|The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited. - Plutarch|
No. 63, Part I, 29 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. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through our WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html RUSSIA OSCE SEES INTENSIFICATION OF PROBLEMS IN CHECHNYA. As Russian forces continue to pound areas around the towns of Shali and Germenchuk using planes, tanks, helicopters, and artillery bombardment, an OSCE diplomat has raised fears that the situation is deteriorating at an alarming pace. Istvan Gyarmati told reporters in Moscow, "It seems the danger of the war spreading to the neighboring republics is much greater than at the time of my last visit one and half months ago," according to AFP. Gyarmati warned that, as Chechen fighters retreated towards the borders of Ingushetia and Dagestan, the chances increased that the fighting would spill over into those areas as well. Another problem voiced by Gyarmati was threat that the number of refugees in the region would increase. Estimates indicate there are more than 200,000 refugees in Ingushetia alone. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees claims that 1,000 refugees a day are pouring into Dagestan, up from 500 last week. Ron Redmond, a UNHCR spokesman, told Reuters in a 28 March report that, in addition,"local authorities think 30,000 [refugees] are leaving or have already left and are within a triangle," referring to the zone between Argun, Shali, and Gudermes. He added, "We're afraid of cholera this spring" because of poor sanitation in the crowded refugee camps. The OSCE plans to establish a permanent mission in Grozny as early as mid-April. Gyarmati warned the, as yet, unnamed head of the mission, "As an encouragement, I would like to tell my would-be colleague that these six months will probably be the most interesting experience of his life--if he survives," reported AFP. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. YEGOROV DESCRIBES EVOLUTION OF CHECHEN CRISIS. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Nationalities Nikolai Yegorov said federal authorities could not have used force against Chechnya three years ago, Interfax and Russian television reported 28 March. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of the Russian republics and regions began declaring sovereignty, he said. At that time, the use of force against the Chechen leadership could have caused an explosion throughout the Northern Caucasus as well as in other parts of the country. According to Yegorov, Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudaev understood the state of affairs at the time, but did not take into account that the situation in Russia would eventually change, and one republic could not continue to test the strength of the entire country. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. "STABILITY" DEFENDS USE OF FORCE IN CHECHNYA. In its first official press conference as a registered Duma faction, the Stability group called the use of force in Chechnya justified in order to defend the Russian Constitution and the country's territorial integrity, Ekho Moskvy reported on 25 March. The group's political coordinator Alexei Alexandrov told journalists that the period of "emotional democracy" in Russia was finished, and that Stability would fight for "organized and pragmatic democracy, with a strong state system," NTV reported. Stability, which calls itself a "centrist" group, was created in February to provide a base of support for Yeltsin in the Duma. Alexei Levushkin, a co-chairman of the group, did not rule out the creation of an all-Russian Stability movement to participate in the December 1995 elections. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV: HASTY NATO EXPANSION HELPS ULTRA-NATIONALISTS. Before departing for his trip to the Middle East, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev again waved the ultra-nationalist card to dissuade NATO expansion, Interfax reported on 28 March. Kozyrev cited the recent budget deal as a significant step forward for Russian reforms but cautioned that the West should not "undercut" the progress made so far by being too hasty with NATO expansion ideas, especially in light of the upcoming election campaign. He thinks such action will "provide the ultra-nationalist forces with arguments, though artificial, for encouraging xenophobia." He pleaded with Western leaders to "act more carefully so as not to hinder the efforts of Russia's president and government, rather than simply proclaiming their sympathy with our reforms." Nevertheless, most opinion polls suggest that despite the rightist bombast, the Russian electorate is much more preoccupied with domestic and economic issues than foreign policy. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN DUMA MEMBERS DENOUNCE TURKISH INCURSION. A group of 30 Russian State Duma deputies signed an appeal against what they called the "genocide" of the Kurdish people in Southern (Iraqi) Kurdistan by Turkish forces, Interfax reported on 25 March. According to them, the problem of the Kurdish people should be resolved using political means at a round-table conference "where the Kurdish side should be recognized as an equitable participant in the talks." They recommended that the Russian Foreign Ministry call on the UN Security Council to consider the "numerous violations of international commitments by Turkey." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. SETBACK FOR RUSSIAN SPACE BUSINESS. A new Russian space booster based on the SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missile apparently failed to place three satellites in orbit following a 28 March launch. ITAR-TASS had first reported the successful launch of a "Start" booster rocket from the Plesetsk launch site in northwestern Russia but several hours later said that no contact could be established with the three satellites sent aloft. The Russians have been touting the "Start" as a flexible and reliable launch system that can place small loads into geostationary orbit from virtually any spot on the globe. Interfax indicated that the payload included an Israeli satellite and a joint Russian-Mexican effort, raising the possibility that Russia will have to pay compensation to its foreign partners. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. FUNDING TO COME BEFORE DEFENSE ORDERS. Presidential aide Alexander Livshitz said defense orders in 1995 will be placed "exclusively on the basis of the budget," Interfax reported on 28 March. He said the government is determined not to repeat last year's difficulties caused by military orders being placed before a source for funding had been found. Livshitz indicated that defense enterprises could be helped if President Yeltsin's 1994 decree on reducing unfunded war reserve stocks in factories would be "made to work." In the past, factories had to set aside capacities and personnel in order to be prepared to meet their secret military wartime orders but were not compensated for those efforts. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. AGRICULTURE AND FOOD MINISTRY TO COMPLETE AGRO-INDUSTRIAL PRIVATIZATION. The Russian Agriculture and Food Ministry plans to complete the conversion of the country's collective and state-run agroindustrial enterprises into joint-stock companies in the third quarter of 1995, Interfax reported on 28 March. Only 1,302 out of 2,327 agricultural businesses to be privatized have reached that goal. The ministry said the privatization process has moved slowly and indicated that not one agroindustrial enterprise in the Arkhangelsk, Ulyanovsk, Kurgan and Kemerovo oblasts, and the republic of Kalmykia has been denationalized. The Novosibirsk, Tomsk, and Irkutsk oblasts have privatized up to 13% of enterprises in the sector. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT AND FARMERS SIGN AGREEMENT ON MUTUAL OBLIGATIONS. The Association of Russian Farmers and Agricultural Cooperatives has signed an agreement with the government on mutual obligations that gives farmers the right to a share of state subsidies proportional to the amount of land they cultivate, association president Vladimir Bash- machnikov told Interfax on 28 March. He said up until now farmers in the non-state sector had received only 2%-5% of the money spent on agriculture although they worked 10% of the land. Now, however, the government has committed itself to allocating 10% of loans, subsidies, and other funds directly to the farmers. In exchange, the farmers' association, which unites about 70% of Russia's private farmers, will organize the delivery of agricultural produce to federal and regional food funds in volumes set jointly by the association and the Federal Food Corporation. According to Bashmachnikov, pricing policy is now being discussed. Last year, Russia's 300,000 non-state farmers harvested 5.7% of the total yield of grain, 5.7% of sugar beets, and 14% of sunflower seeds. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. LITTLE INVESTMENT IN MACHINE-BUILDING SECTOR. The State Committee for Machine-Building has failed to attract private investors, Interfax reported on 28 March. The committee blamed high inflation, disadvantageous tax laws, and a lack of coherent business plans in the machine-building enterprises themselves for the poor results. The machine-building sector has suffered a severe fall in output since the onset of market reforms. In the early part of last year, production declined by almost 50% in comparison with the same period in 1993. The situation subsequently improved slightly, but output is still falling. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CHAIRMAN OF PRIMORSKY DUMA THREATENS STRIKE. If the Russian government does not provide financial assistance to the Primorsky Krai, its residents will hold a territorial strike and block the Trans-Siberian Railroad and seaports, Chairman of the Primorsky Duma Igor Lebedinets announced on 28 March in Vladivostok, Interfax reported. The Duma has sent a letter to the federal authorities demanding immediate action. The Russian armed forces owe Primorsky defense enterprises 200 billion rubles, while the government has never provided the 144 billion rubles allocated for the upkeep of municipal housing. Under present circumstances, the territory has a deficit of more than 400 billion rubles. The deputies demanded that a meeting take place of the Russian government in the krai by 1 May. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT OPENS. The deputies of Kyrgyzstan's new parliament held their first session on 28 March. One of their first accomplishments was to elect Mukar Cholponbayev as chairman of the Legislative Assembly, the lower house. Cholponbayev, 50, who was previously Kyrgyzstan's justice minister, told journalists that the main objectives would be to pass bills on facilitating economic expansion and improving law and order, according to Interfax. About 25 draft laws are ready for review, including electoral reforms, a new tax code, a package of economic reforms, and rules on foreign investment, Reuters reported. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev is scheduled to address a joint session of parliament on 29 March, and a debate on the agenda is also expected to begin. Although the assembly has begun work, not all of the seats in the legislature are filled. Several electoral areas did not register the minimum required turnout of 50%, leaving six seats vacant in the Legislative Assembly and 10 in the People's Assembly, the so-called part-time upper house. Runoff elections are scheduled for 29 April, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. KARIMOV ON UZBEK REFERENDUM. The Uzbek Electoral Commission announced that 99.6% of eligible voters, or 11.25 million people, cast ballots in the 26 March referendum extending President Islam Karimov's rule until the year 2000, Reuters reported on 28 March. In a televised speech the day after the referendum, Karimov said he was "amazed" at the unanimous support for his policies, Interfax reported on 29 March. He pledged to work for stability and peace in Uzbekistan and said all branches of power should "function in the same vein." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS UKRAINE PROTESTS OVER RUSSIAN ACTIVITIES IN CRIMEA. Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Borys Tarasyuk said his government has formally asked Russia to halt the activities of its consular workers in Crimea, AFP reported on 28 March. The workers had been handling requests for Russian citizenship instead of providing other services for Russian citizens in the region. Tarasyuk said this violated his country's law and Russia had not notified Ukraine about the mission's activities in Simferopol. The head of the mission, Aleksis Molochkov, would not say how many Russian passports had been handed out and there was no immediate response from the Russian Foreign Ministry to Kiev's request. -- 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. 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