|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 71, Part I, 10 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 RUSSIA'S CHOICE FOR ELECTORAL ASSOCIATION. The Russia's Choice political council proposed creating a coalition of "democratic and centrist organizations" for the upcoming parliamentary elections, Interfax reported on 9 April. Although most Russia's Choice members broke with President Boris Yeltsin in December over his handling of the Chechen crisis, the council invited the president to "take an active part" in forming the democratic electoral bloc. It advocated nominating only one democratic, pro-reform candidate in each electoral constituency. Meanwhile, State Duma deputy and Russia's Choice member Vladimir Ryzhkov suggested the group hopes to cooperate with a broad range of political forces during the campaign. Ryzhkov named Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin, Yeltsin's Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais as possible leaders of a democratic electoral association, Interfax reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA DROPS NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE FROM AGENDA. Duma Chairman Rybkin said the no-confidence vote in the government had been dropped from the agenda at the legislature's 7 April session, Interfax reported. The planned vote was dropped after 31 deputies from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Faction withdrew their support for the move. The deputies dropped out because of disputes over several issues, including the vote to deprive Sergei Mavrodi of his deputy's immunity and the introduction of changes in the law on military service. The withdrawal of Zhirinovsky's supporters meant the motion lost the necessary 90 signatures. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. STABILITY DEPUTY GROUP FORMS MOVEMENT. The new Stability faction in the Duma has created a political movement called Stable Russia, Interfax reported on 9 April. Eighty-eight delegates from 58 regions attended the movement's founding conference in Moscow on 9 April. One source at the conference told Interfax the movement's goal is "to find ways to solve the cardinal problems of the country's future development and unite efforts for the sake of general accord and the transformation of Russia." Yeltsin's advisers helped set up the Stability parliamentary faction to give the president more support in the Duma. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. FOUNDER OF AGRARIAN PARTY STABBED TO DEATH. Sergei Kushnyarov, a founding member of the Agrarian Party, was stabbed to death on 6 April at his home outside Moscow, Reuters reported the following day. A spokesman for the police said it was probably a contract killing and might have been connected with a commercial dispute. Kushnyarov was not a member of parliament but remained active in the Agrarian Party. The main Department of Internal Affairs of the Moscow region said on 7 April that in the first quarter of 1995, the number of murders there had increased by 30% over the same period of 1994, Interfax reported. Also on 7 April, Maj.-Gen. Vasily Kuptsov of Moscow's criminal police said a gang of contract killers suspected of murdering more than 40 people had been rounded up, Russian and Western agencies reported. The 10-member gang is from the Siberian city of Novokuznetsk; most of their victims were businessmen or rival gang members. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MAVRODI'S WIFE TO RUN FOR DUMA SEAT. Yelena Mavrodi, the wife of MMM investment company head and parliamentary deputy Sergei Mavrodi, will run for the seat in the Kolomna constituency of Moscow Oblast formerly represented by the late Sergei Skorochkin, who was assassinated in February, Kommersant-Daily reported on 7 April. Yelena Mavrodi, a 25- year-old former photo model, is the only woman among the 17 candidates and the youngest contender. She must gather 5,250 signatures of support before 17 April to register. Other prominent figures who have shown interest in the seat include the "fascist" Alexei Vedenkin, Officers' Union head Stanislav Terekhov, and cosmonaut German Titov. Also on 7 April, the Duma turned down a request by acting Prosecutor-General Alexei Ilyushenko to lift Sergei Mavrodi's immunity and thus clear the way for his prosecution on charges of tax evasion, Interfax reported. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DUMA APPROVES LONGER CONSCRIPTION. On 7 April the State Duma passed legislation that would extend the draft to two years from the present 18 months, Interfax reported. It will also require college graduates who had received deferrals to serve one year as privates, while those attending schools with military training will serve one year under contract, after which they will be transferred to the reserves as officers. The new rules will take effect on 1 October if they are passed by the Federation Council and signed by the president. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. NEW RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE IN CHECHNYA. On 8 April, Russian troops took the west Chechen town of Samashki, one of the last outposts of resistance, after two days' bombardment in which hundreds of civilians were killed, Russian and Western agencies reported. On 9 April, Russian tanks launched an offensive against two other villages east of Grozny in violation of an agreement that the population would expel supporters of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev in return for immunity from a Russian attack, according to AFP. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. OVER 500 OFFICERS REFUSED CHECHNYA DUTY. Lt.-Gen. Yevgeny Vysotsky, who heads the General Staff's personnel department, said on 7 April that 557 officers had refused to serve in Chechnya. He told ITAR-TASS they had been dismissed from the service. Three former deputy defense ministers who had criticized the fighting--generals Gromov, Mironov, and Kondratev--were not among them, the agency added. Vysotsky said the most common reason for the officers' reticence was a lack of confidence in the personnel under their command. He branded that as "cowardice and non-fulfillment of the oath of allegiance." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. WORLD BANK APPROVES LOAN TO CLEAN UP KOMI OIL SPILL. The World Bank said on 7 April that it had concluded negotiations with the Russian government on a $99 million emergency loan to help clean up oil spilled last autumn from a ruptured pipeline in the northern republic of Komi, Western agencies reported. The EBRD and the Komineft group, which uses the pipeline, will contribute $25 million and $16 million respectively to the project. A World Bank statement said about 730,000 barrels of oil (about 100,000 tons) leaked from the pipeline last year and the spring thaw could result in the contamination of rivers and water supplies. The plan will involve building containment structures before the thaw to keep the oil from spreading, continuing clean-up operations, and tightening security around the pipeline. The bank warned the project is unlikely to be completely successful but said partial success is better than inaction. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT PLANS TO RAISE INCOME TAX. The government plans to raise income taxes on individuals and lower company taxes, State Tax Service head Vladimir Gusev told reporters on 7 April, according to Western agencies. He said the tax burden on individuals was relatively low and the rate for the highest earners should be raised to 50-60%. The current rate is 12% on salaries of less than 10 million rubles, 20% for salaries of 10-50 million rubles, and 30% for higher earners. Gusev also said some foreign companies recently hit by a 38% excess wages tax on all wages over 125,000 rubles a month would be given an extra six months in which to pay. Foreign companies were outraged when the government announced in March its intention to apply the tax retroactively to 1 January 1994 to foreign firms with representative offices in Russia. Subsidiaries of foreign firms and joint ventures had always been subject to the tax, but representative offices had been exempt. Gusev agreed the tax is undesirable but said it will be kept in place until next year. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA IRAN CUT OUT OF AZERBAIJANI OIL DEAL? Iran News has alleged that Azerbaijan's national oil concern SOCAR, which had sold 25% of its own stake in the Caspian Sea oil drilling project to Iran's National Oil Company (NIOC) last February, has reneged on its promise, AFP reported on 8 April. The stake is portion of the total shares held by an international consortium led by British Petroleum and Norway's Statoil and including U.S., Saudi, Russian, and Turkish interests. The Iranian paper termed the move a "hostile gesture" and accused leaders in Azerbaijan of having "pocketed U.S. dollars" to push NIOC aside. It went on to say that Iran could be prompted to stop backing Baku in its territorial conflict with Armenia and could oppose the project on legal grounds by arguing that the exploitation of the Caspian Sea resources requires the approval of all littoral states, as Russia has argued. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, without elaborating, told the official Iranian news agency IRNA that "the unilateral cancellation of the oil agreement between Iran and Azerbaijan was against Baku's interest," Western news agencies reported on 10 April. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. WORST FIGHTING OF YEAR IN TAJIKISTAN. The heaviest fighting so far in 1995 occurred 7 April in several areas along the Tajik-Afghan border, Interfax reported. On 7 April, 14 Kazakh and five Tajik border guards were killed in a six-hour battle. Tajik opposition forces attempted to cross from Afghanistan into the Pyanj, Moskovsky, Yazgulyam, and Khorog areas. At the Dashti-Yazgulem border post, near Khorog, four Russian soldiers were killed in fighting on 9 April, AFP reported. The Tajik government appealed to the UN and the CIS to take emergency measures to stabilize the problem on the border, according to Reuters. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. ATTACKS ON RUSSIAN FACILITIES IN TBILISI. The Algeti Wolves, a hitherto unknown group, opened fire on Russian military headquarters in Tbilisi in the early morning of 9 April to protest the Russian military intervention in Chechnya, the attack on Georgian demonstrators in Tbilisi on 9 April 1989, and the recently signed agreement on Russian military bases in Georgia, Russian and Western agencies reported. Also on 9 April, unknown attackers blew up the guard post outside the Russian ambassador's residence in Tbilisi. The Georgian government, in a statement broadcast by Radio Tbilisi, condemned the incident as a "terrorist attack." -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. SUHARTO IN UZBEKISTAN. As part of a six-day tour of Central Asia aimed at increasing trade and cooperation, Indonesian President Suharto, accompanied by a 160-strong entourage including some 26 businessmen, arrived in Tashkent on 8 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. The same day, Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Suharto signed a declaration on bilateral cooperation in tourism and air communication, Interfax reported on 9 April. The deal will permit Uzbekistan Airways to open a Tashkent-Jakarta link next month, as planned, paving the way for more commercial contact and for Indonesian pilgrims to visit various holy sites in Uzbekistan. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS DUMA WOULD HALT BLACK SEA TRANSFERS. The State Duma passed a bill on 7 April that calls for a moratorium on any reduction of the Black Sea Fleet "until problems between Russia and Ukraine over the fleet are resolved, Interfax reported. The law will also apply to coastal defense units and the fleet's aviation as well as the fleet's shore-based infrastructure. The Federation Council must still act on the measure. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. DUMA TO DEBATE SEVASTOPOL'S STATUS. The State Duma backed a proposal by deputy Alexei Zvyagin of the Liberal Democratic Party to debate the legality of Sevastopol's transfer to Ukraine, Interfax reported on 7 April. Zvyagin also proposed debating the introduction of sanctions against Ukraine, holding a no-confidence vote in First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets for his policies towards Ukraine, and asking President Yeltsin to cancel his plans to visit Ukraine. None of the motions passed. The following day, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Henadii Udovenko told Interfax that while he thought Russian interests in Crimea should be discussed, he is opposed to a Duma debate on Sevastopol's status. -- 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. To receive the OMRI Daily Digest by mail or fax, please direct inquiries to OMRI Publications, Na Strzi 63, 140 62 Prague 4, Czech Republic; or electronically to OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Tel.: (42-2) 6114 2114; fax: (42-2) 426 396 OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ
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