|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
No. 67, Part I, 4 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 YELTSIN SIGNS CONTROVERSIAL AIDS LAW. President Yeltsin has signed controversial legislation on AIDS that requires all foreigners, except diplomats, visiting Russia for more than three months to prove that they are not HIV-positive or face deportation, a presidential spokesman said on 3 April, according to Western agencies. AIDS activists and specialists had campaigned against the law, saying it contravened human rights and was medically senseless, but Yeltsin ignored their pleas to veto it. (Following protests from the tourist industry, Yeltsin rejected an earlier version that obliged all visitors to prove they were HIV- free.) The new law goes into effect on 1 August. It is not certain how testing of foreigners already in Russia will be carried out. Nikolai Nedzelsky, head of the Names association in Moscow, said no one seems to know how to implement the law, while Gennady Roshchupkin, coordinator of the Russian AIDS relief organization, thinks the legislation will be applied selectively to deter refugees and "other visitors whom the Russian government doesn't like." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. NO START-2 WITHOUT RESOLUTION OF NATO QUESTION. Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko told U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry in Moscow on 3 April that the Russian parliament will not ratify START-2 unless questions over NATO's expansion eastward are resolved, Interfax reported. While acknowledging the value that START-2 would have for nuclear nonproliferation, Shumeiko said the issues of NATO and START-2 are closely linked in the minds of Russian deputies. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the Russian government supports the earliest possible ratification of START-2 and, in the meantime, would like to resolve differences over the ABM treaty and financial allocations for destroying strategic offensive weapons. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA MAY SUSPEND CFE CUTS IF NATO EXPANDS. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev warned visiting U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry on 3 April that Russia might suspend the reduction of its conventional arms as required by the 1990 treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) should NATO expand to the east. ITAR-TASS and Interfax quoted Grachev as saying the creation of new groups of armed forces "on the most threatened fronts" and closer security ties among CIS countries would be other possible countermeasures. He also said Russia is proposing a new solution to the CFE "flanks" problem--the CFE restrictions on the arms Russia can deploy in the North Caucasus and Leningrad military districts--that takes into account "the reality of the situation." This would involve excluding "areas of conflict and combat operations" from the treaty. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA WON'T BUDGE ON IRAN. Despite entreaties from U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, Russia will continue to aid the Iranian nuclear program, international agencies reported on 4 April. Following a meeting with Perry and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov said the Russian government intends to proceed with the deal which "is in accordance with international law." Perry said while the Russians "did not agree to change their position to proceed with that sale, they did state that they will take actions to reduce the proliferation risk." Meanwhile, in meetings with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Perry signed two accords to assist in the process for dismantling nuclear weapons: one for security in moving nuclear weapons from Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan to Russia; the other to help ensure the safety of nuclear weapons stockpiles within Russia. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. MORE CHARGES OF PLOT TO DELAY ELECTIONS. Echoing recent charges made by Alexander Rutskoi, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin asserted that Yeltsin's staff is plotting to delay the December 1995 parliamentary elections and the June 1996 presidential elections, Interfax reported on 3 April. Ilyukhin, a member of the Communist Party, described two possible scenarios. The Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, could refuse to adopt an election law, thereby creating no legislative basis for the polls. Ilyukhin also speculated that a "very narrow circle of people" is planning to stage simulated coups in several Russian regions shortly before the elections, allowing Yeltsin to declare a state of emergency. Meanwhile, Yeltsin's allies said the president would not consider using such "costly" and "petty" tactics to extend his term. Mikhail Krasnov, Yeltsin's assistant for legal matters, said Rutskoi's charges are merely a typical strategy for presidential contenders, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. SPLIT WIDENS IN RUSSIAN SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S PARTY. Disgruntled delegates at the third congress of the Russian Social-Democratic People's Party denounced the 24 March decision to expel party chairman Alexander Rutskoi and charged Vasily Lipitsky, Rutskoi's main rival within the organization, with betrayal, NTV reported on 3 April. At the opening session of the congress on 24 March, the majority of delegates voted with Lipitsky, but approximately 20 of the party's 46 regional branches, mostly in southern Russia, supported Rutskoi. On 3 April, dissenting regional leaders dominated the session and declared Lipitsky's actions "illegitimate." Lipitsky was accused of attempting to split the party and "betraying its interests." For his part, Rutskoi told the congress of Lipitsky's "innate" tendency to "betray" and "cheat" others, charging that 17 million rubles were missing from the party's coffers due to Lipitsky's "machinations." He expressed the hope that the congress would end the party's schism and start more "constructive work." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. JEWISH TRADE UNIONS TO DEMAND YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION. Trade unions in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast will hold a demonstration on 12 April as part of the nationwide day of action to press for the resignation of President Yeltsin and his government, regional union leader Yakov Sherman told reporters in Birobidzhan on 3 April. According to Interfax, Sherman said the rally will be the first time Jewish unions have made political rather than purely economic demands. He attributed the change in tactics to rising unemployment and the government's failure to address the problem of wage arrears following the national day of action last October. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. KHASBULATOV OUTLINES CHECHNYA PEACE PLAN. Former Russian parliament chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov has drawn up detailed proposals for a peaceful settlement to the Chechen conflict, Interfax reported on 3 April. They comprise an immediate cessation of hostilities to be monitored by military commanders from both sides; the disengagement and surrender of all heavy weaponry in the possession of the Chechen resistance; and a halt to Moscow's funding of the Chechen Government of National Revival and the recently created Committee for National Accord. Khasbulatov warned against conducting peace talks with either Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev or with the former opposition Provisional Council both of whom, he claimed, had minimal support among the population. Instead, he proposed negotiations--mediated by his own peace-making group--with religious leaders and with those military commanders who had distanced themselves from Dudaev. Khasbulatov further advocated electing a legislative assembly, which over the next few years should enact the legislative basis for the restoration of Chechnya's economy and public institutions. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE DOWN SLIGHTLY AGAINST DOLLAR. The ruble fell slightly against the dollar on 3 April hitting 4,908 rubles to $1 against 4,899 to $1 rubles on 31 March, the Financial Information Agency reported. Volume totaled $114.27 million. Initial demand was $115.27 and initial supply $101.71 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL BANK RESHUFFLES MANAGEMENT. In an attempt to improve internal efficiency, the Central Bank of Russia reshuffled top management on 27 March, the Financial Information Agency reported on 31 March. Deputy Chairman Alexander Khandruyev was promoted to first deputy chairman. Tatyana Artyomova, who was on the USSR State Bank staff before 1992 and then with a Moscow commercial bank, was appointed deputy chairwoman. Olga Prokofyeva, who had been acting head of the banking supervision department, was appointed its permanent head. Alexander Rychenkov, Prokofyeva's predecessor, reportedly resigned. In response to the reshuffle, a highly-placed central bank official told the Financial Information Agency that the new appointments were "an inside exercise rather than a change for the better." He believed the bank's efficiency depended on its relations with commercial banks rather than on personnel changes. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL BANK ISSUES NEW CURRENCY EXCHANGE CERTIFICATE. The Central Bank of Russia will introduce the new currency exchange certificate (No. 0406007) on 3 April, the Financial Information Agency reported on 31 March. The certificate's introduction has been delayed since February because the Central Bank wanted more time to instruct its territorial offices how to use it. The new certificate has seven degrees of protection against forging. It will be used with nine transaction functions, including cashing travelers checks, using credit cards, and exchanging 20 kinds of hard and soft currency. The new certificate will replace Document No. 377, which is now used by banks and exchange offices when individuals buy or sell currency. The new certificate will also allow people to take cash currency abroad. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN SELLS PART OF SHARE IN OIL CONSORTIUM. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev met in Baku with the vice presidents of Exxon and Turkey's State Oil Company TPAO on 3 April to sign an initial agreement on the sale to each company of 5% of Azerbaijan's 20% share in the international consortium that is to exploit three Caspian oil fields, Interfax and AFP reported. The sale must be endorsed by the Azerbaijani People's Assembly. An earlier plan to fund Azerbaijan's share in the consortium by selling a 5% stake to Iran has apparently been shelved, possibly in response to US pressure. Unidentified senior Azerbaijani government officials told Interfax that Azerbaijan is still considering the use of Russian pipelines to export crude oil to the Tikhoretsk Black Sea terminal should it prove impossible to raise the necessary funding to build an alternative export pipeline through Turkey. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. KYRGYZSTAN MAY BE NEXT TO EXTEND PRESIDENT'S TERM. More than 50 members of the new Kyrgyz parliament have proposed a referendum on extending President Askar Akayev's term until the year 2000, Interfax reported on 3 April, quoting presidential press secretary, Kamil Bayalinov. He quoted Akayev as stating that a referendum cannot not be held without the appropriate legislative basis; he said a decision will be taken at the parliament's 10 April session. A member of Akayev's staff told Interfax on 29 March that the president would under no circumstances agree to a referendum on extending his mandate. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. UZBEK OPPOSITION LEADERS SENTENCED. Seven members of the Erk party, banned since 1993, have been sentenced to prison by the Supreme Court in Uzbekistan, Russian and Western agencies reported. They were found guilty of trying to overthrow the current authorities by force, keeping arms, narcotics, and distributing a prohibited newspaper, Erk. The main defendant, Murod Dzhurayev, was sentenced to 12 years in prison; the other six defendants were sentenced to terms of between five and 10 years on 31 March. The trial of the seven, who were arrested by Uzbek secret police in Almaty last summer, was interrupted by a referendum on the extension of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's rule. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS SHAKHRAI IN BELARUS. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai met with Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir in Minsk to discuss setting up a TV/radio company among the CIS states to be called "Mir," Belarusian television reported on 31 March. The Belarusian parliament has not ratified the agreement allowing a Mir bureau to operate in Minsk. Some deputies oppose the financing of a third Russian television station in Belarus and argue that it would be better to fund a second Belarusian channel. -- 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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