The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde
OMRI DAILY DIGEST No. 74 Part I, 13 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: RUSSIA WORKERS ACROSS RUSSIA PROTEST UNPAID WAGES. Hundreds of thousands of workers throughout Russia attended rallies on 12 April to protest the nonpayment of wages and falling living standards in what Nezavisimaya gazeta of 13 April called the most powerful political action by trade unions in recent years. The day of action was organized by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia to protest the government's failure to fulfill promises made after earlier rallies on 27 October 1994. Demonstrators called on the government to pay its debts, index wages, promote domestic industry, and save jobs. Many also called on the government to resign. According to figures provided by the unions, 500,000 people rallied in the Russian Far East, where the economic situation is particularly bad, Russian and Western agencies reported. In Samara Oblast, marchers carried coffins to represent the death of the defense industry there; in Buryatia, television stations went off the air for two hours; in St. Petersburg, an estimated 60,000 protesters marched down Nevsky Prospekt; and in Moscow, 4,000-5,000 people, including many Communists, picketed government buildings. According to the union, a total of 1.5 million people took part in the protest, but law enforcement officers argued that those estimates were way too high, Russian Public Television reported. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS DUMA LAWS ON ELECTING PRESIDENT, DUMA. The Federation Council rejected a bill on presidential elections by a vote of 95 to 11 with six abstentions, Interfax reported. The draft law had been approved by the Duma on 24 March. The Council added several amendments to the bill which will now be discussed in a conciliatory committee. The Duma can overcome the upper house vote and send the bill to the president with the support of 300 deputies. The Council objected to several features of the bill, including a provision allowing the Central Electoral Commission to set the date of the election if the Council fails to do so. The upper house also wanted to reduce the number of signatures a candidate needs to collect from 1.5 million to 500,000. It further argued that campaign expenses should be covered by the federal budget to give each candidate an equal chance. The Council also rejected the bill on Duma elections by a vote of 113 to 11 with six abstentions, arguing that fewer than half of the Duma deputies should be elected by party list. The president's chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, said President Boris Yeltsin would not veto the Duma bill. However, Yelena Mizulina, vice-chairwoman of the Council's Committee for Constitutional Legislation and Judicial Issues, said she hoped the two houses would find a compromise. Less than 300 deputies in the lower house had voted for each of the electoral laws. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURES. The Constitutional Court ruled that the phrase "overall number of deputies" in the constitution means 450 for the Duma and that the chamber needs a majority of 226 deputies to pass a law, Radio Ekho Moskvy reported on 12 April. The ruling is important because, until now, the Duma has adopted laws with a majority of the number of deputies actually sitting in the house rather than the number of seats provided for in the constitution. Several seats have been vacant because of invalid elections and, more recently, murders. Ivan Rybkin, for example, was elected Duma chairman with only 223 votes. The court ruled that its decision is not retroactive. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA APPROVES COMPROMISE ON MINIMUM WAGE. Deputies voted unanimously on 12 April in favor of a plan presented by Labor Minister Gennady Melikyan that raises the minimum wage from 20,500 rubles a month to 34,400 retroactive to 1 April and increases it again to 43,300 as of 1 May, Russian and Western agencies reported. Ending a long battle with the government, the Duma rejected a Communist proposal to override the veto imposed by Yeltsin in February on an earlier bill passed by parliament that would have raised the minimum from 20,500 to 54,100 rubles. Yeltsin had said such an increase was unthinkable in the current economic situation. It had also been viewed as an obstacle to a large IMF loan, which was officially approved on 11 April. Commenting on the latest, compromise decision, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said it will cost the government an extra 3 trillion rubles. "It will be difficult, but we will find the money," he said. Melikyan said the most important aspect of the change is that it will ease the tax burden on companies, which must pay taxes on wages that amount to more than six times the minimum, Radio Rossii reported. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. IMF GIVES OFFICIAL APPROVAL TO STANDBY LOAN. The IMF board of directors officially approved a $6.25 billion standby loan to Russia on 11 April, Interfax reported the next day. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais said, "Russia's Finance Ministry will receive the first installment totaling $1.1 billion before the end of this April." Russia will receive about $500 million a month through the end of this year. Chubais said the loan will help in negotiations with the Paris Club to restructure Moscow's debt. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE FALLS BELOW 5,000 MARK. The ruble continued its inexorable slide against the U.S. dollar, dropping below the 5,000 mark on 12 April, Western and Russian agencies reported. The ruble closed at 5,008 to $1 on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, down from 4,991 on 11 April. Bankers and dealers were generally optimistic, noting that the decline had been gradual, that it was in line with Central Bank policy, and that it would boost exports. The strong dollar does, however, make life more difficult for the average Russian by increasing the price of imports. Alexander Livshits, President Yeltsin's economic adviser, said the 5,000 mark is a purely "symbolic figure that means nothing," ITAR-TASS reported. He said the fall in inflation (from 18% in January to 9% in March) would make ruble operations more profitable and predicted an "unenviable future" for the dollar, warning people not to save in that currency. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. PANSKOV: INDEXING SAVINGS WOULD TAKE YEARS. Russian Finance Minister Panskov announced that it would take years to index savings in line with inflation as required in a law passed by the Duma, Interfax reported on 12 April. President Yeltsin rejected the savings law twice, but the Duma overturned his veto on 5 April, promising to restore the value of citizens' savings deposited before rapid economic reforms began in January 1992. Panskov said the law would increase Russia's internal debt by 500 trillion rubles. He added that even if 5% of budget revenues were spent on indexing savings, it would take 50 years to pay off everyone guaranteed protection under the law. Panskov said the deputies who voted for it had mainly "their own goals" in mind. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DECREE ON FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE GOES INTO EFFECT. The decree on transforming the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) into the Federal Security Service (FSB) went into effect following its publication in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 12 April, Interfax reported. Current FSK director Sergei Stepashin will head the FSB, and the FSK's approximately 75,000 employees will be transferred to the new agency automatically. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin praised the decree, which he said constructed a legal foundation for the activities of Russia's security service for the first time, Russian Radio reported. Ilyukhin added that the Duma had substantially revised the decree, making it "more democratic" and "more specific." The decree substantially broadens the authority of the security service, particularly in connection with fighting organized crime. Critics have warned that the new agency's powers will be comparable to those of the KGB and could be used to curtail civil liberties in Russia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MORE POLITICAL SPARRING OVER CHECHNYA. The Duma overwhelmingly approved the third reading of a draft law on settling the Chechen crisis, Ekho Moskvy reported on 12 April. The law prohibits the use of the Russian armed forces inside the country and instructs the government to begin peace talks with the Chechen fighters immediately. Duma Chairman Rybkin told Ekho Moskvy he was optimistic that President Yeltsin would sign the law, since its main points had already been approved by government representatives in preliminary discussions. However, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said a new parliamentary commission on peace talks in Chechnya was unnecessary and would only "confuse" matters, since "there is no one to hold talks with" in Chechnya and Russia's main military campaign there is over, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev announced that new conscripts into the Russian armed forces would not be sent to Chechnya, Interfax reported on 12 April. -- Laura Belin and Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA REBELS PRESS OFFENSIVE, GRACHEV SAYS NO MORE RUSSIAN TROOPS. Defense Minister Grachev, speaking in Irkutsk on 12 April, said, "I have no intention to increase the number of Russian border guards in Tajikistan," Interfax reported. One Russian official said the rebels trying to take power are increasingly well-coordinated but the Russian border troops commander, General Anatoly Chechulin, said, "We will resist all attacks, even if it means a blood bath," AFP reported. The UN tried to negotiate a ceasefire between the commanders of the Russian border guards and leaders of the Islamic opposition, but the attempt was inconclusive. The UN Security Council has criticized the Tajik opposition for violating the ceasefire agreement signed in Tehran last September, Reuters reported. The Russian Duma was unanimous in its condemnation of recent events, calling the actions "treacherous," according to Interfax. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. TAJIK REBELS MAKE DEMANDS, AFGHANS PROTEST RUSSIAN BOMBING. As fighting along the Tajik-Afghan border worsens, spokesmen for the Tajik opposition have put forth their proposals for ending the bloodshed. On 12 April, rebels called on Moscow to replace the Russian-backed Tajik president, Emomali Rakhmonov, with an interim government. Speaking from Kabul, Tajik rebel leader Davlat Usman, said, "The key to the problem lies with the Russians. If they want, the problem can be solved through negotiations," a Western source reported. Meanwhile, Kabul Radio continued to report bombing raids in northern Afghanistan by Russian planes. In a broadcast monitored in Islamabad, the station claimed Russian planes dropped 20 bombs in the Zaftal district of Badakhshan province on 11 April causing civilian casualties, Reuters reported. The Russian government continues to deny that charge but Vladimir Zhirinovsky congratulated "the valiant Russian pilots who bombed out one of the gangster lairs in Afghanistan," according to Interfax. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CILLER IN BAKU. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller arrived in Baku on 11 April to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev that will raise Turkey's stake in a $7.4 billion deal to develop oil fields in the Caspian Sea, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Discussions between Ciller and Aliev will center on the route of an oil pipeline, loans to Azerbaijan, and "ways to intensify military cooperation in light of closer military ties between Russia and Armenia," Interfax reported on 11 April. Turkey paid an estimated $70 million to acquire 5% of Azerbaijan's original 20% share in the deal. Ciller noted that Turkey was signing the contract "not for oil, but for the future of Azerbaijan," which she called "my second homeland," AFP reported on 12 April. Aliev expressed his support for a Turkish proposal that would involve constructing a pipeline through Turkey; Russia has opposed it, claiming security considerations, time, and cost dictate export from Russia's port of Novorossiisk. The chief of Turkey's pipeline company, Hayrettin Uzun, said the two proposals are not alternatives but rather a complimentary system, Reuters reported on 12 April. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. MORE MOVES TO EXPLOIT KOKDUMALAK. The Uzbek government ratified a credit agreement with the Export-Import bank of Japan on 31 March for an $85 million loan which is to be used to finance the development of the Kokdumalak oil and gas field, Interfax reported on 12 April. The field, Uzbekistan's largest, is projected to yield 200 million tonnes of crude oil and gas condensate a year. Its cost is estimated at $160 million; financing is to come from Uzbek government sources (15%) and from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, with which Tashkent concluded an agreement last month -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. TURKMENISTAN'S POPULATION. Preliminary results of a census conducted 10- 20 January in Turkmenistan indicate that 4,000,460 people live in the republic, 54% of whom dwell in rural areas. About 30,000 more women live in the republic than men, Interfax reported on 12 April. -- 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. 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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