on 7 March. The ROS will discuss election plans at its fourth congress on 25 March. Baburin voiced regret that he has not been able to set up an alliance with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the Agrarian Party of Russia. His party is ready to participate in the elections alone or in a coalition with other parties. Baburin believes the parliamentary elections are of secondary importance and that "the opposition will come to its senses" by the time of the presidential elections and nominate a single candidate. Segodnya noted that the Communists and nationalists are having the same difficulty as the democratic parties in establishing a unified bloc. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. LABOR PRODUCTIVITY FALLING. Labor productivity dropped by more than 15% in 1994, Interfax and Ekho Moskvy reported on 8 March. A Labor Ministry official blamed the fall on a decline in the prestige of "socially useful work" since the onset of economic reforms and on arrears in wage payments and "absurdly" low wages. "What is paid does not keep pace with inflation, so the reasonable question arises: why work?" he said. The decline in labor productivity and real wage levels since 1991 is one of the reasons why the drastic fall in Russian industrial production has not been accompanied by mass unemployment. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA ANNOUNCES 1995 FISHING QUOTAS. The Russian Fishing Committee announced the country's quotas for fishing in foreign economic zones in 1995, Interfax reported on 7 March. The report said foreign states granted Russia quotas amounting to 981,400 tons for 1995, while Russian fishermen, including private companies, caught only 799,000 tons of fish in 1994 given a quota of 1,009,700 tons. Last year, the Russian fishing fleet worked in the 200-mile economic zones of 17 states, including Japan, North Korea, China, Norway, and Canada. The report noted that numbers were down due to a "lack of worthy concentrations" of fish in certain areas. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIKISTAN-FACED WITH SEVERE GRAIN SHORTAGE. An official from the bread product ministry said Tajikistan desperately needs to purchase grain, Interfax reported. The target figure for grain was 1.5 million tons for 1994 while the actual yield came to just 0.2 million tons. In 1993, Tajikistan purchased grain from countries outside the CIS, such as Austria, Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the U.S. and 1994, from Kazakhstan. At present, the country urgently needs at least 1.2 million tons of grain. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CZECH DELEGATION IN CENTRAL ASIA. Led by Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, a Czech government delegation visiting Central Asia arrived in Uzbekistan on 8 March, Interfax reported. The delegation, which includes forty business people, will be seeking to identify fields of cooperation. Zieleniec plans to meet with officials of the Uzbek Foreign Economic Relations Ministry and is due to meet with President Islam Karimov. According to Lidove Noviny of 8 March, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev told Czech journalists at a press conference a day earlier that Kyrgyzstan has great interest in trade and economic relations with the Czech Republic and that negotiations on concrete projects will be initiated soon. -- Lowell A. Bezanis, 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. 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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