|Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs. - Mark Twain|
No. 72, Part I, 11 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 SAYS YELTSIN'S STAFF PREPARING FOR CAMPAIGN. Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov said the president's staff is working as if Yeltsin will seek a second term, NTV reported on 10 April. When asked what concrete steps the administration had taken, Filatov said the Kremlin is relying on the creation of strong political parties which "will be able to unite the voters with their ideas." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE STILL BEING CONSIDERED. The State Duma has not made a final decision on whether to hold a no-confidence vote in the government, Chairman Ivan Rybkin told Interfax on 10 April. Konstantin Zatulin, the chairman of the Committee for CIS Affairs, demanded that the item remain on the agenda in spite of the fact that Liberal Democratic Party members who signed the initial declaration had apparently withdrawn their support. Zatulin said a verbal statement by LDP leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky is not sufficient to delete the signatures and that each deputy had to submit a written statement. However, Rybkin said most Duma factions wanted to remove the item from the agenda. The LDP usually maintains strict party discipline within its faction. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ZYUGANOV REJECTS NO CONFIDENCE VOTE. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov called the proposed no-confidence vote untimely, Ekho Moskvy reported. Nineteen of the original 102 deputies who signed the proposal were Communists, including Vladimir Semago, Vitaly Sevostyanov, and Yury Sevenard, Interfax reported. Zyuganov was in India when the signatures were collected. He said such an important decision should be made by the party's leaders, not individual faction members or the faction as a whole. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL COMMITTEE REJECTS ELECTORAL LAW. The Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Law, Judicial, and Legal Issues recommended that the chamber turn down the electoral law passed by the Duma on 24 March, Interfax reported on 10 April. The committee said the draft law benefits "the Moscow region" rather than "the whole of Russia." The Council favors Yeltsin's proposal to elect 300 Duma deputies from single-member constituencies and only 150 from party lists, but the Duma's version maintains the current ratio of 225 deputies chosen by each method. Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko argued that since Russia's political parties were still "immature," party lists were almost entirely made up of Moscow politicians, Radio Mayak reported on 9 April. He said if the Duma wants elections to take place, it must be willing to compromise with the Council and the president on the electoral law. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. IZVESTIYA: CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION TO BECOME "GIANT BRAINWASHING MACHINE." An article in the 11 April edition of Izvestiya accused the executive branch of using the Central Electoral Commission to build a propaganda machine with powers "not seen since the days of the agitprop department of the CPSU Central Committee." A February 1995 presidential decree expanded the commission and authorized it to educate "all participants in the electoral process." Although the project was ostensibly designed to overcome voter apathy by making citizens aware of their constitutional rights, the author expressed skepticism that the commission would pursue purely educational goals. He noted that the State Press Committee, State Film Committee, and the Federal Radio and Television Broadcasting Service have been instructed to participate in the pre-election educational campaign. The author asserted that a "giant brainwashing machine," financed by the federal budget, would thus be controlled by the executive branch during an election year. In addition, he charged that the Russian Center for Training in Electoral Technology was created to prevent "untrained" citizens from working on election committees or counting votes. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIANS GAIN GROUND IN CHECHNYA. Following the capture of Samashki on 8 April, Russian forces took the villages of Achkoi-Martan and Zakan-Yurt the next day, Western agencies reported on 10 April quoting a Russian military spokesman. An international relief worker has corroborated refugees' reports of systematic human rights violations by Russian forces during the attack on Samashki. Also on 10 April, a Russian military spokesman said approximately 2,000 Russian troops have died in Chechnya over the past four months, Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. EU CONTINUES TO KEEP INTERIM TRADE ACCORD ON HOLD. At their 10 April meeting, the EU foreign ministers decided to keep the interim trade accord with Russia on hold, Western agencies reported. The accord had been put on ice to protest Russian actions in Chechnya. The EU's rotating presidency, currently held by France, said the Russian government had failed to honor any of the promises made at a meeting with an EU delegation in March. Those promises included a pledge to negotiate a ceasefire in Chechnya, begin talks to settle the conflict, allow unimpeded humanitarian aid, and accept a permanent OSCE mission in the republic. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CRIME-FIGHTERS EXPECT INCREASE IN CONTRACT KILLINGS. The number of contract killings will double every year, unless law-enforcement bodies undergo serious reforms, top crime-fighting officials told reporters in Moscow on 10 April. In 1994, 562 contract killings were recorded, in comparison with only 102 in 1992, according to Russian Television. Crime bosses and businessmen were the most likely to be killed. Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleg Gaidanov blamed inexperienced investigators for the crisis, and lax gun laws. He also asked the Federal Security Service--which was granted new investigative powers last week--for more help. Vladimir Kolesnikov, head of criminal investigations at the Interior Ministry, said Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika had caused turmoil in law enforcement, but he defended the police force, noting that nearly 100 officers had been killed investigating murders in recent years. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. AEROFLOT TO SUE STRIKERS. Aeroflot director-general Vladimir Tikhonov announced on 10 April that his company would take legal action against the Sheremetevo flight crew's union, which tried to organize a strike on 8 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. Tikhonov said that although the action had been called off, the airline had suffered serious financial losses after the union announced a pre-strike situation on 15 March. The company lost $500,000 in the U.S. alone. The union, which wants Aeroflot and the government to privatize the airline and set guidelines for future responsibilities, said it would begin a hunger strike on 14 April if talks with the government failed. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. PRIMORSKY MINERS CONTINUE STRIKE. Despite a government decision to release extra funds, miners in Primorsky Krai, who went on strike on 6 April, will continue their action until their wages are paid in full, Petr Kiryasov, chairman of the regional union committee, told Interfax on 10 April. The protest began with a hunger strike by 27 miners in the Avangard pit in Partizansk on 29 March; the last of the hunger strikers were hospitalized in serious condition on 7 April. On 10 April, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais announced that the government had sent 50 billion rubles to Primorsky Krai that day to subsidize the coal purchases of energy producers. The failure of the latter to pay their bills is a main reason for the coal industry crisis. Chubais said 250 billion rubles in subsidies would be granted in the second quarter of the year. He also accused regional governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko of deliberately exacerbating tension in the area, NTV reported. Meanwhile, the regional prosecutor's office has opened a case against the coal company Primorskugol, charging it with squandering federal budget funds. The company is reported to have spent 17.8 billion rubles, which were earmarked for boosting production, on commercial deals. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK ROUNDUP. On 10 April, Russian border guards were said to be in control of the Tajik-Afghan border, Interfax reported the same day. Earlier, the situation on the Pamir section was critical as reinforcements to border guards surrounded at Dashti-Yazulem were unable to get through from Khorog, the administrative center of Gorno- Badakhshan, which had also been under fire, according to official Russian sources. The commander of CIS peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan went on record as saying that his forces were not involved in rebuffing the attack; he also said the incident "proved" Tajik opposition forces were trying to cut Badakhshan off from central Tajikistan and make it a bridgehead for attacking government forces. The same day, Interfax also reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Albert Chernyshev denounced the latest events, saying they are undermining the inter-Tajik talks. He also condemned the Afghan authorities' connivance with the Tajik opposition in permitting attacks on border units and said events indicate that hard-liners are gaining the upper hand in the opposition. Islamic Renaissance Party leader Kazi Akbar Turadzhonzoda, who is in Paris, blamed the incident on Russian border guards. He said several hundred Tajik mujahadin were trapped by Russian border guards in the Vanch Valley some 40 km from the Tajik-Afghan border. "They coordinated their actions with the headquarters in Afghanistan and began breaking the blockade," he said. All sides registered their desire for the inter- Tajik talks to resume as soon as possible. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. POLIO EPIDEMICS IN UZBEKISTAN IN 1994. The Uzbek Health Care Ministry said 40% of the republic's children are not vaccinated against poliomyelitis, and as a result, 6 out of 12 provinces in the country witnessed epidemics of the disease in 1994, Interfax reported on 10 April. A mass immunization effort sponsored by WHO, UNICEF, and USAID was undertaken the same day. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN NEGOTIATIONS. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said negotiations with Ukraine are to continue next week, Interfax reported on 10 April. Soskovets said he disapproved of some Duma deputies' recent actions against Ukraine. He said the issue of dividing the Black Sea Fleet must be settled soon or the poorly maintained fleet will be completely lost within a year or two. He also said Ukraine would have to pay $600 million from its IMF credits to Russia for energy supplies. Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov said the Duma's intention to impose a moratorium on dividing the fleet is unreasonable. Interfax also reported that Ukraine and Russia are drawing up an agreement to deal with their Azov Sea border. Ukraine's Border Guards commander, Viktor Bannykh, said there is no agreement on the international status of the Kerch strait, although contacts between Ukrainian and Russian sea border guards have been good. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is likely to visit Moscow on 9 May, and Ukrainian radio reported that Crimean parliamentary speaker Serhii Tsekov has flown to Moscow on an official visit to the Duma. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. FUEL DEBT TO RUSSIA FROM CIS AND THE BALTICS INCREASES. The CIS countries' fuel debt to Russia has risen 2 trillion rubles in March to 13 trillion rubles, Interfax reported on 10 April. Ukraine's debt has increased to 8.8 trillion rubles from 7.1 trillion rubles. Belarus now owes 2 trillion rubles while the Baltics owe 635 billion rubles. Natural gas supplies comprise the bulk of the debt. Meanwhile, the Petroleum Information Agency reported that Russia will increase its price for oil supplied to the CIS in the second quarter to $112 from $108 per ton. -- 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. 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