|Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man. - Leon Trotsky|
No. 51, Part I, 13 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 DUMA REMOVES KOVALEV AS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. The State Duma, which appointed Sergei Kovalev Human Rights Commissioner in January 1994, has voted to remove him, Interfax reported on 10 March. Sergei Baburin's nationalist Russian Way group proposed the motion, which passed by a vote of 240 to 75 with three abstentions. Kovalev, a member of the Russia's Choice group, was named 1994 Man of the Year by Izvestiya for exposing official disinformation on the violence in Chechnya. However, Kovalev's critics complained that his anti-war stance increased international pressure on Russia. Russia's Choice issued a statement saying the vote placed the Duma on the same moral level as the Communist regime that imprisoned Kovalev in 1974 for his defense of human rights, Russian TV reported on 10 March. On the same day, Kovalev told Russian TV he was not "distressed" by the Duma vote, saying, "I have a higher mandate." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MORE FALLOUT FROM LISTEV INVESTIGATION. Boris Uvarov, the chief investigator in the case of the assassination of television journalist Vladislav Listev, said two prime suspects have been cleared after being identified as repairmen who had worked on Listev's apartment, Interfax reported on 12 March. But Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Oleg Gaidanov insisted, "We are more and more certain we will find the killers," AFP reported. Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov told the newspaper Trud that the dismissals of Moscow head Prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev and Moscow police chief Vladimir Pankratov were a "misunderstanding" that would be canceled by executive order or reversed in court. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA PROPOSES NONAGGRESSION PACT WITH NATO. Russia is proposing a non- aggression pact with NATO if the alliance decides to expand eastward, The Washington Post reported on 11 March. One U.S. official said the proposal is yet another sign that Russia has changed its unequivocal opposition to NATO expansion. However, details of a possible pact remain unclear. The Russian ambassador to the U.S., Yuri Vorontsov, said Russia would ask for "guarantees that NATO is not directed against us." He added that a mutual nonaggression pact could form the basis of those guarantees and take effect when NATO admits new members. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CHECHNYA ROUNDUP. On 10 March, Chechen forces repulsed a mass Russian attack on the town of Argun, east of Grozny, Russian and Western agencies reported. On 12 March, Russian planes bombed Argun after the expiry of an 11 March ultimatum calling on Chechen defenders in Argun, Shali, and Gudermes to surrender within 24 hours, according to AFP. In a statement issued by Interfax on 10 March, the head of the Moscow-based Chechen government of national trust, Yaragi Mamodaev, advocated a 45- day ceasefire beginning on 15 March during which time his government would conduct a survey to determine whether the Chechen population desired complete independence from Russia. In a commentary published in The Washington Post on 10 March, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev denied that he was seeking "complete independence" and affirmed his readiness for negotiations with Russia on a solution to the conflict "based on international law." He called for an immediate unconditional ceasefire, internationally mediated negotiations between the Russian and Chechen governments, and new parliamentary and presidential elections in Chechnya later this year. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. BOIKO LEAVES LEADERSHIP OF DEMOCRATIC CHOICE. Oleg Boiko, president of the Olbi firm and the chairman of the board of directors of the National Credit Bank, resigned as executive committee chairman of Russia's Democratic Choice, Yegor Gaidar told the party's council on 11 March, Russian TV reported. Boiko resigned because he disagreed with the party's criticism of Yeltsin's policy in Chechnya. Also at the council meeting, Sergei Yushenkov, the State Duma defense committee chairman, said the party should end its close relationship with Yeltsin and become a completely independent political party that supports Gaidar for president. Gaidar has not announced his intentions yet. The party called for the resignation of the power ministers and constitutional amendments regulating the activity of the Security Council and the president's security service. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. MARYCHEV LEAVES LDP. Questioning the mental competence of his leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Duma member Vyacheslav Marychev announced his withdrawal from the Liberal Democratic Party's parliamentary bloc on 10 March , Interfax reported. On the same day, the party's press office published a statement expelling him for "breaching faction discipline and incompetence in legislative activities" as well as his "constant buffoonery" in the parliament. Marychev had been the party's point man in St. Petersburg and one of Zhirinovsky's top advisers. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA VOTES NO CONFIDENCE IN YERIN AND ILYUSHENKO. The Duma passed a vote of no confidence in Interior Minister Viktor Yerin and acting Prosecutor General Alexei Ilyushenko because of their failure to tackle the crime wave, Russian media reported on 10 March. The motion was proposed by Russia's Choice and the Communist Party. It is unlikely to result in the resignation of Yerin or Ilyushenko, as both men have the support of President Boris Yeltsin. Commenting on the vote, Alexei Manannikov, deputy chairman of the Federation Council foreign affairs committee, said he was surprised that the Duma had not expressed a lack of confidence in Federal Counterintelligence Service Director Sergei Stepashin or Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, who are responsible for the operation in Chechnya, Segodnya reported on 11 March. Another council member, Viktor Kurochkin, said "the power ministers must be put on trial--not over [Vladislav] Listev's death but over Chechnya." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. GDP DROPS 47% OVER LAST FOUR YEARS. Russia's GDP dropped 47% over the past four years, according to a government report prepared for the United Nation's Anti-Poverty Summit in Copenhagen, Interfax and AFP reported on 11 March. Industrial output fell by half and agricultural production dropped 25%. The report attributed the sharp decline to "new conditions under the market economy and the inability of most Russians to adapt to it rapidly." -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. ONE BILLION DOLLARS AT STAKE. Russia will lose up to $1 billion if it fails to finance new communication satellites on time and will be forced to purchase Western satellites and equipment, Russian Space Agency general director Yuri Koptev told Interfax on 10 March. If satellites are not replaced, Koptev said Russia would have only one operational satellite in 1996. Currently, six of the 10 Gorizont communication satellites are already out of service. In 1995, three new systems and one Express satellite must be put in space while one Ekran satellite will be replaced. Meanwhile, 80-85% of the ground infrastructures, including 7,000 relay stations for TV Channel 1 and more than 4,000 relay stations for Channel 2, can operate only in conjunction with domestic communication satellites. Koptev said the use of foreign satellites would require replacing part of the ground equipment, thus increasing expenses. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TATAR NATIONALIST PARTY OPPOSES REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP. Fauziya Bairamova, the leader of the Tatar Party of National Independence Ittifak, said her organization will switch to hard-line opposition to President Mintimeir Shaymiev, Interfax reported on 10 March. She lost her race in Naberezhnie Chelny against Rais Belyaev, the former leader of the local Communist Party, where she ran in the 5 March elections. "The Tatar people sold me out for packs of tea which were handed out by certain candidates," she said. Bairamova said seven nationalists went on a hunger strike to protest the results. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. PROFESSIONALS AND SOLDIERS' MOTHERS TO FORM ANTI-CRIME BLOC. The All- Russian Association of Independent Professionals chairman Petr Filippov, Soldiers' Mothers leader Lyubov Lumar, and Economic Analysis Institute Deputy Director Mikhail Dmitriev announced on 10 March their intention to set up an electoral association called "Against Crime and Corruption," Segodnya reported on 11 March. Noting that "corruption in the judiciary, the replacement of arbitration by gangsters' showdowns, [and] the penetration of the police by organized crime . . . have exhausted citizens' patience," they call on all those who support the rule of law to set aside differences on social and economic policy and strive together to restore justice in Russia. Filippov argues that the best way to achieve that goal is to elect professionals to the parliament who will enact fair and workable legislation on taxation and commercial practices. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKH PRESIDENT DISSOLVES PARLIAMENT. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev upheld on 11 March a Constitutional Court decision that declared the Kazakh Parliament illegitimate. Earlier in the week, Nazarbaev had vetoed a measure which cited irregularities in the elections of March 1994. However, at an 11 March news conference, he said the court's 10 March overruling of his veto is in keeping with the constitution, according to Interfax. As a result, all power is now concentrated in the president's hands but Nazarbaev was quick to add that he will not be a dictator and that human rights will be observed. Nazarbaev has appointed Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin to head a new government and has retained the services of the deputy premiers, the defence, interior, finance, and foreign ministers, as well as the counterintelligence chief, AFP reported. Nazarbaev said he expects to hold new elections in 2-3 months. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. AZERI OIL TO TURKEY VIA GEORGIA BY RAIL? Hayrettin Uzun, General Manager of Turkey's national pipelines company Botas, said on 7 March that Azeri oil will be transported both by the railways and the existing pipeline to Batumi in Georgia and then shipped to Turkey by tankers, pending the construction of a new pipeline. The arrangement, in which Turkey would receive oil in return for building part of the pipeline on Turkish territory, has yet to be finalized, according to EBA Newsletter of 9 March. -- Lowell A. Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. ARMENIAN WOMEN'S GROUP APPEALS AGAINST NEWSPAPER CLOSURE. In an appeal circulated to delegates at the Copenhagen Conference on Social Development on 10 March, the Armenian Relief Society protested the Armenian government's unexplained closure of the women's weekly newspaper Aragast, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. -- Roland Eggleston & Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. WIDOW CLAIMS GAMSAKHURDIA WAS MURDERED. Ousted Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia was shot by his bodyguards on orders from Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze, according to a Trud interview with his widow Manana Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia summarized by Reuters on 10 March. When Gamsakhurdia's death was first reported in early January 1994, Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia said her husband had committed suicide. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS IMF TO MEDIATE IN RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEBT TALKS. The IMF managing director, Michel Camdessus, said the fund will mediate in the debt talks between Russia and Ukraine, the Financial Times reported on 13 March. He said the two standby arrangements concluded with each country in March are indirectly related and that the IMF must coordinate stabilization programs for both countries. He added, "We must make sure that in helping one, we do it in a way which is compatible with the interests of the other." In order to qualify for a $1.8 billion standby loan from the IMF, Ukraine must reschedule its $2.5 billion debt with Moscow. -- Michael Mihalka, 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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