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No. 65, Part I, 31 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 CHECHENS DENY RUSSIAN CAPTURE OF GUDERMES. Movladi Udugov, press secretary to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, denied claims by the Russian military press center in Mozdok and by Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets that Russian forces had succeeded in taking the town of Gudermes on 30 March, but admitted that the town was still under attack, Interfax reported. Col.-Gen. Anatoly Kulikov, the commander of federal troops in Chechnya, had previously told ITAR-TASS that 80% of Chechen territory would be under Russian control, once Gudermes and Shali were captured. Meanwhile, the recently created Chechen Committee for National Accord has begun drafting an electoral law for Chechnya, its chairman Umar Avturkhanov told Interfax on 30 March. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN URGED NOT TO SIGN AIDS LAW. AIDS-prevention activists inside and outside Russia have appealed to President Boris Yeltsin not to sign a draft AIDS law on 31 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. The law, passed unanimously by the State Duma on 24 February, would impose mandatory AIDS tests on foreigners wishing to stay in Russia longer than three months, refugees, employees of certain enterprises, and prison inmates. The law's critics say mandatory testing is costly, unenforceable, and will not halt the spread of the virus. They also charge that the law contravenes the declaration Russia signed at the December 1994 Paris AIDS summit and contains internal contradictions. For instance, the law guarantees Russian citizens access to voluntary, anonymous AIDS testing and full rights if they are found HIV-positive, yet it goes on to say that some of those rights may be restricted. There are now 883 officially registered HIV-positive cases in Russia, but experts say the real number of infected citizens is much higher, Interfax reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. LOBOV ON POSSIBLE VARIATIONS OF NATO EXPANSION. Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov said NATO expansion in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic states at the same time as Russia is forced to negotiate through the Partnership for Peace framework is totally unacceptable to Russia, Interfax reported on 30 March. But he stressed that "there must be no haste in making categorical assessments" on the question. He said the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have many unresolved ethnic and territorial disputes which drive them to seek some "stabilizing force" such as NATO. Lobov offered two possible ways of creating a European security system that Russia would accept. One involves the establishment of an absolutely new organization to include all the countries of Europe and the CIS. Lobov, however, rejected that idea as too cumbersome and unrealistic because it would destroy NATO. A second alternative would be for Russia and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to join NATO simultaneously. In that case, Russia would not "strongly object" to any country's decision to become a member. According to Lobov, however, the process could take decades. He warned that if NATO expanded unilaterally, Russia would be forced to strengthen its own defense capability as well as that of its neighbors. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ANOTHER AMMO DUMP EXPLODES IN FAR EAST. Some 200 carloads of aircraft missiles blew up on 30 March at an ammunition dump near the Chinese border in Russia's Maritime region, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency indicated that some explosions were still taking place the next day. The location of the depot was variously reported as Taly and Taloye, and it was said to belong to the Far Eastern military district. Local civil defense officials said the incident was triggered by a forest fire, and that there were no casualties. The Russian military in the Far East has been plagued by such disasters. In May 1992, munitions at a dump on the outskirts of Vladivostok burned and exploded for two days. Two years later there was a catastrophic explosion at a navy ammunition depot in Novonezhinsk, near Vladivostok. Exploding shells at a munitions depot near Babstovo, in the Jewish Autonomous Region, forced the evacuation of village residents last August. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW: NO PROMISE TO WITHDRAW KURILES TROOPS. Russia has never promised to withdraw troops from the four disputed islands in the Kuriles that are claimed by Japan, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Moscow on 30 March. Nikita Matkovsky was responding to a recent complaint by a senior Japanese diplomat that Russia had failed to honor such a pledge, Interfax reported. In 1992, Boris Yeltsin said Russia was prepared to withdraw its troops from the islands by mid-1995 as part of a broader agreement to mend its relations with Japan. Matkovsky said the stationing of troops on its own territory is exclusively Russia's affair. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN COMPANY TO UPGRADE CAPE CANAVERAL PADS. Gennady Biryukov, the chief designer of the Design Bureau of Transport Machinery [KBTM] in Moscow, told journalists on 30 March that his company had signed a contract with Lockheed Martin Airspace to update the launch pads for Atlas boosters at the American space center in Cape Canaveral. KBTM was the Soviet Union's chief developer of missile launch equipment for the Strategic Missile Forces and the navy. Biryukov said the dollar value of the deal was "insignificant," Interfax reported. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT APPROVES PRIVATIZATION PLAN...The Russian government approved a draft of the second stage of privatization that might include a major role for private banks, Russian and Western agencies reported on 30 March. The draft, compiled by the State Property Committee, is expected to bring in 9 trillion rubles in state revenue. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said the drafts of the appropriate presidential decrees and government regulations will be updated by a government commission within two weeks. Sergei Belyaev, chairman of the State Property Management Committee, who is expected to lead the commission, supported a proposal by a consortium of nine private banks to aid in the privatization process. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. ....MINISTRIES CRITICIZE PRIVATIZATION DRAFT. The heads of the Communication and Fuel and Energy ministries and the State Precious Metals and Precious Stones Committee criticized the draft for the second stage of privatization saying it failed to encourage domestic investment and did not provide for the expansion of businesses slated to be privatized, Interfax reported on 30 March. The critics said the draft focuses on the short term goal of speedy share sales to boost revenue for the 1995 national budget. They also doubted the potential to raise 9 trillion rubles, because in order to reach this target, 24 trillion rubles worth of shares must be sold. Some speakers called for halting the privatization process to give more thought to planning the second stage. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT ENDORSES WORLD BANK OIL LOAN AGREEMENT. The government endorsed a second oil rehabilitation loan for $500 million, which was signed between Moscow and the World Bank on 27 September 1994, the Petroleum Information Agency reported on 30 March. The loan will be used to restore and modernize oil facilities in Western Siberia. Three leading oil-producing associations in the region, Megionneftegaz, Tomskneft, and Yuganskneftegaz will receive $150 million, $160 million, and $190 million respectively as 10-year term loans with a two-year delay payment stipulation. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKH PRESIDENT DRAWS CRITICISM FROM WASHINGTON. In a speech delivered at Indiana University on 29 March, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher commented on recent political developments in Kazakhstan. Christopher, speaking about U.S. policy toward Russia and other former Soviet states, said, "[Kazakh] President [Nursultan] Nazarbayev's effort to unilaterally extend his term in Kazakhstan is, I am sorry to say, a step backward. We call on him to renew his commitment to uphold timely parliamentary elections, followed by the scheduled presidential elections in 1996," Reuters reported. In a speech to a trade union congress in Almaty, Nazarbayev said, "I am not an ambitious person. It is not Nazarbayev who needs the referendum, it is the people, the families of Kazakhstan, who don't want something like Chechnya or Karabakh happening in the republic," according to Reuters. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS CONSTITUTIONAL LAW. Eduard Yegoryan, chairman of the Armenian parliament Permanent Commission for the Restoration of National Statehood, said parliament's adoption of a constitutional law "opened the way towards...adoption of a new Fundamental Law through a universal referendum," Interfax reported on 29 March. Under the law, the new Armenian National Assembly will be elected to four-year terms. Government members, representatives of the prosecutor's office, national security, and interior bodies, and officers of the national Armed Forces will be barred from running for parliament. The National Assembly will be made up of 190 deputies: 150 elected by single-member district and 40 on party lists. Citizens, public organizations, or associations may nominate candidates for the National Assembly. The referendum is scheduled to he held on 5 July. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS ABKHAZ PRESIDENT ON RUSSIAN BASING AGREEMENT. Addressing a meeting in Sukhumi on 30 March, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba said the Russian-Georgian agreement concluded last week in Tbilisi, which granted Russia the right to maintain a military base in the Abkhaz town of Gudauta for 25 years, should also have been signed by representatives of Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Abkhaz parliament chairman Sokrat Dzhindzholia said in Moscow on 30 March that Abkhazia has abandoned its demands for total independence from Georgia but insists on a confederative agreement, Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS TO SUE KAZAKHSTAN. The Belarusian government filed a $3 million legal suit against the Kazakh government in the CIS Economic Court in Minsk on 29 March, Belarusian radio reported the next day. Belarus lodged the suit because of Kazakhstan's failure to honor a 4 June 1994 agreement on grain deliveries. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA SAYS RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE UNDER THREAT. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nikita Matkovsky said Ukraine's accusations against Russian consular workers in Crimea are unacceptable, Reuters reported on 30 March. Ukraine had ordered Russian consular workers to stop working earlier this week, claiming they were "recruiting" Crimeans to take Russian citizenship. Matkovsky said Ukraine's moves "hinder friendly relations" between Moscow and Kiev, and said he hoped no further actions would be taken. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. KARIMOV ON RUSSIA, CIS. Speaking at a ceremony to confirm the extension of his mandate to the year 2000, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said that despite criticism, the referendum was conducted strictly according to the law as "reaffirmed by international observers" and would allow the government to complete the country's political reform as quickly as possible, Interfax reported on 30 March. He said the referendum also ruled out any political friction and set conditions for the second stage of economic reforms. Karimov stressed the need for the country to participate in various international agencies, the importance of regionalism, and Tashkent's policy of maintaining dynamic relations with countries of differing social or political systems. He said Tashkent is keen see a normalization of the situation in Afghanistan and to promote relations with countries such as India, Pakistan, and Iran, adding that those interests do not amount to a distancing from the CIS, which has no alternative in the region. He pledged Tashkent's commitment to join the customs union that groups Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan together. Karimov rejected any political, economic, or military "supranational structures," saying that was why he refused to endorse an agreement on a uniform CIS command of frontier troops and the idea of a Eurasian union. Karimov expressed his unequivocal support for cooperation with Russia, calling the country "a guarantor of stability in Central Asia." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. 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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