|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 76, Part I, 18 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 CONFIRMS THAT ELECTIONS WILL BE HELD ON SCHEDULE. "In my speech to the Federation Assembly, I stressed that the elections will take place in the period dictated by the constitution. I have no intention of changing this position," President Boris Yeltsin told ITAR-TASS on 15 April as he wrapped up his vacation in Sochi. Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov told Interfax on 17 April that the "irreconcilable opposition" had started rumors that the elections would be postponed because it was to their advantage "to keep society in a state of lack of confidence and even fear for the future." Yeltsin's legal aide Mikhail Krasnov also ruled out the possibility of holding a referendum on prolonging the terms in office of the president and the parliament, describing the idea as "absolutely unreal." Filatov said it is still to early to say whether or not Yeltsin will run because the electoral law has not been adopted yet, Vremya reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW DUMA INITIATES LEGISLATION ON EXTREMISM. The Moscow City Duma has sent a bill outlawing extremist groups to the State Duma for adoption as a federal law, Russian Radio and Interfax reported. The bill proposes shutting down parties that "publicly call for establishing dictatorship, overthrowing the constitutional system by force, warmongering, setting up armed units, and fanning social, racial, ethnic, and religious strife." Moscow Duma deputy Yevgeny Proshechkin said there are more than 100 extremist organizations and 200 extremist publications in the country. He said Yeltsin's decree on fighting fascism is not sufficient because it is not a law. He believes the current State Duma will not pass the bill on extremism, but that by rejecting it, the chamber will show "who is who." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA AMENDS ITS PROCEDURES FOR VOTING NO CONFIDENCE IN THE GOVERNMENT. The State Duma has amended its regulations to prevent political factions from calling for a no-confidence vote in the government, Interfax reported on 14 April. The initiation of such a vote will now require the support of at least 90 deputies. The Democratic Party of Russia had earlier declared its intention to place a no-confidence vote on the agenda, but Communist deputy Vladimir Bokov, a member of the Procedural Committee, pointed out that the faction only has eight members, a number he considers too small for deciding such an important issue. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. SPIRITUAL HERITAGE ASSOCIATION FORMS BLOC WITH COMMUNISTS. The Spiritual Heritage Association, a patriotic movement committed to "leading Russia out of the crisis" and "defending the interests and rights of Russians," joined an electoral bloc with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Russian Public Television reported on 14 April. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said recent regional elections demonstrated the need for cooperation among all patriotic forces, Segodnya reported on 15 April. Alexei Podberezkin, a leader of Spiritual Heritage, praised the Communists for their commitment to patriotic values. Podberezkin added that his association's decision to form the electoral bloc was influenced by the idea that "if you have to join someone, it should be the strongest." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRATIC REFORM PLANS ELECTION STRATEGY. Representatives from 40 Russian regions met in Moscow to plan election strategy for the Movement for Democratic Reform, Russian Radio reported on 16 April. Former Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov, the leader of the movement, sharply criticized Russia's current "anti-democratic" and "bureaucratic" regime and said his movement's most important task would be to convince voters not to ignore the elections, Interfax reported the same day. Board members invited all political groups to help form public election committees to ensure that parliamentary and presidential elections are held on schedule in December 1995 and June 1996. At the same time, although he did not rule out cooperation with like-minded political forces, Popov said the Movement for Democratic Reform intended to run for parliament independently, Russian Radio reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. ARMS FIRM ACCUSED OF FRAUD. The Prosecutor's Office has initiated legal proceedings against Rosvooruzhenie for tax evasion and illegal foreign currency dealings, Radio Rossii reported on 15 April. The weapons company, which has a monopoly on the import and export of arms in Russia, has been accused of concealing profits of 137 billion rubles ($27.4 million), thus depriving the state of 44 billion rubles in taxes, and carrying out foreign currency transactions worth $90 million without a license from the Central Bank. According to Reuters on 17 April, Russia exported $1.7 billion worth of arms and military equipment in 1994. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. LABOR MINISTRY SAYS NUMBER OF POOR INCREASING. About 30% to 40% of Russians earn less than the 249,000 rubles a month viewed as the average minimum subsistence level, Reuters reported on 17 April, citing Vyacheslav Bobkov, head of the All-Russian Center for Living Standards attached to the Labor Ministry. According to Ekho Moskvy, the number of Russians living below the poverty line increased in the first quarter of this year. On 12 April, the Duma approved at the second reading a draft law on the subsistence minimum that would entitle those on low incomes to receive state benefits, Interfax reported. The benefit would be equal to the difference between a family's average per capita income and the official subsistence minimum, which the draft legislation sets at 40% of the average wage. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW PROMOTES INDEFINITE EXTENSION OF THE NPT. Russia will promote the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at the international review conference which opened on 17 April, Interfax reported. Mikhail Kokeyev, a Russian Foreign Ministry official, said the treaty, while not perfect, is the best one available. He said Russia, the U.S., and the U.K. have a common position supporting the treaty. He added that he thought a majority of the treaty's adherents will support an indefinite extension but conference organizers are especially concerned about the reservations of Israel, Mexico, and the Arab countries toward the treaty. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV: RUSSIA CANNOT IMPLEMENT CFE. Russia requires a "stable setting" to implement the CFE treaty, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev told Interfax on 16 April. He said the situation has changed significantly in the Northern Caucasus since the treaty was signed and the "leaders of the former Soviet Union did a wrong thing agreeing to sign this document." Grachev said there are ways to circumvent the treaty but said he preferred to revise it. He said Russia cannot observe all of the flank restrictions agreed to by the former Soviet Union. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. SCIENTISTS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER IRANIAN NUCLEAR DEAL. Russian nuclear aid to Iran "will undoubtedly lead to the creation of nuclear weapons in Iran," argued two Russian scientists in a letter to Izvestiya published on 18 April. Since the safety aspects of the nuclear reactor are underfunded, the "chief aim is plutonium production and not a safe" power station, the scientists said. They expressed concern at the prospects of an Iranian nuclear weapon, especially after the "colossal harm" done the Islamic people of Chechnya. Nevertheless, they argued that the deal should go ahead because if Russia refrained, another country would provide Iran with the reactors, and "the possibility of big earnings...is opening," something the "impoverished families of scientists" have been awaiting for several years now. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN FORCES FAIL TO TAKE BAMUT. Up to 30 Russian troops were killed on 14 April in two unsuccessful attempts to dislodge supporters of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev from the village of Bamut in southwestern Chechnya, Russian and Western agencies reported. A Russian military spokesman denied Chechen claims that one Russian fighter aircraft and two combat helicopters were shot down during the assault. Following the Chechen resistance fighters' rejection on 16 April of a Russian ultimatum to surrender their weapons and retreat from the village, Russian artillery bombardment of Bamut resumed on 17 April according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 17 April, Interfax quoted the head of the Chechen Government of National Rebirth, Salambek Khadzhiev, as claiming that both former Russian parliament Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov and former Chechen-Ingush Obkom First Secretary Doku Zavgaev had rejected an offer to be named Chechen prime minister. Meanwhile, former Chechen parliament Chairman Yusup Soslambekov has drawn up yet another draft proposal, summarized by Interfax, for resolving the Chechen conflict and regulating future relations between Chechnya and the Russian Federation. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN TO HOLD ELECTIONS IN OCTOBER. A new election law is to be submitted to the Azerbaijan People's Assembly shortly and then subjected to a nationwide referendum in preparation for parliamentary elections scheduled for October 1995, according to President Heidar Aliev as quoted by Interfax on 16 April. A new constitution will also be adopted this year after nationwide discussion. On 17 April, the head of the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, Leila Yunusova, told a press conference in Baku that the current Azerbaijani leadership is seeking to impose a dictatorship, and therefore seized upon the police rebellion last month as a pretext for large-scale repression even though none of the existing political parties in Azerbaijan had supported the revolt, Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. MANY CASUALTIES IN BOMBING IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN. Although Russian officials continue to deny that CIS planes are making strikes in Afghanistan, Kabul Radio reported a series of attacks in the Takhar province recently. Provincial officials said the Chai Ab and Farkhar districts were pounded by Russian jets on 11 and 12 April but the worst bombing occurred in Taloqan on 13 April. Estimates cite some 100 dead and 120 wounded in the attack which came on the weekly bazaar day, a time when the city is filled with people from adjoining villages, AFP reported. A European-based emergency relief organization, Medecins Sans Frontieres, received a convoy of medicines in order to treat the victims, according to AFP. Taloqan is considered to be a base for Tajik opposition forces, a Western source said. In response to Moscow's accusations that Afghanistan is aiding the Tajik opposition, Kabul claimed that it has given only "humanitarian aid" to Tajik refugees. The Afghan embassy in Moscow protested the "attack on a foreign country which violated all international rules," AFP reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. MOBIL OIL STRIKES DEAL WITH KAZAKHSTAN. The U.S. oil company Mobil announced that it had concluded a deal with Kazakhstan on 17 April to explore for oil and gas in Kazakhstan's northwestern area. Mobil Oil Tulpar, a subsidiary of Mobil Oil, announced the signing of a joint venture to be called Tulpar Munai which will explore and develop 1.6 million hectares of territory, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CIS UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN TALKS. Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk is scheduled to arrive in Moscow on 17 April for further talks with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets on the Russian- Ukrainian friendship treaty, international agencies reported. The latest round of talks is to focus on the issue of where to base the countries' respective shares of the Black Sea Fleet. On 15 April, Reuters reported that President Yeltsin said he would not sign the treaty unless the Crimean issue is resolved, which represents a departure from Moscow's earlier stance that treated it as an internal Ukrainian affair. It was Yeltsin's first official reaction to Kiev's recent annulment of the Crimean Constitution and the abolition of the Crimean Presidency in March. The moves had led to heated debates in the Russian State Duma and several deputies as well as Crimean officials have been appealing to the Russian government to take decisive steps to protect the Russian majority in Crimea. On 17 April, Yeltsin spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma on the phone and said he would meet with Marchuk during the latest round of talks, Interfax reported. -- 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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