|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 68, Part I, 5 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 FILATOV ACCUSES FEDERATION COUNCIL OF DELAYING ELECTION LAW. The Federation Council intends to delay adoption of the electoral law for forming the State Duma, presidential chief of staff Sergei Filatov told Interfax on 4 April. He warned that the law should not be held hostage to "momentary situations" in the country, "nor can it be made a rule to change the rules of the game every year." He said President Boris Yeltsin could sign the draft law even though the Duma voted to elect half of the new members by party lists against the president's wishes. Ramazan Abdulatipov, deputy chairman of the Federation Council, confirmed that the parliament's upper house was unlikely to approve the Duma's version of the bill, Russian Radio reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. JUDGE SEES NO PROBLEM WITH POSTPONING ELECTIONS. Constitutional Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov said former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi's allegations that Yeltsin intends to postpone the elections were not serious, NTV reported 4 April. However, he said "nothing terrible will happen if the elections are held a little later.... Technical changes are possible and not of principal importance provided, naturally, that the powers of deputies and the president are not stretched from two to three or four years." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN'S AIDE ACCUSES ILYUKHIN OF "INVENTIONS." Presidential aide Georgy Satarov dismissed accusations made by Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin concerning plots to delay parliamentary and presidential elections, Interfax reported on 4 April. Ilyukhin said the president's staff were encouraging the Federation Council to reject the Duma's draft electoral law, and he further speculated that Yeltsin's men were planning to stage coups in several Russian regions during the late stages of the campaign. Satarov told Interfax that Communists had a special talent for fabricating various coup plans. He also charged that Communist Duma deputies had deliberately violated Duma procedures by introducing amendments to the electoral law during a vote on its first reading. By purposely breaking the rules, Saratov added, the Communists hoped to provoke the Council or Yeltsin into rejecting the draft electoral law. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. BOROVOI TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Konstantin Borovoi, leader of the Party of Economic Freedom, has declared his intention to run for president in 1996, Interfax reported on 4 April. Borovoi said democratic parties should form an electoral bloc and nominate a joint candidate for president to stop communists and fascists from returning to power. On 28 March, at his party's fourth congress, Borovoi complained that state-run mass media, especially Ostankino TV, imposed an "information blockade" on his party's ideas and activities, which he claimed were very popular outside the capital, Segodnya reported. Although only five State Duma deputies belong to the Party of Economic Freedom, 75 regional and 30 provincial branches of the party are registered. Borovoi told Interfax on 4 April that in some regional legislatures, his party is the only democratically-oriented bloc. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. AGRARIAN LEADER DENIES ALLIANCE WITH COMMUNISTS. Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin has denied reports that his party will form a single electoral alliance with Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Interfax reported on 4 April. Lapshin said his party of 250,000 members would work with Vasily Starodubtsev's Agrarian Union, Alexander Davydov's Trade Unions of the Agro-Industrial Complex, and Anatoly Vorontsov's National Council of Collective Farms. Lapshin said the Russian peasantry will no longer act as anyone's little brother. The party's potential support is large since more than a third of the Russian population lives in the countryside. Lyudmila Vartazarova also denied that her Socialist Worker's Party had already formed an alliance with the Communists, saying Zyuganov "was obviously in a hurry when he made the announcement." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CRIMINALS TO ENTER PARLIAMENT? Various criminal organizations may contest the December 1995 elections to the Russian parliament, Federation Council Deputy Chairman Ramazan Abdulatipov told a delegation of Australian parliamentarians in Moscow on 4 April, Interfax and Radio Rossii reported. Abdulatipov said criminals have already demonstrated their ability to win seats in regional legislatures. In his opinion, it will be difficult and dangerous for an ordinary person to win a seat in the parliament, particularly in the south of the country. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MILITARY MAIN SOURCE OF CRIMINALS' WEAPONS. The Russian military remains "the major and stable source" of arms used by criminals and in regions plagued by ethnic conflicts, according to the Russian Interior Ministry. Alexander Dementyev, the deputy head of the ministry's Department for the Fight against Organized Crime, told Interfax that some observers claim the bulk of illegally held arms disappear from warehouses of the Defense Ministry. He added that arms are also stolen directly from manufacturing enterprises and said the ministry is conducting an investigation into a group who tried to deliver 4,350 hand guns from an Izhevsk arms plant to Grozny in Chechnya. Dementyev said 1,247 thefts of arms and ammunition were reported in 1994, while nearly 17,000 crimes were committed involving firearms. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. TEACHERS DEMAND INCREASED FUNDING FOR SCIENCE AND EDUCATION. Arguing that the fall in living standards of teachers and researchers is inflicting considerable damage on the education sector, delegates to the second congress of the Education and Science Workers' Union called on the government to raise their wages to match those in industry, Russian media reported on 4 April. The average monthly wage in Russia is 280,000 rubles, while the average for teachers is 180,000 rubles. Noting that the sector has received less than half the funds it needs, the congress urged parliament to pass legislation giving priority to science and education. It also called for amendments to the law on education to guarantee Russians free secondary education. The union leadership did not call on its workers to take part in the 12 April day of action but said it will stage protests, including warning strikes, later in the year if its demands are not met. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. BANKERS URGE AUTHORITIES TO FIGHT CRIME. The Association of Russian Banks, which unites more than 900 banks, has called on the president, government, and Duma to take steps to establish law and order in Russia, Interfax reported on 4 April. According to the association, more than 60 attempts have been made on the lives of bank managers and other personnel in the past three years; 31 people have been killed and 11 seriously injured. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL BANK RECALLS LICENSES FROM 14 BANKS. Russia's Central Bank recalled licenses from 14 banks, ten of which "violated the laws, pursued risky crediting policy, and operated at a loss," the Financial Information Agency reported on 4 April. Four banks announced mergers with other banks. Fifty banks have had their licenses revoked since the beginning of the year. There are about 2,500 commercial banks operating in Russia. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA TO LAUNCH INVESTMENT IMAGE CAMPAIGN. The Russian government, together with several leading Western corporations, will launch a campaign to improve the country's investment image on world markets, Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin told Interfax on 4 April. The decision resulted from a two-day Moscow meeting with working groups from the Investment Policy Council. The meeting was attended by Western corporation representatives including Coca Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Ernst & Young, BASF, Siemens, Mitsui, Mobil, Renault, British Petroleum, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Yasin, who chaired the meeting, estimated the cost of the promotion campaign at around $5 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. ECONOMIST ILLARIONOV SAYS ECONOMY CLOSE TO STABILIZATION. The Russian economy has never been so close to financial stabilization, according to Economic Analysis Institute director Andrei Illarionov, Interfax reported on 4 April. The economist predicted the ruble will not fall below 6,000 rubles to $1 and the Central Bank will have to take steps to steady the currency. Illarionov said that by mid-year, inflation could fall to 3% a month compared to 9% in March, 11% in February, and 18% in January. But to achieve that, the government must work hard to keep positive economic trends in motion, even though such efforts will result in falling incomes and rising unemployment. Illarionov said Russia's agreement with the IMF on a $6.3 billion standby credit is one of the main factors aiding financial stabilization. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. OSCE AS THE BASIS FOR NEW SECURITY ORDER IN EUROPE. The OSCE should form the basis for the security order in Europe, according to several Russian officials, speaking during U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry's visit to Moscow. Grachev said the security order in Europe "must be built around the OSCE with the participation of other existing bodies, including NATO," Interfax reported on 3 April. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin expressed a similar view. Meanwhile, a think piece on a new security model for 21st century Europe presented by the Russian delegation to the meeting of the OSCE Senior Council in Prague on 30-31 March said the organization's "transformation into an instrument of security and stability in Europe does not necessarily secure its formal leading role in any hierarchic system of organizations." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. KOKOSHIN: ENDING BUFFER ZONE DESTABILIZES EUROPE. Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin has argued that eastward expansion by NATO would create instability in Europe by removing the "semi- demilitarized zone which has now emerged in Central and Eastern Europe." Nezavismaya Gazeta reported on 4 April that Kokoshin believes it is "necessary to abandon the false impression that NATO expansion is inevitable and unavoidable." Rather, any new security order in Europe should be based on a broader basis than NATO including the development of bilateral relations. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KARIMOV MEETS WITH TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER. Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Kazi Akbar Turadzhonzoda, deputy chairman of the armed Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRP), met in Tashkent to discuss security in Central Asia and the situation in and around Tajikistan. Karimov called on the Tajik opposition to abandon military means of achieving their goals; Turadzhonzoda described the meeting as constructive, Interfax reported on 3 April. The meeting is likely to have raised some eyebrows in Tashkent as the Karimov leadership has gone to considerable lengths to ensure the defeat of the IRP in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and religious-based movements and organizations are banned in Uzbekistan. The IRP has been fighting against the neo- communist government in Dushanbe, which seized power in November 1992, from bases in Afghanistan while the Uzbek government has been a staunch supporter of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov. A ceasefire between the Tajik opposition and Tajik government forces has been in effect since September; it was due to expire in early March but was extended until 26 April to make possible continued negotiations. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. UZBEK CURRENCY EXCHANGE. Currency trading sessions were scheduled to begin on a biweekly basis in Uzbekistan on 4 April due to the expanded resource base of the market, Uzbek Central Bank deputy chairman Mahmudzhon Askarov told Interfax. Thirteen commercial banks are now authorized to handle foreign currency, up from six, and the republic's currency exchange sold around $140 million in the first three months of 1995, according to Askarov. The Central Bank forecasts an increase in its turnover to an estimated $1.2-1.5 billion, due to intensified trading at the currency exchange. -- Lowell Bezanis, 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. OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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