|Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not. - Nathaniel Hawthorne|
No. 66, Part I, 3 April 1995
We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. 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 RUSSIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION BEGINS BROADCASTING ON CHANNEL ONE. The controversial, partly-private Russian Public Television company began broadcasting throughout the former Soviet Union on 1 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. The state owns 51% of the new company, giving the government control over all personnel decisions and broadcasting content. However, Russian Public Television board member Igor Shabdrasulov denied any possibility of censorship on Channel One, claiming the government would exercise its ownership rights "intelligently, efficiently, and tactfully," Interfax reported. News broadcasts on Russian Public Television currently are produced by the same information agency formerly used by Ostankino TV, with the same newsreaders and a similar format. Shabdrasulov said the temporary ban on Channel One advertising would be lifted after the company finished renegotiating contracts with private advertising agencies. Many have linked the planned changes in advertising rules to the 1 March murder of Russian Public Television Director General Vladislav Listev. Meanwhile, opposition to the creation of Russian Public Television remains strong. A bill to suspend the restructuring at Channel One has been submitted to the Duma for a second reading on 5 April, Interfax reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUTSKOI TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi has been nominated by his "Derzhava" political movement to run for president in June 1996, Russian and Western agencies reported on 2 April. At the Derzhava congress, Rutskoi blasted President Boris Yeltsin for damaging "Russian statehood" and charged that he was plotting to delay the presidential elections. Rutskoi pledged, if elected, to return Russia to its "natural historic boundaries" by reuniting with Ukraine and Belarus. After declaring his candidacy, Rutskoi told Interfax, "I have learnt a unique lesson from Yeltsin--the lesson of how the state should not be ruled." Rutskoi was an important ally of Yeltsin's during the August 1991 coup after being elected vice president earlier that year. In October 1993, Rutskoi led the rebellion against Yeltsin's order to dissolve parliament and was subsequently jailed. He was granted amnesty by the Russian parliament in February 1994. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. ZYUGANOV ANNOUNCES NEW COALITION OF PATRIOTIC GROUPS. Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), announced a new coalition of groups that will include Mikhail Lapshin's Agrarian Party, Yury Skokov's Russian Association of Producers, Lyudmila Vartazarova's Socialist Party of the Working People, numerous women's organizations, and the CPRF, Interfax reported on 31 March. Zyuganov did not rule out the possibility of an alliance with former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi's Derzhava movement, noting that they had reached agreement on the basic principles of maintaining Russia's territorial integrity, avoiding wars, and promoting the well-being of all citizens. He said a coalition with Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is unlikely because the LDP parliamentary coalition is disintegrating. The new bloc is cooperating with the RAU Corporation, whose president, Alexei Podberezkin, attended the press conference. He said the Communists have long advocated the pre-eminence of the state and the new coalition is willing to work with Yeltsin's administration to meet the threat of expanding foreign capital. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ALEXEI VEDENKIN TO SEEK SEAT IN DUMA. Alexei Vedenkin, who was arrested on charges of threatening to kill certain liberal members of the Duma and then released from jail the day Yeltsin issued a decree cracking down on fascism, has announced his intention to run for the late Sergei Skorochkin's Duma seat, Kommersant-Daily reported on 31 March. Skorochkin's seat became vacant when he was murdered in February. Vedenkin wants the immunity from arrest that parliamentary membership provides. According to the newspaper, he visited the electoral district in Kolomna on 28 March, violating his release agreement which confined him to Moscow. The paper speculates that Vedenkin may have powerful supporters who want to discredit the electoral process by electing a "fascist." Vedenkin's success is not guaranteed, however, because several nationalist and Communist candidates are competing in the 14 May by-election. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN FORCES TAKE SHALI, GUDERMES. Russian federal troops took the town of Shali, 30 km south of Grozny, on 31 March and finally dislodged the last Chechen defenders from Gudermes, Western agencies and ITAR-TASS reported. In Moscow, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said "active fighting" in Chechnya is now over and preparations for free elections are underway, while Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev predicted that hostilities in Chechnya would definitively end by late April. Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Yegorov reported that 1,436 federal troops had been killed in combat in Chechnya and slightly more than 4,500 wounded, Interfax reported on 1 April -- Liz Fuller and Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. U.S. AID TO RUSSIA CANNOT BE HELD "HOSTAGE" TO DEAL WITH IRAN. Speaking in Moscow on 2 April, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said aid to Russia will continue despite his government's displeasure with Russian plans to provide nuclear aid to Iran, international agencies reported. In order to dissuade further Russian support for the Iranian nuclear program, the U.S. government has supplied a secret intelligence report to Moscow detailing the scope of Iran's nuclear weapons program, The New York Times reported on 3 April. According to the report, Iran is importing materials needed to build nuclear weapons, has attempted to buy enriched uranium form Kazakhstan, and is using techniques similar to those used by Iraq and Pakistan in their quest for a nuclear weapon. In addition, the U.S. is also apparently offering several tens of millions of dollars in nuclear cooperation if Moscow drops its $1 billion contract to help build up to four reactors in Iran. The U.S. intelligence report is intended to counter a recent one by the Russian intelligence agency which gives the Iranian nuclear program a clean bill of health. The U.S. government is hoping Yeltsin will cancel the project before President Bill Clinton's visit in May. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV CONTINUES MIDEAST TOUR. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev gave assurances to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that there is no reason to fear Russian aid to the Iranian nuclear program, international agencies reported. Kozyrev also urged Israel to sign the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, but Rabin said his country would do so only after it had concluded peace accords "with all Arab countries as well as Iran." Rabin expressed unhappiness about the state of relations between Iran and Russia, re-stating his accusation that Iran "organizes international terrorism." On 1 April, Kozyrev said he had "warm and positive" talks with PLO chief Yasser Arafat in the Gaza Strip. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIANS MOST CONCERNED ABOUT INFLATION AND CRIME. Asked what Russia's worst problems are, 70% of respondents in a recent poll named rising prices, 56% crime, 33% unemployment, and 20% pollution and corruption, the state-controlled Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 31 March. Fifty-five percent of respondents said their economic situation had deteriorated over the past six months, 31% said it had remained the same, and 13% said it had improved. But despite the worsening situation, 38% said converting to a market economy is the right policy for Russia as opposed to 33% who thought the policy was wrong. Only 24% said mass demonstrations would improve matters, while 59% said they would not. A quarter of the respondents said they think Russia is very likely to break up while 40% said they believe such a scenario is not very likely. A majority of respondents (62%) think of themselves as Russian citizens rather than as citizens of the USSR (20%) or the CIS (4%). The poll of 2,000 people in urban and rural areas in 12 regions in European Russia, Siberia, and the Far East was carried out by the Russian Academy of Sciences' Sociological Institute, Yekaterinburg State University, and Kazan State University. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. FSK SAYS INCREASED ACTIVITY OF FOREIGN SPECIAL SERVICES THREATEN RUSSIAN SECURITY. In 1994, the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) uncovered 22 Russian agents of foreign intelligence services, an FSK official said on 31 March, Interfax reported. "The widening intelligence and subversive activities of foreign special services presents a serious threat to Russia's national security," the FSK representative said. He added that the FSK has noted activity by the intelligence services of East European and Baltic states "controlled by Western special services" and is concerned about the intelligence operations of several Muslim countries that are "striving to exploit the national religious factor in their work." According to the FSK, about 10 spies were uncovered in large state economic departments, while the "foreign special service status" of another 90 experts and advisers was "beyond doubt." More than 100 firms in the banking sphere were also said to be used as a cover by foreign agencies. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DAVYDOV OBJECTS TO HIGHER IMPORT DUTIES. Higher import duties on numerous foodstuffs will result in a new rise in prices and will not help Russian agricultural producers, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov. The minister told Interfax on 31 March that the government, under pressure from the Agrarian Party, is likely to hike import tariffs on foodstuffs, although it highly objects to those measures. Davydov said the government must keep people supplied with foodstuffs, rather than rendering basic staples unaffordable. Instead of implementing a "protectionist tariff," he argued that the farm sector would benefit more from credits, donations, and tax benefits which would encourage farm production. Davydov added that increased import duties could jeopardize talks on Russian membership in GATT/WTO, which are scheduled to begin in May. Protectionism in the agricultural sector can also trigger retaliatory steps in countries which sell foodstuffs on the Russian market and could harm Russian food exports, Davydov said. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. MARCH INFLATION DOWN TO 8.9%. Consumer price growth in March was below 10% for the first time since October 1994, Interfax reported. March inflation ran at 8.9% compared with 11% in February and 17.8% in January. The National Board of Statistics said that in the last week of March consumer good prices were up 1.6% against 2.5% the previous week. Experts say foodstuff prices have been leveling over the past few months. Consumer good prices have risen an average of 42% since January. The basic monthly grocery list of 19 essential foodstuffs costs an average of 157,300 rubles (4,900 rubles to $1); in Moscow the cost is close to 200,000 rubles. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev delivered his state-of-the-nation address to parliament on 31 March, Interfax reported. Akayev had originally planned to speak to the new parliament on 30 March, but disagreements over the selection of government members caused him to postpone his appearance by a day. Akayev renewed his commitment to economic reform and privatization and called for strict law and order without which ". . . anarchy will await us and we will become a banana republic." Akayev said he wanted the creation of a national ideal along the lines of the "American dream," and a nationwide patriotic movement for the "well-being of Kyrgyzstan's future." -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CIS CIS: DRAFT BORDER AGREEMENT SIGNED. Delegations of eight CIS states signed draft accords on 30 March for cooperation in guarding their external borders, Interfax reported. Russian Federal Frontier Service director Andrei Nikolayev said the heads of the eight states would probably sign both documents with amendments. Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine refused to sign the draft texts and the Moldovan position remained unclear since that country was not represented at the meeting. Even some of the eight states who signed the draft accords, which are Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, had some reservations about the agreements. Georgia's head of frontier forces Valery Chkheidze said his government would sign only after its sovereignty is restored along the length of its borders. The meeting also addressed the complex situation along the Tajik-Afghan border. -- 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. 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