|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 73, Part I, 12 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 VISITS KABARDINO-BALKARIA. President Yeltsin interrupted his vacation in Sochi on 11 April to visit Nalchik. In his talks with reporters, he said he had not made a decision on whether to seek re- election, Russian Public Television reported. However, Interfax quoted an anonymous source close to the president who said he would announce his intention to run again before the celebrations to commemorate the victory over the Nazis so that he can greet visiting dignitaries as "the most likely candidate to be president until the end of the century." Yeltsin said that, during his vacation, he is keeping in constant contact with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov (to prepare for the WWII celebration), and Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. Yeltsin said he is planning some personnel changes but did not give details, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA NOT TO VOTE ON CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT, FOR NOW. The Duma has left the issue of a no-confidence vote in the government off its agenda this week, acceding to Vladimir Zhirinovsky's decision to withdraw his support for the move, NTV reported 11 April. However, Sergei Glazev, leader of the Democratic Party of Russia, said he would raise the issue again on 13 April, Interfax reported. If a faction calls for a vote of no confidence, the Duma must consider the issue within a week. A group of Duma factions bringing together 130 deputies from Stability, Russia, New Regional Policy, and the Party of Russian Unity and Concord announced they would vote against any move to express no confidence in the government. Glazev called the initiative an "abrupt strengthening of the government's influence" in the Duma, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. POLTORANIN ON STATE FUNDING FOR MASS MEDIA. In an interview published in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 12 April, Duma Press and Information Committee Chairman Mikhail Poltoranin defended a law that would replace state subsidies for the mass media with tax breaks. The Duma approved the law in its third reading on 7 April. Poltoranin said the law would help the financial position of independent as well as state-owned publishing houses and TV and radio companies. He told Ekho Moskvy on 11 April that the law was passed quickly to counter the possibility of government interference in the mass media through subsidies. A similar law passed by the Duma last year was turned down in the Federation Council on the grounds that it would enable the Duma to gain monopoly control over the media by using the new funding system. Poltoranin denied those charges and claimed the law was passed "completely" for the benefit of journalists, to "broaden the freedom of the mass media" and give it an "economic base." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT PREDICTS DROP IN INFLATION; EXPERTS DISAGREE. Noting that the amount of cash in circulation grew by only 3% in the first quarter of 1995, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais predicted there will be a noticeable improvement in living standards by June, Interfax reported on 11 April. The same day, Ekho Moskvy reported Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin as saying inflation will be running at only 1- 1.5% a month by the end of the year. Labor Minister Gennady Melikyan, however, believes that inflation will soon be reduced to 4-5% a month but it will be difficult to maintain that rate. Interviewed in Izvestiya on 12 April, Economic Freedom Party leader Konstantin Borovoi and Vice President of the Association of Russian Banks Vyacheslav Zakharov rejected the government's forecast. Borovoi said talk of financial stabilization is "pure bluff," contending that a 1% inflation rate by year's end would result in 20 million unemployed and an intolerable level of social tension. Zakharov argues that the predictions are faulty because the government will be unable to cover the budget deficit with securities and will end up turning to the Central Bank for money to pay wages. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN MILITARY DENIES GRATUITOUS CRUELTY IN CHECHNYA. On 11 April, a spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry in Moscow rejected charges that the Russian assault on Samashki on 8 April caused heavy civilian casualties, ITAR-TASS reported. He claimed artillery attacks were directed only against resistance strongholds in forest areas west of the town. Also on 11 April, the Chechen defense council chaired by President Dzhokhar Dudaev issued a statement accusing Russia of gratuitous brutality and affirming its commitment to a peaceful solution, Reuters reported. Umar Avturkhanov, head of the Committee for National Accord, told Interfax he believes federal troops will succeed in neutralizing Dudaev's forces by mid-May. On 12 April, the Los Angeles Times quoted Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov, as charging that virtually all Russian troops in the city are guilty of looting and added that the Chechens "had exchanged one fascism for another." Moscow News reported that he has fallen out with his former opposition colleague Avturkhanov. On 11 April, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said the Chechen government of national revival is "very ineffective" and that federal authorities will have to teach its members--including Prime Minister Salambek Khadzhiev--many skills, Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. OSCE AGREES ON MANDATE FOR CHECHNYA MISSION. The OSCE Permanent Council agreed on 11 April to a mandate for an assistance group to be set up in Chechnya, an OSCE press release stated. The agreement had been delayed for several weeks while the Russian delegation awaited instructions from Moscow. Sandor Meszaros, the Hungarian diplomat appointed to head the mission, said the mandate will cover all of Chechnya and neighboring regions, international agencies reported. The mission will have the following tasks: the promotion of respect for human rights; fostering the development of democratic institutions; assistance in holding elections; facilitating aid delivery and the return of refugees; the promotion of a peaceful resolution to the crisis "in conformity with the principle of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation"; and help in restoring law and order. It will be based in Grozny and is to begin working in a "week or two," Meszaros said. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA SWEEPING MILITARY REFORM OUTLINED. The sweeping reform of the Russian military establishment said to have already been approved in principle by President Yeltsin was featured in the 11 April issue of Komsomolskaya pravda. The paper called the reform "complex and painful" and said implementation is likely to begin this summer. The process will take eight to 10 years. Under the new organization, the minister of defense would be a civilian who would formulate both "military and military-technical policy" and provide financial and logistic support to the armed forces. Current First Deputy Minister of Defense Andrei Kokoshin was named as a prospect for the newly defined post. Command and control of the armed forces would be vested in the general staff, and its chief would be directly subordinate to the president--not to the defense minister. The paper speculated that Col.-Gen. Andrei Nikolaev-- the current border troops commander--would fill that position. The high commands of the individual service would be eliminated and their functions taken over by smaller main directorates in the general staff. A reduction in the total strength of the armed forces would ensue, first to 1.5 million and then to 1.2 million, while the number of military districts would be cut from eight to six, and the Baltic and Black Sea Fleets would be eliminated. In light of the Chechnya conflict, the Internal Troops would be considerably strengthened. In a related matter, Interfax the same day reported that Yeltsin had ordered a government conference on "Military Reform in Russia" to be held in Moscow on 19-21 April. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. MORE CUTS IN ARMED FORCES THIS YEAR. The Russian armed forces will be reduced by 217,000 troops in 1995, following a cut of 385,000 the previous year, Col.-Gen. Mikhail Kolesnikov, the Chief of the Russian General Staff, told the Duma on 11 April. He also said the military cannot yet afford to transform itself into an all-professional force, Interfax reported. As examples, he explained that a contract office costs the state 12-15 million rubles a year compared to 3 million for a conscript soldier. "Such a burden of expenditures will break the state's spinal cord," he said. Kolesnikov praised the recent conscription law passed by the Duma which lengthens military service and eliminates a number of deferments. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. UPPER CHAMBER DEFEATS DUMA DRAFT RESTRICTIONS. The Federation Council has refused to support a 24 March Duma draft law which would have restricted conscripts to serving only in the armed forces or the border troops, Interfax reported on 11 April. Petr Shirshov, chairman of the Council's Security and Defense Committee, said, "If we prohibit the draft into the railway and interior ministry troops and other forces, our defenses, our security, and our statehood will be harmed," Interfax reported. Shirshov also revealed that his committee had unanimously approved the bill to increase military service and reduce deferments and indicated that the bill might be sent directly to President Yeltsin for signing without debate in the Council. Meanwhile, a group of Russian youth organizations called on students to participate in mass actions to protest the bill and threatened a nationwide students' strike. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN KILLED. The vice president of the commercial Yugorsky Bank, Vadim Yafyasov, was shot dead in Moscow on 11 April, Western agencies reported. Police gve no possible motives for the killing. Yafyasov is the latest victim in a series of contract killings that have claimed the lives of numerous businessmen, bankers, and journalists, including TV journalist Vladislav Listev and investigative reporter Dmitry Kholodov. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA TURKMENISTAN ON NEUTRALITY. Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov said President Saparmurad Niyazov has appealed to the international community to grant Turkmenistan the status of a neutral state, Interfax reported on 11 April. He claimed that his republic has the support of many Asian countries and that Ukraine, which participated in tri-partite talks on cooperation with Turkmenistan and Iran in Tehran on 8-9 April, also supports the idea. Shikhmuradov argued that Turkmenistan could be given the status of a neutral country on the basis of a 1907 international covenant defining neutrality. He said such status would not be incompatible with Turkmenistan's ties to the CIS. In other news, Indonesian President Suharto, who held talks with Niyazov on 11 April, expressed interest in purchasing more Turkmen cotton. Although no amount for the potential purchase has been cited, Turkmen cotton constitutes about 1% of all Indonesian imports. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. BORDER FORCES LAUNCH COUNTER-OFFENSIVE IN TAJIKISTAN. Russian helicopter gunships have been repeatedly flying attack missions along the Tajik border since the latest round of fighting erupted there on 9 April. The use of gunships has been vital at several besieged areas along the border with Afghanistan. Roads leading to some military posts have been mined or bombed by rebels, according to a Western source. Twenty-nine border guards and 170 rebels have died in five days. Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov has appealed to Moscow to increase its aid and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Albert Chernyshev said, "complimentary measures to reinforce the border will be taken," AFP reported. Rakhmonov also urged UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to put the matter before the UN Security Council. The UN envoy currently in Tajikistan, Ramiro Piriz-Ballon, had to call off a meeting with Tajik Islamic leader Said Abdulloh Nouri when one of the trucks in his convoy struck a land mine. The meeting was scheduled to take place in northeastern Afghanistan, AFP reported. Meanwhile, Radio Kabul said Russian aircraft had bombed positions in Afghanistan's Takhar province. Russia's air force command denied the report. -- Bruce Pannier, 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. 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