|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 61, Part I, 27 March 1995
************************************************************************** * We would like to introduce OMRI's World Wide Web Page at: * * http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html * * as an additional means of obtaining the Daily Digest, and other news * * and information regarding the countries of the former Soviet Union and * * East-Central and Southeastern Europe. Please feel free to visit us; * * download and/or copy the files and sources of information we have * * provided; and, above all, send us comments and suggestions of what you * * see, or find lacking in our coverage. We look forward to your visit. * ************************************************************************** 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 ADOPTS FINAL VERSION OF ELECTORAL LAW. The State Duma passed a bill on presidential elections by a vote of 284-1 with one abstention on 24 March and sent it to the Federation Council, Interfax reported. In order to be listed on the ballot, potential candidates will be required to collect 1.5 million signatures, down half a million from the originally proposed figure. The Duma rejected a proposal by Yabloko's Viktor Sheinis to reduce the minimum voter turnout for the elections to be valid from 50% to 25%. By a vote of 257 to 37, with one abstention, the Duma also approved the bill "On Elections of State Duma Deputies." The Duma affirmed its decision to elect 225 deputies by party list and 225 by single-member district, a provision President Yeltsin wants to change. All parties and electoral associations have to collect 200,000 signatures to participate, with no more than 7% of the signatures coming from any one part of the Russian Federation. For both laws, the Duma approved a provision calling for mandatory oversight of the electronic vote-counting system. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. OSCE FINISHES MISSION IN NORTH CAUCASUS. The OSCE has finished its latest mission to the North Caucasus after being refused entry to Shali because the Russian military said it could not guarantee the group's security, international agencies reported on 26 March. Delegation head Istvan Gyarmati reported that the Russian military had committed human rights violations on a greater scale than the Chechen forces. He also expressed optimism that this April the OSCE will open a permanent office in Grozny to monitor human rights. Meanwhile, a European Parliament delegation was turned back in its attempt to enter Chechnya from Ingushetia. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RYBKIN WILL RUN FOR PARLIAMENT IN DECEMBER. Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin said he will run for reelection in the December 1995 elections, Interfax reported on 24 March. He has not decided whether to run on a party ticket or in a single-member district. In 1993, he was elected by the Agrarian Party. He also said he might run for president in 1996, depending on whether Boris Yeltsin decides to do so. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA-96 MOVEMENT HOLDS CONSTITUENT CONGRESS. Sixty delegates from 48 subjects of the Russian Federation took part in a constituent congress of the new political movement Duma-96, Segodnya reported on 25 March. The organization announced that it stands for pooling the resources of qualified specialists to promote "greater professionalism" in both the executive and legislative branches. Some deputies in the Duma have formed a faction to support the Duma-96 movement, but they do not yet have the 35 members needed for official registration. Vladimir Kvasov, a deputy associated with the group, said Duma-96 does not have "big political goals," but that more professionals are needed in government, since "the people who are now at the helm" cannot solve Russia's economic crisis. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. UNION OF REALISTS HOLDS FOUNDING CONFERENCE. The Union of Realists announced plans to lead Russia out of its "deadlock" at its founding conference in Moscow on 25 March, Interfax reported. The movement expressed its willingness to cooperate with all centrist and leftist parties, including the Communist Party. The union's leader, Yury Petrov, said it was conceived to "unite the potential of numerous political parties and movements" for the common good of Russia, Rossiiskie Vesti reported on 23 March. Although Petrov has known Yeltsin for many years (they both worked in the Sverdlovsk administration during the Soviet period) and was once Yeltsin's chief of staff, he told Rossiiskie vesti that the union will be independent and is not designed to support the president. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUTSKOI EXPELLED FROM RUSSIAN SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S PARTY. The Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic People's Party (RSDPP) formally expelled Chairman Alexander Rutskoi and abolished the post of party chairman, Segodnya reported on 25 March. The expulsion was mainly symbolic, as Rutskoi had been at odds with the majority of the party board since early February. Rutskoi had proposed merging the RSDPP with his Derzhava movement, but Vasily Lipitsky and other board members favored associating with Lipitsky's Russian Social-Democratic Union. About 20 of the 46 regional branches of the party supported Rutskoi at the congress, and the split followed geographical lines: delegates from southern Russian areas backed Rutskoi, while Siberian and northwestern regions supported Lipitsky. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. COMMUNISTS TO SUPPORT 12 APRIL PROTEST. Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation will support the day of protest called by trade unions for 12 April, the party's executive committee announced on 24 March. The party regards its participation in the action as "the beginning of long-term, nationwide cooperation between Communists and trade unions," Interfax reported. It said the fact that workers are making political demands shows they understand the "unpopular character" of the regime's policies and "the incompatibility of the present constitutional system with their basic interests." Union organizations in Primorsky Krai announced on 24 March that they will stage protests throughout the region on 12 April. The main rally will be in Vladivostok, ITAR-TASS reported. The unions are angry about wage delays, unemployment, inflation, and rising crime. According to the 24 March issue of Pravda, workers in Khabarovsk Krai will demand the government's resignation and early presidential elections while agriculture workers in Altai will hold a warning strike to protest the declining profitability of agricultural enterprises there. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 25 March that aims to speed up the destruction of some 40,000 metric tons of chemical warfare agents stored on Russian territory, ITAR-TASS reported. The toxic agent will be destroyed at specially-built facilities near current storage sites and the safety of local inhabitants will be the primary factor in the sites' design. Yuri Baturin, Yeltsin's national security aid who was named to head the interdepartmental Commission on Chemical Disarmament, explained on NTV that many of the storage sites were near--and even in--populated areas. He said the development of a "social infrastructure" for those regions would precede work on the destruction sites. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT APPROVES MID-TERM REFORM PROGRAM. The government approved a program on reform and development of the Russian economy in 1995-97, Russian and Western agencies reported on 24 March. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin assessed Russia's battered economy with cautious optimism. He cited slowing inflation and stabilization in GDP as evidence of positive changes that are nonetheless "still very fragile." Chernomyrdin said if the government holds to its budget targets, inflation should eventually fall to around 4% per month. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE LOSES 11 POINTS. The Russian ruble lost 11 points in MICEX trading on 24 March, closing at 4,867 rubles to $1, the Financial Information Agency reported. Initial demand was $64.24 million with initial supply at $53.67 million. Forty-nine commercial banks participated. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FOREIGN TRADE VIOLATIONS LIKELY. The abolition of special export privileges which went into effect on 25 March could mean an increase in trade violations, according to Igor Mitrofanov, head of the Foreign Economic Relation Ministry's Export-Import Department. Mitrofanov told Interfax on 24 March that he predicts violations will occur particularly in exports of oil and non-ferrous metals for hard currency. He acknowledged the possibility that dishonest exporters could try to export raw commodities in high demand and keep much of the hard currency proceeds in foreign banks. Mitrofanov also expects the documented value of deals to be significantly lower than the actual value. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA REFERENDUM HELD IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek voters were asked if they agreed with extending the term in office of President Islam Karimov in a referendum held on 26 March, international media reported. On 27 March, the government-controlled Uzbek Radio announced, "Our people unanimously voted" for a three-year extension of Karimov's term, which would have expired in 1997. Some 11 million voters went to the polls. The alleged purpose of the referendum was to synchronize future parliament and presidential elections. Balloting was held in public, not secret. International observers were not invited to monitor the referendum. The results, which will be officially announced in some 10 days, had been widely expected to favor an extension. Karimov said if the results of the referendum are positive, he intends to consider the additional three years as the second term of his presidency, Interfax reported on 26 March. According to the Uzbek Constitution, the president may not be elected to more than two terms. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. WORLD BANK TO GRANT UZBEKISTAN REHABILITATION CREDIT. A credit worth $160 million to stabilize Uzbek national currency, the sum, is to be extended by the World Bank, FIA reported on 25 March. The credit may be granted for 20 years under a floating interest rate between 7% and 7.5% and would be revised once every six months. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. WORLD BANK CONSIDERS LOANS TO AZERBAIJAN. The World Bank is considering four separate loans for Azerbaijan worth $150 million, Interfax and an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 24 March. A World Bank spokesman said the projects under consideration are a $65 million rehabilitation loan to help redress Azerbaijan's balance of payments problem, $45 million to modernize the Baku water supply, $20 million to develop a market infrastructure, and $20 million to update the country's oil industry. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. AZERBAIJAN POPULAR FRONT CONGRESS BANNED. The Baku city commandant barred the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front from holding its third congress in the city on 25 March, Interfax and Western agencies reported on 25 March quoting the front's deputy chairman Asim MollaZade. He said the front now hoped to hold the congress on 7 April. The ban follows earlier reprisals against the front in the wake of the failed coup attempt in Baku on 15 March. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. TURKMENISTAN, PAKISTAN TO BUILD PIPELINE. An agreement on the construction of a pipeline to carry Turkmen natural gas across Afghanistan to Pakistani consumers was published in Turkmenistan on 17 March, according to ITAR-TASS. Pakistan is proposing to buy up to 20 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan annually for 30 years, PIA reported on 24 March. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS SOSKOVETS, DUMA ON UKRAINE. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets has refused to comment on remarks by several Duma deputies that he does not understand the political situation and he rejects charges that he betrayed the interests of Russia and Russians living abroad in his negotiations with Ukraine, Ukrainian Radio reported on 24 March. Soskovets said it is time to acknowledge that Ukraine is an independent state with the right to run its internal affairs independently. He added that regardless of who will run the Kremlin, Ukrainian-Russian relations will continue to develop in that vein. Since Kiev's 17 March decrees on Crimea, several Russian deputies led by Konstantin Zatulin, chairman of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, have criticized Ukraine and called for a reassessment of relations between the two countries. On 24 March, Interfax reported that leaders of nine parliamentary factions in the Duma asked President Yeltsin to hold a special session to discuss Russia's relations with Ukraine. The nine factions were: the Agrarian Party; the Communist Party; Women of Russia; the Liberal Democrats; the Democratic Party of Russia; the Party of Russian Unity and Accord; Yabloko; the New Regional Policy Party; the Stability Group. -- Ustina Markus, 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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