|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 54, Part I, 16 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 CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HOLDS OPENING SESSION. On 16 March, the Constitutional Court will hold its first session since President Yeltsin dissolved it in October 1993. The first case, brought by Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko, asks the court to resolve two contradictory articles in the constitution on the council's duties. Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov said interpreting the constitution and ensuring that regional laws, some of which he claimed threaten Russia's territorial integrity, are consistent with it would be the court's top priorities, Interfax reported on 15 March. He admitted, however, that implementing the court's verdicts would be difficult. Tumanov also said the court was unlikely to hear Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's appeal on behalf of Moscow Prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev for at least a month, Kommersant reported on 15 March. Many "pre-October 1993" cases will never be resolved, because the petitioners (such as regional Soviets) no longer exist, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 16 March. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. GAIDAR DEFENDS DEMOCRATIC UNION LEADER. Russia's Choice leader Yegor Gaidar has written to Prosecutor-General Alexei Ilyushenko in defense of Valeriya Novodvorskaya, the leader of the Democratic Union, Interfax reported on 15 March. Novodvorskaya has been charged with spreading war propaganda and inter-ethnic discord on October 3-4 1993, when Yeltsin ordered the assault on the White House after dissolving the parliament. Gaidar said Novodvorskaya was being used as a "scapegoat," since no fascists have been brought to trial under the same provisions of the Criminal Code. Gaidar said that although some may not agree with "many shocking statements of this talented publicist," she should not be punished "for other people's sins." The radical Democratic Union was formed in 1988 as the first alternative political party in the Soviet Union. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA REFUSES TO RECONSIDER KOVALEV. The Duma defeated a motion to reconsider the 10 March removal of Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev by a vote of 146 to 76, Interfax reported on 15 March. Nikolai Stolyarov of the New Regional Policy group had called for a new vote, claiming that at least eight deputies had not understood the substance of what they approved on 10 March. The Russia's Choice bloc has called Kovalev's dismissal "a disgrace," and many foreign observers, including the Council of Europe, also condemned the vote. Despite the Duma decision, Kovalev remains chairman of the presidential Human Rights Commission. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA APPROVES FINAL READING OF 1995 BUDGET. The State Duma approved the 1995 draft budget on the fourth and final reading on 15 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. With 286 votes for and 81 against, the vote will now go before the Federation Council, for approval. The budget anticipates expenditures of 248.34 trillion rubles ($52 billion at current exchange rates) and revenues of 175.16 trillion rubles ($37 billion) for a deficit of 73.18 trillion rubles ($15.4 billion). International loans, including a $6.4 billion standby credit from the IMF, will be the main source of deficit financing, although the government also plans to issue state securities to help close the gap. The 1995 economic plan aims for a budget deficit equivalent to 7.7% of GDP, a halt in inflationary central bank financing of the deficit, tight monetary policies, and the removal of certain foreign trade restrictions. It also calls for cutting inflation to one percent a month by the end of the year, down from January's 17.8% figure. Defense spending of 48.577 trillion rubles ($10.2 billion) is the biggest single expenditure item, while servicing domestic and foreign debts will cost Russia almost 23 trillion rubles ($4.8 billion). Deputy Premier Anatoly Chubais, who is in charge of economic policy, described the budget as "a very rigorous budget oriented towards cutting inflation." -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. SHOKHIN COMMENTS ON FEDERAL BUDGET APPROVAL. The 1995 budget approval fails to take into account several factors, according to former First Deputy Premier Alexander Shokhin, Russian agencies reported on 15 March. Shokhin, a member of the Party of Russian Unity and Concord parliamentary faction, said much more money might be required to restore the Chechen economy than was allocated in the budget. Military actions in the conflict zone are not over yet, he said. The budget fails to take into account the costs of numerous privileges granted to enterprises and the federation's constituent members. Shokhin also said the federal budget provides for a "liberal economic regime, allowing the government to subsidize the oil industry and oil exports." He said Russia should seek to complete talks with the Paris Club on restructuring the country's debts to its creditors. "If we attract large credits from international financial organizations without thinking about how future governments will survive, we will sentence both the people and the authorities to a tough financial life," Shokhin said. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DUMA APPROVES ELECTORAL LAW IN SECOND READING. The State Duma approved the electoral law for future Duma elections in its second reading with 240 votes in favor, 66 opposed, and eight abstentions, Interfax reported on 15 March. The draft law still faces a third reading for minor stylistic and technical corrections. As expected, the deputies preserved the current system of electing half of the deputies from single-member districts and half by party lists, rejecting a presidential proposal to increase the number of single-member districts. Parliamentary candidates can run simultaneously in both types of districts. Parties already represented in the Duma may automatically take part, while all others must collect 250,000 signatures to be on the ballot, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma also voted to delete boxes on the ballot that allow voters to reject all candidates or all party lists. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA REGISTERS NEW FACTION. The Duma registered a group called Stability as a new parliamentary faction on 14 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. The faction will support Yeltsin by standing for reinforcing central power, political stability, the avoidance of crises, and "constructive politics," AFP reported. According to Russian TV, the new faction brings together 35 deputies, including former members of Russia's Choice, New Regional Policy, and the 12 December Liberal Democratic Union. Vladimir Zhirinovsky's party lost two members to the new group including Viktor Ustinov, the Committee on Geopolitics chairman, provoking Zhirinovsky to oppose the new bloc's creation. Oleg Boiko, a wealthy banker who just resigned from the leadership of Democratic Choice, is one of the faction's main backers. He said seven or eight of the country's largest banks were behind the new bloc because they feared the instability associated with upcoming elections, AFP reported. The faction originated in a meeting of deputies looking for new alliances called by Yeltsin aide Andrei Loginov last month. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN-JAPANESE FISHING TALKS ENDS WITHOUT RESULT. The first round of talks on Japanese fishing around the South Kurile Islands ended without results on 14 March, Interfax reported. Vassily Dobrovolsky, the first deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Second Asian Department, said the talks were held in a "constructive and businesslike" manner, but the fact that no date or place was announced for the next round of talks suggests that sharp differences remain between the two sides. Russian Foreign Ministry press spokesman Grigory Karasin said on 15 March that the negotiators would like "to exclude the possibility of the use of force, even hypothetically, and to work for reaching agreements to facilitate the development of normal economic ties between Russia and Japan." Russia seized the South Kuriles from Japan at the end of World War II. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MEMBERS OF DISSOLVED KAZAKH PARLIAMENT GO ON HUNGER STRIKE. Seventy-two members of the former Kazakh parliament went on a three-day hunger strike to protest the president's decision to disband the assembly based on the findings of the Constitutional Court, according to Olzhas Suleimenov, a deputy of the legislature. The 72 deputies will join Vladimir Cheryshov, Zhasaral Kuanyshalin, and one other, as yet unidentified, deputy who are already on hunger strikes, Interfax reported on 15 March. The latter group have not set any limit on their fasting. Suleimenov accused the court of not making one serious decision in 18 months and then suddenly deciding to dissolve parliament. He also announced his intention to meet with President Nursultan Nazarbaev to express his dissatisfaction with the decision. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CONTINUED STANDOFF IN BAKU. Insurgent units of Azerbaijan's OPON police under Deputy Interior Minister Rovshan Dzhavadov have ignored a demand by Interior Minister Ravil Usubov to surrender their weapons, Interfax reported on 15 March. Talks in Baku between the rebels and the Azerbaijani authorities broke down in the early evening of 15 March after an abortive OPON attack on police headquarters in Baku's Nizami raion in which two OPON members were killed, ITAR-TASS reported. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev issued a decree on 15 March releasing Dzhavadov, who is demanding the resignation of Aliev and of parliament chairman Rasul Guliev and the creation of a coalition government, according to Interfax of 15 March and The Financial Times of 16 March. In a live address on national television on 15 March Aliev claimed that Azerbaijan is "again on the brink of civil war," and called on the rebels to lay down their arms. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES ELECTION LAW. The Armenian parliament has passed a law on elections to the new National Assembly scheduled for 15 July, Interfax reported on 15 March. The new parliament will have 160 deputies, compared with the present 260. Forty of those are to be elected on party lists and the remainder on the first-past-the-post principle. Prospective candidates for party lists must collect 10, 000 signatures of support. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. RAFSANJANI ON RAIL LINK WITH CENTRAL ASIA. Speaking at the first session of the ECO summit, Iranian President Ali Albar Hashemi Rafsanjani announced that "in the next few days, the Bafq-Bandar Abbas rail link will be inaugurated," AFP reported on 14 March. The 500-kilometer link will connect Bandar Abbas with a network taking rail traffic to Iran's northwest border with Azerbaijan, and to its northeastern frontier with Turkmenistan. -- Lowell A. Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS CIS SECRET SERVICES TO SET UP COORDINATING BODY. The heads of the CIS secret services agreed to set up a formal organization to coordinate their activities, Interfax reported on 15 March. Speaking after their meeting, Russian Federal Counterintelligence Service Director Sergei Stepashin said a treaty to define the nature of their cooperation would be signed in Tbilisi in two months. Stepashin lamented the late start in coordinating the fight against drug and arms trafficking within the CIS. Anvar Salikhbayev, deputy chairman of the Uzbek National Security Service, singled out Afghanistan as a major source of problems, noting that "dozens of tonnes of drugs are now concentrated in the neighboring area of Afghanistan to be smuggled into CIS countries." Stepashin also said the security service heads agreed to set up a common database on criminals and added that they also discussed ways to counteract third party intelligence operations against the CIS. -- 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. The publication can also be obtained for a fee in printed form by fax and postal mail. Please direct inquiries to: Editor, Daily Digest, OMRI, Na Strzi 63, 14062 Prague 4, Czech Republic or send e-mail to: email@example.com Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396
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