|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 69, Part I, 6 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 DUMA OVERTURNS YELTSIN'S VETO ON SAVINGS LAW. The State Duma has overturned a presidential veto, imposed for the second time, on a draft law on the restoration and protection of citizens' savings, Interfax reported on 5 April. The law was supported by 337 deputies, seven more than the minimum required. Communist deputy Viktor Zorkaltsev, chairman of the Committee for Public Associations and Religious Organizations, said the law "guarantees that the state recognizes its commitments to 70 million citizens, whose savings lost their value when economic reform began in 1992." He rejected Yeltsin's argument that the law will destabilize the country's economy, saying it is general in character and does not specify how the money should be repaid. When he vetoed the draft on 14 March, Yeltsin said the measure could boost the budget deficit by 500 trillion rubles. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DUMA DISCUSSES NO CONFIDENCE VOTE IN THE GOVERNMENT. An initiative group in the State Duma has collected more than 100 signatures in favor of holding a no confidence vote in the government, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 6 April. CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Zatulin initiated the move, citing two reasons. First, he argued that the Russian delegation at the negotiations with Ukraine, led by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, did not defend Russia's national interests. He was particularly incensed with the delay in Ukraine's repayment of its debts to Russia. Second, the government refused to cooperate with the Federal Assembly in the fight against crime, twice ignoring Duma no confidence votes in Interior Minister Viktor Yerin. Other deputies supporting the measure included Sergei Baburin, Anatoly Lukyanov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Yury Kalmykov, and Viktor Ilyukhin, Interfax reported. The issue will be discussed in the Duma by 13 April, Russian Radio reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE. President Yeltsin signed the bill on the Federal Security Service on 3 April, Interfax reported. It will come into force on the day of its publication. Under the law, approved by the Duma on 22 February, the Federal Counterintelligence Service will be renamed the Federal Security Service (FSB) and its powers will be broadened. The legislation has been harshly criticized: an article in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 30 March, for example, attacked it on the grounds that it could "reanimate the KGB." The article also speculated that Yeltsin's security chief, Alexander Korzhakov, might have instigated the reorganization and that he had designs on the post of director of the new service. For its part, Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 4 April that acting Prosecutor-General Alexei Ilyushenko is being considered as a candidate for the post--an appointment that does not require parliamentary confirmation. The Duma has repeatedly refused to confirm Ilyushenko as the country's chief prosecutor. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. INDEPENDENT TRADE UNIONS TO FORM ELECTORAL ALLIANCE WITH SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC UNION. Russian Social Democratic Union leader Vassily Lipitsky told Interfax on 4 April that his party has agreed to a proposal made by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions on forming an electoral alliance, Interfax reported on 4 April. The federation has also asked the Communists, the Agrarians, the Socialist Party of Working People, the Federation of Manufacturers, and Women of Russia to join the alliance. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DUMA PASSES DRAFT LAW ON CHECHNYA SETTLEMENT. The Duma approved on its first reading a draft law to settle the Chechen crisis, Russian and Western agencies reported on 5 April. Communist Vladimir Semago described the vote as an opportunity to end Russia's "national shame," Interfax reported. The law would intruct the government to begin negotiations with the Chechen authorities and would create a commission to oversee peace talks. In addition, the draft would grant amnesty to Chechen fighters in exchange for a permanent ceasefire. The law passed by a vote of 228 to 56, with most dissent coming from Agrarians and the Liberal Democratic Party, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 6 April. A second reading will take place in mid-April. Meanwhile, human rights advocate Sergei Kovalev blamed the Russian government for consistently rejecting peace initiatives and warned that violence in Chechnya could continue for years if a settlement is not reached soon, Russian Radio reported on 5 April. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA SUSPENDS PRIVATIZATION OF MASS MEDIA. By an overwhelming majority, the Duma passed a law suspending all privatization of state-owned television and radio companies until special rules are outlined, Russian and Western agencies reported on 5 April. Specifically, the law freezes all funding for the partly private Russian Public Television company, which was declared invalid and was prohibited from broadcasting on Channel One. Even if approved by the Federation Council, the law is almost certain to be vetoed by President Yeltsin, who ordered the restructuring of state-run Ostankino TV in November 1994. Advocates of the plan say bloated management and unpaid bills at Ostankino justified creating the new partly private television company. Critics have charged that the restructuring, which was carried out in secret, was designed to give the government control over television during an election year. On 1 April, Russian Public Television began broadcasting on Channel One, which is the only network reaching approximately 200 million viewers throughout the former Soviet Union. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN ENCOURAGES LAND OWNERSHIP . . . The Russian government intends to continue agricultural reform, primarily in the area of marketing land, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said in an address to the All Russian Assembly of Peasants in Moscow on 5 April, Interfax reported. The minister said the most urgent government task, according to the medium-term program for 1995-97, is to grant all landowners certificates of ownership. Land auctions will held to facilitate the process. The government will also discuss a draft law to permit the sale of land now occupied by enterprises. Chernomyrdin said measures will be taken to keep insolvent agricultural enterprises afloat, but first Russia must "defeat inflation in order to lower prices and attract investments into industry as well as raise efficiency." He stressed that neither the economy as a whole, nor individual sectors, including the agro-industrial complex, can survive with the current inflation rate. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. ... . . WHILE PEASANTS' ASSEMBLY OBJECTS. Meanwhile, delegates to the assembly said they support equality of ownership and land use but objected to private ownership and called for a ban on the sale of land, including small garden lots and summer houses owned by city residents, Interfax reported on 5 April. In a draft document, the Peasants' Assembly called for the right to obtain tracts of land for use and ownership in order to organize and develop peasant and farm households. In addition, the assembly called upon President Boris Yeltsin and the government to provide funds to carry out the spring sowing and introduce the necessary economic regulations within three days. Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, who also chairs the Coordinating Council of Agricultural Collective Activities, said he will organize a national peasant strike if the demands are not met by 10 May. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN MINISTRIES TO COORDINATE CASPIAN POLICY. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Fuel and Energy Minister Yury Shafranik have agreed at a special meeting to pursue a coordinated policy in future with regard to major Caspian shelf oil and gas projects, Interfax's Petroleum Information Agency reported on 4 April. The move is clearly intended to preclude a repeat of last year's disagreement over Russian participation in the international consortium to exploit three Azerbaijani offshore oil fields. The two ministers reaffirmed their commitment to forming a coordinating committee of all Caspian littoral states and supporting Iranian participation in international Caspian oil and gas projects. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW ARMENIAN CATHOLICOS ELECTED. The Armenian National Church Council elected Syrian-born Catholicos Garegin II as the new head of the Armenian church on 4 April to succeed Vazgen I, who died in August 1994, Interfax reported. Garegin II heads the rival diaspora Cilician Catholicosate in Lebanon, which has strong links with the Armenian opposition Dashnak party. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta on 11 March, Garegin II was the preferred candidate of Armenian President Levon Ter- Petrossyan, who hopes he will contribute to overcoming internal divisions within the Armenian church and to strengthening ties between Armenia and the diaspora. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. GAMSAKHURDIA FACTION TO CONTEND GEORGIAN ELECTIONS. The Round Table/Free Georgia coalition created in 1990 by Georgia's late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia will field candidates in the October 1995 Georgian parliamentary elections, Interfax reported on 5 April quoting Vakhtang Bochorishvili, one of the faction's leaders. The faction has recently instituted an award named after the late president, the first recipient of which is Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. TURKEY CRITICIZED BY LDP. The Liberal Democratic Party faction in the State Duma has protested against Turkey's foray into northern Iraq, Interfax reported on 5 April. The LDP condemned the UN and NATO for their alleged indifference to the violation of the borders of a sovereign state and claimed, "The Turkish war machine has long conducted genocide in northern Kurdistan. Now, with the whole 'civilized' and 'democratic' world watching, it is victimizing people who are not even Turkish citizens." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. PERRY VISITS ALMATY. U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry arrived in Almaty on 4 April to hold talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev on various issues including the continued reduction of Kazakhstan's nuclear arms, conversion of military facilities to consumer industries, and U.S. aid, Interfax reported. Perry seemed satisfied with progress on dismantling nuclear weapons, noting that Kazakhstan is two to three months ahead of schedule. The U.S. will give Kazakhstan $37 million for conversion of defense industries ($15 million from the Nunn-Lugar program and the additional $22 million from four U.S. firms). The U.S. will also continue to buy uranium from Kazakhstan as it did in December 1994 when 600 kilograms were purchased, AFP reported. Perry also commented on the referendum to extend Nazarbayev's term saying, "The president reaffirmed to me . . . he is committed to moving Kazakhstan towards democracy." A senior official, traveling with Perry warned, "If we see in Kazakhstan a narrowing and constricting of the political process rather than the opposite, it will over time cause a reduction in confidence," Reuters reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CIS RUSSIAN DEPUTY TEARS UKRAINIAN FLAG IN DUMA. In protest over Kiev's recent moves to take control of Crimea, Duma deputy Nikolai Lysenko, a member of the right-wing National Republican Party, tore up a Ukrainian flag in the legislature and threw its shreds at parliamentary speaker Ivan Rybkin, international agencies reported on 5 April. The incident almost started a fight in the Duma when some deputies had to be restrained from advancing on Lysenko. The Duma then voted to deprive Lysenko of his right to speak in parliament until 26 April. Vladimir Zhirinovsky and members of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, however, supported Lysenko. There was no immediate response from Kiev to the incident which was broadcast on television throughout Russia and Ukraine. The speaker of Ukraine's parliament, Oleksandr Moroz, urged parliament not to issue an official statement condemning the action saying that would only draw attention to the event. Moroz also praised the Duma for condemning Lysenko's action and taking steps to reprimand the deputy. -- 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. 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