|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 50, Part I, 10 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 CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER SACKING OF PONOMAREV, PANKRATOV. Acting Moscow Prosecutor Sergei Gerasimov has resigned to protest the dismissal of his former boss, Gennady Ponomarev, Interfax reported. The Moscow Federation of Trade Unions also denounced the "illegal removal" of Ponomarev and city police chief Vladimir Pankratov. Mayor Yury Luzhkov has said the federal government lacks the authority to fire Moscow city officials, and he plans to appeal the dismissals of Ponomarev and Pankratov to the Constitutional Court as soon as the documents can be prepared. The court told Interfax on 9 March that it probably would consider Luzhkov's appeal soon after it reopens on 16 March, because "the case is rather simple." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA'S CHOICE TO DEMAND RESIGNATION OF YERIN AND STEPASHIN. At a Duma session on 10 March, Russia's Choice will demand the resignation of Interior Minister Viktor Yerin, Prosecutor-General Alexei Ilyushenko, and Counterintelligence Service Director Sergei Stepashin because of their failure to combat soaring crime in Russia, the faction's leader, Yegor Gaidar, told Interfax on 9 March. Gaidar added that his faction supports President Boris Yeltsin's controversial decision to sack Ponomarev and Pankratov in the wake of the murder of TV journalist Vladislav Listev on 1 March. Gaidar noted the authorities had failed to solve a series of killings, including the murders of Moskovsky Komsomolets journalist Dmitry Kholodov, Duma deputies Valentin Martemyanov and Sergei Skorochkin, and reformist priest Alexander Men. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. IMF CHIEF ARRIVES TO SIGN LOAN DEAL WITH RUSSIA. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus arrived in Moscow on 9 March to sign a policy statement with President Yeltsin on the $6.4 billion standby loan deal with Russia, international agencies reported. The IMF board is expected to approve the loan deal when it meets in April despite concerns about the situation in Chechnya and what it sees as an unrealistic 1995 budget. The last important hurdle in the negotiations was crossed when the Russians agreed to monthly disbursements. The Russians had been insisting that monthly tranches would be "humiliating," saying they preferred quarterly tranches. The policy statement will include a commitment by Russia to cut inflation to 1% per month in the second half of 1995. Inflation was 17.8% in January and 11% in February, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Aleksashenko told Reuters. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TATAR OPPOSITION ADMITS DEFEAT. A conference of Tatarstan's democratic, nationalist, and communist movements announced that the "party of power" had won the 5 March elections to the republican legislature, Interfax reported on 9 March. None of the opposition candidates are leading going into the 19 March runoffs. Five of 18 candidates from the Tatar Party of National Independence Ittifak made it to the second round, as did 34 of 39 candidates from the coalition of democratic and federalist organizations, Equal Rights and Legality, and approximately one dozen of 46 Communists. Bernard Kasimov, an Ittifak spokesman and a member of the republic's election commission, told a news conference that 49 out of the 61 administrative constituencies had elected their administration heads, while the 69 territorial constituencies elected 20 representatives of the "party of power." The deputies from the administrative districts will meet two or three times a year, while the territorial representatives will work in permanent session. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA PREPARING TO DEBATE ELECTORAL LAW NEXT WEEK. Vladimir Isakov, chairman of the State Duma legislation, judicial, and legal reform committee, announced that he will submit the Duma electoral law to the chamber next week, and that the second reading will take place before the end of the month, Interfax reported on 9 March. The bill rejects the president's proposal to reduce the number of deputies elected on party tickets. The proposed legislation currently calls for parties that want to compete in the elections to collect 200,000 signatures, but the Communist and Agrarian parties are likely to push for increasing that figure to 500,000. At least 20% of the registered voters will have to cast ballots in the elections for them to be valid. The bill for the Federation Council elections is currently being considered by that body. Isakov predicted it will call for the members of the upper body to be elected by popular vote rather than by the executive and legislative branches of each of the country's 89 regions and republics. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. U.S. DUPED IN PURCHASE OF MISSILE SYSTEM. Russian intelligence agents duped the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) into thinking it was buying the latest model of Russia's S-300 air defense system when, in fact, it received a training model that had been tinkered with for years by cadets at a Minsk military school, Kommersant-Daily reported on 9 March. Last December, a Russian civilian cargo plane made a secret delivery to the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. It was soon revealed in both the American and Russian press that this was a S-300 system that had been purchased from Belarus for $6 million by a company acting as a cover for the DIA. The paper said the key to the S-300 system is a container it called "F-9"--described as the command and control cabin that integrated the radars and the missiles into a system. It said the F-9 cabin delivered to the Americans and the one used in the real S-300 PMU system--the most modern version--were "worlds apart." It also suggested Russian military intelligence agents had equipped the system with "peculiar software, to put it mildly." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. AGRARIAN COMMITTEE SENDS LAND CODE TO DUMA COUNCIL. The State Duma agrarian council decided on 9 March to submit the draft Land Code to the full Duma on 15 March, Interfax reported. The code is designed to provide the legal framework for regulating the ownership and efficient use of land. Alexei Chernyshov, the committee chairman, said most land in Russia has been privatized. Most collective and state farms have been reorganized and the land is now owned by legal entities or collectives whose members are entitled to shares of collective property. More than 44 million urban and rural households (almost 144 million people) have taken over more than 20 million hectares of farm land, Chernyshov said. The basic goal of the draft legislation is to insure that land is effectively used and protected, that parties to land relations have their rights protected, and that different kinds of ownership have equal opportunities to develop. The draft imposes significant constraints on land sales and purchases and the use of farm lands. Notably, land cannot be sold until five years after the code comes into effect and then only for agricultural use. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DRAFT BUDGET TO BE SUBMITTED FOR FOURTH READING. Russia's draft budget for 1995 will be submitted to the State Duma for a fourth reading on 15 March following a preliminary discussion in the parliamentary committee for budget, taxes, banks, and finances, Interfax reported on 9 March. The Duma passed the draft on the third reading on 24 February with 273 votes for, 93 against, and three abstentions. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. ALCOHOL BLAMED FOR FALLING MALE LIFE EXPECTANCY. Alcoholism of "pandemic proportions" is responsible for the sharp fall in life expectancy among Russian men, according to a study by the University of Wales, Western agencies reported on 10 March. Consumption of pure alcohol rose from 10.7 liters per inhabitant in 1987 to 14 liters in 1992 and the number of deaths officially attributed to alcohol poisoning increased from 117,000 to 262,000. Men are said to be four times more likely to become alcoholics than women, which is reflected in data on life expectancy: 59 years for men (down six years from 1987 to 1993) and 72 years for women (down two years over the same period). The study noted that after price liberalization the cost of alcohol rose far less than that of other consumer goods and foods, leading to increased consumption, particularly of vodka. Consumption of lethal home-brewed spirits also increased. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN-RUSSIAN MILITARY ACCORDS SIGNED. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, and his Bulgarian counterpart Dimitar Pavlov, signed two military accords in Moscow on 9 March, ITAR-TASS reported. One dealt with genral matters and the other with a plan for developing new military technologies in 1995. Grachev regretted that the last three years had seen a slow-down in Bulgarian-Russian military links which he blamed on "perestroika attitudes" in both Russia and Bulgaria. Grachev added that "the Bulgarian leadership has adopted a firm course of close bilateral cooperation with Russia." He said the procedure for payments was the chief difficulty in relations. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TRANCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NAZARBAEV REJECTS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev vetoed the Constitutional Court decision that found the March 1994 parliamentary elections unconstitutional and thereby declared the parliament illegitimate, Interfax reported. Nazarbaev claims the ruling is unfounded and in any case does not come under the court's jurisdiction. The court said there were problems in the establishment of electoral districts, in the training of election officials, in allowing citizens living abroad to vote, and in vote counting. Foreign officials have charged that incidents of fraud occurred during last year's poll. Nazarbaev emphasized that he has been and still is a supporter of the stability of state authority and "lays great hopes" on the parliament with which he has established a constructive dialogue. Western diplomats in the country do not expect this action will lead to a constitutional crisis, Reuters reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. TRANSPORT CORRIDOR AGREED TO BY BAKU AND YEREVAN. Baku and Yerevan have agreed to open a transport corridor via Nagorno-Karabakh, Interfax reported on 9 March. The agreement followed an 8 March meeting in Tbilisi between Georgian, Azerbaijani, and Armenian officials and the EU envoy to Georgia, Marti Peters, in which EU humanitarian aid to the three Transcaucasian states was discussed. Georgian presidential aide Igor Kotov said on 9 March that agreement had been reached to reopen railway links via Karabakh after demining operations were undertaken, and that 200 freight cars and two locomotives would be utilized to transport humanitarian aid. The EU will pay for the use of the Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi to transport 700,000 tons of food supplies and for railway shipments through the territory. Since the program was put in place last October, more than 500,000 tons of humanitarian cargo has been sent to the region, Kotov noted. Meanwhile, Reuters reported on 9 March that Turkey, acting on a request from Azerbaijan, may soon reopen an air corridor to Armenia it closed in 1992 to protest against an Armenian military drive which seized about 20% of Azeri lands. -- Lowell A. Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI BORDER CLASHES CONTINUE. Clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops on the border of the two countries have continued since 3 March, Interfax and Reuters reported on 9 March. Each side has blamed the other for the resumption of hostilities, which violates a fragile cease-fire in place since May 1994. Several days of intense fighting have seen the Armenians move within striking distance of Tauz, a key rail and road junction in northern Azerbaijan, Reuters reported. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev discussed the fighting by telephone on 7 March and agreed to seek a settlement through direct negotiations between their respective defense ministries. A day later, Azerbaijani commanders said they had negotiated by radio with their Armenian counterparts to reinstate the truce and both sides had agreed, but on 9 March, hostilities involving tanks and artillery continued. -- 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. 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