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No. 62, Part I, 28 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 YELTSIN BEGINS WORKING VACATION. President Yeltsin began his two-week journey by taking a train to the central Russian city of Ryazan, but then unexpectedly changed his plans and flew to the town of Mineralnye Vody in the North Caucasus and traveled on to Kislovodsk by car, ITAR- TASS and Reuters reported. The agencies said that he will stay in Kislovodsk for "a short rest." Yeltsin had intended to travel by train to Southern Russia and there was no immediate explanation why he scuttled his earlier plans. Ryazan is only 110 miles from Moscow. On 28 March, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported that he wanted to travel by train to see how well Russia's railroads were functioning and because "for the last twenty years I have not traveled by train." Reporters accompanying the president said he looked tired but fit. The president also plans to visit the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria and Sochi. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN UNDECIDED ON RE-ELECTION BID. President Yeltsin has not decided whether to run for re-election, according to an announcement he made at a locomotive depot in Ryazan on 27 March, Interfax reported. He said his trip through the country cannot be regarded as part of an election campaign. Naina Yeltsin, Russia's first lady, told railway workers that she opposed a re-election bid for family reasons. "I want him to be free of all that in 1996, but my heart tightens when I think about who could replace him," AFP reported her as saying. Yeltsin's popularity rating has dropped into the single digits since the Chechen war and he has struggled since then to regain his lost stature among the Russian people. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. VIKTOROV: RUSSIAN REGIONS MIGHT SUPPORT POSTPONING PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Federation Council Deputy Chairman Valerian Viktorov said that support might grow among Russia's regions for postponing parliamentary elections scheduled for December 1995, Interfax reported. Viktorov said putting off elections would prevent the parliament from rushing to adopt a new electoral law, and also would provide the "political stability" needed to implement the government's program. He said the elections could only be postponed if two-thirds of Russia's 89 regions supported such a proposal. However, Viktorov dismissed the idea of delaying presidential elections scheduled for June 1996. He said President Boris Yeltsin had been elected in June 1991 "for a perfectly definite term." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA TO APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVER RUSSIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION. Yabloko member Igor Yakovenko, the head of the State Duma commission investigating the transformation of state-run Ostankino Channel One, said deputies would challenge the legitimacy of the restructuring plan in the Constitutional Court and the Court of Arbitration, Interfax reported. In November 1994, Yeltsin ordered the reorganization of Ostankino. The first step of the plan was the creation of the partly- private Russian Public Television Company. Under the restructuring decrees, Ostankino was to become a production company, and Russian Public Television would assume control over programming and broadcasting on Channel One. Yakovenko charged that the creation of Russian Public Television had unlawfully appropriated state property and forced Ostankino out of Channel One. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. REGIONAL SECURITIES EXEMPT FROM PROFIT TAX. The Federal Commission for Securities and the Bond Market has granted a profit tax exemption on bonds and securities issued by Russian regions, the Financial Information Agency reported on 27 March. Under a 23 March commission resolution, regional bonds are to be exempt from profit tax and treated on par with government securities. Earlier, a 15% profit tax was levied on all securities, except government bonds. Government experts said that caused regional capital flight. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FUEL PRICES UP IN MID-MARCH. Russian fuel prices increased in mid-March according to the government's Center for Economic Studies, the Petroleum Information Agency reported on 27 March. Petrol product prices soared 17.9%. Meanwhile, experts point to a slower rise in electricity rates, which rose by 3.2%. Coal prices rose 3.5% with coking coal prices at 87,000 rubles (4,800 rubles to $1) per ton and energy coal at 47,000 rubles per ton. Oil prices increased by 13.7% over February with the average price at 181,000 rubles per ton. The price of natural gas increased by only 1.1%, due to unchanged costs in West Siberia, Russia's main gas supplier. Since the beginning of the year, shipping tariffs have jumped 80%, while consumer prices are up 60%. Retail gasoline prices average 922 rubles per liter. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. INFLATION EXPECTATIONS IN INDUSTRY DECLINE. Inflation expectations in industry continued to decline in March, according to a poll of Russian manufacturing managers conducted by the Institute for Economic Problems, Interfax reported on 27 March. Eighty-one percent of the managers predict rises in the prices of their output, compared to 87% in January and 85% in February. Minimal inflation expectations have been registered in the wood-working sector and maximum inflation is predicted in the engineering sector. Almost half of the managers polled expect production to remain stable during the next few months and 18% hope for an increase. After two months of dropping demand, there has been a slight rise in production, especially in engineering and construction. According to official forecasts, March inflation will be at 9%, compared to almost 18% in January. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. VORKUTA MINERS END HUNGER STRIKE. Mining union activists in Vorkuta ended their 10-day hunger strike on 25 March following the visit of an interdepartmental commission to the area, Ekho Moskvy reported. According to Alexander Marmalyukov, chairman of the Independent Miners' Union, a compromise was reached on the question of the payment of back wages and the future of coal mines in the region. However, a number of fundamental problems remain, in particular the lack of a state program for the restructuring of the industry. Meanwhile, miners in Primorsky Krai have vowed to go on strike if they do not receive wage arrears by 5 April, Russian TV reported on 27 March. They have stopped making coal deliveries to customers who have not paid their bills. In a 23 March interview with Pravda, Rosugol president Yury Malyshev said consumers owe the coal mining industry about 2 trillion rubles. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN: IRAN MOST COMPLEX PROBLEM ON U.S.-RUSSIA AGENDA. Before departing on his vacation, President Yeltsin stressed that Russian nuclear aid to Iran will be the most complex item on the agenda of his May summit with U.S. President Bill Clinton, Interfax reported on 27 March. Yeltsin dismissed press accounts that little progress had been made at meetings between Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher on 23-24 March. He said Kozyrev had been instructed to engage in preliminary discussions on outstanding issues--not to resolve them. Yeltsin's comments give further credence to report in the 18 March issue of Moskovskiye novosti that Kozyrev was reprimanded for exceeding his brief in suggesting a possible middle ground in Russia's debate over eastward expansion with NATO. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. OSCE: POLITICAL SETTLEMENT NOT YET UNDERWAY IN CHECH-NYA. The head of the latest OSCE delegation to visit Chechnya, Istvan Gyarmati, said little or no progress had been made toward a political settlement in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 27 March. He said, "We got the impression that the popular government in Chechnya has not formed its local bodies and is only helping federal troops, though things should be the other way round." He added that he saw no prospects for a military solution to the conflict. Gyarmati also announced that a six-member OSCE mission will be set up in Grozny by mid-April. The mission is intended to promote a political settlement, develop a constitution, assist in holding democratic elections, and, if necessary, help mediate an agreement between Chechnya and the Russian Federation. The European Union set the establishment of such a mission as a pre-condition to signing an interim trade accord with Russia. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKH PRESIDENT SEEKS TO EXTEND TERM. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has called for a nationwide referendum to be held on 29 April to decide whether his term in office, which ends in 1996, should be extended to the year 2000, Russian TV reported. On 24 March, the Assembly of the People's of Kazakhstan advised Nazarbaev to hold the referendum but the Kazakh president said he needed to review the legality of such a move. The assembly was formed days before a ruling by the Kazakh Constitutional Court to disband parliament was upheld. Nazarbaev is quoted by Reuters as saying, "We hear cries that there will be dictatorship, Yes, dictatorship will come but a dictatorship of the constitution and of the law." He added, "There will be a real dictatorship if, under democratic slogans, chaos and anarchy will be created. Then the people will call for a firm hand." Meanwhile, Caravan, a Kazakh newspaper critical of Nazarbaev, will not be printing this story for two weeks. A fire broke out in the paper's warehouse on the night of 23 March, causing it to lose 1,000 tons of newsprint. Although the blaze was attributed to a spark from welding equipment, Caravan employee Vera Avalyani said workers saw the fire start in four places simultaneously, according to Reuters. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. TAJIKS WANT IRANIAN OIL. Tajik Prime Minister Djamshed Karimov said his country is interested in buying oil from Iran, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported. In a meeting with the Iranian ambassador to Tajikistan, Ashraf Shabesteri, Karimov also mentioned Tajikistan's interest in opening a direct air link between Dushanbe and Tehran. Tajikistan, along with other Central Asian countries, is attempting to reduce its economic dependence on Russia by establishing new trading partners and obtaining access to Iranian sea ports, according to NCA/Reuters. The Iranian ambassador said Tehran would be willing to help in the exploration of mines, complete the construction of factories, and transport goods for export to the Persian Gulf. Iran will send an industrial delegation along with representatives of Iran's chamber of commerce to Tajikistan to discuss trade relations sometime in the near future, Reuters reported. Iran has been trying to establish closer ties to the Central Asian republics since the fall of the Soviet Union. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CIS ZATULIN IN CRIMEA. A Russian delegation from the Duma commission on the Black Sea Fleet, accompanied by the head of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Konstantin Zatulin, arrived in Crimea on 26 March, Ukrainian radio reported the following day. The delegation was met at the airport by the Crimean Procurator, Valentyn Kuptsov, who officially notified Zatulin and the Duma commission that they should not make any disparaging statements against Kiev and should not take part in any activities aimed at worsening confusion over the Crimean situation. Zatulin has distinguished himself in the Duma as being the leading critic of Ukraine's 17 March decrees abolishing the Crimean constitution and presidency. During his visit, Zatulin has been meeting with pro- Russian officials. On the first day, he met with Crimean President Yuri Meshkov and Crimean parliament speaker Serhii Tsekov. On 27 March, Zatulin met with the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Eduard Baltin. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE AND RUSSIA SAID TO AGREE ON BOMBER PRICE. The Ukrainian and Russian defense departments have agreed that Ukraine's $192.6 million debt to Russia for natural gas could be written off in return for 44 ex- Soviet strategic bombers, Interfax reported on 27 March. "An informed source" told the agency that Ukraine had originally demanded $800 million for the 19 Tu-160 "Blackjack" supersonic jets and the 25 Tu-95MS "Bear" turboprop missile-car- rying aircraft left on its territory after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, several weeks ago, a Russian newspaper reported Ukraine had agreed to sell the planes for $75 million. The source said the aircraft would be transferred to Russia once the agreement was signed, adding that it would not be tied to an agreement on the division of the Black Sea Fleet. -- Doug Clarke, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396
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